Letters from our readers
The sound of special music
I am offering the chance of a lifetime to every person who plays a musical instrument. The Feast of Tabernacles that is soon approaching needs your help. It will be necessary for you carry your instrument to the Feast.
Once you arrive at the site, track down the person in charge of the music. First ask if there is a musical group that will meet during the Feast. If there is, find out when it will meet and go see the person who is to be in charge and present yourself, telling him or her of your ability.
If there is not, the honor falls on you. Request that a time be set and a place for you to meet with like musical people, and request that an announcement be made over the PA system.
Now you have the chance to show your skills. Work with what God has given you and practice, practice, practice. You will be called on to play in front of the church and help in the forming of a fun night.
Just have fun. That is what the Feast is for, and you can help the Feast. Here's hoping you will be called on a whole lot.
Leo W. DuBry
The gift of Hillcrest
I just read in The Journal [June 30 issue] about Hillcrest Manor being given to a private business.
I think there should be something done for Big Sandy. There was a similar situation in the Kansas City area when a hospital complex was sold to a business. The proceeds were placed into two charitable trusts, one in Missouri for the assets in Missouri and a like situation in Kansas.
Both states' attorneys general were involved to ensure the proper handling of the moneys and that the for-profit business paid an equitable amount.
It may be too late for Hillcrest Manor, but I think it should be looked into.
Overland Park, Kan.
Not in the original
I refer to my essay in The Journal of June 30, page 3, "Love's an Emotion, Not academic Exercise." On page 30, column 2, para 1, the sentence reads, "We sometimes adopt the view that God is some awesome force in the universe that amorphously demands obedience and appeasement." The word amorphously was not in the original.
Normally when edits are made in my essays they serve to ease the flow in a style that suits The Journal and I am quite happy with them. Even when the essay is cut in length, you are very skilled at keeping the essence of the message that I have written.
However, I feel I should draw the word amorphously to the attention of the readers because this is not a word I would ever use referring to God. The word amorphous means "shapeless." I feel that does not fairly describe God. He is not "without form and void."
Milton Keynes, England
Late tradition In our article "Meeting Becoming a Tradition" on page 32, column 1 [June 30 issue], we are quoted as writing, "Mostly brethren of a Worldwide Church of God background, the participants are lately of Christian Educational Ministries, the United Church of God, etc." What we actually intended to say was, "Mostly brethren of a WCG background, we are now of CEM, United Church of God, Church of God UK and home fellowships."
"Lately" to the English suggests that the participants are no longer members of those groups, whereas our intention was to say that these are people who remain with those groups. Apart from this meeting for fellowship, the brethren continue to attend their usual churches.
Lewis and Kathleen McCann
Milton Keynes, England
Our sincerest condolences to Linda White's family and friends. Linda was certainly a remarkable lady! [See "Friends in Oklahoma and Texas Honor Linda White" and "I Have Yet to Meet Anyone Like Linda White," The Journal, May 31.]
Leonie and David Peers
Via the Internet
Is it so?
We write in response to a letter [titled "Pam's Web Site"] in the June 30 issue of The Journal, page 4, by Charlotte Ann Farley of Dunlap, Tenn.
We probably do not agree with everything Pam Dewey says on her site (www.isitso.org). However, we do not find her site to be printed in an attitude of hatred but in an attitude of love for the brethren, not wanting them to become entangled in the practice of idolatry by worshiping those who would lead the brethren away from God rather than to God.
Charlotte makes statements in her letter that make it sound like we as Christians have no right to speak against evil and that if we do so we hate and are slanderous. Yet God caused certain things to be recorded throughout the Bible in regard to some of the awful sins of His servants.
For instance, there's David's affair with Bathsheba and how he had her husband murdered so he could have her. Doesn't that offend you?
One does not have to look far to find information about leaders and other people who try to hurt people for the gain of money or power or fame. The way you talk, Charlotte, when we see the abuse of our brethren we should look the other way and say nothing.
We publish a newsletter out of Bismarck, N.D. A couple of months ago a person sent us some information in regard to a Mr. Stair out of South Carolina. It was disturbing, and we came away sick.
This Mr. Stair has displayed actions that have hurt many people. If people involved in this situation had not said anything, but just walked away, this man would still be practicing the same and continuing to hurt many.
Mr. Stair was arrested by the authorities with the help of people who were hurt by him. Pam Dewey has information about Mr. Stair posted on her Web site. We recommend Pam's site, but have a box of Kleenex handy.
Speaking out when appropriate against the evil someone does does not mean that the speaker is angry without a cause. "Be angry and sin not."
Why do people continue to protect the abusers and ignore the victims?
Darwin and Laura Lee
P.O. Box 2333
Bismarck, N.D. 58502, U.S.A.
Can't we all just get along?
Concerning "Can Binitarians and Unitarians Get Along?," by Dave Havir, The Journal, May 31:
Quite an interesting article, and I must applaud Mr. Havir. I am what you might call a unitarian but have kept it pretty much to myself since I attend one of the bigger church groups and hope to continue to do so for fellowship.
While growing up I was Church of England, and my mother insisted that we children attend Sunday school.
