We can know, after all
For Jew or true Christian to insist that no one can know when the Messiah will appear in the end time is to insist that no one will notice the rise ofthe king of the south or north nor the "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation," which Daniel predicted-and that no one will be wise enough to count 1,260 days from itsstart.
For the Christian it is to insist that the momentous events of the most Jewish of New Testament books-Revelation (because most of its images are drawnfrom the Hebrew scriptures)-will pass unnoticed, including unprecedented plagues, war, death and worldwide environmental disasters.
It is to insist that no one will take note of the armies that will surround Jerusalem or the Abomination of Desolation, which Daniel gives as abenchmark of end-time events, and that no one will heed the advice of Jesus of Nazareth to flee Jerusalem at this time or, if they do, that they won't connect this to the time of theMessiah's arrival.
This thinking implies that the heavenly signs-the sun darkened, the moon turning red, and other spectacular cosmic events-will escape the attention ofGod's people. It relays the idea that the Day of the Lord, which follows, will be no indication of His imminent intervention in global affairs. It suggests that the miracles of the twowitnesses and the false prophet will make no impression on them and that no one will be wise enough to count three and a half years from their appearance.
For those who believe they will flee to the place of safety for the 42-month duration of the great tribulation, yet not know that the Messiah willappear at the end of this period: This thinking is clearly self-contradictory. If one can know when the tribulation starts, one can know when the Messiah intervenes in worldaffairs.
To deny this is to insist that "the wise shall [not] understand" end-time prophecy and that God will send the Messiah in the end time without evenrevealing this secret to His servants the prophets, whether the Elijah to come or the two witnesses. It is to insist the wise will be foolish.
At the end of his most famous prophecy, Matthew 24, Jesus of Nazareth indicates that, in the final generation before God establishes His Kingdom onearth, the master of the evil servant will come when the evil servant is unaware of God's prophetic timetable. That strongly implies the opposite will be true of the faithful servant ofGod. For him, the Master-the Messiah-will come "on a day when he is looking for him and at an hour that he is aware of." Otherwise there is no advantage in being a good servant in thiscontext.
Noah knew in advance when the flood would come. The wicked didn't. In the same way, the righteous in the end time must know-in advance-when the greattribulation will come-or they will all die, swept away by Satan's flood.
Therefore the belief that no one can know when the Messiah will appear is unscriptural.
Geoffrey R. Neilson
Olivedale, South Africa
And then there are laws
Gary Fakhoury's essay on grace, law and the covenants in your Oct. 31 and Nov. 21 issues has prompted me to applaud him for his support of the TenCommandments but to react by stating that I don't think the WCG was in error when historically teaching that Galatians 3:17-25 indicates "the doing away with Levitical or ceremoniallaws."
Paul was referring to laws of the flesh (verse 3).
Gary correctly points out that where no law is there is no transgression, and sin was in the world "until the law" since Adam (Romans 4:15; 5:13), yetsin is the transgression of law (1 John 3:4) and so law must have existed from Adam, as is shown in Genesis 26:5, where Abraham, long before Moses, obeyed and kept God's "commandments,statues and laws."
Therefore it seems a distinction should be made between God's spiritual laws, as the Ten Commandments, and fleshly, carnal laws, as wearing ribbons ofblue (Numbers 15:38) and laws associated with the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12) and laws added because of transgressions of God's spiritual laws (Galatians 3:19).
I think God's spiritual law, including the Ten Commandments, has existed at all times since Adam, but laws associated with the Levitical priesthoodand added because of transgressions of God's everlasting spiritual law have existed from Moses until Christ's death.
I cannot agree with the New English Bible that the phrase "added because of transgressions" in Galatians 3:19 means "make wrongdoing a legal offenseor to define and expose sin." Galatians 3:19 is not referring to the first time sin was defined or wrongdoing made a legal offense (Genesis 26:5). The literal Greek is "transgressions-forthe sake of-it was added" or "transgressions-because of-it was added," meaning more laws were added such as sacrificial laws because of transgressions of God's laws alreadyexisting.
God is one
I was very interested in the remarks of Duane F. Giles on the nature of God and Jesus in his letter to The Journal (Oct. 31, page 2). I agree with himthat defining God and Jesus properly ought to be the first priority for all truth-seekers. That there is one God, the Father, is one of the great "unities" recommended by Paul in Ephesians4.
