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Primitive Christianity revisited

Alan Knight has a keen awareness of two of the greatest problems among God's people. It might be wise for us to take a closer look at some of the points he made back in the June 30 issue of The Journal ["Who Is the Philadelphia Congregation of Revelation 3?"].

His comments pertained to the church at Ephesus, which coexisted alongside the other churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Alan wrote:

"The Ephesians had started out well, Jesus says. They had abounded in the same good works for which Thyatira was famous. But over time they lost their zeal. All that remained was their hardened resolve to reject false Christianity.

"They never weakened in their resolve, but, as Jesus makes clear, that is not enough . . .

"Part of the message of the church of Ephesus is that God requires more than just lawfulness and keeping oneself separate from the synagogue of Satan. Failing to practice love and Christian service is just as serious as failing to recognize and reject the mystery of lawlessness . . .

"Legalistic obedience without love and the spiritual magnification of the law is just another kind of spiritual failure that Jesus condemns and rejects.

"It is no better nor worse than those Christians who practice love and good works while neglecting obedience to God's revealed standards of conduct. Both are unbalanced forms of godliness. Both fall woefully short of the full spirituality that God requires of us. Both represent spiritual failure and lead to separation from God . . .

"In the past the Worldwide Church of God taught that 'lukewarm' meant that Laodiceans were not zealous for 'the work.' But, as we have seen in the examples of several other churches, 'works' refers just as much to love and Christian service as to an official evangelistic program . . .

"The story of the seven churches contains an important lesson about Christian responsibility. Church leaders are responsible for keeping the church free from licentious grace, the mystery of lawlessness. We see that at Pergamon, Thyatira and Ephesus.

"At Thyatira we also see that responsibility extended to the individual. If the leadership of a church has embraced licentious-grace theology, individuals are required by Jesus to openly proclaim their independence from those teachings and to refuse to support those who teach such things.

"For us to encourage and provide support to those who teach the mystery of lawlessness brings the same condemnation on us as on those who do the actual teaching.

"We also have seen that Jesus does not settle for only half the equation. He demands that we be loyal and keep separate from the apostasy of modern Protestantism and Catholicism. He demands obedience.

"But He also demands that we spiritually magnify the law and promote inner spirituality. Love and the good works of Christian service are a requirement, not an option. To omit either side of the equation ends in spiritual failure . . .

"Am I willing to become a Philadelphia Christian by being faithful to every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God? Am I willing to examine myself, to ask myself if I have been legalistic and 'correct' about the law while disregarding the love and Christian service that God demands of me?

"Do I think that the spiritual magnification of the law is optional rather than a command by Jesus? Do I think that doing 'the work' is all there is to it? . . .

"On the other hand, in the turmoil after the downfall of the Worldwide Church of God, have I fallen into the false teachings of licentious grace and tolerance of the mystery of lawlessness? Have I overreacted and begun to think that having love and doing good deeds is all there is to do and the rest doesn't really matter?

"Do I befriend or financially support ministers who preach one or the other form of the mystery of lawlessness, even if I disagree with them?"

Many thanks to Alan Knight for his articles in The Journal.

Marj Coulson

Edgewood, Md.

Mr. Knight's series of five essays, based on his book Primitive Christianity in Crisis, appeared in The Journal beginning Feb. 29 and ending June 30, 2000.

Bill Fowler's passing

I received word this morning that Bill Fowler died last night [Oct. 25]. He had been hospitalized since Oct. 22 and had been in pain at the last, so his passing has ended that pain. [See a letter from Mr. Fowler, "Sabbath Greetings," Sept. 30 issue, page 2.]

He is being buried today [Oct. 26], and a memorial service is planned for this Sabbath in Wichita. Cards may be sent to his wife, Jo Fowler, at 532 N. Gordon St., Wichita, Kan. 67203, U.S.A.

Please pray for Jo and those of us in his congregations who must carry on in his absence.

The best part of the Feast for me this year was seeing Bill Fowler there. He was above all a peacemaker and was instrumental in bringing about the combined CGOM-CGI Feast at beautiful Sequoyah State Park on Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma [see "CGI Elder Apologizes to Chicago Congregation," Aug. 31].

In his weakened condition, fighting an aggressive cancer, the trip to the Feast taxed him, but he was overjoyed to be there visiting and participating. He used a wheelchair because he had grown too weak to walk more than a few steps, but one warm afternoon a group pushed him in his chair out to the end of the peninsula on the lake and spent a couple hours visiting with him in that peaceful spot.

I don't know if Mr. Fowler's sermon was truly exceptional or if the words he spoke simply carried extra meaning because of his condition. I do know he had everyone's attention. I believe God blessed him with the strength to speak.

