The Bible Answer Man broadcasts of Feb. 7 and 10, 1997, featuring Joseph Tkach Jr. and Greg Albrecht as guests of host Hank Hanegraaff
The April 30, 1997, issue of The Journal contains a front-page article "WCG Leaders Speak on Heaven and Hell, Other Doctrines on Bible Answer Man." The article is based on a transcript of two consecutive Bible Answer Man broadcasts that were aired Feb. 7 and 10. This page, on The Journal's Web site , contains the transcript itself.
The print-version article is not straight news; it does contain commentary and opinions of the writer but, we believe, does accurately represent the content of the broadcasts. It doesn't, of course, include every word of the programs. Here, however, is virtually every word of the two Bible Answer Man broadcasts.
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Hank Hanegraaff intros Joseph Tkach Jr. and Greg Albrecht.
Hank Hanegraaff: Greg Albrecht, who is editor in chief of Plain Truth Ministries . . .
Both of them [Mr. Tkach and Mr. Albrecht] are dear friends and people that I have not only grown to love but people that I've grown to respect. As always, it's a delight to have you, Joe, and you, Greg, in the studio.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Thank you, Hank. We always enjoy your invitation.
Hank Hanegraaff: You have gone through a journey that very few people have ever dreamt about. And that is a journey that has taken you from positions that were clearly aberrant to positions that are within the pale of orthodoxy and as we're discussing over lunch today many organizations devolve. They go from solid evangelical core beliefs to eventually liberal doctrines, and that's the typical progression of most organizations so that the founding fathers oftentimes look at those organizations and say my goodness, how could that organization that started so right go so wrong? You've done exactly the opposite. And that has taken as great deal of courage, discipline, commitment and you are to be commended for that, and I as one am so thankful for the example that you're setting, not only for your immediate church family but for many others as well.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Thank you, Hank, it's--all the glory and credit goes to God. Sometimes I wonder why did He put His finger on me to be the one in this position at this time, but that's not for me to question. I just want to seek His will and fulfill it. And I think there's a certain irony in what you say because it is absolutely true-- we have decided with God's help to swim against the tide and not devolve. But the sad irony is that a lot of the people that no longer attend with us have just the opposite view. Rather than seeing us as becoming more conservative in doctrine, they mistakenly misperceive us to be going the other direction.
Hank Hanegraaff: In other words, becoming liberal?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Yes. And thinking that we're the ones that have gone apostate. And there is even a group that think we have become demon-possessed in embracing the more-orthodox teachings. That's difficult to put up with because some of them are friends that I went to high school with.
Hank Hanegraaff: In many ways, though, the thing that I have appreciated about you on a personal level is that you are able to step out of the position that you are in today and say, you know, there but for the grace of God go I so that you're not in a position of simply castigating those people but reaching out to those people in love, recognizing that they need the same kind of input that you have been so privileged to give.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true. I have in my sermons in our churches in some of the things I've written and communicated to our people, I've said what we need to do is remember part of our Christian walk is to be a prayer warrior. We ought to be praying for those people and ask that God in His mercy and wisdom use us with whatever facility of words, whatever relationship we have to help reach out to those people and pray that God would intervene and remove that veil of blindness. For some people it seems to be thicker than a veil; it's more like a welder's mask, and that takes God's intervention to remove it.
Hank Hanegraaff: Joe, what do you say to people that would still hold the notion that what you're doing is simply window dressing, that it is in fact expedient to do what you're doing as opposed to those that really know the truth that what you've done has taken a courageous step to abide by truth, and that you are now willing to make reason and Scripture your guide. In other words, if someone can explain by way of reason based on scriptures, the final court of arbitration, your position is going to change, and yet even with that we ought to throw in rather rapidly the fact that you have an enormous tactical issue that you're facing which few people can identify with because they've never dealt with the magnitude of an organization that you're dealing with.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: That's correct. It's a phenomenon of misperception that can hold people in error for an indeterminate length of time. I don't know if you've ever heard the true story about the fellow who was working for a railroad and mistakenly got locked into a refrigeration car, and he didn't know that the refrigeration unit was broken. But he misperceived that he was going to freeze to death in this refrigeration car because he was locked inside. And the fact is he spent the night in there and died. And the refrigeration unit was broken. It was normal temperature. His thoughts actually killed him because he misperceived so badly.
We have people who are, if you will, in a prison by their own misperceptions. When people say that this is just window dressing, I point to several things. One, as a church denomination we have lost a hundred million dollars in income. If this was just window dressing I would submit that that is the stupidest window dressing you could put on, to make changes that would cause you to lose a hundred million dollars. We've lost half of our membership over making these changes. The majority of those don't attend anywhere; they just stay at home in confusion. I've had to endure a real beating in the Internet, the press, the rumor mill, not to say that I'm not a sinner, just like we all are sinners, but some of the charges, some of the innuendo, some of the character assassination that takes place is incredible to the extent that I've had people write to me saying they want to kill me, I've had doctors call from mental-health clinics saying I've got a patient in here who wants to come out and shoot you, I've had people visit from some of our splinter groups in our church and after services come up to me and say to me if I could I would kill you. So these changes are not just mere window dressing. We've paid some high prices to make these changes.
Hank Hanegraaff: And I can concur with that because I've got a little bit of the residual effect. There have been people as you well know that have accused me, since I've given you a forum on The Bible Answer Man broadcast of laundering money with you--there have been people that have claimed that my children are demon-possessed and all those sorts of things. So I just can identify with that from just the residual kind of effect. But talk to people about the joy for a moment.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely. I think one of the things that motivates me, my passion, is now to look to the eternal, not at the temporal and the current and the physical, and, you know, we're laying up treasures in heaven, as Christ taught. and that's more important to me now, and some of the changes that have happened are just simply remarkable.
Let me illustrate it by giving this as an example. In the Worldwide Church of God we used to teach that when you pray you only pray alone. And, building on one of the teachings of Christ where you go into your closet, you pray. Certainly that's the right thing to do, to go in and pray and have prayer time alone with God.
But in teaching that it was emphasized so strongly that it was ridiculed to ever pray in a group of people. And in the Worldwide Church of God and in our culture we rarely would pray in a group. About the only time that would happen would be when someone was sick and asked for the elders to anoint them.
Other than that, you just wouldn't find small prayer groups and Christians getting together praying together.
So in the last two years we have gone from having zero prayer together in groups to now we have 1,100 small prayer groups in our congregations. And that is so remarkable to me just to consider that we went from zero to over 1,100 in just two years' time. What that's done has extended a prayer covering, if you will, kind of bathes our church in prayer, and we've seen some remarkable miracles occur, some remarkable healings that even the doctor can't explain.
One fellow driving on the freeway was shot eight times by gang members who just didn't even know him, just pulled alongside, pulled out a .45 pistol and shot him eight times. And this fellow went to the hospital and it's kind of a coincidence of miracles, if you will, he never lost control of the car, he had bullets through his abdomen, through the shoulder, through his thigh, and pulled off the freeway, pulled into a gas station and got out of the car. Just then an ambulance happened to drive up, he got in the ambulance, was taken to the hospital, and it was a crowded emergency room. He didn't know when he was going to be seen. Just then a nurse walked by who happened to be a church member, got him in right away, and there was only one bullet that had to be removed. All the rest passed cleanly through. No bones were broken, no organs were touched, and within two months this guy was giving a testimony in church--walking, no bandages, returned to work, and his testimony is interesting.
He says I am now a deeply religious man. So we've seen those kinds of miracles, we've seen a people movement occur in Angola, where we now have nearly 13,000 members in our church, and two years ago we didn't have any. So I see God as merciful, and the Holy Spirit is moving among our people. Those are joyful things to behold. And they far, far outweigh the death threats and the negative rumors.
