Letters from our readers
Meet her in the Kingdom
Thanks for printing the letter [June 27] from the elder's wife who wished to remain anonymous. She and her husband are people I would like to know. It is just such examples of selfless and devoted service that give us courage to hold fast our faith in these troubled times. I sense her life is difficult, but the rewards will be great. I look forward to meeting her in the Kingdom.
Thanks from the Warrens
John Warren, who was injured May 21 by a falling tree [THE JOURNAL, May 30], has returned home from the Texas Institute of Rehabilitation and Research in Houston to allow his lower-back and right-ankle bones to heal before he continues advanced therapy. His broken ribs, right arm and pelvis have mended. With the aid of a body brace, he can sit up and get around in a wheelchair for limited periods.
The Warrens are scheduled to return to Houston Sept. 1, when he will begin more treatments. The Warrens want to pass on their appreciation for the scores of encouraging messages they have received from JOURNAL readers all over the world and especially thank them for their prayers for John's complete recovery.
Here is the address and special-fund information again: John and Darlene Warren, Rt. 3, Box 523, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A. John Warren Special Fund, Austin Bank, P.O. Box 748, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A.
Big Sandy, Texas
Great gift idea for the Feast
Last fall I attended Feast of Tabernacles services sponsored by one of the larger WCG-derivative churches. After being away from the Worldwide Church of God for a decade, we were glad to be able to talk with old friends and felt privileged to attend services.
But we were shocked by some of the sermons. Actually, numbed is a better description. Sermons we heard reminded me of AC sophomores preparing meaningless Reader's Digest sermonettes.
In a nation led by Ahab and Jezebel, with Sodomite-mobs-knocking-on-our-doors-with-their-pants-down media, these well-meaning ministers had nothing stirring to say. Throughout the softly lighted, plush theater where we met for the Feast, thousands of heads dipped and dozed in undisturbed comfort.
Predictable post-Feast comments gurgled about the wonderful sermons.
Who's to say different?
Only THE JOURNAL.
Many WCG-type people have never studied the Bible for doctrine. Their doctrine has come only from the church. Knowledgeable Bible discussions make them uncomfortable, and they even consider openly discussing beliefs as divisive.
Some are not really sure why they believe what they believe. For example, the recent discussions on the calendar have many of these people seriously considering the subject for the first time in their lives.
What finally prodded them to study a subject they should have studied when they first began keeping the annual festivals?
THE JOURNAL provides something no other Church of God publications provide. Iron discussion. Not iron-clad, but iron rubbing against iron, sometimes scraping a little.
Ironic, isn't it, that with 100 or so Church of God magazines this cheap newsprint fold-over (don't say tabloid) has a value none of the slicks has?
The discussions in this Church of God paper reach far beyond the relatively small subscriber list. Thought-provoking articles travel far and wide, in print and in conversation. I think it's safe to assume that the most influential people in all the Churches of God make it a point to see what's in THE JOURNAL this month-even if they won't admit it.
How could they dare miss what their members are going to be asking them about?
JOURNAL subscribers, let's help keep it going. In publishing, it's nearly as much trouble to put out 100 copies as it is to put out 10,000. Both totals involve the same amount of writing and prepress preparation.
I figure the just-born JOURNAL needs to double its subscription list to help it be efficient and come closer to paying for itself. That's simple for us to do. I will either enlist or pay for one more subscriber. You all do the same. List doubled.
You understand this appeal will not be trumpeted from the pulpits. It might be tromped on from some pulpits, but not trumpeted. Organized churches exist to acquire and hold members. The easiest way to do this is to control the information their members receive, and THE JOURNAL is not under their control.
THE JOURNAL has to be kept alive by individual Bible students who are committed to keeping individual Bible study alive. So let's do it.
Possibly your local pastor would be stimulated by receiving a gift subscription.
Dan L. White
Enjoyed your write-up on the [COGOM] conference at Wagoner [June 27 issue]. One quote attributed to me was not spoken by me but by Jim Engles. The quote appears on page 9, fourth column from the right, in the middle of the page. He was the individual who said he had baptized three people in the name of Yeshua. He was sitting beside me, and I'm sure that's why the misquote occurred. It doesn't create a problem, but Iwanted to make the record correct.
Letter from mom
I read with much interest your article "UCG Minneapolitans Say Farewell, Organizing Again," by Dixon Cartwright. So I am writing to give my thoughts concerning it to anyone who might be interested. By the way, Tony Stith is my son!
Satan has been very, very busy and, I might add, almost successful in his attempt to destroy the work of the living God. He has convinced most who have stayed in the Worldwide Church of God that it is not necessary to keep God's law, and then he has convinced most of the ones who left the WCG that Christ did not set up an organized rulership in His government for His Body (church) to work within to do His will.
When Christ called the nation of Israel (the Old Testament church) to be a forerunner of His New Testament church, He placed offices of rulership over them and gave them His Father's laws to live by.
Because God and Christ operate the same way, it is safe to say that Christ was consistent when setting up His New Testament church (spiritual Israel), using the same form of government, with rulership from the top down that His Father, God, has and that He also used when He set up His Old Testament church in the wilderness.
The Bible tells us that Christ made Simon the "head apostle" over the other disciples by naming him "Peter," which means "leader." So from the start there has always been a "head office" in Christ's church.
Throughout the years, and even now, those offices in Christ's church were not always filled by righteous men of old. Satan is not a righteous ruler, either, but he still holds a "head office" in the Kingdom of God. Satan is the "god of this world," and right now he is having a heyday by reaping many people, because by his deception he has caused them to leave the true government of God.
Satan has both of these groups just where he wants them so that he can hinder and then destroy the "work of the living God."
At my baptism, God placed me into the WCG (Christ's Body), which was complete with those offices that Christ set over His church, with Herbert W. Armstrong in the "head office" and with other offices under him. Because I know that, I know where God's true church is. The offices are still there. Just because Satan is an evil ruler does not abolish the "head office" that he is in, and neither will any office be abolished in Christ's church that may, for a time, have an unrighteous leader in it.
Satan will be replaced when God is ready to replace him.
So I still consider myself a member of the WCG, although I am not an active member and certainly not a practicing member in the "new truths" that they are teaching.
As Tony so aptly put it, the WCG just fell apart. Upon reading the history and messages to the church eras, you will come to understand that Christ's church through the ages has had many upheavals but remained intact as God's true church. Just because they had these upheavals does not mean that "government from the top down" is wrong.
Even a home Bible-study church group will have many problems. Eventually there will come a parting of the minds and a separating of that group also. It has been proven over and over again. All the churches that have broken off from the WCG now have break-offs from them, which have break-offs from them, and so it goes.
Laymembers of God's church family need to try new things, be listened to and their input be considered as valuable. Tony and Elizabeth, both graduates of Ambassador College, are bright and intelligent young adults and have much to offer. It is sad that their UCG minister would not work with them to the benefit of their church, and it is sad that he would not work with those like them, helping them try new things as long as there was no violation of God's laws and principles in the process.
The younger generation has a need to belong, to be involved, to be a part, and their ideas should be deeply considered, because, as Elizabeth stated, they do have minds and, I might add, very good ones that really want to serve our great God.
They need to grow in grace and knowledge within a church government, not outside of it. They should not be put down but allowed to work with the ministry to develop their full potential.
Many probably do not remember that when the Ambassador Auditorium was being built [in 1974] the WCG started a new format. At that time the auditorium was called the House of God. We started to publish a new magazine, which we called Human Potential. It had good Christian articles written for the world.
