Tag Archives: Word of the Kingdom

The carnal pursuits of kingdom believers

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.

Ultimate 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.

Chitwood omits “conditional” salvation in revision of book

Note, Sept. 4, 2011 — Chitwood offers an older version of Salvation of the Soul, which includes his claim that “soul salvation” is conditional (press here — PDF file). You can also download the text at KingdomExclusion.com (press here — All Chitwood’s Writings).

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Without explanation, Arlen Chitwood has omitted a controversial passage from the latest revision of Salvation of the Soul. In previous editions, Chitwood stated, “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” (p. 13, emphasis Chitwood’s). The latest edition, offered at LampBroadcast.org, omits the term “conditional.”

It is not evident whether this represents a shift in Chitwood’s thinking about salvation. He has not replied to several inquiries sent to him.

While much of what Chitwood has to say about Christian maturity is edifying, the division of salvation into three aspects — salvation of the spirit, the soul and the body — is problematic. Chiefly, Chitwood contends that the soul and body of a believer are yet unsaved. He does not offer a plausible explanation for why the blood of Christ should have no effect on believer’s soul or body. Also, by dividing salvation into three parts, he creates different modes of salvation, so that salvation by grace through faith applies only to the spirit — the soul and body are saved by works.

Further complicating matters is that Chitwood never explains how the soul is ultimately saved.

Traditional, evangelical theology recognizes past, present and future aspects of salvation, but not different modes. Evangelicals contend the blood of Christ redeems the entire person.

Despite the omission of the term “conditional,” Chitwood still teaches that the salvation of the soul is by works. The revised passage reads —

And salvation now (in relation to the soul, not the spirit) becomes dependent on the actions of the individual. Salvation now becomes dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. Salvation now becomes dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit. — page 13, Salvation of the Soul

Similarly, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida, maintains that the salvation of the soul is “determined by works” (source). Chitwood is a regular speaker there and a great influence.

Chitwood attempts to resolve the issue by arguing that the salvation of the soul pertains only to achieving or not achieving rewards in the millennial kingdom. This sounds plausible until one considers that the soul of a believer, in Chitwood’s scheme of salvation, is not presently saved by the blood of Jesus, and, apparently, not ever.

“Word of the Kingdom” — heretical and racist

Having studied this teaching since 2005, I can only conclude that the “Word of the Kingdom,” as taught by the late A. Edwin Wilson and Arlen L. Chitwood, is heretical, and that aspects of the teaching are even racist. I do not make these statements lightly. These are harsh findings to be sure, but I must speak plainly.

Heresy —

Chitwood openly states that salvation is not entirely by grace, that it is not unconditional. Only the spirit of a person is saved by grace unconditionally; the soul is saved conditionally. This, Chitwood states directly: “The salvation of the soul, unlike the salvation of the spirit, is conditional” (The Salvation of the Soul, pg. 13 — emphasis Chitwood’s). This statement is antithetical to the gospel, which states that salvation is not by our own doing, but by grace alone.

The apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

I have written Chitwood several times regarding his assertion that “soul salvation” is conditional, and his responses have been less than satisfying. While spirited, Chitwood ultimately declined to explain how conditional salvation accords with the Free Grace movement, which he claims to champion. I’ve also spoken with Roel Velema, who has translated a number of Chitwood’s works into other languages, about this matter. Velema plainly asserts that “soul salvation” results from human action, though Velema attempts to place this working of salvation within the context of free grace. I’ve spoken with countless others, all of whom decline to assert that the soul is saved entirely by the blood of Jesus.

Why is the “Word of the Kingdom” heresy? Because it asserts that the soul is not saved ultimately by the blood of Jesus, but that the crucifixion of Christ only initiates the possibility of soul salvation.

Key articles at KingdomExclusion.com —
1. Chitwood: Salvation is not entirely by grace
2. Kingdom believer claims to be unsaved
3. General objections to the teaching of Arlen L. Chitwood

Racism —

Here, I must stately positively that not all advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” are racists, or that they all avow segregation. That is simply not true. Many participate in mixed fellowships. However, most advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” continue to champion the Hamitic curse, which is the underlying theology of religious segregation. The late A. Edwin Wilson wrote and preached extensively on segregation, and his works are promoted by “Word of the Kingdom” advocates today. This is intolerable, and shameful.

Even more disturbing are the apologetic comments from advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom.” Ralph Alley, called an elder at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Los Gatos, California, wrote that Wilson’s segregationist views were “acceptable in some circles,” though he did indicate that Wilson’s teachings on race were “problematic.” Other advocates have gone steps further. Chitwood wrote two articles recently affirming the core of Wilson’s racial views, and Arlen Banks, a radio preacher, even asserted by e-mail that certain races should not intermix. He did not, however, take issue with congregations already mixed.

