Letters from our readers
Darwin sent you a letter to the editor a while back and you printed it in the Dec. 31 issue on page 4, the last column, under the heading "Stay in Context."
However, you claim it was sent and written by Henk Jens of Belmore, Australia.
Do you think you could acknowledge and correct this error in an issue of The Journal?
It was actually written by Darwin Lee of Bismarck, N.D.
The Journal is happy to run Mrs. Lee's letter of correction.
Prisoner in California
I would like to comment on the great article concerning P.F. Lazor ["Church of God Brother Needs Help," The Journal, Oct. 31, page 22].
I think we all need to take note of people who are in prison even when they are guilty. By the way, I don't think P.F. is guilty.
I think many of us have the "lock them up, throw away the key" mentality.
I have been writing P.F. for two years. I originally found his name in The Journal under prayer requests.
I have a son who was recently sent to prison in Colorado. This situation has changed my family's life.
I wanted to be more involved in some way with helping and/or writing inmates in prison, particularly finding ones with a Sabbath-keeping background.
There have been several inmates I have found through various sources and have written to them.
As it turns out, I knew P.F.'s brother when living in Kauai. I did not know they were related until I moved back to California.
I was not able to visit P.F. until this past week. He is only half an hour away from Sacramento at what seems like a decent institution, Mule Creek Prison, in Ione, Calif.
P.F. is an intelligent, calm, humble man whom I think anybody in our COG family would enjoy visiting. He has interests and talents in so many areas.
He has suffered greatly during these 21 years in prison. I don't know why he has had to go through this trial, but God does know, and I believe P.F. would agree!
I believe P.F. said that no COG ministers had visited him even when they said they would. I hope this changes and that many of us can look beyond our comfort zone and reach out to him and others who are in prison.
Prison can be a lonely and dangerous place. Remember Matthew 25:43: "I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me."
I was guilty of this, but no more. I learned the hard way.
P.F. can be contacted by writing P.F. Lazor, C73842, P.O. Box 409000, Ione, Calif. 95640, U.S.A. For more information call the prison at (209) 274-4911, extension 5410.
The ramifications from The Journal's story are producing all sorts of blessings for me, increasing my appreciation for all you've done for me. [See the announcement in Connections, the advertising section of The Journal, Oct. 31, 2003, page 22, titled "Church of God Brother Needs Help."]
I attribute it to many prayers from lots of our people and our Father's gracious intervention that I was moved to a much better place in High Desert State Prison (HDSP). I thank Him and our many prayer warriors daily.
I've gained back more than 50 pounds I'd lost, now only 15-20 pounds under my normal ideal weight. I feel relatively good. The treatment here, as far as prisons go, is incomparably better than the actual torture facility where I was in Susanville.
I'd like to thank all who have been involved for their prayers and actions to help me in the grave situation I was in. I well may not have survived if not for these brethren, these brothers and sisters.
One of the most important ramifications of this for COG people who read the article is this: 90-98 percent of all my incoming mail sent to the Susanville facility from late September to the present was stolen. Mail still being sent there is almost all being stolen and destroyed.
The practical problem, the most pressing one, is that brethren I don't know may have written me and may feel I'm somewhat callous or inconsiderate for at least not responding and thanking them.
But I never got their mail!
Perhaps everyone who may have written me will be informed I never got their letters, and I'd like them to write me again here, where at this new place I don't believe my mail is being stolen.
I wish to express my highest gratitude and appreciation to all who cared, prayed, wrote, called in and wrote to officials and engaged in other actions to help me when I was as in the depths of Jeremiah's cistern.
MCSP Box 409000
Ione, Calif. 95640, U.S.A.
The eighth is the last of seven days
Regarding "Is the Last Great Day the Seventh or Eighth Day of the Feast?," by Robert Thiel, The Journal, Nov. 28:
We have become accustomed to being told that the Last Great Day is a separate Feast. Is this what the Bible teaches? Or have we assumed something that has no biblical support?
In my search to find the truth in this matter, I find only seven days of feasting and tabernacling (Deuteronomy 16:13; Leviticus 23:34, 41-42; Nehemiah 8:18; 2 Chronicles 7:8). Seven days is always attributed to the feast, and never once is there an indication that there is a separate feast on the eighth day.
Why is this? After all, an eighth day is mentioned in Leviticus 23:36, 39. How can an eighth day be the last day of a seven-day feast?
