This explains why his findings conspicuously omit the opinion-altering scriptures he might have stumbled onto had he looked at premarital sex as an isolated topic.
What I liked about Mr. Sash's editorial:
What I didn't like:
His interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20: "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything" (verse 12, NRSV).
Mr. Sash took a civic legal right of the time--temple prostitution--and misapplied it as sexual permission for Christians.
"All things" or "everything" could not logically be intended here for the church. Otherwise we could include the things that Mr. Sash otherwise agrees are immoral in our "all things" and "everything"--such as prostitution, homosexuality, adultery (as in a married person having sex outside the marriage).
Clearly, Paul is not saying "all things are lawful" in a spiritual sense but, most logically, in a civic legal sense. There should be no need to debate this.
Trivializing casual sex. He minimizes the negative impacts of casual sex and of multiple partners over one's unmarried years.
What he doesn't say. John should have addressed his audience's "logical reasons" and show us why he believes our views are illogical, rather than simply stating his inability to find logical reasons.
His assumptions as an author. He assumes that the mention of concubines or multiple wives gives implicit permission for liberal sexual practices. But it is an insidious error to read facts in Scripture as moral permissions or requirements.
He mentions "horrendous" sexual practices that God doesn't condemn. If these are pertinent to his conclusion, he should mention them and tell us where they can be found. If they are left as unproved claims, he unwittingly insults the reputation of Scripture.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman's father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives."
He mentioned Deuteronomy 22 but didn't include the opinion-altering verses 28-29.
I realize this could be read as a forced sexual encounter, but Exodus 22:16 offers clarification on this point by suggesting consent as opposed to force.
Exodus 22:16-17: "When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. But if her father refuses to give her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the bride-price for virgins."
Particularly in the case of Exodus 22, if premarital sex were a nonissue why enforce a fine and require the right of irrevocable marriage to the woman as damages? Clearly, consensual premarital sex is forbidden and suffers punitive consequences.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9: "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry."
"Self-control" here suggests stopping short of letting oneself go all the way, which means that premarital sex is not innocuous.
We all had ideas about expressing physical love before we were married. To articulate them in a poem is not the same as renting a hotel for the weekend.
Gatineau, Que., Canada
Just what do you mean fornication?
Here is my response to the article by John Sash in the previous issue ["We've Misunderstood the Bible on Sex," July 31, 2010]:
John brings up valid questions regarding singles' sex, the word fornication and its uses in Scripture. He made insightful points worth considering.
I also commend him for his candor in relating his personal story of divorce, dating and the conundrum of whether to have sex with the attractive, divorced woman with whom he was smitten.
His religious scruples held him back. The woman was inviting, but he refused. The dilemma forced him into a reappraisal of the biblical basis for his religious views.
His study revealed to him that he had been wrong about his view of singles' sex, particularly in a responsible context such as the one in which he found himself, and his girlfriend was right: Sex with her would have been okayed by God, but, alas, it was too late because the woman had in the meanwhile found another man who may not have been bothered by religious scruples.
I found it a sad story. John's 36-year marriage dissolves in divorce. He finds new life in a new love only to see it slip away while he reprograms his moral compass.
I wonder, Why did John share this story with readers? Did he want his church friends to reassess their views on singles' sex? Did he want to help other singles in similar situations avoid his hesitation about sex and not repeat his mistake? Did he want agreement and validation from readers that he had come to the right biblical understanding on the subject?
Perhaps he made the story public to invite readers to challenge his conclusions. Maybe he will tell us. I admire his openness and hope he can find the love and companionship God intends for every man and woman.
But I must take issue with his subjective approach to singles' sex and the whole fornication issue he introduced. He is correct, of course, on the broad usage of the various Greek and Hebrew words covering illicit sexual practices.
We would like to have razor-sharp definitions and attach certain words exclusively to specific sexual practices, but they are not handled that way in Scripture, which makes use of language in its normal cultural context.
