God and Allah
There have been quite a few Christians (albeit not necessarily in the Church of God) who claim that the God Christians serve and the "God" Muslims serve are one and the same. This really irks me. Why?
First of all, to get a background, I would like to refer readers to two great articles by Scott Ashley in the April and September 2003 issues of The Journal.
Now, ponder upon the recent election of Hamas in Palestine and in particular the woman representative, Um Nidal, who sent three of her sons to be suicide bombers and to kill as many Jews as they possibly could.
With this in mind, how can anyone still assume that Allah and Yahweh are one and the same?
Jeremiah 32:35: "And they . . . cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech [i.e., child sacrifice], which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination . . ." (See also Ezekiel 16:20; 23:37, 39).
The great God of the Bible says to choose life "that both you and your children may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). Yahweh is not willing that any should perish. Can we say the same for Allah?
Via the Internet
Good for the gander
I am writing in response to Eric Snow's article in the November-December 2005 Journal, "Honor Baptism of Non-Sabbath-Keepers?"
I believe there are true Christians who worship on Sunday. I believe this, not because I believe they have all truth, nor because they obey God perfectly. I believe this because I do not have all truth and because I don't always obey God perfectly.
I, just as they do, must accept fully the salvation I have been given, not because of my obedience nor understanding, but by the free gift of grace.
What happens if I deny the Christianity of any who claim to accept God's grace and claim to try to obey Him as well as they can? The result is that I deny that the salvation I have been given is truly free. I say in effect that, without my understanding or obedience, nobody, including myself, could be saved.
I dare not go down that track.
The issue is not the Sabbath. The issue is our understanding of grace and what Jesus did for us on the cross. After all, isn't our deep acceptance of grace and Christ's sacrifice the most important step on the path to repentance and baptism?
Auckland, New Zealand
One big happy table
I couldn't help smiling a little at the diametrically opposed opinions of Eric Snow and Wayne Cole in the same November-December combined issue!
Maybe the different perspective mirrors their respective ages. Mr. Cole says he has learned that agreement and disagreement over doctrine, even important doctrine, are not as important as he once thought they were, and he asks rhetorically: Can't strong convictions and tolerance peacefully coexist?
To me the most important statement made by Mr. Cole was this: Any group that wants to scour this world to make converts and exercise dominion and undue control comes dangerously close to emulating the Pharisees and hypocrites of Matthew 23. And, I might add, they potentially make themselves doubly a child of hell, which is what I assume Mr. Cole was driving at.
Eric, in contrast, makes a series of provocative statements that reflect a controlling mind-set, implying that unless someone observes the Jewish Sabbath he has no chance of achieving salvation.
Eric had asked earlier whether baptism by a Baptist minister was valid. My response to that question: If it was by immersion and confession of faith, then the answer is yes.
Is Eric implying that we need to be rebaptized every time we learn some new point of biblical truth? If so, some of us would be spending a lot of time under water.
Eric follows up with: Someone who keeps systematically violating God's law shouldn't be deemed a Christian!
I hope Eric has a big mirror. How sure are you, Eric, that you are not unknowingly and ignorantly violating some aspect of God's laws?
The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: "God, I thank You that I am not as the rest of men, not getting the right person to baptize me, not observing the Sabbath according to Jewish tradition." Oops. Guess I got a little carried away there.
Probably the most arrogant statement of all is near the bottom of the first column on page 23. I quote from Eric's article:
"But it's quite a stretch then to assume God will give the Holy Spirit to those who have knowingly chosen a course in life that systematically and deliberately disobeys various major laws of His."
How does Eric know that people who at present do not blindly follow the traditions of the Pharisees are knowingly and deliberately choosing to disobey God's laws? (see Matthew 15:12-16).
Sabbatarians can't even agree on when the Passover should be kept, how to identify the first month of a new year, how to count to Pentecost, ad infinitum. There I guess Eric's position would have to be that everybody is wrong except himself.
The reality of such stances is that the Sabbatarian cultural background some of us have spent 30-40 years in did not teach us to prove all things by actually addressing differences in perception biblically and open-mindedly, with complete transparency, by comparing scripture with scripture to determine a consensus.
The only model we knew was keeping our mouths shut if we disagreed with a headquarters teaching for fear of being ostracized and ultimately disfellowshipped.
If we had had a mechanism for actually bringing all viewpoints to the table and honestly considering all the biblical evidence, maybe we would not be as divided as we are and feel the need to denigrate those who do not see things the way we currently do.
Brampton, Ont., Canada
A taste of honey
It is, to say the least, an interesting juxtaposition to have C. Wayne Cole's wise counsel for tolerance followed, a turn of the page later, by Eric Snow's rejection of what is normally called "profession of faith" as a means by which a new believer is accepted as a member of a particular Church of God (November-December 2005 issue, pages 1 and 3).