Duane says, "How could there be two God beings in the same family and one become the other's Son?"
His good question suggests that there is something fundamentally flawed with the Armstrong approach to Christology. "Two Gods in the One God family,"Herbert W. Armstrong used to say (I was in the WCG from 1960 to 1972 and taught music and biblical languages in Pasadena and Bricket Wood). Such is really polytheism and may explain "themess we're in."
I have spent some 25 years pondering this issue and have written a book with Charles Hunting (former evangelist with the WCG) titled The Doctrine ofthe Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound. This is available for anyone interested from Atlanta Bible College ($12, which includes mailing), (800) 347-4261, or you can E-mail me email@example.com).
The book will get wider circulation when it is published in June 1998 by International Scholars Publications.
There are certain absolutely fundamental facts about God in the Bible. First, He is described by singular pronouns I, Me, You, Him, Myself, etc.,thousands upon thousands of times.
Second, there is no verse that says "There is one God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." But there are lots of verses that say: "There is one God, theFather."
Another prime consideration in any discussion of the nature of God is that Judaism was a unitarian faith; i.e., God is one individual, not two ormore. The issue is simply this: Was the creed of Israel a Trinitarian creed?
I say, with a mass of scholars, no. If so, Jesus cannot have been a Trinitarian when He affirmed the great central cardinal tenet of His heritage inMark 12:28 and following verses. If Jesus were not a Trinitarian, why are His followers trying so hard to be Trinitarians? It makes little sense. I would like to see this question trumpetedaround the world!
Who, then, is Jesus? Well, He is not God, because God is immortal (and the only one who is; 1 Timothy 6:16), yet Jesus died.
The risen Jesus is not all-knowing: He received a revelation as a gift from His Father, the one God (Revelation 1:1). The issue is: What is thescriptural origin of Jesus? We have documented this in our book and traced the different discussions in history. You may be surprised at the heat and fury that the Trinitarian debate inhistory has engendered.
And, talking of engendering, the question that must be asked is: When according to Scripture was Jesus begotten? One way to tackle the question (andit makes a thrilling study) is to take the New Testament book by book and look for answers to these questions: Who is called God constantly, and when was the Son begotten?
Please request our book. At the very least it will sharpen your understanding of other points of view. It may even convince you that God is one! Itwill, I think, greatly increase your love of Jesus, the unique Son of God.
Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship
Still more on the nature of Christ
I would like to respond to a letter in your Oct. 31 issue ["More on the Nature of Christ," page 2] by Duane Giles:
As you stated, Mr. Giles, how could one God become the son of another God? Hardly likely. This is the same scenario as Christ marrying the church atHis return. How can He marry His own brothers? Thus the "church" He marries must consist of individuals who are not spiritually the "born or begotten" sons of God. Perhaps it will consistof those who are "called but not chosen."
As to the subject of Christ's preexistence, He obviously had to exist before the creation of the "heavens and the earth." For it is quite apparentthat He was the "Word" of that creation. Still, as you concur, would that necessitate Him having to have been "God" in the same sense as the God we know as the Father was and isGod?
The Scriptures do not seem to support this, as your letter points out. Is it not possible, though, that the preexistence of Jesus Christ was in thesame essence as a "spirit" being, on the order of the angels: as an example, a "spirit" being that was a direct part of the Father Himself? Thus, would this not be an explanation of the"Spirit" descending "as a dove" upon Christ at His baptism? Makes sense to me. What do you think?
Now, as to your statement, "I say there was only one Yahweh . . ." Perhaps, if that is the correct spelling. I understand what you arereferring to. However, could it not be possible that there are two individuals with the same consonants-YHWH-but with two different spellings? At some time between Nehemiah and the comingof Jesus Christ, the scribes began to alter the Scriptures so that, ostensibly, they would not have to pronounce the name YHWH because it was "too holy."
According to most of the reliable Hebrew reference books, this was done in this (approximate) manner. They would take the accent mark that was underthe yod in YHWH and exchange it with another accent mark, thus changing the vowels and thereby changing the spelling or pronunciation when the name was read. Therefore, instead of readingYahweh (if that is indeed the correct spelling), they would write the name Adonai above the letters YHWH, thus "not pronouncing the sacred name." The one accent mark was a shewa, and theother accent mark was a gamet(e). Were they really doing this not to pronounce the holy name or to hide from the people which YHWH was actually speaking?
