Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD


Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D., 316 Aonia Road, Washington, Ga 30673; 706-401-1276

FROM WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Kelly

Russell Kelly

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Russell Earl Kelly

Born 12 December 1944

Miami, Fl USA

Occupation Theologian, author, speaker and blogger
Notable work(s) “Should The Church Teach Tithing?: A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine”[1]

“Exposing Seventh-day Adventism”[2]

“From Gethsemane To Ascension: An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospels”[3]

Spouse(s) Donna Hope Cram Kelly

Russell Earl Kelly (born in December 12, 1944) is a American Christian theologianapologist, author, speaker and blogger. He writes nonfictional theological books.[5][6][7] Russell is best known for evangelizing and debating why tithing 10% to one’s church is not a Christian obligation. His conclusion places him in company with Christian leaders including John F. MacArthur,[8] J. Vernon McGee[9] C. I. Scofield,[10] and Martin Luther.[11]

Kelly has been the subject of media coverage including participating in a live 90 minute tithing debate in London on Revelation TV.[12] On November 23, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Suzanne Sataline, The Backlash Against Tithing, for which Kelly was a major contributor.[13][14][15] On March 2, 2008 Russell was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning news cover story, To Tithe or Not to Tithe.[16] He was subsequently mentioned in Charisma Magazine online.[17]




Raised in a Baptist home being one of six children, Russell grew up in Jacksonville, Florida before the family moved to Marietta, Georgia while he was in the tenth grade in 1960. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., learned Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. In 1964 Russell married.[4] He presently resides in Washington, Ga. and is married to Donna Hope Cram.


Th. M.: Covington Theological Seminary, Ft Oglethorpe, Ga; cum laude Ph. D.: Covington Theological Seminary, Ft Oglethorpe, Ga; 2000; cum laude[18]

Russell graduated Cum Laude from Sprayberry High in 1962. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., received 22 semester hours in Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. Russell graduated Cum Laude from Southern Missionary College in Tennessee in 1976, now called Southern University Of Seventh Day Adventist, and served two churches in Georgia, four in North Dakota and one in South Carolina.

Although legally blind since 1989, Russell subsequently completed a Th. M.. and a Ph. D. at independent Baptist-oriented Covington Theological Seminary in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia in August 2000. His dissertation was on the subject of tithing. From that dissertation came his first book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. His second book is Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, published in 2005. His third book, From Gethsemane to Ascension, An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays, February 2008, is in conversational style.

Criticism and countercriticism

Critics say that because his education is from unaccredited schools his Ph.D. is fraudulent.[19] Others will challenge Russell’s sincerely and his motives. In response, Russell provides a webpage regarding his education and abilities, including having graduated “cum laude” from the Yale University Institutes of Far Eastern languages while in the U.S. Air Force, earning 22 semester hours and received a B.A. In Theology from Southern University of Seventh Day Adventist, which is government accredited. He notes that there are hundreds of religious schools that do not want the government telling them how or what to teach. Having been legally blind since 1989 and not able to drive, his choices of education were severely limited.[18]

Personal life

Theologically, Russell is a conservative evangelical dispensational Baptist. He spends much of his time writing and is available for travel. His favorite hobby is singing gospel, Elvis (Tribute Artist), Marty Robbins and Frank Sinatra. As of June 2013 he lives in Washington, Georgia,


After Should the Church Teach Tithing was published in January 2001, multiple sources addressed the book.

A July 2003 Christianity Today letter to the editor stated, “Next to the Bible this book will change your life. It is that theologically sound and powerful. There are many good theological books on this subject, but this book (theological, academic, not for the faint of heart) should be read by anyone wanting the ‘facts’ as related to scripture, time and history and the church.”[21]

In 2003, New Jerusalem Ministries listed the book for suggested reading.[22]

In 2004, Dr. David Alan Black at SEBTS published an essay in tithing in agreement with Kelly.[23]

November 6, 2006: Andreas J. Köstenberger and David A. Croteau, Will a Man Rob God? (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments. In Bulletin of Biblical Research 26.1 (2006).[clarification needed][24]

November 23, 2007: The Wall Street Journal published an article by Suzanne Sataline, The Backlash Against Tithing.[clarification needed][13]  Kelly had been a key contributor to the article for almost a year.