Hank Hanegraaff: I tell you I have had the opportunity to see the consistency of your walk now for some three years, as we were reminiscing earlier on before we went on the air, and one of the things that I have delighted in is the grace with which you have been able to deal with the fire. And you have some great people around you as well, Greg Albrecht, you are a friend and a joy to be around. I have enjoyed just giving you hugs because the strong bond that we've been able to share in the Lord Jesus Christ in whom you are trusting 100 percent.
Greg Albrecht: Amen, Hank. It's a pleasure to be back, and great to see you again, and I should just tell the listeners that Hank has invited me to play golf with him sometime because he needs some lessons--
Hank Hanegraaff: That was a different Greg.
Greg Albrecht: But I would just like to add to what Joe was saying. I had to step out for a while when Joe was talking about the refrigeration car. I got kind of cold and I had to go get my coat, it was so descriptive. But you know when you ask about praying and we were talking about praying, maybe Joe brought the topic up about praying. Last time we were on your program you may not remember, but to pray, and pray for not only our fellowship but those who have left and those who worldwide are afflicted by cultic teaching, deception of some sort.
And as you did and as I started to pray it flashed through my mind, you know there are going to be a lot of people who know me who are going to say, you fool for praying on the radio. Don't you know you should only be praying in private?
And indeed after that program I got letters who said how could you embarrass yourself by praying on the radio like that? And this is I think part--it's not just the hurt but the joy. The joy is, as I've often said, it's like Phillip Yancy's [?] book The Jesus I Never Knew, we did teach and we did know a lot about Jesus, but it is my firm conviction that we, at least me, did not know Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus who is Lord and Savior. And when you come to know Him you have a joy which is unparalleled. You have Him. You have eternal life. You have all that matters. Now, you can't, as we all know, go and tell somebody else about that if they don't want to hear. They will take it as foolishness. They will, as in our fellowship, some who have left who said what's all this Jesus stuff that you're talking about? That's where it will register. The apostle Paul had some things to say about that: to the Jews it's foolishness, to the--how'd it go, I can't get it--sorry
So Jesus is going to be kind of a foolish idea, and what is all this Jesus stuff? Well, that is the name of the game. That's the bottom line of the gospel: He is the way the truth and the life. And that's what has happened in our lives. And that's what we tell people about.
Hank Hanegraaff: So many people have a hard time, Greg, relating to the fact that an organization can make a change, and yet organizations are just people, and Christ is in the business of changing the hearts of people, and those changes are permanent changes. They start at the moment of conversion and they stretch on throughout the eons of times.
Greg Albrecht: Amen.
Hank Hanegraaff: You're involved with a magazine, and I remember many years ago, now probably two or three, when you were talking about what do we do with this magazine, and you've taken that magazine and used it as a harbinger of truth.
Greg Albrecht: It's The Plain Truth magazine. Thank you for allowing me to get a plug in here for The Plain Truth. The Plain Truth is the same name as it used to be, but whether you like it or whether you don't like it, when you pick up The Plain Truth you know it's not the same magazine. It is a magazine that exists to do one thing, and that is proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do that through illustrating the lives of Christians who are making a difference for the Kingdom. We do that through sharing the gospel through known and unknown Christians. And in fact we have an article, it's an expose, I might mention to listeners here, and you're going to find out who the real Hank Hanegraaff, the plain truth about Hank Hanegraaff, coming in the March-April issue. And so if you listeners want to get that you'll want to get The Plain Truth.
Hank Hanegraaff: I'm looking forward to seeing that one myself. We're almost out of time for this segment of The Bible Answer Man broadcast, but those who have just tuned in ought to know that in the studio we have Greg Albrecht, who is the editor in chief, I don't know if that's the right title, maybe we can clarify that after we get off the air here, but he is leading The Plain Truth magazine. Then we have Pastor General Joseph Tkach of the Worldwide Church of God in the studio today, and we look forward to taking your calls right here on The Bible Answer Man broadcast when we come back from the station break.
Hank Hanegraaff: Reintroduces Messrs. Tkach and Albrecht.
Hank Hanegraaff: . . . What a delight to know that that magazine is now being used for the glory of God. The name has not changed, but the message is decidedly different and I might say very edifying.
Greg Albrecht: Thank you. And it's an appropriate name, you know, The Plain Truth. And that's exactly what people today need, they need the plain truth. They need the truth of the gospel. They don't need teachings which lead you away from it. They need the central, historic beliefs of Christianity, the plain truth. They need to know that that's essential.
Hank Hanegraaff: We have a lot of people that want to get through to you. Let me go to our first caller of today, Joanne in Menifee, Calif., KCBC. Hi, Joanne. You're on with Greg and with Joseph.
Joanne: Hi. I would like to congratulate your guests because I know a little bit about the Worldwide Church of God, and am I on?
Hank Hanegraaff: Um hmm.
Joanne: Okay. My husband is in the Worldwide Church of God except now he stayed with the old one, and they changed their name to the United Church of God. And my question I guess, it's very hard for me to talk to him, we don't talk about religion, I'm a Christian, and he went back to his church right when I became a Christian, which was six months ago. And I don't know how to cope with it. I don't know how to witness to him.
Hank Hanegraaff: Yeah.
Joanne: It's just really hard.
Hank Hanegraaff: That's a great question. I'm sure it's a question that you've dealt with rather frequently.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Yes, yes. And, Joanne, I feel your pain. I have some relatives who are in the United group as well. And I tell you one of the things that I have found brings the comfort and peace that I need is prayer. I try to bathe myself, if you will, in prayer, and that gives me the peace that, as the Scripture puts it, surpasses all understanding.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: The--in witnessing to him I have a couple of suggestions. One of the difficulties that the group United Church of God faces is that they don't have an established position on doctrine. And what I mean by that is even in their ministry they don't agree on some basic fundamentals. For example, some of the leading ministers are Trinitarian. But their church--people don't even know that. In fact, I know of one of their church leaders who observed Easter.
Joanne: That must be why my husband keeps changing what he's telling me what they believe. It changes constantly.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: The one who kept Easter didn't even tell that to his congregation or I imagine the majority of his fellow ministers don't even know that.
So they're a very divided group, not at all living up to their name, being united. In witnessing to him, I think one of the things that would be most helpful is to get him to deal with the cognitive dissonance that he is probably unaware that he has.
Let me give you a couple of illustrations of that. Ask him if he believes that God is immutable. And the answer, of course, is going to be yes. That is what Herbert Armstrong taught. And that is what Scripture says.
But at the same time he would tell you that he believes in two separate gods who are forever growing and learning and that his eternity when he receives his reward will include becoming God like God is God, but not completely congruent to God, because God is forever a step ahead of him in learning and growing. And those two things are opposites. How can God be immutable, which means not changing, and yet be learning and growing and changing at the same time? They're contradictory.
Here's another one. You can look in one of the issues of their Good News magazine and find an article by Mario Seiglie which explains that you should worship God the Father, not Jesus Christ. Yet they teach if they emulate Jesus Christ they're going to become God and be worshiped in the future. So why is it you can emulate Jesus and then become God and be worshiped but you can't worship Jesus? Their teachings are filled with cognitive dissonance and inherent contradictions. And when you continually face him with those, you're confronting him with the contradictions. You're forcing his thinking to resolve the contradictions. And that's what I think will be most effective in terms of reasoning with him. Greg had a comment as well.
Greg Albrecht: Joanne, this is Greg Albrecht.
Joanne: Hi. [breathlessly]
Greg Albrecht: Hi. I also can hear very clearly the pain that you're going through. and it's not just a cute saying but, you know, we humans can feel one another's pain, but only Jesus can heal our pain. And as you are a Christian and you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, your profession of faith is that He holds all these things and knows all these things and will take care of all these things. So let me just comfort you with that thought first of all before I make a couple of comments in addition to what Joe made.