We began forming "charter chapters" in every church area to help serve the people in our communities. We were sponsoring seminars on many human-potential topics. Everyone was excited about it, and people were feeling a sense of belonging and doing things that they were not allowed to do before.
But it all ended abruptly when [former WCG evangelist and attorney] Stanley Rader got involved. The House of God came to be Ambassador Auditorium, and Human Potential became Quest magazine, and the work, instead of centering its attention on community service involving the brethren, turned to visiting foreign dignitaries.
I think it would really benefit everyone if the brethren could unitedly, as a combined effort, go back and dig out those old blueprints and begin to use them once again. It is a rewarding feeling to be really involved and doing something special in the "work of God."
The ministry gets to experience that all the time. It is what God's people need now, and Tony expressed this well in his letter to his pastor, Jim Servidio.
How easy for ministers to just say "good luck" and not worry about their lost sheep anymore. I don't think Scriptures verify that that is the right way for a minister to handle someone who leaves his flock. A minister truly needs to be open to all suggestions of his congregation, from the youngest to the oldest, if he is to be a good shepherd to the sheep in his care.
I feel that Mr. Servidio needs to go after and apologize to Tony and Elizabeth and others whom he may have offended, then be willing to offer workable solutions that all can be happy with.
I have no doubts that Tony and Elizabeth will do well in their new group, but is that really what God wants them to be doing? Wouldn't God rather that they put their "outside" efforts into helping God to put His church government back on track so that God's work can be done as a unified effort by all?
For now God wants us to know and realize that, no matter how imperfect Christ's church and its rulership in His government are right now, it is still His government. We must not think that we can do better than He and take things into our own hands. What God allows to happen in his government always has a purpose, and He is in charge of it and will change it when He is ready to.
That the many new groups and churches have caused division and have no unity between them whatsoever shows that God's government, with "one head office" ruling from the top down, is the only one that can create unity among God's people. Mr. Armstrong proved that by being a loyal servant of God it does work.
Even at that, Mr. Armstrong was only human and did not do everything perfectly, but there was a brotherly love among the united WCG brethren at that time that is not there today because of all the divisions. Divisions do not show the Spirit of God working among His people.
God's people must be practicing the government of God to be leaders in the world tomorrow. They can't be practicing "democracy" or other forms of government and then step into positions of authority in God's government.
So, you who are riding the bus or who have chosen to walk, you need to get back on the "WCG train," because the train needs your help and prayers to get it back on the track. Does that sound impossible? Nothing is impossible with God! When our united prayers are going up to God for that purpose, God will answer!
Charlotte M. Stith
More from Minneapolis
I would like THE JOURNAL's help in clarifying some events in the UCG Minneapolis church, pastored by Jim Servidio, where four families were subject to "suspension" from church.
From your article titled "UCG Minneapolitans Say Farewell, Organizing Again" [June 29 issue], some in our area have gotten the idea that we had plans to go start a church. This is absolutely false. The local leadership has made statements that, in my opinion, imply they want people to think this, and this article has inadvertently added credence to their claim.
Mr. Servidio had set a deadline of June 12 to respond to a letter saying we had to agree to eight points that he specified. His letter did ask for a response, but he didn't say there would be any consequences for not responding.
The reason I did not respond immediately to that letter was that he had already given as his judgment his decision to remove anyone who received the letter and would not sign off on all eight points.
I wanted the option to go to services that week, but I later decided it would not be productive because Mr. Servidio said he would have guards posted at every door to keep us out, hence causing an ugly scene. I do not find scriptural backing for what he has done in this situation.
There has been no communication to my knowledge from any leader in UCG Minneapolis to try for reconciliation. On June 15, Pentecost (the Sunday after we were expelled), Rick Rahn did try to help us with a plan for reconciliation, but it was turned down by Mr. Servidio. I was told again July 30 that the "official story going around is that the separation was voluntary."
Again, this is not true, and to this day we are not allowed to attend services. Some have, under conviction, taken a stand, saying that, if these people are not allowed to attend, then they cannot attend in good conscience, either. I do applaud these people (the Stiths and others) for their conviction and support in the face of certain persecution.
Here are excerpts from Mr. Servidio's letter to me of June 14 to help clear up the misunderstanding of some:
"Dear Tim: We were hoping to have a response to the letter we sent last week so we could determine where to go from here in solving the unity problem. After having more than a week to respond, it is evident you did not see the need to do so.
"A decision has been made to suspend you from church services until we can meet and discuss what we had written to you. This is not a disfellowshipping, but a suspension until reconciliation can be achieved. This action is taken due to the reasons discussed in our letter of June 4, 1997. This would also apply to Hope if she shares the sentiments listed in the letter or cannot accept the spirit of the eight points on page 3.
"I am sure you are already aware that we do have an appeals process you may follow if interested. Let me know if you need this information.
"We look forward to your response and return to services once this matter can be fully discussed and fruits borne."
Thanks for all the hard work you put into THE JOURNAL. I feel it is of great benefit to the people of God around the world, whether one agrees with every article or not.
Tim and Hope Lindholm
Brooklyn Park, Minn.
All predisposed to sin
I note Melvin Rhodes' presentation of homosexuality in THE JOURNAL, March 26 [page 3], is considerably amended from the original In Transition presentation. [In Transition was a newspaper published for the Churches of God from May 1995 through January 1997.] I wonder if this change has resulted from correspondence he had received in the intervening period.
For instance, his statement that "nowhere in the Bible are those with homosexual tendencies condemned" does not appear the March 26 issue of THE JOURNAL, and for this I commend him.
Nevertheless, there are several points in the March 26 issue that are ambiguous and misleading. Using alcoholism as an analogy, he states that "many are born predisposed to it," implying the same for homosexuality.
Predisposed: The use of that word immediately implies that the particular person is less culpable for his situation than other "sinners" and in fact is more of a victim of circumstance than anything else.
This message is insidious in its implications (God is ultimately at fault) and makes out homosexuality to be a special case. Really, sin in general is a human problem, and if we take Psalm 51:5 at its word it appears we are all "predisposed" to it.
Judd Kirk, in his moving personal experience that no doubt many have read [in another issue of In Transition], takes full responsibility for his alcoholism and makes the simple yet profound statement: "Recovery means actually changing the way we think while continuing not to drink. It has to be a combination of both."
Paul makes this so clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where he lists the "effeminate" (malakos, "soft"), those who continue to think that way, together with "abusers," those who are practicing. Neither will inherit the Kingdom.
Then what about the terminology "Christian homosexual"?
Such labeling is a travesty for one who has been genuinely converted and is definitely not biblical. To Paul's mind it was now history ("such were some of you"). God tells us in Isaiah 53:5: "With his stripes we are healed," and Romans 6:4 says such a one is to walk in newness of life.
To walk in newness of life and be labeled Christian homosexual or, for that matter, Christian liar or whatever, is a signpost no true member of the Body of Christ is required to carry.
Palmerston, New Zealand
So many heresies, so little space. Which of the many printed so far by THE JOURNAL should I address? Melvin Rhodes' preaching of the doctrine of Antichrist (through claiming that power corrupts and government is not a doctrine [May 30, page 3], whereas the nature of "government" is the central doctrine of the Bible)?
Or his denigration of Herbert Armstrong by implying (by comparison of Worldwide to the True Jesus Church in China) that numbers count, without regard to the entire teaching and work of the church involved? [June 27, page 3].
What of the conclusion of several writers that differences of doctrine should not divide us (whereas the Bible says doctrinal differences are the most serious and divisive of all)? Or the "straw man" argument of Rick Stanczak regarding the work of God (some good points notwithstanding)? [June 27, page 22].
