Letters from our readers
Last-minute Feast update
The Feast at Kenlake State Park [in Kentucky] has been canceled due to a lack of interest and speakers.
I do appreciate that you printed the other items I sent you. I hope you have a very good Feast wherever you have decided to go.
Keep on snackin'
Thank you for running Bill Stough's article on the Trucker's Bible Study ["Truckers Stop for Hamburgers, Coffee and Bible Study," Aug. 31]. It was factually correct, and he captured the essence of it.
Two points of clarification: We do not serve the truck drivers hamburgers for Sunday-morning breakfast, and we meet in the trucker's lounge, not the restaurant (in case anyone comes looking for us). While I hope we do give them some spiritual meat, the article's headline might encourage some to come looking for a free lunch, and we know there is no such thing. Having said that, if anyone wants to visit us and bring snacks, they will be joyfully consumed (the snacks, that is).
Y2K won't be so bad
As a computer programmer for more than 30 years, I would like to ask: Are those who are proclaiming a cataclysmic catastrophe when our computer clocks hit the year 2000 false prophets?
Your car does not have to be in 100 percent working condition to get you from place to place. The radio, air conditioner, heater, windows and much more can have problems and you can still safely travel from place to place.
The same is true for computers. A company does not need to be 100 percent Y2K compliant to continue to function perfectly. Only the critical path of its data processing needs to, and that is only a small percentage of the work done by most computers. Non-Y2K-compliant computers can still create memos, produce papers like The Journal, produce spreadsheets that do not have date calculations in them and much more.
There is no end of work-arounds to keep computer systems limping along. Let's say the Social Security system cannot produce a check after the year 2000. It can easily reproduce 1999's December check every month until it gets its problems solved. It is an imperfect work-around. In the interim, new people could not be added, and people who died would continue to get a check, but the masses would continue to get a check.
There will be problems. Companies will fail, people will lose their jobs, and there may be some related tragedies. This country can survive a hurricane that costs into the tens of billions of dollars without as much as a blip in the average American's lifestyle. It was definitely not a picnic for those in the hurricane's path, but the country went on, and some companies, like those that made plywood, made a bundle. I believe the same will be true when computer clocks hit 2000.
As long as the media, who I believe are the real false prophets of our age, do not destroy the confidence this country has in itself, the country will go on quite well.
I am expecting more mergers and buyouts in the next year. Many companies that cannot make the deadline will either merge, buy out, sell themselves or contract work out to companies that can.
Satan can use this situation to desensitize the public to those who cry wolf. That way, when there is something really important to warn the world about, the world will just think it is another wolf cry and ignore it.
Those who produced the [Worldwide Church of God's] booklet 1975 in Prophecy got a black eye when 1975 came and the end was not here. Those who oversensationalize the Y2K problem will diminish their future credibility.
My advice: Do not get overly uptight about the year 2000, but be on the safe side. Don't overpay your income taxes during 1999. Claim enough dependents, for payroll purposes, so you will have to pay the government a small amount in 2000 instead of having to wait for a refund.
Hope for the best
I read in The Journal about the Y2K problem ["Y2K Scenario: Blind Man's Bluff, Anyone?," Aug. 31]. I ran across an article a couple of months ago [stating that the Federal Aviation Administration has determined that its mainframe computers will successfully survive the Year 2000 computer glitch]. If it is true, the FAA is farther ahead of the game on Y2K compliance than many would like to believe.
I suppose this would be the case on most stories like banks, etc. I'm not saying that there won't be glitches, but I doubt that there will be an Armageddon-type situation. For one thing, too many people are predicting it, and I've seen instances in the past where people have tried to nail down the date of the end of the world only to be disappointed.
But in my opinion it is better to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It would be a wise thing to store up food and be prepared for no electricity just in case these people are right.
The Yanks are coming
As the Church of God splinters and splits, many glaring similarities tie it to the American Revolution: The people of God seek freedom from the smothering of aristocracy and hierarchical government of men in the name of God. This is not an act of rebellion but a cry of oppression.
One similarity involves money. When Britain began to force taxes and money out of America, the Americans revolted. Now, when a church organization manipulates the system and tampers with smaller associated churches in hopes of seizing funds, the people are abandoning the larger organization in pursuit of the truth.
Especially in churches, men of power should see that the members will follow truth before money.
Another aspect of revolutionary development is the unity and bonding created by oppressive and coercive acts. The taxes and restrictions placed on Americans by Britain before the Revolution affected all of the colonies and inspired a unity of heart and mind.
Similarly, as a recognized Church of God dissolves and destroys congregations, remaining members tend to unite with the fear that their church will be next and the belief that there is truth in the situation if they dig deep enough. These small, scattered brethren are bonded not by agreement on decisions, but by movement into doing the right thing: following God.
This revolution of the Church of God will not be one of weapons and physical warfare, but of mind, spirit and soul. John Adams said of the American Revolution: "The war ended before the first shot was fired; it had already been won in the hearts and minds of the people."
The same is true of the church, but there never will be any shots fired. The people of God have already won because God is on their side, and the victors will prosper.