November 27, 2007: In response to the WSJ article, the BPNEWS, Baptist Press, published an article, The Bible and Giving, by Dr. Daniel Akin, President Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on The Bible and Giving. Except for his opening statement, the article is exactly what Kelly teaches in his book and on his web site.[25][26]

2007: WAVA-FM in Washington, D. C. mentions Russell Kelly, his book and web site.[27]

March 2, 2008: As a result of the WSJ articles Kelly was interviewed in his home and featured on the CBS Sunday Morning News cover story, To Tithe or Not to Tithe.[28] The video has remained very popular online. Transcripts are available.[29]

March 7, 2008: BPNEWS, Baptist Press, published a long rebuttal of Kelly’s 2 minute CBS News comments by Dr. Kenneth Hemphill in which both his name and book were mentioned.[30] Kelly has since repeatedly attempted to persuade Dr. Hemphill to dialog with him, accessible from Kelly’s blog.[31]

March 11, 2008: Charisma Magazine mentioned Russell Kelly and the CBS article on the first page of its online edition.[32]

July 18, 2008: The Texas Baptist Standard (SBC) printed Kelly’s comments in response to a tithing article.[33]

September 14, 2008: The St. Petersburg Times mentioned Russell Kelly and his book, Should the Church Teach Tithing in a news article.[34]

On March 30, 2011 he participated in a live 90 minute tithing debate in London on Revelation TV. The trip was paid for by a friend.[12]


