Netflix has a new movie called “Come Sunday” which recounts the story of Carlton Pearson, a Black, Pentecostal, Evangelical Bishop who becomes a devout universalist.
The movie is about 1:45 and well produced. Pearson is skillfully played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange, 12 Years a Slave) and also includes a brief performance by Danny Glover (as his uncle), and Martin Sheen as Oral Roberts (an interesting choice given Sheen’s Catholicism). Pearson was educated at ORU and Oral considered him a son.
Pearson is an in demand preacher, running one of the largest churches in Oklahoma, where blacks and whites worship side by side. He is ready to evangelize anyone anytime. Winning souls, is his soul focus. He even recounts how he continues to struggle with his marriage, because he was taught that marriage was a distraction to effective ministry.
He is burned by his uncles suicide in prison, sure that he was going to hell. At the same time he is overwhelmed by the murder of 800,000 Rwandan’s during that countries genocide. It is in that context that he believes he hears the voice of God telling him that he should not be burdened because He has already saved the African’s – and everyone else! The balance of the movie shows the consequences of coming out with his new view: he is kicked out by the association of Bishops, loses most of his congregation and eventually the church building and in the end, becomes a speaker and minister in the universalist church. He appears to be quite active today.
While I’m not a universalist myself, I am sympathetic to their view. It was once said that everyone is a universalist at a funeral, and I think that’s not far off. I think, in Pearson’s case, he was reacting to a particular theology. A traditional gospel message that unless someone hears the gospel, they are damned. They do however make allowance for Jesus to appear in visions and dreams.
Scripture states that it is God’s desire that all should be saved (1 Tim 2:4) so it is under stable that some might find it hard to believe that God can’t make it happen, if it’s what his desire is. Yes, we get into issues of free will, etc, but still, I understand the argument, or rather, the desire.
Whether you would champion or mourn where Pearson finally land, I think the movie if worth watching for the questions it asks, such as does your theology adequately answer what does happen to those who have never heard the name of Christ? This demands a serious examination and honest answers.