How about the letter by Duane Giles, regarding the nature of God and Christ (June 27, page 5)? That should be the easiest to refute:
nChrist is the YHWH of the Old Testament. Christ, not the Father, created all things (Hebrews 1:10-12; Psalm 102:25-27). Christ, not the Father, is "the Rock" who brought Israel out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:4). Christ, not the Father, is "the Word" of John 1. But the Father is also YHWH (Psalm 110:1) and thus is also the God of the Old Testament. From the beginning He was in authority over Him who became Christ (Acts 3:13; Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 45:6-7).
nWere the Greek preposition dia (in verses such as John 1:3, Ephesians 3:9 and Colossians 1:15, Received Text) associated with the accusative, it would indeed mean "on account of." But in all these places dia is associated with the genitive, and therefore God the Father created all things "by" or "through" Jesus Christ (compare the Abridged Liddell & Scott Lexicon).
nHebrews 1:5, like Acts 13:33-34, links Psalm 2:7 to Jesus' resurrection from the dead, not to His conception in Mary's womb.
nJohn 1:1-2 cannot be more plain: "The Word" (who became Christ) has always existed and as Theos-in a personal relationship with (and in relative contrast to) Him who was emphatically ho Theos (and who became the Father upon Jesus' begettal as a human being). That distinction lies behind the use of ho Theos to refer to the Father, elsewhere in the New Testament.
Mr. Giles shows no conception of how Greek grammar and syntax work, nor of the Hebraic background of the Greek of John 1:1-2.
nMr. Giles knocks down a straw man of his own. There are no scriptures that "imply that there were more than one God [sic] in the beginning." Genesis 1:26 (for example) does not say that there is more than one God. It says that the one God (Elohim, heretofore plural in form but singular in agreement) said: "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness."
Not in the image of "Gods," of "God and the angels," of a "Thinker and His Thought" or even of a "royal We"-but of "one God, more than one Person," united by one divine nature (the Holy Spirit). Only such a concept of a uniplural God survives Occam's razor; i.e., it is the simplest explanation of all the biblical facts (including some even most specialists have yet to appreciate).
nIn that light, Mr. Giles' arbitrary distinction between "name" and "title" becomes irrelevant. Such a distinction is foreign to biblical Hebrew in any case; both English terms translate the Hebrew shem. New Testament usage reflects this and many other facets of Hebraic thought.
Brethren, if the Church of God be confused, it is because so many members with a Bible in one hand and a concordance in the other are appointing themselves as teachers and because so many God-ordained teachers are forsaking what they once knew. We can't just blame Satan; "heresies" ("sects," "party spirit," etc.) are among the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19).
Obviously, then, we are no longer "in transition." If one lacked any evidence that the Laodicean era is upon us, the mixture of truth, error and heresy in the church as a whole-and in THE JOURNAL in particular-would provide it. Such a mixture is guaranteed to make most of us brethren lukewarm, self-satisfied and short-sighted in time.
Well, Christ saw it coming. Did we?
King David's Harp, Inc.
Mill Valley, Calif.
Easter is not so bad
Joe Tkach [Jr.] was criticized for speaking at an Easter service last March 30 ["Letters," May 30]. Before the early 1960s, the Radio Church of God had services every day during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This involved meeting on Easter Sunday in most years. For several Christian groups that observe the Sabbath and holy days, but do not follow the Jewish calendar, last March 30 was during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Pagan nations honored Ishtar during the first month of spring, but God also commanded Israel to honor Him during the first month of spring. There are so many pagan observations that it would be impossible to avoid overlap. In most Western languages, the day honoring the resurrection is called by a word derived from Passover. Only in English and Germanic languages is the day named after a pagan goddess.
On the Sabbath pagans honored one of their gods, Saturn, the father of Jupiter. In English the seventh day of the week is still named in honor of Saturn.
In Nepal Saturday is the national day of rest during which men still sacrifice live goats to a pagan deity.
Christians observed the resurrection from the first century. In one of her recent books, Jerusalem, Karen Armstrong mentions on page 180 that even as late as the fourth century Christians regarded paganism as filth.
So the celebration of the resurrection did not originate in paganism. The greatest event in the universe was bound to change the emphasis during the feast. Christians no longer sacrificed a lamb, and they added a celebration of the resurrection during the feast. According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, page 173, pagan Easter, honoring a pagan goddess, was celebrated at the spring equinox. The celebration of the resurrection is never this early in the year.
In addition to being honored every Saturday, Saturn was also honored in a week-long celebration at the winter solstice. Yet God chose this same time of year to perform a week-long miracle after the dedication of the temple after its desecration by Antiochus. This prompted the entire assembly to decree that the days of dedication (Hanukah) be observed annually (1 Maccabees 4:59). The apostle John wrote of this feast in John 10:22-23: "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch."
Whereas this was truly a feast of the Jews, John did not refer to it by that designation, as he did six times (John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:42) in reference to God's feasts, such as Passover and Tabernacles.
Each of the five Jewish translations I have places Deuteronomy 12:32 in the following chapter, as Deuteronomy 13:1, some with the comment that we cannot improve the Torah by adding new commands. Deuteronomy 12 forbids us from trying to honor God by adopting pagan practices that He hates, but it does not forbid us from honoring Him in response to His miracles (as with Hanukah or the resurrection).
In Deuteronomy 12:17-18 we are commanded not to eat second tithe (keep the feasts) in any place, but only in the place He chooses. In Deuteronomy 12:20-21, when God enlarges our territory (blesses us) and we desire to eat meat, it is implied that we should have this private feast at the place He chooses. But, if the way be too far, then He commands that we have this private feast in our own settlements by feasting to our heart's desire. Thus Deuteronomy 12 actually allows additional feasting in response to God's blessings.
Celebrating the resurrection is not pagan. It honors God for His greatest miracle, His greatest blessing.
Robert J. Romagnoli
Goddess of the dawn
I read recently [April 30 issue] that Joseph Tkach Jr. attended an Easter sunrise service.
When Mr. Tkach set at naught the day of Passover, and apparently forgot the blood that was shed on that day; when he overlooked the scourging, spitting, beatings and abuse that were suffered on our behalf; when he went whoring after Easter, the "goddess of the dawn"; he might as well have punched the Lamb of God in the face!
Will Mr. Tkach now declare that Jesus is no longer his Lord? Or will he repent of his treachery?
Even now our Lord would forgive him! Until then, as Mary Randall ["Letters," May 30] said, shame on you, Mr. Tkach!
Guilty as charged
A big thank-you to Dan White ["Writer Asks Could the Church of God Be Materialistic?," June 27]. He has said what needed to be said. I examined myself. I gave my approval to this materialism of the ministry. I'm guilty, and I'm trying to repent. I also have listened to Fred Coulter's tape "The Invisible Idol and the Man" [Christian Biblical Church of God, P.O. Box 1442, Hollister, Calif. 95024]. Boy, did I need that correction.
Thanks to THE JOURNAL for having the guts to publish the article.
Was the getting good?
Due praise goes to Dan White for his well-written and thoughtful article, "Writer Asks Could the Church of God Be Materialistic?," in the June 27 issue of THE JOURNAL. I have a few observations to make.
Mr. White's comments on WCG materialism seem to be a double-tracked critique of Herbert W. Armstrong's lifestyle and that of the ministry. Here is where a certain perspective and context need to be introduced.
Whatever the reason for HWA's comfortable lifestyle, whether biblical commandment, divine blessing or personal psychology, it bothers me not a bit that he gave gifts of Steuben crystal or ate meals served on china that once belonged to the czar of Russia. In the context of entertaining heads of state such "lavish spending" should be viewed fairly as a necessary operating expense for the church.