Mr. Cole's words resonated deeply with me; he always struck me as a wise individual, and his comments as reported confirm--to this writer, at least!--that his wisdom continues unabated.
Those in the COG and other Sabbatarian movements have far, far more in common than there are points on which we differ.
Yes, I realize some of the differences can be quite large, chasm-sized, perhaps. But a need to unite around the correctness of the seventh-day Sabbath, and to preserve religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all, should help us put things in perspective.
At the same time, I understand and appreciate Mr. Snow's dedication to his viewpoint. I do know, however, of several Sabbatarian churches that accept new members on profession of faith, even if their baptisms were in churches composed of "pork-eating Sunday keepers."
May I suggest, with all due respect, that, while Mr. Snow is certainly free to advocate his position, he may wish to consider changing the "require" to "suggest" when it comes to new members.
When my wife and I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we each chose baptism--a rebaptism for me, a first-time baptism for her--even though we had long before professed faith as church members of the Salvation Army, which does not practice baptism. It was gentle persuasion, not compulsion, that moved Jean over the line.
So, again, may I suggest the use of a "drop of honey" before plunging converts into that tub of water?
Mark A. Kellner
One good shun deserves another
I can appreciate Dixon's article on accepting differences ["COG Veteran's Sermon Counsels Members to Learn to Live With Even Major Differences," The Journal, November-December 2005], and we should, I believe, most certainly.
However, there always seem to be extenuating circumstances to every situation, right? In light of the article about Gerald Flurry's shunning practices ["PCG Clarifies Disfellowship Policy, Gives Main Purpose of Church: The Need to Expose Satan," The Journal, Jan. 31], I would like to share that I too have family members attending the Philadelphia Church of God and have been through this "shunning."
All this stuff about shunning one's relatives and brethren sounds like causing serious division to me, so exactly where and how does the admonition to "mark them who cause division" come into reality for the good of the brethren these days?
These aren't the usual differences where brethren stand at any given day on doctrinal views; this is serious stuff like going into nursing homes and causing elderly persons undue pain and suffering by telling them they can no longer have any contact with their family, making them physically ill and ripping and tearing the hearts of His little ones!
This sounds like the work of wolves, not shepherds.
Where do we draw the line on accepting these kinds of differences?
How do we know that we might not save our brother by marking those who condone such things?
Just who should be doing the shunning of whom here?
Sad to say, such a showing of love would most likely fall on deaf ears.
Who will take up the cause of His loved ones? Thank God, Christ will!
Perhaps someone will be inspired to address this situation in a professional, biblical, in-depth manner.
Via the Internet
Getting the fax
My husband and I are ex-PCG members. We were WCG members for 37 years, so we know what the church is all about.
Now, regarding what we just read in The Journal about the members of the PCG not having any contact whatsoever with ex-members or their very own families, we experienced that type of mentality. [See "PCG Clarifies Disfellowship Policy, Gives Main Purpose of Church: The Need to Expose Satan," The Journal, Jan. 31.]
Gerald Flurry lacks understanding as to who the Laodiceans are. He doesn't seem to understand that they're the seventh era of God's church. Therefore, if he claims to be the leader of God's end-time church today, then he must be the leader of the Laodiceans.
My husband explained this to him via a fax message, and he was disfellowshipped.
As you probably know what God says in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, how can Mr. Flurry prohibit his church members from contact with their families?
Mrs. J. Venish
Cape Town, South Africa
Getting a glimpse
I just got my Journal, and that was an absolutely excellent article that you wrote on the PCG and Mr. Flurry ["PCG Clarifies Disfellowship Policy, Gives Main Purpose of Church: The Need to Expose Satan," The Journal, Jan. 31].
It was absolutely 100 percent correct, and that's exactly what I lived in for 10 years. I'm glad that somebody really got a glimpse into what goes on there. Thank you for that article.
Red Springs, Texas
Could you please convey to Brian Knowles my thanks for his column? Cindy and I both enjoy it and find his insights and opinions well worth having.
He sounded very glum in the last edition [The Journal, Jan. 31; his column was titled "Preach Doom and You're Doomed to Lose Hope"], but then I share his glumness in that my mortality too is becoming increasingly evident to me, as is my inability to master more than a tiny, tiny portion of my environments (physical, spiritual, social, political, economic).
Yes, it is indeed utterly humbling to contemplate God in effortless command of the entire universe (and who knows what else besides?) and then to contemplate my total lack of command over just about all of it!
No stomach for tonnage
In answer to Brian Knowles' article on "fat city" ["Got Love? If Not, You'd Better Learn to Get it," November-December 2005]: To be overweight is, in fact, very acceptable in our society by a comfortable majority. New converts are thus encouraged to gain tonnage daily.
From God's viewpoint, however, let us remember we will be rewarded according to what we did with what we were given, and we should fear the consequences of self-murder if our daily lifestyle places us in jeopardy.
