Letters from our readers
I just wanted to point out that the picture with Aimee Anderson's name on it [of the little girl sitting in a toy car on page 9 of the Oct. 30 issue] isn't her. It is her aunt in that picture, Naomi Thompson, daughter of John and Debbie Thompson.
I am writing to respond to Jeff Patton's article regarding justice in the church ["Wanted: Righteousness and Justice," Aug. 31]. No system of government administered by human beings (even converted ones) is going to disseminate perfect justice and righteousness. There are always going to be times when people are treated unfairly.
It is obvious from Mr. Patton's article that he feels he's been the victim of an injustice. I hope he will listen to those who are advising forgiveness and an avoidance of bitterness. In the section of Scripture he referenced in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul also advises: "Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
I'm not advocating that brethren should have to suffer continual abuse, but I'm afraid that Mr. Patton's search for justice is adversely affecting his attitude. Even if some elaborate judicial system had been in place, the result might have been the same. I don't know all the details of his particular situation, but each of us needs to learn to follow Christ's example when we fall victim to real or imagined injustices.
There is a depressing amount of bitterness and rancor in the pages of The Journal from brethren and ministers alike. I hope we can lose this preoccupation with accusation and recrimination and get busy trying to change ourselves and do the work we've been called to do.
Up with what are we putting?
Congratulations to Jeff Patton for his recent incisive and significant article on the need for justice within the church [Aug. 31, page 3] He persuasively explained the urgent need for some system to ensure that the Church of God actually be the haven of justice it should be. I'm personally convinced that the lack of such a system has been and continues to be the greatest deficiency we have and the main cause (other than doctrinal upheaval) of so many people becoming jaded and disillusioned.
COGs take the Old Testament and its laws seriously. Paradoxically, we have ignored the numerous statutes and judgments that call upon us to "do justice" and give us the principles of how to go about it.
Even one of the Big Ten is specifically directed, in its narrowest context, to court procedure. As we all know, in keeping God's laws in their spiritual intent we must not ignore the letter. The Ninth Commandment clearly implies that people who take the law seriously will take justice seriously.
Jeff pointed out extremely well just how devastating an impact a travesty of justice will have on members affected. Having been in the position of church pastor for many years, I also know how frustrating it can be trying to do justice when members bring serious charges against other members.
Without a proper system, pastors have had only two choices: Sweep it under the rug, or make an arbitrary judgment. Both of those are devastatingly wrong approaches.
Likewise, when members have been abused by ministers, they have no recourse as it stands in any of the COGs I'm aware of to see real justice done.
On the positive side, it is encouraging to see some churches actively developing an appeals system. That's a start, but only a start. What is really needed is a biblical system for ensuring that justice is properly administered at the local level first: a huge task, but I believe it can be done. If the Church of God is to succeed, it must be done.
Forgiveness is a wonderful virtue. But forgiveness without justice only perpetuates injustice. That is something up with which the Churches of God should not put!
Just the facts
It was with interest that I read in your Oct. 30 issue a letter from Larry Salyer in which he states that the Global Church of God's board of directors "unequivocally deny the factual accuracy of . . . allegations of sexual harassment of one of our Canadian employees" and that "after diligent investigation the church found those allegations to be without any basis or foundation."
Now, this statement by Larry Salyer is indeed strange. I called and personally talked on the telephone to the two church ladies involved. Both ladies felt Larry's assertion to be inaccurate.
First, if one is to investigate a serious sexual-harassment allegation, it would seem basic due diligence to interview those making the complaint. This simple step was not done by Global's board of directors. Both ladies assert that no one from Global's headquarters contacted them to look into their concern.
Second, the ladies' local pastor personally believes they have a sound grievance. This minister asked Mr. Salyer to personally come and investigate. Larry never followed up on this request. Judging a matter before a hearing of all the witnesses is not a godly practice according to the Scriptures (Proverbs 18:13; John 7:51).
Third, Larry seems to have misread my article calling for righteousness and justice (The Journal, Aug. 31, page 3). I simply said: "A Canadian-office employee (not a minister) has been accused of what the modern legal system would call sexual harassment and other offenses. The U.S.-based church headquarters, though aware of the charges, has refused to investigate the matter to the satisfaction of the offended Canadian parties. The person accused has been publicly (by the church) exonerated without a public hearing of all sides, testimony and evidence."
I was not making any allegations myself. I was simply relating the fact that there were two church members in the Edmonton, Alta., congregation who felt then, and continue to feel to this day, that they have been denied a hearing of what they see as legitimate grievances.
I used this example because I am concerned about establishing justice in Global's branch of the church here in Canada, of which I am part (nominally), and because I had firsthand reports from the people who were offended. I sketched only the briefest outline of events purposefully, for it is not up to me or the readers of The Journal to be judge, jury and executioner. My focus was to point out the negative impact that is always created when some group's leadership lacks the desire to establish justice.
Some two weeks after the Aug. 31 article appeared in The Journal, Larry Salyer notified me by E-mail that on behalf of the board of directors he was suspending me from Global services. Neither Larry nor any other Global minister followed the Matthew 18 formula. I had no prior notification of any offense on my part. I could only guess as to the issues that bothered them.
Larry's letter suspending me only gave broad generalizations, just like his letter in the Oct. 30 issue of The Journal in which he writes, "We deny the factual accuracy of many of Jeff's statements." I am curious to know what else bothers Larry about my call for righteousness and justice in the conduct of church affairs.
I wrote Larry asking for specific charges, names of accusers, witnesses, scriptural grounds and a chance to answer my accusers before the council of elders. More than eight weeks have passed, and I have yet to hear a peep from Larry. He must be busy.
I also E-mailed the Canadian board of the church (after all, why should the American board suspend someone residing in Canada?) requesting a hearing. One of the members of the Canadian board sent a response highlighting one of the points I was trying to make in my Aug. 31 article.
This elder felt that, if there are grievances, you should let those in authority know your feelings. However, he felt it was wrong to "go public." He reasoned: "In any disagreement with HQ in which I feel I am in the right, the hardest thing I find is not to involve others, which is so human . . . But that could also be construed as sowing discord among brethren . . . Talk about a rock and a hard place."
This elder's conclusion was that only God can act once headquarters refuses to answer legitimate questions or grievances. As a minister and board member, his hands were tied.
But do the Scriptures say this? Matthew 18 requires an open hearing of the situation so the church, the ekklesia, can judge. I know it will be difficult for those schooled in the "divine right of the ministry" to comprehend that they are accountable not only to God--as we all are--but also to those they are supposed to be serving. This may be a new revelation, but I believe it has scriptural merit in the context of "submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God."
Agreeable articles wanted
I do hope you do not take any offense at what I am about to write, but I feel that I have to make some comments about The Journal.
Frankly, I feel that this publication has, over the past three or four issues, lost its editorial direction. The early editions of this paper were first class because it was fulfilling the function for which it was created, namely to bring "News of the Churches of God," as its subheading proclaimed.
However, I see less and less news about what is happening to other church groups within its pages. More and more pages are being given over to people who are looking for a outlet to voice any old weird and wonderful doctrine they have.
Over the past few issues different opinion after different opinion has been voiced over the nature of God. One writer says one thing; another writer says something else. In the end no writer changes his or her opinion after reading what the other party has to say.
