Letters from our readers
Thank you to all who have responded to my letter in regards to saving Campbell's-soup labels to help us purchase equipment for our school ["Eat More Soup," page 2, Jan. 31]. I would like to mention again that the label donations are vital to financing Woodvale School, where we want to educate our children in an environment that teaches morals and values. We will be running a complete announcement, explaining our Campbell's-label fund-raiser and the particular labels we need, in an ad in this and the next several issues in Connections [see page 21 of this issue under "Fund-Raisers."]
Would you like to hear a good report? Great, because I have one to share.
In central Pennsylvania several hundred brethren left a major denomination in 1974. Many reasons were given, including administrative, theological and personal. Soon there were splits off splits.
Somewhere around 14 years ago the remaining larger group broke in half. One half remained with a certain organization, while the other operated as an independent group for years. Neither grew much in numbers, but God was dealing with people's spiritual lives independently.
The independent group finally matured enough to see the need of a larger affiliation and doing work for the Kingdom of God, so it joined with an old, large denomination in the seventh-day churches.
Meanwhile, the group that stayed with another organization had difficulties and became more or less independent too. Its members also matured to the level to see where God called them to be part of something bigger than themselves. All during these years of separation, the Lord was working, because these split groups still fellowshipped socially.
Finally the Lord led the leadership of both groups to meet with each other, and it was decided to join back together after all those years. In the last three years the Lord has worked out marvelously all the healings of attitudes, personal hurts and any other major differences.
Some of the important matters to consider, based on these events, are these: (1) We serve the same Lord; why not work together? (2) Doctrinal differences were minor; learn to allow the viewpoints of others. (3) We grow at different levels in grace and knowledge; allow for this with mercy and love. (4) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (5) Support one another, even when we fall short and sin. (6) Teach the Word of God. (7) Preach the gospel. (8) Allow for freedom of expression as long as it is edifying. (9) Let God be God, not us. (10) Don't condemn one another. (11) If some believe the festivals of Leviticus 23 are mandatory and others do not, don't bicker and fight; learn from each other and allow for differences since this does not take away your salvation. (12) There are many others, but always be humble and put Christ first in everything we do!
The restored congregation is growing spiritually and in numbers. Praise God for His mercy! Praise Yahweh!
Shorter is better
The purpose of this letter is pass along an observation with the intention to help The Journal. My suggestion is for you to return to a policy of limiting letters to a specific number of words--and stick to that policy.
When the newspaper began in February 1997, you mentioned in the policy statement about letters that the length of letters should not exceed 300 words. After only three issues, the number 300 disappeared from the policy statement.
I am aware how much you like the letters section. It is my perspective that you give your readers plenty of opportunity to participate in the paper through the letters to the editor.
Although I appreciate your openness with the readership, I personally grow tired of some of the longer letters. Of course, I have the freedom to speed-read or to stop reading a particular letter. However, I give you this suggestion in an attempt to help the overall quality of the newspaper.
Of course, you and some readers may disagree with the limit of 300 words. Do you like the limit of 500 words better? Can you at least keep the limit under 1,000 words?
I am specifically writing this suggestion in the letters section because I know you read your letters. Besides, you have been ignoring this input when I give it to you orally. (To the readers: This is no joke. I prefer shorter letters, and I am trying to persuade Dixon.)
I am rather perplexed with Gary Fakhoury's latest article. "Why Do Doctrinal Debates Have to Be so Confusing?" [Feb. 28] contains an excellent discussion of the principles of Bible interpretation and how to argue fairly. Then he neglects to consistently apply these principles in his own reasoning in the nature-of-Jesus debate.
Mr. Fakhoury says we should be a lot more hard-headed about what we accept as proof of doctrine. This is exactly what I have been saying to COG members for a long time, especially in the wake of the arguments surrounding the breakup of the WCG. Some scriptures are open to many interpretations from inference, and we have tended to choose those inferences that Herbert W. Armstrong was partial to or ones that had some traditional support in the COGs and insist that those must be the correct inferences. Therefore we can justly be charged with attempting to "prove" many things by inference.
It occurs to me that the apostle Paul could be convicted on the same charge! It is unfortunate that we do not have any prophets of the stature of Paul to help us today infer from the Scripture in such an inspired way. In the absence of such a figure, I agree with Mr. Fakhoury that we must keep our standard of proof high and always be willing to reexamine the evidence for and against cherished views.
