Variously termed “word of the kingdom” or “kingdom exclusion,” this branch of dispensationalism is a curious mutation of Christian evangelicalism. Predicated upon the formula of “faith only,” exclusion ultimately adds “…plus works,” which is the cornerstone of the teaching.
Arlen L. Chitwood, a leading proponent of this doctrine, writes:
“The salvation of the soul, unlike the salvation of the spirit, is conditional. The salvation of the soul is dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. It is dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit.” — Salvation of the Soul, p. 13
Chitwood later modifies his teaching, omitting the word conditional (see here), but he does not explain why he has done this. One senses he is aware of a contradiction in his thought, but he continues to insist that soul salvation is “dependent on the actions of the individual.” Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida — a church that promotes Chitwood’s writings — avows that “the salvation of the soul will be realized at the Judgment Seat of Christ and is determined by works” (source).
At its core, exclusion promotes salvation by works, emphasizing works and the carnal nature of humans so dominantly that faith becomes a mere prerequisite, not an end unto itself. Beginning with grace, exclusion ends with works — a direct contradiction of Paul’s teachings in Galatians (chapters 1 and 3 particularly).
The problem of exclusion
Chitwood and Cornerstone Christian Fellowship are not alone in advocating faith-plus-works. Joey Faust, a Texan pastor who popularized the term “kingdom exclusion,” argues that God will punish, not forgive, carnal Christians, teaching that God will literally beat unfaithful Christians with a rod of fire in the millennial kingdom. The rod, incidentally, proceeds from Christ’s mouth! (This notion is so bizarrely literal that it is incredible that even a few people take it seriously.) Ultimately, according to Faust, punishment, not the blood of Christ, redeems man from sin.
Contemporary exponents of this teaching are preceded by the likes of Robert Govett (1813-1901) and Watchman Nee (1902-1972), men who argued that sins committed after a person’s conversion are not covered by the blood of Christ exclusively. At the culmination of the ages, works are necessary for salvation to be complete. For justification of this doctrine, Govett and Nee employ passages relating to “kingdom rewards,” but insisting that rewards are a product of God’s grace, not man’s effort. At the critical moment, however, exclusionists argue that salvation is ultimately accomplished by works.
The contradictory nature of this teaching arises from vacillation. At one moment, exclusion expounds works; at another, faith. At no point are exclusionists able to reconcile faith and works, grace and human effort, ignoring almost entirely the doctrine of sanctification. Instead, they proffer soul salvation.
Nearly everyone who advocates exclusion champions eternal salvation by Christ’s death at Calvary. What they are reluctant to say, however, is that a person is not ultimately saved by Christ’s death at Calvary. Seeing man as a tripartite being (i.e. having three parts — body, soul, spirit), exclusionists argue that only the spirit of a person is saved by grace through faith. The soul and body are redeemed by works. How one can possibly argue that salvation is by grace alone and by works, I do not know. Such is a contradiction of the plain and explicit meaning of scripture.
Deeper, more concerning issues
It’s not merely that exclusion contradicts scripture; worse still, it hobbles Christians spiritually. All that can result from it is futility and despair. Frequently, church schisms occur after exclusion is introduced into an evangelical community. Even marriages are disrupted, as evidenced from the many e-mails I receive monthly on this topic. As the spiritual well being of Christians is the chief concern of God, so should it be ours.
The tragedy of this teaching is that it attempts to address a legitimate question: What are we to make of sins committed after ones conversion? Is believing in Jesus a “get out of jail” free card? Is grace a license for sin? Certainly not, for Jesus and the apostles make it clear that saints are not to live in sin. But what does God do about sins committed after a person is saved? Does he just ignore the failings of his saints? Exclusionists handle the question in his manner: they argue that “carnal” Christians will lose the salvation of their souls, receiving physical punishment in the millennial kingdom (typically exclusion from the glories of God); afterwards, carnal Christians will obtain eternal salvation.
(I should note that many teachers of this doctrine assert that the penalty of carnality persists throughout eternity.)
