Also, it is my opinion the word cult has been, and is, tacked on organizations by other organizations that perhaps a century or less ago, by their definitions, would have been labeled cults themselves.
Cult has many definitions. By some of them, various contemporary musical performers or groups, idolized by their fans, could be considered cults. The large megachurches with their charismatic pastors could be considered cults.
The WCG was no more a cult than the Seventh-day Adventists or the Seventh Day Baptists or the Seventh Day Church of God, from which the WCG sect originated. (Some of these groups are on cult lists as well but in my opinion should not be.)
Catholics and Baptists have also been labeled cults.
Yes, the WCG was a controversial group in the religious world, but it should not be labeled a cult. I believe the Worldwide Church of God experience is but yet another unique chapter in the history of American religion.
As far as the theology of the WCG/GCI now, I would like to point Dr. Roberts to the GCI Web page, where he will find a diverse group of theologians from various Christian institutions in conversation, not just APU graduates.
Lake Kiowa, Texas
Unity, liberty, love
I read the article about Ross Jutsum ["Music Man's Circuit Takes Him Out of Town for More Than 40 Weekend Gigs Every Year," May 31, 2009, issue] and noticed he was quoted as saying, "I don't think the day of worship is an essential."
The Bible Answer Man, who had an integral part in changing the Worldwide Church of God, often quotes the following: "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, love" (St. Augustine, A.D. 354-430).
Mr. Jutsum seems to be alluding to this quote too. The Bible Answer Man [Hank Hanegraaff] quotes Scripture and enumerates what he thinks is essential.
His set of verses provides him with the filter he needs to support his somewhat integrated (in my opinion) Catholic-Protestant-evangelical beliefs.
When we pick and choose the "essentials" and ignore simple biblical commands, godly obedience is an option that many will not choose.
May the time come quickly when we are all friends of God.
Elder Kiesz's CG7 history
If you are interested in the recent history of the Church of God 7th Day, you will find the writings of John Kiesz interesting, especially his work on Christology.
I met John and his wife on two occasions in the 1980s when they sang for Feast of Tabernacles celebrations in Denver hosted by Jeff Booth and his congregation in Amarillo.
Elder Kiesz lived into his 90s and was a leading elder and teacher for much of the 20th century. He represented a large group within the CG7 that held to a one-God doctrine.
That unitarian voice within CG7 has since been silenced. Elder Kiesz taught the preexistence of Christ but denied that Jesus was God or was the Creator or God of the OT.
I disagree with his preexistence conclusions, but I think he got the single-God issue right.
Craig White has specialized in the history of the Church of God in its multifarious iterations.
Craig White of Sydney, Australia, has posted the CG7 history Mr. Westby mentions above at friendsofsabbath.org/Further_Research/john_kiesz/kiesz.htm. Mr. White comments: "Many thanks to the Church of God (Seventh Day) for supplying me this paper for the purpose of preserving further aspects of Church of God history."
The Web address you provided in the "Notes and Quotes" article on Frank Nelte (page 32 of the May 31, 2009, issue)--tinyurl.com/ltfh15--is evidently incorrect. It brings up a Web site completely different from the subject of this article.
Via the Internet
Mr. Morin is correct. The address for Mr. Nelte's paper, a response to unitarians, or believers in "one God," is tinyurl.com/ltfha5.
Another church selling assets
I think it was on Aug. 17, 2009, that Fox 2 in St. Louis reported that the long-standing classical station, Classic 99, KFUO, may be up for sale. Fox 2 said the decision was made in "secret," that a tipster informed them.
KFUO went on the air in January 1945 and is the oldest FM station west of the Mississippi. It has been classical since the beginning.
KFUO, at 99.1, St. Louis, may be the oldest classical station left. It is one of only 21 classical stations remaining in the U.S.A.
Since the beginning, KFUO has been owned by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.
A spokesperson said, "We are considering selling it for our ministry." Then she became arrogant, saying it was really nobody's business anyway.
Why didn't the LCMS want the public to know? I guess a lot of people would be mad at them for taking away their classical-music station.
Was the membership not allowed to vote on the decision, much less express an opinion on it?
Joe Tkach Jr. and friends dismantled most of the WCG property and sold most of its assets.
The Worldwide Church sold the church and colleges. But at least the brethren of the WCG knew about the sale. It appears the membership of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, didn't even know about the planned sale of their 64-year-old station.
The LCMS sounds like another hierarchy, or at least an oligarchy. Joe Tkach Jr. dismantled AU and the goods and property in the name of ministry. Now the LCMS is doing the same.
House Springs, Mo.
Are potlucks a sin?
Many true Christians believe it is wrong and sinful to eat out at a restaurant on the Sabbath.