For a succinctly brief treatment of the fornication word in scripture, see Brian Knowles' recent article "What Is 'Fornication'?" on our ACD Web site, www.Godward.org. Or, for a direct link to Brian's article, go to tinyurl.com/knowles999.
Help with crises
I became a member of the WCG in 1964 and left in 1979. To make a long story short, there are a number of simple reasons and solutions for the organizational problems that the 300-plus offshoots of the WCG continue to have but which most of the elect are either clueless about or refuse to consider and deal with.
On our bibleresearch.org site I have posted information (at bibleresearch.org/outreach/ucg_crisis.htm and bibleresearch.org/outreach/former_wcg.htm) in the hope that it will help my brethren who have ears to hear to understand the issues concerning past and present barriers to spiritual growth and doctrinal and organizational unity.
I hope you will find the information interesting, enlightening and spiritually beneficial.
Via the Internet
Re Leon Walker: One man, many votes
Thank you for your in-depth article on the UCG's current crisis [beginning on page 1 of the issue dated July 31, 2010]. It has made us think.
When someone in a position such as Leon Walker's chooses who is ordained, who is a paid minister and who pastors a church, that person automatically collects IOUs.
People are thankful and do what their benefactor wants, including voting like he votes.
As such, Mr. Walker has cast many votes in every election. He and his favorite candidates are more likely to be voted onto the council of elders than others.
It will be interesting to see how the UCG's voting changes without Mr. Walker there to cast his bloc of votes. It is not bloc voting that is the problem. It is bloc voting because of the undue influence some have over others that is the problem.
That said, I think it is sad to see how unchristian the UCG is treating Leon Walker after he has served so many years.
On an island
A church member was giving his testimony about the current Church of God confusion. He said that in the 1960s he had become a member of the Worldwide Church of God.
Shortly afterward he was shipwrecked on an uncharted island in the Pacific.
When he was rescued and returned to the U.S.A. he was surprised and shocked to learn that Herbert W. Armstrong, God's apostle and one true minister and leader, had died. He also learned that God had divinely inspired and guided Mr. Armstrong to name as the successor to his office and leadership of God's church Joseph Tkach.
He was really baffled when he learned that many men whom he had considered to be pillars and brilliant examples in the church had completely disobeyed and rebelled against God's decision to appoint Mr. Tkach as the apostle replacement.
He was surprised to learn they had started their own churches, claiming that it was God's decision for them to do so.
What was even more mind-boggling was that multiple thousands of brethren had participated in this rebellion and in fact had joined their churches.
The formerly shipwrecked church member said that for months he wrestled with his knowledge of this situation, trying futilely to come up with a plausible explanation for what had happened.
When someone is lost on a desolate island, he feels lonely, cut off, boxed in. We have concluded that the Church of God brethren are just like that: lost, just like they're on an uncharted island.
Paul and Micki Herrmann
Conservatives and progressives
I read with great interest your summary of the division in the United Church of God an International Association (UCG) [beginning on page 1 of issue No. 140, dated July 31, 2010].
I especially appreciate the history you provided consisting primarily of reports that have appeared in The Journal.
However, I take exception to the terms "conservative" and "progressive" that you have assigned to the contesting sides. The labels carry baggage that is inconsistent with the current division on two counts:
Politically: Most church members are conservative and view very negatively liberals and progressives who support homosexual marriage and other issues that directly contradict God's laws.
Religiously: Joseph Tkach and company were considered liberals, and Herbert Armstrong was considered conservative. In addition, liberal churches, especially those in the World Council of Churches, do not believe in the Bible and believe God's law is done away with. Their concern is social issues as determined through their own reasoning.
Hence you have arbitrarily assigned labels to the contending sides that prejudice your readers towards one faction. This is very disappointing because The Journal should present both sides equally without prejudice.
I strongly urge you to correct this inequality and, rather than just be critical, am suggesting the following names for each faction based upon the names of the individuals involved.
It would be far more appropriate to label the factions based upon the names of the former presidents of the UCG who lead and support each faction.
The McCullough-Kilough faction would represent the two former presidents of the UCG who support the move to Texas, Leon Walker's behavior, and conversion of the government of the UCG to authoritative rule.
