Letters from our Readers - Part 1
( READ PART 2)
Taking care of business
I'd like to respond to the question that Dean Neal asked: "Why don't they have a seminar on 'tithing'? They had a seminar on 'one God.'" [Mr. Neal's articles appear frequently in the Connections advertising section of The Journal.]
Well, I think I have the answer: Because these big church corporations would go out of business if they did.
Remember they live and run their businesses off our tithes. If the truth came out, they would literally go out of business. That's why they can't have a seminar on that question.
P.S.: I would like to say "Go, girls!" to Jaime Welch and Darlene Warren for their excellent articles in The Journal. Jaime wrote " It Was Not Supposed to Be Like This," and Darlene wrote " A Few Questions for the Ages" [both in the May 31 issue].
Red Springs, Texas
Open letter to council
To the UCG council of elders re its censure of Messrs. Jacobs and Swenson [" UCG Announces Its Disapproval of Conference," The Journal, June 30]:
What are you guys afraid of?
Paul rejoiced when Christ was preached, period, even when those doing the preaching did so from less-than-perfect motives (Philippians 1:18).
Jesus Himself was no control freak, even though His disciples tried to force His hand (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50). (Can you see yourselves in that picture? Try harder.)
Even Moses rejoiced when "unauthorized" folks took on an active role in doing God's work (Numbers 11:28).
But, when you have a hierarchical mind-set, control is everything. Control is power. And the carnal scarcity mentality believes that any loss of control or power is dangerous, a threat that must be dealt with--ruthlessly.
So you will sanctimoniously caution against a "dangerous precedent" because in your worldview it threatens your control: "Why, if we let them do this, they might come up with other ideas. And some of their ideas might even be better than our own, and then what will people think? That we don't have all the wisdom and all the good ideas? That would reduce their dependence on us and that would indeed be dangerous!"
Don't you realize how patronizing and paternalistic--and pitiful--your attitude is? Your actions in this matter are appalling and unchristian.
Sadly, they are also all too predictable. Some of the Milford [Ohio] myrmidons will undoubtedly be relieved to be rid of more "troublemakers." I wonder if you have any understanding of how much damage you do to yourselves--and to the larger ekklesia and the cause of Christ--every time you do this sort of thing.
What a pity. What a waste.
Big Sandy, Texas
Best seat in the house
Concerning UCG leadership and Mr. O'Brien [" Church Lets Elder Go When He Disregards Its Gag Order," The Journal, May 31]: Sometimes we need to make sure Rachel isn't sittin' on the statues.
Germany in prophecy
I would like to call your attention to an interesting book, recently announced in The Journal, which I ordered and am currently reading. It is Germany: A Lost Tribe of Ancient Israel, by Cook and Speyermann.
As the title suggests, it presents an alternative to our traditional WCG identification of Germany as Assyria. It holds the premise that Germany is, in fact, descended from one of the 12 tribes of Israel and identifies Assyria as a different modern nation.
Using prophecies in Isaiah, Ezekiel and others, it parallels these prophecies with World Wars I and II and the War on Terror.
While I haven't had the time to study these parallels in detail, I believe that anyone with an interest in the modern fulfillment of scriptural prophecy in our nation's history would find this book intriguing and possibly expand his horizons with regard to there being more than one possible interpretation of many scriptures.
The book is replete with maps, charts, diagrams and extensive genealogical tables of European families descended from our ancestors, the ancient houses of Israel and Judah.
I am only into the third chapter and find it fascinating. Of course, it's up to the reader to determine for himself whether to accept the premise, but that's part of "studying to show yourself approved."
In case the book isn't advertised in this issue of The Journal, those interested may contact the authors by sending inquiries to John Speyermann, firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Ridge, Tenn.
Divinity as infinity
As I read the various articles and advertisements on the number within the God family, I have often wondered why so many have made such a big deal over something that shouldn't affect how we live our lives or treat one another. Yet it has created division as the various sides have pushed their viewpoints and criticized opposing viewpoints.