Two men helped him up a couple of stairs onto the stage and helped him walk a few steps over to the table where he sat to give his sermon. He had to drink water and catch his breath before he could even begin speaking.

I understand that another minister had a message prepared in case Mr. Fowler was able to speak only briefly, but he gave a full sermon, speaking powerfully after he got started.

He began with a favorite saying, "Today is a good day to have a great day." He spoke of the reality of our lives, saying that all we can live right now is today. Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, but today is cash that can be spent. We are the sons of God (1 John 3:2), and as such we must make important choices each day about how we live.

One illustration Mr. Fowler used was the often-forwarded Internet story about the man with the wonderful attitude. When asked how he was, this man would always reply, "If I was any better I'd be twins."

This man always made the choice to have the right attitude. When he was critically wounded and facing death, paramedics looked at him as though he were already dead. He realized he needed to change their attitude toward him, so, when they asked if he were allergic to anything, he replied, "Yes. Bullets!"

He then told them that he intended to live and asked them to operate on him as though they expected him to live too. And he did live.

Mr. Fowler seemed to be feeling well the day of his sermon. He attended the ministerial luncheon afterward and the family dance that evening.

But the next morning Jo hugged me and said they were going back home. I asked if she thought Bill had pushed too much in giving the sermon the day before. She said she didn't know, but she knew he really wanted to do it. She thought it might turn out to be the best one he'd ever given.

Bill Fowler was a peacemaker. One of his favorite scriptures was Psalm 133 ("Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"). That was always a theme in his messages and was also one for the Feast this year.

I had promised Mr. Fowler that if he were able to attend the Feast I would sing Mark Graham's song with those words. Fortunately a brilliant accompanist made me sound good, and the song was well received. Now I've been asked to sing it at the memorial service if I think I can get through it.

How I pray that we all will dwell together in unity! I hope that all God's children are praying for His guidance and wisdom and will listen for His direction. Surely, if we're close to Him, letting Christ be in charge of His church, then we'll also be close to each other. We'll learn to dwell together in the unity that we will surely experience when we see Bill Fowler again in God's Kingdom.

Kathy Coleman

Wichita, Kan.

Provoking thought

I was delighted to read that Eric Snow found my questions regarding ministerial authority "thought-provoking" ["In (Moderate) Defense of Hierarchy," Sept. 30, page 4]. I eagerly await his answers to them. For those of you who may have missed them, I asked Mr. Snow the following in my letter printed June 30:

  • Do ministers have the authority over a member's salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member reads?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member believes?
  • Do ministers have the authority over a member's choice of spouse?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell prospective members that they need to divorce a spouse before they can be baptized?
  • Do ministers have the authority to break up families?
  • Do ministers have the authority to decide if a member is ready for baptism?
  • If ministers have the authority to decide when someone is ready for baptism, and since baptism is a salvation issue, doesn't that mean that they would in fact have authority over their salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority to prevent a member from partaking of the Passover/Lord's Supper?
  • Do ministers have the authority to separate anyone from God?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell members who they can and cannot have fellowship with?

Bryn Hendrickson

Brooklyn Center, Minn.

Where moderate hierarchies belong

Contrary to the opinion Eric Snow expressed in his letter to The Journal of Sept. 31--that I take hierarchic relationships to be necessarily abusive--I see Christ's headship of men, and husbands' headship of wives, as nonabusive. Indeed, no relationship is to be abusive.

But the question is not whether "ruling over" and "caring for" could be "mutually exclusive"--and not whether hierarchic relationships are to be abusive. The question at hand is, What did Paul intend? As I pointed out, it would have made more sense for Paul to use the discussed words in 1 Timothy 3:5 in a way that reflects synonymy.

Central to the discussion is not the ideal nature of hierarchic relationships. Rather, it is where hierarchic relationships are to exist and where they aren't.

The reason many people accept the idea of loving hierarchy within the family, but not within the church, is that many people don't find a biblically prescribed hierarchic relationship within the body of brethren (Matthew 23:8). Instead, they understand the hierarchic authority established for the church as Jesus Christ and His word as delivered via the original apostles.

That hierarchy is valid and biblical in some relationships does not warrant its application to other relationships. Because we recognize that husbands have headship in a marriage relationship does not mean we apply hierarchy to all relationships.

Extrapolating from what is written in God's Word will lead to wrong and sometimes absurd conclusions. Some have extrapolated from the standpoint that hierarchy per se is valid to reach the conclusion that the head of every man is not Christ, but a man.

The head over our spiritual lives is Jesus, our Messiah. If, for example, two Christians have an employer-employee or master-slave relationship, the headship involved does not extend over the spiritual life of the employee or slave.