Worse, most, perhaps the vast majority, of God's people are left feeling more confused than ever. I believe that The Journal is turning into a newspaper for a few who look upon themselves as being intellectual teachers of the law. I fear that this type of intellectualism is leaving the majority of God's people in a state of bewilderment.
Get back to reporting on what is happening within the churches. Start filling the pages with sound doctrinal articles we can all agree on. Such articles will help strengthen and build up the brethren to prepare them for the tough times that lie ahead. Let the intellectually vain find another source through which they can expound their doctrinal theories. Don't let them continue to use The Journal to this end.
Wherever we look--at family, friends, neighbors, communities, cities, countries, the whole world--we see suffering, pain, fear, hatred, violence, crime, disease, destruction and death. It can only get worse.
What is the church--that band of chosen, called-out ones, upon whom judgment is now--doing?
We are arguing about whether Christ was an angel, is or was God, is or was divine at any particular point in history and other vain babblings when we should be down on our knees before God the Father and God the Son in humble adoration and worship and total subjection.
We are arguing about who is Philadelphian or Laodicean (and that particularly pointless argument says rather more about the participants than perhaps they realize!) when we should be down on our knees begging God to show us how to truly esteem others better than oneself.
We are arguing about governance, the role of the ministry, the nature of "the work," authority, other administrations, ad nauseam, when we should be down on our knees beginning God to clean us up, humble us and show us how to be a Body that recognizes other functions of the Body and learning to work together.
Why is this happening? Sadly, I believe that some of our ministers are proving themselves to be as money- and power-hungry as the colleagues they left behind. Others, by trying to reproduce exactly what God has so clearly taken from us, show that they haven't learned anything from the scattering. It appears to this isolated member that the leadership must bear the greater responsibility for the current state of the Body.
Christ asked if, when He returned to earth, He would find faith. He may well add another factor to that question: love.
I despair, I really do. What can one say in such a time of trial and testing, grief and heartbreak when faced with a Body seemingly intent on its own destruction instead of getting on with preparing itself for Christ's return so that the world may be spared further suffering?
The versatility of the Psalms
With considerable interest I read all the articles on the Godhead, YHWH Elohim and His Son, Yashua HaMesschiach. It was all very elucidating to read the views of the various authors, but there was one author only whose articles have the ring of truth: Gary Fakhoury.
His insights confirm what I have known for some time, that there is one YHWH only, and Yashua is His Son. The Psalms are the most versatile book of the whole Bible. Anything you have ever read in there will be repeated again in the Psalms.
We were always told that Christ is the Shepherd of Israel and that He is the Rock and Savior. But, if I limited myself to just one Psalm, No. 80, I arrive at a completely different conclusion.
"Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel," is the first line, and it reminded me of what we all had been taught in the WCG. I must have read at least 10 times before I read the articles about the Godhead, and finally it dawned on me that the psalmist is speaking about YHWH Elohim. I continue:
"O YHWH Elohim of Hosts" (verse 4). "Turn us back O Elohim of hosts" (verse 7). "You brought a vine out of Mitsarayim . . . and planted it" (verse 8). Read also verses 12 15, 18 and 19. It must be clear to anyone reading this Psalm that the Father is the Shepherd of Israel, YHWH Elohim.
As to the Rock and Savior, we were always told that Yashua is the One. Well He might be, but then according to the next-to-last Psalm I read that the Father is also called the same.
In Psalm 89 David is talked about: "For YHWH is our shield. And the set apart One of Yisrael is our Sovereign." Read also verses 20, 25, 26, 27 and 29.
I am a lone brother crying in the wilderness of Spain. I would like to establish contact with other brethren. Please show my name and address.
By using simple logic and the Bible, I would like to offer what I perceive to be an accurate and honest answer to Duane Giles' questions in The Journal ["How Is God One?," Aug. 31, page 2. Mr. Giles asked five questions in his letter to the editor: (1) How can Jesus be the Son of God and His life not have come from the life of God His Father? (2) How could Paul say there is only one God, the Father, if Jesus is also God? (3) How could God give us a friend who "became" His Son and call Him His "only begotten son"? (4) How could Jesus be the "Lord God of the Old Testament" when that God is clearly identified as God the Father? (5) Why is there not one place in the Bible where Jesus is called "God the Son" when God is referred to as "God the Father" and Jesus is called "the Son of God" and there are numerous places that say there is "only one God"?].
1. The reason it makes no sense to you, Mr. Giles, is that you obviously do not have a concept of the spiritual. It appears that your understanding stops where the physical ends (Acts 17:29). (Please do not take these remarks as a put-down. Ask God, who is the giver of gifts, to help you understand it.)
Spirit itself, or a spirit being, has no weight, occupies no space, but just the same it does exist. The Word did not become the Son of God until an egg was miraculously fertilized in the womb of Mary by God (who became, then, God the Father).
This miracle of the Spokesman or the Word divesting Himself of entity as a spirit being, to incubate inside a human egg, is how He became the only "begotten" Son of God. The Spirit, however, since it does not require space, remained with Him in the egg as He matured into a full-term baby and was born, having the Holy Spirit from birth.
2. Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9 (please read). God, as Paul explained, is a "Godhead"; the "Ultimate Echelon" called the Divine Nature, which is capable of imparting divinity to others; the invisible manifested or revealed in the visible for those who have eyes to see.
The Christ of God is the Messiah of the Godhead! The Messiah, the Word and the Son are the same entity, but are of the Father; thus two parts comprising a unit which Paul called the Godhead. "God, Your God," is the Father speaking to the Son.,
3. The answer to this becomes obvious in the above answers.
4. Acts 3:13 is saying the Lord God of the Old Testament is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is true! God the Father was their God, and the Lord God (the other entity of the Godhead) was also their God!
Everything the Lord God did was at the behest of the other entity (which became God the Father at the begettal of the one who became the Son).
To put it in simple terms, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers (Israel), is the "Godhead" itself. His "Servant Jesus" in the Old Testament was active in he role of Lord God, a representative; that is, a member of the Godhead. He served in this capacity to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and even all of ancient Israel. He was also called Melchizedek, priests of the Most High God!
The Father entity is the one called the Most High, and there is no evidence that He was a "previous" God who was "shrunk down" for any reason.
5. The scriptures that say Jesus is the "Son of God" are saying and confirming that He is the "only begotten" of the Godhead, of which He is a member in good standing. Whether the Bible uses certain terminology does not alter the facts.
Our Messiah, upon being resurrected as His former "sprit-being entity," returned to the Godhead. That makes it obviously correct to reference Him as "God the Son." Whether you would find that exact terminology in the Bible, it would make no difference.
There is little use to nit-pick this to death. People have always rejected Christ in one form or another, and they will continue to do so until they are forced to look Him in the eye one on one. Then they will stop this foolish doubting.
Importance of deciding
Well hello there! I'm glad to see the focus on the nature of Christ, but it's almost too much! I haven't been able to get through the first set of articles yet. I had been looking forward to responding with a thorough paper but realized that I should just emphasize the importance of people coming to a conclusion on this subject and stress an analogy about the oneness of God/Elohim.
The importance is indicated first in 1 Corinthians 11:26-30 (NIV):
"A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep."
Alternative translation: "A man ought to examine [this issue] for himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without calling into question and thoroughly determining the physical reality of the whole body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself."