The problem is that millennial punishment is never mentioned in the Bible. No matter how closely one reads Revelation 20, a section of scripture that explicitly mentions the millennial reign of Christ, no mention of temporary punishment is found. It’s simply not there. Further, the question of sins committed after conversion is addressed in scripture. Consider the apostle Paul’s response to the question –
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. –Romans 6:15-18, ESV
Notice that Paul does not say carnal Christians will lose the salvation of the soul; instead, he directs the reader’s attention to the sanctifying work of God that leads to fruitful living. Paul shifts the focus from works of the flesh — “you… were once slaves of sin” — to works of the Spirit — “[you] have become slaves of righteousness.” This is how Paul — and also the apostles and Jesus — addresses the question of sins committed after conversion. Anytime a person returns to his or her own deeds, or his or her own righteousness, that person exchanges the goodness of God for a lie.
Who has bewitched you?
The most challenging doctrine of Christianity is the belief that no effort of a person can save that person. This truth is so absolute as to allow no modification, amendment or improvement. A Christian must rely entirely upon the grace of God from the day of conversion to his or her final breath. To rely on ones own effort — even for a moment — is to fall utterly short of the goal.
Yet, works are necessary, even required. “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:19). C.S. Lewis wonderfully describes this apparent contradiction in a lecture found in God in the Dock:
The controversy about faith and works is one that has gone on for a very long time, and it is a highly technical matter. I personally rely on the paradoxical text: ‘Work our your own salvation… for it is God that worketh in you.’ It looks as if in one sense we do nothing, and in another case we do a damned lot. ‘Word out your own salvation with fear and trembling,’ but you must have it in you before you can work it out. But I have no wish to go further into it, as it would interest no one but the Christians present, would it?
How can it be that works do not save, yet are required? How can it be that human effort is futile, yet is necessary? The key is found in how one starts and finishes the race of faith.
In scripture, whenever works are championed, the apostles recall grace: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1-3, ESV).
What begins in faith must end in faith.
Some time ago, I was conversing with a Christian brother about the “word of the kingdom.” He very succinctly stated the principal issue is that “it’s all about carnality.” Kingdom believers, he explained, are so concerned about the works that they ignore the Spirit. The result is spiritual decline.
Scripture teaches us that if we want to be perfect as God is perfect, we must rely entirely upon God — in faith and also works. Yes, works are necessary, but, like grace, good deeds come from God. The idea that my effort can increase or improve upon God’s effort is preposterous and spiritually deceitful, “for to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6, ESV).
This is the ultimate step of faith: to trust that God will finish what he has begun.
A last word
I have been studying the “word of the kingdom,” on and off, since 2005, and for two reasons: first, the teaching had been introduced into my community, causing division, and I wanted to know what it was that I might rightly discern it; and, second, because so little has been written critically about exclusion, a teaching by no means limited to the people mentioned in this article. In my studies, I have made several shocking discoveries, but none so great as the following.
Arlen Chitwood claims he teaches the “full counsel of scripture,” that he teaches what the Bible says and nothing more, nothing less. Yet a search of his writings, all available in digital form, reveals he never addresses the doctrine of sanctification once. How can this be? Even in passages key to his argument, that specifically mention sanctification, he is silent. The fact is, Chitwood offers soul salvation as a substitute for sanctification.
In the final analysis, and I offer this article as a sort of final word on the topic (at least for the time being), this is the reason nothing good can come from the “word of the kingdom,” because it entirely undermines the message of the gospel. It is such a ridiculous falsehood as to give fresh significance to Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! … Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
His words still resound.
© 2012 – 2013, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
There is an interesting dialog going on at this thread: How Appealing is Kingdom Exclusion? Though advocates of exclusion disagree on many fundamental points, they agree on one thing certainly: the soul of a Christian is not yet saved. From this arises a critical question: why? Why is the blood of Jesus efficacious to save a person’s spirit, but not a person’s soul? Most exclusionists would simply reply, “Well, that’s just the way it is; that’s God’s plan of salvation.” All right, let’s accept that point, that the spirit of a believer is saved, but their soul is not. The question then arises, what ultimately saves a Christian’s soul? If it is not unconditional grace, what is it? And if it is not unconditional grace, how is it salvation?