As for Mr. Snow's allegation that I "feel the need to challenge Bauer's lexicon," any need to challenge was not based on some feeling of mine, as he implies, but on my understanding of Greek.

There are no such "syntactical-grammatical reasons" for Bauer's choice of the "to rule" definition, as Mr. Snow would like the reader to believe. Mr. Snow knows of no such reason. If he wants to persist, I would hope he would look into the language and inform readers of The Journal of what these reasons are. I am confident he is unable to do so.

We cannot afford to approach lexicons uncritically. I don't mean to pick on Bauer, and I often refer to his lexicon. The point is that all lexicons contain theological opinions of their respective lexicographers. Instead of just listing the historic definitions for a word, they sometimes tend to decide for us which definition is to be applied for reasons not intrinsic to the word or grammar involved.

Consider, for example, Bauer's comments on Junia (of Romans 16:7). Bauer actually states that the possibility from a lexical perspective (die lexicalische Moeglichkeit) that Junia was a woman is probably excluded because of the context!

It is never within a lexicographer's scope of function to determine a word's probable meaning by the theological implications of the context in which it stands.

In this case the feminine name Junia has been found in more than 250 inscriptions in Rome alone (where Junia of Romans 16 lived). On the other hand, Bauer's suggested masculine name Junias has not been found once anywhere in the world.

Setting aside theological considerations and baggage, the true lexical probability is that Junia was a woman. (There are linguistic grounds for the possibility that Junia was not one of the apostles like Barnabas, which Bauer does not consider. [See an essay, "Does the Bible Permit Women to Edify Men in God's Church?," on page 8 of this issue.])

Lexical entries can be quite arbitrary. Consider, for example, that Strong differentiates between prophet and prophetess (prophêtês and prophêtis) by assigning them two separate numbers, but he does not so distinguish between kinsman and kinswoman (suggenês and suggenis).

We must exercise caution when referring to lexical entries. Lexicons as well as commentaries sometimes support doctrines that developed in the second through fourth centuries (nature of God, "Lord's Day" vs. Sabbath, "clergy-laity" distinction, etc.).

The hierarchic structure that developed in those early centuries is taken for granted to be legitimate by most churches today.

In the second and third centuries Hippolytus, Ignatius, Cyprian, et al., prescribed a structure where in each congregation one bishop (episkopê) is to preside over the others, who are called only "elders" (presbuteros). These terms refer to one and the same person. Eventually regional bishops and "bishop of Rome" positions developed.

The Worldwide Church of God adopted this tradition, with one pastor in each congregation, regional pastors and a pastor general. In the first-century church the elders in each congregation functioned as a council, with each one to "oversee, watch out for, care for" (episkopeô), and each one to shepherd or "pastor" (poimainô); see Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2.

Instead of all God's people being equipped for and actually doing "the work of the ministry" and edifying the body, as the Greek of Ephesians 4:11-12 states, these responsibilities were redistributed onto the shoulders of a few.

First-century members of the spiritual body did not go about restocking magazine stands or handing out pamphlets to the public. They preached the gospel.

In our tradition some "elders" have taken the role of a mother bird and viewed their brethren as helpless hatchlings. Food was supposedly acquired from a source inaccessible to those seen as baby birds and then regurgitated into waiting beaks.

Shepherding, however, involves allowing sheep to sniff around and select for themselves the edible clumps of grass within the pasture. Elders would better demonstrate a shepherding role by purchasing Bible-study tools for members of their flock than by trying to convince them that God's Word must be interpreted through some ecclesiastical priesthood.

But a discussion on the development of spirit-quenching dogma in the early, dark centuries of "church" history is beyond the scope of this letter and should be reserved for a later article.

Name withheld

Europe

Proclaim and celebrate

Warren Childers and Martha McElroy invite anyone interested to participate with them.

By immersion in the name of Yahshua, we enter into the counsel of the Almighty One, Yahweh, where we study intensely the Scriptures as originally inspired, using the set-apart names and titles of the Scripture rather than the popular substitutions that have emerged through erroneous translations.

We uphold the Ten Commandments, the Feasts and set-apart convocation days, embracing the directions regarding unclean foods; Passover, including foot-washing; and repentance of sin by obedience to the Messiah and redemption through His blood.

For all others who hear and heed His call, we welcome your contact to join us in proclaiming to the world these evident truths and to celebrate with us! Contact us at (903) 721-4099 or warchil@aol.com.

Warren Childersand Martha McElroy

Congregation of Yahweh at Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Fla.

What would Jesus do?

