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
Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute.
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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
*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
"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
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, critiquing it on the basis
*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.
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.
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
Because I believe the Bible is a closed canon, I
acknowledge the limitations upon spoken prophecy that
such a statement implies.
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
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, 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." 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
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
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
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
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
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. 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 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. 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.
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
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
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.
*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.
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" 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. 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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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. 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
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.
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. "Some people have never
learned the difference between the error of being a 'little god'
instead of living as one created 'in His image.'"
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." 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. 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
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. 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." Elsewhere he insists that "works of faith" are necessary
to obtain eternal life, and that "church membership" is
essential if we are to "maintain our salvation and place in the
body." 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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