After the American Revolution, the nation had weaknesses but pulled through them and grew to become one of the strongest nations in the world.
The Church of God will exceed the accomplishments of America. Even though God's people are small and scattered and alone, God will stand by His people and by the truth. The church will prevail. When anyone in the Church of God feels alone, remember: You and God make a majority. With God's help one can remain strong and never have to give up hope and faith.
Even with the similarities between the church splits and the American Revolution, the divisions and events of the church run much deeper into the spirit and soul. May the truth prevail, prosper and shine brightly through the darkness of the world and the lies and deceit of the internal powers.
Where will it all end?
In any discussion of the Trinity, one needs to clarify what he is talking about. There are several different versions of what the Trinity is.
In a ministerial conference in Pasadena, Calif., in June 1993, our Greek scholar told us the Trinity is: one God, who is Father, who is Jesus the Son and who is the Holy Spirit, all three in one individual spirit Person. It could be called the "Triadic Trinity," he said.
The scholar stated that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. Rather, he said, the doctrine of the Trinity is based on Greek logic and human reason.
He explained to us that in matters of theology, such as the Trinity, logic and reasoning can be superior to Scriptures.
The scholar taught us that logic proves that "spirit has no parts."
"Therefore," he said, "since spirit cannot have parts," there can be only one God, who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all in one person.
The Greek scholar said that logic dictates that Jesus and the Father cannot be two distinct, separate, individual spirit persons.
He said that logic dictates that spirit cannot have parts. If the Father and the Son were two separate individual spirit persons, then spirit would have parts. There would be two parts. The Father and the Son. "Logic and human reason tell us that cannot be," he said.
The scholar said: "If the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, were two distinct, separate spirit persons, then spirit would have parts. One part would be the Father and another part would be Jesus, His Son."
Some ministers did see that if "spirit cannot have parts," the Father and the Son cannot be two separate spirit persons.
However, one minister asked the scholar: "How do you explain John 1:3, Ephesians 3:9 and Colossians 1:16, which do state that God the Father told Jesus Christ to create the physical universe?"
The scholar handled the question by stating: "The one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit manifested Himself as the Creator of the universe. He also manifested Himself as the one who recreated the earth after a disaster had caused it to become tohu and bohu; that is, waste and void."
He said the one God manifested Himself as the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt.
The scholar said Jesus was not the God of the Old Testament, as Mr. Armstrong said. The one God manifested Himself as the God of the Old Testament, he said.
A minister at the conference asked the scholar if the words Father and Jesus the Son did not indicate there were two distinct, separate spirit persons in the Godhead.
A young, top evangelist declared that the Father and the Son were not intended to be literal, but were figures of speech.
Later that evening several ministers and their wives were thinking about the logic of "spirit does not have parts." Several of the women who had had scientific training in college said: "There is no way to test whether spirit has parts. You can't see spirit; you can't touch it; you can't smell it; you can't hear it; you can't taste it."
Neither can you reproduce spirit. Therefore how can one possibly know, apart from the Bible, that spirit does have parts or that spirit does not have parts?
How can a physical word, parts, possibly tell us anything about spiritual spirit?
Ecclesiastes 2:21 states: "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" Obviously the spirit of the beast and the spirit of man are two different types of spirit.
Yet we are told: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1 John 1:1-3).
Several ministers reminded the scholar that John 1:1 reveals that "in the beginning was the Word" and that "the Word" became Jesus Christ in the flesh (1 John 1:14).
Without batting an eye, the scholar said: "The Word" of John 1:1 is the thought of God. It is the "Word," the thought of God, that created the universe. He said, "Yes, it was the thought of God that recreated the earth, not in six literal 24-hour days, but in six periods of time." (Was he thinking evolution?)
As the months went by, more and more ministers began to see that denying that Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament was the same as denying that the God of the Old Testament was begotten by the Father, in the virgin Mary and born as Jesus, the Son of God.
Ministers began to see that the logic embodied in the phrase "spirit has no parts" was being used to prove that we called-out ones can never be in the Kingdom of God as children of God. For, if we were to become children of God as the Bible reveals that we will be, there will be more than one in the God family, and obviously "spirit will have parts." Yes, many, many parts.
We saw that the denying of the preexistence of Jesus Christ by using the logic "spirit cannot have parts" is also trying to do away with the Sabbath! Exodus 20:11 tells why we keep the Sabbath. The Eternal said: "For in six days, the Lord [the one who became Jesus Christ] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it."
Yes, we are to keep the Sabbath as a memorial that the one who became Jesus Christ, the Lord, had the know-how to recreate the earth as revealed in Exodus 20:11.
The ministers who saw this undermining of the proof of the Sabbath, which was creation, felt that the keeping of Sunday was not far off.
Several men saw that the undermining of the proof of the Sabbath would soon lead to the undermining of the truth about the holy days. One minister remarked that if the holy days were changed to Christmas and Easter, and if the Sabbath were changed to Sunday, all proof of the true Church of God would be gone.
