I was first exposed to Bishop Carlton Pearson on NBC’s Dateline “To Hell and Back”in the Fall of 2007, and did a little internet reading on his story. I saw him again as a panelist in March of this year on ABC’s Night Line Face Off “Does Satan Exist?”. A lot of what he had to say resonated with me and peaked my curiosity to learn more. I recently got his book The Gospel of Inclusion and finished reading it last night.
I enjoyed the book, but it left me unsatisfied. I have a lot of sympathy with what Carlton went through. Like him, my conclusions and de-converting did not begin with an epiphany but was rather the result of a process of wrestling with questions and answers and more questions. True to his disclaimer the book does represent the collective of his post-evangelical sermons and is heavy on Biblical references. I think I was hoping for a little more biographical narrative and less sermonizing, even though I appreciate the difference in tone and aim in the message. I think the book was written primarily as a message to evangelicals, starting where they are and taking them through his theological transition and reasoning making the case for the Gospel of Inclusion.
It’s funny to me that some of the things that many people consider “liberal” seem oddly conservative to me still. Perhaps that’s a measure of how far I’ve come or evidence that I don’t use a yard stick anymore.
I admittedly speed read through the first two-thirds of the book, because he was “preaching to the choir” where I’m concerned. I need no de-converting from evangelicalism. I appreciate the last portion of the book most, where he talked more about life on the otherside of his “coming out” of evangelicalism. I relate to that more. I’m still looking for a book that wrestles more with reading the Bible again for the first time or rethinking faith and practice on the other side of evangelicalism.
I really like Carlton Pearson as a person and have not seen or read anything that would lead me to doubt his motives. If he was out to make money, he surely wouldn’t have thrown away a profitable and high-profile ministry. I think this book is a good bridge for people who are questioning and wrestling with their evangelical background. This book and message won’t lead you away from Christian faith altogether. There’s no brain washing going on here. Just one man’s candid and very personal journal of his faith journey.