The unwillingness of advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” to disavow the Hamitic curse entirely stems from two concerns: (1) their understanding of eschatology and (2) Wilson’s role in establishing the “Word of the Kingdom.” First, so-called “kingdom seekers” believe fundamentally that Old Testament curses extend into the modern age and culminate at the millennial kingdom. They do not appear to question why they believe in the Hamitic curse (there is no evidence of it in scripture), but hold to it as an unquestionable gospel truth. Second, Wilson founded the “Word of the Kingdom” and he was steadfast in his opposition to integration. He maintained these views from the 1950s (possibly earlier) to the early 1980s. Unable to accept that Wilson was garden-variety racist, advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” advance that the Hamitic curse is biblical, though misunderstood and sometimes misused by modern theologians. Even Chitwood asserted that some people use the teaching in “racist” ways, but he does not explain how the teaching itself is not racist. Nor does he care to.

No believer in the “Word of the Kingdom,” to my knowledge, has disavowed the Hamtic curse — though some claim to be uncertain about it.

Why is the “Word of the Kingdom” racist? Because it demeans people of African descent, and undermines the unity of the Body of Christ by asserting that Christians of different races should not, ultimately, mix.

Key articles at KingdomExclusion.com–
1. Is Arlen Chitwood a racist?
2. No accountability among kingdom seekers
3. Race hatred and the Word of the Kingdom
4. Chitwood and others respond to Wilson’s racial teachings

“R Powell” endorses A. Edwin Wilson’s book

An “R Powell,” possibly Royce Powell who succeeded A. Edwin Wilson in pastoral ministry in the 1980s, has written a review of Wilson’s book at Amazon.com, endorsing the text. Here are his comments:

I originally received a copy of the Select Writings of A Edwin Wilson from the Editor, Arlen Chitwood in the early 8o’s, and have referred to it many times over the years for additional insight when I taught a bible class. I recently decided to re-read the book in full and found new insights in the Word of God. So impressed with its content, I purchased two additional books as gifts for my pastor and my sister, who pastors a church in Chicago.

As far as the review that Mark Adams wrote, it it appears his reviews on any Christian writing were mostly negative. — source

I have endeavored several times to contact Powell through various intermediaries, but have thus far been unsuccessful. If “R Powell” is Royce Powell, then these comments shed important light on the racial views of contemporary advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom,” which Wilson founded. Powell spoke last year at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida, and his sermons are promoted by the Los Gatos branch of that movement.

One sermon in particular deserves attention, for in it Powell avows that certain races shouldn’t intermingle. The title of that sermon is “The Three Sons of Noah” — direct link to mp3 file: http://www.calvarybiblechurchtn.org/images/powell/100_The_Three_Sons_of_Noah.mp3 — it is found at this page.

There seems to be a concerted effort to defend the reputation of the late A. Edwin Wilson, who advocated segregation through the 1980s. Radio preacher Arlen Banks reposted Selected Writings of A. Edwin Wilson after having pulled the text from his website over concerns that some of the content was not appropriate. Banks later disavowed those concerns. John Chitwood, Arlen Chitwood’s son (Arlen edited Wilson’s book) also posted a review at Amazon.com, saying Wilson was not a racist.

As regards “R Powell’s” assertion that my “reviews on any Christian writing were mostly negative,” I can only reply that I do not regard Wilson’s book as a Christian writing.

Can it be that salvation is conditional?

Arlen Chitwood boldly asserts that free grace is limited to one aspect of a person’s being, ones spirit. He explains, “The salvation of the soul, unlike the salvation of the spirit, is conditional” (p. 13, Salvation of the Soul, emphasis is Chitwood’s).

I have inquired of many, especially among those who promulgate the “Word of the Kingdom,” as to where such an idea is taught in scriptures. Where does it say that salvation (in this case “soul salvation”) is conditional upon how one lives, not upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary. Thus far, no one has presented such a scripture.

If you can find one, please comment

Word of the Kingdom preacher reposts racist book

Radio preacher Arlen Banks has reposted a book promoting segregation. Banks previously offered Selected Writings of A. Edwin Wilson in digital form at TheKingdomOfTheHeavens.org, but pulled it after it was revealed here that the late preacher taught that blacks were inferior to whites.

At the time, Banks maintained that Wilson was “wrong” to say that Ham committed immoral acts because he was black.[1. See http://kingdomexclusion.com/?p=1041]

“I disagree with Wilson’s speculation of Ham being black, but he was entitled to his opinion, whether it was wrong or right,” wrote Banks in the forum at KingdomExclusion.com.

Banks reposted the book last week.

In the 1950s, Wilson founded a teaching called “Word of the Kingdom,” which maintains, among other things that salvation is conditional. Though not widely known, “Word of the Kingdom” is promoted by Christians who typically identify themselves as baptists.