The opponents of Mr. Fakhoury's ideas have also been guilty as charged of resorting to insinuations about his spiritual state of mind and other personal attacks. I find this unfortunate. Because of these offenses, it will make it harder for us to win Mr. Fakhoury back to the orthodox COG point of view.
I hope that my own illustrations of Mr. Fakhoury's inconsistent use of logic will not be taken personally. I merely attempt to show that the arguments are questionable, not that he is morally or spiritually deficient. I think he is right to ask the questions he has asked and examine all sides of this argument.
Gary says that to change the Jews' belief in one eternal God--radical unitary monotheism--would have been difficult. Sure 'nuff would! Yes, this is the very problem Jesus had. The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because He said He was the Son of God, not just a son, but the Son. They wanted to kill Him because He said He was "I Am" before Abraham was born.
Certainly there is one God. But Jesus also said, "I and My Father are one."
The Jews, judging by their reactions to Jesus' claims, clearly understood what was at stake here. They weren't confused about the issue; they charged that He, "being a man, maketh himself God!" They were willing to kill over that.
So it would seem that this teaching, that Jesus is God, fits the context of the time well, as seen in the reaction of the leaders of the Jewish community, the defenders of unitarian orthodoxy.
Gary asks for an explicit, intentional teaching of what "would have been the most revolutionary new doctrine of all." I don't know; these seem like explicit declarations to me. John later wrote that the Word, whom he explicitly identifies as the one who became Christ, "was God." In what sense is this not explicit and intentional? Honestly, I am baffled.
In one place Gary chides us for interpreting certain scriptures with "crude literalism." Now, I am not trying to establish guilt by association, but let me observe that this is one of the mantras used by Joseph Tkach and his merry men to invalidate much of the Old Testament and the book of Revelation! The problem as I see it is that Gary reads Deuteronomy 6:4, among other passages, with exactly the same crude literalism. "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord." What does this mean?
If, as Dr. K.J. Stavrinides insists, one can mean only the number one, and it can never mean anything else, then this scripture means we can never become sons of God with the very nature of God because there would be more than one.
Of course, being from the Continent and able to read Greek, unlike the rest of us, puts Dr. Stravrinides in an unassailable position when it comes to defining the word one. (As Paul might have said, I speak as a fool.)
Logically, then, Jesus could never have the complete nature of God because that, again, would be more than one, numerically. Crude literalism.
Now, Gary, why is the crude literalism of the unitarians superior to the crude literalism of the bitheists?
The way out of this Greek intellectual box, of course, is to follow interpretive rule No. 2: Get all the scriptures. Genesis 1:26 and John 1:1 establish for us the context in both Testaments: that when we come to the word God we should understand that in the beginning there was at least one additional being who could be called God. Understanding this helps us understand the definition of the word one.
Gary presents many difficult questions and asks his opponents to answer them. Quite frankly, some of them are not answerable with certainty. Nevertheless, the inability to answer these questions does not necessarily mean that a doctrine that raises such questions is false. It is clear that God reveals certain truths to us in a partial and incomplete way. We may know by faith that a certain thing is true because God said it! But the explanation of how and why it is true often eludes us.
I think a fair question to ask of those who argue against the essential "God-ness" of Jesus would be: How can a begotten child have a different nature from that which did the begetting? In some instances, a wolf might adopt a lost child as its own. That does not make that child a wolf in nature.
Likewise, a German family might adopt a Korean child, but all that does not change his genetic heritage.
If God taught us anything in Genesis, it is that kind reproduces after kind. Even the fossil record shows this; we do not see one form of animal gradually changing into something else a la Darwin. We see stasis--kind reproducing kind--until God creates another kind!
That Jesus is God-kind is clear from the fact that God the Father begat Him: the only begotten of the Father. That we are also of the God-kind (in mind, but not yet in body) is clear from the fact that the Father's seed is in us and will remain in us when we are fully formed spiritually--if we don't spiritually abort, so to speak.
Now, that may be an inference, but it is a powerful inference. To adopt any other point of view does violence to the many biblical analogies about begettal and the law of kind reproducing after kind.
Difficult questions can be asked of both sides in this debate. They are not easily answered, if at all. How can a finite human understand an infinite God, be it the single Father or the presumably open-ended God family? It is not possible that all these questions can ever be answered. We see through the glass darkly. We have many problems with definitions, which makes for difficulty in communicating with one another, even definitions for simple words like one.
