Letters from our readers
We weep for them
We approach the turn of the year, Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, with a sense of sobriety and sadness as a result of the events of the past week. Having lived in the United States for much of my adult life, I think of it as home no less than my own Canada.
My dear friend Carol called early Tuesday morning to tell me America was under attack, and I turned on the TV just in time to see the footage of the second airplane flying into the World Trade Center. Our usually hurried morning routine was put on hold as we were glued to the startling events unfolding before our eyes.
Within minutes we saw the collapse of the first tower, and I worried about my brother, who works in downtown New York. Where was he? His wife, Laurie, phoned later to say he was okay. Unfortunately, thousands of families will not hear such a reassuring report. We weep for them.
At a difficult time such as this we wonder what we can offer besides our prayers to make a difference and be a source of hope and encouragement.
Carolanne (and Jeff) Patton
Victoria, B.C., Canada
The real enemy
Evidence pours in that the horrific acts were perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. Isn't it interesting that, even though the hijackers are of varying nationalities, they share this Islamic thread? Could that be just a coincidence? I don't think so.
But is Islam our real enemy, or is it just a pawn in world events? I submit that, if we take a close look at what happened Sept. 11 and what has happened in our country for the past 40 years, we may discover that the real enemy is ourselves.
Our generation has all but turned its back on the source of national greatness, power and protection, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our founding fathers were well aware that the source of our wealth, security and greatness was not ourselves but our God.
Patrick Henry, a hero of the American Revolution wrote that "it cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Our greatness results from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob putting a hedge around us, protecting us from our enemies and blessing our nation. But God will bless and protect us only as long as we acknowledge Him, something that for the past 40-plus years, and especially these past eight years, we have failed to do.
We deny God, put Him out of our schools, take His law off our courtroom walls and mock those who support Him, calling those who love Him and his law "cultists" or "religious extremists."
We as a nation support things God calls an abomination, such as homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9), unjust and wrongful lawsuits (Deuteronomy 25:15-16; Proverbs 20:23), lying by our leaders (Proverbs 12:22; 16:12) and leaders who continue in lawlessness (Proverbs 17:15).
We are chief among the nations when it comes to abortion, what God might call the "spilling of innocent blood" (Proverbs 6:17) or "passing your children through the fire" (Deuteronomy 18:10).
Will we continue, as a nation, to get away with this? "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
What must our nation do if we are to survive? God gives the answer: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We must repent as a nation, turn from our ways, begin to walk in God's ways. We must speak out strongly against those who support evil in the land. We must boycott the news networks that support agendas in favor of the things God calls an abomination; stop voting for politicians whose only redeeming value is that they will bring more money to our district; make family values something the nation considers honorable; and much, much more.
Yes, Islam is something to be reckoned with. We must learn more about the Islamic threat to our peace and security and why there has been 4,000 years of strife between the people with an Islamic background and those with a Judeo-Christian background.
And we must support the president as he begins waging a war against terrorists and those who harbor them. When Islam attacks us, we must attack back. But we must also realize that Islam is not our biggest problem.
Condolences to the affected
On behalf of the Bible Sabbath Association, we extend to God our heartfelt prayers and sympathies to all who have been affected by the terrific horror resulting from the worst tragedy that has yet faced the American people.
As we enter the experiences that will severely test our souls, let us turn to and "fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."
Sidney L. Davis Jr., president
Bible Sabbath Association
North Chicago, Ill.
Greetings from England
We pray that you will all profit immensely from a wonderful festival. Wherever you are celebrating, please pass on to the brethren the warmest greetings of the brethren associated with the Churches of God UK. We will meet for the festival in Tenby, in south Wales.
To our American brethren we especially wish a peaceful festival as you try to recover from the recent atrocities in New York. All of you are in our prayers.
Houston tithes went for building
I just read "United Church of God Congregation Wants Its Own Building" [The Journal, Aug. 31]. There seems to be a misunderstanding that is being repeated.
The article, about the desire of the UCG congregation in the Big Sandy area for its own building to meet in, quotes pastor Roy Holladay as referring to the example of the Houston North UCG congregation, which your article said raised $25,000 to $30,000 a year to finance its new building. "And they did it by selling fruit, basically," you quote Mr. Holladay as saying.
Then you quote Melton McNeely, who said that Houston North also benefited in its fund-raising efforts from a single large donation: $125,000 from one church member.
I am a member of the Houston North congregation and have some firsthand knowledge of the situation.
The Houston building was paid for with tithe money that was sent in locally rather than to the home office. This was done with the approval of the home office. The fund-raising activity, at best, could supply only a very small percentage of the entire cost of the building.
The funds raised by selling fruit were never entirely earmarked for the building. Members could choose to donate their portion to a number of choices. Even before the building, we could make a choice of how the funds were allocated.