Yesterday morning I came rather suddenly to a conclusion that supersedes any viewpoint on the Trinitarian, binitarian, or unitarian views of so many. I began to consider the word infinity and its origin.
It represents something we cannot fathom. Yet the word itself gives great meaning to the God we all revere and worship. It far surpasses the attempt to quantify the "trinity" or "binity" of God.
If God is a trinity, then He equals a finite three. If He is a binity, then He is a finite two. If He is "infinity," then He is rightly beyond anything we can comprehend. Yet, as Jesus Christ said, "I and my Father are one." One is the summation of all. So, in my opinion, our God is one, and He is infinity. That means I am an infinitarian. Are you?
Dan Vander Poel
Regarding our One God Seminars near Washington, D.C., in May [" One God Seminars Introduce David Antion on Side of 'Binity,'" The Journal, June 30]:
We had a great time. The spirit among presenters and attendees was most pleasant. Judging from the many comments JoAn and I received, it was an educational feast. The information presented was stimulating, sometimes controversial and always respectful of the audience.
I commend David Antion for participating and presenting an opposing view to our "One God" theme. He was brave to do so, and I think he was an excellent spokesman for the common Church of God position, which holds that Christ preexisted and is deity/God.
He was well prepared and spoke with passion, but I must say his arguments were unconvincing. There is just too much evidence for there being only one God and for Jesus' true beginning to be the beginning we read about in the Gospel accounts. A few passages in Paul and John cannot be forced to contradict what is probably the most important doctrine in Scripture and at the heart of the first and greatest commandment.
The difficult part is getting one's eyes to see it differently once they've been trained to see it only one way, like those Bev Doolittle paintings with the hidden animals and creatures painted into the landscape. At first all you see is the dominate landscape, then one animal, then another, and, once you've got the hang of it, maybe you discover all of them.
Once one has a certain doctrine etched in the mind and integrated into one's core understanding of the biblical story, it seems certain scriptures can say only one thing. If you have always been taught that heaven is the reward of the saved, all scriptures that speak of the Kingdom of God mean "heaven" to you.
If you have always believed in an immortal soul, scriptures that speak of the soul refer to that immortal you that is separate from your mortal body and leaves it at death to go to heaven.
Several years ago when I was challenged to reexamine the nature of Christ and the "Godhead," I had more than 35 years of programmatic reading of the relevant scriptures to deal with. My integrated "biblical story" was pretty well set, and I was satisfied with my understanding of the basics, including the Godhead. It was not easy at that stage to make myself take a fresh look at old familiar scriptures and ask myself if there could be a better understanding.
Yet I did. It was humbling to think I had been wrong about what is now so clear to me, but also terribly exciting to discover a new truth that is far greater and more impactful than what I'd previously understood.
I plan to continue to host these One God seminars, as will others. I am amazed how many people--including ministers (some quite well known)--are coming to this understanding. Most come to it by their own study; others, like myself, have been challenged into studying it.
Some who have come to believe in a strict monotheism, if I can describe it that way, are quiet about it, fearing if they share their new beliefs they will alienate Christian friends or, worse yet, be looked upon as a heretic. I understand the feeling.
There are plans to hold seminars in Akron, Ohio, next summer, and we've had requests to host some in South Texas and somewhere on the West Coast. It all depends on local interest and support.
Of course, a number of other groups and organizations are promoting a return to biblical monotheism. I've visited a number of Web sites dedicated to this truth, and there is an increasing amount of scholarly research, articles and books that is now available on the subject.
I wish my dear friends in the Church of God movement would at least have the curiosity and courage to take a look at some of the evidence. A challenge to study this topic could breathe new life into one's Bible study and, for that matter, into one's spiritual life. It did for me.
A good place to start would be to get the recent tapes from our D.C. meetings, or read one of Sir Anthony Buzzard's books, or get the set of printed papers from one of our recent seminars.
I am not a johnny-one-note on this doctrine. It is just a part, an important part, of the entire counsel of God. How one treats his neighbor and how one has internalized the character of God are the most important activities that should command our energy. This is called Christian living.
