By Jason Barker1
Founder: Arnold Murray
Location: Gravette, AR
Official Publication: The Shepherd's Chapel, a daily
television program broadcast on satellite and commercial stations throughout
North America. Also publishes a monthly newsletter.
Organization Structure: Murray is pastor of Shepherd's Chapel
Church in Gravette, and host of the television program. A number of student
followers have created, through the internet, independent organizations
referring to themselves as "Shepherd's Chapel Bible Students."
Unique Terms: Kenites, Serpent Seed.
The history of Arnold Murray and the Shepherd's Chapel is a closely guarded
secret. Diakon II, a non-denominational group that has criticized Murray's
teachings, comments, "Information about Arnold Murray & the 'Shephard's
[sic] Chapel' does seem a bit scarce, considering how many Television hours
he has long requisitioned."2 Requests for information
from Shepherd's Chapel resulted, for this author, in Chapel staff refusing
to send any information beyond an audiotape by Murray entitled "The Mark
of the Beast." Requests for an interview by a reporter from the Sacramento
(CA) News & Review in 1989 were invariably refused with the excuse
that Murray was "unavailable for comment."3
One possible reason for Murray's reticence to release biographical or
historical information is the apparent misinformation circulated by the
Shepherd's Chapel concerning Murray's alleged doctorate. Evangelical apologist
William Alnor asserts that Murray "Falsely claims to have a doctorate degree
from a properly accredited university or seminary."4
This accusation is well substantiated by the research of B.J. Oropeza in
Oropeza notes that Murray claimed to receive a doctorate from an individual
named Roy Gillespie, after writing a dissertation on the book of Daniel.5
No evidence of such a dissertation was found in The National Union Catalog
or through UMI Microfilms (the primary source for copies of theses and
dissertations).6 The claim of a receptionist
for Shepherd's Chapel (an admittedly dubious source for official statements)
that Murray's dissertation was unavailable because it was being "revised"7
is additionally problematic: dissertations are not revised after being
accepted by the author's dissertation committee and the office of graduate
studies at the conferring institution.
Another receptionist [it is important to note that higher-level officials
at Shepherd's Chapel will not reveal any information about the organization;
office workers are thus frequently the only source of information concerning
Shepherd's Chapel] told countercult researcher Tony Pierce that Murray
had attended Biola University, a Christian institution in Los Angeles.
Biola officials note, however, that there is no record of anyone named
Arnold Murray having attended the school.8
Murray teaches numerous doctrines that are contrary to biblical Christianity,
such as his denial of the Trinity, advocation of British Israelism, and
the Serpent Seed doctrine. Murray's false teachings motivated the Jesus
People Information Center to proclaim, "He is not competent to teach kindergarten
in a real Christian church."9
Murray and his followers deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, that
one God exists eternally in three Persons. They instead teach modalism,
the concept that the monotheistic God is a single person who acts through
three different offices.10 Murray voices his
adherence to this teaching when he says that God "gots (sic) three offices
he serves."11 He elaborates:
You have these yo-yo's that will say, 'Well, I want you to
think like (sic) of water and ice' and so on, various gases or so forth,
or then they'll say, 'I want you to think of a 200 watt bulb, and a 150
watt bulb, and a 50 watt bulb.' Well, they're all the same wattage, friend.
So why not just simplify it instead of playing stupid games, and understand
that there are three offices of the Godhead. Like this little lady said.
She said, 'To my husband I am a wife, to my children I am a mother, that's
my office. To hundreds of third graders I am their teacher and have been
down through the years. That's a different office; none of them the same,
but I'm still the same person.' I like that. It's simple and to the point.12
Notice the implication of the example quoted by Murray. Just as the "little
lady" is one woman who performs different functions in her roles as wife,
mother, and teacher, so God is a single person who performs different functions
and is perceived in different ways in his roles as Father, Son, and Holy
Murray clarifies his conflation of deity when he states, "[Christ's]
spirit is holy and he is the Holy Spirit."13
Since Murray does not believe that Jesus Christ is a Person distinct from
the other members of the Trinity, he cannot justifiably claim to believe
that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. Oropeza accurately observes
that it is thus inconsistent for Murray to promote such a teaching and
to also say, "A wise man never discusses the Trinity."14
Preexistence of Humanity
Murray and his followers believe that humans existed prior to living on
earth. Murray teaches, in regard to Genesis 1:26, that God "spoke to the
Elohim, meaning God and his children, let us make that man in our image,
which is to say make it look in likeness that we are. Do you appear as
your soul appeared in the world that was.I told you, that God said, 'In
our image, our likeness,' the Elohim were standing there, they were from
before."15 He clarifies, "We were always with
[God] until you were born into this earth."16
This concept requires further examination. Much like The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Murray and his followers
believe that humans participated, prior to their mortal existence on this
earth, in the rebellion in heaven described in Revelation 12:7-8. Those
good individuals who fought on the side of Michael are those who, according
to Ephesians 1:4 says, were "chosen.before the foundations of this world;"
these individuals were predestined to salvation, and thus were not cursed
with a free will.17 Those who fought on the
side of Satan, however, received a free will with which to choose or reject
God in this life.18 According to a student
of Murray, 95 percent of those who fought for Satan [which, because they
are not followers of Arnold Murray, includes such individuals as this author
and most readers of this Profile] will continue to worship Satan
in this life.19
Just as the doctrine of the preexistence is integrally related in Mormon
theology with racism,20 so the doctrine of
the preexistence is used in Shepherd's Chapel theology as a foundation
for racist opposition to ethnic Jews. Murray's doctrine, which is similar
to the Christian Identity movement, contends that caucasians of Anglo-Saxon,
northern European descent who are followers of Murray are the ten lost
tribes of Israel, and that the Jews are descendents of the offspring of
Satan and Eve. The remainder of this section will analyze the various components
of the racist ideology of the Shepherd's Chapel.