However, Mr. White's position is that "the materialism that metastasized in the WCG was one of the prime causes of the great apostasy." It is a moot point whether one is a cause of the other or, alternatively, whether one's heart can be turned against God by worldly religious practices as in the case of the mighty Israelite King Solomon. After all, there was a time when Solomon was both wealthy and loyal.
Still, there appears to be a link between the deceitfulness of riches and apostasy (Revelation 3:17). It is my belief that the Laodicean spirit began to raise its ugly head in 1967 after the death of Loma Armstrong and especially the following year when the name Radio Church of God was changed to Worldwide Church of God. Logically, a change of corporate name would accompany a change of church emphasis. Thus it was that the Laodicean spirit worked mightily, but not dominantly, in the Philadelphian era; just as today the Philadelphian spirit works mightily, but not dominantly, in the Laodicean era. Compromise with the world was the cause of this apostasy, aided and abetted by materialism.
Somewhere along the way Mr. Armstrong's emphasis on quality, which few will argue against, was perverted into a materialistic church culture, especially among the compromising ministry. Many ministers lost the vision of the Kingdom of God, exchanging it for the hallucinogens of materialism.
Or, as Mr. Armstrong put it, speaking to an audience of his followers in Pasadena, "most of you still don't get it."
Let us pray that, in getting what they got (possessions), these men have not lost what they almost had (eternal life).
John E. Wall
Altona, Man., Canada
I am writing to respond to Dan White's generally excellent article on ministerial materialism ["Writer Asks Could the Church of God Be Materialistic?," June 27]. His points re high living and materialism were entirely valid.
There are two aspects to this business of ministerial high living. In the old synagogues that were the precursors to the first Christian congregations, it was common for men of leisure-that is, prosperous businessmen who had become independently wealthy-to give their lives to the study of the Word, to prayer and to ministry. In many cases they would use their wealth to serve the church.
These elders were greatly respected in both the synagogue and church systems.
The other aspect is those who think that godliness is a means of gain. That is, they become ostentatiously wealthy at the expense of the people they supposedly serve. That's the aspect Dan White's article addresses.
Recent salary surveys have shown that most ministers in the United States make meager salaries. In many cases they have to supplement their salaries to make ends meet. Some are leaving the ministry because they can't make it financially. Typically, salaries are in the mid-20s and low 30s.
The big-media ministers who sell books to captive audiences are, on the other hand, quite prosperous.
Clearly, a minister should earn enough to live on and eventually retire. His income should not be so marginal that he cannot give his full attention to the service of the church. At the same time, it should not be so high that it gives offense to church members who are struggling financially.
Having said all this, there are a couple of points I disagree with Mr. White on. Toward the end of his article he writes of the current WCG: ". . . That church propounds warm, fuzzy phrases about fighting racism [and] expanding responsibilities for women . . ."
If the WCG is now campaigning against racism, more power to it! Racism was one of the great evils of the old WCG. Racism is a sin. All people are created equally in the image of God. All deserve equal dignity, respect and honor as the bearers of God's image. Racism often piggybacks the US&BC doctrine.
I can remember hearing a high-ranking minister in the old WCG say, "Black men should not be allowed to have authority over white ministers."
He was referring to a black area coordinator who did an excellent job. In this context he quoted Deuteronomy 28:43, a patent misuse of this passage.
If the neo-WCG is seeking to give women greater responsibility within the Body, this too is a healthy trend. One of the major reasons women are leaving churches all over the country is that they are often treated as second-class citizens, based on misinterpretations of Paul's words. Women have never been allowed to actualize their full spiritual potential in the church. This is an ongoing tragedy.
On the other hand, if, as Mr. White says, the WCG has become soft on homosexuality, it has departed from the biblical position on this subject.
Let's deal with things issue by issue.
Line in the sand
I thought the article by Dan White published in THE JOURNAL (June 27) was an excellent analysis of the primary shortcoming of the various COG groups: materialism. I would go a step further and maintain that such materialism is indeed the raison d'etre for these organizations, as will be made plain to those who undertake an in-depth study of Jude, 2 Peter 2 and Revelation 2-3 and boldly apply these scriptures to our current situation in the Churches of God.
I suspect that these church organizations, as opposed to the laities they oppress, will not undertake objective research in this area because they have a vested interest in the status quo. Were it not tragic, it would be almost comical to watch these factions scramble, regroup and reincorporate in last-ditch efforts to hang onto their slice of the tithe-and-offering pie still provided by dumb sheep who have not yet become undeceived.
As Mr. [Gerald] Waterhouse used to admonish us, "let's get this thing straight!," bashing his fist on the table for emphasis. Of course, he had authoritarianism in mind at the time rather than idolatry.
Though many of the ministers or hirelings of these organizations are doubtless sincere, or at least started off that way, there comes a time when they need to draw a line in the sand and decide whether they are servants of God or of mammon. One can't serve both.
Being unemployed for a while is not the worst fate that can befall one. It ought to be preferable to living off of the widow's mites of many who can't really afford to carry them.
I know, of course, that the laity will by and large dream on and that the false ministries will continue to do their thing. I just wish they would all wake up and remember that Jesus is watching over His church and that He is ordained the impartial Judge of us all, Nicolaitans and laity alike.
George A. Young
System of rank
I am writing concerning the article "Representatives Tell Requirements for Congregation Membership in COGOM" in the June 27 issue of THE JOURNAL. In the article Mr. [Bill] Luecke was quoted as stating that the Churches of God Outreach Ministries should make sure they "never set up a hierarchy." Similarly, Mr. [Ian] Hufton stated that the COGOM is a system of congregations "without a governing hierarchy."
In another section of the same article, the rules for conference attendance were specified:
"The elders decided on the status of other elders and 'stewards' (nonordained people who conduct Sabbath services and Bible studies) who might attend future conferences. They will be welcome to attend, but they will not sit at the main conference table, and they will not qualify to vote unless they are elders and until they are granted full membership in the COGOM."
Upon checking my copy of the Random House dictionary, I discovered the following definitions for hierarchy: "1. Any system of persons or things ranked one above another. 2. Government by ecclesiastical rulers."
Sorry to disappoint Mr. Luecke, Mr. Hufton and others in the COGOM. But I think that the COGOM already has a hierarchical form of government in place!
The Churches of God must unite
Many members around the world are deeply saddened to see the continued divisions within the Churches of God. We see the ministry continue to set up rival organizations, believing they are being led by the Holy Spirit to become independent, or to claim that God is working with the PCG, WCG, UCG, CGI, CEM, GCG, etc. Yet many claim that all these groups are a part of the Body of Christ.
This is not what Paul taught. Paul continued to stress the importance of unity within the Body of Christ. In Romans 12:4-8 he explains that the church consists of only one Body, made up of members with various talents, performing various functions. In 1 Corinthians 10:17 Paul describes the unity in the Church by many members partaking from one loaf of bread, or one body.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 the structure of the church as a single body, with each member of the Body dependent on the other. In verse 21 Paul says, "The eye cannot say to the hand I don't need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I don't need you!"
Clearly, Paul is saying that each part of the Body is dependent on the other; not what we have today, with separate bodies competing with one another.
In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul stresses the importance of unity in the Body of Christ. He talks about the need to be humble towards each other, keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
In verses 4-6 Paul tells us, "There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
In Colossians 3:12-17 Paul tells the church how it may achieve unity. He emphasizes the importance of humility, bearing with each other, forgiving what grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave in love, which binds in them all together in perfect unity.
We can see from the Scriptures that God never intended for us to be broken up into competing organizations. To claim that all these separate groups make up the Body of Christ is fooling ourselves. There must be only one church and one Body.