There may be an answer that satisfies the logic of this phenomenon. Leviticus 23:40 stipulates that on the first day the Israelites were to take boughs, branches and willows, ostensibly to build booths (verse 41).
It is important to notice that, even though this first day was a Sabbath (shabbaton), they were expected to build there temporary dwellings on the first day.
This would have taken them well into the first day before they were ready to celebrate the feast or dwell in booths, so, if you begin tabernacling and feasting in the middle of the first day and continue seven days you end up in the middle of the eighth day. From the middle of the first day to the middle of the eighth day is seven days.
Also, the term Last Great Day as used by Jesus (John 7:37) refutes the notion that this is a separate feast. Being the last day, it demands a sequence of days preceding it and of which it is a part, and the only number given of this in the series is seven, so this has to be within the parameter of seven days.
The last day stands out as being called "great" by Jesus, and it was designated for holding a solemn assembly.
The implication is that the Last Great Day is the end of the seventh feasting day, which extends into the middle of what is referred to as the eighth day, in which the seven days of tabernacling expire.
One moment, please
Some might ask, "How much did you learn spiritually last year?" My response to that would be: "Uno minuto. I'll have to check with my headquarters to see how much I learned (or if I learned anything)."
You might determine how much you learned by answering this question: Did Jesus tithe (first, second, third or fourth)? In Leviticus 27:30, 32, we see that only farmers and ranchers were commanded to tithe. Jesus was a carpenter. Therefore Jesus did not tithe.
Paul and Micki Herrmann
Mr. Hill's New Zealand visit
Your feature article "David Jon Hill Was One of a Kind" [by Brian Knowles, Nov. 28 issue] brought back heartfelt memories of a major evangelistic thrust here in New Zealand. Was it 1972 or '73? I can't remember for sure.
Mr. Hill, evangelist from HQ, was to speak in person in Auckland. Great was the flurry of excitement, with the distribution of brochures, a general invite to the Plain Truth subscribership and a hall, the Peter Pan, booked in downtown Auckland.
I met Jon at a Sabbath service just before his first public message.
He was a broad-chested, robust, fine-looking man; his personal appearance was certainly a bonus to an already attractive theme: "The End Time."
The world geopolitical situation, oil crisis, etc., was highly volatile. I showed him a news clip from The Auckland Herald, a small cutout that he held one inch in front of his eye, then at arm's length, with a sparkle and chuckle.
I thought: What a personality. He briefly outlined his projected theme: our standard understanding of the time, the 10-nation European beast power's invasion of Israel (which threat looms ever larger, with the insidious addition that this beast mind-set is being taken up by all Western governments as Marxist collectivism draws us into an end-time Tower of Babel with 10 world regional zones--our peoples subjugated, dispersed to foreign lands).
Jon spoke twice at the Peter Pan, drawing capacity crowds. His delivery was fluent, powerful, with the occasional gaffe.
This was the big Church of God exposure in New Zealand: direct public evangelism (which leaves electronic media for dead).
Has it ended for the Churches of God, outside of Revelation 11:3-4 and Matthew 10:18-20?
Auckland, New Zealand
Doesn't God realize He preexisted?
The conclusion of Anthony Buzzard's letter (The Journal, October issue) is most revealing. He writes: "After all, we were schooled to think that all scholars tended to be fools! But who were we, armed with the King James and a Strong's, to have such confidence?"
I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Buzzard speak for himself. Some of us were armed with much more than just the King James and a Strong's. In fact, I've never owned a Strong's.
However, those who were called by God into the fellowship of His Son (1 Corinthians 1:9) were given the Holy Spirit.
Note the inspired words of the chosen vessel thus: "In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13).
As we have learned from the inspired text, God's elect were armed with the Holy Spirit, which was given with this assured promise: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will lead you into all truth" (John 16:13).
So, unlike Mr. Buzzard, who was armed with only the King James and a Strong's, God's elect, armed with the spirit of truth, have been led to the right understanding of the nature and status of Jesus.
Further, Mr. Buzzard writes, "... The anti-Trinitarianism (Socinianism) that states that Jesus came into existence in the womb of his mother as the Son of God follows the biblical Christology."
I take it that by the phrase "the biblical Christology" Mr. Buzzard wants sensible people to believe that the Holy Scriptures support the doctrine that Christ had no prior existence before he was conceived in the womb of His mother, Mary. This notion is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures.
There are plenty of scriptures that prove the incarnation was a major historical event, not to mention the profound significance it has for the redemption of God's elect.