In other words, we have to determine whether Christ's body, His whole person and being, 100 percent human; 100 percent God and 100 percent man; 50 percent of each or what. We need to weigh carefully this question and separate thoroughly the truth from error. It's a matter of spiritual life and death. Think about it and decide.
The second indicator of importance is in 1 John 4:1-3:
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
This shows me that this doctrine--and not the calendar, prophecy, etc.--is so important that you can test the spirits by it. And it is not Christ coming in us, because the Catholics (I've heard Papa John with my own ears say "Christ in you") and Protestants believe that. It's about His coming in the flesh 2,000 years ago. Did he only come 50 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent in the flesh? This is what John was having to refute. They were already debating and trying to reconcile how Christ was both God and man: a vain and futile effort considering he was only a man just like you and me!
The problem people get into is trying to figure out how this happened. How did a 100 percent God become a 100 percent human? I say in the same way, but in reverse, as how 100 percent humans become 100 percent gods when they're born again! We don't need to be concerned with the metaphysical how, but only that it did happened and will happen to us in reverse.
What's a metaphor?
Regarding Sir Anthony Buzzard's article in the Sept. 30 issue, I have a few questions. Having exited the Worldwide Church of God a few years ago, I was distressed by the WCG's tendency to turn any biblical reference it didn't like into a metaphor. Some things in the Bible are metaphor, and I don't discount out of hand that a particular expression here or there could be a metaphor, but this is not sufficient cause to presume that Christ's preexistence was not real and literal.
First, the Jews of Christ's day clearly understood the literal preexistence of God the Father and the literal preexistence of angels and spirit beings, did they not? So it is false to assume that they would automatically count all talk of the preexistence of a being as figurative.
Did the Jews understand Christ's suggestions of his own preexistence as merely a metaphor for God's long-formed plan for the coming of the Messiah?
The answer to that question should be clarified by examining the Jews' response to those statements, and in the book of John we find that when Christ said "I am," or "I existed," before Abraham, the Jews lost their minds; they wanted to stone Him on the spot.
Did they suddenly go apoplectic simply because Jesus was saying that He metaphorically existed in the plan of God before Abraham's time? This seems unreasonable to me. I don't think that would be sufficient cause for their murderous rage and "falling over backward" behavior. What Christ said (in John 18:5-8 the phrase "I am" is unmistakably repeated three times for emphasis) was for this group of Jews wholly beyond the pale. Indeed, when John the Baptist claimed to be the messenger prophesied by Isaiah, the Pharisees were unimpressed, but surely not provoked to the kind of violence they wanted to do against Christ.
We must also consider Jesus' claim that "the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." It is one thing to posit that a divine Father could be "in" a nondivine Christ, but if a nondivine or "non-God" Christ were "in" the Father, would it not logically follow that God was partly nondivine? We can beat around the bush with metaphor, but Christ clearly stated "I and My Father are one."
In Sir Anthony's view, that "one" would include the divine father and the nondivine Christ--logically making a whole that was partly nondivine!
As I recall, Christ's statement of oneness with the Father also drove the Jews into a murderous rage. It seems unlikely that they took this statement as a bland metaphor, but rather as a claim of literal oneness and literal "Godness." I believe that they thought the claim impinged on their concept of monotheism and that this was what stirred their ire.
Indeed, when the Jews accused Christ that He was "claiming to be" or "making Himself" God, Christ did not dissuade them or contradict them, but merely replied that, if Old Testament judges could be called gods in the Scriptures, surely He merited the title more than they. He justified having the title of God.
Next, the comparison between Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 22:12-16 clearly identifies Jesus as Alpha and Omega. If Revelation 1:8 refers to God the Father, then we see that Alpha and Omega refers to the Father's existence in eternity past as well as eternity future. If Christ also merits this title (in Revelation 22), how can it be argued that Christ did not also exist from eternity past and into the infinite future?
Another problem is that if we absolutely must know the character of "first-century Jewish thought" about preexistence to understand clearly the New Testament teachings about Christ, then we must conclude that God intended to sentence Christian Bible readers throughout most generations until today to ignorance about the nature of Christ.
Most of those Christians never understood the way the Jews supposedly viewed this subject "back in Bible days" and had no way of knowing; they simply did not have the expansive knowledge we have about the history and philosophy of first-century Palestinian peoples. Consequently our ancestors were doomed to read the writings of the apostles literally and, according to Anthony Buzzard, erroneously.
I find it hard to swallow the premise that God did not care enough to speak plainly in the Bible on this issue so that those of various languages and cultures, reading the Scriptures in future generations--far removed from the original time and place of Christ--could not accurately understand. Why should I believe that God would be so obtuse, even to His own people, on this monumental point?
In the end, I have to thank God for the writings of the apostle John. If it were not for what he wrote, the nature of Christ would be much more murky. But, reading those writings, I feel John is a plain-speaking man, not like Paul at all with his multiple intertwining ideas and analogies. The overall flavor of John's Gospel persuades me that he spoke plainly on the nature of Jesus so that we could understand that the One God (the "God family" or the "God species") has always included the Word/Yeshua.
I am a member of the church here in the Philippines. I have been studying the subject of Jesus' nature simultaneously with The Journal's publication of the essays on this matter.
Just a day before receiving the September issue of The Journal, I was already convinced of the unitarian doctrine and of the fact that Jesus Christ did not preexist. I have been studying this subject with whatever few reading materials I have, but I did this more by just reading the Bible as God opened the pages to His Word before my very eyes. When I received The Journal I shouted for joy several times because the way I understood things were exactly the same as Anthony Buzzard explained it.
To my knowledge, Gary Fakhoury has also made a turnaround in his beliefs, am I right? If he has, then I believe he has to change his writings at www.biblestudy.org.
Last month I found Wade Cox's article more convincing, but, as I studied the subject more in the days that followed, I realized Christ could not have preexisted before His conception in Mary's womb.
Now that this subject is clear to me, I can read the Bible with more clarity, power and life. God and Christ are more real to me than ever before. I agree with Gary when he said that "issues that are that numerous, that far-reaching and that fundamental to our faith" can no longer be "ignored by truth-seeking men and women."
The days of eternity
Shirley Edwards in her letter in the August Journal says that Christ has not existed from eternity. This is incorrect. Micah 5:2, in a passage universally recognized as referring to Christ (Matthew 2:6), states that His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." The marginal note for the word everlasting is "Heb. the days of eternity"; that is the days of olam.
I first read the notion that Christ was a created being in the writings of the Jehovah's Witnesses several years ago. They also cited Revelation 3:14, where He calls Himself "the beginning of the creation of God." I put this idea on the back burner until I came up with a satisfactory solution. In the Greek the word for creation and creature is the same word, ktisis.
In Mark 16:15 the word is translated "creature" where Christ says to teach the gospel to every creature, while in a parallel passage, in Matthew 28:19, He says to teach (or make disciples of) all nations. Ktisis here clearly refers to every human being, or humanity, or the human race, or "all nations."
The command in Mark is echoed in Colossians 1:23, where Paul writes of "the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven."
The solution to the Revelation 3:14 problem is found just above in Colossians 1:15, 18, where Christ is called "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" and "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." See also 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, where He is "the firstfruits of them that slept" and "Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming."