One of the things that I think it's important for folks who are in the United Church of God when you deal with them, and I want to say up front that we love these people as brothers and sisters, they are friends of ours. They differ gigantically, of course, on doctrinal issues, and that's why they split from us and left us.
One of the things which I think rationally would help in dealing with anyone, your husband or others, is the issue of other Christians. The teaching of the United Church of God and all of those folks who believe that Herbert Armstrong was essentially the one true apostle of God and there are no other teachings that are true and right, is that their fellowship is exclusively the one true fellowship, the one true church. And there is no other true church. And I think as time permits you and allows you to explore that issue, whether it be with your husband in a rational and nonjudgmental way, that's one of the issues that eventually brought down the house of cards for the Worldwide Church of God.
We thought that because we kept the Sabbath, because we didn't eat pork, because we didn't eat shrimp, because we kept the festivals of the Old Covenant, because we did X, Y and Z, had 810 different true doctrines, therefore that made us the only true people of God. But you know when you rationally look around the world at large and you see brothers and sisters of faith who--100,000 missionaries died last year because they believe in Jesus Christ and proclaim Him, you have to deal with that. It goes back to Joe's cognitive dissonance. So I would just offer that for you as you have time, and I wouldn't push that, but when you have a chance to discuss it with your husband it's an issue that we all have to deal with.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Joanne, we'll be praying for you.
Joanne: Thank you so much.
Hank Hanegraaff: And thanks for calling, Joanne. God bless you.
Joanne: Thank you. Bye.
Hank Hanegraaff: One of the things I truly commend both of you for. You do not have a cavalier attitude towards those members that are hurting. I know that you have been castigated by some as not caring. But I have seen the direct opposite firsthand, not only in public forums but in private forums and I appreciate that so much because one of the things that you want to do obviously is communicate that love and passion to as many of the people who have been involved in this organization as possible.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true, Hank. The love that we feel from God is in our hearts, and it flows out of us, and we want to extend that love to as many as we can.
Hank Hanegraaff: Let's take another caller. Irene in Highland Park, N.Y., listening on WMCA. Hi, Irene.
Irene: I just, well, first of all I wanted to say that I know about the Worldwide Church of God and Mr. Armstrong, and he really changed my life around to something--it was horrible. I was spending thousands of dollars on doctors, medication, and then I heard him, and what you're saying here now I never heard from him, I saw him on TV, and I read his material, and, well, keeping God's Sabbath and His feast days are so wonderful, and they're powerful, and they mean something, and it's just so much better God's way--
Hank Hanegraaff: [interrupting]--Well, let's talk about that for a minute--
Irene: --I wanted to know how you guys did that--
Hank Hanegraaff: Irene, let's talk about that for a second because I don't think that either Joe or Greg would say that it is not wonderful to keep the feast days, but they would say that there is the next step that you can take and that is not focusing in on the symbol but recognizing that the symbol has been fulfilled through the substance.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Exactly. The Worldwide Church of God continues to meet on those days that you're referring to. In fact, we took a survey of our entire fellowship, and 80 percent said they enjoy meeting on those days, and we haven't abandoned meeting on those days. So, to answer your question, that hasn't changed. What has changed is the substance. When we meet on those days we're meeting because Christ is the substance. And these days were a shadow, a picture, a symbol, of what was to come. That's what we're celebrating when we meet together on those days.
So I don't understand what loss you feel. When Herbert Armstrong preached, there were many good things that he did preach. Certainly he preached that salvation comes through only one name, and that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we are saved, and he did preach against nominal Christianity. He preached that people should be committed Christians. So there are people who are in other fellowships, other denominations, who were let's say brought to Christ by His preaching but didn't come to his church or denomination.
And we're glad that that happened. We're glad that people came to Christ through his preaching. But through his preaching some people were brought to error. And the flaws in some of the things he taught were very hurtful to some people. And in some cases have hurt people to the extent that they still don't see the truth.
Hank Hanegraaff: What about medicine and the practical ramifications of teaching that medicine isn't necessary?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Right. This is really one of those phenomenons [sic] that is amazing to me how some people don't see the reality. Certainly a lot of people can waste their resources and their money going from one doctor to another and never be healed. We have an example of that in Scripture. But to go to go to the other extreme and teach that it's a sin to go to doctors--
Irene: Oh, I don't believe that.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Well, that was one of the strongest points in the Worldwide Church of God through the years. It was so strongly taught in the '50s and the '60s that most of our ministry wouldn't even anoint someone if they were going to a doctor. The example that Herbert Armstrong himself was that he took 17 different medications the last 10 years of his life.
Greg Albrecht: Talk about cognitive dissonance.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Exactly. He even wrote that, in the last several years of his life, that he had two doctors making house calls visiting him in a time when you can hardly get a doctor to make a house call anymore. So, you know--
Irene: Do you teach Christmas and Easter? Do you keep those days?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: We teach that those days are not an objectionable thing as long as Christ is the centerpiece because-- Consider this, Joanne--oh--Irene, would you agree with me that God can convert a pagan, make him a Christian?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Well, then, does He lose all his power, He can't convert a day and make it Christian?
Hank Hanegraaff: You know what. I'm going to have to hold you right on that thought. That is a very significant point: God can convert a pagan, He can convert a pagan holiday. And we will follow up on that when we come back from our station break.
Hank Hanegraaff: Irene brought up some good questions for Joe and for Greg. I think we need to spend just a moment on a couple of issues. No. 1 she brought up Christmas and Easter, and a lot of people believe Christmas and Easter have to be jettisoned because at one time they were worship holidays for pagan deities, and yet very few people realize that this was a bold evangelistic effort on the part of the church to seize what was paganized and turn it into an opportunity to say the real solution is found in Christ.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely right, Hank. It's sad that some people don't realize that these days were claimed as trophies by Christianity. And Irene's last point was God doesn't change, so why would you want to keep these days.
And the answer is that's right, God doesn't change. He created all the days. He owns all the days. The pagans can't take them away from Him. And if He owns the days we can use the days to His glory, regardless of what the pagans did on one particular day or another, because in fact the pagans did wrong things on every day. So why do we single out one or two days as their high days and say we can't use the. That's kind of a reverse legalism. Everything's in God's province. We claim those days.
And the second message I would tell her is that the message of Christianity is: Don't take Christ out of the days, because if you do then you are going back to paganism. Christ needs to be central to our celebration every day and especially in Eastertime and Christmastime. That's the message that I see on marquees as I drive by churches, as I read church literature: It's put Christ in Christmas. Don't let the world, don't let secularism, don't let American consumerism take Him out. Because that's the reason for the season, so to speak. That's why we celebrate--we celebrate Christ.
Hank Hanegraaff: Yeah, absolutely, well said.
Greg, you guys walk a tightrope here, I notice constantly the tension that you must feel between those who on the one hand would say, look, you're not hard enough on Herbert W. Armstrong. You ought to dig him up and burn him at the stake to really demonstrate your disdain for some of his doctrine. On the other hand you have people that say, look, why are you castigating Herbert W. Armstrong? Why are you saying these mean things about him?
And so I have noticed that there is that wisdom that you have to have where you're not driving people into splinter groups, where you're not fracturing the body, and that is not because you're compromising. It is because on the one hand you have a very significant tactical problem, on the other hand there is no real value on burning someone after the fact. You can speak the truth, but you want to speak it in love.
Greg Albrecht: Right, Hank. The issue that people will wrestle with is the person of Herbert W. Armstrong
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Well, then,does He lose all his power, He can't convert a day and make it Christian?
