Letters from our readersCorrection I just received my Journal and saw Rita's obituary ["Obituaries," March 31, page 19], and I just wanted to point out that the date of her death was not accurate. Rita died on Friday, March 7, not Saturday the 8th.
Milford, Conn.The everlasting Father Much attention is given to the question of whether Jesus is God. Those who think not seem to inadequately explain numerous scriptures testifying to the affirmative, and I don't suppose they can adequately explain them. John 1:14 tells us that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." We know this refers to Jesus, who was flesh, so when the first verse of that chapter tells us, as the Majority text does, that "God was the Word," we have to make some sort of identification of Jesus with God. When Paul refers at Titus 2:13 to "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," many try to alter the reading, but the quoted text is in agreement with the Majority text, and the suggested alterations are not. No, there is (Isaiah 43:11) no Savior besides God, but we know who our Savior is, so why claim He isn't God? As Hosea 13:4 says, there is no God except Him and no Savior besides Him. Peter agrees (1 Peter 1:1) that He is "our God and Savior." Jude 25 is plain in the Majority text that He is "God our Savior," although the Westcott-Hort error ("through Jesus Christ our Lord") has crept into most translations now. When we are told in Acts 20:28 that God purchased the church with His own blood, we ought to take it as a clue as to what or who Jesus is. When Thomas refers to Jesus as "my God" (John 20:28), the Lord, who is usually not reticent about correcting error, appears to be content to be so called. It is argued that Yehoshua never claimed to be God, yet that is not the testimony of His contemporaries. John 5:18 expresses their opinion that He was "making himself equivalent to God." When He says, at John 8:24, that "unless you believe that I am, you shall die in our sins," this looks to me to be His claim to divinity. When He says, at verse 58, "Before Abraham was born, I am," it is understood that He is claiming to be God because the Jews would not have wanted to stone Him otherwise. When He says at John 10:30, "I and the Father are one," He really means it. Isaiah 9:6 calls Him "the everlasting father" and also "Mighty God." In the interest of brevity I won't go further, but I have not even begun to exhaust the Bible testimony that God became Yehoshua of Nazareth. I notice that many who explain some of the scriptures I cited revert to the corrupt texts Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus, which up to the late 1800s were completely rejected by Christian scholars who knew of their unreliability beside the Byzantine text. I realize that part of the problem is that, on the one hand, God says He is one and that there are no other gods beside Him, and on the other hand Jesus prays to God and in many ways seems distinct from God. So this leads some to conclude that Jesus is not God. I can't explain the apparent contradiction (yet), but that doesn't mean I should reject the clear scriptural teaching that Jesus is my God and my Savior, the everlasting Father. My incomprehension of a fact doesn't render it untrue. I am glad we fail to understand most things because otherwise the glory to which we are called would not be a lot greater and better than this.
Victoria, B.C., CanadaChanging big time Some have received a copy of the "Begotten/Born Again" text from 1902 [which some say was the basis for Herbert W. Armstrong's belief and teaching on the doctrine]. For what it's worth, here are some thoughts that it prompted. A couple of points that come to mind. First, it really is irrelevant to me whether Herbert Armstrong copied this idea from someone else. We've known for a long time that other concepts he expounded on were borrowed from a variety of sources. The point that is important to me is whether the teaching is true or false, not whether X or Y was the first one to come up with the idea. After all, God can use a jackass to convey His message if He chooses to. As far as the specific teaching is concerned, I think we must always be careful about distinguishing between what is literal and what is figurative or emblematic. In this case, if we take the begettal-birth analogy too far, we end up with impossible conundrums. For example, in a normal human begettal there is a womb inside a mother. Where is the womb? Who is the mother spiritually? The church? But the church is the assembly of the called-out ones, or the begotten ones, if you prefer. So is the mother made up of all the embryos and fetuses? Another point: In the case of the Christian, he has full freedom of choice and of action during the "begettal" stage. That's not true of a real embryo or fetus. So we clearly can't apply some of these things literally. In addition, there are references, say, in Hebrews, to new Christians who still need the milk of the Word, like babies who have already been born. As we all know, embryos and fetuses who are still in the womb don't drink milk. By extension, Hebrews suggests that babies are expected to grow and mature, certainly not remain as long-term fetuses. Paul elsewhere talks about growing to the measure and stature of Jesus Christ. You can't be both mature and a fetus at the same time. I think we can sometimes get so bug-eyed about the meanings of words that we miss the big picture. To me the big picture includes the reality of conversion: We change when we are converted. We are a "new man" in Christ. The "old man" is buried in baptism. And we change also--big time!--when we are resurrected. Throughout this process we are considered the children of God, whom we address as "Father" through His Son, our Elder Brother.