On the subject of servant leadership at the UCG council meeting ["Council Elects Chairman, Talks About Servant Leadership," Sept. 30], Dr. Don Ward referred to Acts 6:2: "It is not desirable that we [the 12 apostles] should leave the word of God and serve tables" to show that they [UCG ministers] "should be busy answering questions and counseling from God's Word" rather than doing something like setting up chairs.

That may sound spiritual, but it's really a twist of Scripture through human reason.

UCG elders are not the 12 apostles. UCG elders do not live at a special time in history immediately after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, with great signs, wonders and resulting church persecution.

Today nobody's shadow heals the sick and raises the dead. There aren't 10,000 people being baptized within a few weeks who need to be discipled to learn the basics and be physically housed and fed.

Landowners are not selling all they have like Barnabas and others did to lay money at the feet of the UCG elders so thousands of people from out of town can hold all things in common.

In contrast to those times, the UCG has a ratio of one elder to 50 nonelders. Most UCG brethren were converted years ago and themselves ought to be teachers. That UCG elders are somehow busy, busy, busy with pressing spiritual matters is nothing but an illusion.

Yes, some elders diligently labor in word and doctrine. But at a 50-1 ratio, unless there are dozens of prospective members flooding in, most UCG elders (and those in other organizations) should go out and get a job. They need to cut the umbilical cord of the corporate churches that use financial dependency to control the field ministry.

(In the same way, Joe Tkach Sr. controlled disagreements through salaries and severance packages and thereby pulled off his apostasy with the cooperation of most of the same men who are now in the UCG and who think a salary doesn't control their moral judgment.)

What is servant leadership? It's showing others how to serve by your example through love and good works. The greatest servant leader of all time is Christ. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus had many things to say to His disciples, yet He took the time to wash and dry their dirty feet.

He said in John 13:14-15: "If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

Servant leadership isn't complicated. Jesus didn't just design a little ceremony to be repeated once a year at Passover time. The Passover is a yearly reminder of the relationships Christ wants within His church.

In Luke 22:25-27 He uses this same incident to contrast the carnal leadership of the kings of the gentiles with his own leadership: "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

Rather than give a sermon on the need to serve, why not live a sermon and show people how? Perhaps if an elder stepped out of his spiritual role-playing long enough to help dry the dishes after the potluck or paint a widow's house, the example of service would catch on.

Servant leadership means setting an example for the flock of how to live (1 Peter 5:3). Like Paul, who labored with his hands night and day, ministers need to sweat more and cut out the spiritual posturing perpetuated by the ego-gratifying traditions of men.

Paul, with a straight face, could say in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." The word means "to mimic." Being an example to the flock isn't about wearing business suits to church, clearing your throat and in a nice baritone expounding on Paul's letter to the Galatians. It's showing how to walk the walk.

It's time for the elders to cancel their strategic-planning meetings (which do nothing but maintain a bureaucracy determined to control God's flock), put on their work clothes and show the brethren how one should serve "the least of these My brethren."

Unfortunately, that's not going to happen because that's something at odds with Herbert Armstrong's corporate culture, which is patterned after the kings of the gentiles in an unbiblical class system.

Here are men with degrees in theology who've spent years in the ministry and they're trying to grapple with a simple concept of servant leadership. It's like they're trying to figure out what it means to be a new creature in Christ.

It's obvious that the ministerial culture is carnal. To "mimic" the UCG leadership would result in folks forming ad-hoc committees to determine how much mustard to put in the potato salad.

Many of the ladies serving in the kitchen are way ahead of the ministry when it comes to servant leadership. They aren't on anyone's payroll to do what they do; they simply see a physical need and fill it.

That's what our Servant Leader did, and that's the example we've got to follow. That's what love is all about. It's the power of God's Spirit in progress in each of us, changing us from carnal men to Christ-centered children of God.

We can always come up with spiritual-sounding excuses for religious leaders to avoid the Samaritans by the side of the road or keep the little children from bothering us or finding somebody else to take care of the folding chairs. What would Jesus do?

Lee Lisman

Battle Ground, Wash.

Irregular Feast

I wasn't surprised to read of Mark Kaplan's removal from the United Church of God ministry over his organizing his own Feast site ["Elder, Church Part After Feast Site Scheduled," Sept. 30].

Mr. Kaplan has specialized knowledge, gifts and skills that would appeal to and help some Feastgoers more than a regular Feast would. We have learned much from listening to his tape series on the Feast of Tabernacles.

If UCG leaders had an ounce of sense, even purely political sense, they not only would have authorized his site, they would have advertised it. Wouldn't that make sense since more than only UCG members would attend, some of whom would then be exposed to the UCG?

Did Jesus say in Mark 9:38-40 to stop people from doing Christian works if you don't control them? What did He say there?