Wilson maintained in sermons and articles throughout four decades that blacks were cursed by God; he taught that integration was a work of Satan. Wilson’s racial theories mirrored those of many in the South in the mid-1900s.

In a 1973 sermon, Wilson preached:

Generally speaking, around the world, what’s the hour and the day that manifests the strongest evidential segregation? It’s on Sunday, and what time? Eleven o’clock. That’s particularly true in what area of the world? … Bible Belt? What is the capitol of the Bible Belt? … Chattanooga is the capitol of the Bible Belt, you know it is. What other city in the world has Bible taughting (sic.) schools like this city? No place but the Bible Belt that have it. Now why is the eleven o’clock hour in Chattanooga the most segregated time and place in the world? There is a reason for it. Because in a majority of the pulpits you’ll still find the word of God.

Selected Writings was published in 1981, and reprinted as late as 1996. Digital copies have been available at various sites promoting the Word of the Kingdom, including Arlen L. Chitwood’s site, LampBroadcast.org.

Chitwood edited Selected Writings.

The book has been promoted continuously by pastors connected with the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship franchise, though Pastor John Herbert, of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida, said previously that he would not adhere to Wilson’s teachings on race. Still, several speakers at a conference sponsored by Herbert’s church teach that blacks are cursed.

In e-mails to the publisher at KingdomExclusion.com, Banks has defended Wilson, saying that the late preacher was a godly man. “A. Edwin Wilson is not a racist,” Banks wrote last July.[2. See http://kingdomexclusion.com/?p=1391]

However, speaking of the curse upon blacks, Wilson wrote that it “involved [the] general inferiority of the Hamitic race, and a special condemnation to the lowest degree of servitude. This curse consigns the Hamitic race to a position of national and personal servitude until the time of restitution of all things.”

Banks offers Wilson’s book at two sites he maintains: TheKingdomOfTheHeavens.org and AEWilson.org.

Accountability?

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.

I reply:

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.

Editorial: No accountability among kingdom seekers

First, who is A. Edwin Wilson? He is the originator of a teaching called the “Word of the Kingdom.” He died in 1987, but his teaching lives on, principally in the ministry of Arlen L. Chitwood. What is the “Word of the Kingdom”? It is the belief that the salvation is conditional — that Christians will suffer the hurt of the second death for carnality. Since 2007, I have opposed this teaching, outlining my objections in article after article, maintaining that “Word of the Kingdom” propounds works-salvation.

But in 2009, sometime in November or December, I came across another reason to oppose this teaching: race hatred. As it turns out, Wilson was a segregationist. Given his Southern origins, this should not have come as a surprise. But it did. After all, “Word of the Kingdom” says Christians need to be aware that they are accountable for their actions.

Apparently, this is not so.

Had Wilson merely been a product of his age, I suppose I would have written off his views as an unfortunate circumstance of history. But there is more. Through the 1970s, Wilson continued to preach that blacks were cursed, and that no equality should be afforded to them. In 1981, his admirers felt his teachings should be memorialized in a published collection of his writings. Chitwood edited and promoted this text, callously disregarding its racist content.

Since publishing several articles on Wilson’s racial theories, only one advocate of the “Word of the Kingdom” has stated that Wilson was wrong on the race issue. Pastor John Herbert of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida, disavowed Wilson’s position on race, saying, “I would not adhere to that under any circumstances.” In this regard, he stands alone.

The Response of Others:

Does accountability matter at all? The hypocrisy of these advocates of the “Word of the Kingdom” is galling.

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Who are the unbelievers?

Who are the unbelievers in 2 Cor. 6:14-16?

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…

Quite extraordinarily, “kingdom believers” assert that such are Christians who do not believe in the “Word of the Kingdom,” the belief that salvation is conditional and that so-called carnal Christians will be excluded in the millennial kingdom. This interpretation aligns Christians with darkness, Belial (Satan), and idols. It also provides a basis for excluding so-called “non-kingdom-believers” from their fellowships.

Attention was drawn to this teaching a few years ago after a recorded sermon was distributed among members of a mountain community in Los Gatos, California. The recording contained a 2006 sermon in which John Herbert, the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida, stated,

Can I tell you this morning that no work other than that which is done in Boaz’s field is of any value whatsoever. Anything that is done outside of Boaz’s field is wood, hay and straw, and it will be burnt up. But we notice the progression of what we have seen here. We must determine to make this journey. We must determine to be obedient to the Word of God. We must be determined to do everything that it says, and then we start to work in Boaz’s field. Because as we begin to do this word, take it, use it, allow it to change us, see what it says and be faithfully obedient to it, we cannot help but start dying to self, we cannot not help but crucify our flesh, you can’t be obedient to this word and live in the flesh. It’s just not possible.