Serpent Seed - A follower of Murray who writes under the pseudonym
"Bruiser" clearly summarizes the Serpent Seed doctrine proclaimed by Murray
and his students:
The serpent seed doctrine consists of the belief, that satan
[sic] (personified as a serpent) inseminated Eve, with more than knowledge
of good and evil. That his insemination of her was spiritual and physical.
That the twins she carried to term were fathered by two different beings.
That Abel, was sired by Adam, and Cain was sired by satan [sic]. That Cain's
progeny continued, and associated at various times, with the children of
Adam throughout history. That Cain's progeny infiltrated and mingled in
with the Israelites, and garnered high positions in leadership and in religious
service. That the damning words of our Lord concerning the children of
satan [sic], His parable of the tares, and the repeated mention of the
synagogue of satan [sic], point to more than a "spiritual" allegory. That
the lineage of satan [sic] was, and is, alive and well among the children
of Israel, of whom at present consist of both the Jewish and Christian
peoples, whether by lineage or adoption.21
Note that not only do Murray's students believe that Jews are physically
the children of Satan, but they also believe that people can become children
of Satan through adoption into a Jewish or Christian family, or through
conversion into these religions. Murray states the importance of this teaching
for his followers: "Of what use is this knowledge to us? Because as Satan
seduced Eve physically to accomplish an earthly impregnation he strives
daily to spiritually impregnate those Children of God who know His truth."22
Interestingly, this author first learned about Bruiser's essay from
a student of Murray who advised that he read this as evidence that Murray
and his followers DO NOT teach that the Jews are children of Satan.23
Unfortunately, as in many false Christian groups, many individuals claim
to be students of Murray without actually paying attention to his heretical
British Israelism - Murray's British Israelite theology is somewhat
different from standard British Israelism. Murray teaches, as do most British
Israelites, that the people of Anglo-Saxon descent are the physical descendents
of "the same tribes [i.e., the northern ten tribes of Israel] that later
went north and populated Europe and North America."24
Contrary to some of these teachers, however, Murray traces the different
races to Adamic creation in the book of Genesis. He claims that the British
Israelites were the Adam created in Genesis 2, while the other, inferior
races were the first Adam created in Genesis 1.25
Kenites - The Kenites are the direct physical descendents of
Satan and Eve, through Cain (the dual lineage of divine and human makes
them "hybrids"26]. The Kenites are alive today,
faithfully serving their father the Devil.27
Murray is surprisingly open about the Jewish identity of the Kenites.
He claims, "Now who stands in Jerusalem today.the sons of Cain, or those
who will not accept Jesus Christ.the Kenites, that founded a new nation
starting in 1948."28 Oropeza notes that Murray
calls the Kenites "scum" and makes the stereotypical racial allusion to
the Jewish businessperson when he claims, "If you want to get a Kenite
upset, bother his money table."29
Much like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Murray
and his followers do not believe that individuals will suffer eternally
in hell. Instead, Shepherd's Chapel teaches that the souls of unbelievers
will be annihilated in the lake of Gehenna. Murray states, "We know man
can kill our earthly bodies, but only our Father in heaven has the power
to wipe out the existence of the soul.God's emotions are so much greater
than you can even imagine, and to roast one of his own children day and
night would be something only Satan would conceive of."30
Murray prophesied that the Antichrist would appear by 1981: "Lucifer was
taken to the pit.Know from the 2nd chapter of 2 Thessalonians that he shall
soon return. The book of Daniel very clearly states that it shall happen
before the year 1981, if you have any understanding at all of the wisdom
of the elect in the last days."31 The prophecy
was such a notable failure that even the Ontario Consultants on Religious
Tolerance note that Murray, an anti-Trinitarian adherent to Christian Identity,
made this failed prophecy.32
The Bible refutes the heresy of modalism by teaching that there is a distinction
between the Persons in the Godhead.33
The idea of the creation of two Adams is invalid. Genesis 1:1-2:23 focuses
on the development of heaven and earth, while Genesis 2:4-4:26 focuses
on the development of man.34
There is no distinction between the races by God.35
The Bible clearly shows that hell is a place of eternal torment.36
Giving a false prophecy invalidates an individual as a Christian teacher.37
1 The author is indebted to the research in B. J. Oropeza,
"Arnold Murray and the Shepherd's Chapel," Christian Research Institute
International, DM-600 (1991).