It is amazing to me how far removed the UCG is from its original principles and how much it is looking like the old WCG. I suppose it's not possible that the UCG could have become anything else since the hearts of ministers dictate their behavior, which has always been to control people. It is good that Mark Kaplan is free from them. He'll get more done now.

Bill Stough

Lonedell, Mo.

Unusual Feast

Who hasn't heard of a Bronx, N.Y., man by the name of Edgar Rivera? He and his family have been through some rather unusual experiences, ones they never would have chosen.

About a year and a half ago, on April 29, 1999, Edgar was senselessly shoved in front of a moving subway train on the IRT Lexington Avenue No. 6 line at the Midtown Manhattan 51st Street station by a deranged man as homeward-bound straphangers looked on in horror.

Two cars ran his legs over. It's a miracle Edgar is alive. He suffered a broken collarbone and pelvis, and his legs were amputated midway to the hip. He was in a coma for a week. It has been quite a news story in New York, and the trial is underway.

Edgar drove all the way from The Bronx to the Feast to be with brethren of God's Church, known more by its publishing name, Church Outreach Program (COP), P.O. Box 6111, Elgin, Ill. 60121, U.S.A.

This was the first Feast for Edgar, his wife, Elizabeth, and three children (Elijah, Chanel and Essense). Of course, with no feet or legs to speak of, Edgar drove a special handicapped-accessible vehicle while using only his hands for steering and braking.

One of the surprises during the Feast, and a moving moment for those attending, occurred when he was baptized in the pool of the Sand Castle I Condominium, on Indian Shores. This was immediately followed by the laying on of hands.

John Gordon

Nashua, N.H.

Sharing sorrow

From a brother in the Lord to those near so that they may not be deceived that I left voluntarily; to those afar so that they may be indignant at sin; from a brother who was unjustly disfellowshipped: I share with you my grief and sorrow.

If we do not step forward and bring our grievances to the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Timothy 5:19), the fraud will continue and the sins will mount.

In a meeting on Oct. 16, 1999, I was disfellowshipped from church for reasons that were immoral and unjustifiable, according to the Word of God. Those present were Ron Kearse, a local deacon; Gary Antion, the pastor and a member of the council of elders of the United Church of God; and myself.

In that meeting, and for the second or third time to that point, I was told that certain members had spoken out against me in regard to certain perceived offenses attributed to me. I asked to be informed of those charges, to which Mr. Antion replied, "There is no specific charge."

If one has no specific charge laid against him, how is it possible for him to be condemned, much less disfellowshipped? I then asked for witnesses to be brought forward so that my case could proceed according to the commandment of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17. But by this time Mr. Antion's patience toward me had become exhausted and he would not allow for this, stating to my utter amazement that "Matthew 18 does not apply here."

Hence he expelled me on the basis of rumor and hearsay, trusting in the testimony of others against me while refusing to hear my own defense.

Moreover, he blasphemed Christ and shamed all the poor in the church (2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:10) by blurting out, "If one does not work, he should not go to the Feast" ("His tongue uttered a distortion"; Isaiah 59:3), which was an allusion to my unemployed status.

This blasphemy was in response to my assertion that everyone in the church ought to be able to attend the Feast, regardless of budgets.

After taking four months to compose my letter of appeal, I submitted it to the Canadian and U.S. councils of the United Church of God. President Les McCullough did not bother to reply, and the Canadian council in March 2000 decided to uphold the disfellowshipping, though council members refused to take up my charge of blasphemy against Mr. Antion, choosing instead to condemn the spirit of my letter rather than judge the facts in my case.

Why, then, do we bother with codes of ethics and appellate courts if we decline to litigate like a true court? (John 7:51; Deuteronomy 19:15-21).

After much dawdling from the office and council, it was passed over to the U.S. Member Appeal Committee in June, which would not decide until August to commit the same miscarriage of justice by officially justifying the expulsion and ignoring my charge of blasphemy.

In both verdicts no indication was given that they had questioned either Mr. Antion or any relevant witnesses, which to the eyes of a child would not even be deemed equitable, thus making it a legal sham and a parody of justice ("Twisted judgments proceed," moans Habakkuk, in chapter 1 and verse 4).

Is it too hard for a minister to ask one of his own: "Did you say this? Did you do this?" If a judge condemns an appellant for contempt of court, does he nevertheless let the case proceed?

Yet, shockingly, this did not happen in the Church of God! Just as Jeremiah shuddered, an "astonishing and shivering thing exists in the church" (Jeremiah 5:30).

What exists? Subjugation (radah; verse 31) of the poor and needy in their cause. "They do not strive in a suit for the lonely or poor" (verse 28). "And for the justice of the poor they do not judge" (verse 28).