How can this be achieved? Here are a few suggestions:
nAll ordained ministers from any group who believe in the basic doctrines as Herbert W. Armstrong taught must come together with humility, in an attitude of putting others before themselves, to form one new church.
nThey must lay aside their differences and elect a leader for the church, along with a 12-member council of elders.
nAll ordained ministers employed by the church, regardless of rank, should receive the same salary, which should be a basic livable wage. This would remove some of the barriers and resentment that currently exist where some are deemed better than others by the level of salary they are paid.
nA plan must be drawn up on how the church will get an end-time warning message out to our nations before the tribulation befalls them.
Many members around the world are losing confidence in the ministry because of the divisions within the church. We do not want to see this happen, and we blame the ministry for allowing the present stalemate to develop. If any of the individual church groups or independent churches continue as they are, it is doubtful that any will survive.
Division is not God's way; it is the way of Satan. The ministry is playing right into the hands of Satan by allowing the current situation to continue.
I do not mean to be critical of the ministry. Rather, I am proposing it is time that we should stand back and look at where the church is going and the consequences of having the Body of Christ divided among itself. We hear a great deal about a servant ministry. Now we need to see the fruits.
Many members want to support the ministry in fulfilling the great commission. Let us again have unity in the Body of Christ and do that commission as one body together in unity.
Auckland, New Zealand
In THE JOURNAL, May 30, Gary Fakhoury [in "Observances in the New Covenant: A Biblical Review"] did not include Acts 15:28-29, which renders his article moot. I assume that is the reason for its omission.
The rest of Hebrews 4
In Gary Fakhoury's treatment of Hebrews 4:9 in his essay "Observances in the New Covenant" [May 30], he seems to have missed several important clues from context indicating an exhortation to keep the Fourth Commandment.
First, the word translated "Sabbath rest" in Hebrews 4:9 is the Greek sabbatismos. Mr. Fakhoury rightly pointed out that every postNew Testament Christian writing that uses the word uses it to describe a literal seventh-day observance of the Sabbath. There is no reason to doubt that the author (presumably Paul) also is referring to a literal observance: as the margin of the KJV suggests, "a keeping of a Sabbath."
Verse 10 explains further: Those who enter into the great rest that is still in the future will rest from the work as God did. In what way did God rest from His work? What did the author mean?
That question is answered by the context. Verse 4 plainly states that "on the seventh day God rested from all his work." This also points to a literal observance, mirroring the six days of work (has anyone noticed that to work six days is part of the Fourth Commandment?) and one day of rest established at the creation by God.
Then verse 11 states that, if we hope to enter into God's ultimate rest, we must be careful not to follow Israel's example of disobedience. One might logically ask: Disobedience to what? Surely the intended recipients of this book, an audience of Christians who revered the law (even the ceremonial-sacrificial elements), would take this to mean disobedience to God's law. And the Sabbath command is the only Old Testament ordinance mentioned in the entire discussion of chapters 3 and 4.
If that were not sufficient contextual proof, let's explore the phrase "their example of disobedience." The author tells us not to follow it, lest we fall and fail to enter into God's glorious rest. What is Israel's "example of disobedience"? Many passages in the Old Testament describe God's displeasure with Israel.
I submit that one of the most complete examples is found in Ezekiel 20:1-44. God describes the history of Israel, its repeated lack of obedience and loyalty to Him, and His repeated punishment tempered with mercy. In this passage, God decries the Israelites' Sabbath-breaking no less than four times!
Note that Sabbath-breaking is connected with God's vow to bar them from the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:15-16). This is the same oath described in Hebrews 3-4: God swore an oath that they would not enter His rest (Hebrews 3:8-11; 4:3). Once again, note the reason for the oath: "because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths" (Ezekiel 20:16).
In contrast to the sacrificial shedding of animals' blood, which God "did not desire" even in Old Testament times, God was hot under the collar about Sabbath-breaking!
Although the author of Hebrews does present the concept of a future rest, symbolized by the Sabbath observance, this passage is not an airy-fairy dissertation about metaphorical spiritual rests. Rather, it is a diatribe against breaking God's laws! Note the warnings in Hebrews 3:12-4:11 against a "sinful ... heart" (3:12), "sin's deceitfulness" (verse 13), "rebellion" (verse 15), "they who . . . rebelled" (verse 16), "those who sinned" (verse 17), "those who disobeyed" (verse 18), those who did not go in "because of their disobedience" (4:6) and "their example of disobedience" (verse 11). Can we sense a theme being developed here?
Mr. Fakhoury asks why the author of the letter to the Hebrews would remind a law-revering and presumably Sabbath-keeping people to keep the Sabbath.
We cannot now know the answer to this question for certain, barring divine revelation. However, we do know that deceivers in the early church gradually began to try to move Christians away from "Jewish" observances like the Sabbath, partly because of persecution against the Jews and all things distinctly Jewish and perhaps partly because of rebellion against the Spirit of God: a spirit of syncretism.
It should be no surprise that God inspired this passage to be written in the years just preceding the beginning of anti-Sabbath heresies to confirm to the faithful that the Sabbath rest still "remains" and that the deceivers should not be listened to.
All of the above are important aspects of the context of Hebrews 4:9 that need to be considered carefully in the process of determining the meaning of the sabbatismos: the Sabbath rest that this verse describes.
Eric J. Anderson
In it for the money
I take issue with the essay "Observances in the New Covenant: A Biblical Review," in the May 30 issue, written by Gary Fakhoury.
The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned one time in the New Testament. However, 2 Corinthians 3:3-18 says that all feasts are fulfilled in Christ. It may pay all concerned to read 2 Thessalonians 2, the entire chapter. Anyone can juggle scriptures, picking out just one in each chapter that, put together, can prove any alleged tale you care to spin!
The primary reason Mr. Fakhoury believes his essay is that he is an author, and excerpts sell books! It is my belief the reason the UCG, GCG, WCG and all other splinter groups of the WCG and other Churches of God that are still practicing and/or teaching its members to celebrate these seven annual festivals and feasts-which were given to Israel in the Old Covenant, which is now obsolete because they were fulfilled by Christ Jesus-can be traced to the dollar in the form of holy-day offerings. These offerings amount of millions of dollars.
Those persons who intentionally lead people away from Christ and think that, just before physical life ebbs away He will forgive, will be sadly mistaken!
La Luz, N.M.
For the record, Mr. Fakhoury is not in the book-selling business. His writings, such as those that appear in THE JOURNAL, are distributed free to interested readers. Also, Mr. Fakhoury is not paid for the work he does for THE JOURNAL.
Lose weight: Eat straw
In the May issue of THE JOURNAL were a number of letter replies to an article published in the April JOURNAL on church history ["We Need to Learn the Lessons From Our Church History," by Lee Lisman].
Mr. Lisman was articulate about what was wrong with the WCG in particular and several other Sabbath-keeping churches.
Still, he may not have realized exactly the impression he intended. In the example about the employee in the sheep barn doing what the foreman intended by giving the sheep straw, he failed to realize that straw is not food. The employee was not feeding the sheep. All food value has been removed from the straw long before it gets to the barn.
Straw is only bedding, and its intent is to keep the sheep clean from its own manure. It's never food for growth.
M. Marie Metzgar
Apologizing for others
Concerning Lee Lisman's article in the April 30 JOURNAL ["We Need to Learn the Lessons From Our Church History"]: Mr. Lisman is certainly a good writer, and I heartily agree with some of his points, such as the need that all of us have to repent, confess, apologize and seek reconciliation.
