Letters from our readers
Noting the Nickels noting
After reading your article about Ron Dart in the Feb. 9 issue ["CEM Founder Answers Questions About Sabbath Observance and Christmas Music"], then reading the Web article by Richard Nickels titled "The Sabbath is Not Multiple Choice," I couldn't refrain from comment.
While there are many points of doctrine about which I would probably disagree with Ron Dart, I have to say he was done an injustice by Mr. Nickels' paranoid attack.
Mr. Nickels takes exception to Mr. Dart's allowing people to attend church services on Sunday in the absence of Sabbath-service availability. In Mr. Nickels' article he asks: "Does going to Church on Sunday prevent you from keeping the Sabbath? It most certainly could. Sunday-keeping could interfere with Sabbath-keeping," etc., etc.
Note the leap from "going to church" to "Sunday-keeping." They are not the same things. There is nothing in Scripture to forbid any Christian from attending services on any day of the week, including Sunday. If I were to attend a Wednesday service, I would not be "keeping" or "observing" Wednesday. I would simply be attending a service on that day.
Clearly the Bible identifies only one day as the weekly Sabbath: the seventh day. To teach that Sunday is the Sabbath is to err. It is not the Sabbath. But to attend a Christian service on a Sunday is not to designate the first day as the Sabbath. Nor does it necessarily mean that one is "keeping" or "observing" the first day as the Sabbath. (Incidentally, the old idea that Sunday observance is the mark of the beast is exegetically absurd.)
What one says, prays, sings or believes as a result of attending any service--on the Sabbath or Sunday--is a personal matter. I have heard some major heretical drivel preached on Sabbath days, but that doesn't mean I bought into it.
And what's "liberal" these days? When I served on the doomed doctrinal committee of the WCG back in the mid-'70s, liberal was a euphemism for anyone who disagreed with the HWA status quo (whatever it was on any given day). I suspect Mr. Nickels has a similar definition.
Contrary to what many believe, the Bible does not teach pacifism. It does contain commandments against homicide (murder), but not all killing is homicide. Orthodox Jews in Israel have long had to deal with the issue of fighting to defend their country on the Sabbath day. If attacked, they fight.
One could also challenge Mr. Nickel's interpretation of Revelation 2:18-25.
Ron Dart is quite correct in saying that the Churches of God are a "dysfunctional family." I for one plan to ignore Mr. Nickel's marking and disfellowshipping of Ron Dart. I see it as an immature expression of sibling rivalry.
It is hard to judge an issue before you hear it. Indeed, Scripture warns against doing so (Proverbs 18:13). The first-page article in the Feb. 29 issue of The Journal about Ron Dart's statements concerning the Sabbath ["CEM Founder Answers Questions About Sabbath Observance and Christmas Music"] are enough to make a judgment. Let's review a little history first.
Item: The WCG, over a period of a few short years, has taken a stand in favor of Sunday worship: That church says one can keep the seventh day but not promote it. That sounds like being neither hot or cold.
Result: The most massive defection in COG history.
Item: Alan Knight, in an interview in The Journal Jan. 31, expresses concern that the Church of God (Seventh Day) is extremely vulnerable to the same forces because of new church policies and the influences of its new president, Whaid Rose.
Result: A warning (marking) of CG7 leaders for actual or potential migration from Sabbath observance.
Item: Ron Dart suggests that four couples attend Sunday services (The Journal, Feb. 29).
Let me relate a bit of history. A CG7 congregation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was infiltrated by Sunday-keepers in the 1980s. These people weren't really radically anti-Sabbath; they just taught that it didn't make any difference which day you kept, or if you kept both. Along with that, they brought in their antinomian philosophies.
Needless to say, this caused quite a stir. The leadership of the church was called. The president and two leading district elders assembled at two separate meetings. They said, "Peace, peace," but about half said, "No peace while these wolves wage war in our members." The church split. Color the Sabbath-only-keepers gone.
About 10 years later the infil-traitors were gone; the people had renewed their commitment to the Sabbath and the law. There is even a dialogue going on with the two groups. Peace (an atmosphere where conversation can continue, according to Mortimer Adler) was restored, but not by accommodation with the enemy.