Most theologians give credit to the Lord of the cloud in the wilderness as being the true God: the Lord who spoke the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20and who gave the "law" on Mount Sinai. I believe the Lord (YHWH) who spoke the Ten Commandments was a different Lord (YHWH) from the one who was in the cloud in the wilderness.
Consider Hosea 1:7: "But I [YHWH, verse 2] will save them by the Lord [YHWH] their God [Elohim]." Tell me, which YHWH is the true YHWH?
Obviously I am addressing a broad subject and certainly not one to fit within the limits placed on letters to the editor. But consider thefollowing:
In Exodus 33:3 YHWH (verse 1) said to Moses, ". . . For I will not go up in the midst of you . . ." Later, in verse 12, Mosesstates, "Yet you have not let me know whom you will send with me." In verse 14 YHWH says, "My presence shall go with you" (compare Isaiah 63:9).
Now see what YHWH said to Moses in Exodus 32:34: "But now go, lead the people . . . Behold my angel shall go before you . . ."Exodus 33:2 says, "I will send an angel before you . . ."
Especially notice what it says in Exodus 23:20-23: "Behold, I send an angel before you, to keep you in the way . . . Listen to and obey hisvoice; provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions [note this next statement carefully], for my name is in him . . . For my angel shall go before you, and bringyou to the Amorites . . ."
What is God's name? YHWH! Exodus 3:15 says, ". . . The Lord [YHWH] of your fathers [actually, the El Shaddai of Abraham and the El Shaddaiof the burning bush] . . . has sent me to you! This is my name forever."
YHWH is God's name. He said He would put His name in an angel, thus making that angel's name YHWH as well. I believe, until the scribes changed theScriptures, the difference in these two names was understood by the accent mark that accompanied the tetragrammaton.
This is obviously a large subject, and there is a great deal more in the Scriptures concerning it. However, since this letter is probably approachingThe Journal's limit, I will close for now. This is not meant to be the final word on the subject, and I would appreciate your comments. Come back on it.
No mystery here
This is in reply to Anthony Buzzard's letter on page 4 of The Journal, Nov. 21.
There need be no mystery about Colossians 2:16.
Paul's epistles have snared "scholars" since the beginning, and even the WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong was not immune (for example, 1 Corinthians10:4 is still mistakenly claimed to prove Jesus was the God of the Old Testament).
This results when men (1) force private doctrines on the Bible, (2) overlook Isaiah 28:13 and 2 Peter 3:15-17, (3) do not allow the Bible to interpretthe Bible and (4) fail to place difficult verses before God.
For convenience I quote Colossians 2:16: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or ofthe sabbath days" (Colossians 2:16, KJV).
It will now be shown that Colossians 2:16 lists precisely all God's sanctified sabbaths, no more and no less!
From Leviticus 23 we know that God sanctified the weekly Sabbath and seven holy days (annual sabbaths), and from Exodus 23:14-17 we know there arethree annual feasts or festivals (Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Ingathering).
In Colossians 2:16 Paul refers to those three festivals with "holyday" translated from the Greek heorte (Strong's No. 1859), meaning "feast" or"festival." He therefore covers with "holyday" five of God's seven sanctified holy days associated with the three festivals; namely, Abib 15 and 21, Pentecost and Tishri 15 and22.
This leaves two more holy days: Trumpets (Tishri 1) and Atonement (Tishri 10). In Colossians 2:16 Paul refers to Trumpets with "the new moon" (seePsalm 81:3), and he refers with meat and drink to the fast of Atonement. Finally in Colossians 2:16 Paul refers with sabbath days to the weekly sabbaths. Therefore in Colossians 2:16 Paullists precisely all sanctified sabbaths, no more and no less!
Note: Trumpets, being the first day of the seventh month (Tishri), is always a new moon. I hope this clarifies Colossians 2:16 for you.
Henk W. Jens
One God or two?
I read with interest Duane Giles' letter to the editor in the Oct. 31 edition in which he addressed briefly the nature of God and Jesus Christ. Theview on the nature of God as espoused by the various Churches of God, notably the UCG and GCG, are a continuation of the belief held to by Herbert Armstrong. That belief is that God theFather and Jesus Christ are coequal and coeternal. This belief seems to indicate there are two Gods, not one, and as such is insupportable from Scripture.
