Letters from our readers
Call for more thought
In The Journal of Sept. 30 is a letter, a kind of statement of beliefs, from a gentleman in Tucson, Ariz. [Jim Perry, "Jesus Didn't Keep the Sabbath," page 4], setting forth a basis for staying in the WCG. He is entitled to stay or go wherever he desires, but some of the statements call for more thought.
The fundamental error made by the leadership of the WCG was unbelief. When Christ said not to believe something, WCG leaders believed it anyway. Jesus was the authority before Paul became the chief theologian of New Testament writers.
Peter said that Paul wrote some things hard to understand, and some in his time were twisting their meaning. The WCG has understood Paul to mean that the Torah, the laws in it, even including the Ten Commandments, have become obsolete and no longer valid and that Christ abolished them. This puts Paul into direct conflict with the Christ he served.
If that were Paul's meaning, then his epistles should be deleted from every Bible and his memory erased forever! No one believes that should be done.
What is left, therefore, in order to validate Paul, is to understand his teachings in the light of and in agreement with Christ's solemn directive not to think (not even consider) that the law was coming to an end.
By not believing Christ and taking Him at His word, the WCG began a reckless plunge away from truth and soon lost its way. Its influence and effectiveness severely damaged, it will never again be blessed and thrive as an institution unless it thoroughly repents of its unbelief, restores much of what it has torn down and becomes a staunch believer in and defender of Christ's authority and accept, study and teach the law Christ proclaimed would last till both heaven and earth should be no more.
Name and location withheld
Secret meetings of blacks in the WCG
Regarding "Jesus Didn't Keep the Sabbath," Sept. 30, page 4 (for perspective, I am still in the Worldwide Church of God, and I am Caucasian):
The big reason I have heard from blacks who stayed in the WCG for their decision not to move is that the New Covenant makes perfect sense to them.
Also, Jesus stated very clearly in John 13:35 that the mark of a true Christian is love one for another. Racism definitely does not conform to love for one another, and the blacks could easily see the denying of Christ in the institutions and practices (theology dealing with the races, ordinations and assignments, etc.) of the old WCG.
If you don't think this is true, do some research and find out about the secret meetings held by blacks for years at the festival sites. This disparity was troubling for many minorities during the Old Covenant period of the Worldwide Church of God.
After the [doctrinal] changes the WCG was quick to realize our error in this and reconcile our minority brothers and sisters in Christ, which reconciliation demonstrated the love of God and did not deny it in our practice.
The minorities, the recipient of the disparity of treatment, could easily spot the difference and see who was practicing love and who was not.
I have also found it interesting that the most racist whites immediately departed for the splinter groups and found it a feature of those groups that there weren't a lot of minorities in them.
In the letters section of the latest issue of The Journal (Sept. 30) I found a statement by Jim Perry that our Master, Jesus Christ, rose on Sunday. That idea is one of the common fallacies of today's mainstream Christianity and the last bastion as far as arguments for Sunday observance are concerned.
It is impossible, in light of the duration of three days and three nights, that Jesus Christ would rise on Sunday morning or Saturday night, being--supposedly--buried on late Friday afternoon. This would completely deny His promised sign in Matthew 12:40 about His Messiahship and would make Christ a liar.
The Bible clearly teaches that the father of all lies is Satan the devil. However, this hollow argument of resurrection on Sunday continues to rage in many Christian circles, even among those who observe the biblically correct day of worship, the holy Sabbath!
My husband, Bill (deceased), and Iwrote this poem in 1970:
Have you ever wondered what harm you've done By your tale of Santa Claus to a little one? For the comparison between a mythical man in a red suit And the truth of Christ's birth is quite acute. The one is a lie that o'ershadows the other, And just what does it do to a little brother Who is just beginning his formative years And is told a falsehood by all of his peers, One that may later cause him to wonder If Christ being born isn't just a blunder? Of course it isn't, but during your life Have you been one of the ones who are causing this strife? For the Bible is true, yes, every little bit, But Satan is a liar and the father of it. If you don't believe this--and there is a lot more-- Just turn to and read John 8:44.
