Letters from our readersOf one accord The Russellville, Ark., brethren (Russellville Church of God a Sabbatarian Fellowship) wanted to share our joy with you all. We just enjoyed an absolutely perfect and satisfying Pentecost day. The weather was ideal, low 70s, with just enough clouds for variety and a beautiful pavilion near the Arkansas River near enough to a lock and dam that we could see man's technology and yet around us the wonderful works of our Creator. We could understand why Paul wanted so badly to be at Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost. We were all of one accord, and it was absolutely marvelous. We are already looking forward to Pentecost next year. Our wish is that you all had just such a day.
Edd ie Staggs Sr.
Russel lville, Ark.New Testament psalm Thanks to Robert J. Thiel for his letter about the hymnal ["Sing a New Song," April 30, page 4]. I'd suggest to him that Philippians 2:5-11 has been deemed by scholars to be an early church hymn. Many choral works have been inspired by these verses. It does mention Jesus. Once a musician analyzes the chord structures in order to aid improvisation, he sees the same chords and chord patterns. Dwight Armstrong's hymns vary in keys, and his chords use different inversions of notes, but a sameness is quite apparent. Second, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the hymnal style of Martin Luther (1483-1546) in the 20th century! Those who worship G-d deserve variation when it is available and appropriate. Third, the amazing irony: Long after Herbert W. Armstrong is totally forgotten, it's possible Dwight Armstrong will be remembered. Music stays in the long-term memory, and maybe history will preserve one of his songs! Dr. Thiel's words have merit.
Fresno, Calif.Way of peace I found the article in the April 30 issue, "In View of Sept. 11, Was Islam Ever a Religion of Peace?," by Scott Ashley to be eye-opening. We have recently been looking into the Muslim way of life and trying to understand what it is that drives the followers of Islam to behave in the way they (some of them) do.
Colin and Pam Elson
Torbay, EnglandIslam essay Excellent, excellent essay on Islam by Scott Ashley in issue No. 75. This article needs to be forwarded to many people who won't have seen it in The Journal.
Placerville, Calif.On what day to worship While I agree with Ray Rousseau that Scott Ashley's article on Islam [The Journal, April 30] was exemplary, I totally disagree with Ray's letter to the editor ["Islam and the Sabbath," May 31, page 4]. Ray believes that the "hallmark of the God of the Bible" is Saturday worship, and it is unacceptable to worship God on any other day. In fact, if we worship God on any day other than Saturday, he says we are not "worshiping the only true God." I looked up the word worship in a concordance and read scriptures from Genesis through Revelation and found nowhere to support that statement. In fact, in Revelation 4:8-11 the 24 elders appear to worship God day and night without resting. While I certainly do worship God on Saturday, I also try to worship Him on a daily basis. We need to step back and stop worshiping a day and start to really learn what worship is, and the humility it takes to surrender ourselves to God and praise Him for everything in our lives. Do we even understand what real heartfelt worship is? The Sabbath is indeed a day of rest, but it isn't the only day of worship.
Heather van Doorn
Las Cruces, N.M.Workaholics and the Sabbath In your report on the recent general conference of the United Church of God (The Journal, May 31), did longtime pastor Dale Schurter really mean to imply that the Fourth Commandment has to do with the principle of resting one day--any day--out of seven? In many ways our raison d'être as a distinct community is based on a clear understanding of the Fourth Commandment's specifying of one particular day, the seventh, as the day of rest. The commandment does not allow us to just pick a day, any day. If Mr. Schurter is actually arguing that keeping the Fourth Commandment requires some people--even if those people are "special" in some way, like "elders"--merely to pick one day out of seven, then how could he object to those outside our community who pick, say, Sunday as their day of rest? Did none of his listeners challenge him on this? It sounded pretty far-reaching in its implications to me. Bottom line: You either keep the Fourth Commandment by remembering the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, or you don't. The wording in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 does not allow for any other option. Now, if Mr. Schurter wanted to emphasize the importance of rest for workaholic ministers, he could have done that quite easily by, say, showing examples of Jesus going off to spend time in solitude, etc. But that has nothing to do with keeping the Fourth Commandment. It is a stretch to equate R and R with the keeping of the Fourth Commandment. A holy day is one thing, a holiday quite another.