Also, consider other passages about "a new creature" in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), the "old man" and the "new man" (Ephesians 4:22-24), and Romans 8:19-22. The creation to which Christ refers in Revelation 3:14 is the new creation of the sons of God, not necessarily the first creation.
After reading the several articles on the nature of Yahshua in the July issue, I felt I need to reply to them. With all the differences separating the brethren--Passover, Pentecost, the calendar--do we need another, especially on a subject we have not the faintest hope in this life of answering?
At best it is only the educated guess of some very learned men. Could not these talents be better used trying to solve some of those questions that do have a slight chance of having a confirmed solution and that would help bring about unity in thought and purpose?
I did notice a common thread in the articles, Mr. Armstrong's excepted, and that was the basing of their conjecture a great deal on language, grammar and pronunciation. My question is, What makes one think that the Creator God limited Himself to speaking in human terms when He inspired the writings? Are we not told in Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord"?
In the Scriptures are two verses that I believe show that Yahshua is and was God when He was on earth and the One who is spoken of as the Holy One of Israel. The first, John 5:37: "Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor see his shape" (speaking of the Father) The second, John 10:30: "I and my Father are one."
On those two simple statements I base my belief that Yahshua is truly God and will continue to so believe till someone greater than any man proves to me otherwise.
This letter is in response to John Wheeler's article ["How the Bible Speaks of Jesus' and the Father's Divinity," Aug. 31] and letter ["Clever Arguments," Sept. 28].
John, you seem to show a lot of bias, perhaps because of the organization you're in. Yes, I know that we are all biased.
You talk about people despising "lordship," and we continue to hear about a man-made idea about God's government. Let's realize a few things. In the Old Testament, in Israel's civil government, Moses used existing elders whom he did not choose to help settle (judge) disputes, and some would even prophesy. Moses did not try to control and rule them as modern-day ministers do (Numbers 11:16-17, 25-29).
Through the book of Judges, God ruled them but wanted them to have a lot of freedom. Is anybody listening? God did not step in to change His government in spite of how the book ends. Every now and then a judge would follow God. It was Israel that demanded a gentile-style government, which God finally allowed--and people still think God wants that for the brethren.
I have understood for probably 10 years that the church's government teaching was not correct. No one should think he is in Moses' position, because Christ took that place as well as Aaron's (Acts 3:20-22; Hebrews 7).
John, I think you would gain insight and credibility by also quoting Matthew 20:25-26, "But it shall not be so among you"; 2 Corinthians 1:24, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith"; and 1 Peter 5:3, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage."
God's government seems clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 11:3: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of every woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God," and, of course, this does not mean that the woman is chattel of the man.
Concerning your article on the nature of Jesus: I really have no way to dispute your explanation of a few verses with vocal accents, etc. While I have believed and accepted the church's explanation on this subject for the past 31 years, I did have questions and realized there seemed to be problems with that teaching. We would be told that God the Father is God, and Christ is God, but that there are not two Gods, and I understand the explanation of the plural form Elohim.
But let's ask some valid questions. From eternity there was a great Spirit who is God. That is a hard concept to grasp, but it must be true. It seems illogical to believe the church's teaching that there really have always been two Spirit Beings from eternity. But we do believe by faith whatever teaching can be proven to our satisfaction from the Bible.
If there really were two, it would seem that They would have had to been equal because how can an uncreated Spirit be inferior to another?
Then we're told They just cooperated with each other and one submitted to the other. But that really doesn't seem to be the way God is. God insists that He is the greatest and No. 1, and rightly so. He's God. He fights for His position (Ezekiel 28:16) and doesn't share His full glory (Isaiah 42:8), and He is jealous (Exodus 20:5).
It would also seem that, if Christ submitted to the No. 2 position before His human birth, then wouldn't that suggest that Christ was the greatest in character, humility, deferring to others, and a host of other godly attributes we might think of?
Let's notice Isaiah 45:5: "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God [Elohim: 'group, family, church, Smith'] beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me."
Verse 22: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
If you say I am a family or a group and beside me there is no family, you have only demonstrated bad grammar and there's only one of you as long as you use singular pronouns I and me. Why does God seem to find it so difficult to say, "We are two Gods and besides Us there are no Gods"?
Please note: No misleading is intended from partially quoted scriptures in this letter. Please read all the following verses: Isaiah 40:18, 25, 28; 42:8; 43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:5-6, 18, 21-22; 46:9. Doesn't it seem clear that God recognizes only one God?
If the Bible was a book of another religion, the Church of God would jump at the opportunity to discredit it because of the perceived contradiction between John 1 and Isaiah 45:5.
John, you seem as condemning of those who don't hold to your view as the Trinitarians are. They condemn people to hell for not believing the Trinity. But we both know that no scripture demands belief in a Trinity to be saved. I suggest that neither does the Bible demand belief in your explanation for salvation. As far as I can tell, you must believe in God and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and you must believe and accept that Jesus Christ is our Savior (Acts 4:10-12; Luke 2:11).
A number of errors have been taught through the top-down hierarchy that the brethren have been able to detect and correct. Since members are holy and have some of the mind of Christ, God can reveal His truth directly to them (1 Thessalonians 5:27; Philippians 2:5; 3:15).
Remember when in the late '70s a leading minister required his underlings to follow the church's hierarchical chain of command and not bypass him to talk to Mr. Armstrong? Mr. Armstrong responded with probably the most egregious error of his public statements by saying that when ministers are cut off from him they are cut off from Christ.
To my knowledge not one minister of the WCG publicly challenged or took offense at that statement. Doesn't it sound like blasphemy?
Your statements concerning disfellowshipment come from a rulership and control approach more than a biblical one. Certainly after two warnings a man should not be permitted to teach his heresy, especially from the lectern, but I'm not sure Titus 3:10 refers to disfellowshipment. We need to realize that just maybe sometimes it's our (or your) teaching that's heresy (1 Corinthians 11:19).
From the history I've read about the Sabbatarians, it appears that through much of history, even second century, they believed in a unitarian view of God.
Please withhold my name and city. I still want to be able to attend services in peace.
A dark glass
Thanks for the articles on the nature of Jesus Christ, which to me is important if we are to understand and have a relationship with God the Father and His Son.
This was one of the first subjects to occupy my time in 1993-1994 after Dr. K.J. Stavrinides threw his bombs into the WCG. I studied the Trinity until I was nearly bored to death but eventually was able to disprove it. I prayed earnestly about the matter one evening, then read Hebrews 1-2 in a different translation (Weymouth), and the relationships suddenly became clear to me.
But apparently it was still an issue with many. When United formed in the spring of 1995, the nature of God was still unresolved coming out of the Indianapolis conference (see the letter from David Hulme to the ministry, May 20, 1995). In fact, the first printing of the statement of beliefs that United published in September 1995 was loose; a Trinitarian could live with it. It was tightened and later published in February 1996, but still not what RCG/WCG originally printed.
There were hints of binitarianism, which could be taken several ways, one of which is nothing more than two thirds of a Trinity, which means, just as in unitarianism, that you haven't got a Savior.
During all this turmoil I got closer to God simply by realizing that He reveals God to us in a relational sense--the father, elder brother, friend, comforter, etc.--rather than some specific "name" by which God and Jesus Christ should be addressed.