Big Sandy, Texas
In the Oct. 31 issue of The Journal Robert J. Thiel ["Spirit of the Law," page 23] responded to an excellent letter by Ian Willis, which had been published in The Journal's Sept. 30 edition (under "Apparent Contradiction," page 4). Mr. Thiel's letter, though, contains numerous misrepresentations, some of which cannot remain unchallenged.
Mr. Thiel first alleges falsely that the Global Church of God's board "bypassed the council" in terminating Dr. Roderick Meredith's employment. Let me quote, in response, from the official statement of Global's executive committee, signed by Messrs. Raymond F. McNair, Larry Salyer, J. Edwin Pope and Norbert Link, dated Dec. 7, 1998:
"Indeed, the Council of Elders is to guide the doctrine and the overall spiritual mission and direction of the Church. But the actual implementation of that mission has always been mainly the responsibility of the Board of Directors. And this the Board has faithfully done! The authority to hire and fire any employee of the Church--including Dr. Meredith--has never rested with the Council of Elders, but rather with the Board ... The Board at no point usurped the authority of the Council."
This statement of the executive committee is absolutely true and evidenced by the bylaws and the minutes of the Global Church of God. Further, we also need to keep in mind that, in any event, just prior to the split [in November 1998], only four of the 13 council members supported Dr. Meredith.
Mr. Thiel further misrepresents that there was somehow a conspiracy within Global to take control. Mr. Thiel bases his conclusion in part on the fact that the board removed Mrs. Meredith as a board member. What Mr. Thiel fails to mention is that the board's decision was unanimous; that is, all the board members, including Dr. Meredith and Carl McNair, as well as Mrs. Meredith herself, agreed to it.
Another false allegation by Mr. Thiel is the preposterous claim that 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 statement is blatantly untrue. Global's board had nothing to do with incorporating another corporation, let alone taking holy-day offerings for itself. If Mr. Thiel can produce any written evidence to the contrary "substantiating" his outrageous misrepresentations, I would be more than happy to see it.
I have written Mr. Thiel before to encourage him, albeit unsuccessfully, to get his "facts" straight when publishing his allegations and conclusions. I hope that he will do better from now on.
The error of Church of God statists
As the debate continues to accelerate between ecclesiastical collectivism and individualism, increasingly more of us who read The Journal are openly espousing one or the other of these two major emphases in church governance.
Recently, and inclined toward the more centrist view of order within the Body of Christ, are Eric Snow and Victor Hawkins.
Although Eric ["In (Moderate) Defense of Hierarchy," Sept. 30, page 4] is certainly correct on the efforts of some to synthesize modern feminism with Sabbatarian Christianity, I hope he will realize that these feminist Sabbatarians have a stake of their own in the plausibility of hierarchical government.
They contend, for instance, that because nouns for deacon (or minister) and elder exist in the Greek New Testament in both masculine and feminine forms, and because these denote (supposedly) posts that a certain few of us are specifically ordained to fill, speaking roles at the Sabbath assembly are equally accessible to women as they are to men.
The reality is, as we at least used to know, that the same man who wrote Galatians 3:22 also wrote 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and Ephesians 5:22-33. Just as Paul saw the two sexes as equal before God, he no less saw them as quite different before God--as God Himself so made them to be.
It is with respect to what distinguishes women from men that they are to be regarded for their special qualities; these qualities are to be appreciated as in 1 Peter 3:1-7.
The reality also is, as we were remarkably unaware, that one became an "elder" just as the morphology of the Greek term for "presbyter" gives meaning to the term: by way of his or her long-term membership in the Body of Christ.
Accordingly, the veteran members of the Body established the prevailing order, and the more recent converts were quite appropriately expected to comply with this order (1 Peter 5).
That some of these more experienced members were designated or appointed (Greek cheiratoneo, not cheiratoveo) for certain tasks or functions does not imply that they were elevated to some status; Paul (whose own experience had been extraordinary) personally selected them for their particular abilities (1 Corinthians 12) but did not otherwise raise them up to become elders.