It's deadly serious to make one's god his stomach, as do average Americans.
It all adds up
I had an idea about the church eras the other day. Here it is.
Two thousand years divided by 7 equals 285 years, approximately.
Each era, then, lasted about 300 years. Therefore Sardis could be A.D. 1100-1400, Philadelphia could be 1400-1750 and Laodicea could be 1750-2000 and beyond.
Surprisingly, this makes sense in an admittedly broad-brush way.
Sardis era, 1100-1400: Dark Ages in Europe. God, who knows the end from the beginning, knew what conditions would be like. The truth was revealed sparingly, but still a few from that time will be in the first resurrection. No doubt the others will be in the second resurrection.
Philadelphian era, 1400-1750: During this time the printing press was invented and brave men sacrificed much to translate the Bible into native tongues. The open door to biblical knowledge galvanized Christianity. The Protestant religions came into being, and true Christianity flourished. The true Christians escaped the religious wars of the period.
Laodicean era, 1750-2000-plus: Some brethren of the Philadelphia era went to America. That new land was rich and increased with goods and had need of nothing from its European parent. Indeed it considered itself more righteous even though slavery was endemic there.
A major reform of the Laodicean era occurred in the 1930s when God raised Herbert W. Armstrong up to spread the gospel.
I was grateful to hear that message myself as a 13-year-old in Ireland in 1960. When I started attending church in 1970, I thought the church more like Laodicea than Philadelphia, but of course, true to form, it was adamant it was the Philadelphian era.
It now seems to me that, as we have been mercifully spewed out of our complacency by Christ, we ought to urgently follow His instructions to those He loves (Revelation 3, 14, 21) and buy of Him gold tried in the fire so we may sit with Him on His throne as overcomers (verse 21).
As a member of United, I would also suggest United as a good place to rally if you lack fellowship.
M. Crook (Mrs.)
Concerning the plight of Ned Dancuo [see a letter from Mr. Dancuo on page 7 of the November-December 2005 issue]:
I wouldn't doubt, Mr. Dancuo, that you were cast out on false charges. Many United ministers believe that they should behave in the way they were taught under the old system.
Probably thousands were banished over the last 40 years [from the Worldwide Church of God] because the minister had a bad attitude.
Some died believing the ungodly idea that they were therefore banished to a pond of fire. Others were blessed with the eye-opening realization that they could still be in a saving relationship with the Almighty in spite of having been taught that, if one was shut off from the human authority, one was also shut off from Christ and God.
Are you sure God wants you to relinquish your freedom to grow and mature as He leads you? Most churches probably stunt their members' growth after so many years. I think we should be careful about fellowshipping with any group that claims they are God's preferred group. There are many such groups.
Even in Jesus' day, He allowed one to have a ministry without joining the twelve (Luke 9:49-50). Perhaps you can find others to have a small fellowship. Wish you well.
A who's who of evangelists
With reference to the letter by Paul Christophy of London, England ["It Was the Method," July 31, 2005, issue, page 2]:
I respectfully disagree with him as regards the ministry of Herbert Armstrong, who, I believe, was--along with Peter, Paul and James the half brother of Yeshua Messiah, and others of the first- and second-century ecclesia, and down to Luther, Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, Peter Marshall and Harry Emerson Fosdick--among the greats of evangelists!
Yes, some of what Mr. Christophy says is true. Notwithstanding that, I believe that--because Herbert Armstrong had developed his gift for speaking before the economic crash of late 1929 and early 1930 brought him to the point of abject poverty, which also brought him to the point of repentance unto being teachable--YHWH used him in a way that few have ever been used to bring the blessed evangel message to the world.
The question now for us, whom he, Mr. Armstrong, left behind, is: Are we in the time prophesied when there will be a famine of the hearing of the evangel messages?
Joe B. Burgess
Recalling the two trees
In the sermons that Herbert W. Armstrong gave in the last seven or eight years of his life, there was one theme that he always emphasized again and again and again, the "two trees."
I believe that Mr. Armstrong's recurring theme of the two trees is the greatest prophetic warning that God could ever give to this end-time Church of God, and to not heed this warning will prevent one from being in the first resurrection.
We all know the story. Eve had fallen under the influence of Satan the devil and was deceived and disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She gave the fruit to Adam, who was not deceived but submitted to her and ate the fruit also.
Now, a church is symbolized by a woman. After Mr. Armstrong's death, the Worldwide Church of God, our spiritual mother, rejected the revealed knowledge from the God who had been placed in the church through Mr. Armstrong and took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and we members were forced to make a decision of whether we should eat this fruit that was forbidden by God through the teachings of Mr. Armstrong.
To be in the first resurrection, the firstfruits of God, we must do what the first Adam failed to do and reject the fruit of this woman who had fallen under the sway of Satan.