Therefore I ask: Is our ministry guilty of respect of persons (James 2:9), partiality in judgment (verse 4), abetting of a false report (Exodus 23:1) and of the fear of men? (Malachi 3:5). Rather, should they not fear Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His body to convert us to the way of righteousness, justice, mercy and faith? (Matthew 23:23).

To my knowledge, my offenses are these: (1) acting as a judge of the brethren contrary to the law; (2) being a source of aversion to some to the extent that they were deliberately avoiding my company; and (3) driving away members from the church.

I testify to all that these charges constitute false accusations and are a result of "speaking evil against a brother" (James 4:11; Psalm 50:20-21).

When an alleged offense is not brought forward and corroborated by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16), the matter cannot stand in court, much less in the courts of heaven, where God is Judge of all.

I testify that I have been accused of doing a good work, not an evil one, that my offense was that I was more outspoken (Proverbs 28:1; Philippians 1:14), zealous to uphold the gospel, ready to judge evil when I saw it (Proverbs 31:9; Luke 12:57; 1 Corinthians 5:12) and fervent to punctuate the truth as firmly as faith would allow (1 Corinthians 12:9; Romans 12:3).

Yet some have judged my behavior as evidence of aggression, arrogance, self-righteousness and meddling and of the "works of the flesh," in not knowing the Spirit of our God, which manifests itself diversely: in boldness, strength, prophecy, counsel, healings, zeal and truth.

Would these men have condemned Phineas, Stephen and Apollos for their work in the Lord and Malachi, Amos and Zechariah for their harsh speech? And Peter for "murdering" Ananias and Sapphira? Think again.

If you wish to be an advocate of a brother who has been wronged, and desire to judge the case yourself, "for the saints shall judge the world," then write me at 26 Glen Castle Dr., Stoney Creek, Ont., L8G 2Z4, Canada, or E-mail me at neddancuo@hotmail.com, because I am willing to discuss my case for your benefit that you may be found faithful to Christ in the end. Let the Lord judge our causes. Amen.

Ed Dancuo

Stoney Creek, Ont., Canada

God is a family

In an editorial in the Aug. 31 issue, "Which Church of God Group Is for You?," Robert J. Thiel makes a statement that I believe needs to be addressed.

He wrote: "Essentially, the UCG [United Church of God] has not officially taught that God is a family."

I refer to the UCG booklet Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, an International Association. On page 37 under the heading "God's Purpose for Mankind," the introductory paragraph, last sentence, reads as follows:

"We believe that the reason for mankind's existence is literally to be born as spirit beings into the family of God."

Pages 37-38, first sentence of the first paragraph: "It is God's desire that all humans become members of His family in the Kingdom of God."

Page 39, last sentence of the last paragraph: "Those who repent and accept Christ as their Savior will receive the gift of everlasting life in the family of God, finally achieving their God-given destiny.

The family of God is mentioned other places in the booklet, but I will give one final example. Page 3, last sentence of the third paragraph: "Humans have the wonderful potential and opportunity to enter the family of God (Romans 8:14, 19; John 11:12; 1 John 3:1-2)."

Judy Ludlow

Livermore, Calif.

What we shall be is not revealed

Let me respond to a letter from Robert Schmid as published in The Journal Aug. 31 ["Challenging Everybody," page 5] wherein he defended and supported Ian Boyne's heretical, arrogant and unscriptural teaching that man will become God [see "Pastor Reports on Jamaica Passover, Assesses Other Ministries," April 30, about Mr. Boyne; see also "Why Will Man Become God?," Aug. 31, by Mr. Boyne].

As to his statement suggesting that I am "unfairly and inappropriately attacking" people's beliefs, Mr. Schmid errs greatly. I am not terribly concerned with what someone might believe. There is precious little I can do about it anyway.

My concern has to do with what authority figures--pastors and ordained ministers like Mr. Boyne--or church organizations and their appointed staff teach the brethren in the public arena. Aberrant teachings publicly uttered have potential to do great harm.

When bizarre, arrogant and cultic heresies such as "Man will become God as God is God" and "The Armstrong movement is the only true church" are presented to the world as biblical truth and representative of us as Sabbath-keepers, it is high time for right-thinking Christians to criticize and denounce those cultic doctrines.

According to Scripture, there is no sense revealed in which human beings will become Gods or God beings: "And it has not yet been revealed what we shall be" (1 John 3:2).