Sometime after that conference, memos by cc:Mail [E-mail] began to circulate among the ministry. Some ministers were beginning to see that the new leadership was using the Trinity theology to do away with the Old Covenant. They saw that doing away with the Old Covenant was leading to doing away with the perceived need to keep the Sabbath, the holy days, the law of clean and unclean meats and the law of tithing.
The domino effect of the Trinity theology leads its advocates to claim that the apostle Paul did away with the Sabbath, did away with the holy days, did away with the Old Covenant, did away with the Ten Commandments.
The domino effect of the Trinity theory has led its advocates to claim that every single doctrine of the true church of 20 years ago needs to be altered. Such is the effect of the Trinity doctrine.
Question: Is the Trinity theory the biggest lie ever told to mankind?
Counseling for baptism
The July 31 issue of The Journal ran an article on page 21 in respect to Ian Boyne, a pastor representing the Church of God International in Jamaica. It is reported that Mr. Boyne assesses baptismal candidates to ensure "that a correct doctrinal position is accepted" (by the candidate) before he, as the pastor, will permit any individual to be baptized.
Mr. Boyne "requires that they accept" certain "fundamental doctrines." This pontifical assessment by the pastor is central to his "formula"; it is the pastor's linchpin.
In this case, one's baptism-and presumably the receipt of the Holy Spirit, generally passed to the person after baptism-hinges on an arbitrary assessment of the individual's worth. Most of us, I hope, have grown beyond the Pharisaism and doctrinal-police-force legalism of yesteryear.
Surely 48 baptisms in Jamaica in 15 months say something about the relative success of Mr. Boyne's formula regarding baptisms in the CGI. It is good that some are measuring up to the prerequisites as applied by the pastor. But what, pray tell, does the Bible have to say about this formula and those corporate-church prerequisites?
On that glorious Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, did some pastor cross-examine, interrogate and quiz the 3,000 baptismal candidates for weeks before they hit the water? Hardly. The message was repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.
What did John's baptism of Matthew 3 require of the candidates? Repent. And they confessed their sins. What were the tax collectors in Luke 3 who sought baptism told to do? Repent-do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely-and be content with your wages.
Did Phillip, in Acts 8, put the Ethiopian eunuch to a rigorous test or make him jump through doctrinal hoops? Most assuredly no, he did not (Acts 8:36-38).
Does the Bible even suggest grilling baptismal candidates for weeks or months on end to ensure that they have the correct doctrinal positions? Nope. However, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) had such a program in place. Its representatives baptized multiple thousands. But where is the church today? And where are the thousands of ex-WCG members who have faded from sight?
Pastor Boyne says he will not baptize someone "just because he feels a need to be saved and become part of a church." Yet the very reason people are baptized is because they do indeed feel a need to be saved! What other valid reason is there?
On that special New Testament Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter preached a sermon about Jesus Christ, His death, resurrection and glorification. He spoke of Christ's ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was promised to every one of them, and their children, and all who are "afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Peter said absolutely nothing about a need to require that they accept certain "fundamental church doctrines" like the Sabbath, tithing, festivals, makeup and the Millennium. How much did those folks know about all that stuff to begin with? We can only speculate. After all, these people were from all over the known world. How could Peter be certain that they met all the doctrinal requirements for baptism and salvation?
Clearly from the article, the pastor's-and thus the CGI's-prerequisite to baptism is total acceptance of all the enumerated "fundamental doctrines" that are placed before baptismal candidates. It's our way or the highway.
The list of fundamental doctrinal prerequisites to baptism by Pastor Boyne is seemingly endless. It apparently includes ideas as to where the Millennium will be spent, the Trinity, makeup and, strangely enough, the Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) of the 1950s and '60s.
However, the early HWA taught against the very authoritarian and hierarchical church structure to which the CGI and similar organizations subscribe. The later HWA maintained immense ecclesiastical authority in his own hands and only somewhat permitted it to move down through his ministerial pecking order. Little if any of this authority trickled down to the faithful tithe-payers.
By the way, HWA is the same authority figure who prophesied that Christ was going to return in 1975.
One other rather important authoritarian source is astonishingly conspicuous by its absence within the article's quotations and fairly leaps from the page. It is the biblical way.
What is the biblical way to baptism and salvation? Does the biblical way include a requirement to agree to accept and abide by corporate-church doctrines and a subsequent pastoral approval of the baptismal candidate? No. In the biblical way, a pastor is not supposed to have "dominion" over someone's faith; he is to be a "fellow worker for your joy" (2 Corinthians 1:24).
What doctrinal position does Jesus Christ require of baptismal candidates before He accepts them into His glorious Body, the only true Church of God?
"Who then can be saved?" (see Luke 18:26-27). "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16; see also John 10:9 and John 3:16-18).
Bottom line: "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit' " (Acts 2:38).
The salvation of Scripture is belief, acceptance of Christ, baptism and then obedience to eternal life. Sure, we are to count the cost. But to be required to accept a whole shopping list of church conditions and qualifying factors before one can be baptized and thereby saved (and receive the Holy Spirit to enable one to obey more perfectly) is salvation by works.