About 20 years ago I came into contact with members of the Worldwide Church of God and eventually was baptized. I heartily believed that God was a family, with God the Father and God the Son constituting such a family.
About five or so years ago Friends of the Sabbath held a seminar, and at the conclusion I took away some pamphlets from other groups (well, they were free). These sat in our desk drawer for many years.
Then about two years later we were informed that a minister had been asked to step down because he was preaching ideas that went against the group I attended with; that is, he was a unitarian!
Most of us felt that perhaps he had allowed himself to be led astray from the truth.
A year or so later we were having a gigantic clean-out and I came upon some of the pamphlets. One in particular caught my eye, one with a unitarian point of view.
It is hard to describe in words, but an amazing thing happened. I had had, as it were, a veil covering my mind, and then I saw that God is indeed one.
This caused me problems because we believed that only God could atone for the sins of mankind. How, I wondered, could this now be solved?
Thank you for your article, Mr. Havir!
Name and location withheld
Those other unitarians
Is the one-God movement, led by Anthony Buzzard, a benefit or a detriment to the understanding of the Bible and God and Jesus Christ? Did Herbert Armstrong have error in his explanation of the Father and Jesus? Was Jesus equal with the Father from eternity as Mr. Armstrong taught?
Not according to Jesus' own words, John 17:3, in which He identifies His Father as the only true God.
It was even claimed in the Worldwide Church of God that Jesus is the one who sustains the universe, from Hebrews 1:3, not considering that view as toying with Trinitarianism. Jesus would have to have existed in another form, sustaining the universe while His human self was dead in the grave.
It is impossible for Jesus to have sustained anything while He was dead, and Jesus claimed He was dead (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus was all human when He died (Hebrews 2:10). He suffered the same as any human suffers. He was tempted as all humans are tempted (verse 18; Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus never claimed equality with the Father. Jesus referred to the Father as "My Father and your Father" and as "My God and your God" in John 20:17.
It is obvious from this that He categorized Himself as subordinate to God, even as we all are.
On the other hand, the one-God movement, led by Mr. Buzzard and Ken Westby, puts forward the idea that there is only one referred to as YHVH, ignoring the reference to the YHVH who appeared and talked to Abraham in Genesis 18. This could not have been the one supreme God because Him no one has ever seen, nor can see (1 Timothy 6:16).
However, what is most troubling about their position is their denial of Jesus' preexistence as a person. To support their position in this, they've had to resort to denigration of the Greek text and Western thought, as opposed to what is dubbed as Hebrew thought or a Hebrew worldview.
For instance, John 8:58, in which Jesus is quoted as saying "before Abraham was I am" (and there is no ambiguity as to the meaning of the Greek words translated into English; they carry the exact same meaning), is suggested to annul the meaning to say that Jesus was simply in the mind of God before Abraham. That would reflect the Hebrew thinking of that day.
But does the context of this scripture bear this out?
Why did this statement so enrage these Hebrews if they understood Jesus to say that He was thought of by, or in the mind of God before Abraham was?
I challenge anyone in the movement to prove by whatever means that this text does not mean what it says and also on what basis "Hebrew thinking" is necessary in this text.
There are many references to Jesus' preexistence in the Bible, such as John 14:28, John 17:5, John 6:62 and 1 Corinthians 10:4, all of which demand an explanation.
I don't believe there is any edification to the church in promoting the idea that the Greek texts are so defective or misleading that we have to become dependent on gurus of Hebrew thinking in order to understand the Bible.
Yes, there are obscurities in our English translations, but few that require another way of thinking, and John 8:58 is certainly not one of them.
So the question remains: Is there one supreme God? The answer according to Scripture is yes. Did Jesus exist as a person before His humanity? According to Scripture, yes.
If anyone is interested in a fine documentation of the preexistence of Jesus, Wade Cox has done an enormous work on the subject.
On the subject of Jesus' humanity, I have an article that deals with how Jesus was the Son of God while He was the Son of Man (Son of David). My E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more from "unitarians" or "unitary monotheists" who do not believe Jesus existed before His birth, see the article beginning on page 1 about Mr. Westby's recent One God Seminars. For still another view on the nature of God and Jesus, see the following letter.
Mysteriously, three are one
Over the last several months there have appeared in The Journal several items (articles and advertisements) denying the divinity of the Lord Yeshua (hereinafter in this letter referred to as the Son).
This is an understandable, even inevitable, development given the COG milieu that teaches that God is a family of two: Father and Son.
Indeed, if God is a family of two, then there are two Gods. But the Bible says there is only one God. So only the Father or only the Son can be God, but not both.
The groups responsible for the advertisements and articles I referred to have opted to strip divinity from the Son, the junior (to their way of thinking) in the family.
The COGs' attempt at reconciling these apparently contradictory biblical doctrines includes the teaching that there is one God family. But, if this is so, then it is both Father and Son together who are God, for it is the two of them collectively who are a family.
But, then, if that is true the Father as an individual is not God for He does not constitute the family by Himself. And the same thing can be said of the Son, just as one ship is not the fleet; rather, all the ships collectively are the one fleet.
