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The Gospel According to Paulk: A Critique of...

Written by: Bowman, Robert M. Jr.    Posted on: 05/01/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

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"The Gospel According to Paulk: A Critique of "Kingdom Theology" (an article from the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1988, Volume 11, Number 1, page 15) by Robert M. Bowman, Jr., with Craig S. Hawkins and Dan R. Schlesinger.   The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

-------------

        *Not only does the secular media have its guns     trained on the Church, but the religious media likes to     take its little potshots as well. Recently, a religious     publication called Chapel Hill for an interview with     Bishop Paulk. They were told that his busy schedule     wouldn't allow it that day. The response went something     like this:

        "Well, cults always deny interviews. You have     denied an interview with us so that obviously makes you     a cult." Great deductive reasoning! It makes about as     much sense as this premise [i.e., argument]: Eggs     break. Bones break. Therefore, eggs are obviously     bones.[1]*

    The above statement by Don Paulk in the March 1988 _Thy Kingdom Come_ was published less than a month after the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL contacted Chapel Hill Harvester Church and asked to interview Earl Paulk. The church staff would neither confirm nor deny that this statement was about us. The fact is that, as I reported in Part One of this article, we had talked with staff members on at least four occasions and they had relayed to us that Earl Paulk was not willing to talk with us _at any time._ The account (if about us) also distorts our response to Paulk's refusal to talk to us. What I told Tricia Weeks (Paulk's Public Relations Officer) was that we had serious questions about Paulk's orthodoxy which neither his publications nor her attempts to defend him on the phone had been able to answer (as she herself admitted).

    In Part One of this critique of Kingdom Theology (KT) as represented in the writings of Earl Paulk, I discussed faulty criticisms of KT as well as invalid attempts by Paulk to shield KT from criticism, and traced its historical and theological roots. In this second and concluding article on KT, I shall systematically examine the theology of Earl Paulk,[2] critiquing it on the basis of Scripture.

*REVELATION: ONGOING OR COMPLETE?*

    On many of Paulk's teachings, statements can be found in his writings supporting contradictory positions. In practically every instance Paulk's seemingly orthodox statements will be found in those writings in which Paulk was trying to defend his teaching from the charge of heresy. The apparently aberrant or heretical statements are mostly found in his nonapologetic writings (although his apologetic writings contain questionable teachings as well).

    Such a tension is evident in Paulk's teaching on the sufficiency of the Bible as the only source of doctrinal revelations for the church. On the one hand, Paulk has often made statements which clearly indicate that new doctrinal revelations are being issued through modern apostles and prophets. For example:

    Many Christians incorrectly believe everything God     would have us know has already been written. The book     of John says that many things are yet to be spoken that     are not written in the Bible.[3]

    Fresh revelation is necessary to guide us into all     truth. Had "all truth" been given to us already, Jesus     would never have said that the Holy Spirit would serve     as "a guide" to us.[4]

    On the other hand, he has attempted to defend his view of prophecy with statements such as the following:

    Kingdom theology is not a new theology, interpretation     of Scripture nor new revelation. It is as old as the     Scriptures.[5]

      Because I believe the Bible is a closed canon, I     acknowledge the limitations upon spoken prophecy that     such a statement implies.[6]

    It is not easy to put these statements together into a logically coherent whole. A perusal of Paulk's several books will show that overall he seeks to find some basis in the Bible for everything he teaches, while at the same time claiming that truths not recorded in the Bible are being revealed today. Thus, Paulk appears to hold to a theology of ongoing doctrinal revelations, while recognizing the need to relate his teachings to the Bible if they are to be made acceptable to evangelical and pentecostal Christians.

    That Paulk's doctrine of ongoing revelation implies an unquestionable doctrinal authority outside the Bible may be seen from an analysis of his teaching regarding the "fivefold ministry."

*THE PENTECOSTAL PAPACY*

    As we saw in Part One, one of the "truths" supposedly restored in the Latter-Rain movement was the doctrine of the "fivefold ministry."  According to this doctrine, the five offices listed in Ephesians 4:11 -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers -- are all needed in a fully functioning and maturing church, and therefore the church today should begin to recognize certain "anointed" individuals as having been called to occupy these offices, including apostles and prophets. As I have shown elsewhere,[7] this doctrine rests on a mistaken interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 and misconstrues the New Testament teaching concerning apostles and prophets, church offices which passed away in the first century.

