The Salvation Army

By J.S. Smith

The bell-ringing kettle attendants are now out in full force again as the Salvation Army begins its Christmas offensive. Many think of the Salvation Army as a simple charitable organization, but in fact, it is a full-fledged Protestant denomination. A contribution to the Salvation Army is no different than giving money to any old denomination.

Unless otherwise noted, the quotes in this article are from the Salvation Army’s own Internet web site (

A Brief History of the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is an international religious movement with a very clear focus on the social gospel concept of converting the world with food and other physical lures. It was founded in 1865 by William Booth, a Methodist preacher in London. His objective was to house and feed the poor as a means to bring them to God. Gradually, he and his son established the new organization on a military pattern, complete with ranks, uniforms and orders (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1995 ed., 10:369-70).

The Salvation Army considers itself a separate denomination. “William Booth’s original aim had been to send his converts along to the established churches of the day. Nowhere in his plans was there an intention to commence another Christian church.

But he soon found that many of his converts would not go to church.” Over a period of a few years, General Booth instituted his own answer to the denominations of his day, creating the Salvation Army sect. Members began to be called “Salvationists” as the Baptist church makes Baptists and the Methodist church makes Methodists instead of the “Christians” that the Bible makes exclusively (Acts 11:26).

The new church grew quickly and today is found in more than 80 countries, preaching its “gospel” in 112 languages in 16,000 evangelical centers. The Salvation Army operates more than 3000 social welfare institutions, hospitals, schools and agencies.

Very clearly, the Salvation Army is a most straightforward attempt at remolding the gospel of Jesus Christ into the “social gospel” with its emphasis on the physical. So pronounced is this focus that many do not realize it is even occurring. Most mistake those red kettles as purely charitable donations, when in fact, they are offerings of support to the doctrines of Calvinism and salvation by fleshly appeal and “faith only.”

Military Organizational Theme

When Booth created his army, he made himself general for life and began installing other men in lower ranks throughout the organization. “The basic unit of the army is the corps, commanded by an officer of a rank ranging from lieutenant to brigadier, who is responsible to a divisional headquarters. Divisions are grouped into territories.” Al- though these offices have military titles, they completely mirror the hierarchical setups of denominations with world and national headquarters and chains of authority.

The local platoon attempts to convert people and those “converts” may decide to enlist in the Salvation Army themselves. “Converts who desire to become soldiers in the Army are required to sign Articles of War and volunteer their services.”

Officers in Booth’s Army

The officers in the Salvation Army have the status of ordained ministers and are employed in a professional, full-time capacity.

On being commissioned (the equivalent of ordination in “other denominations”) they receive the rank of lieutenant. They can then be promoted to captain and major. Like Catholic priests with high collars, they wear vestments — military-style uniforms. “Women have always been accepted as officers on equal terms as men.”

“The majority of officers are responsible for a Salvation Army corps (church), with a pastoral role and community service. . . . An officer’s ministry includes preaching the Christian Gospel, distributing Salvation Army literature, visiting hospitals, institutions and prisons, counseling, conducting weddings and funerals, being a pastor to their congregation and administrating the church programme.”

When someone asks you to support your local Salvation Army corps, they are asking you to support a denomination with all its error and misguided intentions, lending aid and comfort to the devil.

Adherents and Worshiping in The Corps

Adherents of the Army are “people who choose to make The Salvation Army their spiritual home and place of worship, but who do not wish to make all the commitments which a soldier would be expected to make.”

These people all meet in the “corps.” “This is the local Salvation Army centre seen in most towns and cities across the country which has been established to proclaim the gospel. Each week a variety of people will meet for worship, fellowship, musical activities and other events.” “Instrumental music, clapping of hands, personal testimony, free prayer . . . characterize the services” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1995 ed., 10:369-70). There may also be a variety of community works such as lunch clubs, mother and toddler groups, counseling services and so on which are part of the corps programme.”

Objections to the Salvation Army

One might note the following unscriptural practices of the Salvation Army as cause to refrain from contributing to its work:

  • denominational (1 Cor. 1:10)
  • teaches salvation by faith only (Jas. 2:24)
  • unscriptural hierarchy (Eph. 1:22)
  • human origin (Matt. 16:16)
  • worship not according to truth (John 4:24)
  • ecclesiastical garments (Matt. 23:5)
  • ecclesiastical titles (Matt. 23:6-12)
  • promotion of social gospel (Rom. 14:17; Gal. 1:6-9)
  • women in authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12)


The majority of this article has been devoted to simply reporting what the Salvation Army says about itself. These undisputed facts reveal a distinct departure from New Testament Christianity and the work and nature of the church Jesus built.

Participation in the schemes of the Army — no matter how well-intentioned and seemingly benevolent — is tantamount to fellowship with error. The gospel of the Salvation Army is not the gospel of Jesus Christ and members of the church of Christ should abstain from supporting this latter day denomination.

Let us give our time and resources to the local church of Christ of which we are members and leave the corps adherents to take care of their own work.