Some, such as Arlen Banks, who is participating in the discussion, argue that “soul salvation” only pertains to receiving rewards in the millennial kingdom. If that is true, then it is not really salvation. In a word, it is receiving rewards. (Let’s just call it what it is.) Yet he continues, arguing that the soul of a Christian is not yet perfect, but that it will be sometime in the future. Ah, that leads to another question: what makes the soul of a believer perfect for all eternity? If it is not unconditional grace, what is it? And if it is not unconditional grace, how is it salvation?
The problem all exclusionists run into is that by dividing salvation into three separate works — spirit salvation, soul salvation, body salvation — they add to unconditional grace. They adulterate salvation. Trying to motivate Christian to good works (cf. Heb. 10:24), they alter the gospel; they present a false gospel.
The tragedy is that there is a doctrine that addresses the life after ones conversion: sanctification. And it is noteworthy that most exclusionists never address this doctrine. Arlen Chitwood, who has become quite a leader within this movement, never once, in all the dozens of his books, teaches on sanctification. The reason is plain: he has created another doctrine to take its place. He calls it “soul salvation.”
There is a reason why I place “soul salvation” in quotation marks.
© 2011, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
You may have seen Family Radio’s billboards: Judgment Day is May 21. How a Christian organization can draw this conclusion, claiming to know the hour and day of judgment, is dismaying, but not impossible to understand. Family Radio simply employs a method that is common to most heretical groups: namely, employing a method that allows a person to make the Bible say whatever that person wants the Bible to say.
Those who advocate the “Word of the Kingdom” use the same method.
Hidden Teachings — Key to the “Word of the Kingdom” is the idea that scripture contains hidden messages, things ordinary Christians do not see or understand. A leading proponent of this teaching, Arlen L. Chitwood, writes, “Not only will he able to go to the Scriptures and bring forth things which are ‘old’ (things he has already seen and understood) but he will also be able, from the things which are ‘old,’ to begin seeing and bringing forth things which are ‘new’ as well (things he has not previously seen and understood)” (source — emphasis mine). Chitwood points out that Jesus helped the apostles to see things that were otherwise unknowable. Never heard of Christians suffering in the lake of fire? Ah, well that is in scripture — if you know where to look and how.
Family Radio employs the same line of reasoning, regarding its May 21 prediction of Judgment Day. Do you believe that no one will know the day or hour? Ah, well look more closely…
However, God wrote it in such a way that it could not be understood until the world was almost at its end. Remember, understanding comes only from the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read in Luke 24:45: “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” This explains why the Bible is written in such complex and difficult-to- understand language. It is one reason why Christ spoke in parables, even as we read in Mark 4:34: “But without a parable spake He not unto them.” — source
Gnostics were among the first to suggest the gospels contained hidden teachings. What is extraordinary about this idea is that the hidden teachings generally contradict the plain meaning of scripture.
Entirety of Scripture — Another tactic among heretical groups is to claim that they alone read scripture completely. This is an arrogant assertion. Orthodox Christians have been studying the “whole counsel” of scripture since Pentecost. Yet, Family Radio and kingdom seekers insist that they alone study scriptures correctly.
Writes Chitwood, “[The Christian] has to compare Scripture with Scripture, i.e., he has to compare ‘spiritual things with spiritual’” (source). Of itself, this statement is not difficult to accept; however, Chitwood’s purpose is to accuse others of reading the Bible in a nonspiritual manner. He asserts that the reason most Christians have never heard of his teaching is because they do not seek the “whole counsel of scripture” (source).