Gary has written many things that should aid others in their search for a better approximation of God's truth. I hope I have made a small contribution here to that end as well. Let's speak the truth (what we believe to be true, at least) in love to one another, allowing each other the time to meditate and pray and thoroughly consider these issues, and let's help one another with great patience to come to understand the nature of God and His purpose for us.
We must realize that we don't all come to understand things at the same time or in the same order and that sometimes we take one step backward before taking two forward. As long as our heart is right, Jesus' grace is always with us--and the Holy Spirit will lead us, at long last, to those essential truths for salvation.
In this debate, let us try to have the same grace and patience toward one another that Jesus has shown to us in time past when we were in error on far worse things than the exact theological description of the nature of Christ.
I liked Gary Fakhoury's last article ["Why Do Doctrinal Debates Have to Be So Confusing?," Feb. 28], not from the standpoint that he completely knocked out the idea of Christ as God (and by extension the deification of humans). Rather, I liked his excellent attempt to civilize the whole debate, along with any other debates, related or not.
Here is a man with what appears to be an ethical approach to discussion and debate: someone with whom one can disagree without being disagreeable (as the expression goes).
I do understand the negative excitement that his stance regarding Christology arouses, especially after all the underhanded nonsense we dealt with when the WCG attempted to subvert our faith over a period of years. It is so easy, then, to dismiss his arguments as just so much subversion.
But Gary has not at all attempted to change beliefs in a gradual manner. Nor has he plotted to make such changes behind the scenes while publicly denying an overall massive effort so to do. Of course, he has no power to do so in the way the WCG had. It does seem that he in his smaller capacity has been above-board and forthright.
I would like to note one partial apparent discrepancy in Gary's Feb. 28 article. To quote his article:
"It may seem as if I am picking on . . . Ian Boyne . . . I have the greatest respect for the work Ian . . . is doing for the Kingdom.
"He's . . . preaching the gospel and making disciples.
"I realize he [Ian] has a lot at stake in this discussion, having worked so hard for so many years to convert hundreds . . . to Herbert Armstrong's theology."
Although this may not be a "cheap shot" as Gary has so successfully decried in his article, yet I submit that it appears to be at least a moderately priced one.
Since those of us who believe the Bible strongly supports the Godhead of Christ, along with the deification of faithful humans, then why would he have the "greatest respect" for Ian's efforts in the conversion of hundreds to idolatry (worshiping Christ as God, along with the worship of the one and only God Being: the Father)?
Gary seems clearly to demonstrate with the above partly quoted three paragraphs that there is a linkage between the Kingdom (of God), the gospel and Herbert Armstrong's theology. But there is no question that Gary does not at all agree with this fundamental aspect of Mr. Armstrong's theology.
So logic and some sort of "shot" at Ian Boyne and Herbert Armstrong seems plainly linked here.
The reason I say it may not be a cheap shot is that I also have some fundamental differences with Mr. Armstrong's theology. But the Godhead of Christ and our eventual deification are not among those differences.
End of argument
I say amen to Anthony Buzzard's and Gary Fakhoury's comments ["Sophisticated Liberals," page 4, and "Why Do Doctrinal Debates Have to Be So Confusing?," page 8] (published in The Journal's Feb. 28 issue) regarding Ian Boyne's personal allusions and wrong understanding of certain scriptures ["Is Jesus Really God?: A Response to Gary Fakhoury," Dec. 31, 1998].
I must say that I was really amused at the way Ian tried to prove his argument in his essay published in The Journal's December issue, the article referred to by Anthony and Gary.
No need to argue further, for he himself says, "A unitarian can say that I as a binitarian have simply imposed my bias on Scripture."
Animated but friendly
I'm writing in response to brother Anonymous whose article on the nature of God appeared in a recent issue of The Journal ["How Is God One?: On the Nature of God and Jesus Christ," Jan.31].
I recall an animated but friendly four-hour discussion of this topic with a local Jehovah's Witness neighbor. After I had brought to her attention a host of scriptures that to me clearly revealed the preexistence of Christ, she had asked for some time to confer with others to be able to explain her church's perspective on these scriptures. The arguments she presented were similar to those proffered by Anonymous.