They think this because they feel that in doing so they are causing waitresses and waiters to break the Sabbath when they work at serving food.
What about church Sabbath-day potlucks? Aren't female members doing exactly the same thing when they serve food at the Sabbath meeting place--on the Sabbath?
What about Christian men who think it's a sin to eat at a restaurant on the Sabbath? They say that in doing so they cause the men who do the physical work of setting up the tables and chairs in the restaurant and doing the work of a busboy to sin. But don't they do precisely the same thing at the Sabbath potluck?
God calls a person a hypocrite who declares something to be a sin that he himself is doing while he accuses others and says others shouldn't be doing it.
What about you? Will you say this is different? Will you just let it pass?
Paul and Micki Herrmann
Here in the real world
Each time The Journal comes through my letter box I wonder how much worse the division within the church has become.
Can it become worse? Not really. The falling away is the inevitable outcome of what is a terrible, tragic--but avoidable--shambles.
Why have so many people turned against their brethren?
Since at least the mid-1960s, when I was called, HWA did nothing to alleviate problems in Pasadena that caused the church to slide backwards.
For the brethren, however, everything was running smoothly.
In other words, it was a case of window dressing, papering over the cracks, while to the outside world, with excellent articles appearing in The Plain Truth, Tomorrow's World, etc., everything was as it should be.
In my opinion the ministry as a whole was never comfortable with the real world, once the ministers came out of the protected environment of the colleges.
All too often there was a brashness and arrogance about them that had an adverse effect on too many people.
Where did the arrogance come from? The very idea of spending a few years in a college, then trying to force the idea that they had all the answers to all the world's problems, brought about this pompous attitude.
When HWA was alive, the church was in a rotten state and had been deteriorating rapidly.
The causes were known to some brethren but apparently not to the ministry. The ministers were oblivious to the danger signs.
When HWA died, the church was spiritually sick, yet it took another 10 years for the mass exodus of ministers. What does that tell you about them?
The ministers stayed for their salaries and a better pension, and the brethren stayed to be spoon-fed by the people they genuinely believed were telling them the truth.
Where are we now? We have ministers against brethren, minister against minister and brother against brother: a diabolical shambles.
Do we read of even one minister genuinely calling for unity and harmony among everyone? No. Are ministers sincere in what they say?
Most definitely they are, and always have been, totally insincere.
Many year ago the church hierarchy banned Jesus Christ from His own church because it was--as it still is--void of understanding. Jesus Christ was replaced by human personalities. Enough said.
George E. Padgett
Shalom from Kitale
Shalom, brethren! I'm in Kenya in a town called Kitale about 350 kilometers north of our capital city, Nairobi.
Actually, I'd like to commend you for the good work you are doing preparing and encouraging people for the Kingdom. Please keep it up and our heavenly Father will bless you!
I'm also a Church of God member, although we are few here. Pray for us. Thank you, and God bless you abundantly.
Too many days
Matthew (26:17), Mark (14:12), Luke (22:7), Ezekiel (45:21) and Moses (Deuteronomy 16:4 with Exodus 12:6) all knew the 14th was the first day of Unleavened Bread.
Why didn't Herbert Armstrong and company understand? Why do church members today eat unleavened bread eight days, including at the Passover service, when they are supposed to eat unleavened bread seven days, including at the Passover service? (Deuteronomy 16:2-3).
The command to feast on the 15th (Leviticus 23:6)--that is, to eat and drink--is not a command to start a seven-day festival.
Jews' traditions of preparing (John 19:14) a lamb on the 14th and eating their Passover on their high day, the 15th (John 19:31), lay aside (Mark 7:8) the commandment of God to kill and eat the lamb at the beginning of the 14th, as Jesus did (Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7, 15).
Well, maybe Jesus will come on Pentecost (see Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26; Matthew 13:39; 1 Corinthians 15:23) in a jubilee year (compare Isaiah 34:8; 61:2; 63:4; Ezekiel 46:17; Luke 4:18-19) and straighten it all out.
Bob Eichholz, in regard to your letter (titled "No Need to Apply") in the April 30, 2009, issue:
Thank your for reading some of my writings, and thank you for placing me in a distinguished list of authors and writers. It makes me feel very humble to be in such a list.
You are very correct when you say: "What the Holy Spirit leads me to prove . . . I will accept as truth. However, I will not follow any one of these excellent writers."
God bless you! We should always "prove all things and hold fast to that which is good!" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God is the only one who has the full truth and is the only one who does not make mistakes.
The writings I put forth are simply what God has shown me through His Holy Spirit, and, as anyone will find on The SevenTimes Journal's Web site, we are simply trying to help publish the gospel to this sin-sick world.