One important verse that reveals this is John 1:1, almost universally mistranslated. John Wheeler, Gary Fakhoury and especially Wade Cox go into the better translations of this verse. I would like to add my little bit to the dialogue by quoting from the introduction to The Unvarnished New Testament, a basic translation by Andy Gaus (1991, Phanes Press).
First his translation of John 1:1; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and God was what the Word was." I read this in 1994 while studying the Trinity, and was struck by this translation.
In the introduction to this translation, which deliberately avoids doctrinal phraseology, someone named George Witterschein goes into John 1:1 at length. Let me quote:
"To my eye the most startling difference between Gaus' version and all the others I know occurs in the famous Prologue to John's gospel. Everyone has heard it: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'
"Now, one of the first things I noticed upon reading this passage in Greek was that it doesn't say 'the Word was with God.' It says: '. . . and the Word was toward God' or '. . . was going towards God.'
"Which is another matter altogether. If the Word was in motion towards God, instead of being literally and plainly identical with God, then St. John is introducing the notion of development (or process, or progression) within the divine nature, as the explanation for the origin of the created universe!
" 'Movement toward' implies a separation that is in the process of being overcome. The movement of the Word towards God can then be seen as history: the history of the created universe, going back to its very beginning, is one of overcoming a separation from God, a process of reunification . . .
"As Father York (a Greek teacher friend of his at a Jesuit High school in Jersey City, New Jersey) related it, the truth of the correct translation of the Prologue hit him like a thunderbolt one afternoon . . .
"(He) spent the brief remainder of his life meditating on this understanding of the Prologue. He felt that Christianity had made a grave error--had 'missed the mark,' perhaps--in failing to understand this 'movement towards.' The key to it all, he said, was the attraction between man and woman, which parallels (has the same source as) the attraction between the Word and God, and between the created universe and its origin in the separation between the Word and God.
." . . The Gospel of St. John (is) one of the deepest, and in the best sense of the word, most mysterious passages in religious literature. But the fullness and depth, the richness, the possibilities, of the Prologue, are terribly reduced by saying 'the Word was with God,' instead of the much more suggestive and more mysterious 'the Word was toward God.'
." . . All the usual versions, relying as they do on developed Christian interpretation, have translated the Greek pros ton theos as 'with God' instead of '(going) towards God.' This is despite the fact that pros with the accusative case theon after the verb 'to be' almost always means 'to go towards.'
"Why then the 'with' translation? My own suspicion is that doctrinal Christianity had to so translate the Greek for two reasons, both of them a function of the long polemic the early church waged against Gnostics and other heretics. First, the notion of movement/separation/progress within God as the origin of the universe sounded too much like Gnostic creation myths . . . Second, if the Word was something other than God, or not quite identical with God, or was in some real sense separated from God, then several important points of doctrine were in apparent danger: the full, unmitigated divinity of Jesus Christ as the Second person of the Trinity; and by extension the doctrine of the Trinity itself.
"As is so often the case, defensiveness leads to impoverishment . . ."
And this from a Roman Catholic! I quoted all this to make a few points: No one doctrine should be considered in isolation. Note the author's reference to process. Isn't that what we have been teaching? Growing in perfection, for example. The theme of alienation (the first Adam) and reconciliation (the second Adam), which runs through the entire Bible, is alluded to in this verse.
Most important, this translation of John 1:1 reveals a dynamic relationship with God, not put in a box and shelved somewhere in the back of your mind. Incidentally, I found this explanation destroys all Trinity arguments.
The most important point I would like to make is that we shouldn't fear letting our understanding of God develop further. It is a living relationship that we are privileged to have. All we have to do is stay with the Bible, especially the words of Jesus Christ Himself, and truths become clear if we can get the cobwebs out and rely on God's Spirit (John 16:13).
Even sincere people of other beliefs, who study their Bible regularly with an approach of letting it teach them, do not escape deeper understanding of God's truths. It makes you wonder if some of them will be ahead of us in the Kingdom, if all we did was glance at a magazine once a month for 10 minutes.
It is clear that Jesus pointed us to the Father (Matthew 6:9), yet He is worthy of worship himself. His oneness with the Father (John 10:30) makes sense when we let Jesus define the word one. In John 17 He asks that the church be one as They are: obviously talking about spiritual unity.
And this must be our goal. With God as our guide, we should be able to use our foundation, read these papers, then study the Bible and let God work in us. If we don't see everything in the same way, just as in any subject, such as the calendar issue, I wouldn't worry. While there are those falling off into heresies, I notice that in time God's people start coming together on the subject and there is true harmony, even with some diversity. We are still looking through a glass darkly, and we remain teachable by God and His Word.
I thank everyone for this treasure trove of material.
Taped study challenges Journal writer
My piece in the April 30 issue of The Journal regarding "Passover" ["The Passover for Christians: Here's a Personal View"] apparently ruffled a feather or two--to the extent that almost a whole taped Bible study (just recently drawn to my attention) was dedicated to it. Perhaps others didn't quite catch my thesis or assumed they heard the whole story on the tape.
Selective quoting and assertion are old tricks. The study ignored my key argument: that the essence of Passover was that it was an animal sacrifice and that it was replaced by "the Lord's Supper" (or whatever we wish, biblically, to call it)--a memorial of Jesus' suffering that can be used anywhere in virtually every circumstance and not limited to one geographical location, Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:2). The sacrifice of the lamb, of course, is typical of our Savior's sacrificial death (Hebrews 10:1-10; 1 Corinthians 5:7).
No longer do we sacrifice, nor indeed can we, as long as there is no altar. The Jews to this day recognize this and do not "observe Passover," though they still loosely term it "Passover." Instead, they take a replacement commemorative meal ("seder"). If it were permissible, they would certainly sacrifice the lambs today. They don't, not even in the environs of Jerusalem. They will, when there again is an altar.
Incidentally, sacrifices are not wrong, just unnecessary at this time and impossible without an altar in the place that God places His name. They will be reinstituted by Jesus Christ at His coming and by the Jews before that (still in defiance of the true Messiah!).
The Passover sacrifice--which is not itself a "holy convocation"--was, of course, "for ever" and "throughout your generations" (Exodus 12:14). This was the said study's key emphasis. But long, long ago we came to understand that these terms are limited by circumstances (see Exodus 29:42; 30:8: no temple, no lights, no altar, no sacrifice, etc.)
We might also ask, What about the "everlasting statute" of Leviticus 16:31-34 regarding the activities on Atonement? Clearly such statements are limited by circumstances. As the Passover is a central plank of the preacher's teaching, it is understandable that these texts are ignored.
One painful aspect is the open-ended "token of the covenant" with Abraham: circumcision ("in their generations" and "an everlasting covenant"; Genesis 17:9, 13). This was a requirement for all males--both Israelite and gentile--for observing Passover (Exodus 12:43-49). I doubt that the preacher from this WCG spin-off would advocate this to his flock.
The purpose of my article was to try to heal the divisions among the Churches of God on this hot topic and to enhance the value of what Jesus Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection. The Lord's Supper (or, loosely, Christian Passover) is a universal memorial of Jesus Christ's suffering for each of us that all but a handful of God's people observe "in the night in which he was betrayed," at the beginning of Nisan 14. When we recognize it for what it is and what it signifies, the argument about when and how the Passover was observed by the Jews becomes merely academic, although though we can, of course, pick up many spiritual insights from the accounts.