We enjoyed the opportunity to discuss our beliefs regularly, but it soon became evident to me that we were coming from two irreconcilable points of reference. Whenever I submitted a scripture and its literal face-value meaning, she would declare that it was not to be understood literally but either as an allegory or prophecy.
I certainly believe Scripture contains both allegory and prophecy. However, I could not accept an exegesis that eliminates or undermines the plain, literal meaning in favor of an allegoric or prophetic interpretation. So on many issues we had to agree to disagree.
I found the same dilemma in reading the writings of Anonymous. What I found curious, however, was not his statements trying to disprove my belief that Christ was indeed the I Am of the Old Testament but his omissions. He failed to tell us except by inference who he thought the Christ was.
He seems to believe that Christ was a created being, a man, and not God. This question is important to me as I approach Passover. Knowing my limitations and how I fall short of God's standard of righteousness, I need to be assured that my Savior can do just that: save me!
I have no faith that man, even a superman, a perfect man, could save me.
My children sometimes lure me into watching The New Adventures of Superman with them. Superman is characterized as having many Christlike qualities: He hates evil. Though tempted, he always chooses the good. He supports the weak and defends the defenseless. Though he could use his power to control and dominate, he chooses to serve humanity.
But Christ is not Superman, nor is Superman Christ. Why? Because Superman can't save everyone everywhere every time. He is not God and is therefore limited in his ability to save.
When I come to Passover this year, I will renew my covenant with the Father and His Christ. The Messiah was, is and will always be our Savior. God demands a life for a life, so the life of a superman could pay only for the life of one other man.
But the Messiah's life atoned for all lives; He was no ordinary man or superman.
The Hebrew and Greek Scriptures paint a consistently clear picture of the Messiah, my Savior. I will let you do the word study to confirm my findings and, for the sake of brevity, omit my corroborating scriptures.
So who is this Messiah who returned to sit with the Father on His throne, by His side, at His right hand, who intercedes for me daily?
He is the One who created all things, who spoke and the earth was renewed. He is the Melchizedek who abides a priest eternally, the Savior, the Redeemer and the Mediator of a better covenant.
He spoke and appeared to Abraham and Moses. He was the I Am who spoke from the burning bush whose appearance caused Moses' face to glow. He is the Rock of Israel, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. He is the Captain of the Lord's Hosts to whom Joshua bowed in worship, who will return as Captain of the Heavenly Hosts.
He is the Shepherd of Israel, the Lamb of God who leads us. He is Faithful. He is True. He is the Word of God. He is the Light of the World. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the same yesterday, today and forever. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, who must reign until all enemies are destroyed. He came to reveal the Father, who has never appeared to or spoken to any man at any time.
But, most important, He is the One who gave up His glory that He could be obedient unto death.
As I come to Passover, I approach God's throne with a great sense of awe and wonder that my Maker was willing to experience human life, suffer and die, trusting as I must also trust that the Father is willing and able to resurrect me to spirit life.
Settling the unsettling
Thank you for the series on the nature of Jesus. It was the most outstanding series of essays to date in The Journal. You were courageous to run it. I've read the negative comments in the letters section criticizing you for the series, asking why delve into a confusing, unimportant subject.
Shame, shame on these people. What can possibly be more important than who God is? The subject occupies the first four Commandments. When we close our eyes to this subject, we are valuing tradition over truth.
If possibly God is revealing truth concerning who Jesus is, ought not we study it diligently, humbly and prayerfully, searching the Scriptures whether these things be so?
In the fall of 1993 the Worldwide Church of God began to introduce the doctrine of the Trinity. I had to settle the question in my own mind. In my study I proved the Trinity was false. But I also came to see that our doctrine that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament was also false. It just was not supported by the Scriptures.
What, then, was the answer? At first the idea that Jesus did not exist before His birth sounded heretical, to say the least. Could it be true?
I spent many hours poring over all the scriptures that purportedly said otherwise and discovered each one had been mistranslated, misinterpreted or misapplied. Slowly, cautiously, I began to believe the scriptures before me. Now I am totally convinced that God is God and that His Son came into existence when He was born in 4 B.C.
I think the essays by Gary Fakhoury, Anthony Buzzard and the anonymous elder were lucid, well researched and objective. By themselves, these essays should not convince us, but they should inspire us to study the Scriptures by ourselves. It's difficult, but no more so than seeking out a pearl of great value.