If we fail this test, which occurred within God's own church, there is one final test that will come upon the whole world, and we will all be forced to make this same decision once again.
In the coming years, the greatest fallen woman--a church under the influence of Satan--that the world has ever known will cause the saints of God to be put to death for not accepting the mark of the beast.
To be in the first resurrection, the end-time era, the Laodiceans, will have to reject the "fruit" of this fallen woman and become martyrs to qualify to be in the first resurrection.
So, if you listen to Mr. Armstrong's sermons again, every time he goes back to the incident of the two trees, don't sigh and say to yourself, "Oh, no, not again."
Just remember that God and Christ through His end-time apostle gave you the greatest warning that could ever be given to God's beloved saints in this end time.
May Mr. Armstrong's prophetic warning not be in vain.
Donald Raymond Wheatley
Via the Internet
America's Greatest Prophet: The Endtime Elijah: Herbert W. Armstrong--which proves only he can be this prophet--is available under the heading "online version of book" at http://www.freewebs.com/usa-in-prophecy/.
Geoffrey R. Neilson
Fish Hoek, South Africa
Evaluating Mr. Armstrong
I have read quite a few--18, I think--of Herbert W. Armstrong's books, and I have a computer disk that contains practically everything he ever authored, and I also have been getting literature from 20-30 of the splinter groups.
(You are invited to tell me which church you belong to so I can read your church's literature. E-mail me at email@example.com.)
My opinion of Mr. Armstrong is good and bad.
I don't think he was the one to come in the spirit of Elijah. I agree with his teaching of law and grace and God's holy days; I have a difference of opinion on salvation as he defines it. I agree about not celebrating Christmas and Easter.
I disagree with lots of things he speculated on.
For example, the Scripture is silent about the angels administering the government of God on earth. In fact, the Scripture does not say that the earth was the first estate of the angels.
Sin entered the world through the sin of Adam and Eve, not the angels. In fact, the Scriptures suggest the first estate was heaven, not earth, and a third of the angels were cast out of heaven with Lucifer.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Lucifer sat on a throne to administer the government of God. When Lucifer sinned and became Satan, he certainly inherited a throne of evil as the prince of the power of the air and the god of this world. God certainly did not fail at Plan A, then go to Plan B.
The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. God had only Plan A and knew man would sin and that Christ would have to die in our stead.
I could go on and on. Herbert Armstrong did teach some truth but was horribly wrong on some points, so certainly he was not the one to come in the spirit of Elijah.
I'm not sure where the true church is but can find it only if called by God. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him.
My only suggestion is to come out of Herbert Armstrong's doctrinal errors and go back to Church of God 7th Day. Convince the Church of God 7th Day to reestablish God's holy days.
Via the Internet
Purim, not Hanukkah
Greetings! I appreciate this newspaper for its news of the Churches of God, most of which I would not otherwise get. (I have only a few friends in the various Churches of God, having left in 1996, after 26 years in the WCG.)
I read with interest and enjoyment the letter "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine" by John Sash, printed in the November-December 2005 issue.
I agreed with most of it; some of it I didn't. But the writer certainly has a right to his opinion.
I would like to correct one thing. He states that "the Jews, in the book of Esther, [were] . . . celebrating their deliverance from Haman. This is Hanukkah today."
This is incorrect. Hanukkah is not described in Esther; Purim is. See Esther 9:1, 22-32.
Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication (also called the Festival of Lights), actually occurred during the period between the biblical testaments, or covenants, and is mentioned in John 10, as Mr. Sash stated.
It is celebrated in December, usually, and commemorates resistance against Hellenistic influence and control, the Maccabees' victory over Syrian armies and the cleansing and rededication of the temple, including the story of the miracle of a little oil that burned for eight days.
The story of Purim celebrates the victory over Israel's enemies while Esther was queen over the Persian Empire in a plot instigated by Haman (booooo!) to obliterate the Jews. It is usually in March.
As a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation, I enjoy celebrating both, in addition to the holy days and Shabbat.
In his letter published in the November-December issue ["I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine"], John Sash wrote: "The Jews, in the book of Esther, set aside the 14th of Adar to be a national holiday celebrating their deliverance from Haman. This is Hanukkah today."
Mr. Sash is mistaken in calling this festival Hanukkah. He should have identified it as Purim, which begins a month before Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Hanukkah holiday beings on the 25th day of Kislev (in the winter) and commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem.
Hanukkah is an ethnic festival, as is Purim, and they are not commanded to be observed. Why is it in John 10? Probably to show us that there are celebrations in which Christians can participate, just as Jesus being Jewish celebrated a holiday like Thanksgiving.
God's feasts (Leviticus 23) are not ethnic festivals and are to be observed. Mainstream Christianity has distorted God's basic festivals and we don't have to be a part of that.
The monarchy should expand
Since the Churches of God understand the nature of Israel in prophecy, especially Ephraim and Manasseh, I was thinking of whether the U.S.A. should adopt the monarchy, with our reigning queen as head of state for the U.S.A.
