Since "Christian Identity" claims to be "Christian," its doctrine of salvation is of special importance. As will become evident, Christian Identity holds to a less-than-orthodox view of the doctrine of salvation.
Identity teachers generally agree that Christ came for the purpose of saving people from their sins. They generally agree that the nature of Christ's atoning work was substitutionary and that salvation is received by faith alone.1 The departure from an historical Christian position in this matter is seen in the distinction that is made by some Identity teachers between redemption and salvation. Bertrand Comparet, writing in the American Institute of Theology's "Bible Correspondence Course," observes:
Of course, one of the purposes [in Christ's coming] was to pay the penalty of the sins of every person who believes and accepts Him as his personal Savior. But this is not all: another purpose of His first coming was to redeem His people ISRAEL which we know are not and never were composed of Jews; but today they are known as the Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Germanic nations.2
In this statement, Comparet is saying that it is indeed possible that men of all races may become saved through Christ by believing in and accepting Him, but only Israelites ("white people") are redeemed by Christ. If this sounds strange, this is not surprising, because in orthodox theology, there is no distinction made between these two complimentary aspects of Christ's atoning work. Such terms as "the atoning work of Christ," "the saving work of Christ," and "the redeeming work of Christ," are all used to mean basically the same thing in Reformed theology. While it is true that the two words "redemption" and "salvation" are indeed different words with differing meanings in some sense (as one evangelical scholar noted, the word "redemption" although closely allied to "salvation" is a more specific term and denotes how salvation is accomplished3), the idea that one could have the benefit of one without the other is unheard of. John Murray, in his acclaimed study on the doctrine of redemption notes:
The question is: on whose behalf did Christ offer himself a sacrifice? On whose behalf did he propitiate the wrath of God? Whom did he reconcile to God in the body of his flesh through death?4
Implicit in Professor Murray's question is the idea that all aspects of Christ's atoning work are applied without distinction to all for whom they were accomplished. Christ's sacrifice, His propitiation of God's wrath, and His reconciling the world through His death are all of the same piece of salvific work. Murray goes on to observe:
What does redemption mean?it does not mean that we [those who believe in Christ] are placed in a redeemable position. It means that Christ purchased and procured redemption. This is the triumphant note of the New Testament.5
The point of Murray's classic study on redemption is that it was accomplished for and applied to all who become saved through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. A re-reading of the quote from Comparet above will show that this is in stark contrast to his view: that there is a major distinction between salvation on the one hand (which is accomplished among all races) and redemption on the other (which is limited to "Israelites" or white people). In the New Testament, the Greek word apolutrosis, or some variant thereof, is translated "redemption" in English. It is a word that means to loose or free something by means of paying a ransom or a debt. Likewise, the Greek word soteria, or some variant thereof, is translated "salvation" in English and it means to deliver or be delivered. Those two words are obviously very close in meaning, but the crucial issue is whether or not there is a distinction made in Scripture or historical theology between the two. The answer to that question is "no." There is indeed a sense in which there is a limit to the redeeming and saving work of Christ in terms of its application, but that limit has nothing to do with race. Rather, it has to do with God's election and predestination. The atoning work of Christ (which includes redemption/salvation) is limited to all who have or will believe in His name and follow Him. It does not apply to those who deny Him.
There are Identity teachers who are less certain about a distinction between salvation and redemption. In terms of Identity's own theology, the belief that salvation is for all but redemption is only for true Israelites is at best an inconsistency and at worst a contradiction. The realization of this inconsistency is apparent in the writings of other Identity teachers such as Lawrence Blanchard.6 Concerning the subjects of redemption and salvation, Blanchard writes:
Just as the subjects of the redeeming activity of God are exclusively the people of Israel, so also are the subjects of the salvation of God. Although there are some Scriptural references that seem to extend salvation to any race beyond the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the overwhelming use of the Hebrewand Greekwords [for "redemption" and "salvation"] directly apply only to Israel.7
Blanchard understands that redemption and salvation cannot be so easily separated from each other, and he further sees that a consistently held Identity theology would restrict the entirety of Christ's atoning work to believers of the Anglo-Saxon and kindred peoples (the "people of Israel"). He seems to leave the door slightly ajar, however, with the comments concerning those passages of Scripture (he does not cite them in the text) that "seem to extend salvation to any race ." Note that he does not write that there is an exclusive use of the Hebrew and Greek words for redemption and salvation that apply only to Israel, but rather it is an "overwhelming" use of those terms. This is consistent with a view similar to that of Comparet, that salvation, though rare among Jews and blacks, for example, is nonetheless possible for them, even if redemption is not.