Hank Hanegraaff: You know low driving on the freeway was shot eight timesby gang members who just didn't even know him, just pulled alongside, pulledout a .45 pistol and shot him eight times. And this fellow went to the hospitaland it's kind of a coincidence of miracles, if you will, he never lost controlof the car, he had bullets through his abdomen, through the shoulder, throughhis thigh, and pulled off the freeway, pulled into a gas station and gotout of the car. Just then an ambulance happened to drive up, he got in the ambulance, was taken to . . . now, I need to make some changes, but I don't know if this person, whether it's maybe even a father or a mother, or this religious leader, would be happy with me.
We have the gamut from people saying Herbert Armstrong is doing back flips in his grave--he's not just rolling over in his grave, he's doing back flips--he is absolutely so upset with you to the other side saying Herbert Armstrong is in heaven cheerleading for the changes in the Worldwide Church of God. Now, which do we believe?
Well, that's everybody's choice, but the caller was I think trying to come to the issue of what is a Christian, is a Christian someone who keeps a lineup of doctrines, of facts and maybe partial facts, of biblical interpretations that number 800 or 900, and in fact this is what happened in our fellowship over a period of years, it's a critical mass of truth, and this truth was an amassed group of teachings--that Christmas is pagan, you shouldn't wear makeup, you shouldn't eat pork, you'd better not be keeping this, don't go to the doctor, etc., etc., then we hit critical mass.
For some people it was a higher level, but there was a level that we hit and then people would say I'm out of here because you've just reached bedrock and I can't go any further with you because you've thrown out too many truths.
But in fact these truths were not biblically based; they were extra, additional things that are really at best peripheral, which had been made into this huge strawman and had assumed gigantic importance in people's lives, so the issue we had to come to is not Herbert Armstrong but the issue is Jesus Christ. Who will we follow?
And what are you saying? Why don't you just go ahead and tell me what you're saying? If I don't meet on Sunday I can't be a true Christian? Is that what you're saying?
Well, not exactly. It sounded like to me that you were telling me that. I believe that I can meet, worship God and Jesus Christ any day of the week and that no day of the week is against the will of God as long as I am worshiping God and not worshiping the day. The fact is, in the Worldwide Church of God we worshiped the day, not the Lord of that day, and Jesus makes that quite clear in the New Testament: He is the Lord of the Sabbath. So that's the issue that I think she was struggling with: Is it Herbert Armstrong or historic Christianity? And that's the issue we've struggled with.
Hank Hanegraaff: And one of the things that I have appreciated about the way in which you've made changes, albeit it is a difficult process, is that you're not as much now saying look at us, we have found the truth, therefore we are going to now throw stones at those who have not. What you have really focused in on is making people so familiar the core doctrines of historic Christianity that when a counterfeit looms on the horizon, whether you've embraced it yourself or you see it in some other group, you know it instantaneously. So you're focusing in teaching core, evangelical truths and trusting that as people embrace those, as they make Scripture the final court of arbitration, that the other things are going in fact to be called into question in their own minds.
Greg Albrecht: I'd just like to say that those changes that have occurred in the Worldwide Church of God have been the work of the Holy Spirit and a remarkable and historic reformation of God, a miracle. They have not happened because of us, they have happened in spite of us. We have been in the way most of the time. We have had to get out of the way. We have watched, are watching what God has done, and we glorify Him for what He has done, but let there be no mistake, it was not some superior mind, it was not some theological approach--it was God who did this in spite of us, not because of us.
Hank Hanegraaff: Could I make perhaps a couple of comments, not comments but perhaps lead you with a question here. There have been people, certainly in countercult ministry, who have looked at the pattern I have set in developing a relationship with you guys and spending time with you and so forth and really see that as a way in which I'm selling out because I'm not hard enough on you, I'm not holding your feet to the fire and saying why are you not making changes fast enough, etc., all kinds of criticisms that come from people who perhaps don't know all the details.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Exactly true. I think one of the things that I've experienced or observed with the people that I've interacted with is many of the people that work in countercult ministries come from a background of--let's say they were formerly Jehovah's Witnesses, or formerly Mormon, or what have you. And they can't help themselves, but they see everything through the lens of their former experience, and they overlay their experience, their paradigm, on you. And it's not an accurate paradigm or overlay that they place upon you.
And they make assumptions that are not accurate assumptions. And the net effect has been that they have set back the work that the Holy Spirit was doing. I don't know if they fully realize that, but they ended up undermining our own credibility with our own people with an approach of trying to get a scoop or expose and misreported or assigning motive where such motive didn't exist and undermined our own effectiveness in speaking and communicating with our own people.
And that's been a really major battle. I don't think some of those people will ever realize how many people they prevented from hearing the truth by undermining our own credibility with them.
Hank Hanegraaff: One important thing I think that Joe and I have seen, Hank, through the work that you're doing here at CRI is that evangelism means first being a friend, first having a relationship. One of our callers earlier in the hour was talking about her husband--You know, at one time I would have thought the best thing was to beat somebody over the head with the Bible or with my set of doctrines. Or that I couldn't talk to them anyway so I just ignored them because they're deluded when in fact evangelism says that, who was it D.T. Niles [?] said that Christianity is one beggar leading another beggar to bread, showing that beggar, telling that beggar where he found bread.
If you know where the bread of life is, how can you do anything other than tell somebody else where that bread is, but first for them to believe you as to where that bread is you've got to be careful and befriend them so that they will find credibility in you and in your message because you know where that bread is. But just going up to them and maybe announcing that may not be the best. You very carefully believed us and developed a relationship with us, and I think that's quite a testimony and has helped us.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: You've come alongside us, I think, in accordance with God's providence, gave us the encouragement we needed to have. We are forever grateful to you for that. I know you'll identify with this--
Greg Albrecht: Joe, before you go on I might just say that Hank's going to buy us dinner for that testimony. [laughter]
Joseph Tkach Jr.: I know you'll identify with this thought, that when people hear what we say often because they don't want to hear what we're saying, the way their ears hear what we're saying is, oh, you're just bashing Herbert Armstrong. You're just running him down. How terrible of you.
When in fact that is not at all our motive. That's not at all our goal. That's not what we're doing. Just like I loved my dad, I am adult and mature enough to realize my dad wasn't perfect, and he made this mistake or that mistake. It doesn't change my love for him. I love him dearly.
The same things' true of Herbert Armstrong. He had some very flawed teachings. And I know you run across this when you point out that someone is teaching something that's false or hurtful, often people will hear it as you bashing the person or running that person down when in fact that's not at all what you're doing. You're simply trying to point out this person's teaching something that's very bad.
When you have relationships with people and you see one person saying something that's hurtful to another person you want to go in there and say don't say this hurtful thing. It doesn't mean you dislike the person. It doesn't mean you're running that person down. It means you want to help, come alongside and be an encouragement and show where the thing that's being said is wrong. That's what we're trying to do, and I feel badly that any of our people, or anyone else, would have received the things we've said in such a manner. If we've said it badly, if we've explained the truth in a way that was offensive, we apologize. That's not what we want to do.
Hank Hanegraaff: As always, every time you guys visit, the time just flies by, and today is no exception. I have about a minute to wrap up the show. Would you guys be willing to stay in the studio for another hour? We've got a board full of callers? Everybody who's hanging on the line right now, please be patient. Greg, Joe will get to your calls and try to answer them, so please be patient with us. We just have such a joyful relationship just getting together, fellowshipping, because we have the same core identity. We find our identity in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing in my hand I bring simply to thy cross. As always, it's been great to have you guys with us.
If you want a copy of this tape, all you have to do is write to the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. 92688. You can call (714) 858-6100 . . .