I say "all of us," because I think it is sad that in his second paragraph we see that much of the focus is narrowed down to "church organizations and the ministry."
I wish I had the time and THE JOURNAL had the space for me to comment on every point in the article, because Mr. Lisman brings up a lot of points, some of which I agree with and some of which I disagree with. Also, it is difficult to summarize another author's points and intentions.
I've been in the ministry since 1966, and over the years I think my No. 1 criticism of the church was the lack of apologies and, where there were faults, admissions of those faults.
After scandalous behavior of a leader, we were told that he had repented but no apologies for bringing reproach and disillusionment on the church were forthcoming. When we discovered doctrinal error, such as with D&R and shunning medical help, we were told we had "new truth" instead of "we made a terrible mistake," and there was hardly any apology for the suffering that the error had caused.
(Apologies are in order even when no one knowingly or deliberately did anything wrong. And we can apologize for others. I apologized to people many times for mistakes made by others and the church as a whole.)
Ministers and laymen alike, including myself, didn't apologize nearly as much as we should have. Pride is a terrible thing, and obviously it is very difficult for many people to admit mistakes and to say "I'm sorry." I strongly agree with Mr. Lisman that reconciliation in all directions should be a top priority.
The third paragraph asks "can we do anything to help heal this breach?" I'm thankful to Mr. Lisman for his desire to promote healing, but to me the article partly adds to the breach with such things as oversimplification, categorizing ministers in general in a bad way and promoting a victim mentality and a we-vs.-them mentality. (I would disagree with this approach and conclusion even if I were not a minister.)
One thing was seriously lacking in the article. Mr. Lisman never apologized. Let's practice what we preach and our credibility and effectiveness go way up. Surely he has things to apologize for. Pointing the finger at others is not the way to reconciliation.
There were some inaccuracies in the article, one of which was pointed out in a letter to the editor in the May 30 JOURNAL. Another is the characterization of what took place at the Indianapolis conference of April-May 1995. (I was there.)
An article like this confuses authority with abuse of authority, and organization with abuse of organization. Though many people exaggerate the extent of past abuse, we can all agree that there has been abuse.
I pray for the abused that they will heal. Abused people tend to be bitter, suspicious, on the defensive and prone to overreact. When people have been abused by someone in authority, those people usually have a more-negative view of all authority. This has tragic effects.
To me this is a major reason that so many in the WCG accepted the antilaw theology, reasoning that laws have authority and all authority is bad. Some of the follow-up letters to the editor in the May 30 JOURNAL seem to refer to all authority as "controlling," a popular buzzword for antiauthority sentiment. (I agree that some people are too controlling.)
We humans tend to go from one extreme to the other rather than focusing on the balance that the Bible teaches. The subject of authority in the church is so big and controversial that I can't begin to address it here. I'm considering submitting an article on the subject to THE JOURNAL.
Another question raised by the article is when should a person voice a public objection to a church teaching or statement. The article seems to imply that, just as soon as something is said that we disagree with, we should let everyone around us know that we disagree.
I certainly agree with standing up for right and truth. My sermon on Jan. 14, 1995, was showing my congregation what a drastic about-face set of changes in our beliefs was implied by the infamous video of the week before. I resigned from the ministry on March 20, 1995, which was before I had any idea of what I was going to do for an occupation.
However, the article oversimplifies the subject of standing up for what you believe and carries it to an unbiblical extreme.
First, I must not always quickly and self-righteously assume that I am right and the other person is wrong.
Second, I should submit my questions and objections to those over me to see if I can't influence a change in an orderly way. The Bible emphasizes not creating divisions, confusion and anarchy unnecessarily.
Third, I don't want to use one issue as my test issue and jump ship because I see a flaw. With this approach, there would be a hopeless scattering and disintegration.
In all my years in the ministry, I freely expressed my disagreements to those over me and never felt I was being punished. I never (and I never personally knew of any other minister who) disfellowshipped or suspended anyone for disagreeing with the church as long as he wasn't trying to spread his disagreements to those around him. It was a question of respectful and constructive criticism vs. destructive criticism.
However, I've been guilty of a mountain of other mistakes and sins, and I am truly sorry for all the ways I have hurt others. I am so thankful for God's grace and for the forgiveness of God's sweet, wonderful people. And, with my depraved human nature, I want God to do a lot of controlling of me!
We must forgive and go forward even when other people don't apologize. Rather than being bitter, suspicious and withdrawing, let's apply 1 Peter 2:12-19.
If you were treated wrongly when you were doing right, then you were being "reproached for the name of Christ." If you keep a good attitude and "rejoice" (verse 13), then you are "blessed"! (verse 14).
The eighth beatitude says we should "rejoice and be exceedingly glad"! (Matthew 5:10-12).
Here are a couple of technical corrections: My article in the May 1995 issue of In Transition was titled "Should You Ever 'Leave the Church'?" My article titled "Confessions of an Ex-Heretic: I Accepted the Trinity Doctrine" was published in the Aug. 28, 1995, issue of New Beginnings [a United Church of God newsletter]. The latter is the one that Mr. Lisman referred to on the subject of public admissions and apologies.
I'm aware of much concern among United Church of God members and others who attend the UCG that ministers (and possibly ex-Pasadena employees) may even now be "coming out of" the WCG and being added to United's retirement payments.
If that is the case, then it seems a travesty that many who may have stayed with the WCG because of a retirement check could at this late date (after deciding there were retirement payments available elsewhere) be able to switch loyalties and never miss a check.
Could it be that a number who did not take a stand in early to mid-1995 have since tested the water and become UCG retirement recipients?
How many years did we hear ministers tell us to "step out in faith," and how many of them appear to have been unwilling to do that very thing?
Is a burgeoning retirement list possibly one of the major reasons that only an extremely small fraction of the income received at Arcadia is going to preach the gospel?
Might such a growing list be a factor in the home office now writing and asking members for frequent special offerings (being careful to make sure that brethren understand the contributions are to be over and above regular tithes and offerings)?
I pose these questions in the hope that THE JOURNAL might be able to find and publish the answers.
Thank you in advance for your efforts on behalf of those who need to know, those who are united by the Spirit of God.
Federal Way, Wash.
Maybe this will help
I have spent a few minutes looking at THE JOURNAL and found it interesting. It looks as though many people are in need of some care and counseling about the WCG experience. The WCG as we knew it is dead. The current church has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
I left the WCG in the late 1970s. I kicked around Ted's group and the Church of God (Seventh Day) and finally ended up in the Seventh Day Baptist Church. Although these people think very differently from the old WCG, they let me think what I want to.
You know, not having someone telling me what to believe was scary at first. Being responsible before God for what I believed and how I acted for the first time in my life was unsettling at first. But, hey, I kind of like it now.
The hardest part was letting others define their own relationship with God. Letting myself think differently from the WCG was one thing, but letting someone else think differently from the way I think was even harder. But you had better get used to it. You have left behind the mother organization that told you, and everyone else, how to think.
Some of the things the WCG believed are unscriptural, such as becoming God (Isaiah 43:10-11), but I became a regular Sabbath-keeper because of my relationship with the WCG. I also came to God because of the teaching that evolution was false, something the WCG was saying and proving when no one else was.
Having been a Worldwider, I know the pain involved with having left God's one and only true church. But, hey, I left over 17 years ago. The best advice I can give to those who have left is keep God's Sabbath and continue doing what is God's will.
Since the WCG taught and changed its version of the truth over the years, we cannot speak of former Worldwiders as a monolith. They are not a single group of people; they believe different things, depending on when they left. I recommend that those who have left the WCG search their Bibles to see if the things they were taught are from Scripture or from Herbert, Ted, Joe Sr. or Joe Jr. Once they confirm what is "the truth," live with it.