Richard Nickels warns of (marks) Ron Dart on his Sabbath position (The Journal, Feb. 29). Is Mr. Nickels justified in marking Mr. Dart? Based on my personal experiences as a Sabbath-keeper for 30 years, I believe Mr. Dart has left his usual good logic and judgment and erred grievously on this matter.
First of all, his position implies that we can keep Sunday for social reasons (see page 6 of the article). If that be true, then we can keep Christmas and Halloween because they, too, are social occasions for our families and the world.
It is true we have neglected our children as a church and even more so as parents, but this hardly justifies turning them over to churches that will teach them all the pagan philosophies we try to avoid. But it's all for "social reasons" for "the children (where have I heard that phrase before?).
It seems to me that the correct solution is to work to "make the Sabbath a delight." What a novel idea.
Item (The Journal, Feb. 29): Mr. Nickels says Mr. Dart's ministry comprises "liberal, compromising, watered-down Protestant teaching."
Comment: If you believe, as I do, that Mr. Nickels observations are correct, his statement is applicable and appropriate in this case. It was predicted in the 1970s by Paul Royer that there would be an abandonment of the Sabbath. I believe this was based on his observation of both the leadership's and members' lack of dedication to keep the Sabbath holy, by not working or seeking your own pleasure on that day. The answer to the question mark after "result" above is left open. It all depends on our zeal for God's Sabbath. I believe these events in the church regarding the Sabbath warrant sounding the alarm. Indeed some are already so doing.
Mr. Dart: Please reconsider your position.
Steven and Suzanne Kieler
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Who are the pastors?
Ron Dart is quoted in the Feb. 29 issue of The Journal, page 6, as saying that "women can be involved in the ministry fully, except that women are not to be in the pastoral ministry."
This is a welcome step forward towards the acceptance of women as "colaborers in the Lord." I would also like to thank Mr. Dart for acknowledging that Paul's instructions are difficult to understand. Since they are difficult to understand, there is room to question the traditional interpretation.
The idea that pastoring and preaching from the pulpit are the same kind of ministry is not true. A person who is effective at preaching to a group of people, or even teaching one to one, may not also be gifted at caring for the needs of the individual. The only person who ever gave me true pastoral care was my mother. She sacrificed sleep, health, finances, time and her own interests, among other things, to bear and raise five children.
If anyone wants to understand what pastoral care really is, watch a loving mother care for her newborn child. Pastoral care is self-sacrificing, active love meeting needs. No one ever did that from a pulpit. The ordained clergy of the COG ought to sit at the feet of the mothers and grandmothers of their congregations and learn. True pastoring is more than right words and deeds. To be effective, it must be motivated by a heart full of God's genuine love.
Captain of our faith?
I read with interest the article concerning Ron Weinland and the church in Toledo ["Toledo Pastor Disfellowships Board Members; Most of Congregation Leaves," Feb. 29]. These are my thoughts, but I'd bet there are others who feel the same.
First, I respect the good Herbert W. Armstrong did. He was a helper of my joy, just as many other people have been along the way.
Mr. Armstrong was idolized in the past, and he is still being idolized by some. No man is to come between me and my God, no matter how much truth he may have. When you take the words of a man as gospel instead of the Holy Bible, then you are committing spiritual idolatry.
God has helped us understand new truth in the past, and I have no doubt He will continue to open our minds to more understanding as we mature. Does Mr. Weinland think that after Mr. Armstrong died no other understanding of God's Word could come about? Was no truth given to anyone else before Mr. Armstrong? Are the 18th truths Mr. Armstrong supposedly restored to the church the only truth that has been or will be restored?
I don't think there is any new truth but only new understanding. God's remnant people have existed and will continue to exist, no matter how many men come and go. I would hate to think that my mind was closed and that I thought I knew everything already and therefore it was not necessary to keep seeking more truth and understanding of God's Word. I hope I never stop learning until the day I die.