Mr. Schmid misrepresents what I wrote in a letter in the June 30 issue ["Apology Requested," page 2]. He writes: "But what about verse 5? Mr. Haney calls it 'one of the original lies and heresies of the great deceiver Satan . . .'" This is a correct partial quotation. However, Mr. Schmid goes on to stumble and misquote me: ". . . And [Mr. Haney] says that this verse says that 'man will become God.'" I wrote no such thing. I wrote:

"Much worse than Mr. Boyne's delusion regarding the 'true' church is his unscriptural, misleading and spiritually dangerous teaching that 'man will become God.'

"This notion flies directly in the face of a sovereign and holy God. The view that man will become God is one of the original lies and heresies of the great deceiver, Satan, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning. 'Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil"' (Genesis 3:4-5)."

The sense of the passage I quoted, above, in Genesis is not one of Satan offering to Eve the promise of being similar to God in some peripheral or marginal sense. The contextual sense and the thrust of this passage is that Satan was offering Eve (and Adam, ultimately) a method whereby she (they) could gain equality with God and be as significant as He is.

Consider other commentary:

  • ·Matthew Henry on Genesis 3:5 ("You will be like God"): Satan "insinuates to them the great improvements they would make by eating of this fruit . . . 'You shall be as gods, as Elohim, mighty gods; not only omniscient, but omnipotent too'; or, 'You shall be as God himself, equal to him, rivals with him; you shall be sovereigns and no longer subjects, self-sufficient ... A most absurd suggestion! As if it were possible for creatures of yesterday to be like their Creator that was from eternity."
  • Adam Clarke on Genesis 3:5: ". . . Your understanding shall be greatly enlightened and improved; and ye shall be gods . . . Like God, so the word should be translated . . . The object of the tempter appears to have been this: to persuade our first parents that they should, by eating of this fruit, become wise and powerful as God (for knowledge is power) and be able to exist for ever, independently of him."

Mr. Schmid writes that God "confirmed" in verse 22 Satan's "absolute truth" of verse 5. To accept this view, you must accept that neither Adam nor Eve knew any good whatsoever, that their minds were blanks before Satan came along.

But this makes no sense. Surely God taught them good when He told them to be fruitful and multiply. And surely God indicated a difference between right and wrong when He instructed them not to partake of a certain tree.

No, the problem was the addition and the inclusion, by Adam and Eve, of the evils of disobedience, lust, greed and idolatry to the good they were supposed to follow. To simply know both good and evil is not to be "like" or "as" God, anyway.

Satan apparently knew the difference between good and evil, but he cannot easily be characterized as being "like" God. Taking verse 22 as typically translated, any similarity between Adam, Eve and God can be looked at only in a narrow sense.

Finally, Mr. Schmid refers to each apparently resurrected human being as "God the additional son in the one God family." This would be laughable if it were not so serious. I suppose, then, we should refer to the Almighty God as "Father God" and Jesus as "Jesus God" while Mr. Schmid would be "Mr. Schmid God" and so on, as though the word God were a last name or perhaps a tribal name.

Interestingly, according to the Bible each of God's children will have a "new name," but, alas, no one knows what it will be. Grabbing God's name now is like thumbing your nose at God.

The Bible says, "To him who overcomes I will give . . . a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it" (Revelation 2:17).

I have not received my white stone yet. Have you? I have an idea: Why don't we just stop all this foolish talk about us becoming God and consequently stop taking God's name in vain at the same time?

F. Paul Haney

Watertown, Conn.

Working priests

Here is an analogy that, once understood, should shame the leaders of the corporate so-called Churches of God (synagogues of Satan, truly). But it won't, for they, the worst of parasites, must steal from their people to live.

Christ was of the tribe of Judah and therefore could never be a priest, let alone a Levite (Hebrews 7:14; 8:4). But if He had been a priest He would not have received tithes. His Levite non-Aaronic brothers would have received them (Numbers 18:26).

The Levites, after receiving their tithes from the local area (their nation), would then give the priests one tenth of the 10 percent so given.

Christ, if a priest, would be employed for only half a month (1 Chronicles 24), plus the special feast days. That is only a little more than one month of serving the temple each year! If Christ were a priest while a man living here on earth, He, along with the rest of the priests, would have received one tenth of the tithes and that for just one twelfth of the year.

So, once Christ did His duty (His assigned course) in the temple, where would He go? He, as all Levites, would go home. Why? By law His service to the temple would be finished.

What would He do? He would go home and continue His carpenter's work, for it was His trade. Other Levites would return home and go back to work. A farmer would go back to his fields. A rancher would go back to his ranch. A fisherman would go back home and fish.

Your ministers are tradeless, having no skills outside of how to form state-controlled, nonscriptural, worldly, money-oriented corporations and how to work as secular salesmen and professional beggars. Proof? Observe their sermons, letters and writings, their demands and panderings from the pulpit during the Feast of Tabernacles.