I say this because it seems to me that America's spiritual problems could stem from a lack of respect for authority and a lack of positive inspiring role models to uphold.
The royals help the nations they reign over, and I feel that America should have a royal head of state too.
What do readers of The Journal think, and can they perhaps help to bring any of this about over there?
Don't blame the name
I would like to respond to the essay by Sandra-Mae Robinson in the Jan. 31, 2005, issue of The Journal concerning the sacred names of our Heavenly Father and our Savior.
John 17:11 states that Yahshua said He would keep the congregations in the name of the Father, and that is the point that I will refute of the young girl who wrote the article. This point is (and I will easily prove it from Scripture) that God is not a personal name but a title.
Every human is prideful of his own personal name. If your name is Bill and someone kept calling you Fred, it would be quite offensive to you.
In Hebrew every name has meaning. Eliyahoo (Elijah) means Yahweh Is My El (God). There is not a name in Hebrew that does not have a meaning, yet we are to think that somehow the Creator of the universe, the name above all names, doesn't have a name and doesn't care what we call Him.
She also claimed that you can call Yahweh Kyrios, Theos and just about any other name (she might as well have thrown in Baal; actually, she did) and that it is acceptable to Him. But that is not according to Scripture.
Exodus 3:15: "And Elohim said to Moses again, You shall say this to the sons of Israel, YHWH, the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent Me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial from generation to generation."
The Third Commandment tells us: "You shall not take the name of YHWH your Elohim in vain." "In vain" means to change, falsify or make common. A child could see that taking out the personal name of YHWH--the letters yod, hey, vav and hey--and replacing it with a generic title of Lord or God is definitely breaking the Third Commandment.
In such an ecumenical time as ours, when Christian ministers pray together with Muslim clerics and when the pope would want you to believe that we all worship the same God, can't we see the need to use the proper name of our Creator and not only generic titles?
Miss Robinson said that names are translated into other languages, and this is just not true. Names are transliterated and, except for phonetic changes from language to language, the name stays the same. Listen to a news broadcast in a foreign language. You will hear "dot dot dot George Bush." In any language his name stays the same.
Miss Robinson claimed there is no proof that Yahshua used the sacred name. Wrong again. it is written in the Talmud that Yahshua went into the temple and stole the sacred name of Yahweh, and that is how He healed the sick.
Of course, our Savior did not enter the temple and steal the name of Yahweh, but this reference proves He was healing using the sacred name.
I will continue to honor my Heavenly Father by not only using titles to show His greatness but giving glory to the personal name of the only one, Yahweh, who deserves that greatness, Baruch H'Shem. Blessed be His name.
Anyone wishing for a free tape called "What's in a Name?" please write P.O. Box 832, Carteret, N.J. 07008, U.S.A.
Congregation of YHWH
Mr. Esposito mentions two views on the sacred names: the one he expounds in his letter here and the one by Sandra-Mae Robinson in the Jan. 31, 2005, issue. For an interesting take on the subject that lies somewhere between Mr. Esposito's and Miss Robinson's views, see the coverage of a seminar by Herb Solinsky in the Dec. 31, 2001, issue of The Journal.
Question for Sandra-Mae
I was unable to respond to Sandra-Mae Robinson's essay [about sacred names] in the Jan. 31, 2005, edition of The Journal. She gave only an Internet "address," and I am not on the Internet. Could it be that salvation is only to those on the Internet?
The real purpose of this letter is to ask her if she believes, as the Bible tells us, that the year begins on the first day of the month Aviv, or does she believe the Jewish calendar, which begins in the seventh month (Rosh Ha-Shenah), which counts backwards, via the postponements, to the Babylonian month Nisan?
The months Aviv and Nisan do not necessarily begin on the same day (although sometimes they do).
The question is asked to see if Sandra-Mae really believes the Bible, as she says.
It's our own fault
In the July 31, 2005, issue of The Journal Messrs. Mark Armstrong and Ken Westby really showed their myopia in "Church of God Commentators Weigh In on London Bombings." For "leaders" in the "Church of God" they have a pathetic approach to what is going on in the world and the reasons for it.
Unfortunately this view finds all too much support in and out of the Church of God.
The terrorists are wrong, and Islam has spread via the sword. What is happening now is not because Muslims hate our freedom; they hate "us," and not without reason.
Saying that "a xenophobic and jingoistic U.S.A. and U.K. (Israel) are good, and everyone else is evil" just shows how brainwashed "Israel" has become. "Israel" has spread violence in the world for hundreds of years, and little of it was defensive or done at the insistence of God.
The Church of God is to find answers in the Bible. Have these writers and many others who think like they do on this subject considered Genesis 27:40? It must be fulfilled at some point.