    There are, it should be noted, different ideas among those who hold to this fivefold ministry as to what apostles and prophets are supposed to do. These different views range from regarding apostles and prophets as church-planters and Spirit-filled preachers to regarding them as spokesmen for God whose authority and teaching cannot be questioned. It is the latter view which is harmful to sound Christian faith, and it is, unfortunately, the view espoused by Earl Paulk. Thus, Paulk writes, "The calling of the apostle is to establish order in the Church."[8] Paulk compares the apostles and prophets to generals in God's army: "God's people are going to begin to know who their generals are and they will recognize whom to follow .... God will develop His anointed structure in His army."[9]

    Paulk has even more to say about the authority of prophets than apostles, perhaps because he is recognized by his followers and other leaders in the movement as a prophet. Repeatedly he argues that while the prophecies spoken by congregational members are to be judged by the church's elders, the pronouncements of those holding the office of "prophet" in the fivefold ministry are not to be judged by anyone except God. Paulk claims that false prophets in the church will be dealt with by God alone, who will "kill" them either by causing their death or by causing their ministries to "die." This is Paulk's "interpretation" of Deuteronomy 13:5, where the people of Israel are commanded to put false prophets to death.[10]

    It is evident from this "prooftext" for the immunity of a prophet that Paulk feels free to depart blatantly from the plain meaning of Scripture whenever it suits his purpose. Deuteronomy 13:5 simply cannot be fairly read to mean anything other than that a false prophet was to be executed under the Mosaic law code (for the church in a pluralistic society, the corresponding action would be excommunication). Thus, the text actually says the exact opposite of what Paulk says it means (that no one should judge or take action against a false prophet except God).

    If any Christian should be inclined to call into question the accuracy of Paulk's interpretation of Scripture, they would find a rebuke from him:

    Another cloak of spirituality is when pastors say that     every Christian needs to take his Bible and judge the     truth for himself. This is not the instruction of God's     Word. God gives the five-fold ministry for the     "equipping of the saints" and the "edifying of the     body" (Ephesians 4:12). Man has no right to private     interpretation of the Word of God apart from those whom     God sets in the Church as spiritual teachers and     elders.[11]

    Paulk's apostles and prophets are thus a sort of pentecostal papacy, claiming the same kind of unquestioned authority as the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Such authoritarianism in the church is never healthy, as is evident from the doctrinal and practical errors of the Roman Catholic church, though at least in the case of Rome centuries of church history and tradition provide a modest check to any tendency to innovation. The Kingdom Theology apostles and prophets, however, have no such traditions to respect, and therefore can and do announce new revelations as often as they like.

    Finally, it should be realized that for Paulk the issue of the fivefold ministry is extremely important. In practically every book he has written in the past six years, a warning is included that spiritual danger, possibly even hell, awaits those who reject the fivefold ministry.[12]

    What exactly does Paulk teach on the basis of these unbiblical views of revelation and authority? The rest of this study will be taken up with answering that question.

*A SELF-LIMITED GOD*

    Bishop Paulk clearly affirms his belief in the traditional Christian view of an omnipotent, omniscient, absolutely sovereign God.[13] He would no doubt take offense at the suggestion that his view of the nature of God is deficient. Unfortunately, there is reason to think that Paulk's teaching on God is not consistently orthodox.

    Orthodox Christian theology holds that God is carrying out a single plan for His creation, a plan which is based in His eternal purpose and which cannot be thwarted.[14] Earl Paulk, on the other hand, consistently throughout his writings teaches that God is now carrying out a second plan, the first having been defeated by Adam's rebellion in the Garden of Eden.

          God said, "Okay, I'm going to whip you at           your own game, Satan, I'm going to give           authority to the seed. Adam, number one,           missed the mark. Now I'm going to try it           again." ... We are now living out God's           second plan to redeem "that which was lost."           ... God's "Plan B" is the strategy by which           the seed will overcome Satan's rule.[15]

    How can Paulk reconcile talk of God "trying again" and going to "Plan B" with his professed belief in God's omnipotence and omniscience? Evidently by arguing that although God is by nature omnipotent and omniscient, He voluntarily has limited Himself by establishing certain immutable laws in the world, by making statements to which He is then bound, and by giving his human creatures a measure of sovereignty in their own right.

