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Of the hunting of heresy there is no end
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Of the hunting of heresy there is no end
By Brian Knowles

Back for a guest column is Brian Knowles, former columnist for The Journal. Mr. Knowles, former managing editor of The Plain Truth, published by the Worldwide Church of God, still makes his living as a writer.

MONROVIA, Calif.--Recently a friend forwarded to me an item from Gavin Rumney's Web site, www.ambassador It was titled "Sex: A God's-Eye View--by Brian Knowles." The title was that of an article I'd had published in The Bible Advocate, a publication of the Denver-based Church of God (Seventh Day).

Gavin was commenting on earlier comments made by Bob Thiel on his Web site ( Dr. Thiel was "shocked" that my byline should appear in the CG7 publication.

Why was Dr. Thiel shocked? Because I am "affiliated with" Ken Westby's Association for Christian Development (ACD), and that is a "unitarian group."

Attempt to label?

Wrote Dr. Thiel: "It is shocking, to me at least, that CG7 would include an article in one of its publications from one who apparently does not believe that Jesus is God."

Dr. Thiel, apparently, is attempting to label me as a heretic on the basis of an old technique called guilt by association. With this technique you demonize the person you have targeted by associating him with something, or someone, you know your audience disagrees with.

Mr. Rumney, to his credit, recognized what was happening in Dr. Thiel's rant. He wrote: "Having opinion pieces on Ken's site doesn't make someone a Unitarian any more than having an article in The Bible Advocate makes one a binitarian."

Excellent point! Within the Churches of God Pod lives a certain element that continues to think the way Dr. Thiel does. These people seem to believe that, by identifying and exposing those whom they believe to be heretics, they are defending the faith and protecting "the truth" from the "grievous wolves" who have surreptitiously found ways to influence the "sheep."

Shared mind-set

The reason I recognize this mind-set is that I used to share it. I, too, saw myself as a "defender of the faith"--the faith being whatever Herbert W. Armstrong taught about anything.

Incrementally, doctrine by doctrine, I began to see that much of what Mr. Armstrong taught was not based on sound textual exegesis.

Over the years, beginning in the mid-'70s, I studied the package of unique doctrines that the Armstrongs, father and son, both claimed represented the restored truth lost to the world since the first century. Mr. Armstrong, it was claimed, was God's end-time apostle and the one responsible for reclaiming the original faith "once delivered."

Over time, I came to reject this doctrinal package. It was simply not exegetically defensible using sound techniques and applying the laws of hermeneutics.

Particles of truth

At the same time, I realized that embedded within the larger collection of doctrines were particles of truth.

Mr. Armstrong was right in saying that much had been lost after the deaths of the original apostles, but what he had restored was not always what the first Christian community believed and practiced.

For me, the soundest way to restore these lost truths was via the study of the Hebrew roots of the New Testament and of the church. I've been working on that aspect of study since about 1983.

I am not interested in deifying a man or in perpetuating doctrines I believe to be false. At the same time, I do not attack the man. God is our judge, not me. He will judge us all.

Dr. Thiel used a defective technique to cast aspersions upon my alleged beliefs. He failed to do his homework. Without concrete evidence, he applied guilt by association. The fact that I was "affiliated with" the ACD was enough for him.

Nary a word

It wouldn't be enough for a conscientious heresy hunter. If Dr. Thiel had done his homework he would have discovered I have never participated in even one of ACD's many "one God" seminars and that I have never written a word in support of the doctrine.

In fact, I do not support it. I do believe that Jesus the Messiah was an incarnation of God. (Will Ken Westby now mark and disfellowship me?)

Further, not everyone who is affiliated with, or even on the board of, the ACD believes in the "one God" doctrine as taught by Messrs. Buzzard, Hunting, Westby et al. (I'm not on the board, by the way. I was invited to be on it, but I declined.)

This is a teaching that is in the process of being openly discussed, critiqued, tweaked and endlessly reexamined. Those who advocate it welcome criticism from any quarter. Dr. Thiel himself should feel free to take on those who teach this doctrine and refute them point by exegetical point. I have simply not chosen to commit the time and energy necessary to do justice to such a difficult subject.

Perhaps some day, God willing, when the time is right, I will commit to studying in depth the "one God" doctrine.

A word about the ACD

One of the things I appreciate about Ken Westby and the ACD ( is that the latter is an open forum. Those of us who contribute to it are free to write out of our convictions, and we are accountable to God for whatever appears under our byline.

The ACD is not a denomination. It's an association of Christians who are seeking to move Godward. I sometimes disagree with what I read in the articles of others on the ACD Web site, or in The New Millennium, but I see no constructive reason to express that disagreement.

At the same time, it is clear to me that others on the site disagree with me on points here and there. I don't mind honest disagreement as long as it is not in the context of heresy-hunting, which is a baleful activity.

Romans 14

I know of at least one person on the ACD site who believes in the doctrine of the Trinity. I think that doctrine is scripturally unsupported, yet millions of Christians believe that anyone who rejects the Trinity doctrine is a heretic.

Disagreeing on points is neither here nor there, as we learn from Romans 14 and other passages. Under the leadership of the only head of the church, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit we will all converge on the truth when the time is right. Even the original apostles had disagreements that had to be worked out.

Many things that I wrote in the past I now consider to be erroneous. As I have opportunity, I correct them and replace them with updated understanding.

I think this should be an ongoing process in the church, especially among those who teach or write. Our personal growth in understanding should be apparent to all. The Holy Spirit leads us progressively into truth, not all at one fell swoop.

I realize this kind of thinking is anathema in some of the still-authoritarian, cult-of-personality podlets. For them, doctrine is fixed and monolithic. Anyone who departs from the sacred Party Line is branded a heretic and driven out by the centrifugal force of zealous heresy-hunting.

Clenched posture

I have often said that I would rather see open discussion and diversity of opinion that unity in error. Simply circling the wagons around a set of agreed-upon dogmas, setting jaws and maintaining a grim-faced, clenched-buttock posture does not make a group right.

Truth, if it is truth, is defensible and indestructible. If the "one God" folks are right, their rightness will emerge at the end of the process. Meanwhile, discussions continue and the jury is still out.

The same is true for the Trinitarians and the binitarians. The New Testament is sufficiently obscure on the subject that it took the early Christians, applying Greek thinking, several centuries to come up with what I believe is the wrong answer. For me, God is ineffable until He makes Himself otherwise.

What is not unclear is how God says we should live as brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you'd like to embark on an enjoyable and enlightening Bible study sometime, haul out your Strong's and look up the "one another" verses. Then start practicing them. You may find that your whole approach to the faith changes.

I appreciate Gavin Rumney's bringing to light the kind of manic heresy-hunting that continues to plague the Churches of God Pod. I'm also grateful for his kind comments about my writing (but not my politics). Keep up the provocative work, Gavin!

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