END OF FIRST SHOW
Hank Hanegraaff: intro
Hank Hanegraaff: You guys have been a bright spot in my life for the last three years. You've taken a movement squarely within the pale of orthodoxy, taken a lot of heat in the process, but have found real peace in the midst of the storm.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true. If I didn't have an active, living relationship with Jesus, I would probably be a manic depressive. Such relation and such joy I've experienced in the last three years that it's really hard for me to express. I feel that bubbles over. On my laptop computer I have a screen saver that writes out the words "Ask me about Jesus" so that when I'm traveling and I'm on the airplane working or I'm sitting in the airport I want to share that with people about what He's done. And I hope that when I die on my grave stone someone will put "He lived for Jesus."
Hank Hanegraaff: For those who don't know you, Joe, and don't know the journey the Worldwide Church of God, perhaps you can encapsulate in a brief amount of time what has really happened with the Worldwide Church of God, a movement that was steeped in legalism that adhered to many doctrines which were heretical or aberrant? You have come out of that and are trying to bring as many people out of that with you as possible.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true. The thumbnail sketch would be: Of course, the movement began with Herbert W. Armstrong in the '30s. He did not have any formal training, any disciplined training, when it comes to hermaneutics, when it comes to epistemology, the nature of truth, the nature of interpreting Scripture. And he had a good heart. He wanted people to know the truth. He preached against nominal Christianity.
And as he read the Scripture without the benefit of training, he began to embrace some ideas that weren't new. Some of the things that he taught you can trace throughout the history of the church, and they were always items that were on the fringe or, as you said, aberrant or heretical.
And he did a big work. But when he died what happened was the challenges and the questions that were asked that would come in about his teachings would have to be answered by a group of people. And in that group of people were, like, Greg Albrecht, who's with us, and myself and a few others. And we were thoroughly equipped to answer all the challenges. But questions would come in with new information that we hadn't seen before: challenges that had a new slant or a new approach.
And as we would do research to answer them we would find that Mr. Armstrong's teaching failed. It was in the balance and didn't hold up to scrutiny. I found that in my personal study. Greg was finding that in his personal study. Others were finding that in their personal study. And at first we were even afraid to reach out to each other.
We thought, boy, they'll think we're off the track, and we'll be thrown out of here. But then, eventually, slowly, we started reaching out to each other from different points and, you know, there are mistakes here. And we need to face these mistakes. And my dad was the one who had the courage, as he was in the leadership at the time, to say, you know, if there's a mistake, we need to correct it. That's the legacy that Herbert Armstrong left us. He said don't believe me, believe the Bible. If the Bible teaches something and we need to correct what we're doing, then that's what we're going to do.
And it's the legacy that Herbert Armstrong left us, ironic so some, that helped us continue on the Christian journey. And once you've tasted the goodness of God there's no turning back on that. You can't turn back on that. As it's described in the Gospels, you know, it's like the dog returning to his vomit. You just don't want to turn your back on that goodness.
Hank Hanegraaff: Greg, you've had the privilege, now, of leading a magazine that has had some pretty spectacular subscription rates, I think somewhere close to three million at one point, if I recall--
Greg Albrecht: Eight million.
Hank Hanegraaff: Eight million, my goodness. And you've now taken that magazine, not changed the actual name, but changed the content, the message, and you are now proclaiming that one is saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Your challenge and your joy in doing that:
Greg Albrecht: Amen. Grace alone, faith alone, Jesus Christ alone. The challenge and joy is exciting because it is a magazine that predicted the end of the world a number of times. And as far as I know that hasn't happened yet. We're still sitting here in this studio. Yet proclaimed a lot of unbiblical teaching and a lot of speculation. There are a lot of people who are still hurt by the name Plain Truth. In fact, as we advertised and as we talked to people, and we do direct mail about The Plain Truth, we'll have people scribble return to sender along with a few other choice little messages for us that they'll send back to us, because they haven't heard, uh--they haven't seen--and we want to place a copy of the magazine in their hands and say come join this journey with us, this wonderful journey, that as Joe was talking about is wonderful, but on the other hand I think it's very important to share with your listeners as you well know and regular listeners know, coming out of cultic teachings is no easy thing. It is a journey through the valley of the shadow of death.
It's a fundamental and earthquakelike change of your world view. And you're dealing with values and beliefs that you held near and dear, and now they're upside down.
But as we've been able to, along with the staff of The Plain Truth, we've been able over the last three to four years to take that magazine, and it is now a magazine dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ, dedicated to proclaiming Him and Him alone and to the essentials of the historic Christian faith.
And the peripherals? We clearly say look, there are a lot of perspectives, a lot of views about the peripherals, but the essentials, that there is one God, one triune God, that Jesus Christ is the Word, and He is God, and salvation is by grace through faith. That's the essentials, and that's what we stand for.
Hank Hanegraaff: And I think that in any areas that you still would have differences, they would be on secondary matters, and even there you said to me personally, I think you've said this publicly, that if one can convince you by reason and the Scripture, that's your final court of arbitration.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true.
Hank Hanegraaff: You know, we got together last Friday, and we just had a board full of callers, and we promised that we would get to some of these callers. Let's do that right now. I'd like to keep interviewing you, to be real honest with you. We enjoy getting together, just chatting, but some of you will want to get through to you as well. Let's take Larry in Vancouver, Canada, KARI. Hi, Larry.
Larry: Hi. I just want to congratulate you guys on crossing over from a cult to the Christian faith. This is exciting. I used to read The Plain Truth, in the '70s--
What I'm curious, I know Garner Ted Armstrong left the organization, I wonder what he thinks of this, and where are they in relation to where you guys are going now?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Thanks, Larry. Appreciate your comments. Ted Armstrong lives in Tyler, Texas, and he founded a group named the Church of God International, and they still hold to most of the teachings of Ted's dad, Herbert W. Armstrong, and have not embraced hardly [sic] any of the changes that we've made. He has distanced himself from some of the former teachings of his dad in areas of prophecy that are really not of any great importance [chuckle], but he's not embraced our changes, and he remains in a separate organization and has since 1978.
Larry: Okay, I was just curious. And once again congratulations, and I wish you all the luck on this change, and I hope more people will be aware of it, and thank you, Hank, for having them on your show.
Hank Hanegraaff: Okay, okay, Larry, thank you for your call. I want to go to Patrick in Philadelphia, P-A, WFIL. Hi, Patrick.
Patrick: Hello, I feel so nervous.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Not any more nervous than we do, Patrick.
Patrick: Well, I'm looking forward to hopefully having that dinner that you guys want to have a little later. I was curious to know over the summer and spring of 1996 some friends of mine had said that there were some major changes that had occurred in the Worldwide Church of God. And I was a little skeptical. In the winter of 1996 I met a coworker who left the Worldwide Church of God because of some doctrinal changes. But they were minor doctrines; they didn't seem significant. Like eating meat, eating pork, or the Worldwide Church of God was permitting to meet on other days other than Saturday.
I was wondering the major doctrinal differences that occurred three years ago such as the Trinity doctrine, the deity doctrine of Jesus, the person of the Holy Spirit, these have been inclusive in the past three years in your church now. Is that right? Am I correct?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Yes, that's right.
Patrick: Greg, you know something? I was listening to you throughout the program and I was getting excited and I thought, gee whiz, welcome to the truth.
Hank Hanegraaff: You know, one of the things that was our joy was to have Joseph Tkach write a viewpoint section for the Christian Research Journal which was entitled "The Church Reborn." And there he very clearly states what the church once held to and what they now embrace, and I think that anyone reading that can understand very clearly that they have now embraced and championed the New Testament central theme, the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. His saving work on behalf of humanity is now the focus, not only of the ministry but of The Plain Truth magazine, and we applaud them for that and the courage that it took not to beat around the bush but very clearly and succinctly state what they have jettisoned and what they now embrace. I can send that viewpoint article out to you, Patrick. Maybe that would be helpful to you.