    The very source of all power, omnipotent God, decrees,     "As I give you power, I limit My own power." God     automatically limits His power whenever He creates one     to whom He gives autonomy. By God's giving us power in     certain areas of life, He limits Himself in those     areas. For that reason, we determine our own destiny in     many ways.[16]

    If the decision had been God's alone, surely His own     Son would have known the time of His return....Of     course, in His omniscience God knows, but He does not     know in experience. God must wait in responsiveness to     His plan.[17]

    Paulk's view of God as represented by these statements, from the standpoint of historic Christian theology, is at best erroneous and aberrant, at worst heretical. A God who loses power by creating beings with "autonomy," who knows things "in His omniscience" but not "in experience" (whatever that means), and who must improvise a "Plan B" when Plan A is defeated, is not an infinite God.

    It is true that God created man with the ability to choose contrary to His revealed will, and that Adam's fall made us incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which God created us. However, in context Paulk's statements go well beyond these affirmations and say that God actually has created demigods whose sovereignty limits God's and whose rebellion frustrates God's sovereign purpose for the universe. This will become clearer as more aspects of Paulk's theology are explained.

    If any reader is uncertain as to the biblical teaching concerning God's absolute sovereignty, he would do well to make a careful study of the nature of God, as our view of God will determine the rest of our beliefs for good or for ill.[18]

*STAR WARS: THE MYTHOLOGY OF DOMINION*

    To use the word "mythology" to describe the teaching of a professing Christian minister may sound overly harsh, but there is biblical precedent for it (2 Tim. 4:3-4). In the case of Earl Paulk, the charge that his theology is essentially myth is based, not on a caricature of a few isolated statements, but on the repeated major themes of all of his books relating to the history of the universe and man's place in it.[19]

    According to Bishop Paulk and Kingdom Theology, in the very beginning God created the universe and populated it with spirits (or angels) who lived in perfect obedience to Him. However, a third of these angels, led by Lucifer, rebelled against God's authority, becoming the demons, and seized dominion over part (probably one-third, cf. Rev. 8:12, "a third of the stars") of the physical universe. This angelic rebellion occurred in a "gap" between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The result was that the earth, which was the "capital city" or headquarters of this demonic Evil Empire, was brought into chaos and made formless and void (Gen. 1:2).

    In order to win back unchallenged dominion over the universe, God introduced into the earth Man, a race of creatures which God intended to become a resistance movement that would conquer the Devil's home planet and thus lead the way in taking back dominion over the entire universe. Man was to be a race of "little gods" exercising divine sovereignty in their area of influence, thus overwhelming the devil's forces. Unfortunately, the father of this race, Adam, was tricked by the devil into forfeiting Man's place in this plan and actually brought God's first plan to nought.

    God was then forced to come up with a "Plan B"[20] to take dominion over the earth. His solution: to introduce into this fallen race a man in whom the divine nature dwelled fully, who would become the prototype of a new race of human beings in which the original godhood of Adam was restored. This divine Man was Jesus Christ, a perfect manifestation of God the Father, and the "firstfruit" of the "incarnation" of God. The race of "little gods" who are spiritually united with Christ as members of His "body" is the church, constituting collectively with Him the complete incarnation, a corporate manifestation of God in the flesh which together will overcome the devil and restore God's dominion unchallenged on the earth. Ultimate victory over the devil, then, depends finally upon the church accepting its calling to be little gods. It further depends on the church's submitting to the fivefold ministry through whom God is seeking to mobilize the church into a unified army prepared to take dominion back from the devil.

    As wild as this story may sound to some readers, this account of "salvation history" according to Paulk is taken very seriously as the theological basis of the "Kingdom message." If, then, this scenario can be shown to be unbiblical, the Kingdom Theology of Earl Paulk and his associates will have been effectively refuted.

  It should be admitted that some of the elements of this mythology have been taught by some orthodox theologians. For example, the "gap" theory, according to which the condition of the earth in Genesis 1:2 was the result of a judgment upon Satan's rebellion, has been held by many highly esteemed Christian thinkers in the past century.[21] However, placing a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 is grammatically indefensible and rests on a mistaken understanding of the expression "formless and void."[22] Furthermore, the statement in Genesis 1:31 that God pronounced everything He had made as "very good" contradicts the gap theory, according to which the earth was a spiritual battleground at the time of Adam's creation. The theory that man was placed on earth to take dominion over the devil runs afoul also of Genesis 1:26, 28, which shows that the "dominion" mandate given to Adam was to rule over the biological life on the earth, not to reclaim dominion from the devil's hosts. Indeed, the entire chapter of Genesis 1 is a sustained argument that God created the earth and all that is in it for mankind's enjoyment and use, rather than creating mankind as a pawn in His power struggle with the devil. That is, God made the earth for man, not man for the earth.