I recall a statement attributed to UCG president Les McCullough that the building was built using fund-raising and a "large donation" but not tithe money. Now I'm reading Mr. Holladay's statement that implies the same thing.
Is it possible to get a clarification from Mr. McCullough or Mr. Holladay about this statement? The implications are not factual. Maybe a clarification would help alleviate any misunderstanding.
Via the Internet
God's timing is precise
Regarding Mitchell Smith's essay in the March 30 issue of The Journal, "A Sunday-Morning Resurrection Fits the Facts and the Typology":
I do not agree with collecting information about the burial customs of Jews who practice Judaism and then calling them facts about what happened with the burial of Jesus.
The Jews who practice Judaism may have a lot of exceptions in their keeping of the Sabbath, but the apostles and disciples of Jesus are strict about not working on any Sabbath, weekly or annual. They know God the Father or Jesus did not say they can make some exceptions. Remember that the women, after buying and preparing the spices on Friday, rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (Luke 23:56).
When Jesus breathed His last, suddenly darkness and gloom prevailed. There were even thunder and lightning, remember? It looked dark after 3 p.m. so that it was impossible to determine the correct hour of evening or sunset. So Joseph must have gone much earlier to Pilate. I am sure you will agree that God's timing is always precise.
So we can conclude that there was just enough time for wrapping Jesus in linen and laying Him in the tomb before sunset of that Wednesday.
We cannot accept the burial customs of the Jews because they practice Judaism.
Mario M. Cruz
P.M. Gabriel ["Think Again Before You Write," Jan. 31, page 4] says I should carefully consider any argument before I present it in an arena in which 90 percent of those who respond are opposed to the way I understand Scripture.
When Christ arose is not as important as the fact that He did, and Christians celebrate Easter Sunday because that is when it was discovered that He had risen. Christian holy days are not about times and dates and places but about events.
I put much study into what I believe, think and say. Throughout the New Testament the Jews were always trying to get the Christians to keep the law, and the apostles always rebuked them.
Acts 15 and some of Paul's letters were meant to keep Judaism and Christianity apart.
If you are a Christian and you feel you should mix Christianity with Judaism, be my guest. I will not condemn you or agree with you. Christ will judge you, not me.
Christ is all I need.
Jonah's morning resurrection
Regarding "An 84-Hour Entombment for Jesus Christ Doesn't Add Up," by Don Sena, and a letter, "Three Days and Three Nights," by Neal Brantley," both in the June 30 issue:
That Jesus was resurrected in the morning is confirmed by His simple statement in Matthew 12:40, where our Lord says that Jonah's stay for three days and three nights in the belly of the fish is a type of His own stay in the heart of the earth.
Jonah 1:17 literally implies that the prophet's confinement to the fish's belly began on the morning of the first day and lasted till after the end of the third night. Chapter 2 then reports that Jonah did not die immediately but prayed to God out of the fish's bowels before he eventually died.
At last, when the third night was over, he was freed from his fishy prison and became alive again--by an act of God (verse 10)--on the morning of the fourth day.
Because Jesus died in the afternoon, was buried before the next morning and moreover could not have prayed while He was dead, it should be clear that "the heart of the earth" cannot mean either death or the grave, as is traditionally taught.
Freed from that misunderstanding, and since a morning resurrection is mandatory to fit the sign of Jonah, we should have no more reluctance to accept scriptures such as Mark 16:9 at face value as plainly saying that Jesus was risen early on the first day of the week.
Then, counting back from there, the beginning of Jesus' three days and three nights in the heart of the earth must be on the morning of the fifth (!) weekday.
What happened on that morning is reported by Cleopas in Luke 24:20-21: "... The chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him ... Indeed ... today is the third day since these things happened."
We know "these things" began to happen on the morning of Abib 14 (Matthew 27:1; John 18:28). Therefore the 15th was the first day since these events, the 16th was the second and the 17th the third, and that was the first day of the week, when Cleopas spoke to the risen Jesus, who had repeatedly prophesied exactly what His disciples reported.
Note that most of these prophecies refer to the morning of Abib 14 as starting point. From there Matthew and Luke place the resurrection "on the third day" by exclusive counting (compare Luke 24:7 and 24:21). But Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34 count Abib 14 inclusively and thus arrive "after three days" at the resurrection. Then John 2:19 and quotations thereof refer to the ninth hour of Abib 14: The destroyed temple, which was clearly rebuilt before the ninth hour of Abib 17, thus well "[with]in three days."
In conclusion, the sign of Jonah shows a remarkable parallel between Jonah's and Jesus' three days and three nights. Both were condemned to death on the morning of the first day, and both prayed (Jonah 2:1; Luke 23:34, 46) before they eventually died. Finally, both became alive by an act of God (Jonah 2:10; Romans 8:11) after the end of the third night.