Doctrine is inseparable from Christian living in that it supports our understanding of what righteous living is all about.
And of course at the core of everything is the knowledge of God. To know Him is to love Him; to love Him is to want to become like Him in mind and character. This is the heart of Christianity.
One family, two beings
The ACD's Kenneth Westby made a couple of comments that I would like to address [see "One God Seminars Again Promise Debate Without Gunfight," The Journal, March 31].
Since reading Mr. Westby's article I have received a couple of E-mails from others who hold a unitarian position, which has further prompted this relatively late letter.
Mr. Westby wrote, "We maintain that Christ is not God and did not exist before the biblical account of His origin."
Yet Jesus taught "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30), which contradicts the unitarian position that Jesus is not God. It also shows that God can be one, in a family setting, currently consisting of two beings (so does John 1, but that is another issue that the unitarians have reasoned around).
Matthew, who quoted Isaiah 7:14, also made Jesus' deity clear: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
If Jesus was not God, He could not be named "God With Us."
Paul stated: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Further, the Bible reveals that Jesus was around before His human birth: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:57-58).
Mr. Westby also wrote, "We believe a strong case can be made that Old Testament monotheism was also the position of the early church and that the nature of the divinity was redefined only centuries later."
I believe a stronger case can be made for the binitarian position. Polycarp was known as the bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of John. He was not unitarian according to various historical documents. The following quote attributed to him (from the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, translated by J.B. Lightfoot) shows that he (and thus by inference the rest of Smyrna) was not unitarian:
"Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father."
It probably should be noted that Dr. Lightfoot left out "Son of" in his translation, which is in the Latin. It should also be pointed out that I am aware of another translation of this section by Roberts and Donaldson in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, which does include the term "God" before Jesus Christ, but I verified that the term deum is in the Latin version of this epistle (the original Greek versions did not survive past chapter 10).
Dr. Lightfoot's translation "our Lord and God Jesus Christ" is a literal translation of the Latin (unless it was somehow altered) dominum nostrum et deum Iesum Christum. The University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid states the word in Latin is the masculine accusatory form of the word deus. Since traditional unitarians do not call Jesus God, it appears clear that Polycarp was not one of them.
Also, Ignatius, who was known by Polycarp (and praised in this same Polycarp epistle) wrote around 80-100:
"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water" (Letters to the Ephesians 18:2).
Hence Ignatius (who apparently lived in the times dominated by both the Ephesus and Smyrna eras of the church), who received Polycarp's praise, also recognized Jesus as God and thus could not have been a traditional unitarian.
Around the year 157 it is alleged that Montanus "believed that God had sent Him to reform Catholicism. He believed in and taught the Binitarian or Semi-Arian or two-unequal-god doctrine of the godhead" (The Charismatic Movement, Hamilton).
If this quote indeed is accurate, it may explain why, shortly thereafter, a Trinitarian critic of the Church of God, Tertullian (who allegedly was originally binitarian and a Montanist, therefore confirming the general intent of the quote attributed to Montanus), around 213 A.D. wrote, "Well, then, you reply, if He was God who spoke, and He was also God who created, at this rate, one God spoke and another created; (and thus) two Gods are declared" (Against Praxeas 13:1).
Thus from Ignatius, Polycarp, Tertullian and possibly Montanus (who, with his followers, apparently became party to many later heresies), we have strong indication that the binitarian view was held during the time of Smyrna.
Thus it is clear that the idea of God the Father and Jesus the Son being God, as two beings, did not originate centuries after the true church.
I would also like to add that the first time the term God is found in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) it is the plural term elohiym. To be sure we understood God's plurality, Genesis 1:26 states, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'"
Thus the plurality of God was made clear from the very beginning and is not a centuries-later addition (see also Daniel 7:13-14).
I have a written a longer article that deals with many of the inaccurate arguments those espousing views such as Mr. Westby's position hold. It can be found at www.cogwriter.com.
Arroyo Grande, Calif.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God