What about Genesis 15:16? God gave the Amorites 400-plus years before lowering the boom on them.
Will we in the "Church of God" repent and ask God to do whatever it takes to bring "Israel" to repentance, if possible, or would we rather use our military to wreak vengeance on the world? Is the presence of "Israel's" military in more than 140 countries going to bring about Deuteronomy 4:6-8? I think not.
Are we so blind to our own sins that we will deny that Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 apply to us?
Please read the article by Jan Aaron Young in the same issue of The Journal. We have been sinning grievously for hundreds of years. Are we about to run out of time just like the Amorites did so many years ago? Will there be repentance in the "Church of God," never mind the rest of "Israel"?
Lethbridge, Alta., Canada
Hang those labels
Just thought I would mention a few points regarding your article (The Journal, Jan. 31, 2006, page 1) concerning Ronald Dart's book The Lonely God.
I notice that you used an Amazon.com review by Toni Coffee in your report. But I noticed also that there are three other reviews on Amazon.
One by someone named "Bishop" is particularly enlightening, though somewhat negative in context. I have read the book, and I tend to agree more with Bishop's remarks than with the others; his, I think, are more realistic.
What is not mentioned in Toni's review is that Ron seems to be snuggling up to a reconstituted Trinity (for now) by suggesting that "what men call the "Trinity" is a family, composed for now (for the time being) of Father, Son and Family Counsel" (p. 29).
Both Father and Son are separate Gods, according to Mr. Dart, but what is this "Family Counsel"?
On page 24 he calls this third entity a "Family Spirit." I don't know anywhere in the English or the Greek New Testament that refers to the "Holy Spirit" or the "Spirit" as a "Family Spirit" or a "Family Counsel." Granted, I am not a Greek scholar, only a student, but this one escapes me.
Mr. Dart does write that the "Holy Spirit" does not appear in terms of a family, yet on the same page (24) he describes it as "the Family Spirit."
Mr. Dart writes that "God is a family composed, for now [again, for the time being], of a Father, a Son, and a Family Spirit" (p. 22). These are being presented as three different entities, and, while Mr. Dart does not directly suggest he is presenting a reworked Trinitarian view, what else could it be?
The temporary condition of the three-in-one-family (Mr. Dart writes "for now") should lead the alert reader to recognize that, apparently, one of Mr. Dart's closely held doctrines is the amazing growth of the "family of Gods" into an assemblage of millions of individual Gods or God Beings, all just as divine as the Father. The Father is only the "first among equals" (p. 29).
In this view, humans can become divine Gods with all the attendant powers of God or Yahweh (only lesser in rank) and will be able to create worlds and other human beings, as well as destroy them if need be.
Mr. Dart mentions the "uselessness of hanging labels on people" (p. 16). He asks, "Are we polytheists, then?" in response to his statement on the same page that concludes that the Father and the Son are "two Gods."
He answers "No" and does so because of the Hebrew word elohim and that "many" are called "elohim." He does not state that this term can refer to the Almighty God as a singular being.
He writes, "We acknowledge only one [God?] because only one [God?] is supreme." Then he writes that both the Father and Son are Gods:
"The Son is God and has a God. [This is a total of two Gods.] . . . We know that the Father is God. We know that the Son is God. We know that they are one. We know that the Holy Spirit is one with them" (p. 16). (Mr. Dart does not define who the "we" is in his book.)
Without the clear descriptive terms monotheism and polytheism, and any other "ism" you might want to name, we English-speaking folks would have a difficult time conversing about many religious issues. If we are going to throw out certain common terms because of our dislike of them or because we reject them, coherent communication suffers greatly.
This is not an argument over the structure of words or semantics (p. 16) but about clear and common English-language definitions.
Common usage of the English language says that those who worship two or more Gods (Strong's No. 430, gods, elohim) are, by definition, practicing polytheism, and those who worship and support one singular supreme God (No. 430, Elohim, as a title of Yahweh) practice monotheism.
Scholars will point out that the term elohim is plural in form but not always in use. Worshiping, supporting a family of separate Gods or God Beings is simply not monotheism; it is called the practice of polytheism, whether they are individually called elohim, Elohim or Yahwehs.
F. Paul Haney
The need for a defining moment
Concerning the so-called "one-God" controversy, I would like to offer a few comments.
The English word god means different things to different people. Most common people, when they hear or say "God" (misused as a proper name), take it or intend it to mean the Father. But theologians and other religionists take it to mean various things.
I might interject here that, with the exception of one of the sons of Israel and David's personal prophet, the only other place in the (original) Scriptures where "God" is used as a proper name is where Israel is being condemned for keeping "God's feasts" (i.e., "preparing a table"), while forsaking YHWH (Isaiah 65:11-15).
This pagan deity (Baal-)God is first alluded to in Joshua 11:17, 12:7, 13:5, where a Canaanite town was named after him.