But this is not what the Bible says. The Bible says the Father is God, the Son is God, and--I also add--the Holy Spirit is God.
The Bible also says there is one God.
Numerous scriptures attest to the truth of the last two sentences. So how do we reconcile these apparent contradictions? Certainly not by the COG doctrine of God being a family, as demonstrated in the first paragraph.
It is the mainstream Christian belief in a triune God, the Trinity, three persons in one God, that reconciles these seemingly conflicting biblical verses that assign personalities to three different beings and reveals these beings as talking to and interacting with one another. But the Bible simultaneously calls them one God.
Arguments in The Journal based on COG God-is-a-family doctrine defending the divinity of the Son have approached the ludicrous (God was one, then became two when the Son was conceived and will be millions in the future).
The Bible says there is only one God, and in the future there will still be only one God (Isaiah 43:10).
Anticipating COG objections: Is it not even more ludicrous to say that one is three and three are one, which is what the Trinity doctrine says?
My reply: Three in one and one in three are indeed incomprehensible, even ludicrous, to our finite minds. But this is what the Bible says when it says that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and there is only one God.
Indeed, God is incomprehensible to the finite human mind (Job 9:10; 11:7-9; Psalm 139:6; 145:3; Isaiah 40:28; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 4:7; Romans 11:33-34).
The Trinity is God. That is why the Trinity is incomprehensible. But we do not reject the Trinity just because it is incomprehensible. We just have to take it on faith because the Bible says so--just as we take on faith the virgin birth, the resurrection of men four days and three days dead, etc.
Besides, three in one and one in three are not so absurd if we rid ourselves of the popular misconception that mathematical rules are absolute truths. Consider the following from Eric Temple Bell, a highly regarded modern historian of mathematics:
"At this point, it is pertinent to ask 'How do we know that a particular set of postulates, say those of elementary algebra (or arithmetic), will never lead to a contradiction?' The answer to this disposes, once and for all, all of the hoary myth of absolute truth for the conclusions of pure mathematicians. We do not know, except in comparatively trivial instances, that a particular set of postulates is self-consistent and that it will never lead to contradiction."
This mathematician is saying that in "comparatively trivial instances," like the addition of apples or mangoes, the rules of maths apply so that 1 plus 1 equals 2.
But in complex matters (like the nature of God) the rules of mathematics may not apply, so that 1 plus 1 plus 1 may equal 1, as in the case of the Trinity.
More on UCG-BI's recent history
It's interesting to note that the two people who wrote regarding my letter about events at the United Church of God's Feast site in Grange, England, last year were not there, nor were they at that time members of United. [See the editorial "Letter About UCG-BI Omitted Some Facts," by Ron Whiteman, June 20, and the letter "For the Record," by Lewis D. McCann, April 30].
I have had a number of E-mails and letters from a number of UCG-BI members and others who were thanking me for the letter I wrote ["List of Disfellowshippable Offenses," March 31]. I, like all of them, am deeply saddened by what has happened as a result of this senseless split.
Ron Whiteman said I must have exceptional hearing. I don't see why because on both occasions, when the Fenneys were loudly talking to the ladies at the reception desk, and later when they were talking to the Elams and others in the main hall downstairs, I was only eight to 10 feet from them and definitely not needing a hearing aid.
Yes, I have made use of Barbara Fenney's chart in a number of sermons. It is a good tool to show the opposite of what Barbara claimed it showed.
As for it being on the Internet on Vic Kubik's and other church Web sites, that is something Vic and others chose to do.
Also, there was no request or stipulation from Barbara, when she sent the chart to me and others, that we not use it in any way, nor did David Fenney make any when he E-mailed me a few days after it was put online.
There are other things in Ron's and the McCanns' letters I could comment about. But it's time we started to put the past behind and heal the wounds in a way that is pleasing to God.
It seems wherever we look in God's church today what was called "the spirit of Indianapolis" and servant leadership are sadly lacking. There is no way that that is in any way pleasing to God.
Prophesied long ago
I appreciate The Journal very much. I read every article and letter several times and check the opinions with the Scriptures to see what is true and what is not. The scattered condition of the church and the reason for it were prophesied in the Bible a long time ago.
Count your blessings
Dan Cafourek's article on disfellowshipment in the June issue of The Journal was a very important one. It clearly shows the evils of this doctrine.
But, Dan, even though you were a "sinner" of the worst kind, be encouraged. My wife and I were disfellowshipped from a church that we were not a member of.
You think you got problems?
Paul (and Micki) Herrmann
Put God first
It dawned on me a few weeks ago that there was something not quite right about the various names groups have chosen for themselves.
Notice that most groups begin their names with a designation that points to man first, then add "Church of God" at the end.
God's church is named, by Him, the Church of God.
I can't help but wonder if this isn't simply another symptom of the self-imposed ills that plague the collective COG. Perhaps if we put God first for a change, and really obeyed His Word and repented of the party spirit and divisions we all seem to support, we might feel the shame we should feel for putting our agendas ahead of God's plain words.
Pagosa Springs, Colo.
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