What is Caesar up to?
Regarding Lee Lisman's essay "God Wants Others Saved; What Is Your Attitude Toward 'Them'?" [Jan. 31]: Mr. Lisman's statement that "you will not find examples or admonitions to warn . . . an Ethiopian eunuch about what Caesar is up to" is unfortunate. It points the reader away from something truly profound.
We live in a world characterized by utter confusion. This is the time for Daniel's prophecy, when "the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10).
What Caesar is up to and why are inextricably an essential part of the overall end-time witness. James, Peter and Paul never had the book of Revelation. It was given to John at the end of his life.
Revelation is the capstone of prophecy. It unlocks the book of Daniel, which was "sealed till the time of the end." Revelation--and Daniel, for that matter--has much to say about Caesar. 2 Corinthians 4:4 contains a profound truth that appears to be totally overlooked by this world's religious system. Satan is the god of this world.
Ah, what a beam of light this throws on the confusion we see all around. Satan has Caesar by the scruff of the neck. He has always done his bidding and will continue to do so right up to the end.
From now on when you see the word Caesar, read "Satan." It is ultimately the work of God's servants to reprove the works of darkness. Is Caesar involved in any work of darkness? He is the main instigator; he always has been.
Have God's servants reproved Caesar down through the ages? They have many times, often paying with their lives (Matthew 14:10). How could they reprove Caesar if they didn't know what he was up to?
Oh! But our governments aren't involved in works of darkness, are they? The answer to that question identifies God's true servants. The great apostate religious system we see around us is virtually silent in the face of an ever-increasing mountain of sin, virtually all of which has been instigated, aided and abetted by Caesar.
Why this silence? Simply because they have made an accommodation with Caesar. They don't know what he's up to. Basically, they think he's a pretty good guy.
Oh, his manners could be improved at times, but the occasional political statement will correct that.
What is the sword of Ezekiel 33? Caesar wields the sword. God's servants have a clear responsibility to expose Caesar's approaching sword and call our people to repentance.
Oh, but what Caesar is doing is none of our business, is it?
The final great confrontation is between Caesar and God's servants (Revelation 11:7-10).
Has our approach to the last days been unscriptural, as Mr. Lisman maintains? This sweeping statement denies the very real, earnest outreach coupled with the conviction of a constrained time limit that drove the Body of Christ in the '50s, '60s and '70s and resulted in our calling and conversion.
Was this of God's Spirit? I have no doubt. This same urgent drive and motivation characterized the original church complete with time restriction. Can we ever get back to it?
Those who were present at the Churches of God Outreach Ministries' ministerial conference at Wagoner, Okla., March 5-7 were fortunate to hear a sermon by Pastor Lawrence Gregory of Tulsa, Okla. He explained in great, great detail how the position of the women in the church came to be.
Using the analogy of a grapevine to represent the church, he explained that in the beginning God designed the grape plant to require both male and female vines to produce fruit.
This symbolizes that males and females worked together in the early church, using all their spiritual gifts to produce fruit. After many years, men intervened and cross-pollinated the vines until only the dominant male vines were allowed to produce fruit and the female plants were removed from the process.
In the same way, men removed females from the production of spiritual fruit. The men then decided their fruit was superior to the fruit designed by God and produced by both vines.
This shows that the original intent of God was joint participation in the church, but men changed this original plan and prevented the females from being fruit by the true vine.
This "grape truth" explains the state of the women in the church today and our reduced spiritual harvest. Many women were deeply moved by this allegory and had to leave services. Others had tears in their eyes, and several men nodded in obvious agreement.
We should all be thankful for such an eloquent and great leader who has courage and is unafraid to reveal this great truth about how the elimination of women's role in today's church came to be. All of this is revealed through his use of a simple allegory that conveys great truth.
The true nature of God
I think Jeff Patton's article in the December Journal ["What Happens When a Church Divorces?"] was excellent. The idea of having a child draw names out of a hat to choose leaders whom the brethren consider to be worthy is terrific. This would take a great deal of humility on the leaders' part, and, from what I've seen, humility seems to be in short supply among them.
I don't recall what issue it was in, but Brian Orchard was reported to have said that consensus leads to mediocrity [Sept. 28, 1998, page 1]. Well, one-man rule leads to tyranny and dictatorship, or has he, along with too many other brethren, forgotten what happens with one man in charge? I'll take mediocrity any day!