Big Sandy, TexasThanks, Keysha Dianne McDonnell's article on Keysha Brown in the March issue of The Journal was truly inspiring. What a wonderful example for the teenagers in our congregations. If all of us, young and old members alike, could stir up the Spirit as much as Keysha has done, this work would see similar miracles take place, and we would effectively "show forth His praises," and our "good works would be beheld" (1 Peter 2:9, 12), in this totally deceived and confused age. Thanks, Keysha, and congratulations on achieving your goal. As a devoted grandfather, I wish you well in the future as you continue to put faith in your God. Let all of us who profess Christ follow her example.
Brisbane, Australia.Tragic loss I have been watching for an article on the deaths of Jerry and Monett Coffelt and their daughter. They died the first part of April. It was listed on Vic Kubik's Web site at first, but there were no details of how it happened. If you can find the details, can you put them in The Journal? I know there are probably a lot of people who would like to know what the circumstances were. They were known by a lot of people from different locations in the country.
Phoenix, Ariz.Because of Mrs. Love's suggestion, The Journal publishes in this issue an article about the tragedy that took the lives of the Coffelts and their daughter, Layne Demilio. See page 1. A step back just in time This letter is a challenge to the readers to hear again John 1:1-14, this time from a Hebraic historical perspective. While scholars and Bible students attempt to understand the Greek language behind our English Bibles, John the author was a Jew with a Hebraic worldview. Would it not make more sense to take one step back, behind the Greek, to the Hebraic worldview of John? The Torah (teaching), prophets and writings were the cradle from which the gospel of God through Jesus Christ sprang. The gospel came out of Judea, not Athens or Rome. The apostle Paul stated that the law and the prophets witness the gospel he preaches (Romans 1:2; 3:21). The Gospel of John through the lens of the Torah, prophets and writings casts a light on the Greek that is less than clear without the historical Hebraic worldview of the first-century apostle John. All of the apostles were Israelites, from a Hebraic culture, within a God-ordained Hebraic religion, all built around the God of the Hebrews and His instructions for how they should believe and live before Him. John's Gospel of God through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah, when read through the Hebraic lens of the so-called Old Testament, will clear up the less-than-clear Greek language in the earliest copies of copies from the third century. If the interpretations cast upon the Greek language are less than satisfying to you, come to the Tyler, Texas, seminars (sponsored by the Association for Christian Development and Ken Westby) advertised in the last several issues of The Journal and hear John 1:1-14 through the worldview of the apostle John from the Hebraic historical context. It is a fact that the same set of scriptures read from a Hebraic context will be interpreted differently from the historical second-, third- and fourth-century Hellenistic cultural worldview. Since the holocaust, in the last few decades Bible scholars have begun to value the Torah, prophets and writings (the Old Testament) in the same way as did the historical Jesus and the apostles. In the beginning are the first words of Genesis, and in the beginning are the first words in John's Gospel. What does each have in common with the others?
Phelan, Calif.Y'all come I plan to attend the One God Seminars, which were moved from Big Sandy by a close vote of the church's board, to be held in Tyler, Texas, the weekend of July 25-27. I have the opportunity to give one of the presentations, "Who Was the God of the Old Testament?" I believe He was the one Jesus calls Father and that He is the Most High God, the one and only one with the personal name of Yahweh. My challenge: Come and hear the presentations and sincerely listen to the evidence given by the spokesmen, and, if you have proof to the contrary, raise your hand and ask your question or give your proof and straighten us out! Find out why you should not call us heretics or blasphemers. We do not condemn you, and you should not condemn us. We believe in one God, the Father, and that Jesus Christ is His begotten Son, who came into existence as a person from His Father's life. Please come and hear how and why we believe what we do. Find out what some church leaders don't want you to know. Hope to see y'all in Tyler in July.