Nonetheless, Paul never assigned to an elder of the female sex a speaking role in the assembly, whatever may have been her verbal abilities. Such scriptures as 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 cannot be adequately explained (in spite of what some ultramodernists tell us) by reference to the Oracle at Delphi (on Mount Parnassus, in central Greece) and the converted former priestesses who were creating such a commotion in the Corinthian church that they had to be silenced.
Notice, especially, from this section of Scripture: "According to the rule observed in all the assemblies of believers, . . . as the Law states[,] . . . what I have written to you is the Lord's commandment . . ." Also note, with particular attention, the words all, Law and commandment. All assemblies came under this rule, including those of the Judeo-Christians to whom would later be addressed the epistle to the Hebrews (and not merely those within an easy walk of Delphi); it derived from the law; it was commanded by God (and by Christ).
Neither, apparently, did Christ assign to a female disciple the preaching role He committed (in Matthew 28) to the remaining 11 of the 12 men He had earlier selected to become apostles. If our present-day Church of God feminists are right in their enlightened awareness, Christ seems to have been born too early to benefit from it.
Attempts to demonstrate a scriptural mandate for a corporate office dominating the affairs of the church--as by Victor Hawkins ["Take Another Memo, Dave," Sept. 30, page 2]--are bound to fail. Romans 16:17-18 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 contain nothing of the sort. Such offices are normally found at the top of some pyramidal structure of some sort and, as such, are far more germane to this age's society than to the Church of God.
The excerpt from Romans 16, for instance, is directed toward "the brothers" and does not call for the assigning of "marks" to those who deviate from corporate policy, such that one bearing such a mark is in danger of the lake of fire.
"To mark," in the earlier periods of our language, meant to be on the watch for or to notice and in no way substantiates the crackpotism of some self-authorized spokesman for God to place "a mark" on someone.
There remain, doubtlessly, some Church of God statists who blithely assume that Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 more or less guarantee that corporate decisions are automatically ratified. If a decision happens to be in error, it continues, nonetheless, to be in force until God intervenes "to fix it."
The use of the future-perfect tense in the Greek text, however, requires that whatever we presume to declare bound or loosed among ourselves "shall have been bound [or loosed] in the heavens"; the nature of our decision must already be incorporated within the immutable law of God before we even dare make it.
If doubt remains whether decisions are the sole prerogative of a member of some hierarchical standing, consider the content of the first Corinthian epistle. Unmistakably, the 11th chapter, from verse 17 to end, shows it is addressed to the entire assembly rather than to some pastor-rank minister assigned to the area. Certainly no such minister today would even wish to consider that it may have been meant specifically for a member of his profession.
Likewise, then, the action urged toward a sinning member of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 5) was to be undertaken by the entire assembly, which, as a body, was to find his conduct to be unacceptable. It would do so, because such behavior had already long been "bound in the heavens."
That the members were not to attach themselves to some leading figure in the church for this (or any other) purpose is saliently clear in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3. Such attachments reveal weaknesses in one's own relationship with God (and with Christ) and may indeed be tantamount to idolatry.
I submit for our thoughtful consideration that in all likelihood the first-century Church of God did not distinguish within its membership a caste of any kind, suspended somewhere between God and all the rest and through whom the will of God was to be made known.
There existed no select group of men whose role it was to edify all others, who in turn were passively to drink in whatever might be preached to them.
The position of teacher, with mastery of insight, understanding or awareness, belongs only to Christ (Matthew 23:10). Also, as we read, "one is God, and one is mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 5:2). It should be superfluous to say (though, regrettably, it isn't) that no one ever had any business taking upon himself such a role.