By the way, whether I have it right concerning the time of the arrest and suffering of Jesus is a red herring (on the tape) to deflect from my main thesis that Christians do not observe a Passover in the sense of Exodus 12 but that it is replaced by the memorial elements of bread, wine and foot-washing "on the night in which he was betrayed" (1 Corinthians 11:23).
The Passover was introduced to Israel as a commemoration of the Israelites' deliverance from Egypt. The lamb was sacrificed, roasted--and eaten--on the evening of the first day of the Unleavened Bread festival. There is evidence that the annual festivals were in place as "harvest festivals" at least since the Flood, though lost to Israel in Egypt.
As an annual celebration, on it we spiritually and physically rejoice on the first day of Unleavened Bread: the 15th of Nisan. The eating of the Passover meal was superimposed on this festival. (This was explained in the 1986 Church of God International booklet on the Passover.)
Readers of The Journal are invited to reread the article for a more-complete statement, or request a copy from Churches of God UK, Box 2525, Lincoln, LN5 7PF, England.
Making a list
Before Jesus Christ returns to restore the Kingdom of God, a few important things have to happen:
n The world economies have to collapse fully to lead to extreme hard economic times, which will lead to world wars. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:3. As you can see, rebellion (world anarchy) comes first, which is brought upon by hard economic times.
n The restrainer in Europe must leave. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. You may ask yourself who is the restrainer in Europe preventing it from going its old ways. The answer is simple: NATO (America). The U.S.A. is a world referee for restraining wars in certain parts of the world. America will step out of Europe's way to pave the way for what's coming.
n What will help unit Europe in "one hour"? The answer: Russia! Russia will once again threaten Europe (just as it did in World War 1). The military situation will be critical, so Europe will have to unite for these reasons. Read Revelation 17:12-13, 17.
These are the key things that must happen before Jesus Christ returns. For the "days of famine of hearing the words of the Lord" are just around the corner. I would like to wish everyone a strong heart of endurance of obedience to the Lord, for our days will get much harder before they get easier.
Over the past several years I have noted many letters and articles published in In Transition and later The Journal concerning the continued deterioration in the organization of the Church of God. Most seem to understand that the condition of the church will not allow for the worldwide proclaiming of the gospel of God. In addition, they see the diminishing of the church's ability to help those newly called by God to grow in maturity.
We all also know that there are people in leadership positions who do not have God's interests at heart but are using the church for unjust self-gain.
I have seen many good and godly responses to worldly positions that have been published concerning the massive problems afflicting the church. However, I have yet to see the proper solution published that we as members of God's church can implement that will end the serious divisions that have developed.
We have allowed unscrupulous people to take undue advantage. The fault lies with the ministry as well as the brethren. John Wheeler's letter in the Sept. 28 issue correctly states that it is only for those who are appointed to lead in setting doctrine or in revealing new truth. The question that should be asked is, Who is it whom God has appointed under Jesus Christ to take the lead on these issues?
Most of us know that God made a covenant with King David concerning his family line and the leadership of the people of God. What many do not apparently know is that that covenant extends into the Church of God. This is proven in the Bible as well as the recent history of the church. The covenant is initialized in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and referred to in many passages throughout the rest of the Bible.
When Christ died that leadership passed to another of King David's physical descendants, James, the brother of the Lord. To my knowledge we do not have definitive family information on other leaders of God's church until Herbert Armstrong came along. However, we do know that God keeps His promises.
We must realize that Christ is not going to do the work through many groups and their leaders. The work of the church in proclaiming the gospel of God is not nearly as great as it was under Mr. Armstrong's administration, yet it can be again. Psalm 127:1 states that "unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."
The Church of God should rally behind the descendent of Mr. Armstrong because that would continue the covenant God made with King David. We should do this as long as the man is obedient to Jesus Christ, the Head of the church. This would be in keeping with the example that God gave of appointing successive descendants in David's family line to the leadership of Israel.
Most of us who have been in the church for many years know that God has blessed Garner Ted Armstrong with gifts that have been used in the church, specifically his great speaking ability. However, God has not chosen him to work as the leader of the church.
Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong should be pleased, however, that one of their sons has been chosen to do the work of leadership. The younger Mr. Armstrong, working faithfully with godly and well-experienced leaders and brethren of the church from the diverse administrations, can by God's will put an end to the divisions that God command us not to have in the congregation of the Lord.
COG North American Convention
Through the fatal flaw of centralization of church government under a human being, the potential power of the WCG was destroyed long before the death of Herbert W. Armstrong. After his death many of the principles of the WCG were plundered. But even the WCG has far more truth and can produce far more mature and knowledgeable Christians than most Christian churches.
Perhaps Jesus Christ will unite our Church of God brothers and sisters in His Spirit. Maybe our churches will become more evangelical on a local basis (as was the biblical New Testament church). Perhaps the Church of God will move forward and wake up sleeping Israel (physical and spiritual).
The Roman type of church government (with one man at the top with dictatorial power) is what caused so much liberalism and error to penetrate the WCG. Even Gerald Flurry, for whom we have the highest respect, should be aware that he is building a temporal organization with a popelike head. When he dies you can be sure that the adversary will have a mole in the organization to take his place.
A secret to evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ lies in the output of good, professional-quality literature that can be purchased in bulk by missionaries, evangelists and local Churches of God. Such literature is published by the mother Churches of God (CGI, GCG, PCG, UCG, GTA, etc.). But it cannot be purchased in bulk.
Selling in bulk quantities at the cost of materials and labor is actually giving the literature away. The local churches are the outlets where the literature should be given away at a potential monetary loss. The literature should be given to as many people as possible--even house to house.
We need a central convention to produce the needed quality literature and tracts. We need a convention to aid the local churches in the work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and not a headquarters that impedes and strangles the local churches' work.
Because we as a church do not fulfill the great commission, the stones cry out. The Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ and other denominations (with much less truth) reach out and touch a lost and dying world for Jesus far more effectively than we do. Of course, for the most part they create babes in Christ who never grow in understanding of many of the real truths of the Bible.
Some portions of the United Church of God seem to understand some of the dangers of a centralized government, but even they do not seem to grasp the awesome power of the local saints empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the great commission. One hates to say it, but it almost seems that most Church of God leaders are not really led of the Spirit. Instead, they seem to be led of greed for power and moneys raised from tithes.
But just maybe someone with great leadership powers will read this letter in The Journal and form a Church of God central convention that will truly be operated for nonprofit and will help local churches and evangelistic ministries grow.
I read with interest the front-page article in The Journal concerning Don Roth [June 30]. Mr. Roth's open letter, which I have also seen, appears to come from an honorable man. He certainly has it right that no church should attempt to place itself between individuals and Jesus Christ.
The article stated that Mr. Roth was once an elder responsible for three churches and that he worked without pay [for the Philadelphia Church of God] until February of this year.
In the ideal local church, the example of Paul and the early church would be followed. The local-church officers would not be paid by the central headquarters of the church. Indeed, like Paul, no local-church official would receive any pay at all except for documented reimbursements for expenses (not time) in performing work for the church above and beyond the normal local duties of the office.