Finally, one requirement of the pastor is most offensive. Apparently he requires people to agree with the notion "that man will become God." Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we (Christians of any stripe) will "become God" as Mr. Boyne (and many others) would have us believe. The "becoming God as God is God" idea is a bankrupt concept simply because it cannot be supported by the clear Word of God, or even from a strong implication in Scripture.
It is correct to say that we are presently children of God ("begotten children" is a contradiction of terms, an oxymoron), but children only if we are in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-10). To become a child, one has to receive Christ (John 1:12-13).
A familial relationship does exist between the Father and His children (Romans 8:14). Yet this familial relationship and the scriptures that say believers will become "like God do not permit us to leapfrog into an illogical and irrational extension to accommodate a private doctrine that proclaims humans will therefore "become God." The word God is not the last name of the Eternal.
John lived in the first century and presumably knew the Christ. Yet he evidently did not teach becoming "God," although he understood that believers are children of God and shall become like Him (1 John 3:2).
John said plainly that "it has not yet been revealed what we shall be," only that we shall be "like Him." He did acknowledge that those in Christ were indeed "children of God."
Paul in all his writings never claims that we will "become God." The closest he gets is saying that we will have spiritual, incorruptible, immortal bodies, raised in power and glory (1 Corinthians 15:35-55). The "image" of God in verse 49 does not represent equality to God.
What is the origin of the "becoming God" idea? In the very beginning Satan lied to Eve and suggested that she and Adam would become like God, "for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).
The desire of many has been, and is, to become as God: to take upon themselves the very power, authority and identity of God, even the power of life and death over others.
The king of Babylon made a foolish bid to become as God and lost (Isaiah 14:13-14). "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" God sarcastically thundered to self-righteous Job (Job 38:1-4). One called Simon lusted after the power of God and tried to buy it (Acts 8:18-19).
We cannot become equal with Jesus Christ, let alone the Father: "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all" (John 3:31). Jesus Christ came from heaven. He is above all. He gives eternal life. We are only potential recipients of eternal life. He is King of Kings. He rules over all powers; we are mere subjects and citizens. (See John 3:31; 17:1-2; Matthew 28:18; Luke 10:22; John 16:15; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Ephesians 1:19-23; Acts 14:11-16; Ephesians 2:19; Revelation 1:5).
Scripture nowhere indicates that resurrected humans will be granted the power to create any other beings of any sort whatsoever, human or otherwise. The infinite Eternal is the Potter; we are finite clay (Romans 9:14-24). Any opinion along the "we will be creator Gods" or "we will be God" line is wild speculation at best and serves no purpose in edifying the saints.
The idea that humans can become God is merely a tradition of men. It is a tradition that HWA and the WCG willingly adopted as biblical truth. However, traditions of men do not necessarily equate with biblical truth (Colossians 2:8; Matthew 15:2-4).
God is transcendent. This distinguishes Him from all speculative philosophies. God is the essence of being: the source of being and purity from which the created individual obtains life and through which God sustains all created life.
Perhaps it is better to disengage from unrestrained conjecture and identify speculation as such or at least discontinue the teaching of insupportable speculation to one another as though it were biblical truth and certainty.
Let's stop putting stumbling blocks in front of believers. The Pharisees of the first century did that all the time, and you know what happened, don't you? God took the Kingdom of God away from them. They lost it all. Everything they worked for was gone (Matthew 21:43).
The mere existence of Arianism and unitarianism (among so many other heresies) in our fellowships says something not only about the individuals who promote them, but about the present state of God's church and its innumerable sects and political schisms.
Let us look honestly at our own recent history. Certain men, having asserted unlawful authority over God's church-an authority neither God nor Herbert W. Armstrong ever gave them-used that authority to attempt to overthrow every point of doctrine and practice that set the Worldwide Church of God apart from "traditional Christianity."
In the name of removing Worldwide's stigma as a "cult," these men used every trick in the cultist's psychological book to confuse and redirect the beliefs and loyalties of the ministers and brethren underneath them. The fate that awaits such men in the judgment (unless they repent) is not a pretty thing to think about!
While abusing their authority over others, in order to walk after their own fleshly desires (whether for money, status, acceptance or what have you; God knows), those who subverted Worldwide actually showed how much they despised authority over themselves. (A dictator is nothing more than an empowered anarchist.)
In response, far too many of us (ministers and members alike) are making the same mistake: "going after the flesh in the lust of pollution, and despising lordship" (2 Peter 2:10, literal Greek).
What follows must not be taken as a railing accusation against anyone. (I myself have been guilty far too often of that mistake until recently.) But we need not be guilty of openly practicing every evil deed mentioned in 2 Peter 2, or of openly denying everything we have ever believed, to be guilty of the source of these deeds and denials: the attitude condemned in 2 Peter 2:10. If we are guilty of the attitude, we might as well be guilty of the deeds and denials.
Probably no man ever did more righteous deeds than Job, son of Issachar (Genesis 46:13 and the genealogies of Israel and Edom). Certainly he understood in the end more about God's nature and purposes than did his three friends (Job 42:7-8).