Military service and war
Regarding war [a topic discussed in several recent letters to the editor including two on page 4 of the Aug. 31 issue]: Please note the following from the perfect and eternal law of God, the law that cannot be added to nor taken from (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 12:32) and that is to be obeyed by those who are repentant and have their hearts circumcised by God (Deuteronomy 30; see also Romans 2:28-29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11):
As for the New Testament: If Jesus' teachings contradict the Old Testament law, then He was a fraud regardless of His "sign" (Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5). He Himself said in Matthew 5 He came to "fulfill" (I suspect, given that the context here is that of a "sermon," the meaning is "fully preach"--compare Romans 15:19--not "destroy" the law. Luke 16:16-18 shows that the whole law remains till heaven and earth pass.
Regarding "difficult" New Testament passages:
In 1988 the WCG explained this to me--an explanation my study has confirmed--as referring to Roman soldiers or court officials striking people or witnesses out of anger. Remember that "civil liberties" were not what they are today.
Christ means do not retaliate (hence His reference to the often-misused "eye for an eye") against such legal evil. Read Lamentations 3:25 and verses following to get a clearer picture.
In spite of Exodus 22's allowance for self-defense, a young man in a "yoke" (NRSV) is told to take slaps on the cheek from those to whom he is in bondage.
Psalm 3:7 refers to God, not (evil) men, striking the cheeks of the psalmist's "ungodly" enemies. This is the opposite of Christ's example of an "evil person" striking an innocent and thus is not on point. When humans are depicted so striking, the context is one of persecution, not combat.
Christ did not qualify the statement because, to Peter as a first-century Jew, the legal reference and allusion to Genesis 9 et al. were clear.
Christ notes that His kingship is "not of this world" yet. That is, He is not claiming a political status and thus is not a threat to Rome. If He had not made that clear, His crucifixion might have been seen as having some legitimacy and not the execution of an innocent man.
To demonstrate that His "king" title is not a claim to a political status rivaling Rome, He notes that, if His royal status were "of this world" now, His underlings "would have fought" (Jewish New Testament translation; the Greek is the imperfect tense) to prevent His arrest. After all, a revolutionary would need to avoid capture.
Alternatively, the NRSV renders it "would be fighting," suggesting that Christ's disciples would have fought to free Him from custody. Either way, the point is clear.
The difficulty from this verse arises from people ignoring the qualifier: ". . . so that I should not be delivered to the Jews."
I saw in the latest Good News magazine from the United Church of God this verse quoted completely, save for that crucial qualifier (an example of patent dishonesty with the Word of God?). Read it in nonKJV-NKJV translations; they leave out the comma and make the meaning clear.
Christ is saying that, if His kingly title referred to a claim to political power at this time, they would have resorted to fighting to keep Him free, a step He Himself prevented. It has no reference to participation in warfare among current nation states or defense of an innocent against a criminal.
Yes, we love our enemies. I do not want to kill someone. But, if I had to kill to protect innocent, I would--by the authority of the One who spoke from Sinai.
Do not let Armstrongist tradition get in the way of understanding this issue. He was influenced by his Quaker background, the Church of God (Seventh Day)'s pacifist doctrine and his desire to use certain elements in history (including references to pacifist Sabbatarians) to support his claim to personal power in "God's true church."
If I were forced to use force to defend myself or others, I would do so from a perspective of protection, not vengeance. I would render aid to someone I had to shoot if he were to survive. I would not just finish him off out of vengeance.
By so acting we love our neighbors by contributing to the security of our communities (Galatians 6:10). You can take an out-of-context legalistic view of Christ's words and reach a pacifist conclusion, in which case His actions in the temple would expose Him as a hypocrite. You can read these things in their historical context and understand them.
I will no doubt be vilified because of this letter. Fine. I stand for the truth of the matter.
Lee T. Walker
I read with interest John Cady's letter Aug. 31, particularly so because his letter ["Struggling With Conscience," page 4, about military service and war] betrays the same faulty human logic that led to the disintegration of our parent organization [the Worldwide Church of God].
Mr. Cady chronicles courageous acts of altruistic self-sacrifice; namely, the heroism demonstrated by Corrie ten Boom and her family and that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer during World War II.