But, most important of all, elders, ministers and deacons would motivate, train and indeed lead the local saints in an individual growth-and-outreach effort. Whether a local church pays a minister or not should be a local-church decision. But individual growth of lay members is a requirement.
At least one night per week, efforts should be made to visit prospective members in the local areas. Periodically efforts should be made to help neighboring churches gain new members through visitations and public meetings (evangelistic revivals, etc.). Evangelists can be brought in to local churches. A missionary program in the United States similar to that of the Mormon Church should be set up for our youth.
The central organization needs to be called a convention, not a government headquarters. The convention should have no authority to meddle in the business of the independent local Churches of God or their sponsored evangelists. The biblical church organization of decentralized authority is one truth that has been grasped by some of the Christian churches that know much less truth than the Church of God.
The central convention should provide training through distance-learning courses offered through its seminary. The courses would lead to various degrees in Church of God (biblical) theology.
We do need a centralized organization, but the organization must be an asset and not an impediment to carrying out the great commission. Believe it or not, Mr. Armstrong took the light that was given him and, to a large degree, hid it under a bushel. Had he pushed the local churches into action, in addition to his personal jet, radio and TV ministry, much of Israel might already be converted to the real truth, and organized churchianity would not be calling us a cult.
Perhaps someone in Big Sandy could start the central convention. Maybe Jesus Christ will inspire the CGI, GCG, PCG, UCG and GTA to at least donate literature that can be rewritten with their name removed or copied with their name affixed. Perhaps these sister organizations could cooperate enough to provide technical assistance on producing quality literature. Maybe the WCG would even release the copyrights on HWA's literature or at least let it be copied with its name removed.
Please, someone who is a good organizer and promoter for the Lord Jesus Christ, go forth and form the Church of God North American Convention.
The Armstrongs were a light
I think that Garner Ted Armstrong was right back in 1978 when he stated that, after his father died we would see a power struggle among the leaders and ministers of the church that would make what happened to him seem minor in comparison. I think a power struggle is going on in all the churches.
I would like to know where faith is in all of this. Without faith the work will be in vain. Without faith you can do nothing. Without vision the people perish. I cannot figure out why people cannot sacrifice just a little to get the message to the world.
The problem is not Garner Ted Armstrong. After all, there would not have been a Worldwide or a Church of God International had God not used him as an instrument, as well as his dad. Where would the ministers in the church have gotten their credentials to preach and their offices had it not been for Garner Ted or Herbert W. Armstrong? Ted Armstrong sinned, but aren't we all sinning by not at least acknowledging that if it had not been for these two men none of us would have been in the church?
We should be asking ourselves what God is expecting from each of us and then doing our best to do what He wants us to do about doing the work. I know that God does the calling, but the Armstrongs were the instruments that God used for me to hear the truth as I know it. I thank God they were a light that I could see amid the darkness of this world's deception.
We do it our way
We play a rather dangerous game. We spin our wheels trying to find ways to get around law when we see the effects of those who do so all around us. We see the society rapidly going to hell in a handbasket but continue to explain the law away.
However, that is not new, either. Israelites have done that throughout their history and have had to be chastised time and again for their disobedience.
So here we are, in the last days of the 20th century, trying to do the same thing as our ancestors. It is apparently true that the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree. We are aptly called stiff-necked in the Scriptures. We sing "Have Thine Own Way Lord" while we sometimes mean "Have Mine Own Way." Perhaps it is time that we stopped acting like normal Israelites and began to act more like who we are supposed to be.
The Scriptures tell us that the law has no effect on a righteous person. What has anyone to fear when he or she is being followed on the highway by a state-patrol car, as long as he or she is within the law? And, as far as God's law goes, we say that grace and mercy have replaced it. Why do we need even grace and mercy if there is no law?
We live in an anything-goes society. Do we want to live in such a society forever? Again, I must ask what is wrong with the law?
Image of the image
It's sort of perplexing that so many insist on proclaiming that the government for the church should follow the hierarchical system of the woman in Revelation 17:1-5, which Herbert W. Armstrong announced as "right."
The cry went out that "those other church governments aren't godly!"
In Revelation 13:3 a beast had a deadly wound; it was healed. In verse 11 is another beast, with two horns. In verse 12 it caused them to worship the first beast. In verse 14 he told "them" to make an image to the beast. In verse 15 those who would not worship the image of the beast were to be killed.
Come now. An "image of the image of the beast" is godly?
Another question: Which one of the horns was the WCG or those who can't overcome that frame of mind?
Thank you for the article on Bill and Sally Rollins ["Congregation's Ideas Help Interest Prospective Members," June 30]. This is the type of article that should get top priority because it proves there is no need for powerhouse organizations like Global and Philadelphia are trying to build.
There are hundreds of such undertakings going on all around the globe: people ministering to people on the local level, forming local fellowship groups, teaching the basic truths without fanfare or multi-million-dollar TV programs.
Literally thousands of capable men were trained in Spokesman Clubs over the years who were never used in their local WCG congregations. Today, as independents, they are able, if they want to, to accept speaking invitations or conduct worship services with their families and friends.
There are a lot of men and their wives all over the earth who are conducting this type of ministry. We need to hear from more of them. This is inspiring news, and it provides a needful as well as helpful exchange of ideas.
Reading the Oct. 30 letters, I experienced the usual array of mixed feelings. I saw some evidence that at least a few minds are opening up, that perhaps a handful of people are learning to think outside of "the box."
On the other hand, I saw the usual entrenched thinking and the standard "righteous" posturing from the spiritual sticks in the mud. Overall the tone was quite saddening. It made me wonder if this generation of ex-WCGers will ever make it to Canaan.
I have decided to stay out of the current round of doctrinal wars simply because I find the whole exercise emotionally debilitating. No matter who says what, or how well they say it, neither side is ever convinced that the other side is right. No one seems to change his mind about anything.
So, after all the words are flung out into the ether and the emotions rise and fall and all the attacks and defenses are made, it's back to business as usual. People hunker down in their doctrinal comfort zones and remain there. So what was the point of the exercise?
Ideally, in the passionate pursuit of objective truth, there should be no--I repeat no--sacred cows. There ought not to be litmus tests, only rigorous tests of disciplined, prayerful, scriptural exegesis. As much as possible, authoritarian posturing should have no place in the process of pursuing truth.
Nor is there room here for appeals to organizational traditions, alleged "rank" within ministerial pecking orders, ordination itself or implications of "Laodiceanism" (if one dissents).
The words of God, as we have them today, are sitting there on the pages of the Bible as they have been for centuries. Our task ought to be to seek to understand what they say, what they meant to their original audiences and, finally, what they may therefore mean to us today.
Of course, I realized long ago that there is no such thing as pure objectivity among us humans. I also came to see that even spiritual truth is politicized. Nonconformity is punished in escalating degrees of severity. If you disagree with the establishment du jour, your status suffers accordingly. You could be reduced to simple pariahship, or you could be fully demonized and labeled an enemy, a "tool of the devil" or a disgruntled, embittered nut case.
If you claim, as does Anthony Buzzard, that Sabbath-keeping is not mandatory ["Evaluating Anthony," Oct. 30, page 4], you are instantly reduced from one of us to one of them. The difference is substantive.