Writes Family Radio, “Mr. Camping [their principle spokesman] has been a tireless student of the Bible for over five decades. The tens of thousands of hours he has spent analyzing the Bible has given him a unique perspective of the entirety of Scripture. He has dedicated his life to prepare himself to answer questions raised concerning God’s Word to man” (source — emphasis mine).
Connecting the dots
I think the folk at Family Radio and advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” should meet. They could hurl insults at one another and pontificate on inane details, all the while employing the same method of biblical interpretation. If anything, the error of one might expose the error of the other.
Note: More articles on Camping’s prediction can be found at Agabus.com on May 21. 2011.
© 2011, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
I first encountered “kingdom exclusion” in the 1990s, at a church I attended in Santa Cruz, Calif. My pastor proclaimed one Sunday that faithful Christians would dine with Christ, and the less faithful would serve tables. All would gain admittance to the kingdom, but not all would be glorified. This drew “amens” from around the congregation, and I, too, found the idea intriguing.
The pastor was influenced, undoubtedly, by the writings of Watchman Nee, whom I did not know well, though I understood his books were studied by many in the church. I considered the pastor’s proclamation carefully but was ultimately unconvinced. Though his argument seemed logical on certain grounds, I could not find biblical support for the idea. Later, I would leave the church after the leadership embraced yet another novel teaching: the prosperity gospel.
Sometime around 2005, certain members of the church where I am presently ministering became enthralled by the teachings of Cindy Zeigler and Arlen L. Chitwood. At first, they said it helped them appreciate the scriptures on a deeper level; later, though, they decided it was the true teaching of scripture, the only true teaching of scripture. (I think they came to this conclusion much earlier, but, for whatever reason, did not say so.) In 2007, this group departed the church and started their own fellowship.
Having been given a copy of Chitwood’s Run to Win, I was not totally ignorant of the teaching, but I had not studied it thoroughly either. So, in 2007, I began to read, listen, and converse. I must say, what I discovered astonished me. I found that this “deeper understanding” of scripture advanced works-salvation, i.e. not saved by grace, saved by works. I found that this “deeper understanding” promoted a curse upon black people (even the Mormons have given up on that idea). I found that this “deeper understanding” condemned hard-working missionaries in foreign lands, simply because these missionaries do not preach the “Word of the Kingdom,” as taught by Chitwood and his predecessor, A. Edwin Wilson.
Is what I say untrue?
It is all documented at KingdomExclusion.com. Every fundamental teaching of the “Word of the Kingdom” is documented.
(The most unsavory of these details — the group’s teachings on the Hamtic curse — was exposed by Chitwood himself. He drew my attention to Wilson’s “The Sons of Noah,” and I downloaded the text from Chitwood’s site!.)
Today, in 2011, KingdomExclusion.com has mostly achieved its purpose.
Prior to publishing this site, very little was written objectively about the “Word of the Kingdom.” As the teaching is rarely introduced in its full form, i.e. the more controversial aspects are saved for later studies, I felt it important to publish my findings so that all can know “up front” what the teaching is about. Every once and a while I receive e-mails from individuals thanking me for my work.
My critics say I am uncharitable. They say I am “destroying” godly men. They say my research is sloppy and uninformed. To all this I reply that the assembly of believers under Christ is more precious to me than the feelings of a few schismatics. My research is well-documented, and I am available for questions — but I have a few questions of my own!
As regards the “Word of the Kingdom,” I believe I have exhausted the subject. Yet, there are two unanswered questions, which are (1) is the soul EVER saved unconditionally by grace through faith, and (2) how is the soul ever saved?
I’m not sure what direction KingdomExclusion.com will take in the future. At present, I do not plan to keep the site very active. This site has never occupied a very large place in my pursuits, but I find it must occupy an even smaller place. I remain available for questions. I may even publish an article once in a while, but I will not be pursuing this work much further. I have done due diligence. I am satisfied.
To my critics, before you opine, recall the questions mentioned earlier. If you cannot, or will not, answer those questions, what more is there to say? I think the subject is exhausted.