Patrick: That would be great. I have a request, quickly. Another coworker showed me a magazine that she was reading. It's called the Global Church of God. Is that similar to the old Worldwide Church of God?
Greg: Yes, very similar.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: [laughing] In fact, we in making these changes experienced multiple denominational splits. Global was one of the larger splits. They have about six to seven thousand members with them, headed by a gentleman named Roderick C. Meredith. And Global Worldwide Church of God probably is about 95 percent Armstrongism.
Greg Albrecht: Patrick, Greg Albrecht. I'd just like to say to you, first of all, nice to talk to you and thank you for calling. What we have seen in the Worldwide Church of God is that there have been something on the order 110 to 120 different splits from the Worldwide Church of God since 1934.
Greg Albrecht: All of them, at this present time, are small. Some of them are just a couple of members, and some of them are thousands of members. All of them teach a degree of Armstrongism, with the exception of one. And the irony is that one is the church that Herbert Armstrong founded, the Worldwide Church of God. We believe God not only has a since of humor but that God is a miracle-working God and that we thank Him, because without Him it would not have happened.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: I have one more thought to add to that, Patrick, for the sake of our listeners. When Greg and I use the term Armstrongism we don't mean that in totally a negative way, because we recognize that he taught some good things as well. But we mean the term as defined as those things that are outside orthodoxy, just like I could use any other person's name who taught something outside orthodoxy, so I don't mean it to bash the person or character of a person, but I mean it to represent aberrant teaching.
Hank Hanegraaff: Thanks for your call, Patrick. And I do want to say to you both that I appreciate the way that you're dealing with Herbert W. Armstrong, although I know that it is a point of criticism by many of your detractors. Your point is to proclaim truth clearly and effectively, not necessarily to try to bash anyone. And the real issue is not the person but is the doctrine that kills. Because theology does have ramifications.
We want to, of course, take as many of your calls as humanly possible, and we're going to do that as we come back from a station break. Please state tuned.
Hank Hanegraaff: reintro
Hank Hanegraaff: Some of you might be wondering what in the world is Hank Hanegraaff doing in the studio with Joseph Tkach and Greg Albrecht, and I can tell you very simply what I'm doing in the studio with Joseph Tkach and Greg Albrecht is sharing fellowship with brothers in Christ. They have taken a movement from aberrant doctrine squarely within the pale of orthodoxy, and these are brothers that I've had an opportunity to not only talk about doctrine with, but develop a personal relationship with. And as always it is great to have you on the broadcast, and when you're here we have a lot of people that want to talk directly to you and ask you questions about the changes that you've made. I want to go to Randy in Memphis, Tenn., WCRV. Hi, Randy.
Randy: Hello, Hank. Hello, Joe and Greg.
Joeseph Tkach Jr.: Hi, Randy.
Greg Albrecht: Hi, Randy.
Randy: The question is in the latest Worldwide News--I will make the statement that I no longer attend and I am in a healthy, well-balanced church--but in the latest Worldwide News there's an article on the legacy of the Worldwide Church of God. And in it it makes several comments about Mr. Armstrong, and to me they're in a positive light. But I just really can't find anything positive about Mr. Armstrong. I feel like he led a cult, he destroyed a lot of lives, and I feel like the church is trying to whitewash and cover up a lot of his sins and things that he committed and that--
Hank Hanegraaff: Well, let's deal with that for a second. Randy, it's a good question. It's been raised before. There are people, of course, that think that you are whitewashing the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong. What are you doing?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: I think we're being honest and mature about it. In preaching the gospel, in doing evangelistic work and Kingdom work, you earn the right to speak. You don't earn the right to speak when you come in and start badmouthing people's parents and their heritage. You got to befriend them first. So I think that that's the wiser approach, and I think that's the godly approach--
Hank Hanegraaff: And I think, too, just to interject something here, Joe, anyone that has listened to the broadcasts that I have done with you, and I've done several with you over the last few years, could not possibly imagine that you're whitewashing the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, and I think that there's a real important point that needs to be made, and that is there's a difference between bashing an individual and saying, look, these doctrines are destructive. And I have heard you publicly and privately make those statements. You have not shied away from that. My goodness, in the Christian Research Journal you clearly denounced what you once held.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Exactly. And I think the proof is that the biggest criticism we receive from the 30,000 people who no longer attend and attend in splinter groups is that we bash Herbert Armstrong. So on the one hand we have people at one extreme saying we're whitewashing him, but on the other hand we've got the majority of people who don't attend with us saying we bash him all the time. So I think there's prima facie evidence there, Randy, that we haven't whitewashed him.
Greg Albrecht: Yeah, Randy, I would just like to say--Greg Albrecht--that there are a lot of people who feel that nothing short of unearthing the grave of Herbert Armstrong and burning his body would be enough for us to do proper penance, and then maybe we would be on probation for five or 10 years before we would be accepted into their particular group or criteria of doctrines that they held to be the pale of orthodoxy.
You know, we really don't believe that, we believe that Herbert Armstrong was a man who had teachings. We have judged those teachings, many of them, to be in error. We don't believe that God would have us go further and condemn the man. We believe that Jesus--
Hank Hanegraaff: It's not your province anyway.
Greg Albrecht: --It's not our providence [sic], and we believe that people feel they have that right, then they can do that, but we believe that we're all going to stand before the mercy seat of God, and He will take care of us.
Hank Hanegraaff: But you are clearly denouncing teachings that are outside the pale of orthodoxy, whether they come from Herbert Armstrong or anybody else.
Greg Albrecht: That's right. And in fact, Hank, the teachings that we're denouncing, and this perhaps Randy may not like this, or others listening may not like that, they weren't Herbert Armstrong's invention to begin with. All of the teachings which Herbert Armstrong had came from somebody else, all of them.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: That's a hard thing for some people who left to understand.
Greg Albrecht: That's right. Some of our people felt that all of these were revealed to him, but they were not. They all came from someone else. Is that whitewashing Herbert Armstrong in trying to focus the-- No, we're simply saying these teachings are still extant, whether in splinter groups or not or in the world at large, and so we're judging those teachings.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: I had one more thought about that, Hank. Randy used a good phrase, healthy Christian, being in a healthy church. I honestly believe that the healthy Christian in a healthy church has the love of God shed abroad in his heart and it flows out of him, and it's God's love in us that helps us love the unlovable. And when you have God's love flowing through you, helping you love the unlovable, then you're not going around looking for people to torture and crucify. And there's an important distinction between, you know, bashing the person and then taking his errors and false teachings and holding those up to scrutiny of Scripture. That's a distinction that too many people miss.
Hank Hanegraaff: Yeah, absolutely. You know one of the things that was really interesting, as you know I wrote a book called Christianity in Crisis in which I take to task people like Benny Hen [?] for false doctrines that are very devastating to the lives of people. During the time that I was writing that book, and even afterwards, I spent many an evening having dinner with Benny Hen without any acrimony towards the individual. It's not the individual that I take issue with, and I don't judge that individual. That's the province of the Holy Spirit. But I can take doctrines that are damaging and clearly hold those up to the light of Scripture, and I think that's what we're called to do.
I want to go to another caller, Jackie in Virginia, WAVA. Hi, Jackie.
Jackie: Hi, how you doing?
Hank Hanegraaff: Good.
Jackie: I have a question. I grew up in the Worldwide Church of God, and I left it on my own when I was about 20 years old. So I know a little something of what you've been through. You guys hang in there. You're doing a great work. There's been a lot of prayer to lift you guys up.
Joseph Tkach Jr. and Greg Albrecht in unison: Thank you, Jackie.
Jackie: Because you need it. I mean I just can't imagine the task before you, but you guys hang in there. I wanted to know if you're preaching heaven and hell when you die. I know what the Worldwide Church of God taught in prior years. What are you all teaching?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Being that you're as former attender of Worldwide Church of God, you know that we used to teach soul-sleeping and that you're unconscious after you die and that heaven and hell are symbols.