Don't try to cling to the WCG glories of the past. It's over. Get over it. Press on to the high mark of the calling of Jesus (Yeshua) Christ. We aren't searching for Laodicia. We aren't crying over the loss of God's only true church. What we are and should be doing is looking for a way to serve our great God today here and now.
Well, this is one man's thought. I hope this helps.
Little Rock, Ark.
The mother of all lists
A few months ago I opened up a Web site on the Internet called Mary's Treasures. Over the years I had written down thoughts and things I was learning.
About two weeks before, I had been over to a site on the Web by Nathan Rohrer that was called Assorted Flavors of the Churches of God. He was closing it, and I hated to see it close. I asked him if he would visit my site and consider letting me have it.
I had forgotten about it for the most part, but Nathan later contacted me. He had chosen Mary's Treasures as the new home for Assorted Flavors.
I sat there and cried. Our Father is so wonderful. His ways are so awesome. The new name is Directory for Assorted Flavors of 7th Day Sabbatarians. Also listed are resources, research, Bible studies, newsletters, other publications and other news sources that sometimes are not Sabbatarian. The sources, though, are of general interest to the Sabbatarian movement.
When you visit Mary's Treasures you will find inspirational articles about our home life and memories from the past to the present. They range from funny to pulling at the heartstrings, and they all have a message about our Father's great love. It is an Internet ministry through inspirational articles. It is rated "SafeSurf," for all ages.
You can go from there to Assorted Flavors to see all the ones that have asked for a listing for their congregation or individual ministry to be listed. It has been called the mother list of congregations. Mr. Rohrer was the Webmaster for it; I only took it over and am making additions as asked.
Also, as I visited Web sites I saw something called "rings," by the use of which you can go forward or backward to visit another Web site. My son created "The Sabbatarian Ring" for me. One may join it and from each site go to another Sabbath-keepers' site.
It is new, so not many are in it as of yet. It is a highway for those who visit our pages to visit others on. So many visit who are not Sabbatarians, and this gives us a chance to spread the good news to others.
One may visit Mary's Treasures, host of Directory of Assorted Flavors of 7th Day Sabbatarians, at www.geocities.com/Heartland/Meadows/1928 or http://www.geocities.com/~mlbierman.
Mary Lois Bierman
Little Rock, Ark.
Blame the victims
In his letter to the editor printed in the June issue ["The Example of Roy Hammer," page 2], Richard Nickels indicates he was a long-time WCG member and more than a casual admirer of Mr. Armstrong's.
Whether Mr. Nickels was a WCG minister or not, his comments are among other similar comments I've read in THE JOURNAL lately from brethren who I assume are well meaning in their desire to dissuade others from claiming victimization an possible ensuing bitterness.
However well meaning, such commentary insensitively and erroneously blames victims for being victimized!
A basic tenet of social psychology is that group psychology is far more primitive than individual psychology. That individuals in groups tend to rely on the group's response can be viewed as valuable to socialization, but also as a volatile phenomenon. With teens a somewhat benign form of group response is to peer pressure. But a disturbing aspect of the group-response phenomenon has led to bans against yelling "fire" in crowded arenas.
In far less dramatic circumstances, the primitives of group psychology have proven just as volatile in other social circumstances: most notably in worship. In this instance, we only think of Jim Jones and David Koresh while ignoring subtler forms of cultic fervor.
People's psyches are also profoundly affected by authority. A classic example is a study where adult individuals were one by one asked by a "scientist" to increase what they thought was voltage on subjects who were actually acting as though they were being electrocuted. Most of the individuals complied obediently.
But children's group and authority responses are far more susceptible to abuse. The psychology of children is something we all take for granted as more vulnerable than the minds of adults. If that's the case for human children, how much more for spiritual children? A basic tenet of Christianity is that new converts, though human adults, are spiritual babes.
Members of the WCG were taught to consider themselves members of the group: the one-and-only true church. Many babes in Christ came into the church due to being convinced from that authority of authorities, the Holy Bible, of truths like Sabbath observance. So they were likely to suspend judgment and do what the church said to do in other things.
In the most basic human group, the family, children of necessity give up some individual thought to reap the value of discipline and ultimately become functional adults in that bigger group called society. Even adults have to give up some individuality to maintain relationships as a member of the greater society. Wouldn't you expect a human baby to do anything its parents or even other siblings said?
Is it any wonder, then, that many babes in Christ viewed their ministers, really spiritual siblings, as authority figures, especially since we were told the ministry administered "God's government," and we were commanded under threat of hellfire to obey the ministry? How can any thoughtful, sensitive, discerning individual ignore these profound psychological factors and their ramifications if abused?
So herein is where the blaming-the-victim rhetoric errs the most. The Lord Jesus said that we must become as little children to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18): "Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoever shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Does God blame His little children for letting themselves be deceived or abused by those in authority? God places the blame where it belongs, just as any parent would hold accountable older siblings left in charge of younger siblings. If God doesn't blame His little ones for their own deceit or abuse by those in authority, why does Mr. Nickels blame God's little ones? Such rhetoric is lacking in Christian charity and sensitivity. The only circumstances for which one should bear personal responsibility for being deceived or abused is when one knows better.
Little children, even spiritual children, often don't. Hopefully we are more mature. But circumstances extant in the old WCG, as in any religious cult, render Mr. Armstrong and some of his Ambassador-trained minions completely and totally accountable.
Thanks to Wade Cox for his letter (THE JOURNAL, June 27). Perhaps Mr. Cox was blind when he tried to read my letter [May 30 issue] as I did not mention Her Majesty's Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO). I am well aware of what HMNAO is and its association with the International Astronomical Union, but it is not promoting religious observance of any of its findings or definitions.
Considering my statement, that the visible crescent is the basis of the biblical calendar, as opposed to the Hillel or Hebrew calculated calendar, Mr. Cox's "Judaic fantasy" claim should be what's placed in the absurd basket! Has he anti-Judaic prejudice that he wishes to air?
The issue was not as above, but about a false understanding of heavenly signs available to the ancient people centuries before HMNAO was started or the U.S. Naval Observatory was a reality. After all, these marvelous organizations, which do valuable work, do not write their findings on the walls of their buildings, so they cannot be called books! They do in fact send out information electronically or on paper, so it is absurd to think they might light fires or send out runners to proclaim their findings as in older times.
I further take it that Mr. Cox accepts all of my corrections to the dubious statements he made in his original interview with THE JOURNAL ("Heavenly Signs Show Months," Feb. 26 issue), as no reply or mention has been made about that. I also note that, as my challenge to him has not been taken up, it is completely impossible for him to show me the astronomical new moon as he described it.
I encourage Mr. Cox to request the free Pimpernel Project paper "The Timing of the Months and God's Festivals" and take the time to read and understand it so he can see the error of his ways.
The Pimpernel Project
Review of the Bacchiocchi review
I was interested to see the comments on Samuele Bacchiocchi's books concerning the feasts by Richard Nickels [June 27 issue, page 6]. I thought Richard isolated a real and conceptual bias of Sam in his work. I agree with the comments re Sam's "publish or perish" approach.
Richard is correct. Sam's later works are poor examples of biblical scholarship when compared with his earlier texts. His work From Sabbath to Sunday is the standing recommended text on the subject for our people. His later works do not stand examination.
In my view Sam tried to produce a book that satisfied his Adventist typology within the theological framework of E.G. White, and he failed to understand the feasts correctly. I told him some of this in Australia. "Give your ways to the Lord and he will establish your thoughts"; it is not the reverse.