The doctrine of the incarnation clearly states that Christ Jesus had a prior existence as the Word. According to the so-called "isolated verses," which Mr. Buzzard ignored, the Word that was made flesh is also described as God.
Is Mr. Buzzard saying that God had no prior existence before He became Jesus? For, according to Paul, "God was manifested in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16). And Jesus prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory I had before the world was" (John 17:5). Was Jesus mistaken in thinking He had a prior existence?
West Bromwich, England
Jesus said He sends scholars
Henk Jens (The Journal, Dec. 31, page 4) reprimands me for "gross distortion of Scripture" and "goobledygook" in my claim that 1 Corinthians 10:4 uses typological language to speak of the rock which followed them as a "type" of Christ.
[Editor's note: Because of an editing error, the letter referred to in the previous paragraph was attributed in the December issue of The Journal to the wrong writer. Darwin Lee wrote the letter, not Henk Jens. See also the first letter on page 2 of this issue.]
I have a hearty piece of advice for readers of The Journal. Why not do some real homework by reading, for example, the modern classic on Christology by James Dunn (Christology in the Making)? Too many former members of the Worldwide Church of God operate as if it is sufficient to have a KJV and a Strong's Concordance.
Some matters of biblical understanding can be clarified by consulting the Greek language and the best commentaries. 1 Corinthians 10:4 is a classic case, where a bit of learning is an advantage. Jesus said He would send professional Bible scholars (Matthew 23:34), and we can all learn from them.
I teach New Testament Greek, and I maintained in my letter on page 2 of the October issue of The Journal that context is most important in the explanation of Scripture. I said:
"It is a basic rule of Bible study that the words of Scripture be read in their immediate context."
Putting that principle into practice, is it not significant that in the very context in which Paul says that "the rock which followed Israel was Christ" he uses the noun types (verse 6) and the adverb typically (verse 11)?
That contextual information tells us as plainly as possible that Paul is thinking in terms of "types," which are foreshadowings of events and persons.
The drift of Paul's argument is that we should pay attention to what happened to Israel and not make the same mistakes. Paul therefore pointed out that what happened in the OT was "typical" of what we experience as New Testament Christians. James Dunn says: "It is hardly likely that Paul intended to identify Christ as the wilderness rock in any literal sense" (Christology in the Making, p. 183).
That was exactly my point. Dunn goes on to say: "'The rock was Christ' must denote some sort of allegorical identification: the rock represents Christ in some way; as water from the rock, so spiritual drink from Christ ... Paul describes the whole affair as 'types' (v. 6) and as happening to the Israelites 'typicos' (typologically) ... the baptism into Moses (vv. 1-2) ... provided a typological parallel to the event of becoming a member of Christ" (p. 183).
To read the passage woodenly as though the rock was literally a preexisting member of the Godhead is a disaster. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that God did not speak by a Son in the OT period. To posit a Son of God in OT times is to wreck the divine program.
The Son was begotten in NT times (Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:20, 1 John 5:18), and to read Him back into OT history (except as the rock, as a "type") distorts the doctrine that God is one and not more and makes Jesus, the Son, nonhuman, because by preexistence He is made to have his origin outside the human race.
The miracle by which God created the second Adam, Son of God, occurred within the biological chain (Luke 1:35). A Son of God who enters from outside, into the biological, is an alien to us humans and alien to the Bible.
God is one person, and His Son is the Lord Messiah, not the Lord God--which would amount to two Gods.
The Son is the adoni of Psalm 110:1, and adoni (that form of the word lord) is never a divine title. Thus Jesus cannot possibly be God. He is the Son of God.
For further information please consult my Web site (www.restorationfellowship.org) or read our book on the issue of the Godhead (The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound, available in eight languages).
One final point: The sentence that reads "we must not tempt Christ as some of them tempted" (1 Corinthians 10:9) may well be a corrupted text. The RSV reads, "We must not tempt the Lord." But, even if "Christ" is the right reading, it does not say that the Israelites tempted Christ. The better manuscripts give "Lord"; i.e., the Lord God.
Two are one
In response to the letter by Loren Edelbach, ("Travails with Charley," page 4, Dec. 31 issue) Loren ends his letter with: "Charley has studied, openmindedly, the teachings of all three. Charley encourages you, dear friend, to do the same and draw your own conclusions."
I say draw your conclusions based on the Bible alone. It's not that hard.