What we now teach is that there are a couple of interpretations of those symbols, and we try to focus people on the fact that heaven is not like it's characterized in cartoons, as some place where people sit on clouds and play harps, that the cartoon characterization that we used to ridicule in the past is not what real Christians believe or teach and that what heaven is in scriptural terms is the relationship we have with God. It's the abode of God. It's the God realm, if you will. And that that is the reward; that is the kingdom that we're going to be realizing in its fullness.
Hank Hanegraaff: Not just a place but a person.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Exactly. And with hell we explain the same thing, that there are symbols that are used in Scripture. You know, it's referred to as outer darkness. It's referred to as the place where the worm dies not. It's a place where there's going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth, lots of anguish, and we try to get away from using terms like annhilationism and stick to the truth of the matter and say this: that the suffering of hell or the suffering of the punishment in the future is beyond any experience of misery found on earth today and that it's clearly included in the teaching of Jesus, and that these biblical symbols are just ways for us to understand the punishment and that the reality is far beyond what these symbols say to us, and that hell is the presence of God and His wrath and the judgment, and there's no cruelty there but perfect justice, and that it's eternal, there's no escaping it, there's no repentance from it, it's forever being away from God.
Jackie: Do you think Herbert W. Armstrong was a false prophet?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Well, I would answer it this way. He never claimed that he was a prophet. He just made lots of prophetic speculations.
Jackie: Right, he prophesied the end times and what-not--
Joseph Tkach Jr.: There is no doubt in my mind that he made false prophecies. In other words, I know of over 100 false predictions that he made, he and others. So I would never deny that he made false prophecies and made false predictions. But, since he never, from his own mouth, ever claimed the role of a prophet, that he was just trying to interpret Scripture and news together, he made mistakes. And he even apologized for those mistakes on occasion. But there is no denying he made over 100 false predictions.
Hank Hanegraaff: How would he refer to himself, though, if he thought that he was the leader of the only movement that represented the kingdom of God?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: He referred to himself as an apostle and the only true apostle in the end time.
Greg Albrecht: Jackie, this is Greg Albrecht. As you know, that's really the issue with the folks that have left our church for one of the well over 100 splinter groups is that Herbert Armstrong was indeed an apostle and that God revealed truths to him that had never before been revealed to anyone since 100 A.D., and that's the issue that people wrestle with. And I'd like to say about your question about hell, as you well know, one of the issues that we've had to deal with and had to come to understand and that by God's grace the Holy Spirit has revealed to us that sin is not something to treat lightly. Sin is the state into which we are all born. We are all sinners. It describes us as much as the environment in which we live describes us. It is what we are. It is no small thing.
For that reason, because we didn't fully understand the horrible impact of sin, we really didn't understand historically the need of a Savior because we don't understand how awful sin is, then why do you need a Savior? So therefore we didn't emphasize Jesus Christ. Now we do emphasize Jesus Christ. We know that in His name, that's the only way we can be saved. Now, that led, therefore, to--
Jackie: That sounds so strange coming from somebody from the Worldwide Church of God. What as breath of fresh air, you know?
Greg Albrecht: This is, Jackie, the new Worldwide Church of God, and let me just put a plug in. Come back and visit sometime.
Jackie: Well, that was my question to you. I've been a Christian now in a solid church for 10 years, and I'm 39 now, so I've been gone from the church for a while, there's just so many people I grew up with from the time I was a baby until--I'm just wondering could I go back and visit?
Greg Albrecht: Jackie, you're welcome. Write us in Pasadena, Box 111, write Joe or myself, and we'll put you in touch with our local congregations. We're not trying to get you to change churches, but we'd love to have you come back--
Jackie: I'd just like to see the people there and my family. Do you think that's kosher, Hank?
Hank Hanegraaff: Absolutely. Look, I had dinner with Joe and Greg on numerous occasions. I've had lunch with them. I'm going to have dinner with them tonight. I think it's perfectly kosher. What the heck. I've seen them eat pork. [Delirious laughter.]
Greg Albrecht: I knew he was going to say that.
Hank Hanegraaff: Actually, I just made that up. I can't remember whether they did or not. [Almost uncontrollable laughter.]
Jackie: I wasn't sure if I was going to go to hell the first time I had a crab cake.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: You know, Jackie, Hank has even preached at Ambassador.
Hank Hanegraaff: I have. I did. I preached at Ambassador.
Greg Albrecht: Jackie, I just want you to know that crab cakes is where I draw the line. Pork may be all right, and shrimp. But crab cakes? I'm really appalled, Jackie, that you're eating crab cakes.
Hank Hanegraaff: Jackie, you're a breath of fresh air. Thanks for calling.
Jackie: Thanks, guys, it was nice talking to you.
Hank Hanegraaff: I tell you what. It is a delight to talk to people who are now really becoming reacquainted with you in a sense and kind of surprised by what is coming out of your mouths.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: It's fun. And I'll tell you what has been one of the grater joys, you asked me about that earlier, I neglected to mention that one of the trends we see in our church right now is that people who left our fellowship 10, 15, 20 years ago are returning and finding a home, because for that period of time they've been wandering in the wilderness and not going anywhere. Just two weeks ago I spoke to a fellow who was a classmate of mine who dropped out 15 years ago and has only been back two or three months. I can't express the delight that is when that happens.
Greg Albrecht: And, Hank, not only are people surprised at what's coming out of our mouths. Thanks to you they're surprised at what's going into our mouths. [Giddy laughter.]
Hank Hanegraaff: One of the things that we can demonstrate is that it is not a denomination that creates a set of dos and don'ts, it's a relationship that we may have with the living Lord of the universe, the one who spoke and the limitless galaxies leapt into existence. We share that relationship, not only for time built also for eternity.
Hank Hanegraaff: I want to read a letter that I got. Dear Mr. Hanegraaff, I'm a member of the Worldwide Church of God and, as I stated in my previous letter to you, I became interested in your organization after you first interviewed Mr. Joseph Tkach and Mr. Greg Albrecht on the broadcast The Bible Answer Man about a year ago.
I've asked you to send me various items of literature within the past year, and I've learned much from your literature. I now realize that some of the things that we were taught were untrue, while others were simply one of the many stands on a particular minor subject that orthodox Christians profess today.
I'm deeply overjoyed that the Worldwide Church of God has recently turned to Christ, salvation by grace and faith in Jesus Christ alone, and I've recently been filled with more zeal than ever to learn about Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
Our church is still in the process of spiritual healing, and I'm sure it will take some time before all the past wounds have indeed been healed.
Mr. Tkach senior had the courage and tenacity to stick by God's Word knowing that it would result in sacrifice and adversity. His son is following in his footsteps, and we're currently in a state of financial difficulty.
However, we are closer to Jesus Christ than ever before, and I know He is carrying us through this difficult time. His grace and His power are certainly evident at this time. Sincerely, Sebastian. Something you can identify with.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Ah, that was beautiful. That makes me a little misty.
Hank Hanegraaff: Well, you know there are many people that have gone through, as you call it, this journey with you, and it has been a difficult journey, but it has been an extraordinarily rewarding journey as well, as many people have to saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Greg Albrecht: And that's really one of the untold stories, Hank, about the gentleman who wrote there. There are so many people in our fellowship who are so delighted and have the joy of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the spirit of happiness and joy that we can't stop singing God's praises about that.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: There's one other thing I could share with you that is--this is the best news I've gotten this year so far. We did a lay-pastor training, 10 days' worth of intensive training, with about 30 people, and afterwards these people returned back to their respective areas all over the United States, and they were on fire.