The Holladay faction would represent those who opposed the move to Texas, disapprove of Mr. Walker's behavior and want to maintain an elected council of elders.
Compared to "conservative" and "progressive," these labels do not carry additional meanings that would prejudice your authors, and I urge you to begin using them or any other label that does not carry additional meanings that would prejudice your readers towards one faction.
I would also like to point out that the McCullough-Kilough faction had two opportunities to change the governing body of the UCG to authoritative rule.
When Mr. McCullough was elected president, the council had an overwhelming majority of those who now support governance change. They could have done it then but chose not to, presumably because they felt they would maintain power.
The same can be said when Mr. Kilough was first elected. He had the council votes to again change the governance but chose not to.
The McCullough-Kilough faction moved to change the rules of governance after they found that the move to Texas divided the church and they were voted out of office for the second time.
I will concede that Mr. McCullough did want a stronger presidency as shown by his treatment of Dave Havir, which resulted in the split in the Big Sandy congregation [in 1998]. I have great respect for Mr. Havir and always read his column in The Journal. I believe he was treated unfairly, and I fear what would happen under an authoritarian government to others like him or those who support the Holladay faction.
We have seen the danger in an authoritative church government. Mr. Armstrong's death led to the Tkaches' control of the church and a denial of God's law. If this type of governance is again installed, eventually the same thing will happen. Someone has said it is folly to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
Downers Grove, Ill.
The Journal appreciates Mr. Demirgian's comments and suggestions but does not plan to change its conservative-progressive labeling convention if the subject of UCG council members' philosophical and political perspectives comes up again in future news coverage.
The Journal believes it would not be proper to attach the names of the factions to people's names. The philosophies inherent in the discussion are much bigger than any particular individuals.
Conservative, progressive and liberal are relative terms. Compared to the John Birch Society, a typical Republican would be a liberal--or, to use a word with less baggage in the eyes of many U.S. Church of God members--a progressive. This kind of relative comparison is all that was intended.
Further, The Journal does not see the two factions in the UCG as having anything originally to do with the proposed Texas move. The two factions were alive and well in Indianapolis in 1995 at the UCG's founding.
The conservatives at the conference included David Hulme, Jim Franks and many more. The progressives included Ray Wooten, Dennis Luker and many more.
Mr. McCullough and Mr. Walker were nowhere to be found in Indianapolis. They were not a factor and are not founding members of the UCG. It would be imprecise to refer to the factions with the names of men who were latercomers to the UCG.
It would make more sense, even today, to refer to the Hulme and Wooten factions, even though that naming practice would be confusing as well. But at least those names would make historic sense.
Misunderstanding Scripture doesn't help
We agree with Jan Young's statement in his letter to The Journal dated June 17, 2010 [and headed "Is God One or None?"], that in the various COGs there are many doctrinal errors that lead to division among us.
One of those errors is the teaching that no matter what we do as believers all our righteousness will remain as filthy rags.
The main scripture used to try to prove this is Isaiah 64.
A careful reading of verses 4-7 shows they refer to a people who had left God and were continuing in their sins for a long time.
But is this to be the character and mind of a believer, or are we to grow in God's righteous character?
The new man who comes up out of the waters of baptism is to immediately begin allowing Christ to form His righteousness within him (or her) on this side of the resurrection. That new man is now to take on the character and mind of Christ through having a personal relationship with Him (John 14:19-24).
It is this new man, not the old man, who will be resurrected into God's kingdom.
Another doctrine that stunts our growth is the teaching that if we try to live a righteous life we would be trying to enter into the Kingdom by our own works. But Christ tells us our righteousness is to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and He shows us how to do that: through the power of the Holy Spirit coming into us (John 15:4-5).
This growth is required of us even though salvation comes only through the blood of Christ (Revelation 3:5).
For further information please see New-Covenant.info.