  1. ^ Kelly, Russell. Should the Church Teach Tithing, A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo DoctrineISBN 0595159788.
  2. ^ Kelly, Russell. Exposing Seventh-day AdventismISBN 0595363423.
  3. ^ Kelly, Russell. From Gethsemane To Ascension: An Ultimate Harmony of the GospelsISBN 0595482643.
  4. a b Kelly, Russell. “Russell Earl Kelly PHD”http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id48.html.
  5. ^ Kelly, Russell. Should the Church Teach Tithing?: A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine’ISBN 0595159788.
  6. ^ Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, and From Gethsemane to Ascension
  7. ^ An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays
  8. ^ MacArthur, John. Whose Money Is It, Anyway?. p. 180. ISBN 0849955548.
  9. ^ ,McGee, J Vernon. Thru the Bible Vol. 33: The Prophets (Malachi). p. 104. ASIN B000SJZTWW.
  10. ^ Scofield, C.I.. The New Scofield Reference Bible. p. 270. ISBN 1558197990.
  11. ^ Luther, Martin. “How Christians Should Regard Moses”http://www.holytithe.com/Luther_on_Moses.html#tithe.
  12. a b “Should the Church Teach Tithing?”Revelation TVhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp_NPLF5T_o&list=PLD1B9EBC24AAB501C&feature=plcp%7Cpublisher=Revelation_TV.
  13. a b Sataline, Suzanne (November 23, 2007). “Backlash Against Tithing”The Wall Street Journalhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB119576921737201375.html.
  14. ^ Kelly, Russell. “http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Tithing-Study/message/2005“.
  15. ^ Kelly, Russell. “http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id123.html“.
  16. ^ CBS News (2009). “To Tithe Or Not To Tithe?, Martha Teichner”CBS Newshttp://www.cbsnews.com/2100-3445_162-3896728.html. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
  17. ^ “Tithing a Hot-Button Issue on Internet”Charisma. March 10, 2008. http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news-old/19656. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  18. a b Kelly, Russell. “Concerning Accreditation”http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id48.html. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  19. ^ Davis, Randy. “Re: [TL Re: Theologian Dr. Russell Kelly’s views”]. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Theology_list/message/80782. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  20. ^ “Iron Hill Baptist”http://www.ironhillbaptist.org/.
  21. ^ Hansen, Collen. “Christian History Corner: The Ancient Rise and Recent Fall of Tithing”. Christianity_Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/juneweb-only/6-2-512.0.html. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  22. ^ “Recommended Reading, New Jerusalem Ministries”http://newjerusalemmin.tripod.com/id7.html.
  23. ^ Black, Dave (12 December 2004). “Should Christians Tithe?”http://www.daveblackonline.com/should_christians_tithe.htm. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  24. ^ Kostenberger, Andreas; Croteau (2006). “”Will a Man Rob God?” (Malach 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments”Institute for Biblical Research. 1 16http://www.ibr-bbr.org/files/bbr/BBR_2006a_04-Kostengerger_Croteau.pdf.
  25. ^ Kelly, Russell. “Akin, Daniel, President SEBTS”http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id126.html. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  26. ^ Akin, Daniel (November 27, 2007). “President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.”Baptist Presshttp://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=26919. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  27. ^ Chismar, Janet. “Passing on the Plate: Why Your Congregation May not be Tithing”WAVE-FMhttp://www.wava.com/11567702/.
  28. ^ Martha, Teichner (February 11, 2009). “To Tithe Or Not To Tithe?”CBS Newshttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/01/sunday/main3896728.shtml. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  29. ^ Kelly, Russell. “CBS Transcripts and Comments”http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id141.html.
  30. ^ Kenneth, Hemphill (March 7, 2008). “SBC’s National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth”Baptist Presshttp://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?ID=27579.
  31. ^ Kelly, Russell. “Hemphill, Kenneth, Tithing; SBC Spokesman”http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id142.html. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  32. ^ “Tithing a Hot-Button Issue on Internet”Charisma Magazine. March 10, 2008. http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news-old/19656. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  33. ^ Everett, Randel (July 18, 2008). “In Focus: Is your congregation tithing?”Baptist Standardhttp://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8275&Itemid=9&fontstyle=f-larger. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  34. ^ Day, Sherri (September 14, 2008). “Tithe has adherents, detractors on both sides of collection plate”Tampa Bay Timeshttp://www.tampabay.com/news/religion/article808303.ece. Retrieved 29 April 2012.GOSPEL OUTREACH SINGING: www.russrocksingeorgia.com   



High School: Sprayberry, Marietta, Georgia, 1962; Cum Laude


B.A.; Southern University of SDA (government accredited) 1976; cum laude;  minor: Theology; Biblical Greek (18 hours); History; Pastoral Leadership


Minor: Yale University; 1963; Chinese Mandarin; 22 semester hours; cum laude

Other Governmental Accredited Courses, Kennesaw University, GA; Valley City State College, ND
Other Accomplishments: Complete Business Management, LsSalle, Chicago, ILL; Master Course Color TV Servicing, National Technical Schools, Los Angeles, CA; Amateur Radio Operator’s General License, N4FVA; 
Some language skills in Hebrew, Spanish and Latin

COVINGTON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia is a member of the Association of Christian Education Schools and Seminaries (ACESS). Covington is a member of the Accrediting Commission International (ACI). Along with scores of other schools, these are private non-government agencies.

Covington is affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) of Washington, DC.

http://nae.net/index.cfm?fuseaction=nae.members&listId=schoolsCovington is affiliated with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).


When bloggers have exhausted themselves trying to refute my biblical and historical arguments from my book and web site, they occasionally will turn to personal challenges of my sincerity, motives and education. I admit that my Th. M. and Ph. D. are from a school with  private accreditation a not from a government-accredited school. 

I have been legally blind since 1989 and read with great magnification. Since I do hot have the blessing of being able to drive, that severely limited my choices of education and I turned to Covington to finish my education. The text-books were the same as used in government-accredited schools.  We had to read the books and were tested on their content. I spent many long hours reading and learning those textbooks.

