Monthly Archives: November 2009

Does it matter?

Several people have asked why I bother: “Why do you write about exclusion?” The principal reason is that there is a dearth of critical research on the subject. When I first encountered the writings of Watchman Nee, J.D. Faust and Arlen L. Chitwood, I found few analytical sources. Apart from their own writings, there was no analysis, no critical thought, no explanation of the origins Kingdom Exclusion (KE). In short, there was little perspective.

My aim is to rectify this situation.

I do not conceal the fact that I am opposed to KE, but my research is consistent and well-documented. I’ve read extensively on the subject, interviewed and corresponded with key figures, and have engaged in a dialog with numerous others. My objections are theological.

1. The temporary exclusion of so-called carnal Christians is entirely absent in scripture. The likes of Chitwood, Nee and Faust contend that unfaithful believers will be subjected to 1,000 years of exclusion (variously defined) in the millennial kingdom. The thousand-year rule of Christ is described in Revelation 20, but no mention is made of exclusion. Nor is it found elsewhere. The fact that it is simply absent should settle the question.

2. KE fosters a salvation-by-works gospel. Some are more explicit than others (e.g. Chitwood: “The salvation of the soul … is conditional“), but all tend toward works as a condition of grace, inasmuch as grace is inadequate for redemption, that some other means is necessary.

These two factors — it’s absence in scripture and that it alters the gospel — constitute my primary objections to the teaching.

Comments on Dr. Greg Dixon’s apology for Kingdom Exclusion

“Now if I am to be considered a heretic because of what I believe God has led me to understand from His word, then so be it.” — Dr. Greg Dixon

Comments on: Dr. Greg Dixon on Kingdom Exclusion

It should be understood that a radical form of dispensationalism undergirds Kingdom Exclusion. Writes Dr. Greg Dixon, defending his belief in it, “My journey in this area really started with a search for material on the parables that would be consistent with my eschatological position of pre-mil, a literal 1,000 year reign, etc.” Despite seeking a doctrinal point of view consistent with his beliefs in a “literal 1,000 year reign,” Dixon imposes allegorical interpretations onto Revelation, particularly chapter 20.

Kingdom exclusion is entirely absent in Revelation 20, the one part of scripture that explicitly describes the millennial kingdom. No mention is made of so-called carnal Christians being excluded, nor of temporary punishment. By importing texts from other places in the Bible, namely the parables, Dixon claims to “see” exclusion in Revelation. His chief influence is J.D. Faust’s The Rod:Will God Spare It?, which Dixon argues displays impressive “scholarship and meticulous research.”

Briefly, a word on The Rod: Will God Spare It?: It’s not meticulously researched. In a chapter on Catholic purgatory, Faust never once cites a Catholic source on the subject. His representation of the doctrine is grotesquely inaccurate. (Ironically, as he goes on to describe kingdom exclusion, he creates a doctrine quite similar to Catholic purgatory!) None of his primary source citations from the earliest centuries of Christianity even mention exclusion (let alone a rod of fire), despite Faust’s assertions that they do. Dixon’s description of the text is uncritical and somewhat juvenile.

His concern that he may be deemed a heretic is extreme, but telling. If he is guilty of anything, it is simply bad theology. Writing on forgiveness, he explains, “If believers do not want to be judged for their sins at that Judgment, then God has made provision through His precious blood based on I John Chapter one and two for forgiveness and continual cleansing to maintain fellowship (sanctification). It is an ongoing, daily responsibility of the believer through the Word of God and the Spirit of God to maintain this continual cleansing.” John never mentions this form of “continual cleansing.” Apart from referencing 1 John (cf. 1 John 1:9), Dixon does not explain.

The scriptures rather speak of a one-time cleansing, a moment in time, a point, that has continuous effect in the life of a believer (cf. Romans 5:19 & 6:10). In 1 John, the apostle does not say that confession continuously cleanses sins committed intermittently in the life of a believer, but that confession (once) cleanses a person of “all unrighteousness.” Believers are exhorted throughout the scriptures to rely on the gospel message they received when they first believed, not on the institution of confession.