But what did Job's fourth friend, Elihu, perceive about Job that Job and the others did not? "What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water, who goes in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men? For he has said: 'It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God'" (Job 34:7-9, RSV; compare 21:14-16). We see that one need only think like a wicked man, or justify a wicked man, to be judged as a wicked man.
Frankly, if we allow heresies such as Arianism to take hold in our minds, it is because we already are denying the way God works through human authority-especially in the revelation of truth to His church.
It is not given to us members, nor indeed to any of the ministers aside from ordained apostles and prophets, to reveal new truth to or set doctrine in the church! (Ephesians 2:20-3:6; see also Acts 15). Elders and members may give all the input they wish in the clarification of doctrine (Acts 15 again), but they are not given the charge of revealing and setting that doctrine. However much some of us may resent that biblical truth, we ignore it at our mortal peril.
So why am I, an unordained member, attempting to deal with this subject? Because for the last 20-plus years (nearly my entire life in the church) I have been allowed, even encouraged, by the ministry to contribute to doctrinal discussions on a technical level. Such contributions are consistent with one of the principles of God's government: support. Because I and my fellowship (the Global Church of God) understand this point, and because of the years of testing I have undergone, I have been encouraged by Global's ministry to contribute, and have been blessed of God in that contribution as never before.
Again, what does "despising lordship" have to do with heresy? 1 Timothy 1:3-7 and Titus 1:5-15 remind us of the role of the evangelists, pastors and teachers in teaching sound doctrine and warn us of insubordinate men who teach what they do not understand and have no right to teach. Ephesians 4:1-11-16 reminds us of the role of the ministry in helping the brethren grow to maturity in Christ so that they will not be deceived by the clever arguments of men who deny the truth.
I doubt if those who have promoted Arianism and unitarianism in The Journal will remain long in the fellowship of United or of any true Church of God. Indeed, were I their pastor I would recommend their immediate disfellowshipment for their sake and for the sake of their brethren. Further, I would recommend to the editors of The Journal that they and those of like mind be barred permanently from its pages-and to its readers that they ignore any publications produced by them personally.
Indeed, the same critique that applied to In Transition is becoming increasingly applicable to The Journal. Nothing justifies before God the printing (by those claiming to be supportive of "transorganizational" unity) of 32,000 words by Gary Fakhoury alone in denial of one of the key doctrines of the Bible, no matter how interesting or clever the arguments used may be.
Don't add to Scripture
John Wheeler writes in his essay on the nature of Jesus: "These heresies have all but destroyed the work of the sixth "era" of God's church (Revelation 3:11)."
Mr. Wheeler makes the same grave error as many ministers that have taken Mr. Armstrong's word as fact, regardless as to what the Bible clearly says. Revelation clearly states that it is being addressed to specific individual churches, not eras. It was convenient for Mr. Armstrong to come out with the church-era theory, than call his church the Philadelphia era. Many others are now doing exactly the same thing.
Let me remind you there is only one true church. That church is led by only one, Jesus. There is a strong warning to all who add to the Bible. It is found in Revelation 22:11-12. It would wise for any who wish to add new meaning to what is clearly written to take heed to that warning.
The articles on the nature of Jesus appearing in the Aug. 31 issue are sure to stir controversy.
I always find reading Wade Cox's articles as difficult as trying to suck molasses through a straw. Perhaps it is some fault in me. I will leave the analysis of his arguments to others.
Gary Fakhoury, in much more accessible prose, attempts to prove his case through a series of problematic syllogisms that are either implied or explicit:
What is the problem with these constructions? It might lie in Mr. Fakhoury's premises about God. He criticizes orthodox Christology for redefining the meaning of the word God to fit human limitations. It seems to me that Mr. Fakhoury has taken biblical descriptions of God in the glorified state and then turned them into inviolable definitions of God that will help him make the case that Jesus was not God in the flesh.
Mr. Fakhoury just might be confusing descriptions of God in the glorified state with definitions of God that distinguish "God" from "non-God" in all states of existence (spirit, human or any other possible state of being) at all times. I'm not convinced the leap from description to definition is always justified.
For example, Jesus appears to have been, at times, lacking certain knowledge that one might expect God to possess. On the other hand, in Genesis we find God seeming to lack information about Sodom and Gomorrah, in essence saying He had come to see for Himself. Was God deceiving Abraham about His state of knowledge?
In this way, we see that Jesus is not so different from the God of Genesis when He confessed uncertainty on one matter or another. How does one define omniscience? Perhaps God's omniscience is not quite what we imagine?
To ask these questions is to open a bottomless can of worms, which is why I have a problem taking Mr. Fakhoury's premises at face value. His syllogisms then become similarly questionable.
John Wheeler takes quite another tack when he broaches the subject of accents in the Hebrew and Greek texts. I think his presentation would be more credible to the nonexpert if he would explain just how he knows these accents were part of the original inspired text when we don't have any of the original scrolls of either Testament to demonstrate this! It is one thing to state that it is so and quite another to convincingly demonstrate it. The validity of his exegesis about what the Bible tells us about Christ appears to hang on this very point.