If you still believe you tithe to a minister (a potential fellow priest), then do so only when he personally, face to face, serves you: the temple of God. Make him, like true priests, work the remaining 11 months of the year at a trade that supports him.

Dean Neal

Carson City, Nev.

Ashamed to admit it

Since subscribing to In Transition and later The Journal, I have glanced through many articles and letters. How woefully Laodicean are all who write letters to the editor or articles on biblical context.

Nobody knows where God is working, and most are ashamed even to remotely admit that just maybe He even works through one man.

Scattered you'll remain because you really just don't get it, nor do you even remotely love His truth. You've joined the army of scoffers who seek to blame and shame those who do.

Gerald R. Flurry is the man God is using. God says He will work a work, though you would not believe it. Prophecy comes to life in the Philadelphia Church.

God also says you called-out ones will fall and lose your spiritual lives because of failing to recognize His work.

I tell people now to be quiet and discern the people in these scattered churches to see which does God's work.

Just now I've learned that the Philadelphia Church of God plans to build a college for God's Church.

Major windstorms go through the Edmond area [in Oklahoma, where PCG headquarters is located], and each time the PCG survives--even power outages. Praise God. Dangerous territory Oklahoma is.

Has anyone kept true to Herbert Armstrong and his God-led and inspired teachings? Not one, save those in His PCG!

This should make most of you green with envy.

God will inspire you if only you'll let Him.

Bruce Bell

Mount Marion, N.Y.

Spirit of the law

In the September issue of The Journal, Ian Willis in his letter ("Apparent Contradiction," page 4) asked, "Why, then, do we continually hear the provably false claim by many who are with the Living Church of God that the board of directors 'took over control' of the Global Church of God [GCG]?"

The reason is that it is not a false claim.

The truth is that the council of elders was supposed to be the highest level of authority in the old GCG, yet the board bypassed the council--whose members would have supported Dr. Roderick Meredith had the matter been put before them, judging by their public statements and the number who joined him in the Living Church of God (LCG), since it in fact took a 75 percent majority to remove Dr. Meredith.

That the board removed Mrs. Meredith in September 1998, removed Carl McNair on Nov. 21, 1998, and replaced Mr. McNair with a lawyer that day shows that the board planned to take control of the GCG; it was only after stacking the board that board members could "legally" take over, which they immediately did. This is also confirmed from other documents the board sent out.

That approximately 80 percent of the GCG membership went with the LCG also demonstrates that the GCG was taken over.

It should be noted that this is the same board that on the business day before the Day of Atonement in 1999 declared a form of bankruptcy, reincorporated that day under another name, took the Atonement holy-day offerings for itself and left the GCG creditors without recourse. This is the same board that declared in November 1998 that it fully intended to repay the creditors.

Although some things may be "legal" under U.S. law, this does not make them right.

Details of this are documented at my Web site, http:members.aol.com/cogwriter/home.htm.

Robert J. Thiel

Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Welcome back

I look forward to The Journal. I always enjoy it, and I don't know why I let my subscription expire so long ago. Thanks again. Lots of good reading, plus you're helping to keep everyone in the various organizations a little more honest and above board.

Rich Glasgow

Garland, Texas

Giving Geoff his say

The Journal often puts the Cartwright before the horse The Knowles-It-All who feature in its pages Sages wiser, in their own eyes, than The Source Of Mystery Of The Ages;

The Wooten hearts which deny the WCG Was ever God's Church. That HWA-- "No way!"--was the Apostle he claimed to be: Lies not worth the printing ink, I say.

Some Dart to the conclusion that God never spoke through His end-time Elijah. Deny he has been sent. Bent logic, which means: The Falling Away From Truth Came before the Truth was even sent!

Others Flurry to grab the late Elijah's baton When he said it only passes with the Era. The bearer, then, must be clothed in the satin Of Laodicean wearer.

Some Triumph in being called The Elijah, themselves; Some go Hunting like a Buzzard for notions new. Denying Christ was God in flesh, they delve In Antichrist doctrine untrue.

Some Garner little these days of the small scattered Flock While Likeminds are United in just one thing: The Church Government old Armstrong taught--they mock. Democrats are they, never underling!

Now rich and increased with knowledge, either hot or Cole, Publishing what is right in every man's eyes Lies the 7th Era Journal of record's role To be Laodiceanwise.

Dixon's focus ain't on Truth Restored by The Elijah; It's on American Democracy--not God's one Way. Here may all the heresies unfit to print merge, Sir: The Journal gives ev'ry dog his say.

Geoff Neilson

Fish Hoek, South Africa



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