Big Sandy, TexasTalk about health and wealth Dave Havir's article, "Thank God Every Day for the Hedge," in the March 31 Journal correctly identifies what is wrong with the "health-and-wealth gospel" but ignores the fact that the words you use are the evidence of what you believe. If you say positive things you will become positive. Negative things will make you negative. When praying to the Father, if you are negative how can you approach His throne boldly? As we can read, Satan is negative and when talking to God uses negative accusations against the brethren and God's creation (Revelation 12:10). Jesus, on the other hand, was always positive because He believed. This belief was spoken without doubt as He performed His many miracles. Jesus stated to His followers that if they had the faith of a mustard seed they could move mountains. Yet even with this belief, a part of His very being, He could not perform many miracles when encountering unbelief (Matthew 13:54-58). What most miss with the health-and-wealth gospel (Colossians 1:27-29) is that God does promise to those who accept Christ that they have power to change their everyday life. They are to overcome (John 16:33; Revelation 3:17). Maybe many will remember the story from childhood about the little engine that could. It was a case in which belief made success possible (Matthew 21:22). We must be careful when pointing out the obvious flaws in the health-and-wealth gospel that we do not remove the positive faith given us on the Day of Pentecost. Wealth and health are nothing to the power given to us as individuals by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His Spirit in us. All things work to the good, so even the trials that are so sore at times are for our benefit (Romans 8:28). We have a greater gospel than those who look to mere material things. We have knowledge that what we say and think can change events and that God can and will deliver us. We thank Him every day for His hedge because we know it is in us. Does this faith in God's power make Him a puppet of our wishes? Not if we understand that all power comes from Him. Those who think that because He has given them the power to move mountains means He is our servant do not believe in the power He has shared with them (Mark 16:16-17). The mere idea that we can command God shows our lack of faith in Christ in us while we doubt our sharing of Christ's power. We never command but ask out of love and respect because we are not greater than the Son or Father; we are brothers. The hedge is within us. We do have what we confess or say, and it is not blasphemy to thank God daily for His power in us that helps us to make it into His Kingdom. We name it and claim it in truth and not for selfish greed. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). You do have what you say.
Shelby, Teresa and B.D. Davis
La Follette, Tenn.Much ado In the Letters section of the April 30 issue of The Journal, Geoffrey Neilson of South Africa speculates on the meaning of the W in Herbert W. Armstrong's name. I once asked Mr. Armstrong what the W stood for. His reply: "Nothing." In the same letters section, Phil Griffith comments on my thinking that I am offering a helping hand and that readers of The Journal are rejecting it. My only concern is with what is objectively, factually, true about anything. I am not especially concerned about being disagreed with, rejected or criticized. Of and by themselves, those things mean nothing. They come to mean something only when the content of them has substance. If the substance of criticism gets us all closer to truth, we are better off for it. What matters is not me or my opinions but truth itself. Ideally, the dissenting discussions that grace the pages of The Journal are intended to move us in the direction of what is actually true about any given issue. Truth is what counts. It concerns me less that people might reject my opinions than it does that they will reject truth itself. The two things are not always synonymous. I believe that what matters is that we are progressively, incrementally, moving in the direction of objective truth on all matters of importance. That means jettisoning along the way all things that turn out to be less than true. When I was a small boy growing up with my grandparents, my grandfather taught me that the most important question in the world is "Why?" I still believe that. I don't care so much about what people believe as about why they believe it. If the "why" doesn't hold up, there's no reason to accept the belief as valid.