Mr. Armstrong has been dead for many years now, and I think it is time for him to truly rest in peace. You cannot look at any man's goodness unless you also look at his sin. Mr. Armstrong had both.
Let's stick to the Bible and not put our faith and trust in mortal man.
Yes, I do believe there is a one-man government, and that is Jesus Christ as the head of the church. No one is to have dominion over your faith. God is the captain of our faith.
Santa Fe Parton
I would like to start a subscription with the month that has the articles about the Toledo, Ohio, church ["Toledo Pastor Disfellowships Board Members; Most of Congregation Leaves," Feb. 29]. We were always told not to read The Journal. Now I know why.
Conveying what was said
Being a businessman for approximately 20 years and having been "quoted" in the press with the end result of not being able to recognize what was written compared to what was related to the interviewer, I want to express my sincere compliments to you and your staff at The Journal for making a "first" in my press experience.
What was delivered by those of us interviewed concerning the Toledo congregation ["Toledo Pastor Disfellowships Board Members; Most of Congregation Leaves," Feb. 29] was not altered in any way. It conveyed what was said. You and The Journal are to be commended for your honest newsgathering and printing expertise.
Mount Blanchard, Ohio
Many have wondered why I have issued no recent response in the ongoing controversy in Big Sandy. Insiders are particularly curious why I have not yet challenged the misstatements quoted in an article ("Member Accuses Texas Pastor") in The Journal of Dec. 13, 1999.
The reason is simple. It has been my fondest hope that we would be able to resolve the problem among ourselves so we could issue a joint report both on what has happened and just how we brought an end to the strife.
But my hope is seeming unrealistic. Pretty much alone, I confront men whose judgment rests in counting supporters. Even most who understand what's happening here are too intimidated to reveal it.
Walking away from this is not for me even an option. A full frontal disclosure under the terms of Matthew 18:17 is the only scriptural route open to me unilaterally. But this is a serious move, for "there is no way to unscramble an egg" (The Quest for Cosmic Justice, by Thomas Sowell, The Free Press, New York, 1999. p. 33).
There finally comes a time for every purpose, however, so I met with Journal publisher Dixon Cartwright to get a space allocation for my response. He surprised me by suggesting a month delay in the hope reason might prevail.
The problems, strife and disputes within our church are the result of the simple fact that we have almost zero expertise in wielding the most rudimentary tools of problem solving.
We believe that someday we shall teach the entire world to be at peace. What a hoot! A carpenter who doesn't know how to use his hammer and saw is worthy of no more scorn than those who think we can teach what we cannot do.
In the course of compiling and reviewing the mountain of documented facts in my particular case, I have encountered a stunning pattern of behavior. My friends and foes alike fall victim. Neither age nor sex makes much difference. Only the tiniest handful of people I know seems immune.
I have come to believe this behavior devolves from the cultural patterns that shaped this church. I have come to believe that every man, woman and child must come to terms with this behavior and reshape the thought processes that produce it. And I have come to believe we must begin a dialogue about how this is to be accomplished.
There are many pejorative terms I could use to describe the behavior, but I have chosen moral asymmetry instead.
I first took note of the pervasive character of this phenomenon in the church as I sifted through Dixon's transcript of the May 9, 1998, question-and-answer session, that seminal event preceding the big split in Big Sandy ["Largest UCG Church Splits Over Governance," May 31, 1998].
I had been attending there for only two weeks at the time, but it turns out that a goodly number of individuals who are arrayed against me today had spoken at the microphone barely an arm's length from where I sat.
As I read and reread their words, I could not help but agree with them. There was hardly a one who did not voice a position of reason as they appealed for fairness to those who maneuvered against them.
Then, laying the transcript aside, I read the position these same persons have taken against me today. How distressing was the realization that, if only they supported for me today the same values they supported for themselves back then, our problems could be solved in a heartbeat.
The word symmetry is defined as "being such that the terms or variables may be interchanged without altering the value, character or truth."
However alien to us, the Bible unequivocally teaches moral symmetry.