We have no grand ideas of anyone following us. As the apostle Paul said (and I paraphrase), follow me only as I follow Christ. Give God the glory for everything, and "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling!"
Again, thank you for your letter, and may God bless you as you seek to serve and obey Him!
Editor, The SevenTimes Journal
Building for our descendants
I think that an article on church buildings would be very helpful. It has been on my mind for quite some time.
A few years ago I attended the graduation ceremony of a young person in our extended group. She was graduating from a private school, as many of the youths in our tradition are. The school was actually sponsored by a Church of Christ.
As I drove onto the campus--it was a 10- to 20-acre complex in a busy area of Austin--I thought of the foresight that must have gone into the building of that complex.
The main buildings seemed to have been built in the '30s. Everything was well maintained and improved over time.
The Scripture indicates that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his children and their children.
It occurred to me that the men and women who built the original buildings and who donated the property are long gone, but they left an inheritance that is still useful and benefiting young people of every denomination.
In our tradition it seems we have been obsessed with the shortage of time, yet, of all the predictions and timelines, none has proven correct. It must add to a feeling of self-importance to think that Jesus will return in one's own lifetime.
I read a scripture that says, "He will confirm His covenant for a thousand generations." It seems like we (the Church of God) ignore scriptures like that (or call them figurative), yet take one that says "a day is as 1,000 years" and treat it like a prophetic mathematical formula.
If we can base predictions on past performance, then probably the old guard of the church will pass away, and what will we leave behind?
Personally, I would like to see the leadership of the various churches pass their positions of leadership on to the next generation. I see a new generation arising that is more service oriented and less territorial.
I think one of the greatest blessings we could pass on would be some physical property to build on and use in service to our Creator and those whom He calls in the future.
The Waco church I attend was formed after a split from the UCG. Our form of organization is what most would describe as congregationalist in that we make any decisions by proposal and vote. We do not have a "leader" or even a board.
In the case of the possible building project, we voted and formed a building committee consisting of our younger members.
Thanks for the service that you do. Feel free to use any of my comments.
(The comments in this letter are my own and not necessarily opinions shared by the Waco congregation.)
The 430 years
I was interested to read the essay by Bill Bartholomew on page 6 of The Journal (January-March 2009, "Is the Night to Be Much Observed a Commanded Celebration?"), where Bill explains that the Israelites were not slaves in Egypt for 430 years.
Stephen appears to disagree with Bill when he says in Acts 7:6 that they were "in bondage" and oppressed for 400 years.
As Bill says, the 400 years began with the birth of Isaac. Perhaps he should have also mentioned that Genesis 15:16 says they would return to the Promised Land in "the fourth generation."
From Isaac to Moses is six generations, and Exodus 12:40-42 refers to the "children of Israel." Isaac and Jacob were not the "children of Israel," a fact that indicates that the time in Egypt did not begin from the birth of Isaac but started sometime after Israel went down into Egypt in Genesis 47:9, when Jacob was 130 years of age.
We are led to understand the four generations that were enslaved were those of Levi, Kohath, Amram and Moses. Jewish theologians have commented about this for thousands of years, and the JPS Torah Commentary tells us these things should not be taken literally but are rhetorical (simply contradictory).
Some say the Israelites were never slaves in Egypt at all and that this is merely a Jewish folk story.
I have comments about this at www.icg.org.au for those wanting more.
GTA Tape Library
North Sydney, Australia
Is this why we keep the Sabbath?
I was reading Wes White's contribution ["We Had Better Learn How to Reconcile"] in the May 2008 Journal. He leads us to the question "Do we understand love?"
I don't believe an understanding of love is the problem, unless we think we can doctrinally define love instead of defining love in our affection for others and compassion for their needs.
The problem seems to be where we put love on our priority lists. Love seems to be jealous of our other priorities, and, if we put anything before it in priority, it just steps back and patiently waits until it becomes No. 1 on our list again.
People have fallings-out over doctrinal issues. What seems odd about this is they seem to be allowed to align on only one side or other of the issue.
This is the way it is with our spouses: Our love for them aligns us with them. We rarely see husbands and wives taking different sides on doctrinal issues.
Doesn't that seem strange if the issue is worth fussing over in the first place?
Correct me if I am wrong but I believe I read in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography that, when his wife decided to keep the Saturday Sabbath, he studied the subject and said he could make a good argument for keeping Saturday or Sunday.
Apparently, at that time, anyway, he made Saturday his choice to keep peace in the family.
It seems that most follow this example of making doctrinal, as well as other, choices based on what keeps peace in the family.
Wes's short list of reasons for separation indicates he will go a long way to keep peace and harmony in a relationship. No matter how far we go in reaching out to others, it would be nice if they would meet us part way, especially if they are the ones who insulted us.