Monrovia, Calif.Weights and measures Regarding Barbara Slater's letter on the Barbara Fenney case in the March issue of The Journal ["No Shortage," page 2], if we did not judge these evil deeds in the church they would tell us less about the accused than about the accuser. When the apostle Paul heard accusations about the accused in the church at Corinth, they turned out to be right (1 Corinthians 5:1-3), even though he was not a firsthand witness before he made his final "absent in the body" judgment. A true witness runs to The Journal with his report because he knows he is not being heard by his ministers and members in the church, who are seeking to justify themselves apart from Christ and to keep their sins quiet. According to Proverbs 17:15, you do not want to be found justifying wickedness in the church. A wicked man who does wickedness is wicked even if he calls himself a church member or a minister. Regarding Gerry Russell's letter on the Fenney case in the same issue ["List of Disfellowshippable Offenses," page 2], if John Jewell's action to disfellowship Mrs. Fenney were indeed upheld by the U.S. councils, she would not have found herself and her husband back in the same church when the subsequent turmoil arose. As for the charges of "financial misappropriation" by Mrs. Fenney against Mr. Jewell, there was no such thing but only a disagreement over how church funds should have been allocated. Regarding the Fenneys' previous objections to certain prophetical teachings, the answer is to defend your position from the Scriptures. As Paul said, "let two or three speak, and the other discern it thoroughly. If a thing be disclosed to one sitting by, let the first hold his peace" and not eyeball him suspiciously or proudly hold onto an indefensible position or judge him with evil thoughts. As for Mrs. Fenney's intention to "get rid" of John Jewell, as though a member has power over Christ to dislodge an ordained man from his post of authority, the Lord did not prevent this from happening . . . Therefore do not judge according to the flesh or be a faultfinder, for many are sinning, both the accused and the accuser. They hunt for faults, take any disagreement as a sign of rebellion, receive godly rebukes as illegal offenses (calling it "judgmentalism"), commit them to memory, then retrieve them to prevent upright judgment of a case on the basis of its own merits. They apply respect of persons in judgment (James 2:9) and use abominable weights and measures when judging (Proverbs 20:10, 23).
Hamilton, Ont., CanadaI could write a book Thanks to my friends and colleagues for their interest in my new books, The Origins and Empire of Ancient Israel and Israel's Lost Empires. I know there are many people who wish to purchase copies of my new books. However, it has come to my attention that unforeseen distribution problems have developed involving the placing of orders for them at the Web sites and postal address I had previously provided and recommended. Because of these distribution problems, I urge you to hold off on placing any additional orders for the books at those addresses until you hear from me that the problems at these outlets have been cleared up. If you or anyone else would like to reserve a signed copy of the new books, I can accommodate that request. Orders may be sent to me at P.O. Box 88735, Sioux Falls, S.D. 57109, U.S.A. The cost is now $20 per book plus $5 shipping fees for one book (or $6 for two books). I will hold off on cashing anyone's checks until the distribution problems are resolved and I know orders can be processed. The problems involving my new books do not affect orders for my first book, The "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel . . . Found! The price for a single copy is still $20 plus $5 for shipping fees. Bulk discounts are also still available.
Steven M. Collins
Sioux Falls, S.D.Islam and the Sabbath It's reassuring to read that someone in the COG has come forward to expose the truth about Islam. While Scott Ashley's article ["Church of God Editor and Writer Changed His Mind About Islam After the Terror of Sept. 11," April 30 issue] clearly stated that "the Koran's Allah is not the same as the God of the Bible," he failed to identify the hallmark of the God of the Bible. That truth, as spoken by God, is: "For I, the Lord, do not change . . ." (Malachi 3:6). The Old Testament judge Samuel told Saul that God "will not lie or change His mind" (1 Samuel 15:27). Even the writer of Hebrews reaffirmed that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes, and forever." Further, since we know that Jesus Christ is God the Father's agent as His spokesman and Creator of all things, then we also know that God's seventh-day Sabbath is the only acceptable day of worship. Anyone and everyone who worships God on any other day, whether deceived or willingly coerced or otherwise, is not worshiping the only true God. That includes Muslims, who worship on Friday, as well as all Sunday worshipers. This may also be politically incorrect to many readers, but man better get used to the idea that the Eternal isn't now, or ever was, the slightest bit interested in political correctness as determined by men.
East Freetown, Mass.Thanks, Scott Thanks to Scott Ashley's article, "Was Islam Ever a Religion of Peace?," I'm sending for another year of The Journal. The article hit the nail square on. Mr. Ashley, you told it as it was and is now. Everything we have studied in the last five years was neatly tied together in this article. This is the type of material we are in search of. Please continue, Scott Ashley, with more.
Jan and Harold White
Guilford, Ind.Worthy cause I sometimes travel with a group called Missionaries to the Preborn, P.O. Box 26931, Milwaukee, Wis. 53226 (www.missionariestopreborn.com). They believe in God's holy law and have ministers who preach repentance on the streets. They line the streets of U.S. cities with pictures of the result of abortion. I encourage readers to give to this worthy cause.
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