By this statement Mr. Orchard implies that God can work through only one man at a time. What audacity! I wouldn't be surprised if one day he comes to regret his asinine comment.
One thing I've learned through all these splits and schisms is the true nature of God. With the likes of King David (David Hulme) and Buffy (not the vampire slayer) . . . and all the others talking as though God is involved in their work, there's only one logical conclusion that can be reached: Not only is there more than one god, there must be 40 or 50.
We should all be ashamed of ourselves, but then you need a good, working conscience to feel shame. I pray that God is as merciful as we all seem to think He is.
What's in a name?
We are saddened by the recent squabbles and the breakup of the various churches. But, as if that isn't bad enough, it doesn't seem right that everyone who wants to go into business for himself sets up a corporation and calls it a church and, to make matters worse, calls it a Church of God.
It has always been my belief that only God, through His Spirit, determines who are the "called-out ones," and therefore only He knows who they are. It seems, therefore, rather presumptuous, if not taking His name in vain, to name any corporation set up by men, according to and in compliance with the rules of this world a Church of God.
There is another point that has bothered us for a number of years. Why is it that the "priestly caste" of these corporations, with few exceptions, continues to quote and refer to 17th-century English when teaching "lay members" at the time we are about to move into the 21st century?
Surely when they instruct their own children they use present-day English to make their point as clearly as possible. Then why not instruct God's children that way about matters infinitely more important, rather than the religious speak of the priestly past? The KJV is a great improvement over the Latin used before it, but surely many modern translations are as good if not better.
There wouldn't be any other reasons, would there?
P.S.: Please do not butcher my letter like the last one, cutting it down from about 350 words to 25 words, totally missing the point.
The wrath of Roj.
I received the Feb. 28 copy of The Journal today. I have enclosed a copy of the letter I sent to you in January. I assume you are the one who edited my short letter; that is, removing completely one-half of it (one of only two short paragraphs).
On page 2, "Policy on Letters to the Editor," you state: "All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and technical style." For which of the three reasons was it "edited"? I think it was because you copied or wrote "old" rather than "new"; that is, it was your mistake and because of your lack of integrity you printed my half letter.
A lack of a reply to this letter will not only validate my assumption you lack integrity but compound it.
P.S.: It has just dawned on me (so I have reopened the letter before posting it): I believe you are breaking the spirit of the Ninth Commandment (and broadcasting it). If you think this is a silly accusation, then it reflects on you; now is the time for reflection. David McDermid wrote to you last year. You "edited" his letter. He was upset because he believed you changed the meaning of his letter. In a previous, relatively short letter (compared with some), you edited out the scriptural references of a letter I wrote. Again, why?
Just as sweet?
I have a question for all who have read a recently published booklet, The Ten Commandments. On page 20 is an item on the Father's many names. (He has one name, and all the others are titles, wonderful titles of His perfect character.)
It correctly states that His divine name in the Old Testament is Yahweh, which means "i am who i am," or more accurately "i will be what i will be."
The Old Testament is what Yahshua the Son of Yahweh and the apostles read and quoted as they taught the people. We all desire to have our names written in Yahweh's Book of Life, and just "John Doe" or "storekeeper" or "housewife" will not do.
If we know His commandments, happy are we if we do them; if we know His name, happy are we if we use it to His glory. Remember, it was inspired in the Scriptures by Yahweh more than 6,800 times and removed only by the commandment of men.
Now my question is: Why is the meaning of His name more important than saying His great name when in saying His sacred name we are saying the meaning of His name Yahweh?
A rock and a hard place
Herbert W. Armstrong warned the church in his last sermon that we should follow the next pastor general because our salvation depended on it. But what if the next pastor general fundamentally changes doctrine?
Dr. Roderick Meredith in his booklet When Should You Follow Church Government? stated that Mr. Armstrong acknowledged that, if the church were somehow taken over by leaders unwilling to preach the truth, we should all leave. But where should we go?