The Bible clearly states there is only one God (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; Isaiah 44:8; 1 Timothy 6:15-16). Jesus Christ was under the authority of theFather (Isaiah 42:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; John 17:1-3). God is Jesus Christ's God and Father (Romans 15:6; John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 3:23; Revelation 1:6; 2:27; 3:5, 12).
I do not hold out much hope for Mr. Giles getting any kind of response or acknowledgment of his paper from the church leadership. The Church of Godhas a tradition of either ignoring, ridiculing or disfellowshipping any minister or other member whose views do not conform to the establishment's.
Recently a sister in Christ mentioned that some of her acquaintances have decided to keep Hanukkah this year because Christ did, and she asked what wethink about it.
Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, is celebrated in December to memorialize the cleansing and rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus(Maccabeus, Maccabee) after the sacrilege committed by the king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Antiochus had taken Jerusalem, plundered the temple, sacrificed a pig to Jupiter on the altar and put idols in the temple. Maccabaeus led theresistance against the Syrian occupants until finally defeating them in December 165 BC.
In John 10:22 we see that Jesus went to the temple at the time of Hanukkah. While this was not one of God's commanded festivals, there was, of course,nothing wrong with the Messiah celebrating it. I imagine He also wore sandals on Solomon's porch, and there was nothing inappropriate about that, either. Christians today are free toparticipate in the cultural festivals and customs of our real or symbolic ancestors.
Some might be drawn to these practices because of their interests in history or culture. Much of what we do is culturally based, and, if one wishes toreplace some of his own culture with practices from another culture, that's fine.
Some Christians might even find some of these physical traditions beneficial to their spiritual growth, perhaps reminding them of their spiritualworship. If that is the case, why not? All power to them!
Whatever we choose in these matters, we are to do toward God. "He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to theLord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live,we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord" (Romans 14:6-8, NIV).
Christ practiced many customs that Christians today often don't. Some were "traditions of the elders," and others were rituals required for thoseunder the Old Covenant. Christ was certainly circumcised, for example.
But what about today? Paul writes: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidencein the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). Throughout his writings Paul makes it clear that Christians are the true circumcised, who, having no need to practice the rituals required under the OldCovenant, worship God in spirit.
Christians have no obligation to practice either the rituals of the Old Covenant or the traditional Jewish customs.
The Judaizers attempted to coerce Christians to practice physical ritual. Those "of the circumcision," whom Paul also attacked with his letter toGalatians, were not simply pushing circumcision on the brethren, but the whole package of customs.
In Galatians 2:12 Paul addresses the fact that Peter had withdrawn from eating with gentiles in accordance with Jewish custom because he was afraid of"those who belonged to the circumcision group."
Circumcision was the rallying point from which this group would assert that Christians need to keep all the customs ("ethos").
Paul tells them to stand fast against legalism and beseeches them not to return to bondage. They had been freed of their bondage to idols but were nowin danger of returning to the bondage of mechanical routine and formal observances being required of them by the Judaizers (Galatians 4:9-10).
It is evident from the context of this epistle that the days mentioned in verse 10 are Jewish observances. The Judaizers certainly did not teach thatthey should return to idol worship. These were traditional Jewish observances, including such as Hanukkah. This does not mean that to celebrate Hanukkah is wrong.
What did Paul have against the Judaizers? He probably wasn't so concerned that they themselves performed rituals. They were, after all, "falsebrethren" (Galatians 2:3) and "evil workers" (Philippians 3:2). What riled Paul is that they were teaching others that Old Covenant rituals were necessary for salvation.
If one understands that Old Covenant rituals or Jewish customs have nothing to do with salvation, I think it's okay to keep a traditional holiday likeHanukkah. After all, most of us celebrate Thanksgiving.
But I see two grave dangers in practicing these traditions that cannot be ignored.
One snare is that our time can be consumed with these practices, leaving less time for fellowship with our yearning Father. The other danger is thatpracticing these traditions can cover up an emptiness, which we may or may not feel, in our relationship with Him. This emptiness would likely then remain unexamined andunhealed.
Christ exposed this failing in the Pharisees, who did the whole nine yards of tradition:
"When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchersand kettles. So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?He replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me' " (Mark7:4-6).
Christ regarded the Pharisees as those most distant from Him and the Father. In fact, they are judged worse than Sodomites. Why is that? Did thePharisees, who were so far from God, add a lot of traditions to their lives to distract themselves from their emptiness, or did practicing a lot of traditions leave them no time to worshipGod? Why was the publican closer to God than the Pharisee with his plethora of religious practices?