Palestine, TexasThe WCG wasn't binitarian The nature-of-God debate is constantly characterized as "binitarian vs. unitarian," but that characterization is false. It is false primarily because the term binitarian does not properly describe the Armstrong camp's worship model. Rather, the Armstrong camp's model is a first cousin to ancient Greco-Roman polytheism and nothing less. The Armstrong model can be appropriately described only as polytheistic in nature. The standard picture presented to the brethren contains more than a simple error or mistake in terminology. The debate rages about whether we should worship and support one God or worship and support two Gods. But the whole story is not usually told. Rather, I believe that in their zeal to uphold the late Herbert Armstrong's polytheistic view, a view in which many persons have a vested interest, many Armstrong disciples and advocates of his worship system are blinded to the truth about that which they support. Recently Dave Havir wrote an article for The Journal titled "Can Binitarians and Unitarians Get Along?" (May 31 issue). Mr. Havir readily admits that he is a binitarian and goes on to rightly suggest that a brotherhood of love should prevail between these warring factions. I have no big quarrel with Mr. Havir's column. It was well presented but typical in one respect. Within his article and within others as well, including letters to the editor that commonly appear in The Journal, a huge fraud is unwittingly perpetuated and sustained upon the readership. Even those of us who believe in the one true God of Jesus Christ have fallen into this trap and propagate the inaccuracy. The point: The debate is definitely not between "binitarians" and "unitarians." A binitarian--by simple definition--is one who supports two gods of some sort who are usually equal in status. But the basic position of those who are most often called binitarian in the pages of The Journal is most definitely not binitarian at all. Armstrong disciples who are self-confessed worshipers and supporters of two separate Gods do not stop at the support of two separate Gods, although they balk at admitting the next level of worship and support. They support, in the Armstrong mold and in the Armstrong tradition, millions and perhaps billions of gods. They ultimately worship and support an essentially unlimited family of gods. So to suggest that the opponents of monotheism (defined accurately and biblically as the worship of one divine God) are merely supporting two Gods is just not true. Somebody is not being forthcoming in the presentation of his theology. Those supporting the Armstrong view are polytheists pure and simple; they are not "binitarian" in any sense. Christ Fellowship Ministries has coined a new term for the followers of Mr. Armstrong. It is "poly-binitarian." The word poly, meaning many (two or more), is added to the self-assigned designation binitarian. The members of the Armstrong camp who worship and support two Gods now--and millions of gods later--are slated, by their own admission, to become "Gods" themselves--even "Gods as God is God," with the attendant power and glory of the Almighty. These newly created "Gods" are to be worshiped as Gods in the "wonderful world tomorrow." They are supposed to become "co-Saviors" and "co-Creators"--Gods in their own right with power to create other humans, destroy them, raise them from the dead and more. So let's get the name right, folks. Let's call a spade a spade and stop hiding behind expedient and convenient terms. People who support two gods plus millions of additional humanoid gods are not binitarians.
F. Paul Haney
Watertown, Conn.Doctrinal sound bite For a group of people who like to pride ourselves on using the Bible as our only authority on defining doctrine, we in the "Church of God Pod" have a funny way of showing it. A prime example is the debate on the nature of God and His Son. Jesus Himself asked the question, "Who do you say that I am?" The apostle Peter then gave the inspired answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15-16). Similarly, Jesus told us what we need to know about the nature of God in order to receive eternal life. These are Jesus' own words in red letters, addressed to our heavenly Father: "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 3:17). If it is good enough for Jesus to call our Father "the only true God," who are we to argue with Him? We have had endless debate on the meaning of echad as used in Deuteronomy 6:4. Does it mean only one, or can it mean more than one? Overlooked in this debate is that Hebrew and Greek both have perfectly good words for "two." If God had meant for us to understand that "God is a family presently composed of two persons," He could have just said so. We have had no trouble using phrases like these in our doctrinal statements of beliefs. The problem, of course, is that the Bible doesn't use such phrases. I can find no place in the Bible where the number "two" is used in conjunction with the true God. Nor does the Bible use terms like "Jesus is God the Son." Jesus calls Himself our brother, our Lord and Master, Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. Why is it necessary for us to go beyond this in defining "the nature of the Godhead"? If we must have a doctrinal sound bite to define the nature of Jesus in our booklets, what is wrong with using the divinely inspired words of Peter: Jesus is "the Messiah, the Son of the living God"? P.S.: If Jesus is God, are Roman Catholics correct to call Mary the mother of God?