What, then, did Christ mean when He said He would "be in the heart of the earth"?
Let the Psalms explain to us what the earth in this expression represents: "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth" (Psalm 98:3-4). "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all the earth (Psalm 100:1, literal translation).
Here, as in Matthew 12:40, by the figure of speech called metonymy, the earth evidently stands for the people who live on it.
As to the heart of the earthlings, Jesus said: "Your heart will be where your treasure is" (Matthew 6:21), and the treasure of the unconverted is "the lust of the flesh, and of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16).
For Jesus to be in the heart of the earth thus meant He was subjected to the evil intents of the chief priests and rulers: On the morning of Abib 14 they condemned Him to death and delivered him to Pilate, who had the power and authority to have Him executed.
Three days and three nights later, on the morning of weekday one, by the power and authority of Almighty God, the risen Jesus became forever our High Priest (Hebrews 7:26).
The first thing He did in that capacity, on that morning after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:10-11), was to present the firstfruits of His sacrifice--us--for acceptance to His and our Father and God (John 20:17). Is this not another indication that it was already in the Old Testament concealed what would become in the New Testament revealed?
When you hot you not lukewarm
If anyone will do anything successfully, he had better not be halfhearted. God wishes we were either hot or cold, not lukewarm.
Therefore I believe we need to be hot about the law, hot about the doctrine that we are not yet born again, hot about the fact that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, hot that the coming Kingdom of God is more important than being scripturally perfect about grace, about love, about every detail that is useless to quarrel over.
It must be the trunk of the tree, the big-picture approach, looking outward, not inward, living the "give" way, not the "get" way.
Much improvement is needed in the thinking of the scattered churches.
What about Mother Theresa?
As a former Ambassador College student and former WCG member, I have been reading over the material published in The Journal via the Internet. I have not attended any of the churches for about 10 years and became interested again in what is going on since calling my old Ambassador friend, Dixon Cartwright, recently.
The more I read, the more only one scripture comes to mind: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33).
I don't mean to sound skeptical or cynical, but each organization is going off on so many tangents that they all seem to miss the principle of Galatians 5:14: "For all the law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
A person can keep all the holy days and all the Sabbaths and do everything ritualistically and still not be a Christian if he doesn't have love for his fellowman. The scribes and Pharisees did all of those things and Christ called them hypocrites.
Some of our self-righteous followers of their own "proven" way have missed the point of Christ's sacrifice. There are people in non-Sabbath-keeping churches who don't know or keep many precepts of the law but love one another and their fellow human beings and show it and live the perfect law of love. Would you find fault in Mother Theresa?
I do not have to get into a lengthy diatribe on what this scripture says or means. Figure it out. All I see is confusion, same as it was 10 and 20 years ago. Kind of reminds me of the old Buffalo Springfield rock-song lyric that goes "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong." No, thank you. Let me know when somebody finds the truth.
For those of you who know me and want to correspond as old friends, I have been living with my wife in Australia for about a year but will probably be back in Texas in the not-too-distant future. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use the delete key
Are you serving as a witness by printing mail that is reporting ungodly behavior? Leave out names. It's safer to leave out names. The crooks-hirelings know who they are, and any who fail to repent will all likewise perish.
Barry Grolsch Jr.
The watchman blinked
Richard Nickels, in his attempt to set the record straight as far as he is concerned ("Mr. Armstrong Makes the News Again," The Journal, Feb. 28, 2001) in his response to The Wall Street Journal's article ("Sect Disavows Tenets"), really achieves little credit for himself or the Churches of God.
Mr. Nickels' response, quite frankly (though I'm sure he didn't mean it that way), degenerates into a rather self-righteous defense of his own great objectivity as maintained against certain "extremist" views held by our parent organization over the past 40 to 50 years.
But what can we expect when a worldly reporter, naturally hostile or at least antagonistic to God's truth, spends five minutes "researching" our beliefs so he can come up with some salient absurdities that he can then trumpet on the front page?
Mr. Nickels states that the WSJ's Jess Bravin "colors us weird." Then he goes on: "No wonder others minimize and distort our core ideals and exaggerate our peripheral beliefs."
It's strange that Richard appears to make these statements in a historical vacuum, which is really inexcusable with his knowledge of church history. What's new here? This is surely the chronicle of God's people down through the years. We would really have reason for concern if our beliefs were lauded and praised by the world.
Guess what. The Church of God was and still is flesh and blood. Herbert W. Armstrong was flesh and blood. Sin was present.
Richard, with penetrating hindsight, holds up failed prophecies and several peripheral beliefs such as makeup and birthdays as a blot and stain on our whole identity. This is extremist.