Dixon’s explanation of Kingdom Exclusion devolves into little more than an endorsement of Faust’s book, not an actual explanation of Bible truths. In the end, exclusion is simply imposed upon the texts of the Bible. If Dixon prefers a literal reading of Revelation, perhaps he can explain where and when the exclusion of so-called carnal Christians occurs.

What saith Chitwood? What saith the Bible?

Arlen L. Chitwood insists that for every New Testament idea, there is a corresponding Old Testament idea, exact in detail and operation. This method yields strange results, often absent any explicit scriptural support. Employing this strategy, he argues that the body of the risen Jesus did not (and does not today) contain blood. What saith the Bible?

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

By “flesh” one would presume muscle and blood. Chitwood would have us believe the disciples understood otherwise. Why they would believe Jesus’s resurrected body contained no blood is not explained, nor is any explicit scriptural reference given. Nor does the New Testament say Jesus rose physically without blood. (The Bible might have mentioned this if it were so.) Yet Chitwood insists.

Christ was raised in a spiritual body rather than a natural [soulical] body [cf. I Cor. 15:42-44]. He was raised in a body of flesh and bones, with the life-giving, animating principle of the body being the Spirit of God rather than the blood [which He had previously “poured out” (Isa. 53:12)]. — Salvation of the Soul, p. 64

It is perhaps helpful that Chitwood provides scriptural references, but do those passages support his interpretation of the resurrection?

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. — I Cor. 15:42-44, ESV

The “natural” body and “spiritual” body are indeed mentioned, but not the “soulical” body Chitwood envisions. By “soulical,” he means a person who is governed by carnal nature, who is in darkness, who is unredeemed (this is the language he employs).

“The ‘soul’ remains within the sphere of darkness, which is why ‘the natural [Gk. psuchikos, ‘soulical’] man’ cannot understand ‘the things of the Spirit of God’ (I Cor. 2:14). That which remains in the sphere of darkness can have no apprehension or comprehension of that which has shined out of darkness. There is a God-established division between the two which cannot be crossed over (cf. Luke 16:26)” (“Eternal Salvation” — link).

It is difficult to comprehend that Jesus ever possessed a “soulical” body. Darkness? John 1:4 (cf. Matt. 4:16) says Jesus was light. Unredeemed? Carnal? Jesus possessed a nature that warred against God? One aspect of his being did not understand the things of God? How can these things be?

As for the claim that the risen body of Christ contained no blood, Chitwood offers a passage in Isaiah as evidence:

“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” — Isa. 53:12, KJV

Problematically, blood is not mentioned. Rather, it is his “soul” that was poured out. Following Chitwood’s logic, Jesus rose without a soul, not a body absent blood. (The reader is well advised to examine for themselves each of Chitwood’s scriptural references.) Nowhere does it say that Jesus’s risen body contained no blood because it was poured out.

Yet there is another consideration: the so-called “Word of the Kingdom.”

In order to properly understand the Bible, one must accept what Chitwood calls the “Word of the Kingdom.”[1. This phrase is employed variously by Christians and churches; one should not assume it is unique to Chitwood and his teaching. For research purposes, Chitwood’s theology is classified as “kingdom exclusion,” as it is a term commonly employed by advocates of this variety of thought.] One must find and divine types and anti-types in the scriptures. Explains Chitwood: “type and antitype must agree in exact detail” (Salvation of the Soul, p. 46). Problematically, one must first interpret “type and antitype” — a point Chitwood is reluctant to admit.

(Essentially, type/antitype refers to an allegorical method of interpretation. For example in Romans 5:14, Paul says Jesus was a “type” of Adam, describing that by one man’s sin, sin entered the world affecting all; conversely, by one man’s death, grace entered the world. In other words, Jesus is like Adam, but only in the sense that his actions affect everyone. Otherewise, they are very different: Adam is a created being, Jesus uncreated; Adam yielded to temptation, Jesus could not, etc. Not everything in the Old Testament is a type of something in the New Testament — the latter would have to be much longer to include every such type — but Chitwood insists that everything in the OT should be regarded as a type of something in the NT. For every OT type, there is a NT antitype. Why this must be is never explained scripturally: none of the NT writers insisted on it.)