Yorktown, TexasSpread the word I've been in contact via E-mail with a professional author working on a biography of Bobby Fischer (who was involved with the WCG from about 1962 to 1978). He is aware that Mr. Fischer lived for a time at Pasadena with WCG church leaders in the mid-1970s, contributed some significant amounts of money to the church and was wined and dined by Herbert Armstrong for a while. He is looking for anyone who may have had any contact with Mr. Fischer at that time. He is trying to get a handle on how his relationship to and experiences with the WCG back then may have had an influence on the strange personality quirks he is now displaying. Anyone willing to talk to this author on or off the record, even if he would like his participation to be totally anonymous, can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put him in contact with the author.
Allegan, Mich.Pam's Web site I received my Journal three days ago. I read aloud to my husband the article about Pam Dewey ["COG Member Thinks Up New Way to Do the Work," May 31 issue], and we were very interested in what she had to say about going among Protestants teaching God's true word and history of God's Sabbath when the opportunity presented itself. My husband and I have long had a desire to do something more than just going to church and paying and praying for the work. We had the idea that we might get more information from her to help us do some of what she is doing. I had gone to Protestant churches up till the time I started attending the WCG, and I didn't find the truth there. But I know that what I read from my Bible and what Mr. Armstrong taught me is the truth as far as God has allowed man to understand. There is one thing that I do know. I have been taught by Scripture to respect your elders, to respect and pray for your leaders, whether civil or church leaders. We may not respect the things they do, but if we are Commandment-keeping Christians and we say we love God, then we cannot write, say or believe the things that I read when I went to Pam Dewey's Web site, www.isitso.org. What I read on this Web site made me feel disturbed and sad for the rest of the day. Now, some will say that everyone has a right to write and believe what he wants to, but I say Christians don't have that right, not if they truly serve God. A Christian has to love and forgive or God will not forgive him. Pam, you have good ideas and some I would like to adopt, but you need to get another Web site. This one really hurts you. My prayer is that everyone will consider what I have said here and repent of any hate and slanderous desire to get even with those who hurt us. Just remember they are the ones who will answer for their sins. We have to answer for ours. We can't let hurt and anger allow anyone to take our crowns. I'm not deceived to think our ministers didn't let us down. I know they have glaring faults. But don't we all?
Charlotte Ann Farley
Dunlap, Tenn.It's always something We really like The Journal. Why? Because we can keep in touch with old friends from WCG days. My wife, Dorothy, and I were baptized by Carlton Smith in Salem, Ore., in 1964. It makes us sad to read articles condemning Herbert W. Armstrong. Yes, HWA made mistakes, like makeup, divorce and remarriage, Stan Rader and Joe Tkach. But he taught us about the seventh-day Sabbath and the holy days, which we still keep. Dorothy and I have a Sabbath-keeping group here in Phoenix. We support Garner Ted Armstrong, but that does not mean we don't have problems. Another group in town claims it is the Greater Church of God. I do not believe that! Dorothy and I are taking Ron Dart's Bible course. We think Mr. Dart is a super teacher, and Fred Coulter is one of our advisers. But I have problems with Ken Westby and his one God. I have serious problems with Arlen Berkey from Oregon, and now Pam Dewey, a lady, is teaching! Where will it end? And then I just found out the burial box with the bones of James, brother of Jesus, is a fraud! Do like the Bereans. Search the Scriptures daily. Keep The Journal coming.
Glendale, Ariz.Paul wasn't against the law Paul spoke against Judaism, gnostics, elemental spirits (astrology), etc. He said the law separating gentiles from Israelites was broken down. The law of temple sacrifice that was added because of transgressions was fading away. Faith in the perfect Passover sacrifice was sufficient. This proves that being a Jew through genealogy or circumcision was no longer necessary. Christ's death nailed the instrument of charges (debt) for our past sins to the tree. Satan's false ministers expanded Paul's preaching against the temple-service laws (the blood of bulls and goats) to include God's law of love, the Ten Commandments, summed up in "Love God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Paul never said a word against God's law of love. Yet Satan, through his false ministers, perverts Paul's words to attack the concept of obeying God. May we pray that God's Kingdom may come and the government be on Christ's shoulders and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Greg A. Jandrt
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