2 "Re: 'Shepherd's Chapel Bible Study' and Arnold Murray,"
[Online]. URL http://x22.deja.com/=dnc/[ST_rn=ps]/getdoc.xp?AN=445713208&CONTEXT=927645687.15466518&hitnum=11.
3 Melinda Welsh, "The Proof is in the Preaching: Local
TV Programming Viewed as Neo-Nazi," Sacramento News and Review,
15 June 1989, p. 21.
4 William Alnor, "The Cultic Views of Arnold Murray
and the Shepherd's Chapel," The Christian Sentinel, (1994) [Online].
5 Oropeza, p. 5.
9 "Editor Responds," Jesus People Information Center,
n.d., p. 3.
10 Many modalists, also called dynamic monarchianists
or Sabellians, believe that God revealed Himself as the creator and lawgiver
through the "office" of Father, as the redeemer through the office of Son,
and as the source of grace through the office of Spirit. See Jason Barker,
"Heresies: Then and Now," The Watchman Expositor, 16.1 (1999), p.
11 The Shepherd's Chapel, broadcast May 14, 1991.
12 The Shepherd's Chapel, broadcast June 4, 1991.
13 The Shepherd's Chapel, broadcast May 8, 1991. Emphasis
14 The Shepherd's Chapel, broadcast May 15, 1991.
15 Arnold Murray, Tape #146.
16 Arnold Murray, Tape #436.
17 Joseph Laliberty, "Lecture Five: Firstfruits,"
[Online]. URL http://www3.sk.sympatico.ca/lalibert/john316/lec005.html.
19 Joseph Laliberty, "Lecture 20: Man's Nature and
Divine Nature," [Online]. URL http://www3.sk.sympatico.ca/lalibert/john316/lec020.html.
20 See numerous articles by Timothy Oliver in The
Watchman Expositor, 15.3 (1998).
21 Bruiser & Company, "The Serpent Seed Doctrine,"
[Online]. URL http://www.angelfire.com/az/rainbowbridge/serpent.html.
22 Arnold Murray, Newsletter #126, (1989).
23 Linda Kaminski, e-mail to author, 15 May 1999.
24 Arnold Murray, Newsletter #148, (1991).
25 Arnold Murray, Tape #146.
27 See "Our Statement of Faith," The Shepherd's Chapel,
28 Commentary in The Shepherd's Bible, Gravette,
Ar: Shepherd's Chapel, 1979.
29 Oropeza, p. 2. See Arnold Murray, Tape #445.
30 Arnold Murray, Newsletter#151, (1991).
31 Arnold Murray, Seed of the Serpent [audiotape],
32 "The millennium, and 73 failed end-of-the-world
predictions," [Online]. URL http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm#past.
33 Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14.
34 See Oropeza, p. 2.
35 Galatians 3:28.
36 Matthew 23:33, 25:41, 45; Revelation 20:14.
37 Deuteronomy 18:20-22.
Christology Issues, edited by Roy B. Zuck, Kregel. Essays by some
of the best Evangelical scholars cover the whole range of biblical discourse
on the Savior. Articles cover the preexistence of Christ and the angel
of the Lord in the Old Testament. There is a thorough discussion of Gospel
and Pauline revelations, as well as Jesus in Revelation. 171 pages - $16.
The Forgotten Trinity, by James R. White, Bethany House. A concise,
understandable explanation of the existence and meaning of the Trinity.
Shows how belief in the Trinity is essential for Christian life and worship.
223 pages - $14.
Profile is a regular feature of the Watchman Expositor published by Watchman Fellowship, Inc. Readers are encouraged to begin their own religious research notebooks using these articles. Back issues of Profile are made available at a nominal fee. Resource items are subject to changes in availability and price. Free subscriptions may be ordered from the subscription page.