A question to my critics please: Since you know very well tha the government does not sit in theology classes to determine the accuracy of theology being taught, what point are you trying to make? Is Roman Catholic or Mormon theology correct because one has a PHD from as government accredited school?

While I think that it is essential to expect supervised monitoring of subjects such as medicine and law that cannot possibly apply to theology. The fact that a school is fully accredited says absolutely nothing about the correctness of its theology or the student being able to leave that school with God’s truth.  There are hundreds of religious schools that refuse to even seek accreditation because they do not want the government telling them how and what to teach.

My country has fully accredited seminaries which are operated to train such theologically diverse churches as Roman Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians — both liberals and conservatives. Their theology and approach to discovering biblical truth differ very radically. The Assembly of God accredits its own schools and  does not seek government accreditation.

My B. A. in Theology is from a fully accredited Seventh-day Adventist school which gradates very good doctors, nurses and business majors but it also graduates very poor theologians.  No sane person would argue that my SDA theology is better and more defensible than my theology from Covington merely because it is more accredited. 

Look at the quality of my book.  Read the seminary level hermeneutics applied within. These study techniques were learned at fully accredited schools before I went to Covington, including Yale University. I have proven my intelligence and ability to produce accredited level research.

My biblical Greek and church history minors come from a fully accredited school.  I graduated “cum laude” from the Yale University Institute of Far Eastern languages while in the U. S. Air Force and earned 22 semester hours.  I apply the discipline required to produce quality writing. No schools had accreditation when the U. S.A. was new.  All of its great leaders either graduated from un-accredited schools or from no schools at all. Abraham Lincoln studied at home and passed the bar exam.

Billy Graham’s D. D. is honorary. Charles Stanley, Spiros Zodhiates and former SBC President Jerry Vines graduated from Luther Rice Seminary before it was accredited by TRACS in 1989.  Ex SBC President Johnny Hunt does not have a Doctors degree from a government-accredited school.  The famous Walter Martin (Kingdom of the Cults) graduated from an unaccredited school. And the list could fill a normal-sized book. 

How good is an education from Covington?  Like any other school it is as good as the student wants it to be.  Is it a “diploma bill”? Far from it!  Fourteen of its schools in the U. S. and many more overseas are classroom education.  Again, its textbooks are the same ones used in government accredited seminaries.  It does not use tape recordings and it does not use multiple choice tests. Test answers must be found through studying the assigned material.

My Ph. D. dissertation was the same length as that required by government accredited schools and was reviewed and approved by a committee. I am confident that its research would meet the standards of  government accredited schools. Look at the list of schools which have Covington graduates on faculty.

The list below was only from the first five pages of Google under “Covington Theological Seminary.” The majority of Covington graduates also have earned degrees from fully accredited seminaries. Very often the Covington degree  follows a M. Div. from schools such as Dallas, Moody or Southern Baptist Seminaries. (Moody Bible Institute does not seek accreditation either.)

Somebody must think that the Covington degree is valuable. Several have passed state exams to qualify as counselors following a Covington education.
From a Baptist Press article: http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?id=24242

Waylan Owens, a former vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who was in charge of guiding accreditation-related matters, cautioned that accreditation might not be the best mark of a seminary’s quality.

Though the accreditation process allows schools to set their own educational goals, a postmodern mindset among accrediting agencies compromises the value of accreditation, Owens told Baptist Press.

“Parents and churches assume [accreditation] means one thing, and it doesn’t,” said Owens, who still teaches at Southeastern and serves as pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, N.C. “

Accreditation does not guarantee that your son or daughter will walk across that stage with a quality education.”

Accrediting agencies do not dictate what a school must believe theologically, but many accrediting agencies hold liberal values and have an educational philosophy that is different from the educational philosophy of most Southern Baptists, Owens said.

“There is no direct pressure on your doctrinal statement. There is indirect pressure,” he said. “I don’t know how the accreditors really can help it. The whole educational establishment is liberal in its thinking…. The way a conservative does education and the way a liberal does education are really in some places very different.