Of course, such acts are admired and appreciated by us all. However, to use these extreme situations to begin to justify situation ethics as Mr. Cady certainly appears to do is quite frankly wrong.
Furthermore, have these heroic acts "earned" these people a place in the first resurrection? Did these people lose their lives for "the faith once delivered" as Mr. Cady states, or were they rather highly motivated, conscientious people acting in accordance with what they understood and knew?
As we know, precious few are called to comprehend and partake of the one and only true faith once delivered in this age. Great acts of altruistic self-sacrifice have been carried out by agnostics and even atheists. Will they too be in the first resurrection?
Our parent organization began to look for human works and human righteousness and began to exalt it above the righteousness of God (Psalm 119:172). Herein is a slippery slope: Man's works and man's ways are subtly exalted above God: idolatry. Situation ethics--sidelining God's law to achieve a "higher" human work--at first appears plausible, then truly moral. Yes, Rahab lied doing God's work, but was God's purpose at that time truly dependent on a woman's lie? Would God's purpose have been thwarted if she had spoken the truth?
Can we really believe, as Paul did, that God's law is "holy, just and good" in all circumstances?
If we have doubts about this, how can we become partakers of the mind of Christ? Consider Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego and Daniel, among many others. How black and white were their situations? Did Christ ever even hint at a "gray" approach to His Father's commandments?
The world is fast mobilizing towards a high-tech beast system of an enforced "mark." What about a household where the father provider is the only true believer? The situation-ethics mind-set will already be conditioned to reason: "Why should my family suffer because of my beliefs? God knows my heart in this situation. The greater good is to accept the mark."
Yes, our allegiance to the true God and His value system will be tested in a way that we can have little cognizance of in our present comfort zones.
Our response to it in God's eyes is going to be either black or white; there is no middle ground.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a conscientious, highly motivated "good" person who towards the end of his life wrote of a "Christianity" that could preserve Christian values without the traditional idea of a supernatural God.
One day Dietrich, along with many conscientious others, will rise in a physical resurrection and have the true God revealed for the first time. They by virtue of what they built in their previous life will be streets ahead of the masses.
Palmerston, New Zealand
This means war
Dan White takes Ron Dart to task for a less-than-absolute stand on military service in his letter in the July 31 issue ["It's Just War," page 4]. Underlying his criticism is perhaps a misunderstanding of the purpose and application of God's law.
The end of the law is love. That is the great principle of the law, which is divided into the two great commandments: to love God with all one's heart, mind and strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself. These two great commandments are further subdivided into the Ten Commandments, which themselves are expanded in the remainder of the law.
In short, there is a hierarchy of law. Some laws are higher and more important than others. But over all of them is love: concern for our fellow creatures.
Mr. White writes as if keeping the Sabbath is an end in itself. But wisdom, and the Word of God, teaches that the laws are subordinate to higher ethical and moral purposes. All of the commandments "hang" on the two great commandments (Matthew 22:40).
For example, the Sabbath law applies under ordinary circumstances. But, in the event of a literal ox stuck in a ditch, the Sabbath prohibition against work is suspended for the sake of love: in this case even the love and concern for a suffering animal (Matthew 12:11-12).
And, when David and his men needed food, they ate the showbread, which according to Jesus "was not lawful for them to eat." Yet Jesus uses this law-breaking (!) as an example of how the law's intent is to benefit mankind (verses 1-8).
Likewise, to tell a lie to save a life is a similar example of a higher principle. The telling of the truth is not a godly end of itself, if by so doing another person unjustly loses his life or liberty. This is illustrated in the story of Rahab and the spies, for whom she lied to protect them on their righteous mission (Joshua 2:1-7). In the New Testament the actions of Rahab are praised as examples of faith and righteousness (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25-26).
One could take the view that these are examples of situation ethics, in which people chose to disregard God's law for immediate convenience. Such a view is incorrect, according to Jesus and the New Testament authors. In fact what occurred on these occasions was that the upholding of a higher principle of God's law required the temporary suspension of a lesser law.
