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Letters from our readers - Issue 114
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our readers

Spherical thought

"I thought I was losing my marbles and then I discovered The Journal."

That was the message a new subscriber in Australia wrote on the subscription form. Nice to know that someone is being helped by The Journal!

Walter Steensby
Journal distributor [for Australia]
Via the Internet

Follow the leader

The Bible says that "fear hath torment." Are you following a shepherd whom you are afraid to question? A shepherd who forbids you to discuss scriptural information with other "sheep"? A shepherd who will terminate your spiritual life if you don't adhere to his every whim?

If so, it's time for you to begin following the true Shepherd: Jesus, the Shepherd.

Paul Herrmann
Metairie, La.

Have a nice day

I read your article ["Disfellowshippers Should Take a Break," The Journal, April 30], and you are hereby disfellowshipped. Hope you had the best Feast ever, though.

Name and location withheld


The word from Delight

Here is why I believe that referring to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God is errant.

o It confuses our understanding of what the Word of God is.

o Those who claim the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God seem to believe otherwise. It has been my experience that what they really believe is that their interpretation is the inerrant Word of God. Therefore when they speak it is God speaking.

This seems a bit much to me.

o Some Bible writers had better access to information than others. If we consider the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, then a person like John with much first-person information can have no more reliability than a person like Solomon.

o It opens the way to use the Bible as a book of incantations. I see this as a problem.

o It is unrealistic to suggest that writings can be translated from one language into another without some error, especially when the translators are obviously religiously biased and they did not write the original writings or live within 1,000 years of the writing of said writings. One of the two or more languages involved would be other than the translators' first language.

o It implies that God micromanages the creation to the last punctuation mark, which I think we all know is not the case.

o It implies that if we or the original Bible writers or anyone else is led by the Holy Spirit, we or they can't believe a falsehood and/or pass it on. John 21 convinces me that having the Holy Spirit is not the same as the inability to believe, speak or write inaccurate information.

o It implies that salvation is extremely complicated. I believe it is as simple as having goodwill towards others and justly, kindly and humbly working to live in peace with others.

o It seems to open the door to following what are called Bible examples that are in fact not necessarily good examples.

o It implies that we can "know" by faith in the Bible. As I understand the faith of Christ, it is not synonymous with "knowing" but rather "believing" in the kindness and caring of our heavenly Father and acting on it.

I believe that if we study the Bible more realistically we can separate the wheat from the chaff, truth from fiction, fantastic superstition and assumption and base our lives on good works and not use the Scriptures to justify our selfish interests and abusive behavior.

Rather than redefining the word inerrant, why not call the Bible the errant Word of God? That seems to be what we really mean when we start to interpret.

This would allow us to interpret it more realistically, responsibly and fearfully.

Also, we wouldn't be so cocksure of ourselves that we fuss and fight over doctrine as we do now.

I really don't see that the scriptural concept of "Word of God" has a totally definitive definition. Why turn the Scriptures into a dead horse and try to ride them to life?

Some will ask: What about the Sabbath, rituals, ceremonies, customs, etc.?

First, most of these, including the Sabbath, have allegories attached to them scripturally. I am not so uninformed that I haven't read the scripture that says "The Sabbath was made for man." I suggest that the Sabbath and other days, among other things, were not made for man to have a good excuse to despise others and insult, criticize and persecute one another.

On the other hand, the calendar days, among other matters, are an ideal way for organizations to give themselves separation and distinction from other organizations. How else could they do it?

The days also give organizations an ideal way to establish the authority of their clergy, by "knowing" the proper time, place and form of all these things in their salvation scenario.

Now we are back to square one, with someone's interpretation becoming the inerrant Word of God. Just who do we think we are?

Phil Griffith
Delight, Ark.

Locked in for the duration

I am gratified by Phil Griffith's letter of support in the Aug. 31, 2006, issue. I want him to know that I voluntarily withdrew from the pages of The Journal because I felt it was the right time to do so. Stu Segall's letter may have been a catalyst, but it wasn't the cause.

