“Come Sunday” is the true story of pastor Carlton Pearson (portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a pentecostal megachurch pastor in Tulsa.
In the beginning of the movie, you see Pearson’s concern for evangelism. He prays with a woman on a plane, he visits his uncle in prison to share the gospel.
But after seeing footage on the news and hearing about genocide in Rwanda, Pearson is thrown into crisis when he considers the eternal destiny of those people.
Pearson struggles to come to terms with the possibility of people unreached by the gospel and spending eternity in hell.
The following Sunday, Pearson preaches a message at church where he says that he knows that all of those people were saved pointing to the love of God.
In the movie, a mentor for Pearson was famed pentecostal leader, and university founder, Oral Roberts (played by Martin Sheen). Roberts and other friends try to convince Pearson to recant his teachings.
But Pearson doubles down and continues to renounce the doctrine of hell.
People in the church oppose Pearson. In reality, the church shrank by thousands of people who disagreed with Pearson’s theology as he became a universalist.
The movie depicts Peterson meeting with Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops. In reality, the bishops declared Pearson as heretic in 2004.
I feel like the movie paints this as being a witch hunt. The make Pearson seem to be a sympathetic figure. But in reality, it was the bishops confronting a pastor who was no longer preaching the Bible. They had no other choice. To undermine the doctrine of hell is to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hell was the penalty of sin. Because our sin was that great. And we could do nothing on our own to pay for our sins. Jesus did on the cross. He lived a perfect light.
The idea that a loving God could not allow heaven is a popular one among many in our society.
But we don’t create reality. Hell’s existence is not based on if we want it to exist or not. A person can choose to believe it doesn’t exist. But to argue that the Bible affirms universalism and that everyone is saved, regardless of if they have faith, contradicts the Bible. Faith is the means of right standing with God.
Pearson’s “gospel” appears to be the belief that Jesus actually covered the sins of everyone, regardless of if they believe in him or not.
In the gospel, we do see the love of God. But we also see the justice of God. There was a price to be paid for sin, and Jesus paid that price.
No one in the Bible says more about hell than Jesus.
Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:26).
To be saved is to be regenerated (born again). Being born again is necessary (John 3:7). When a person is born again, they are given the Holy Spirit.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
I understand it’s a difficult subject. but instead of trying to justify unbiblical teachings. for anyone who cares for the word of God, we must also trust in the goodness and justice of God.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.