It seems that his religious activities led the Pharisee to believe that he was close to God when in truth these activities took the place of arelationship with God. Someone who was into the tassels and the "whole halakah," said: "My approach has been to correct those things in my life that are easiest first, and work my way downthe list from there."
I do not know why he was so attracted to traditions, and I cannot judge him. But I know that it is easier to perform deeds, even asceticism, than tochange the inner man. We can perform deeds on our own, but we need God to transform the inner man.
We Christians must not allow ourselves to focus first on the easier "outer" things instead of focusing first on our Father, who can change us from theinside out. Babes in Christ might tend to prefer an easier relationship built on deeds, but this is a wrong approach, even for babes.
There is nothing wrong with being culture conscious, but that should not be the focus of God's children. We can become so wrapped up in the outer thatthe inner is neglected, left full of dead men's bones.
I don't pretend to discern where the adoption of a physical tradition enhances one's spiritual worship and where it begins to replace it, but I doknow that this happens.
God has given us a measure to help us monitor these dangers: We look at fruits. One has to consider always whether he is reflecting more or less ofour Father's love. In my experience, those who have taken hold of these traditions have not reflected more of God's love by doing so.
There is always more zeal, but this is not love and not any kind of a "first love." Saul was full of zeal as Stephen felt his life slip away under thepounding and crunching of stones.
A friend observed: "Where is the pleading for the widow; the cries for relief of the oppressed; the plea for justice for the fatherless? Amongstrident legalists and ritualists, I barely hear a mutter about these matters." We must discern between zeal and love.
What percentage of the words of Christ were devoted to ritual? He talked of mercy and kindness and compassion and healing and unbinding burdens andloving a neighbor, redeeming an enemy, forgiving the unforgivable. This is where I see the greater lack today.
Many are adopting customs such as the celebration of Hanukkah. It seems like there were simultaneous isolated incidents all over the world from whichthis movement began to take off, and we see Satan's hand in this.
I in no way mean to say that all who choose to practice Jewish customs are playing into Satan's hands. As I've written, I think it is possible that inthe right circumstance they could even be helpful for some Christians.
But I am convinced that Satan is using this as a decoy to lure some away from God and the simplicity that is in Christ. The timing seems conducive:There was a lifting of the religious tolerance in the church (in organizations to a small degree as they seek to allow people enough leeway that they don't go independent and, to a greaterdegree, of course, among independents).
At the same time there were perhaps feelings of uncertainty in many when the WCG shook and derailed them from the comfort of their religious routine.In an organization that had repaired the torn veil, we like zombies gazed at our physical high priests and were not taught to use our brains or to exercise the Spirit. All that many of ushad were the law and the holy days and that mostly in our Bibles and not our hearts.
We were never allowed out of the crib, and I think it is terrifying for many as babes to contemplate a one-on-one life with God. Some (I included)felt the depth of the chasm that had eroded between us and our Father during our interim in the organization.
I think that now, in the scattering, this groping for details that we are seeing may be a reaction to that feeling of emptiness.
As gruntled as can be
I am responding to the letter in your Nov. 21 issue ["Speak No Evil," page 4] in which "Name withheld" took me to task for my article about HerbertArmstrong ["Former Plain Truth Editor Remembers Mr. Armstrong," Sept. 25].
To begin with, he criticized the editor simply for running my article. This is unfair. Dixon Cartwright is doing an excellent job in providing theChurches of God with the closest thing they've ever had to a free press. I applaud his courage.
As a longtime editor myself, I know the difference between an advocacy press and a free one. If the only purpose of The Journal is to say "smooththings" and endlessly preach to the choir what the choir already believes, what would be the point of publishing it? We would have nothing more than mere propaganda.
We have myriad such publications in place already. If Mr. Cartwright crossed a line in running my article, it was one that needed to becrossed.
My critic asked about the purpose of the article: It was to show that Mr. Armstrong is no more deserving of deification than any other minister. Hewas as human, and often as wrong, as the rest of us. Those who create a cult of personality around Mr. Armstrong are in danger of committing a subtle, or not so subtle, form ofidolatry.
There is a great difference between honoring someone for the office he holds and placing him on an undeserved pedestal. Our focus should be on God andHis Word, not human leaders. Some final points:
- I am not disgruntled. At the moment, I'm fully gruntled.