    The gap theory, as erroneous as it is, is not in and of itself heretical. However, it can be put to use in a heretical system, and as such can be a part of an extremely unorthodox mythology. What makes it so in the case of Kingdom Theology is its combination with the Manifest Sons of God doctrine, according to which the church is the ongoing incarnation of God and believers are "little gods" exercising autonomous sovereignty within their spheres of dominion. As this is perhaps the most objectionable and controversial aspect of Earl Paulk's teachings, it deserves special attention.

*LITTLE GODS*

    The teaching of Earl Paulk that Christians are to regard themselves as "little gods" should not be isolated from the overall doctrine he presents in his writings. His teaching about the nature of the church and of the individual Christian involves far more than the expression "little gods." According to Paulk, the church is the "ongoing incarnation" of God, soon to be the "manifest sons of God," and as much "God in the flesh" as was Jesus Christ:

    Jesus was God in the flesh. We must be as He was in the     world, and even greater in volume and influence.[23]

    The completion of the incarnation of God in the world     must be in His Church... Jesus Christ is the     firstfruit, but without the ongoing harvest, the     incarnation will never be complete.[24]

    The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in     the womb of a virgin. The Word became flesh in the God     man, Jesus Christ (John 1:1). Likewise, the Word of God     must be made flesh in the Church in order for us to     bear witness to the Kingdom which God has called us to     demonstrate.[25]

    We are on earth as extensions of God to finish the work     He began. We are the essence of God, His on-going     incarnation in the world.[26]

    Evidently Paulk really means to say that the church is as much "God in the flesh" as was Jesus. Certainly he does say this over and over, and never once qualifies his statements to suggest that there is anything unique about Christ as the incarnation except that He was its "firstfruit" and "standard." Thus, Paulk appears to be saying something far beyond the orthodox belief that Christ indwells the church through the Holy Spirit and continues His work on earth through the church. This conclusion is confirmed by Paulk's strong warnings, based on 1 John 4:1-3, against denying that the church is the ongoing incarnation of God in the flesh.[27] From the context of these warnings it is evident that Paulk recognizes his doctrine as controversial among Christians, so that it cannot fairly be said that he is simply teaching the standard view that Christ indwells the church. Of course, what 1 John 4:1-3 was warning about was denying that _Jesus_ was incarnate God, not that the church is too!

    That Paulk's view of the church and of mankind is heretical is confirmed by what he says about "little gods":

    Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and     expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats     have kittens, so God has little gods. Seed remains true     to its nature, bearing its own kind.     When God said, "Let us make man in our image," He     created us as little gods, but we have trouble     comprehending this truth. We see ourselves as "little     people" with very little power and dominion. Until we     comprehend that we are little gods and we begin to act     like little gods, we cannot manifest the Kingdom of     God.[28]

    When I say, "Act like a god," I can hear people saying,     "There he goes with the theory of 'the manifest sons of     God.'" Forget about theories!  Forget about doctrine!     Just go back to the simple Word of God! We are "little     gods," whether we admit it or not. What are "little     gods"? A god is someone who has sovereignty. Everyone     is sovereign within certain parameters.... We are     sovereign in many areas of life because we are "little     gods."[29]

    From these two citations it is evident that the problem with Paulk's teaching here is not merely calling men "little gods," though that is bad enough, but what he _means_ by it.[30] According to Paulk, Genesis 1 teaches that man is God's "seed," "begotten" by God, and thus is the same "kind" as God, just as elsewhere in Genesis 1 the various plants and animals are said to reproduce after their kind. This interpretation of Genesis 1 betrays a careless misreading of the text. Man is _not_ said to be "after God's kind," but rather in His "image" and "likeness," and to have been "created," not "begotten," by God (Gen. 1:26-27). God evidently wished to communicate that we were similar to God in certain important respects, but not identical in terms of nature or essence.

    Paulk also argues that as little gods, we have a certain measure of "sovereignty" over our own lives. This is consistent with his view, discussed already, that God forfeited some of His power and control over the universe in populating it with "autonomous" beings. The result of Paulk's teaching that we are "little gods" is thus a deflated view of God, as well as an inflated view of man.

    As important and integral as this teaching is in Paulk's writings, in 1987 Paulk began denying that he had ever taught it! In _That the World May Know,_ Paulk claimed that the charge that he taught a heretical view of man was based on a single quotation taken out of context:

    In one of my books, _Satan Unmasked,_ I emphasized that     man was created in God's image.... In keeping with the     Genesis account of creation in which each "kind produce     their own kind," I wrote, "Just as dogs have puppies     and cats have kittens, God has little gods." ...Out of     context, perhaps I would have questioned the     theological validity of the quote. At least, I would     have asked for further development of the analogy.[31]

    This statement is misleading in suggesting that Paulk made the statement about "little gods" once; as we have seen, he made such statements in two separate books, and throughout his books are statements about the nature of man and of the church which support his "little gods" doctrine. Even here he maintains his view of kinds producing their own kind, which makes man the same kind of being as God.