© 2011, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
I am often asked by those who support “kingdom exclusion”/”word of the kingdom” what motivation a Christian has for living a godly life. They ask, generally, “Why should Christians do what is right? Why should they care?” They suggest that unless one believes one possibly faces punishment in the millennial kingdom, one will be ineffectual in Christian living. One will become carnal.
1. Who among us will not be punished? “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it? … So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty” (James 2:10 & 12). Should we not heed these words? It is James, after all, who is most often quoted in the teaching of “soul salvation.” Should we not, then, draw the same conclusions as James?
2. Where is this punishment found? Revelation speaks of the millennial kingdom, but makes no mention of the so-called “exclusion” of carnal Christians. Or, are we to believe, as Arlen Chitwood and others espouse, that Christians too will suffer the hurt of the second death? That idea is frankly blasphemous.
(I should note that the absence of “exclusion” is mirrored everywhere. No one, to this date, has shown anyone where “exclusion” is to be found in scripture.)
3. Is not forgiveness a greater motivation? Ask yourself, as a Christian, why do you want to be good? Why? Is it because you fear a “rod of fire” or the “hurt of the second death,” or is it because God has so loved you? Were we saved by fear, or the cross?
4. Why should we end with works? How is “soul salvation” not a complete repudiation of grace? Did not Paul warn, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). I have noted that in all of his writings, Arlen Chitwood never speaks of sanctification. His defenders say, well, “soul salvation” is sanctification? If that is true, “soul salvation” is heresy, for Paul says we are not being perfected by the flesh.
I am astonished that people actually teach that without “soul salvation” (otherwise called the “accountability” gospel) Christians would have no motivation for doing what is right. Those people miss, by a wide margin, the true gospel.
Paul, too, was confronted by such people. Look at his reply: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
Let it be so.
© 2010, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
Responding to inquiries from KingdomExclusion.com regarding a new website promoting the work of the late A. Edwin Wilson, radio preacher Arlen Banks asserted that Wilson “is not a racist.” The website, http://aewilson.org, features Wilson’s writings and provides links to Wilson’s audio sermons.
Wilson, who died in 1987, taught that blacks will be cursed until the millennial reign of Christ.
Banks said he created the website to counter one created by KingdomExclusion.com (http://aedwinwilson.com). “As for the web site that I created, Wilson supports himself with his own writings and audio, I add nothing. You only show your disturbed view of a portion of Wilson’s Writings on your site. The site in question aewilson.org gives the reader both sides of the spectrum.”
An Internet search of “aewilson.org” yields no results concerning Wilson’s teachings on race.
In December last year, KingdomExclusion.com reported that in the 1950s through the 1980s, Wilson opposed integration as a work of Satan. The website also reported that Wilson taught that blacks are cursed, and that blacks have special proclivities toward sexual sins. Wilson also asserted that blacks should occupy “a position of national and personal servitude” until the millennial kingdom.1
Answering e-mail inquiries, Banks stated that “A. Edwin Wilson is not a racist. Arlen Chitwood, is not a racist. Royce Powell, is not a racist. I, Arlen Banks, am not a racist.”
However, KingdomExclusion.com has identified several racist teachings from some of these prominent figures in the “Word of the Kingdom” movement:
Banks seems more concerned to defend the “Word of the Kingdom,” which Wilson and Chitwood originated, than to answer questions regarding the racial views of these teachers. Banks regards all of these men as “God’s Preachers.”
© 2010, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
Don’t know much about the pastor in this video — he appears to be a devout, fundamentalist Baptist preacher — but I found his comments on Joey Faust, pastor of Kingdom Baptist, interesting. That Christians could end up in hell, which is what Faust teaches, is indeed an extraordinary heresy. The pastor in this video connects Faust’s teachings to those of Jehovah Witness’s.
Note, this pastor preaches the strange doctrine of “King James onlyism” –
Frankly, his teaching regarding the NIV is as heretical as Faust’s teaching on soul death.
What we have here is a faction of Baptist preachers forming a “house divided.”
© 2010, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.