James N. and Margie Coulson Pope
Always the best policy
In reading Jan Young's letter to the editor ("Is God One or None?," The Journal, June 17, 2010, Issue No. 139) I noticed his claim that "the doctrine of two Gods is not wrong" (paragraph four).
He neglects to explain this position in The Journal, and it is my opinion that his advertised Web-site article, as an explanation, explains little.
I do not question Mr. Young's sincerity regarding his worship model, nor do I think he is a bad person because of his biblical errors regarding this issue. I don't know the man. But, having written extensively over the years regarding the Armstrong "two-Gods-plus-millions-of-human-Gods-later" doctrine (see my Web site, www.cfministries.org), I hope Mr. Young will avail himself of my writing on this issue.
Honesty is the best policy in all matters spiritual and biblical, even when it is painful to accept. A number of the Herbert Armstrong doctrines, in my opinion, were poorly researched, fraught with errors and, yes, falsely but cleverly presented.
Many of these error-riddled doctrines continue to be promulgated today.
On the other hand, to give the man, H.W. Armstrong, his due, a number of his teachings were correctly researched and honestly presented.
Mr. Young wrote in The Journal that the doctrine of "two Gods" is a correct teaching. I strongly disagree. He enhances this, according to his advertised Web article, by saying that that "God is one yet two."
That idea is eerily similar to the Trinitarian heresy. He also states on the Web, and without a shred of support, that "man's goal is to become God, too." (That notion is certainly not my goal!)
The teaching about man becoming Gods just as God is God comes primarily, in my experience, from an Armstrong teaching, not from any Bible I have ever read or heard about, and I have read a bunch.
Mr. Young boldly claims that Jesus is both "God and the son of God." That is strange. Jesus never claimed he was God or a God but rather is quoted stating emphatically, in a prayer no less, that he was not God (John 17:3). Who are we to believe?
Jesus clearly stated that there is "one true God." Mr. Young (in his Web article) mentions this passage (John 17:3) but quickly adds the idea of Jesus and God being "one" (John 10:30-36).
In what way were they one? This is not explained. But Mr. Young implies that this second hazy quotation negates Jesus' plain words in his prayer.
Why not simply utilize Occam's razor and believe the most straightforward and simple fact? Jesus worshiped one God, and Jesus said that that God was a singular being called the only true God, the one he referred to as his Father.
I will grant anyone the freedom to believe what he wishes, but teaching this stuff to others is a more serious situation (James 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1).
My point: The very clear and correct characterization of folks who support and worship two or more Gods (gods) is that they are practicing polytheism. People who practice such a model are, by definition, polytheists.
Ergo, people who worship and support two or more gods (of any type) cannot be practicing monotheism, no matter how much they may insist upon it or how many clever ideas they bring to the table.
God cannot be one being and two beings (or three or more or millions) at the same time. The word God is not a last name or a family name as some like to preach. Those proposing such departures from biblical truth need to gird up their loins and state the obvious. Why hide behind cleverly constructed arguments? Honesty demands the truth, and the truth cannot be gotten rid of, cannot be dismissed or covered up forever. The truth will out.
My plea for those who worship and support two or more Gods: Man up and admit, without beating around the bush, that you are practicing polytheism by supporting and worshiping two Gods.
At least, in so doing, for whatever it is worth, you will have gained my respect, regardless of your beliefs.
F. Paul Haney
Disillusionment required for salvation
I very much appreciated Ronald Dart's commentary that "disillusionment is required for salvation" [beginning on page 3 of the July 31, 2010, issue].
My disillusionment about Mr. Armstrong was not of his personal life, for I had no personal contact or knowledge of the man.
There may have been a (short) time when I was swept away with the illusion that every teaching from HWA and the WCG was infallible. But disillusionment or, more specifically, a better understanding of human nature soon caused me to question a number of teachings.
The strongest disillusionment came when I realized that his most fundamental teaching about God and Jesus Christ was not only flawed but wrong.
Unfortunately, Herbert W. Armstrong retained from Catholicism the teaching that Jesus existed as a second God before He was begotten of God and born of Mary and that He became a man via an incarnation.