There are those who make it their business to sniff out the heretics. Almost second nature, they administer a variety of litmus tests designed to flush out the offenders. Once identified, a "heretic" becomes like a Jew in Nazi Germany. He or she is labeled, rejected and shunned. Whatever credibility, standing and reputation that person might have had suddenly evaporates. He no longer has a voice in the ongoing dialogue.
At the same time, if you say anything complimentary about a perceived "enemy," you are lumped with him. Giving credit where credit is due has fallen out of fashion. Now it's "my way or the highway."
Max Weber once wrote that "all logico-theological systems of belief eventually demand the sacrifice of the intellect."
Philosopher Karl Jaspers said, "He who has the final answers can no longer speak to the other as he breaks off genuine communication for the sake of what he believes."
If, in the heat of defending a sacred cow, God's truth passes by unnoticed, what has been gained--and what has been lost?
One the regular contributors to THE JOURNAL wrote in the Oct. 30 edition ["How Can God Be in Two Places at the Same Time?," by Melvin Rhodes, page 3]:
"As for 'God's system of government,' a great deal has been written on this subject. I made a suggestion some time ago that people stop using such phrases. that doing so takes God's name in vain. When all is said and done, the choice of government comes down to personal preference."
Here are some of the comments Mr. Armstrong made that are contrary to your views from a Worldwide New special edition, June 24, 1985:
"All members need to be updated on the history of the Philadelphia era of God's one original Church as founded in A.D. 31 by Jesus Christ . . .
"Most of the dissension of the past in the Church had been over the matter of government. The dissenters believe in a very liberal government--the way of Satan and his world. The whole purpose of the Gospel is to call those chosen by God out of this world and its ways into the ways of God. God's government is based on God's law . . .
"Pray that you, the loyal members of God's Church, remain dedicated to the Kingdom of God--which is the government of God . . .
"Now one final reminder to the Church and all loyal ministers. If any who have gone out from this wonderful fellowship that we have in God's one and only true Church, profess repentance and wish to come back, they must now, as John the Baptist said, 'Bring forth fruits meet for repentance' or prove their repentance by performance over an adequate period of time . . .
"There will be no divisions in [the] Kingdom. There must be none in the Church.
"A final personal word. In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership Or the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not. And Jesus Christ will never receive any of those who have gone out to draw a following after themselves to come back and lead God's Church into Satan's liberalism. It would be no longer God's Church, even as Ambassador College was no longer God's college, and Christ had to start it all over again through me with one freshman class . . ."
Mr. Armstrong made many statements that show us what we must continue to do. In his writings are direct and powerful statements that the present leadership in the Worldwide Church of God and other liberals in the splinter groups want to eliminate from your mind.
Thankfully, God and Christ has not allowed Satan to completely censor Mr. Armstrong's writings. Pray that God will rebuke the false ministers who teach contrary to Mr. Armstrong and want to destroy God's one true church work and government!
None of the above
Just a short letter. I am starting to become impress with The Journal. I had thought about subscribing at one time but did not because I saw a lot of what I thought to be organization bashing, and I saw where The Journal was focusing on the problems some organizations were having. I know that it is your job to inform, but I also know that it is wrong to bash and to focus on the negative.
I have kept up with The "online" Journal , and for once, in the October Issue, I did not see any of the above, which is a great improvement. To teach about the issues of religion is what should be focused on, not the organizations that try their best to teach it.
Republic of Texas
In response to Victor Hawkins' letter in the Oct. 30 issue ["Memo to Dave," page 5], all I have to say is "Hooray for the 'Texas independent spirit'!" God bless Texas.
Greenville tea party
Sounds like another tempest in teapot to me ["Greenville Balking at Altering Worship Days," Oct. 30]. If the congregation has a problem with its pastor and/or the local leadership, get to the point and tell headquarters. Don't use the holy days or the Sabbath as an excuse or headquarters as the scapegoat.
Who told the Greenville congregants that they would eventually be shifted over to Sunday services? Who is or was putting pressure on them to change to Sunday worship? Who told them that worship at Christmas and Easter would be at the expense of the holy days?
The only thing that threatens the continuation of the holy days that I can see is attendance! The anonymous spokesman pointed out that three fourths wanted the feasts at the traditional times, but if you tally the attendance for the latest Feast of Tabernacles you will see that attendance at the eight-day sites wasn't even close to that.
The members' actions obviously speak louder than their words. As long as attendance continues at present levels or declines, there will be fewer major sites. If people attend the summer assembly (the article was the first I've heard of it), it will be because they want to.
Taking convenience into account for deciding when to worship God is not wrong. What is wrong is using convenience (or inconvenience) as an excuse for not worshiping God at all. The "traditional" holy-day observances will stand or fall based on the willingness of the members of the WCG to support and attend.
What is this "agenda" that is spoken of "for corporately moving away from support of Holy Day observances?" Where did it come from? Nothing that I have seen or heard from headquarters resembles any of these perceived "insults. These are questions that you as a responsible journalist should have asked and included in the article before you splashed it on the front page. I've seen too much devisiveness and dissension due to molehills being made into mountains. The time has come to stop!
The following was contained in Les McCullough's recent letter to the [United Church of God, an International Association] ministry:
"In addition, we plan to print another four to six booklets before April 1. The working titles are: What Happened to the Church Jesus Built?; How to Understand Bible Prophecy; Are We Living in the End Time?; America and Britain in Prophecy (or, perhaps, Where Are The Israelites?); and Holidays or Holy Days: Which Should We Keep?"
Many of us still find it tragic that some within our midst do not believe in many of these truths and have come into the UCG on the misunderstanding that we have accepted all of the Tkachian changes except meeting on Saturday (they do not believe it is sunset to sunset or that the Sabbath is a sign).
For ministers and their close friends in the UCG (who go around on the minister's behalf) causing immense division and driving out half of their local church (which they do not go out to seek after) to accept Tkachism is beyond belief. They refuse to uphold the doctrines of the UCG and give us the most sloppy and neo-Protestant "sermons" you can possibly imagine.
When will they just leave us alone and go back to where they belong?
The era of no eras
It seems that more and more people are denying the church eras. These people need to read the Philadelphia prophecy in Revelation more carefully.
Philadelphia is the only church that is told, "Behold I come quickly" (Revelation 3:11). Also, in verse 11, Philadelphia is told, "Hold fast that which thou hast," which shows the scattered, confused state of the church where many are trying to tear down and destroy our former beliefs.
Christ told us to "hold fast" our former beliefs through this time of scattering and confusion.
This is a time when Satan is really working hard to destroy all of the truth that Christ revealed through Mr. [Herbert] Armstrong.
During Mr. Armstrong's tenure, we were spoon-fed, but now we seem to be in a period of testing.
Some have been so lazy with their Bible study and prayer as well as proud and arrogant that Satan can mess with their minds. Stan is robbing them of the truths that Christ told them to hold fast to.
By throwing out the church eras, they are missing the warnings that Christ has given this present era.
Five of the 10 virgins were allowing their lamps to go out. Obviously they were not continually asking God in fear and trembling to protect their minds.
Some of the scattered flock are going more and more into apostasy.
Reading about the scattered condition of the flock in Ezekiel 34, which also shows throughout the chapter that it is at the time of Christ's return, and putting that together with the Philadelphia prophecy of Revelation 3 and Christ telling Philadelphia (verse 11), "Behold I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown," that the church eras are valid. No other church was told, "Behold I come quickly."
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