Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Salvation Army: Charity or Cult?

Every Christmas season, Americans and people in other countries have become accustomed to seeing the bells and pots of the charitable group, The Salvation Army.  But do we Christians ever stop to think about the background and beliefs of the Salvation Army?  I mean, many Christians hunger so much for the manifestation of moral principles that we have been willing to support Mormons for president of the USA (see Mitt Romney). Is the Salvation Army a, "Christian" organization?
The history of the Salvation Army starts in England during the late 1800s. William Booth, a Methodist preacher started the Salvation Army, originally under the name, The Christian Mission.  Perhaps the best way to understand the principles of the Salvation Army is by reading the book by Booth, called "In The Darkest England and the Way Out". (1890)
A significant quote:
"When in the streets of London a Cab Horse, weary or careless or stupid, trips and falls and lies stretched out in the midst of the traffic there is no question of debating how he came to stumble before we try to get him on his legs again. The Cab Horse is a very real illustration of poor broken-down humanity; he usually falls down because of overwork and underfeeding. If you put him on his feet without altering his conditions, it would only be to give him another dose of agony; but first of all you'll have to pick him up again. It may have been through overwork or underfeeding, or it may have been all his own fault that he has broken his knees and smashed the shafts, but that does not matter. If not for his own sake, then merely in order to prevent an obstruction of the traffic, all attention is concentrated upon the question of how we are to get him on his legs again. Tin load is taken off, the harness is unbuckled, or, if need be, cut, and everything is done to help him up. Then he is put in the shafts again and once more restored to his regular round of work. That is the first point. The second is that every Cab Horse in London has three things; a shelter for the night, food for its stomach, and work allotted to it by which it can earn its corn. These are the two points of the Cab Horse's Charter. When he is down he is helped up, and while he lives he has food, shelter and work. That, although a humble standard, is at present absolutely unattainable by millions—literally by millions—of our fellow-men and women in this country. Can the Cab Horse Charter be gained for human beings? I answer, yes."
The analogy to the motivation of the Salvation Army is that all attention is given to get the Cab Horse back on his feet, yet we rarely put that much attention toward the re-grounding of fallen humanity. But is Booth advocating an utopian dream, to reach the poor everywhere?  After all, even Jesus understood it is not possible nor necessarily the goal to erradicate all poverty (ref), especially since some poverty is indeed self inflicted and desired by the person.  So, while Booth's "Scheme" as he calls it in the book is a decidely "socialistic" scheme, I do not find his over all "doctrine" to be anti-Christian.
We can deduce the "doctrines" of the Salvation Army from its eleven stated doctrines (ref).
1. We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
2. We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
3. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.
4. We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the divine and human natures are united, so that he is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.
5. We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.
6. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by his suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.
7. We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation.
8. We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.
9. We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
10. We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
11. We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
Number 6 has clearly, Arminian/Semi-Pelagian/Synergistic overtones, as would be expected from Booth's Methodist background, but even that remains within acceptable Christianity.  Number 9 implies that salvation can be lost.  Number 11 clearly shows that the Salvation Army does advocate the realm of hell -- so many "Christian" movements or organizations that lean liberal, often jettison the doctrine of Hell and eternal punishment.
While the Salvation Army may have socialistic tendencies and almost a utopian outlook it is still within the frame of historic Christianity.  As far as I know, Booth never even implied to be the recipient of special revelation nor did he claim to figure out some long, lost doctrine.
So, even though the Salvation Army does not administer "sacraments/ordinances" such as baptism or the Lord's Supper/communion, it remains within the pale of Christian orthodoxy since the Salvation Army is not really a "denomination" as much as it is a Christian charity -- it is not the Salvation Army's place to baptize and offer the Lord's Supper anyway.


Anonymous said...

#11 is a dead giveaway.{pun intended.} The immortality of the soul is a Plutonian doctrine.

The Bible is crystal clear that fallen man is not immortal. God "alone has immortality" (1 Tim. 6:16, NKJV,). Fallen man must "seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Romans 2:7). Only on Resurrection Day will saints "put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:53). The Bible teaching is not the instant soaring of immortal souls into outer space after the physical body is pronounced dead; but actual death, burial, and future resurrection.

Paul Perkins said...

The author errs and has not done his homework. The Salvation Army is a "cult". They filed for tax exempt status in 1955 having to argue with the federal government claiming they were a church.General Albert Osborn, from 1946-1954 repeatedly claimed they were not a church, yet they filed a tax exempt status in 1932-33 with the federal government;yet not until 1976 did General Clarence Wiseman state that they were a church. In an interview with Sir Henry Lunn, published 1895 William Booth set forth 6 reasons why they did not adhere to the ordinances and not one of them stated the Salvation Army was "led of God" as stated in their Handbook of Doctrine, 2010 and yet this very statement differs in Salvation Story 1998 (Handbook of Doctrine). Further, they have changed their doctrine with regards to the "sacraments" in their Salvation Story, 1998 and Handbook of Doctrine, 2010. Jesus said, "...if a man love me he will keep my words..." Gospel of St. John 14:23; and Jesus commanded Baptism in the Great Commission, Gospel of St. Matthew 28:19-20. Further, "Google": "The Lord's Supper and You, Young Salvationist" and read the article by Commissioner Robert E. Thompson and compare to Galatians 1:12 and 1 Corinthians 11:23. Apostle Paul got his "information" from Jesus and thus Jesus did say: "Do this in remembrance of me." Lastly "Google": James Pedlar and Andy Couchman. Andy Couchman is a Salvation Army Officer and has written a 5 part series on Baptism and The Lord's Supper. There is much more supporting that the Salvation Army is a cult. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJB. Do your own homework. Don't take my word for it.

Anonymous said...

As a soldier in the SA..Iam seeking the truth..I can say this though..bringing in money, be it be kettles, grants, etc is the main thing.