Some people wait for the telephone call
The writer pastors the Church of God Big Sandy and is a regular columnist for The Journal.
By Dave Havir
BIG SANDY, Texas--One of the ignominious events in the history of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) was the church's teaching that members would leave for the "place of safety" in 1972. The WCG taught that church leaders would contact members to travel to Petra, Jordan, in 1972 and await the return of Jesus Christ in 1975.
A huge problem was that church leaders claimed to speak for God.
Thankfully, church leaders pulled back on the teaching, and families were not notified to move to the Middle East in 1972. Hence we do not know how many people would have followed those leaders on a wild-goose chase.
No longer waiting
What can people learn from the 1972 version of the place-of-safety theory?
One major conclusion about the theory cannot be denied: Church leaders were definitely not speaking for God when they identified 1972 as the time to leave.
How did that undeniable error affect people's view of the old place-of-safety theory?
Some said: Because church leaders did not speak for God about the 1972 date, I question whether they spoke for God about the location, and I question whether they will speak for God if they make a telephone call. I am not waiting for any telephone call from church leaders.
In other words, some people became less eager to heed the private opinions of church leaders.
However, I am saddened to say that 29 years after 1972 people are still out there waiting for that telephone call.
How about a date?
Some said: Even though church leaders did not speak for God about 1972 being the date, I believe they spoke for God about the place. Therefore I am waiting for a telephone call from a church leader to give me a new date so that I can go to Petra.
(For the record, theories about Petra are not secretive ideas limited to the Church of God movement. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote about Petra and the end time in their best-selling Left Behind series. On page 77 of their latest book, Desecration, the ninth book in the series, the authors call Petra "the ideal cradle of refuge for the remnant of Israel." Do you realize how many people read these books?)
Some said: Because the church leaders did not speak for God about 1972 being the date, I question whether they spoke for God about the location. However, I believe God must speak through my church leaders. Therefore I am waiting for a telephone call from a church leader to give me a new date and new location.
Whether knowingly or inadvertently, church leaders used the old place-of-safety theory to make people dependent on men.
According to the theory, saints must depend on special church leaders to know when to go.
According to the theory, saints must depend on special church leaders to know where to go.
According to the theory, saints must depend on special church leaders to make the telephone call to invite them.
Whether church leaders understood the connection or not, the old place-of-safety theory and the theory about God's government on earth both influence people to be psychologically dependent on men.
At this time in the article, Iwant to pose a riddle to you. Later in the article I will give you the answer.
Question: How can church leaders promote dogmatic prophecy scenarios without the likelihood of being called false prophets?
Are leaders aware?
Various church leaders still promise physical protection to people if they will pledge allegiance to them.
Someone may ask: Are church leaders aware of how manipulative this kind of advertising is?
Let's notice a contrast.
Let's compare these truthful scenarios to religious groups:
Someone may ask: Are you encouraging people to blame church leaders?
Absolutely not! The truth is that church leaders influence people, but each person must take responsibility for his own actions.
Sharing their opinions
Someone may ask: Is it wrong for church leaders to share their opinions?
My answer may surprise you: Church leaders who share their personal speculation can benefit other people--as long as they clearly identify their words as opinion and theory.
Someone may ask: Why are you so accepting of private interpretation when the Bible clearly denounces the private interpretation of prophecy?
My answer includes the following:
In nonprophets' clothing
As we begin to conclude, let me give the answer to the earlier riddle. As a reminder, the question was: How can church leaders promote dogmatic prophecy scenarios without the likelihood of being called false prophets?
Answer: Church leaders can boldly say they are not prophets. Therefore, when they are wrong, they remind people that they never claimed to be prophets and therefore they cannot be called false prophets.
What do you think? Does rejecting the title of prophet erase the actions of false prophets?
If people who give you bad medical advice remind you that they never claimed to be doctors, does that justify their bad medical advice?
If people who give you bad financial advice remind you that they never claimed to be financial experts, does that justify their bad financial advice?
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