By contrast, Identity teacher and pastor Dan Gayman holds to a totally consistent view in this area. Comparet and Gayman both hold to the Seedline teaching (i.e., the belief that the Jews are the literal offspring of Satan), and yet Comparet departs from the full implications of that view when he opens the door of salvation to all races. If Jews and blacks, for example, are not of the seed of Adam and his kind, and if, in fact, Christ came only to save and redeem those of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, then no one outside Adam's race can be saved or redeemed. Dan Gayman is one of the few consistent and unashamed Seedliners in the Identity movement. He has written:
It is not possible to assert that redemption is for one people and salvation for another. Salvation is the appropriation of what was secured in redemption. You cannot have one without the other. There could be no salvation without the redemption secured by the death of Jesus Christ.8
Gayman demonstrates in his writings a firm grasp on the fundamentals of Reformed theology. He understands that both salvation and redemption apply only to the elect. He veers away from orthodoxy in his teaching that the elect may only come from among the white or Caucasian descendants of Adam. Both his "Calvinism" and his racial-Identity theology are reflected, where he writes:
Thus we can conclude that God our Father has chosen unto Himself a special people marked for salvation. Jesus Christ has redeemed these people from the curse of death by taking that curse and meeting the demands of the law in His vicarious sacrifice. No member of the elect will be lost. The atonement is limited to the election of God. If there is salvation of all races, there is no election, and the atonement of Jesus Christ is indefinite and incomplete.9
Identity theology is thus heterodox in its varied teachings on soteriology. It either asserts an unwarranted (and by its own terms, inconsistent) distinction between salvation and redemption, or it restricts both to elect members of a particular racial and ethnic class. This is precisely the distinction that Christ came to do away with, and it is precisely the beliefs that caused the Pharisees and leaders of the Jews to call for the death of Christ. They had made the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into a religion of ethnic pride and exclusivity. Christ came to do away with those distinctions. The church, composed of all who believe in and follow Christ as Lord and Savior, without regard to race, is the New Israel of God, and one's standing before God is based on the same foundation in the New Covenant as it was in the Old: covenantal faithfulness, and not ethnicity.
Contrary to what Identity teaches, there is neither etymological nor historical warrant for defining Adam as a "white man." The Bible clearly shows that what set Adam apart from all of creation was the relationship he had with God. The basis of that relationship was a covenant established by God with Adam. When Adam became a covenant-breaker, the relationship was shattered. None of this has anything to do with race. The clear teachings of the New Testament concerning the mission to the Gentiles by the Apostle Peter, Paul's writing that there is no longer a distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile (an obvious racial reference), the tearing down of the wall of partition that separated man from man and God from man, and the coming of Christ in judgment against the Temple at Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (the then focus of Jewish racial pride and ethnic corruption of Biblical religion) all these teachings indicate that covenant, and not blood, is the priority with God. Rushdoony, commenting on Christian Identity as long ago as 1971, made this telling and still accurate observation:
The idea that the Anglo-Saxon peoples are descended from [the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel] is a myth. There is not one serious scholar who believes it. What this [teaching] does is cause those who advocate it to end up saying that salvation is by race, not by grace and that becomes blasphemy, a fearful blasphemy... This is the thing that damned the Pharisees before God...10
Identity's mistaken and faulty presupposition of race having priority over covenant with God forces it to use bizarre and shallow exegesis to reinterpret and distort the teachings of the Bible in the area of soteriology.
1. There are several Identity teachers, such as Evangelist Ted Weiland, who teach baptismal regeneration. His Church of Christ background is no doubt a source of that belief.
2. Bertrand Comparet, "Bible Correspondence Course Chapter 59", "Why Did Christ Come?," (Harrison, Arkansas: Kingdom Identity Ministries, 1970), 183. Emphasis in the original.
3. See the entry by Everett F. Harrison, "Redemption" in Baker's Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 438-39.
4. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 62.
5. ibid., 63.
6. Blanchard is somewhat unique among Identity believers and teachers in that prior to his "conversion" to the Identity doctrines, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Denver Theological Seminary, a seminary affiliated with the Conservative Baptist denomination. He also served as a missionary to the Philippines and pastored churches in California and Washington.
7. Lawrence Blanchard, Standing on the Premises: A Presentation of 38 Biblical Propositions of Christian-Israel Identity Theology (Eatonville, Washington: Promise Land Ministries, 1998), 164-65.
8. Dan Gayman, Do All Races Share in Salvation? For Whom did Christ Die? (Schell City, Missouri: The Church of Israel, 1995), 40.
9. ibid., page 75.
10. R.J. Rushdoony, World History: A Christian Survey. Islam and the Frontier Age. (Vallecito, California: Christian Tape Productions, 1971), Tape Number 6. During the question and answer session of this audio taped lecture, Dr. Rushdoony was asked a series of questions concerning British-Israelism and Christian-Identity.
- Charles H. Roberts
Rev Charles H. Roberts (D.Min.) is the pastor of Reedy River Presbyterian Church near Greenville, SC. He earned degrees in Theology and Apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary and Whitefield Theological Seminary. He has been a Chalcedon supporter for over 35 years. He co-hosts the Out of the Question Podcast.