Monthly Archives: March 2009

General objections to the teachings of Arlen L. Chitwood

People have e-mailed, asking me what is my principal objection to the teachings of Arlen L. Chitwood. Firstly, it is that he asserts that the “salvation of the soul” is conditional.

Once the salvation of the spirit has been effected, making it possible for the indwelling Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control an individual’s life through his own spirit, then man’s unredeemed soul occupies the center of attention. 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. 14

Whether humans are saved comprehensively (all at once, by one act, cf. Rom. 5) or successively (in stages, as Chitwood argues) is not the principal concern. It’s that Chitwood argues that some stages of “salvation” are conditional.

The second objection is that his system is speculative, though he insists it is exactly what the Bible says. He condemns anyone who does not embrace his teaching, which he calls the “Word of the Kingdom,” charging that today’s ministers “false teachers.” Surprisingly, when all is said and done, he offers nothing remarkable.

He argues that we must run the race according to a set of instructions in order to attain the kingdom, yet, ironically, he never describes what these instructions are. One can read the entire of Run to Win, and never encounter the set of instructions necessary for the salvation of the soul. As near as I can tell, according to that text, one must be faithful — and what church isn’t preaching that message?

More detailed objections are contained in two articles (here and here), but in general, my objection is that he makes salvation or some part of it conditional. I do not believe that is consistent with scripture.

Identifying Gnostic tendencies in the writings of Arlen L. Chitwood

Arlen L. Chitwood is a severe critic of modern Christianity, arguing that while churches work hard to get people in the door, they do little to instruct the faithful in the pursuits of righteousness. “The world has never seen a group quite like those comprising Christendom today — a group of individuals who could profess so much but really profess so little” (Run to Win, p. viii — link).[2. In this essay, unless otherwise indicated, the emphasis is Chitwood’s.] Chitwood believes the leadership of the Church is withholding the fundamental truths of the gospel, particularly dogmas relating to the post-conversion experience of Christianity. He advances that there is a second work of salvation, subsequent to conversion, called “soul salvation.” Those who fail to attain the knowledge of this second work, he warns, will be excluded from the millennial kingdom. He calls this distinctive teaching “Word of the Kingdom.”[3. In private correspondence, Chitwood explained that his teaching should properly be called “Word of the Kingdom;” however, that expression is common among Christians. For technical purposes, I identify his teaching as Kingdom Exclusion, which proposes that the so-called carnal Christian will be excluded from God in the millennial kingdom. Others who maintain this doctrine are notably Watchman Nee, A. Edwin Wilson and J.D. Faust. “Word of the Kingdom,” in quotation marks, is employed when speaking of those teachings which are specific to Chitwood’s understanding of exclusion. Chitwood sometimes employs “gospel of the glory of Christ,” in distinction to the “gospel of the grace of God” (see, final paragraph.)]

Chitwood denounces today’s ministers for rejecting the “Word of the Kingdom,” for failing to grasp the “original” meaning of scripture.[1. “False Teachers.” See] He charges that they have utterly rejected God’s commandments. “Matters … have become so far removed from reality in Christendom today that Christianity, from a Biblical perspective, is hardly recognizable. The Word of the Kingdom is ignored, despised, rejected, etc. Christians have done everything with the message but receive, understand, and proclaim it” (False Teachers link). This denounciation is startling considering Chitwood’s own deficiences as a theologian.

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