In a special edition of The Worldwide News that came out June 24, 1985, Mr. Armstrong devoted the entire issue to the "Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God." On page 4 he wrote:
"Little groups [are] splintering off, centered in Washington, D.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Tyler, Tex.; Monterey, Calif.; and other places with groups too small to mention. They are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom. They are not pleasing God or being blessed by Him. Jesus said, 'By their fruits you shall know them.' They usually claim to be 'branches' of the Church of God. But Jesus said, 'I will build my church' (Matthew 16:18). He did not say denominations, sects, cults, branches or a church divided against itself. Rather He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is one true Church and one only. The apostle Paul pictured humanly self-appointed 'branches' when he said to the elders of the local church at Ephesus that some of their own selves would depart to draw a following after themselves."
If we want to go where the truth is, where do we go? Why do we have this apparent diversity of truth? Who can claim to have the "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"? Or have we a situation similar to what is described in the last verse of the book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes"? (NKJV).
What Mr. Armstrong wrote about splinter groups describes the past five years of Church of God history.
Discouraging and encouraging words
Like Mary Jackie Southall ("Letters," Jan. 31), I too was thinking of letting my subscription lapse. It does become rather discouraging to watch the divisions and subdivisions, splits and recriminations as the COG organizations continue to come apart. Perhaps that goes to show we don't need them as badly as we had thought. I'm sure God is allowing them to continue to unravel for His own good purposes. Please renew my subscription anyway.
In your "Columns and Commentary" section of the above issue, I found F. Paul Haney's article, "What About Disorder and Confusion?," a rare gem of wisdom. I think he isolates the fundamental problem of the COG organizations when he writes, "Idolatry has tainted the soul of the collective Churches of God."
In this connection, one should note what Peter said about idolatry in 2 Peter 2:1-3, keeping in mind that Paul defined covetousness as idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Have we ears to hear?
I think fewer exercises would profit us more than to carefully review Mr. Haney's article in an attitude that is willing to reexamine some of our long-held and cherished doctrinal assumptions.
We are two members who have been cut off the weekly tape list from the Christian Biblical Church of God here in Australia and have not been able to receive a tape since last Passover. We would be most grateful if one of our brethren reading this could send us weekly tapes. We will pay for all expenses. As well as your helping us, we can help other brethren who have been put in the same situation.
490 and counting
To everyone who sent a card or letter or made a telephone call or sent other gifts for our 70th wedding anniversary, we say thank you so much. [See "Think It'll Rain?," Jan. 31, page 2]. We appreciated each word on each one. Oh, the flowers too: They were beautiful. We have received 490 cards and letters.
What happened to the Worldwide Church of God, and what condition do we find ourselves in? Disillusioned brethren no longer attend anywhere. Some have gone to Sunday-keeping groups. Some are in microgroups still clinging to much of the truth. Some are in larger, more traditional (for us) groups still clinging to much of the truth.
These groups have the appearance of dividing still further. All the groups seem to have just enough idiosyncrasies to keep them divided. What is this analogous to?
Let's do an experiment. Let's take a mouthful of water from a glass and spit it out on the countertop or floor. What happens?
The water immediately divides: a puddle here, a drop there, a damp spot where the water ran by but didn't stop. The water keeps on moving until all the energy is spent and all the physical laws governing such things are satisfied.
Some bigger puddles may even break apart and join other puddles to form a new puddle. Isn't this pretty much a description of what is happening to us?
Didn't we in the WCG become rich and increased with goods as a church in the '60s and '70s? But we became spiritually poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked (most but not all). Even the new administration recognized something wasn't right. Its profound spiritual blindness, however, led to exactly what God said would happen rather than change for the better.
So, brothers and sisters, if these things are so, what should we do? We should admit the possibility, at least for the sake of argument.
God says, "I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire."
Have you had a fiery trial lately? I felt the breakup of the WCG was pretty fiery. That and the other trial I was having at the time took away much of my health and strength, physically, at least.
Every week our minister announces five to 10 names, many of them new, of people with serious health problems. Are we having fiery trials?
If so, maybe we should be seeking for the gold God has hidden within them and the eyesalve to truly see.
Whatever our conceptions of what Laodicea is, it doesn't take much imagination to find we are in conditions that could easily be described by Revelation 3. If that is us, shouldn't we acknowledge it and try to gain the good it has for us?
In-home interactive Sabbath service
You are invited to join us for Sabbath services every week at 11 a.m. (Pacific time). This is no joke. It is a most sincere and entreating request for your presence at our Association for Christian Development (ACD) services in Seattle.