    Throughout this same book, Paulk "further develops the analogy" by claiming to distinguish between being "in the image of God" (which is, he says, the biblical view that he has taught all along) and seeking to be "like God" or "little gods," which he says he has always rejected as the lie of Satan.[32] "Some people have never learned the difference between the error of being a 'little god' instead of living as one created 'in His image.'"[33]

    As bold as this attempt was to hide the fact that he himself had taught that we are "little gods," his statement in the November 1987 issue of his newsletter _Thy Kingdom Come_ was bolder still: "I have never stated that believers are gods."[34] One wonders how this statement can be regarded as anything other than a deceitful attempt to cover up heretical teaching.

*THE GOSPEL OF DOMINION*

    We have seen that Paulk has a potentially heretical view of ongoing revelation through modern apostles and prophets whose pronouncements cannot be questioned; a deflated view of God's nature, and an inflated view of man's; and a heretical view of the church as the completion of Christ's incarnation, as a corporate body of little gods. How do these faulty views of revelation, God, man, Christ, and the church "cash out" in relation to Paulk's doctrine of salvation? Does Paulk accept the biblical gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone?

    As with so many doctrinal issues, Paulk appears to affirm the orthodox position while often at the same time compromising or even denying it. Paulk claims to accept the gospel of salvation, but also argues that there is another gospel -- the gospel of the Kingdom -- which most Christians are not preaching or believing. Paulk distinguishes between the "gospel _of_ Christ" (i.e., Christ's gospel) as the message which Christ proclaimed regarding the Kingdom, and the "gospel _about_ Christ" as the message that Christ is our God and Savior.[35] This distinction corresponds to another distinction, made in another book, between Salvation Churches, which preach only the gospel about Christ as Savior, and Kingdom Churches, which preach that the church is to complete the incarnation and take dominion over the earth back from the devil.[36]

    This distinction between two kinds of churches preaching two different gospels is quite unbiblical. The apostle Paul made it very clear that there was only one gospel, and anyone proclaiming another gospel was anathema or cursed by God (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). The "gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 24:14) which Jesus preached is the good news that through faith in Him we can be born of the Spirit and enjoy eternal life under God's undisputed rule (e.g., John 3:1-18). This is also the message preached by the apostles and disciples, who proclaimed the kingdom (Acts 8:12; 28:31) in preaching faith in Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:4; etc.). Thus, the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of salvation are one and the same message. This can also be seen in Paul's statement (frequently cited in Paulk's books) that the fruit of the kingdom of God consists in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17), fruit which Christians have been enjoying for centuries on the basis of simple faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14).

    Distinguishing between the gospels of the kingdom and of salvation is not in and of itself heretical. As long as this distinction does not obscure or deny that eternal life in God's kingdom is a free gift of God through faith in Christ, the distinction is simply an error in biblical interpretation, and does not come under the "anathema" of Paul's warning in Galatians 1:6-9. Since Paulk claims to adhere to the "salvation gospel" as well as the "kingdom gospel," his distinction would not be heretical if his "salvation gospel" were orthodox. Unfortunately, there is some reason to doubt that this is so.

    As far as this writer has been able to determine, not once in any of his books does Earl Paulk clearly affirm salvation by grace alone or the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.[37] On the other hand, there are statements which seem to compromise, if not outrightly contradict, the evangelical faith. For instance, Paulk admits to teaching "that people will either tithe or go to hell."[38] Elsewhere he insists that "works of faith" are necessary to obtain eternal life,[39] and that "church membership" is essential if we are to "maintain our salvation and place in the body."[40] Such statements call into serious question Paulk's claim to be evangelical.

*WHAT PAULK EXPECTS OF THE CHURCH*

    With his inflated view of man and the church, it will come as no surprise that Paulk expects a great deal of the church. Most critiques of Paulk have made much of Paulk's teaching that the church must accomplish certain things before Christ can return, but have not based their criticisms in a thorough enough understanding of Paulk's total perspective.

    According to Paulk, Jesus is "held in the heavens until" the church accomplishes its mission of bringing about "the restoration of all things," based on t

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