Describing the fall of man, Chitwood writes, “The established pattern (type) relative to the restoration of a ruined creation is set in the first chapter of Genesis. Once God establishes a pattern of this nature, no change can ever occur. The restoration of any subsequent ruined creation must occur in exact accord with the established pattern. Thus, God’s work in the restoration of fallen man today — a subsequent ruined creation — must follow the established pattern, in exact detail” (Salvation of the Soul, p. 47).

This radical method of interpretation is never defended scripturally; he simply insists it’s valid. Thus, despite that the Bible never says Jesus rose physically without blood, Chitwood concludes it must mean to say that. His logic is as follows:

Christ is ministering today in the antitype of Aaron, on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat, on behalf of Christians who sin. The sins committed by Christians are forgiven through confession of these sins on the basis of the shed blood of Christ which “cleanseth [‘keeps on cleansing’] us from all sin.”

The reason Jesus couldn’t have risen bodily with blood is that the blood must be on the mercy seat, or else Christians could not receive the salvation of their souls (i.e. the forgiveness of sins after ones conversion). This is an extraordinarily literal and materialistic[8. By “materialistic” I mean a kind of forced literalism. For example, when it says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, one should not presume that God has a right hand or body, but that the expression is metaphorical; otherwise, one will begin to attribute qualities to God that are expressly forbidden.] interpretation; the damage it does is enormous.

If Jesus literally and physically poured his blood on the mercy seat which is in heaven, how and when did he do it? When he appeared to his disciples declaring that he was “flesh and bones,” he had not yet ascended (cf. John 20:27). If the blood was not in Jesus’ body at that moment, and he had not yet ascended, where was the blood kept? If all this sounds ridiculous, that’s the point. The mercy seat is only mentioned once in the New Testament, and nothing is said about Jesus pouring his blood out on it (cf. Heb. 9:5). Second, supposing even that the Bible did make this point, should such a description be taken literally? When the scriptures talk about Jesus sitting at the right hand of the father, is it that God literally has hands? No, such a rendering of the text would be materialistic, i.e. forced literalism.

Yet because Chitwood insists the antitype (Jesus shedding his blood for sins) must correspond exactly to the type (Aaron offering the blood upon the mercy seat annually), one has to accept that Jesus ascended without blood because the blood was on the mercy seat. No scriptural evidence is necessary. It simply is so because that is what is taught in the “Word of the Kingdom.”

Thus, Chitwood teaches that Jesus is currently serving as a priest, and that Christians receive forgiveness of sins, not because of the finished work of Christ, but as Jesus is making a “continuous cleansing for Christians” with the shed blood on the mercy seat (Salvation of the Soul, p. 40). Christians now receive forgiveness by confessing their sins (ibid.).

The problem with Chitwood’s typology — in this instance, the claim just as Aaron made blood sacrifices, Jesus is making a “continuous cleansing” — is that the very text he relies on forbids that interpretation. The scriptures teach quite the opposite. Blood sacrifice in the ancient times had no power to save; it had to be repeated annually; and, the high priest had to make a sacrifice even for himself. Jesus’ blood saves eternally and was offered once (not continuously); further, he did not have to atone for his own sins (he was perfect — not soulical).

What saith the Bible? Does the antitype exactly match the type?

  • “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Heb. 9:23).
  • “Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:25-28).

Even if Chitwood is not saying the Jesus continually offers his blood on the mercy seat (he seems to want to avoid this conclusion), the point is that his claim that “type and antitype must agree in exact detail” is utterly false. According to Hebrews, they don’t agree at all.

Chitwood, who rails against the Christian church for allegedly ignoring the truth of the “Word of the Kingdom” (so-called), so distances himself from orthodoxy that he systematically alters the meaning of every scripture. Whereas Paul concludes that salvation is entirely apart from works, Chitwood strangely concludes that some aspects of redemption are indeed “conditional” — and he insists he’s only preaching what the Bible says.

Followers of Chitwood’s teaching would do well to ask, “What saith the Bible?”