I once debated with a man who had castigated my motives. He understood it was wrong for me to assign a motive to his action and even insisted that I not do so. But he argued he could ascertain my motive from verbal tones and facial expressions and pummeled me with condemnation.
I used every analogical tool at my disposal to compare and contrast my condemning his motives and his condemning my motives. Moral symmetry demands that, if A should not ascribe motives to B, then B should not ascribe motives to A. But he was thumbless to grasp the concept.
The temptation to conclude that such a person is a hypocrite is strong. Perhaps that is often true, but that was not the answer in this case.
I began to see the problem as nothing short of a withering spiritual disability every whit as debilitating as being born with no thumbs. Our illustrious teachers of years past, perhaps disabled themselves, have left our people crippled in exercising this powerful tool of spiritual discernment and interpersonal problem solving.
To be fair, I must point out we are hardly alone in this.
Surely you realize that many out in what we call "the world" actually believe in keeping the Ten Commandments. They just believe you should keep all 10, while they should be exempt from any they please.
How does this fundamentally differ from our dual-caste king system in which those in the audience are expected to obey that from which those on the stage are exempt?
Ambrose Bierce wryly observed a "Christian" to be "one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor" (The Devil's Dictionary, Hill and Wang, New York, 1957, p. 24).
His observation is not without merit, but isn't something better expected of real Christians?
Perhaps it is that the first step on the journey toward spiritual maturity is to develop an inherent understanding of moral symmetry best articulated by Jesus when He said, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Attached to AC
Just finished reading, online, Darlene Warren's article ["It's an Unhappy Day for Church of God Folks," Feb. 29, page 17]. I attended AC at Big Sandy from 1967 to 1971 and still have an attachment to the campus. Well thought out and written, Darlene!
Via the Internet
Book deal falls through
When Andrews University [a Seventh-day Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Mich.], which already has a wonderful library, found out that Ambassador was closing, it was interested in buying the theology and history Ambassador collections and putting them in a "Church of God" section, similar to their Ellen G. White collection, and available for all.
I put them in contact with Dr. Herman Hoeh [of the WCG], who conducted the negotiations. Unfortunately the WCG was not interested in selling to another Sabbatarian University. The potential deal fell through. So Sorry.
Because of the mean, cruel and unjust attack from David Harrell against me in the Jan. 31 issue ["No. 19," page 5], I am compelled to reply and defend myself.
Margaret K. Raines had it right in her letter of Jan. 31 when she said, "We fail because we criticize the brethren."
In my letter to The Journal of Nov. 30, 1999, I testified to the fact that God miraculously changed my life from a sad and lonely one to a happy, joyful life, using Herbert W. Armstrong. I expected that perhaps maybe just one person might write in reply, rejoicing with me at the power of God to do such a wonderful thing for me.
No! Instead I see a letter in the Jan. 31 issue from a person who hates HWA and discredits God's working through him. He mocked me and tried to convince himself that I was guilty of committing "idolatry" because I said I had a picture of HWA on my wall.
I do have his picture on my wall, as I do all of my immediate family, Mom and Dad, my wife, kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. I also have pictures of some of my highly successful, prominent and revered ancestors who were inventors, an automaker, political figures and royalty.
Unconverted people would quite likely "idolize" people like this, but I don't idolize anyone in this world. HWA taught me not to. I learned that from him.
Mr. Harrell also implied that I loved HWA more than God because I mentioned him more in my letter than God, Father, Son and Messiah. How foolish!
The Bible mentions the Father, God, the Son and the Messiah more than anyone else because that's who the Bible is about. HWA's autobiography mentions HWA the most because that's who the book is all about. My letter was all about HWA, so that's why I mentioned him the most. Doesn't that make sense?
In Mr. Harrell's letter he mentions HWA nine times and mentions God, Father, Son and Messiah only one time each. How come?
The reason is that his letter was all about HWA. But I, being of sound mind, realize that Mr. Harrell mentioned HWA most for the same reason I did.
Sometimes it gets discouraging for truly converted Christians in God's church to read such cruel, hateful and unjust letters.