So the questions "Is there only one God?" and "Is Jesus (actually, Yahshua) God?" are unanswerable, because you can't give a correct answer to an incorrect question. The term "God" must first be defined.
So let's ask the correct questions: Is there only one mighty one (elohim)?
No, Scripture says there are many (Psalm 82:1, 6). Is Yahshua the Father? No. Is Yahshua an Elohim? Yes. (This is what is meant in John 1:1.)
To understand, we need to categorize the kinds of elohim: divine, angels, men and idols. YHWH is the Father of the divine Elohim "kind," and, according to the law of biogenesis in Genesis 1, a kind begets its own kind.
While it's incorrect (and perhaps offensive) to say that YHWH is "reproducing Himself" (that would be cloning), it's perfectly correct and scriptural to say that He is "begetting His own kind," of whom Yahshua is the first. To say otherwise would be limiting YHWH to being a eunuch and to denying His plan for man.
This is a large and complex subject, and I've only scratched the surface on a couple aspects, but hopefully it will be food for thought.
East Ridge, Tenn.
All theory is bunk
I like to draw readers' attention to Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia, which is a huge source of information and to which articles can be offered. Here are some Wikipedia links I found:
Main page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
Herbert Armstrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Armstrong.
Gerald Flurry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Flurry.
Global Church of God http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Church_of_God.
Big Sandy, Texas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Sandy%2C_Texas.
I find Wikipedia to be a useful first source of information, whether it be about American presidents and their seeming predilection for the German Hegelian Skull and Bones Society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skull_and_Bones_Society) or the mystical quarks, neutrinos and flavors of man's theoretical nuclear physics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_particles), in which I have an interest as an example of the inadequacy of man's academic theories.
It is not only the Trinity, evolution, ice ages and the Big Bang, but all theory is bunk!
Blindsided by tradition
Regarding the continuing controversies surrounding the events of the Passover:
Has our tradition blinded us so much that we are unwilling to acknowledge that the Passover lambs were set apart on the 10th to be examined for four days to be without blemish? (Exodus 12:3-6). This began the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22:1, 7; John 13:1).
In Luke 22:14-20 Christ institutes the Lord's Supper, and foot-washing in John 13:1-8. He desired to eat this Passover, but did not (Luke 22:15-18), because that year He was to be that Lamb without blemish, nor would He break His Father's command by keeping Passover early.
After being arrested in Gethsemane (John 18:12), He was led away to Annas (verse 13). Then Annas set Him bound to Caiaphas (John 18:24), at which time He was beaten (Luke 22:63-65).
As soon as it was day, Jesus faced the entire council (Luke 22:66).
Next came His first appearance before Pilate (Luke 23:1-4; John 18:28). Then Jesus was sent to Herod (Luke 23:7-8). Herod's men of war treated Him with contempt and mocked Him (Luke 23:8-11).
The next day Pilate called the chief priest, ruler and people together again (Luke 23:10), and (verses 13-15) they scourged Him (Mark 15:15-20).
Notice also that this was about the sixth hour (noon) (John 19:14). Consider Isaiah 53:8, which states that "He was taken from prison and from judgment." It is impossible for most of this to take place between daybreak (Luke 22:66) and the third hour (9 a.m.) (Mark 15:25).
If you had ever lived under an occupying force, you would know that the occupiers may get you up at all hours of the night but will not be disturbed to do your bidding at 6 a.m.
They all examined Him: chief priests, elders and scribes, and found no fault in Him, except for speaking the truth that He was the Son of God (Mark 14:55).
Neither did Pilate (John 18:38; 19:4, 6; Matthew 27:24) nor Pilate's wife (Matthew 27:19), nor Herod (Luke 23:14-15).
Could it be that the Lamb was set apart on the 10th and examined for four days, not because it takes four days to check out a little lamb, but it would take four days to thoroughly establish the innocence of our Messiah by the religious, judicial and governing authority?
H. and G. Vander Geest
Nanoose Bay, B.C., Canada
12 hours in a day
If the Bible says one thing and the world says another, which one would you be inclined to believe? What if the Bible said it in red letters?
Christ Himself asked the rhetorical question, "Are there not 12 hours in the day?" (John 11:9).
Now, it is obvious that these "12 hours" did not stay the same because anyone could notice that six of the 12 constellations were seen at night at the equinoxes and seven in summer and five in winter. Thus it took about two of our 60-minute hours for a constellation to pass a set point in the sky or to fully move through either horizon.
Thus we see that people back then divided the day into 12 parts that varied slightly throughout the year.
That being said, I suggest an exercise in pure logic:
If "evening and morning were the first day" as Genesis 1:5 states, then how could the first evening precede the first day? Since evening comes at the end of a day, this can work for all subsequent days of creation week, but it can't work for the first day. For the first evening to begin the first day, it would have to come at the end of a day that preceded the first day, making the first day no longer the first day--by definition.