These are examples of keeping the spirit and intent of the law, even if that means occasionally violating the letter. Do we believe in a Christian walk that requires us only to obey all of God's laws like soulless automatons? Or does God expect us to develop wisdom and judgment that allow us to apply the law intelligently and spiritually in a way that leads to life and blessings for us and our neighbors?
I submit that even the Herbert Armstrongled WCG recognized that judgment must be used in application of the law of Moses. We did not literally build and live in booths during the Feast of Tabernacles, nor did we wear tassels on our clothing. Why? Because a judgment was made that those laws did not apply; the spirit of the law did not require us to comply with them in our circumstances.
Common sense tells us that speed limits are to be disregarded when a bleeding man is rushed to the hospital. Are we to throw the same kind of common sense out of the window when it is God's law that is being applied? God forbid!
An enlightened and mature understanding of the law can be criticized and tarred with the insulting label of "convenient Christianity." But, as Ron Dart has suggested, if we were Jews hiding in a German attic we would want our benefactors not only to be liars but good liars when the SS came calling and inquiring about anyone living upstairs.
I would call the brave souls who harbored Jews at risk to themselves better Christians than those who would, in the name of God's law, tell the truth and rat them out.
We need to know the law. We also need to read the rest of the Holy Scriptures to learn how God would have us apply the law in a manner befitting His sons, not in the manner of programmed robots who always obey a rule no matter how perverse and contrary to God's intent the outcome might be.
If some of our brethren do not understand that saving an innocent life is a higher law than "Thou shalt not bear false witness," and as such supersedes that commandment in that circumstance, then our teachers have done a poor job educating the flock.
Mr. White decries any philosophy wherein "the absolutes of the law--keep the Sabbath holy, don't lie, and don't kill--are overruled by the judgment of the individual in the situation."
I agree with him if the purpose of overruling a law is merely to satisfy the immediate desires of the individual. But, if the purpose is to honor a higher principle of God's law in order to keep the spirit of the law of God, then to keep the lesser statute is actually a misuse of the law. This is the wisdom the Bible teaches.
Personally, I am not certain of the proper application of this judgment in the specific case of whether one should enter the military and fight in war. It may depend on the war in question. It may be that Christians in Germany would have been right to refuse to fight for Hitler but that Christians in the Allied powers would have been right to fight against him.
Greetings from Kachinland. On Oct. 24 I left my home for Bhamo side, China border, to see the scattered church members. It is three days' journey by vehicle, train and ship. I arrived there on Oct. 27 and was able to meet with the faithful brethren who keep the true Sabbath of God.
On Oct. 28, Sabbath day, we all together gathered at a member's house, and we worshiped there very happily. Among the Sabbath-keepers one lady is the remnant church member of the Church of God, and she keeps God's holy days herself regularly. Until now she keeps many books of Herbert W. Armstrong, The Plain Truth magazines, the issues of 1966, 1977, 1978, etc.
When I arrived there they all accepted me warmly and hospitably. Every night I taught them about the Bible truths. Some Sabbath-keepers belong to the Seventh-day Adventists. But they all accept the Bible truths and the annual holy days, and they all want to be Church of God members. Among them three families are very poor. Now they are urgently needing a compound for worship services.
The day after tomorrow I will go and see them again because, in the China border areas, there are many, many people who are interested to study the Bible truths.
I will call one young woman from there to my home, and I will teach her Bible lessons for two months. The coming summertime many, many educated young people from there will come to my bamboo house for Bible studies.
I urgently need $500 for a new church compound in the China border and for the poor brethren, those who are faithful to God--because some families are getting trouble for their daily foods. I always need your special prayers for these new projects.
May God bless all of you and your ministries there around the world.
Pastor Lazum Brang
Via the Internet
Write Lazum Brang, who lives in Kachinland, in northern Myanmar, in care of Legacy Institute, P.O. Box 7, Dundee, Ohio 44624, U.S.A. Or send E-mail to Mr. Lazum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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