No one forced me, coerced me or intimidated me into "resigning." I just knew it was the right time to withdraw.

Over the years I have come to understand the utter futility of theological argument, especially among lay members and ministers. After all the sound and fury, few change their minds about anything.

Month after month in The Journal I see the same tired arguments trotted out under the same tired bylines. Nothing that has been said contrary to these arguments in the pages of The Journal has made a dent.

Take, for example, the issue of the nature of God. Of the three possible positions within the larger Pod, no more than one, if that many, can be correct. Either there is one God or a Binity or a Trinity. Perhaps a fourth alternative is a Family.

Point is, the people who believe any one of these three or four positions are not about to change their minds in the face of opposing argument. Whatever they believe now is probably what they will take with them to their graves.

It's pretty much that way about any doctrine: the Sabbath; the holy days; tithing; church government; the US&BC; Old and New Covenants; the acceptable length for skirts, men's hair and nose hairs and how many millimeters of makeup may be worn; etc.; etc.

As Richard Pinelli taught me more than 40 years ago, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Nothing could be truer, but it took me decades to fully learn that lesson.

I see no point to trying to prove points. People see the same passages of Scripture quite differently, and there's no defeating the proof-texting approach, which is ubiquitous in the Pod.

These days I focus on maturing as a Christian. For me life is about godly living, not ungodly arguing.

Once religious people have circled their wagons around a set of doctrines and dogmas, reform is largely hopeless. Doctrinally speaking, I think most Journal readers are locked in for the duration.

For years, doctrinal reform was my passion. Today it means nothing. As they say, it's a nonstarter. I am thoroughly burned out on it.

And, as Phil suggests, the smattering of letters begging me to continue contributing to The Journal was something less than a flood.

But many thanks, Phil. I do appreciate that you understood where I was coming from.

Brian Knowles
Monrovia, Calif.

Cold, cold hearts

Here's a comment from a family that attended one of the Feast sites in Florida:

"We went to [a corporate-church group's] service on the first day of the Feast. The people [were] so cold, nobody spoke to us. So we did not go back."

It appears that little has changed in the corporate organizations since day one. They apparently still don't think that having love for their brethren is very important in the eyes of God, although it was one of Jesus' final commands to His disciples (John 13:34-35).

The world is filled with lack of love for one another, and the corporate groups are definitely part of it.

"At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:10-12, NIV).

Rick Beltz
Springfield, Mass.

'Law and grace' note

Is the law sin? No, provided we have been redeemed from the law's "penalties." Did it come from works or by faith?

It should be plain that faith is the necessary need of the Church of God today: such faith that we can trust God to perfect us by faith while we maintain our zeal for the commandments we have traditionally kept for decades.

We must make faith and works compatible, even though we still have to keep our purity in becoming converted through only receiving Christ yet at the same time refusing to give up the love of God's work on earth.

I believe a better grasp of law and grace and its application to us today is called for.

Paul Christophy
London, England

Father and son

My father has been a member of the Philadelphia Church of God (Gerald Flurry's church) for more than 10 years. During that time he has maintained contact with me.

Since my mother died almost six years ago I have called my father on a weekly basis, even after he remarried four years ago. He is now 80 years old, and just before the Feast he told me that the PCG had threatened to put him out of the church if he did not break off all contact with me.

Since he believes that the PCG is the true church and he doesn't want to be put out of that church, he stopped taking my phone calls shortly before the Feast.

My dad knows this is wrong, but he has no way to do anything about it.

I am not a member of Mr. Flurry's church and I can do something about this. I have started an effort to protest to the PCG and Gerald Flurry about this policy by writing them letters and by writing letters to the news media in the Edmond, Okla., area.

One response I've gotten from the religion editor of one of the newspapers is that mine is not the first such letter but he needs to contact some members or ex-members so he can get firsthand information on this situation.

If there are any current or any ex-PCG members who are willing to talk about the abusive policies and dictates of Mr. Flurry and his ministers, please contact me by E-mail or phone.

Horst Obermeit
Kenly, N.C.

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