I think that everything needed to answer the question is found in Genesis 1:5.
A friend of mine recently made me aware of a very interesting and extensive Web site on this subject that your readers may find of great interest.
It can be found at http://www.geocities.com/star_sraw/sabbathday.html.
Several people have been slowly coming around to the realization that the traditions of men are more pervasive than we could ever have imagined. Let the Bible speak for itself.
W. Robin Wansley
Where's the evidence?
Katrina sure was a disaster, but God has promised blessings for obedience to His laws and curses for disobedience.
When you consider how practically this whole nation is living completely contrary to the laws of God, it should be obvious why we are reaping the curses instead of the blessings.
One and a half million abortions a year is a terrible sin, and all the homosexual same-sex marriages, the immoral wars in the Middle East, killing thousands for oil and big profits, the lying, cheating and crookedness in the government, the majority of people observing Sunday and the pagan holidays instead of God's true Sabbath--it all adds up to disaster.
Unless this nation as a whole repents and begins to obey God's laws, the curses will not only continue but will continue to grow more severe.
Everyone should ask himself: If I were on trial and accused of being a Christian, could they find enough evidence to convict me?
Good old Pasadena C
Your lead article about Ed Lain in the November-December 2005 issue (front page) brought back memories that are indelible in my mind.
I liked most about your article that it dealt with someone not regarded as "great" from the former days of Worldwide.
You have printed articles of praise about certain ex-officials of Worldwide, and many of the comments made in those articles did not correspond with what I know about those individuals personally.
But here you dealt with what would be considered a common man who did not have a great church reputation but one who is a true example that we would do well to follow. I commend you for that.
I knew Ed personally between 1960 and 1966. I found Ed to be one of the most unforgettable individuals I have ever known, for several reasons.
My first real experience with Ed came when he applied for membership in the Pasadena C Spokesman Club, of which I was the coordinator.
Being new as a coordinator, I went to the director of all Spokesman and Ambassador clubs, Jack Elliott, for approval to accept Ed as a member.
Mr. Elliott at first refused to grant approval. He could not give me a valid reason for this refusal. Since I could not think of a single reason to refuse Ed this membership (and since I was known to not merely roll over and die), I argued Mr. Elliott down and he finally gave approval.
Within a few months it came time to change the officers of the club (the coordinator was the one who chose the officers in those days). I asked Ed if he would be willing to accept the challenge as club secretary (an extremely difficult job for a sighted person and even more difficult for one who could not see). He accepted the challenge without hesitation.
Pasadena C was not your run-of-the-mill club. We did things differently from the norm during meetings when we did not have nonmember guests, such as on ladies' nights.
I told Ed he could spice up the reading of the minutes if he chose--and did he ever do that!
Ed did the best job as secretary I have ever seen. He actually prepared two sets of minutes. One formal set he presented to the club for the official record. The second set was to demonstrate imagination, creativity, humor and a good and enjoyable time for all in attendance.
When I felt the men in the club had grown sufficiently, I invited Mr. Elliott as our special guest and asked him to be the overall evaluator for the evening.
But before the meeting began I called Jack aside and said:
"What you are about to experience is different from anything you have ever seen in any club before.
"I ask that you withhold any criticism until you have witnessed the full results.
"Ask yourself whether the men are growing, and if they are enjoying their growth, and if that growth is evident."
I was pleased that Jack had no criticism and encouraged us to continue with our growth.
Many of you will remember the time Nikita Khrushchev visited the United Nations in New York in 1960 and while there took his shoe off and pounded it on the table at a formal meeting.
Well, at our next meeting Ed (while reading the minutes) took his shoe off and pounded the table as he was repeating an important point from the previous meeting. Everyone roared in laughter.
What Ed lacked in sight was dwarfed by his sharp mind and quickness of wit. He would have put Jon Stewart to shame as a comic.
I remember when Ed got hit by the car and his stay in the hospital for a few days. I also remember the fear many of us had that his dog would suffer trauma over the incident. Thankfully, both Ed and the dog came through fine.
I recall the birth of Ed's and Ina's first child (Sarah). Ina was having a rather long labor and I was called out for an anointing.
I am thankful I was not the minister who told Ed to drop out of school back in 1968. Most of us are aware that a lot of WCG ministers arrogated to themselves the job of running (or ruining) the lives of the people.
I am so thankful that Ed has grown beyond the times of anger and frustration over the church and what certain people did.
My personal ministry is devoted to trying to help people damaged by the church to put the past behind them and reach forward toward the Kingdom.
I am thankful you told us how we can contact Ed. I grabbed the phone and called directory assistance and got his number and we had a great telephone reunion.
He concluded with "You have made my day!" I told him the same. Some bonds forged long ago will never be broken or forgotten because they are so precious and meaningful.
Please remember what Ed told me only a few minutes ago: He would love to hear from his dear friends of those years.