But you say you live too far away from Seattle? No problem! Can't stand Seattle's rotten rainy weather? No problem! Have a bad back and can't sit in a hard church chair for an hour? No problem! You're not up to driving long distances anymore? No problem! Would have to leave every 15 minutes to nurse your hungry kid? No problem! Like to mumble out loud when you agree or disagree with the preacher? No problem! Dislike clear, inspired, relevant biblical preaching? That's a problem!
Why not join us every Sabbath at 11, or, if that is not possible, join us once or twice a month? Here is the deal.
You pick up the phone and dial in to attend a specially dedicated Sabbath service. This is not listening in to a local church service. Yes, this is a "telephone-connected congregation," a virtual church. It is a live service broadcast around the world to all in telephone attendance. Here are the simple details:
Dial (918) 222-7158 (call in two to five minutes early to make sure you are connected for the opening because we will begin services promptly on time.
At the end of the brief welcome message you will be instructed to enter a special four-digit code followed by the pound (#) key, which will then bring you into our live Sabbath service. Services run about 60 minutes.
The cost of this service is free; there is no additional charge for the conference number or connection. Your only costs will be your own call at whatever your rates are with your long-distance carrier. For most of you it will be 10 cents a minute or less.
There are, of course, additional costs to the ACD for the conferencing services and for having our own exclusive conference number.
When the services are over, just hangup.
Suggestion: Use a speaker telephone if you have one. If you don't, you might consider getting one. They are not expensive; a good quality unit can be purchased for $30 to $40. A speaker phone will give your hand and ear a rest and allow you to relax while you follow along in your Bible or take notes.
You can, of course, just listen alone with your handset.
Our conference lines are fully interactive, which means that, should the speaker solicit comments or questions from the telephone congregation, anyone can participate, and all will be able to hear the question and answer.
One caution: For interactivity to be effective listeners on speaker phones need to keep a quiet room. The guy who likes to mumble along with the preacher will need to use the "mute" button on his phone so we all don't have to hear his running commentary.
Speakers: Beside yours truly, I am scheduling a number of outstanding speakers representing various biblical specialties. We will hear from prophecy specialists, New Testament scholars, Old Testament scholars, Hebrew-roots teachers, personal-development leaders and solid biblical expositors. Not all services will be in a preaching format. Some will be discussion panels, some in seminar format.
The purpose of ACD's "phone church" (don't you dare call it "phony") is to provide regular spiritual and biblical teaching to Christians to stimulate growth in the knowledge of God. We know there is a need for this service especially among scattered Christians who either don't have a church home or are too far away to attend a congregation in their faith.
For shut-ins and the elderly, this can be a valuable resource of regular encouragement and inspiration.
I should state that this program is not intended to compete with the local congregation. It is always preferable to attend face to face with Christians of like mind.
Services began this Sabbath, March 20, and will continue every week at the same hour.
I look forward to meeting you on Sabbath.
P.S.: Please note our new mailing address: P.O. Box 4748, Federal Way, Wash. 98063, U.S.A.. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our Web site at www.godward.org. Phone us at (253) 852-3269.
Federal Way, Wash.
Why I fly United
At this time the church continues to be scattered. Some are going to this or that fellowship. How many have really sat down and asked themselves why they are fellowshipping with this or that group? Why has there been so much division within the church?
I am not sure that anyone really has the answers to these questions. Though I have looked at most of the various COG groups, I have committed myself to supporting the United Church of God for a number of reasons. Let me explain why.
Now is the time for all those independents and those scattered to have another look at UCG and reconsider joining the winning team. As a church, we are on a roll, with new opportunities to preach the gospel opening up all the time.
There is no need to remain being scattered; little can be achieved with small groups all competing with one another.
Here in New Zealand we are feeling upbeat about the church, with so many positive things beginning to happen.
A year ago we wondered if the church would survive. Now we are on a roll.
Charles Hunting update
Charles Hunting is an evangelist who was with the Worldwide Church of God for many years and taught in England for 16 years at Ambassador College. He is retired in Sarasota.
Since leaving the WCG in 1975, Charles has had ample time to consider the various theological issues that seem to plague the WCG and ex-WCG. Charles is available for contact if any would care to tap into his rich experience. It might be possible also for him to travel to to speak to ex-WCG groups.
He is especially concerned with the issue of God and His relationship to the Son. Charles has coauthored a book on the issue of the Godhead.
Charles can be contacted at email@example.com. His phone is (941) 922-7407.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God