Keep the feasts in humble obedience, and then God through the Holy Spirit opens your mind to the true understanding.
We have women who know more than Ph.D.s and the ministry because they are diligent and obedient and the Holy Spirit gives them understanding. One woman has been keeping the new moons for 19 years and was attacked by Herbert Armstrong for doing so. Her understanding was advanced by her obedience.
I was, however, more amazed that Richard would hold up the work of Fred Coulter, The Christian Passover, as the "definitive work" on the subject. This reveals something more deeply wrong and divisive within the ex-WCG framework of study. Richard shows an antischolar bias with the "Frankly, Scarlet" comment. Fred Coulter's work is a farrago of faulty premises, all of which are examined in the appendix to our work on the Passover.
The comments regarding the Bible and Nisan 14 show that the same old WCG misapprehension regarding the significance of Nisan 14. The Passover argument is not correctly understood by any of these people. Sam Bacchiocchi is wrong concerning the Bible and Nisan 14, and Richard is wrong concerning secular and religious history and the period of Nisan 14-15.
We have examined this in detail in the papers on the subject. Schurer, a secular Jewish authority, acknowledges that the Passover began on Nisan 14. (See "The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ," Vol. 1, "Calendar" appendix, p. 593).
The answer is that neither Sam nor Richard did adequate homework on this subject. Mr. Coulter's work is worse in that it is contrived. They all imported into the study the unscriptural and unscholarly bias of the cultic schools in which they were indoctrinated.
The history of the quartodeciman dispute shows that the term Passover or Pascha was applied to the entire period from Nisan 14 to the Sunday of the wave sheaf. We have outlined this in the papers (see "The Calendar and the Moon").
Tertullian shows that this was the understood practice in the second century. The writings of the early apologists show that the church kept the Passover for the entire week for some centuries, and this was carried into the Easter period. I have not seen any of this history examined and put in any real perspective by any of these men.
Christ Himself said: "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15-16, RSV).
Richard ignores the thrust of this comment in his appeal. Christ was doing what He told Moses to do:
"Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates which Jehovah thy God giveth thee; but at the place that Jehovah thy God will choose, to cause his name to dwell in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the time that thou camest forth out of Egypt. And thou shall cook and eat it at the place which the Jehovah thy God will choose; and in the morning shalt thou turn in to thy tents. Six days shalt thou eat unleavened bread and in the seventh day is a solemn assembly to Jehovah thy God thou shalt do no work" (Deuteronomy 16:5-6, J.N. Darby's translation).
Christ and the disciples had left their dwellings for evening Nisan 14 for the period of 36 hours that they were compelled to be out of their dwellings. The evening of Nisan 14 was the supper Christ had with the disciples before He was to be killed as the Passover lamb. Nisan 15 commenced Unleavened Bread, and it lasted for seven days.
This concept presented no difficulty for the quartodecimans, and they kept the entire period. It represents a difficulty only for people who do not want to understand the biblical text in toto.
Sam understands intuitively that Christ had to die at the correct time for the Passover, otherwise He is merely another daily sacrifice and not the Passover lamb. Richard tries to defend a 14th date against what he perceives (correctly) to be an attack by Judaic traditionalism on the true date of Nisan 14 for the commencement of the Passover period.
He then appeals to a defective piece of scholarship on the subject.
Sam's problem lies in his appeal to rabbinical Judaism to interpret the spiritual symbolism of events when rabbinical Jews think in physical terms and did not understand the problem when they had Christ among them. What they have done to the calendar and the Passover since is a matter of history.
They are not, however, wrong in their understanding of the meal of Nisan 15. Richard himself keeps or has kept, as have we all, this meal as the "Night to Be Much Observed," hence identifying the two days in question. However, neither he nor Sam seems to understand that the term Passover or Pascha refers to both days and more. They engage in trying to wrest a term to a particular day instead of looking to history to see how the intent of the legislation was observed by early Christianity.
THE JOURNAL showed a photo in the first issue [Feb. 26] on the front page that showed how the church in the early days of the Radio Church of God kept the entire period as it had been done in the early centuries. I detected a desire then to obey God. I still see it among the people who speak with us searching for the truth.
I have written a book also on this subject. We have held off publication for 12 months. The work has been in research for some years. Perhaps festina lente might be appropriate in all aspects of this matter. Sam is wrong as Richard suggests and more. Sam does not understand the resurrection and judgment. Hence he cannot understand the Last Great Day, as Richard observes. His work is undermined by the problems of E.G. White and Adventism on the Pre-Advent Judgment. However, Richard has not done his homework, either.
Perhaps one day we will all be able to work together without worrying about selling books and making merchandise of the brethren or defending unbiblical positions from prejudice.
I see a stronger type of people emerging from this period. The brethren are studying and slowly emerging from the false paradigms of the past under a cultic system of control. The comments in THE JOURNAL indicate a level of open discussion that would never have been possible under the closed-minded self-righteousness of the past. Those are the people who will not read THE JOURNAL, or anything else, anyway.
THE JOURNAL is a valuable forum for discussion and education that has to be encouraged. Articles such as Richard's are good to open up discussion. No doubt Sam will have something else to say on the matter.
Coordinator, Christian Churches of God
No second chance
In reading parts of the article by Richard Nickels concerning Dr. [Samuele] Bacchiocchi's books [June 27 issue], I would like to call attention to the following:
Mr. Nickels correctly disputes the investigative-judgment argument of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, a misunderstanding of his own causes Mr. Nickels to dogmatically state that "the judgment of the dead, according to Revelation, did not begin in 1844 as SDAs teach."
The problem here is not that it did not start in 1844 but that Revelation 11:18 is mistranslated in just about every modern version of the Scriptures and can be found only in the original texts in the "original Greek." It has even been rendered "dead" in Strong's exhaustive concordance. I cannot find my original notes regarding this study, but this is what the Scriptures say: "And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the nations [rather than 'the dead'] that they should be judged . . ."
It took much research to find this truth. It began with a sermon years ago I believe given by Dr. [Herman] Hoeh. (I may be mistaken on who gave the sermon.) When quoting this scripture, the speaker simply stated that the word dead was a mistranslation and that it should read "nations."
When I checked several Bibles and concordances, I read that the word was nekros, or dead. Eventually, with the help of a Greek lexicon-concordance that was difficult to use, along with (I believe) the old 32-lesson WCG Bible-study course, I found that the speaker was in fact correct. Almost every modern version, in fact every modern translation that I have seen to date, perpetuates this mistranslation.
Therefore the argument of the SDAs based on this scripture is moot. This is a physical judgment period being carried out by Christ during His millennial reign. The saints will be resurrected (prophets, those who have repented during the tribulation, etc.), and the people of all nations will begin to be judged from that point on, and those who continue to destroy after a period of proving will be destroyed themselves. No second chance, as Dr. Bacchiocchi says. If there is any "investigative judgment," it clearly does not begin until Christ's return.
Admittedly, this time may also be when Christ judges the nations that are fighting against Him at His return and not the separation of goats and sheep mentioned elsewhere, which appears to be the ongoing process of salvation and judging occurring during the 1,000-year rule of Christ.
In either case, however, it is happening once Christ has in fact returned, not up in heaven!
In addition, the term is judgment, not condemnation. You judge after everyone is given an equal opportunity to state his case. The playing field for all involved must be leveled. If not, then one cannot judge rightly.
But it is only after a judgment that the sentence is pronounced. Mr. Nickels rightly states that for God to be true to His word and fair and merciful He must allow all people the same opportunity. This has clearly not been the case over the past 6,000 or so years of Adamic man as recorded in the Bible.
Raymond L. Mirabile
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