We all know that even the apostles had mistaken notions as to when Christ's return would be. There will be error in the church as long as we remain flesh. Have we missed setting the proper example as Richard implies? Make no mistake: The world will always see what it wants to see--mostly evil--regardless of our example.
The central core beliefs of God's church are anathema to this world. Richard's sweeping overstatement ignores that there have been many excellent examples. In fact, the example of the brethren used to be the single most effective factor in the establishment of new members.
If Mr. Armstrong was anything he was a man with the big vision--and coupled with it a burning zeal to fulfill that vision.
What was the vision? The concept was simple: Matthew 24:14 coupled with Isaiah 58:1 and Ezekiel 33. There was an earnest outreach to warn our peoples--yes, Israel.
Isn't it strange that a central core belief of our church (who we are as a people and our consequent responsibilities to God) has been allowed through neglect to be pushed out to the periphery, so the zeal and commitment of God's people have died?
The belief has become politically incorrect in our present culture and second only to our belief in the nature of God as an object of scorn.
We used to know this was a biblically established belief. Historical evidence was corroborative only. The peril facing our Western Israelite peoples hasn't gone away; it is far more imminent than it was in HWA's day.
Where is the watchman?
Dunhedin, New Zealand
Many years ago I started a project to collect all of the WCG's major literature. Much of this was accomplished back in 1986 and '87, and I have been filling in the gaps ever since.
Below is a list of items I still need to complete the library (I need the hard copies; I already have much of this on CDs).
Also, in the late 1980s I was in communication with someone who had all the copies of The Worldwide News on microfiche. I hope they have been placed on CD-ROM by now. Is anyone aware of this? I lost contact with that person. If anyone can assist or direct me to someone who can, that would be much appreciated.
List of literature I need to complete the library:
Please write me at email@example.com.
It is shocking to hear that in the nearby city of Appleton the pastor of a WCG congregation has decided to keep days called Epiphany and Maundy ["Pastor Surprises Appleton WCG Members," Jan. 31, 2001].
I have no idea what these days are. I've never read of them in the Bible. Men apparently prefer tradition and ancient pagan days passed down over many years to what is in the Bible.
But my greatest concern in the last Journal was Bruce Hawkins' repeated statements about "grace alone" ["Get Real, Alan," page 2, Jan. 31].
We know we are saved by grace, through faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, the Bible nowhere uses the words faith or grace in combination with the word alone. James said, "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:17). Faith alone is dead.
The Bible says the patriarchs were moved by their faith to action. Abraham was credited for righteousness because he believed, but God established the oath sworn to Abraham "because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws" (Genesis 26:5).
Jesus made it clear that He would not void any of the law. John the Baptist said to bring forth works worthy of repentance.
Works and obedience to the law are expected. Jesus said, "Go, and sin no more." Sin is transgressing the law. Jesus said in effect, "Quit breaking the law."
Getting a little angry with your brother is not sin, as Mr. Hawkins contends. The Bible commands us to "be angry, and sin not."
Obviously many things should make us angry, but we are commanded not to sin. Even our enemies, who sometimes make us angry, we must love.
Love is defined in God's law and includes treating our brother in the way we wish our brother would treat us.
Love is what the Bible is about. If we love, we are fulfilling the Ten Commandments.
Greg A. Jandrt
Out of control
Here are reasons certain ministers and members hate The Journal:
Stoney Creek, Ont., Canada
How about a date?
The next possible return of Christ on a Feast of Trumpets is Trumpets 2005. If so:
Of course, this may not be how it works out, but it gives you a realistic look at the minimum amount of time left, if Christ returns on a Feast of Trumpets.
Fish Hoek, South Africa
Trying to absorb
We celebrated the Pentecost weekend with the Berean Fellowship on June 1, 2 and 3. This is our 35th celebration of Pentecost. I think this was by far the best Pentecost we ever attended.
Dean Wheelock spoke on the Hebrew wedding. It is utterly amazing when you are shown all the things that are spoken of in the New Testament by Christ that equate with the Hebrew wedding.
It truly made a lot of things clear that were hard to be understood previously. In a manner of speaking, it took us back to our "Hebrew roots." What made it so interesting was that it does not deal with doctrine but with understanding. Our current wedding practices are only 300 years old. He gave us only a thumbnail sketch, but he did offer free tapes on the subject.
Dr. John Merritt had read somewhere that it was a tradition of some Jewish sects to usher in Pentecost by studying the law all that night, so we attempted it at his home on Saturday evening. We lasted only until 4 a.m.
It was an open forum and started out with difficult scriptures, but by midnight we were into an interesting discussion on aspects of the law (or Torah, if you prefer).
Both of our special speakers were present, and because of a wide variety of backgrounds there were a lot of diversified points of view.