Simple conclusions can be drawn from some clear Scripture passages. Trinitarian and unitarian are not scriptural. Is binitarian scriptural?
Read Genesis 1:26 ("let us make man in our image") and 2:24 (a man and his wife "shall be one flesh"), Ephesians 5:31-32 ("two [a man and his wife] shall be one flesh"), John 17:21 (the Father and Son are one, as we are to be), Romans 12:5-6 (many members exist in one body), 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 (a man and a harlot become one body, and a person joined unto the Lord is one spirit).
Again, Loren states that "eventually one being decided to become the father of the other being."
Not so. One being volunteered Himself to become the Son from the foundation of the world (see Matthew 13:34-35).
A close look at Hebrews 9:25-26 shows that Christ would have to have suffered often since the foundation of the world, that He offered Himself from the foundation of the world to give Himself to be a perfect sacrifice once for all human beings.
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:6).
Christ, in the form of God, was equal with God before the foundation of the world. He became the Son of God at the time of His human birth by being born of a human mother, Mary (Luke 1:32; Matthew 10:32; Hebrews 1:5-6; 9:14; Romans 8:29).
Christ was equal with the other God being before the foundation of the world. The God being (Christ) became the Son at the time of human conception and the other God being became the Father. This was all planned before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20).
The two are one in purpose, thought, intent, goals. They work together in harmony as the church with its many members works together to the same end and desires all in harmony with God the Father and Christ the Son; thus, all together (the many) being one (John 17:11).
The following might be of interest to the tri-bi-u-nitarian conference: www.ventura-family.com/explorations/5-webbee/3-2-1.html.
Via the Internet
A subject the COGs ignore
Re "SDA Writer Says Doctrine of Inerrancy Is a Problem," by Samuele Bacchiocchi, The Journal, Nov. 28:
I think this is an important area, maybe the most important. Too often the hot Church of God controversies have missed the mark and not at all addressed or understood this.
I have been trying to understand it reading such books as Elliot Friedmond's Who Wrote the Bible? I do not claim to understand the multiauthorship idea, but I do know it is a pervasive one once one leaves the safe harbors of church and ventures toward academia, and there it has been widely taught (and accepted) for 200 years.
I don't claim to fully understand or accept the multiauthor (J, E and P) idea but do understand Mr. Friedman's Deuteronomist ideas.
The book has caused me to look at Bible areas that I had previously overlooked involving the two priesthoods and Jeremiah. I have to say that as a result of reading the book at this time: Deuteronomist, yes; multiauthors, a question; God, still a big yes.
The multiauthor idea is something that few if any Church of God teachers address at all while focusing on other issues. Meanwhile the rest of Christianity is going to hell in a handcart rejecting Bible authority completely in the same casual manner that most just casually accept evolution. I see that as Samuele Bacchiocchi does.
We previously had Darrell Conder in Church of God circles with his brew of old Jewish objections to the New Testament. This has been similarly brewing for some time and has the potential to dump the entire Bible from the minds of many people.
I don't think book after book on multiauthorship can be totally disproved. To quote a few words of Kenneth Kitchner: "... Even the most ardent advocate of the documentary theory must admit that we have as yet no single scrap of external, objective, i.e. tangible evidence for either the existence or history of 'J,' 'E,' or any other source document," which is of course what all of us want to hear so we can just go back to whatever it was that we were doing, ignoring the whole superissue of validity of the Bible.
I am glad Dr. Bacchiocchi has taken on this subject, but I think more needs to be said on it. I have heard him speak here in the D.C. area, (surrounded by Seventh-day Adventists from India who prepared a splendid Indian vegetarian meal for everyone).
Elliot Friedman suggests that the multiauthor idea may be useful to the believers of both Christianity and Judaism and may open up new doors of understanding.
I hope we will have more people looking at these important questions and gain some understanding on them. Possibly Sam Bacchiocchi would be willing to comment on Elliot Friedmond's book. I'm afraid too many COGers are too flippant about the subject, dismissing it entirely and not even looking at it seriously.
See also Dr. Bacchiocchi's second essay in a two-part series on this subject, beginning on page 11 of this issue of The Journal.
A word to webmasters
I would like to use your letters column to appeal to the webmasters of the various Church of God Web sites: Please ensure that quotes and comments from other sources are made in context--not partial, not presenting a distorted, self-serving meaning. When such distortions are observed, they shake confidence in the rest of the material on that site.
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