It isn't long, though, after I read such letters that God blesses me for it. He says, in Matthew 5:11-12: "Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of things against you falsely, for My name's sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven."
Charles C. Smith
SDA of the '70s
Your articles in the January issue of The Journal, interviews of Whaid Rose and Alan Knight, are most interesting and informative. I am an ex-SDA, and the same issues under the guise of "Righteousness by Faith" became a bone of contention within the church in the late 1970s, led by Pastor Desmond Ford, who was then head of the Ministerial College in Avondale, Australia.
Debates, arguments, vilification and books written became the main topic of conversation throughout the church.
The "Faith" sector of the above slogan became the all-that-ends-all on the issue of salvation, promulgated by those who wanted a more liberal attitude towards worldly Christianity, which quickly affected many of the fringe issues of Sabbath-keeping.
The stalwarts who chose to uphold the "Righteousness" sector were outnumbered and outvoted as the controversy gained momentum, and their leaders and advocates for obedience to the laws of God were demoted and ostracized and "legalized."
Pastors who stood up to be counted soon lost their ministerial credentials and were forced to start up independent breakaway groups from the main church body.
My reply to many "R by F" advocates was, "If you love Me, keep My Commandments."
Obedience is still a must--and it is not legalism. Alan Knight wrote a wonderful letter [to the U.S. ministry of the Church of God (Seventh Day)], and The Journal's interview made a wonderful job of exposing the fallacy of the grace-without-law new covenant.
Joseph Tkach Sr. got himself caught in this same trap. He softened the minds of his flock as he led them onto skid row, and Whaid Rose will do the same if he continues in those footsteps.
In his interview, Mr. Rose gave a repetition of the dialogue that I was so familiar with during those eventful years within the SDA 20 years ago. They both have the same phraseology used by Sunday-keepers to keep their worship day intact. Satan has replaced the word obedience with the word legalism.
In reply to a question by The Journal about obeying God, he says in the final column of page 9: ". . . What I am talking about here is really a higher standard of obedience."
Really? Doesn't that mean a higher standard of legalism?
His story is nothing more than a compilation of hopscotch semantics that will do nothing less than confuse and numb the minds of his flock into thinking they are free to sin and still be saved by grace alone and faith alone.
A common denominator both with him and the SDA is that he uplifts Jesus as a deity of worship, far beyond that of His Father Yahweh. In fact, the SDA now has it that Yashua is Yahweh. Referring to Revelation 14:7, they say that "Fear God . . . and worship Him" means that we worship Yashua because He (Yashua) created the world.
All of this "R by F" has sprouted from the roots of the Trinity, the foundation doctrine of the church of Rome. This "Jesus is God" syndrome was sealed at the Council of Nicea in 325 (binitarianism) and was the first step in the progress toward the Trinity. The Holy Spirit was added at Constantinople in 381. Gary Fakhoury and Sir Anthony Buzzard gave this history in their essays in The Journal in mid-1997.
Until we extricate ourselves from these binitarian quicksands of Nicea and clear our minds from believing that Yashua is Yahweh, we will forever have closed minds to the truth of the Old Testament that Yahweh is one. It is to Him alone that we must direct our worship (Matthew 4:10; John 4:23).
So long as we remain deeply entrenched in this syndrome, by making John 1:1-3 the flagship test of this abomination of Babylonian Nicea, we will remain deceived. It is well worth an honest study of the above-mentioned essays to find out just what the translators have done to mutilate this important text.
633 Tweed St.
Invercargill, New Zealand
To all heads of the Churches of God and the editor of The Journal:
You may or may not be aware of the Open Directory Project. It is the largest man-made directory on the Internet [at http://dmoz.ch].
I have been appointed editor of the Churches of God section.
The Churches of God section was not really representative of the thoughts and views of the Churches of God. I have taken it over the from the Catholic theologian who was the previous editor. Our aim is to expand its coverage as well as possible.
I have created a series of subdirectories under "Bible Study Papers."