Dr. Sidney Davis showed us how God used the black man in the history of Israel and His church, and he showed that many black men are Jews and that this can be proven by DNA testing.
He showed us how many people in Africa kept the Sabbath, and remnants are still keeping it. It was a lesson that not many Churches of God have had the privilege of hearing.
From my own personal point of view, the only problem we had was that we couldn't absorb all that was being offered.
Ken (and Arlette) Omick
Traditions of the fathers
I just had to comment on a letter in your June edition. It was from a reader by the name of Robert Schmid, who commented that we should take the book of John literally, instead (I suppose) of understanding how it should be viewed through the Holy Spirit and under the spiritual covenant ["Take John 1 Literally," page 2, June 30].
That should send up an automatic flag if you have read Genesis 1 because the created "light" there is literal but prophetic of the spiritual "Light" of John 1:4-5.
Christ is the spiritual Word that becomes the "seed" for the "children of light" (1 Peter 1:23). The seed that is sown in their heart (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16) is according to the "testimonies" (Revelation 19:10) because Christ is the mediator of that spiritual covenant (Hebrews 9:15, etc.) and has to write Himself in our hearts in order for us to look like Him (1 John 3:2), which is the only way to finally see Him as He is (in the image of the Father) and live.
The main reason for the Old Testament is to let us know that if we intend to have a relationship with God we will have to do it on His terms, not on the Jews' or Herbert Armstrong's terms (or any human's) because the image made by following men leads to the "abomination" (Matthew 24:15) in the "temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The New Testament is intended to take us into the spiritual covenant, which Christ always kept (John 4:23), as has the Father, because God is a Spirit, and if we intend to follow Christ we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Notice that Christ accused the Jews of failing to keep God's laws to begin with in John 7:19 (and was not too interested in going with His brethren to keep that Feast) because they were worshiping according to the traditions of the Jewish fathers (not the commandments of God) (Mark 7:6-13).
Via the Internet
Kudos for Mr. Armstrong
I wish to comment on something I have noted with great distress. So little is heard or read these days in recognition of the tremendous work of Herbert W. Armstrong. If it had not been for his diligent obedience to the work God called him to do, few of us would have any awareness of God's truth.
If we do not respect God's laborers and their works, we do not respect God's plan and purpose in calling them and using them as His servants.
This is a great disservice to God, His servants and ourselves.
Who was that man?
He was called in 1927 for a special work of carrying the gospel to the world. It began as the parable of a grain of mustard seed (very, very small) and spread over the world years later. This work started at the beginning of the Great Depression in the 1930s. He and his family suffered many years from lack of supplies, such as food, clothing, transportation and other things.
He came through this trial with God's help and with great faith and leadership of the Holy Spirit. I admire the man's determination and willpower to go all the way against the odds to accomplish the job he was given. He gave 110 percent for more than 50 years.
He would end his TV programs by saying: "Don't believe me. Believe the Bible." No other man since the time of the apostles has accomplished what this man accomplished.
I believe we could equate him with the apostle Paul's synopsis of himself: I've fought a good fight, I've finished the course, I've kept the faith.
No other person was allowed to visit the leaders of foreign countries as he was. Certainly God opened the doors for this to happen. He was active in God's service up until his last breath.
We must remember he was only human and not divine. Only God deserves our worship.
Herbert W. Armstrong will be in the first resurrection.
Now back to the question: Who was Herbert W. Armstrong? He was the apostle of the Worldwide Church of God of the Philadelphian era.
A tisket, a tasket
We look at Herbert W. Armstrong [founder of the Worldwide Church of God] as we look at Solomon. They were both used by God to do something. God had a job for them to do. Solomon built a beautiful temple, a house of the Lord (1 Kings 11:1-10), but something turned his heart away from God.
What has happened to the beautiful buildings that Mr. Armstrong built? Where is their glory today? What went wrong?
We thought we had it all, but the most important ingredient was missing. We set Mr. Armstrong on a pedestal; we idolized the man, as some still do.
That is wrong. Please read 1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:3-4.
We need to get out of our idolatrous past. Let's stop saying "We're of United," "Philadelphia," "Hulme" (the list could be quite long) and start saying, "We're of the Church of God, part of the Body of Christ." Let's not put all of our eggs (tithes) in one basket, "for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing. But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it" (Acts 5:38-39).
Love your enemies
King Jesus says: "Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and wicked ... There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds" (Matthew 5:44-45, 48, Revised English Bible).
I believe we should pray for those who hate America and that Americans should be encouraged to pray for their enemies.
Jeffrey A. Caldwell
The D&R quagmire
I feel I should reply to Dan White's essay ["We Have Lost Sight of Christ's Higher Standard for Marriage," June 30 and July 31].