- What I said was not gossip; it was factual truth.
- I see no reason to equate Herbert Armstrong with King David.
In the years since I left the old WCG, the Lord has opened my eyes to see that He alone is the Head of the church. I will never again allow anyone toget between me and Him again. My life, my future and my eternal destiny are tied up with my faithfulness to God, not to my mindless loyalty to any authoritarian human leader.
At the same time, I respect any human instrument through whom the Lord evidently works, and I really don't care which denomination he or she is housedin. If a person is anointed, empowered and commissioned by Jesus Christ, I will honor that anointing.
If a man or woman demonstrates the power and fruit of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4-5), I will acknowledge that God is indeed ministering throughhim or her.
If someone exhibits the signs of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12) and shows himself to be faithful to the truth of God, I will acknowledge hisapostleship. I will follow only those who follow Christ in their manner of life, doctrine and message.
I have no interest in mere claims, oaths of loyalty, vows of orthodoxy and statements of allegiance for their own sake. I want substance, not style orform. I want to get hold of the essence of God, not the flesh of men.
I understand where you're coming from, Name Withheld. At the same time, I pray that you will someday become free to embrace God Himself and see therest of us poor human instruments for what we are: flawed, imperfect, sinful and often incorrect on points of doctrine. That includes Herbert W. Armstrong, me or anyone.
I believe the Lord is calling the church into a deeper relationship with Himself. Through all the turmoil and chaos that has followed in the wake ofthe breakup of the old WCG, we are learning that only God Himself is an anchor, a rock and an immovable fortress in which we can find refuge. Human leaders come and go. The fortunes ofdenominations wax and wane. Doctrines can be truth one day, heresy the next.
Grandiose claims are daily disproven, but God remains eternal in the heavens, and His Word is constant. As Jesus told His disciples, "Have faith inGod" (Mark 11:22).
Response to Mr. McFeat
Rather than write another column on the subject of homosexuality, I thought I would respond in the letters column of The Journal to Maxwell McFeat'sletter in the Nov. 21 issue ["Attention Deficit," page 18].
I understand Mr. McFeat's concerns and wish to reemphasize that in no way is Anchor magazine compromising with the Word of God. Most of our readersare members of the Churches of God. All are committed Christians who wish to lead godly lives. Some struggle with homosexuality; others are people trying to understand the problem betterbecause they have relatives or close friends who struggle.
Almost all of the mail we receive is fully supportive of the magazine and its stated mission.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that Mr. McFeat seems to misunderstand.
In his letter he writes that I have "unwittingly contributed" to the fallacy that people are predisposed to homosexuality. Nowhere have I writtenthat. Nor do I believe it. The analogy with alcoholism was misinterpreted by himself to claim that I supported this idea. This is not the case. I used the analogy with alcoholism in thissense: that a baptized church member can still have problems with homosexuality years after coming into the church, just as an alcoholic can suffer from alcoholism.
Similarly, just as reforming alcoholics, who may not have drunk alcohol for years, will openly say that they are alcoholics (in that they stillstruggle with the problem and have to be careful not to relapse), so Christians with homosexual feelings still have the desires even though they may not have acted on them for years. Inthis sense, they are still homosexual. The homosexuality is the orientation, not the act-just as heterosexuality is an orientation, not an act.
If some still do not understand, I would simply encourage them to study more into the subject. It would help greatly if those in the church whostruggle with homosexuality could share their struggle with others so that they might also understand.
Unfortunately, this will not be possible until there is greater understanding, compassion and forgiveness. These qualities in no way show compromisewith God's Word.
Our Savior preferred mixing with publicans and sinners to the religious people of His day.
I do not think Jesus would have avoided people who struggle with homosexual tendencies. He would have said to them the same as He said to the womancaught in the act of adultery, "Go and sin no more." He would then have helped them in their day-to-day struggle, which is exactly what Anchor is attempting to do. It has been well receivedby people struggling with homosexual feelings within the Churches of God.
Letter from a homosexual
When will people understand once and for all that no one in his or her right mind would choose to be gay or lesbian! There is too much hatred andsocial pressure against it.
Take it from someone who grew up in the WCG and is homosexual. There is no choice. Whether homosexuals choose to have a relationship with another ofthe same sex or not does not change the fact that in their minds they are still attracted to their own sex.