“Liberals approach education as being a matter of just exploring — there is no right, there is no wrong, let’s just look at all sides of things and try to create a tolerant open-minded person,” Owens explained. “A conservative says no. We want to teach everything that’s out there. But we are going to advocate what we believe to be true.”

Within the educational world, there is some pressure to put the federal government in charge of all accreditation in higher education, Owens said. If that happens, liberal influence in accrediting agencies likely will increase, he said.

– Coastal; Mobile; Ebenezar Missionary Baptist; Herb Collier, 
– Northeast; Anniston; First Baptist Church, Weaver, Alabama, David Boyd
– Southeast; Opp; First Baptist Church, Ralph Aaron

– Central; Carrolton; Shady Grove Baptist; Jerome Mitchell
– Northeast; Ft Oglethorpe; Covington; Bob McFarland
Georgia – Rome; Greater New Fellowship Missionary Baptist; J E CoombsGeorgia
– Southeast; Savannah; Dean Forest Baptist Church; Larry Strickland
Missouri; Calvary Bible College, Kansas City; Mike PiburnNorth Carolina – Western; Love Memorial Baptist, Gastonia NC; Jimmy WestmorelandSouth Carolina
– Central; Turbeville; First Baptist Church; Bob Craven
South Carolina -Eastern, Aiken; Town Creek Baptist; Joe YoungbloodSouth Carolina
– Upstate; Central; Bishop Branch Baptist; Luther Price
Tennessee – Southeast; Chattanooga; Jones-Spence Center; Jay TrimbleTennessee
– East; Knoxville; Rogers Memorial Baptist; Michael Caldwell


(from only five pages from Google)

CCBI; Caribbean College of the Bible International;
Assembly of God association; David Sneed
College for Global Deployment; Gregory Romine; Cynthia Romine;
Covenant Bible Institute, Portal, Georgia; Steve Coyle, faculty
Foothills Theological Schools, Brian Ezell, Pastor Broad River Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, NCGulf Coast Bible Institute; Ft Walton Beach, FL; gcbi.org (does not seek accreditation )

Hannibal-LaGrange College; Hannibal, Missouri. Fully accredited four-year liberal arts college.

Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Journey Churches Inc, Acworth, Ga; Douglas Crumbley
Massillon Baptist College, Massillion, Ohio;
Mid-Continent University, Mayfield, Kentucky
Revival and Missions International (partnership)South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary, Deerfield Beach, Florida.
American Federation of Colleges and Seminaries; State of Florida Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI);
The Bureau of State Approving for Veterans  Training;
American Psychological Association (APA).
Western Bible College; Phoenix, Arizona.  Western Bible College (WBC) is endorsed by the Commission on Christian Higher Education (COCHE) of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Because of this endorsement, students of WBC are able to transfer their credits to other Assemblies of God colleges and universities.
Westminster Catawba Christian School.; Rock Hill, SC; Tracey Denney 


(from only five pages from Google) Castle Rock Christian Fellowship; Chowan Baptist Association, NC
Crossroad Counseling; Counseling degree listed in Psychology Today Magazine.    Kennesaw, Ga; State of Georgia licensed counselor.
Davis Islands Baptist Church
First Baptist Church, Maryville, Missouri
First Baptist Church, Monks Corner, SC
First Baptist Church. Sumter, SC
First Baptist, Richland Hills, Ft Worth, Texas, Hemp Edward LInehanFirst Southern Baptist Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ken Musselwhite
Grace Baptist Church; Yuba City, CA
Keys Baptist Church, Christian Counseling Services; Andrew Bowman
Macland Baptist Church, Powder Springs, Ga
Meadowdale Baptist, Calhoun, Ga
Mountain Grove, Granite Falls, NC; Penfield Christian Home, Ken CarvalhoSeaford Baptist Church; Seaford, VA
Warren Wiersbe’s staff on “2ProphetU.com.” Alan Stewart
Western Ave Baptist Church; Statesville, NC, Ed Yarbrough