And just this week we heard from two of them, because they have small little groups, and one I think had a cell group of 20 people, the other one a group of about close to 30, 29-30 people. They wrote back to tell us that in two months' time they both doubled their groups, and they did it in a real easy way: They said let's just invite a friend to our little church group, and let's pick a day and bring a friend.
And they did, and they're staying. It shows that it doesn't take a whole lot of money to do ministry. There's a myth that exists in, not just in our fellowship, but throughout all denominations, that you have to have a lot of money and construct a building or a sanctuary--you know, you look through the book of Acts and you see they were meeting in houses, and you couldn't stop the spreading, friend to friend, as Greg alluded earlier, beggar telling another beggar where to get the bread. And that was heartwarming news to see in two months' time they had done that work.
Hank Hanegraaff: One of the things that you have committed yourself to, Joe, is to take the resources of the Worldwide Church of God and to use them for ministry, and that of course is something that is a joy to everyone out there in the trenches, knowing that there is an organization standing by them that is committed to equipping God's people for works, the service of the body of Christ might indeed be built up and strengthened.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Absolutely true. I'll share the burden that I feel right now about where we are in our journey. We've got a lot of committed people, and we've have a lot of Christians coming alongside us from all denominations to pray for us and hold us up in prayer, but I'm hoping that our people won't become weary with well-doing. It's a tactical battle that we fight, and some people are falling into the misperception that we want to maintain the status quo--
Hank Hanegraaff: Or that you're not making changes fast enough--
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Or that we're not making changes fast enough. Frankly, you can only proceed so fast. If I can use two different analogies real quickly, my daughter's in third grade, and she's learning math. She's learned how to add and subtract, and now she's learning how to multiply and divide.
Well, she's not ready to do algebra or calculus or trigonometry or any of the higher-level calculations. Some people say, well, you're not moving fast enough. Well, you know you can't move to trigonometry until you have mastered these core skills first.
Or, to use another analogy, if a person weighs 300 pounds and they want to get down to 180, they don't lose the 120 pounds in a week. If they do, they die. You lose it over a period of time.
So we're going through a journey where we're unlearning error and embracing truth. And you have to move through that as the Holy Spirit leads you. You can't get ahead of the Holy Spirit or you have trouble, and you can't lag behind the Holy Spirit or you have trouble. And so I hope our people won't get weary with well-doing.
We have plans that I've articulated to the church to relocate and use the resources that we liquidate in furthering the kingdom, and some people mistakenly perceive that we want to maintain things the way they are and we live high on the hog here in Pasadena. Well, the opposite is true. We're selling what we have in Pasadena, and we've consolidated. You know we one time had 600 employees here, three or four years ago, and now we have only between 150 and 155 employees, and we've really trimmed down. So I hope that our people won't get weary with well-doping. And I know many won't, but I know some are.
Hank Hanegraaff: And I think one of the things that should not be missed by our listening audience is that it takes an incredible amount of humility for the leader of a major movement to say what you've just said, which is I don't know it all; I'm learning. Please be patient as I learn. And I think that we all would do well to learn from that kind of humility within the body of Christ.
I want to go to Greg, Pasadena, Calif., KKLA. Hi, Greg.
Greg: Hi. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I have a question about teaching on Israel and also about Herbert W. Armstrong's former teaching that the unconditional promises to Israel can be traced to the scattered tribes that ended up in Western Europe and can be identified with the United States.
Hank Hanegraaff: Greg, since that's a hot button for you, why don't you tackle it?
Greg Albrecht: Greg, my name is Greg also, Greg Albrecht, so let me briefly talk to you, speak to your issues there. British-Israelism, or Anglo-Israelism, was a teaching that as far as we can trace goes back to the British Empire in terms of its most popular form, and it was taught there and gained quite a bit of popular acceptance because it essentially said to the British Empire that what you are doing in terms of building an empire and taking over land and peoples, etc., etc., I'm not trying to get into a political discussion on that, is justified by the Bible, because the Bible says that there are lost tribes, and these tribes, if you like, have a heritage. They will have physical blessings, they have a legacy given to them by God, and so therefore, in this case, depending on which form of Anglo-Israelism you believe, that Great Britain was either Manasseh or Ephraim, the tribes and sons of Jacob and Joseph, and therefore they are to be a company of nations, as it says in Genesis.
Therefore what you're doing is a divine right. You can do that. And then the teaching goes on beyond that and identifies a number of other folks. They all happen to be white. None of them are people of color. And they are given the right to bear rule physically over others. We have researched this. We have found this to be both biblically erroneous; the hermeneutic used in understanding it is completely erroneous, as well as historically absolutely erroneous if not fabricated.
Greg: Do you hold to supersessionism or replacement theology?
Greg Albrecht: No, we don't.
Greg: So the tribes of Israel spoken of in Revelation represent the tribes of Israel?
Greg Albrecht: Well, now, are you dealing with the nation of Israel and what we would believe about the nation of Israel today?
Greg: That's the question I'm asking you.
Hank Hanegraaff: Well, the basic final overthrow of the northern kingdom Israel took place in 721 B.C., and Judah the southern kingdom was taken in 588 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, so in the post-exile period there were no longer two kingdoms but rather one. I think Paul puts it clearly: I am a man which am a Jew, for I am also an Israelite.
As far Jeremiah put it, the children of Israel shall come as the children of Judah together as one.
So I think that it's important to realize that what Greg and Joe would both say is that historically, biblically, you can't find any kind of validation for the whole concept of British-Israelism. It is a concept which is deflective, injurious and dead wrong. I don't know how they can say it any more clearly than that. If you want further information, just to give you a historical paradigm, hang on. We can send it to you. I want to go to David in Iowa, KFGQ. Hi, David.
David: Hello. This is a privilege. I praise God for what He is doing through all of you guys. We've just started listening to you, Hank, in recent months, and God raised my wife through Worldwide Church of God. She's a wonderful woman. She went to AC. I loved your dad, Mr. Tkach.
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Thank you. Feel free to call me Joe.
David: Okay, Joe. We're not currently members. We attend the First Evangelical Free Church, but--
Joseph Tkach Jr.: Well, as long as you're attending a healthy congregation, and that's important.
David: That's right, that's right. That's one of my questions. But one of the things--I loved your dad, I was behind him on his changes, and I was ahead of him on some others. But one thing that bothered my heart a lot was the church's failure to do what Mr. Hanegraaff has done on the Journal and speak out on the abortion issue of abortion. I was wondering if you would do that sometime soon.
Hank Hanegraaff: What about that, Joe? What is your position on the issue of abortion?
Joseph Tkach Jr.: We don't favor abortion at all. And I know we've had a few people leave thinking that we do. And what happens in some of those cases is rather than seeing what we say about it they listen to one of the dissident voices or splinter groups and what they say we say about it. But the fact is we do not support abortion unless, of course, a mother's life is in jeopardy and the doctor says, look, it's a choice between two lives. Are you going to save your wife or the baby, and maybe we can save the baby, but we certainly can save your wife.
Hank Hanegraaff: Is this the kind of issue you're willing to deal with in The Plain Truth?
Greg Albrecht: Yeah. David, Greg Albrecht here. We recently, of course you probably haven't read it, not attending, but in our church newspaper, The Worldwide News, we recently had a statement on abortion, and we're very happy to deal with the issue in The Plain Truth.
The only thing that we would say about it is that we would hesitate to make abortion the gospel. And I'm not speaking of anyone here necessarily. I'm simply saying that there are times when folks get, and we know this very well, focused on one issue and they forget that Jesus Christ is Lord, they forget that the triune God, they forget that salvation is by grace through faith, and those are really the central issues of the gospel. And they want you to proclaim something else so much and so often and so dogmatically that they think that because you don't emphasize it that therefore you're not preaching the gospel.
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