I have also had correspondence with the "World" section's editors regarding setting up an international-language section. This will be done in a week or so when I can manage it. You will see the categories go up and you can be ready to submit your various works
The "Bible Study Papers" section is now under eight subheads: "Nature of God," "Ancient History and Religion," "Bible Prophecy," "Calendar and Worship," "Church History," "Commentaries," "Judgment, Salvation and Eternal Life" and "Law, Health and Society."
As you are aware, we have a desire to increase the general levels of awareness of the Churches of God and improve their exposure to church history and doctrine over the centuries. I desire, and it is in accord with Open Directory policy, that the Churches of God be given a fair level of exposure and all have opportunity to present their papers in the public eye.
Accordingly you are all invited to submit serious Bible-study papers to the Open Directory in my editorial categories for listing.
I also note some of you are not listed at all in the category. If you are not listed, please lodge a listing at your convenience.
I should warn you first that it is Open Directory policy that plagiarism and breach of copyright will not be tolerated. Plagiarism has been rife in the Churches of God in past decades and still is endemic. For example, the paper "U.S. and B.C. in Prophecy" was plagiarized from J.H. Allen's work Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. The work Has Time Been Lost seems to be a direct take from the Church of God (Seventh Day) work published in 1922 or thereabouts.
We will expect the original works to be quoted correctly and cited in any work lodged. If a document is a plagiary and is lodged and it is drawn to my attention, it will be removed as promptly as I can remove it.
I hope we can all manage to produce a good public profile and, while we may not agree on all things, at least try to give the various positions and reasons as clearly as possible--at least while I am editor of the section.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any problems or queries and we will try to work them out as efficiently as possible. Submit all URL [Web-address] matters in the correct way at the directory.
Christian Churches of God
Seminar for young adults
I want to let everybody know that the audio and handouts from the 1999 Young Adults Bible Seminar in Portland, Ore., are finally available on the Internet. You can find them at: http://cgca.net/yabs.
Via the Internet
Why hasn't The Journal commented on the quick withdrawal of the Philadelphia Church of God from the "Jordan Project" that has been ongoing since the pull-out of the WCG from Amman? Is this not news, or are the details too sketchy for now?
We were told little in the PCG, except that a woman in Jordan had stirred up something against the man in charge and that he was entirely innocent of any accusations.
On the heels of this announcement we were told that the time of flight won't be until 2010 or so.
As Steven Flurry said later: "Another 10 years!" Just wondering.
Name and location withheld
Perhaps for true growth to take place again in the church, we may need to have the name Worldwide Church of God given back to the people of God. This is where Joseph Tkach should be prepared to listen. If he claims to follow Jesus Christ, then he will follow His command to love His people.
If he loves people, he will comply with their wishes and in this case change the name of his fellowship to suit his New Covenant theology and give us back our true name: the Worldwide Church of God.
Perhaps then we can forgive him and become a healed people to devote time to preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world.
It has already come, in one sense, so let us quit saying the "coming" Kingdom of God.
Long time passing
It is not often that I see something wrong in The Journal. However, this time, on page 4 of the Jan. 31 issue, under "Will We Ever Learn?," is a poem to the tune of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," which you attribute to Peter, Paul and Mary.
I am 81 years old. In the beginning of World War II Marlene Dietrich used to sing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" It is her song and tune and not Peter, Paul and Mary's.
Hans van Jenburg
A check of Internet sources and The Life of Marlene Dietrich, a biography by Donald Spoto, reveals that Pete Seeger wrote "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" in 1961.
Among the artists who recorded it in the '60s were Peter, Paul and Mary and Miss Dietrich. According to one Internet site (www.higginspage.com): "The song made its greatest impact in Germany, translated into German and sung by Marlene Dietrich. The combination of the language and the setting had a shattering effect on those who heard it."
Mr. Seeger based the original lyrics on a passage from Russian Mikhail Sholokhov's 1940 novel And Quiet Flows the Don.
Weather or not
I wonder if last night's tornado in Fort Worth that traveled on towards Tyler and Big Sandy had anything to do with the Big Sandy campus being sold. Probably not. Just a thought.
Via the Internet
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