Is Shepherd’s Chapel Christian?
In order to ascertain whether or not something is Christian, we must first understand what makes something Christian in the first place. Throughout history, the Christian Church has gleaned from God’s word those essential doctrines that if denied, place the person outside the camp of Christ.
Following are three of the essential doctrines declared by Scripture as being necessary. In other words, to deny any of these is to deny the heart of Christianity and be outside the camp of Christ.
- The Deity of Christ
- Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1,14; 8:24; 10:30-33.
- 1 John 4:2-3: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
- The above verse needs to be cross referenced with John 1:1,14 (also written by John) where he states that the Word was God and the Word became flesh.
- 1 John 4:2-3 is saying that if you deny that Jesus is God in flesh then you are of the spirit of Antichrist.
- Salvation by Grace
- “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9, NIV).
- “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace,” (Gal. 5:4).
- The Resurrection of Christ
- “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Cor. 15:14). “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15:17).
- To deny the physical resurrection is to deny Jesus’ work, sacrifice, and our resurrection.
There are other doctrines such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the Virgin birth, etc., are derivatively necessary. But these are the ones in the scripture that are declared, by the Bible, as being essential. The derivative doctrines like the Trinity are orthodox and accurate teachings from the Bible.
Correction as of 12/8/2003
I had previously written that Murray denied the physical resurrection of Christ. This page originally contained the following two paragraphs:
"The most important doctrinal issue that the Shepherd's Chapel deviates on is the physical resurrection of Jesus. The shepherds Chapel teaches that Jesus rose in a spirit body, not the same physical body that he died in. Because of this, the Shepherd's Chapel is not Christian.
"Note: I have received conflicting information on this issue of Jesus' resurrection in regard to the Shepherd's Chapel. Therefore, I will revise this paper if I discover that the Shepherd's Chapel affirms Christ's physical resurrection. However, the fact that I have discovered conflicting information on this issue is very problematic. The Shepherd's Chapel should be very clear on the issue of the resurrection since it is a vital Christian doctrine. Its statement of faith says that Jesus rose from the dead, but does not tell us what it means by that statement."
Via an email, I have been pointed to an audio clip of Mr. Murray speaking on Christ’s resurrection. It is found at khyron_4.tripod.com/PMurray/Resurrection.html. I transcribed the clip of Mr. Murray speaking to the best of my ability. It is as follows:
"Much like I, I gave you an example of when we came by the resurrection in chapter two of this great book. There's some idiot on the net, O how I dislike the Net, claims that I teach that Christ wasn't bodily resurrected. Never in my life have I said such a thing. Don't worry, the students will take care of him. They know he is a liar and a gossiper, because he does not speak truth."
I am happy to hear from Murray that he denies teaching that “Christ wasn’t bodily resurrected.” I would love to hear him teach that Jesus rose from the dead in the same body He died in, but perhaps I am too hopeful. Nevertheless, it seems that Murray is not denying the physical resurrection of Christ.
I would like to point out the rather insulting manner and tone that Mr. Murray conveys in his “teaching.” It is unfortunate that so many of his followers have the same tone. Please not how he accuses the person on the net (whoever that is) of being a liar. The problem is that a person can be mistaken about a point and not be lying. To lie is to willingly mislead. Is Murray then stating that this person is purposely being deceptive? Such an accusation should not be made by a person who is motivated and guided by the Lord Jesus. I, for one, have never purposely misrepresented anyone on my site. Nevertheless, Murray would do well to memorize 1 Tim. 1:5,
"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."
Shepherd’s Chapel denies the Trinity
The next problematic issue with this church is its denial of the Trinity. The Bible teaches that there is one God in three persons: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Shepherd’s Chapel teaches modalism, the idea that God is one person who took different forms or modes. The Christian church long condemned modalism as contrary to sound biblical theology.
The Shepherd’s Chapel is at best a very aberrant Christian church and at worst, a cult. Is denial of the Trinity enough to make a group non-Christian? Yes it is. If Murray continues to deny the Trinity, that God is three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then this would cast great doubt upon Murray as a proper Bible teacher.
Modalism has been condemned by the Christian church as heresy.