The plain truth, however, is that preexistence and incarnation do not exist in the created order from which we learn and understand the deity of God (Romans 1:19-20).
Let me quickly add that it was the teachings of Mr. Armstrong against the Trinity that brought me out of Catholicism/Protestantism, and for that I will always be grateful to him.
Also, thanks for a great overview and reminder of the history of the UCG in the last Journal [see "UCG's Crisis Is the Latest in a Long Line of Ups and Downs Since the Church's Founding in 1995," beginning on page 1 of the same issue].
Thank you for the June 17, 2010, issue of The Journal. Several outstanding articles give me hope for the future of the Churches of God.
The debate on the nature of the Bible was outstanding. [See "Two Former Worldwide Church of God Pastors Face Off in a Debate About the Nature of the Bible.]
While one would obviously disagree with some of the positions, it was noteworthy that disagreement could be expressed without being disagreeable! That could never have happened 50 years ago.
Norman Edwards' article ["What Sabbatarian Christians Need Are Successful Macroministries"] was enlightening. None of us has a monopoly on all the truth.
"Energetic worship" caught my eye. We used to close our minds to the scriptures wherein Paul taught about spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are important and probably will be much more so in the future.
As Dave Havir said (in the article "Pastor Has an Unusual Take on Tongues"), we need to stay open-minded and tolerant about many of these areas such as spiritual gifts.
In my experience in the last two years I have become aware of several in the Churches of God who have gifts of the Spirit. Most of them are husband-and-wife teams who are directly engaged in the ministry or foreign evangelism or both.
Ministers from the old WCG are aging, and, although some ordinations have been made by them, I am not aware of a direct connection with this new breed of ministers who are going out to preach the gospel to the world.
Thank you, Dixon Cartwright, for your publication and valuable service that enables us to keep up with the trends in the Churches of God.
Share your life with God
Many of us are single or have lost our mates. We have no earthly person to share our thoughts with. We have a deep emotional longing to be with someone.
Rejoice! We will be with the Father and Jesus Christ for all eternity. So let us tell Them about our feelings, loneliness, desires and pains. We need Their guidance now and into eternity.
We also have our brothers and sisters to share our thoughts and hopes with. They are part of the family.
My wife and I didn't have fleshly brothers and sisters. For us there was a void. But now we have a giant family to be with forever.
We have a great house-city, the new Jerusalem, with a new heaven and earth, where there will be only righteousness and love--no more loneliness, pain and hostility. We will have perfect bodies and no more diabetes, cancer, arthritis, poor eyesight and weakness (and no fat).
Let us be kind to one another and share our thoughts several times a day with God.
Let us not be split up because of different headquarters. We all believe about the same things. Have fellowship with like minds because they too have their down days.
Remember, our fellowship is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
Lawrence G. Mumme
The word from Delight
Is the Bible the Word of God or the inerrant Word of God? It would seem that calling the Bible the Word of God would be a way to show respect for the Bible.
But, if it isn't accurate to call it the Word of God, might we be flattering the Bible? Remember, we are warned in the Bible that some will be corrupted by flattery.
Considering the Bible to be the Word or inerrant Word or not considering it to be such opens a Pandora's box of implications.
If we consider it to be the Word of God we can't even consider the possibility of our interpretation being questionable, because we are dealing with what we believe to be facts.
Is we are of the persuasion that it is not accurate to call the Bible the inerrant Word of God or even simply the Word of God, we have great latitude.
We can consider one author of more importance than another, we can honestly admit that we don't know, and we can have complete freedom to learn from the Bible and not allow the Bible to limit our faith or understanding of the Word of God with endless supposed facts that we must defend and support with never-ending rituals and doctrines.
One way to view the Bible makes us an adult with personal responsibility, and the other way to view it stifles us as a child of obedience.
The position we take on this issue and other issues may not be as dangerous as the interpretation we have of the position our position puts us in.
If it is not accurate to call the Bible the Word of God and yet we are calling the Bible the Word of God, we probably don't understand what the Word of God is.
Phillip L. Griffith