If I have not already bored you with the above arcane discussion of logic, there's another, more important point I want to make.
It is good that we have an open forum in The Journal to discuss these various points of view. The nature of Jesus is not an unimportant subject, and I do not at all criticize The Journal for printing these papers.
However, even if the archangel Gabriel were to appear to the leaders of the various Church of God organizations and deliver to them the last word on the nature of Christ with signs and wonders, this would probably not make the slightest dent in solving the disunity among our brethren. If the nature of Jesus were not a dividing point, people would (and do) find some other reason to splinter and separate.
The problem is not as much with our knowledge as with our hearts and behavior. Even if I granted that one COG corporation or another had more truth than the others, I would still be appalled at how this knowledge puffs many of those brethren up and how they respond to and treat those who do not have their superior knowledge.
Where is the humility? Where is the patience toward those who do not understand as much as we supposedly understand? Where is the forbearance?
Paul makes it clear to the New Testament church that some differences of practice and understanding should not be barriers to fellowship and common cooperation in spreading the gospel. Of course, some differences are so antithetical and destructive to Christianity that we must be separate from them. The problem is that most members of the churches these days cannot distinguish between these two types of differences.
Some differences in customs and worship are to be patiently tolerated (Romans 14), perhaps even celebrated. Other differences are blatantly sinful (the Jezebel heresy of Thyatira in Revelation 2) and should be shunned. There are few if any beliefs and practices among the WCG splinters that reach the level of the Thyatiran heresy, yet the groups are often exclusive, stand-offish and uncooperative with one another, as if brethren in a competing group (there should not be competition in Christ) were genuinely unclean. This boils down to plain old arrogance, which is distasteful to God.
Also, there is a lack of patience. The strong ought to bear with the weak, not separate from them and form a new church at the drop of a hat, which is what happens on a regular basis. (Is the UCG council strong and Big Sandy weak or vice versa? Either way there should have been a way for them to bear with each other patiently [see The Journal, May 31.])
Will The Journal commission and print a series of articles that elucidate these doctrines as thoroughly as the nature-of-Jesus issue? I hope so, because God knows they are needed. As for me, I think I can accept Mr. Cox, Mr. Fakhoury and Mr. Wheeler as brothers, even though I'm not sure I agree perfectly with any of them about the essence of Jesus. I hope they would feel likewise.
To illustrate my point about unity, I would like to quote a statement by a pastor from United of my acquaintance: "God's way is for believers to humbly unite, not stubbornly fragment and refragment and refragment. I cannot think of even one fragment to subsequently grow spiritually and significantly fulfill the great commission when its parent church still strove to obey God."
Less than six months after making this statement, this man had removed himself to the David Hulme faction and taken half of the local church with him.
Folks, we have a long, long way to go.
From the closet to the frying pan
As one of the contributors to the current series on who God is [which began in the July 31 issue], may I correct the mistaken notion of one of your correspondents (Robert Schmid, Westminster, Calif.). The statement was made that "I had come out of the closet" to disclose my hitherto hidden belief that "there is no God but the One God, the Father" (1 Corinthians 8:4, 6).
I have never been in the closet on this issue and am unassociated with the exHerbert Armstrong groups. I have never hidden my belief in the unitary monotheism of the New Testament.
The best your correspondent can think of to say is that I am a false prophet, now happily revealed so that the true church can purify itself of me and the likes.
This sort of "slanging" points rather to an inadequate examination of the issue of Christology. The belief that Mr. Armstrong was right by virtue of being some specially chosen agent of God continues to hinder (it may also be an excuse for laziness) the real and important work of studying the Bible to see what it actually says about who Jesus and God are.
A good place to start is by taking a deep breath and reading John 17:3 and John 5:44 carefully: The Father of Jesus is there defined rather simply as "the only one who is truly God" and "the only one who is God." That really ought to settle the issue for the open-minded. John did not contradict himself when he later wrote that Jesus is "the Messiah, the Son of God."
Another key to our question is that God and Jesus are carefully distinguished as deity and human being in Psalm 110:1, an inspired oracle that has colored the thinking of the whole New Testament. In Psalm 110:1 Yahweh, the One God, is distinguished from the Messiah, who is adoni, "my lord."
Adoni, in all of its 195 occurrences, is a title of honor in address to a human person.
Adonai, however, which is never the title of the Messiah (certainly not in Psalm 110:5, where the picture is of God helping the Messiah by being at His side), occurs 449 times and in every case is an address to God.
Those inspired writers were not confused about the difference between God and Jesus. Nor need we be. The Father is the Lord God, and Jesus is the Lord Messiah (Luke 2:11) or the Lord Jesus Messiah.
The Holy Spirit is the operational presence of God at work in the world to energize and enlighten.
I am available to address any groups wanting to explore these issues fur-ther; (770) 719-7694, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Short and sweet
We never miss Dave Havir's columns in The Journal. He manages to keep his perspective through all the turmoil. We like that as well as the fact that he can say what he means and get to the point rapidly, as witnessed by the length of the column. We hope his sermons are as succinct.