“And do we find there? (Ruth 2:8.) Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Will you not? You will listen. Will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here but stay close by my young women.’ We better stick around those who know something of the Kingdom and what they are talking about. Don’t go running off with any old body, just because we like the look of them. Praise the Lord.

“The scripture says we should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Can I tell you that’s not talking about a non-Christian. It’s talking about somebody who doesn’t get this, who’s not interested in this. They’re the unbelievers. And we are not to be unequally yoked with them. We need people around us who can support us and encourage us in this.” — source

The juxtaposition of “righteousness” and “lawlessness,” “light” and “darkness,” and “Christ” and “Belial” makes it plain that Christians are not in view. (That no theologian, to my understanding, has suggested otherwise should also be instructive.) Paul states that Christians should be separate from the world; he never says Christians should separate themselves from other Christians, except in extreme circumstances (cf. 1 Cor. 5:3-5, in order to save the man’s “spirit”). He argues that believers are to be separate from the world, and not yoked to it or formally bound to it (cf. 1 John 2:15). Traditionally, Paul’s words are interpreted as an appeal against mixed marriages, i.e. union between Christians and non-Christians, which is ill-advised on so many levels.[pullquote]The scripture says we should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Can I tell you that’s not talking about a non-Christian. It’s talking about somebody who doesn’t get this, who’s not interested in this. They’re the unbelievers.”[/pullquote]

Paul discusses marriage elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians, he explains that believers are not required to divorce their unbelieving mates (1 Cor. 7:12-16). However, he does forbid divorce: “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). He makes this statement without qualification, and obviously he has Christians in mind. This prohibition does not apply in situations where one spouse has converted and the other has not. Here, Paul lays out an exception: they can divorce, but they do not have to. If they remain married, the other might be saved.

Unmarried Christians are encouraged to remain unmarried, though they may marry if they wish (1 Cor. 7:9).

That 2 Cor. 6:14-16 speaks only to the marriage issue is doubtful. Rather, Paul is addressing all spiritual unions. Accordingly, believers should have no union or partnership with unbelievers, i.e. those aligned with Satan.

Herbert’s interpretation of the text is troubling on many levels. First, there is the issue that Herbert avows conditional salvation. Cornerstone’s statement of faith states that “the salvation of the soul will be realized at the Judgment Seat of Christ and is determined by works.” Thus, “unbelievers” to Herbert’s reckoning are those who reject Paul’s admonition that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 — interestingly, he does go one to say that Christians were created for good works).

Second, Herbert employs 2 Cor. 6:14-16 as an excuse for breaking fellowship with those who reject the so-called “Word of the Kingdom,” which in actuality is the invention of A. Edwin Wilson and Arlen L. Chitwood.

Herbert maintains that unbelievers are those “who [don’t] get this, who [are] not interested in this,” i.e. the “Word of the Kingdom.” On this basis, he encourages disunion with other believers — not on moral grounds, e.g. Paul’s exclusion of a man cohabiting with his stepmother (again, cf. 1 Cor. 5:3-5) — but for purely sectarian interests.

Justification of Herbert’s teaching is common among “kingdom believers.” The leadership at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Los Gatos, California, for example, affirms Herbert’s position in a piece called “Confusion About ‘Unbelievers'” — that the unnamed author introduces a term, confusion, is telling; no one previously had been confused about the unbelievers. The unnamed author trails off into typology, ultimately concluding that partners with Satan can indeed be Christians themselves.

It’s quite extraordinary for a group of professing Christians to label other Christians (believers) as unbelievers. It is perhaps uncharitable. However, given that to accept the “Word of the Kingdom” is to believe that blacks are cursed, that salvation is conditional and that Christians will suffer the hurt of the lake of fire, other motivations must be at work.

The desire of so-called “kingdom believers” to separate themselves from other Christians calls to mind the apostle John’s admonition that “they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). That “kingdom believers” do not continue in fellowship with other Christians, that its leaders condemn all other Christian teachers, suggests the “Word of the Kingdom” is not a presentation of the gospel, but rather a schismatic invention of carnal men and women.

Where’s the outrage?

The Word of the Kingdom conference is scheduled for early February (see link). Unsettlingly, three of the scheduled speakers believe some African and/or Arab races are cursed, or else promote literature justifying racial segregation.

1. Arlen Chitwood edited and promoted a book endorsing racial segregation (see link). Individually, he maintains some African races are cursed (see link).

2. In the 1980s, Royce Powell preached that certain races should not intermingle (listen to the sermon here — select “The Three Sons of Noah”).

3. Jim Brooks currently hosts two websites — calvarybiblechurchtn.org and thedisciplescall.org — promoting the racial theories of Chitwood, Powell and A. Edwin Wilson (download Selected Writings of A. Edwin Wilson here).

As “Word of the Kingdom” champions accountability, is it wrong to hold these men accountable for their words and deeds?