The former policy of the church (the old Worldwide Church of God) on D&R was nothing less than the atrocity committed on many innocent people, including children. It was contrary to God's Word, and it gave ministers a power to regulate people's married lives that God never intended. Many doctrinal discussions are merely academic. They don't hurt people. But an unscriptural belief about divorce and remarriage can cause untold sorrow, which is exactly what happened under the old WCG teaching.
Mr. White says that under the old teaching on D&R "the church was filled with wonderful families, row after row of mother, father and their kids sitting together peacefully." What planet was Mr. White living on? That was the church propaganda, but it wasn't the reality behind the scenes.
Mr. White advocates annulling (a euphemism for divorcing) all present marriages where there was a previous divorce. He says these marriages are not really marriages but open adultery.
Obviously he would put these people out of his church. I wonder if he would put Jesus out because Jesus is marrying a D&R woman.
What? Yes, the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a marriage proposal between Christ and His future wife. Read what He offers her: springs of living water welling up unto eternal life. This is exactly what Christ offers His wife: the Holy Spirit and eternal life. He proposes to be her seventh husband. Count them. She had had five. The one she is now with is her sixth. That makes Christ her seventh.
John's Gospel is full of symbolism: more than 20 symbolic sevens. He arranges seven miracles of Christ and the attendant teachings to match the seven festivals starting with Passover and ending with Passover. The placement of this incident is Pentecost, which is the traditional Jewish celebration of the marriage of Israel to God on Mount Sinai.
Boaz, a type of Christ, married Ruth on Pentecost. Christ quoted a saying of the time that it was four months to the harvest, yet the fields were white. This could apply at only one time in the year: Pentecost.
There are two other incidents of a well in the Old Testament. They too are prototypes of Christ meeting His future wife.
Moses, a type of Christ, met Zipporah at a well. Isaac's representative met Isaac's future wife, Rebecca, at a well. His first words to Rebecca were "Give me a drink of water. Jesus' first words to the Samaritan woman were "Give Me a drink of water."
Isn't Christ marrying just Israel? No. The great mystery that Paul talks about, and the Old and New Testaments (or marriage covenants) reveal, is that salvation is now open to gentiles. The woman at the well was a gentile, but so were the wives of the prototypes of the Messiah.
Zipporah was a Midianite; David married Bathsheba, a Hittite; Boaz married Ruth, a Moabite; Caleb married Rahab, a Canaanite; Joseph married a priestess of Egypt. Even Samson, a fascinating type of Christ when you study into it, was united with Delilah, a Philistine.
My point is that Christ is marrying a woman who has been married six previous times. What a D&R mess for Mr. White to straighten out! Christ didn't tell her to go back to her first husband. Instead, He proposed to be her seventh, even while she was still married to her sixth.
Christ validated the Samaritan woman's marriages. He asserted she had had five husbands.
Briefly to the scriptures Mr. White uses: Matthew 5, Mark 10 and Luke 16 all say if one divorces his mate and marries another he commits adultery. Scholars say that the original meaning is that if one divorces his mate for the purpose of marrying another it is adultery. This is a totally different meaning from divorcing a person because of the other person's adultery or abuse.
Matthew 19: The subject is specifically whether it is right to divorce for trivial reasons. If a slave could go free when his master knocked out his tooth, certainly an Israelite woman could go free from a physically abusive husband.
Christ answered the specific question: No, you cannot divorce for trivial reasons. Moses allowed it for the hardness of man's heart, but divorce for trivial reasons wasn't meant in the beginning.
But a lot of things weren't meant from the beginning, including eating the forbidden fruit and being driven from the garden.
The disciples ask an intriguing question: Isn't it better not to marry? Christ's reply is downright perplexing unless you keep firmly in mind the subject: Can you divorce for trivial reasons?
He answered that some would be eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. He also said this teaching was not meant for everyone, but for those to whom it was granted.
What does that mean? The disciples were saying it might be better not to marry because there is always a good possibility things won't work out and you then could not divorce in order to marry someone else.
Christ went to the core of the matter. In essence He said you are married to this person for life, even when things aren't working out and you're not having the sexual fulfillment you'd like. Other people have to be eunuchs for physical reasons. You can be as well, for the Kingdom's sake.
Finally Christ said this instruction wasn't meant for everyone. People's hearts are still hard. Moses' inspired permission for divorce still applies to them. But for a Christian, one of the firstfruits, the command is not to divorce for trivial reasons.
"Except for fornication," in Matthew 19, according to scholars, probably refers to the Old Testament prohibitions against marrying a close relative (Leviticus 18), just as they are mentioned as applying to the gentiles in Acts 15. But we don't know. Matthew is not around to ask. Incidentally, a prior marriage is not one of those prohibitions.
Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 7 that, if an unbelieving mate departs, the other is not bound. The only way this text makes sense is that Paul was saying they were not bound in marriage. It would be absurd to say Paul was telling them they were not bound to follow the departing mate. What if the departing mate went secretly to Spain and hid out? Was the other mate supposed to spend the rest of her life trying to find him?
Marriage is a covenant. Adultery and physical abuse break that covenant. It's already broken. The divorce papers the other party files is the formal end. It is final.
God divorced Israel for her adulteries. He drove her from the Promised Land. It's over. The idea that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament who had to commit suicide to get out of His marriage so He could remarry Israel is a fabrication of men. Nowhere in the Bible does it state such a thing.
My advice to ministers is to get out of where it's none of their business. The New Testament contains nothing of the D&R quagmire of the pre-1974 WCG. I could go on for nine pages, as Mr. White did, but this is supposed to be a letter, not an essay.
God hates divorce
We are familiar with God's statement in Malachi 2:16: "I hate divorce." The reason God hates divorce is that, first, it violates His holy law of marriage and, second, God understands the harmful consequences to parents, children and society as a whole.
Nevertheless, divorce is rampant, not only in the world that does not know but in societies that acknowledge and profess the God of the Bible.
Even more disturbing is the high divorce rate within the Churches of God, in which people claim to love and keep the laws of God.
The casual and carnal approach to divorce manifests itself not only within families, but within church organizations as well.
Much has been written in The Journal and other publications about the many splits of Church of God organizations. Are these splits not divorcements in which the leaders of an organization represent parents and the members represent children?
Corporate divorce is a mirror of family divorce with all its horrible consequences.
But didn't God Himself divorce Israel? Yes, He did, and we can be sure that He hated to do it. God did so because Israel was unfaithful. Israel became an adulteress, which is the only justifiable reason for divorce.
God allowed us to divorce for the same reason as is recorded in Matthew 19:8-9: for "your hardness of heart."
But "from the beginning it was not so," for "whoever divorces his wife, except for unfaithfulness, and marries another, commits adultery."
From these words of Jesus we learn that there may be circumstances in which divorce is justified in the eyes of God, for leaders of Church of God organizations to divorce and split, providing adultery (with the Word of God) is involved on the part of some of its leaders.
Church leaders who divorce for unbiblical reasons will have to answer to God someday. In the meantime, both church leaders (shepherds) and church members (sheep) have to live with the devastating consequences of corporate church divorce.
Great article on D&R
To Dan White regarding his two-part essay on divorce remarriage in the June 30 and July 31 issues:
I just wanted to let you know, Mr. White, how much I appreciated your article on marriage in The Journal. I have to say it was by far the best article I have ever read in any church publication.
I have been baptized only one year this Feast, but I have recently probed some difficult doctrinal issues, including divorce and remarriage, which I feel I never really understood or agreed with in the two organizations I previously attended, Worldwide and United.
As you so clearly proved in your article, the issue is not so much about marriage, divorce or remarriage as it is about our willingness to serve and obey God, instead of serving man and obeying our fleshly desires.
Everyone in our Bible-study group has read the article and loved it, and I will recommend it to anyone who really wishes to do the right thing and is not sure what to do in a difficult situation.
God surely inspired you in the writing of the article. We will pray for you because you will no doubt be harassed by some for telling the truth the way you did. God bless you and your family.
Paige Lloyd Westland
I like the cartoon by Earl Cayton on page 3 of the July 31 Journal. In it one lady says to another: "That elegant old church on the hill is so exclusive. Some people say God has been trying to get in there for years." He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
Beginning of creation
Regarding the nature of Christ and Satan's greatest deception ["Elder Talks of 'Satan's Greatest Deception,'" April 30]: I have come to believe that Jesus was brought into existence by God at the beginning of the spiritual angelic creation. This is brought out in the Scriptures in Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14. I know this is against what Mr. Armstrong taught, but it was the belief of the very church in which he was ordained.
This belief was brought to America by the first Sabbath-keepers. It is the belief for which the church was persecuted since the apostles.
This belief affects how one worships on the Sabbath, as Jesus brought out in John 4:23. This belief is summed up in John 17:3.
If you would like more information on the belief of the church before Herbert Armstrong, you can go to www.logon.org.
Donovan P. Schricker
Only God could die for our sins
It is evident from the letters section in the July 31 issue that the discussion concerning the Christ's origin continues. It would appear that all the evidence does point to a preexistence, one that included "glory" with the Father before the world was, as Christ mentions in His prayer recorded in John 17:5.
One wonders why such an argument exists or, more important, what is behind it all. Though not a put-down to those who are involved, it seems that all this may well be advanced by the Powers of Darkness in a broad attempt to attack the importance of the Christ and His sacrifice for the world.