Having looked for symbolic evidence since the L.A. quake of how God is ruling in the kingdoms of men-and the now scattered church-because Daniel indicated that the wise would understand where they are in end-time prophecy, I have assembled the evidence at: http://members.xoom.com/hwa_elijah.
The evidence suggests something important is likely to happen in the church on its 65th Anniversary (Oct. 21, 1998), which is 666 weeks after Herbert W. Armstrong died.
I am just an elder doing what I can here in the Far North to help God's sons and daughters stay the course and attain their inheritance. For the last two and a half years I have watched those God has given us to work with grow in love for each other as Jesus instructed. We have lived in peace and harmony, served and guided by the ministry.
I have observed God's people get the fire and zeal back in their hearts and demonstrate their love for the people of the world by sharing the way to salvation and the wonderful way of life God intended for all mankind with as many as will listen and heed.
As I travel around the country making stops in Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Denver and on east to Nashville and Bluefield, I find the same love and zeal.
I have also seen the tears and pain in their eyes as they wonder why our brothers and sisters elsewhere have turned their backs on them and won't help them share this wonderful way of life with the world. This is in the face of the scriptures that clearly state there are to be no divisions among you. Might I remind everyone that there was a time when we all prayed, sang and worshiped together?
I have read articles in In Transition and now The Journal of writers who seem to want to tear down everything God's church ever accomplished or stood for. To rewrite history seems to be the vogue of the day. I am amazed at how many scholars the church has and how many want to be ministers and start their own church.
The idea of division got started several years back while many were in the WCG and, like a cancer, has crescendoed to this day. Everyone seems to have an idea or a vision-or no vision, more often than not.
Then there is the dreaded word government. This issue ranges in concept from those who believe in governance from the top down (hierarchical) to those who are of the same opinion as was Korah and those who followed him: "We are all leaders in God's sight; none of this government business for us," thus becoming a law unto themselves (Numbers 16:3).
Why do so many hate anything that resembles authority or, as they might put it, control over them? And yet they all want to be under the control and authority of God the Father, Christ and the government of God in the Kingdom. Could someone please explain this to me. I'm confused.
The answer for many today is: "It's because of imperfect human beings that God's way doesn't work. Therefore the way to solve our present distress is to combine imperfect ways of man, which obviously works wonderfully, with God's way. Everything then will work. Peace and harmony will break out everywhere and be the order of the day."
I'm sorry, but I don't see the good fruit many are hoping for. I see brethren squabbling, arguing, fighting and dividing further. By their fruits you will know them.
My answer to the above is that, of all places, God's way should be instituted in the church, which should be the bastion of truth, showing God's people and the world how it works and how to institute that governance correctly in the church, home and families and our lives.
Few look at themselves to see if maybe they are the culprits. It's the structure, not Satan. It's Mr. Armstrong, not Mr. Tkach. It's governance, not that we weren't reading, studying God's Word, praying and paying attention.
We all really believe in government from the top down. We believe the husband is the head of the wife and home. We believe we should govern and control our children. We all agree that the military should be governed from the top down, especially when the survival of our nation is at stake.
When we are sick, most call for the elders of the church for anointing. Why? Because deep down we know God works through and gives authority to His ministry and backs it up. If we don't believe this, why don't we anoint ourselves?
In 1 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructs us to pray for those who have authority over us. In Titus 2:153:1 Paul upholds this same principle and refers to the authority of the ministry. In 2 Corinthians 10:8-11 Paul talks about the authority Christ has given the ministry.
Here are some things to think about over God's Word:
Again I ask: Who is at fault? God's government or a world that grew tired of it and believed Satan's lies?
It is amazing to me how everyone agrees God allowed this to happen yet thinks that if God allows it to happen again a constitution and bylaws, being independent or staying at home could possibly prevent it from happening again. It seems we haven't learned a thing!
Mr. Rhodes' reasoning
Melvin Rhodes' article, "Disprove the Proven" (July 31), needs to be countered. It's filled with false and misleading reasoning.
Mr. Rhodes bashes the system of authority within the Worldwide Church of God and takes the now, it seems, obligatory swipe at Herbert Armstrong along the way. He compares the system in Worldwide to the systems of the former Soviet Union, Germany under Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church. He writes: "Whether we like to face up to it or not, we had a Catholic system of government, with one major difference: The pope (equivalent to pastor general) is elected."
Mr. Rhodes feels the hierarchical system under Worldwide is what directly led to the "spiritual diaspora" that afflicts the church today. He believes it has resulted in a brain-dead remnant incapable of working out their own salvation (he wrote, "Could it be that after years under one system, most people can't think for themselves?).
All of this is debatable, but--
As the article proceeds, Mr. Rhodes relates a preposterous scenario that supposedly represents how Israel obtained its governmental system. He says the Israelites received the monarchy from God and claims it is better than hierarchical because it had "checks and balances."
Quoting from the article: "God gave ancient Israel a system of checks and balances for a reason." In another place: "This is where Israel was so different. Right from the beginning of the monarchy existed checks and balances. Saul had his Samuel, David his Nathan. We see balance, if you will, between church and state, between the religious power and the secular."