The size of a human being
Genesis 1:16 says God made the stars. Could God do that if He was the size of a human being (like Jesus)? Astronomers say there are more stars than grains of sand on earth.
United's Good News, November 2008, page 6, says "Trinity" does not appear in the New Testament. But on the same page it fails to point out that "God the Son" is also not in the Bible.
Also, it says Dec. 25 was the birthday of Mithras. The Mysteries of Mithras, by Cumon, is available from Dover, 31 E. Second St., Mineola, N.Y. 11501, U.S.A. Dover reprints Ptolemy's Geography and many low-priced, good-quality books.
Time of final sentencing
Re John of Innsworth's letter in issue No. 132 ("A Hellish Contradiction?," September-December 2008 issue, page 6), about Luke 16:19-31:
Don't you yet understand the doctrine of the resurrections? Indeed this parable is used as a teaching aid to show what will happen to those who live for themselves and not for Christ, who do not know Christ and who refuse to obey Him.
Both died, but Lazarus rises in the first resurrection. The rich man, who was an Israelite and an acquaintance of Lazarus, rises in the second resurrection to judgment (John 5:29).
With time running out and the Gehenna fire spreading over the earth, ready to engulf it, he makes his last appeal through an acquaintance, not through Christ, for his family, while seemingly resigned to his fate as a condemned man.
His request is to see his family saved though he rejects God's salvation himself.
Therefore he is in torment because it is the very end, the time of final sentencing. If he continues refusing to bow to Christ, the fire will make him bow in the second death. Some will go down weeping, others gnashing with their teeth.
Stoney Creek, Ont., Canada
The parable of Eleazar and Judah
John Veal in a letter to the editor a while back (September-December, 2008, The Journal) expressed frustration about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and asked, "Is there anyone out there who can shed some light on this?" I can in a "Dear John" letter.
Dear John: The footnote in my Bible says the parable is "a parable-story without any historical basis."
I can't take credit for the following explanation because I heard it elsewhere. Like every other parable of the Bible, it's a lot deeper than we give it credit for.
When are we in the COGs going to stop reading the Bible like a third-grade storybook like the rest of the Protestants? Come on! The Bible was written by brilliant men who intended the readership to at least read on an adult level.
Here's what the parable is about:
Jesus is in the midst of a confrontation with the Pharisees. He has just said (Luke 14) that in the great banquet of the Kingdom the poor and humble would be invited after those who had been first invited had spurned the invitation.
The Pharisees hate Him and want His blood.
He then gives the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16), aimed at the Pharisees.
Lazarus is the Greek word from the Hebrew word Eleazar, which is the name in Genesis of Abraham's beloved senior servant who found the bride for Isaac. This is third-grade knowledge for any Pharisee or Jewish student of the Bible of the time.
Eleazar was a gentile. The Pharisees utterly despised the gentiles and associated them with dogs. The dogs licked the sores of Lazarus; i.e., Eleazar.
The gentiles had no share in the riches of Israel, not even the crumbs that fell from the table.
Upon his death, Lazarus (Eleazar) is in Abraham's embrace.
Judah had all the riches of the Torah and God's favor. Judah was the rich man. Throughout the history of the Old Testament and throughout Jesus' ministry, the leaders of Judah repeatedly rejected God and went into idolatry. That's why God sent them into captivity both in 585 B.C. and A.D. 70.
I'm not saying all of Judah. Many Jews obeyed God. There has always been a faithful remnant.
The point is that Jesus came to be a light to the gentiles as well as the Jews. Salvation was now possible to the gentiles as well as to God's beloved Jewish people.
After death in the judgment, the rich man is in torments in the flames. "Cool my tongue" is a colloquialism meaning he is scared speechless when he sees his impending punishment.
He is unable to cross over the gulf to be with Abraham and his servant Eleazar.
He begs Abraham: "Father [as Abraham in fact was to Judah], send Lazarus [Abraham's gentile servant] to my father's house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning."
Details are important in the Bible. They're not trivial. Of all the personages of the Bible, only Judah had five brothers and could call Abraham his father.
Abraham replies: "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them."
Again, only Judah and the other tribes of Israel had Moses and the prophets. They never listened.
Then, most interesting, the rich man says:
"Ah, no, father Abraham, but if someone comes to them from the dead they will repent."
Abraham shakes his head and replies:
"If they will not listen to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead."
This is a veiled prediction from Jesus that Judah as a whole would not be convinced to repent even after God raised Him, Jesus, from the dead.
Here is a digital oil painting I did of Mr. Armstrong. It's meant to be enlarged to at least your screen size, or zoomed to 200 percent, then printed and/or framed after enlargement.
Cape Town, South Africa