This is evident as some propose that He, the Christ, was just a man. Do any of us, sinner that we are, really believe that just a man, any man, could atone for the rottenness that we very evidently are?
Actually, the whole argument would boost man into a category of some righteousness while causing it to appear that the Christ was just going through the motions, even playing a sort of game to make us do a little better, behave a little better. Certainly, if this could be true, our God would be both a fraud and liar. We know that He is neither.
If there have been 50 billion or so who have ever lived, that is a lot of sin to atone for, especially if those people have been like me. It is, therefore, impossible for me to consider that anyone except God Himself could make it right for us.
What's more, it would appear that what He is now, regardless of what He was, is what we should consider, recognizing that He views us as what we are, not what we were before He graciously called us and provided opportunity to reign with Him forever.
Congratulations to Duane Giles in respect to his letter in the Aug. 31 issue ("God Is a Title"). A grave deception afflicts the Churches of God far greater than any unitarian idea that God is one and there is no God beside Him--which, by the way, just happens to be an Old Testament and New Testament idea as well. The unitarian point of only the Father being God and of His being the one true God is a fact of the Bible, all bini-, trini- and poly-tarians notwithstanding.
The idea of Jesus being God in some fashion or another was born of man's needs and desires, not of God's directives. It is not necessary that Jesus be or have been God for Him to be the Savior of mankind. After all, the Christ is the only begotten Son of God, and that makes Jesus of much greater value than any collection of sinful Adamic-born human beings.
But a far worse heresy has infected nearly all of the Churches of God, a heresy that needs to be rooted out lest a worse thing come upon us, worse than anything we have heretofore known.
The grave deception of which I speak is the heretical, arrogant and unscriptural teaching that man will or can become God. The teaching, directly or indirectly, that certain resurrected human beings will attain Godhead status and become Gods or God beings is polytheism. The notion that man can or will be God beings, will be worshiped by mortals, will be able to create other beings and will have the same power as God is one of the most puffed-up and bloated doctrines to come down the pike in many a year. And it is, as I understand it, one of the foundational tenets of Armstrongism.
Is it no wonder that the WCG went down in flames?
This singular deviant doctrine, I think, has done more to undermine any good that Herbert W. Armstrong taught than any other oddball teaching of his that I can bring to mind; for instance, fleeing to Petra, the not-yet-established Kingdom of God, and the WCG being the only true church.
Jesus' divinity, in the sense that He sits at the right hand of the Father as our present-ruling King and Lord, does not mean that He is God. Do we, in the various Churches of God, want unity? Then I suggest we get back to Yahweh, the only true God, and stop trying to become Gods.
F. Paul Haney
Christ Fellowship Ministries
Filling in the gap
Now you see him, now you don't. The British edition of The Plain Truth has removed the small print announcing Herbert Armstrong as founder of the magazine. He disappeared in April-May, leaving a blank space in June-July. Now the words have been respaced to fill the gap.
St. Albans, England
The Akron Fellowship had its first baptism. After counseling and giving the person some scriptures to review on counting the cost, David's and Job's repentance, John Doe's request was granted.
We meet in a hospital at no cost, so the hospital granted us use of its swimming pool. Looking through the New Testament examples, none seemed to use the exact formula of Matthew 28:19-20. After consulting the following scriptures, a meaningful baptismal vow was used. If someone can show where it should be improved, please let us know. The scriptures are Acts 2:38; 4:12; 8:16, 37; 10:48; 19:5; Galatians 3:27; Revelation 13:8; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 12:13, 27; Romans 6:3-4.
"John, have you repented of your sins? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you accept Jesus as the Messiah, your Lord and Master, your coming King, your High Priest and personal Savior?
"Then you should be baptized as a physical demonstration of washing away all your sins. You are entering a covenant with God for the rest of your life.
"What is your name? [John Smith Doe.] As your name, John Smith Doe, is written into the Book of Life, we baptize you, not into any sect or denomination, but in the name of Jesus Christ and into Jesus Christ, unto God the Father, being buried in water into His death.
"As Jesus was raised from the dead, so shall you be raised out of the watery grave and walk in newness of life through the Holy Spirit, by which you now become a full member of the spiritual organism--that is, the Body of Christ--which is the Church of God. [Immersion.]
"Just as you have been washed clean with water, so have you also now been washed pure and clean with the blood of Jesus Christ of all your sins. God has forgiven you of all your sins. [End.]"
After John came out of the water, three seasoned members prayed over him, asking for God's guidance and gifts and the Holy Spirit, while everyone who could laid hands on him.
Some of the ladies chose to rejoice with a hymn.
It was a moving and profound experience. I hope this can be helpful to others.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God