Later Mr. Rhodes says that "the English-speaking world evolved a system of checks and balances."
Near the conclusion he advises: "We need to look at our own experience, yes, but also at the wider picture, learning the lessons of humanity and applying them within our churches."
Mr. Rhodes, you can't be serious. This is nonsense, and you as a minister should know it. God didn't give Israel the monarchy. He didn't give Israel a system of checks and balances. He certainly doesn't advise us to look at humanity for lessons. That's not the wider picture. It's the narrow and dangerous view we are consistently warned to avoid (Revelation 18:4, etc.). It's the same mistake Israel made when it rejected God's government by insisting on the system you seem to advocate: a monarchy with a so-called system of checks and balances.
As Mr. Armstrong used to say, don't believe me; blow the dust off your Bible and check it out for yourself. The wider view, the real big picture, is found in 1 Samuel 8.
Samuel, God's representative in charge at the time, was getting old. All the elders of Israel came to him. They wanted to be like the nations around them, so they requested a monarchy. It seems they had looked at what they felt was the wide view by looking at the rest of humanity and now wanted to apply that to themselves. Sound familiar?
Samuel was justifiably appalled and took offense. He took the matter to God. He felt these elders had taken a swipe at him, but God told him it was worse than that: "They have not rejected thee [Samuel], but they have rejected me [God] that I should not reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).
God told Samuel to "protest solemnly" the elders' request for a monarchy and show them what the results of such a system would be. Samuel did so, concluding that "ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day" (1 Samuel 8:18).
Separation from God. Their reply? "Nay, but we shall have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us" (verses 19-20). This was rejection of God's government.
The result of their decision was not improvement, but decades of governmental intrigue, conspiracy and murder because of national idolatry and apostasy from God's law. They had rejected God that He should reign over them. Their system of checks and balances was often a knife under the fifth rib of a disagreeing countryman or even a family member.
God Himself finally had to use pagan leaders and nations to punish Israel through invasions and captivity.
Mr. Rhodes, God didn't give Israel a monarchy or a system of checks and balances then, and He definitely doesn't want His people to learn the lessons of humanity and apply them within our churches now. He doesn't change. They led to national disaster then; why would they be an improved approach now?
Israel rejected God that He should reign over them. Surely you wouldn't want us to do that, Mr. Rhodes.
Statement of belief
There has been a lot of controversy and discussion about a statement I made about a long-time member of the Church of God, Mrs. Evelyn Cruce. I knew this lady personally and saw her Christian fruits for more than 10 years. Her heart, mind and soul were turned toward God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
In discussing with the Birmingham congregation her experience at the time of her death, I stated that I believe Christ was with her as she walked through the "valley of the shadow of death." I quoted what David said in Psalm 23, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me," etc.
I said that David was able to say that because of what Christ did at His own death. He, Christ, walked through the valley of death alone, cut off from God. No one made that journey with Him. He said, as He hung on the cross, "My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Why did He say that? He stated that because God had forsaken Him. Why had God forsaken Him? Because He chose to pay the price for our sins; that is, the second death. Christ would have remained dead had God not resurrected Him.
I stated that-like Stephen and others-Mrs. Cruce sensed the closeness of God, the Holy Spirit, and perhaps even saw angels, etc. I did not state this dogmatically, nor was this the first time I have made this statement. I have believed this for years, as have other brethren, including "ordained ministers."
I also said that I believe this lady had this help as she went through the valley of the shadow of death and on into eternal life.
Some have taken this to mean that I said she went to heaven or immediately into life. That is certainly not what I mean. What I believe is, and the Bible certainly teaches, that "the dead have no consciousness" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Man is helpless and hopeless without a resurrection.
Christ has shown that there is a resurrection of the dead. He inspired the writers of the New Testament to write about it:
"Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rules and all authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:12-24).
"Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on imperishable and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about this saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (verses 50-58).
This is what I believe. What I was saying regarding Mrs. Cruce, as well as all other truly converted Christians who die, is that Christ is with us through death and the resurrection. Though there is a time between one's death and resurrection (a time during which we have no consciousness), it's as though it all happens at one time.
I trust that this explanation clears up any misunderstanding of biblical truth in this matter.
40 years to go
Well, I've finally joined the wilderness dwellers. I've left another corporate church. That makes three: WCG, UCG and now Church of God Southern California.
The COGSC started the year being governed by a member-elected church council in which the pastor, David Antion, did not have a vote. Now it is governed by a six-member board with the pastor, David Antion, as president.
David chose himself, his wife and four other members to the board without input from the governing church council or the congregation. In fact, the rest of us did not know about it until months after he had done it.
I tried to point out that David's actions were invalid because he did not have the three-quarters vote of the congregation to change the rules and procedures. David's bylaws nullified much of the rules and procedures. David said that the congregation did not need to vote. We were not a democracy.
I do not believe things were done properly, but, since I did not see any resolve in the congregation to stop this, my wife and I left.
It looks like David Antion has returned to his WCG roots, governmentally.
Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news previewed here.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God