The vast majority of all people have homosexual thoughts at some period in their lives. They don't understand that for the homosexual these thoughtsare exclusive. There are no feelings for those of the opposite sex. And abstinence does not make a homosexual turn into a heterosexual. It just makes a gay guy who isn't gettin'any.
Name and location withheld
Governance is a doctrinal issue
Over the past several months I've seen and heard expressed by some that the real reason we left our previous affiliation and why the United Church ofGod was formed at Indianapolis was because of doctrine only, not over or about governance. [See also "Good Question," page 2, Nov. 21 issue.]
One member of United's council of elders was quoted as saying in a talk to a congregation a few months ago, "We left the Worldwide Church of Godbecause of doctrine. We did not leave because of government."
Yet, when I reflect upon the Indy conference and review my notes, the handouts and the transcript, I see only a very small part was about "doctrine,"but most was on the organization of a new governmental model, system, form.
Even in his final comments David Hulme [then interim chairman of the board of United] stated, "Well, we've embarked on a process of collaborativegovernance. It's new, and it won't be without its problems and rough edges, but give it time."
A few moments later he stated further, "It's not a hierarchical structure anymore. It's a collaborative process, and it should be seen asthat."
Yet there is a question that I haven't seen addressed. Wasn't and isn't governance, the government in the church, doctrinal? I have before me as Iwrite this the list compiled from Mystery of the Ages of the 18 restored truths, one of which is "God's Government in the Church."
Wasn't it apparent to those of us in Indy that we no longer agreed totally with what Herbert W. Armstrong had taught us? If we did agree, how could weso easily come to accept and agree to a totally new process?
Hadn't most of us studied the subject in a totally new light by those early days of 1995? Hadn't most of us come to see that form and structureweren't the most important thing? Hadn't most of us come to see that the government of God is exemplified by the love of God? Hadn't we recognized that the love of God was no longer in theform and structure of the WCG?
Wasn't that what we were really attempting to recapture by embarking on a new process?
As many have commented, it was most obvious to those of us in attendance that God was guiding and inspiring the proceedings. He was directing a changein governance.
Why? What did He have in mind? Was there something wrong with the form and structure we had in our former organization, other than that the love ofGod was no longer there? Did He want us to see and learn something?
I've meditated on these and similar questions frequently over the last several months. It's not earth-shaking. It's really rather simple. But,finally, I believe I have begun to understand why God inspired a totally different type, form and structure of governance and what it is that He wants us to learn.
Let's notice Mark 10:42, from the Jewish New Testament: "But Yeshua called them to Him and said to them, 'You know that among the Goyim [Gentiles,nations, pagans], those who are supposed to rule them become tyrants, and their superiors become dictators. But among you, it must not be like that! On the contrary, whoever among you wantsto be a leader must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you must become everyone's slave!" (See parallel accounts in Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:24-27.)
Christ is telling us that our leadership must be as servants with real love, not the oppressive type seen among the peoples around us. An importantinstruction for each of us as leaders is found in 1 Peter 5:1-3. Again, let me quote from the Jewish New Testament:
"Therefore, I urge the congregation leaders among you, as a fellow-leader and witness to the Messiah's sufferings, as well as a sharer in the glory tobe revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is in your care, exercising oversight not out of constraint, but willingly, as God wants; and not out of a desire for dishonest gain, but withenthusiasm; also not as machers [self-important activist, 'big wheel'] domineering over those in your care, but as people who become examples to the flock."
I believe God inspired a different form of governance. He gave us a chance to break the pattern. At Indy came together a humbled group: fellowswithout titles, offices or positions. The playing field had been leveled. We weren't above the membership or over anyone. We could, perhaps for the first time, walk shoulder to shoulderwith our brothers and sisters, not 10 paces ahead of them. We weren't a superior class, just the servants of our brethren.
But, sadly, I think many have fallen back into that old, comfortable position of before, placing themselves squarely between the sheep and theShepherd.
That ought not to be. That is something Christ detests. We must remember and heed the words of the apostle Paul, "Not that we have dominion over yourfaith, but are fellow workers for your joy . . ." (2 Corinthians 1:24).
Yes, we have embarked upon a new form of governance, a collaborative process that includes everyone, minister and member alike. We are all brothersand sisters. We are all members of the Body of Christ. We are equals. Yes, some have gifts and talents to be used in serving, not to be misused to abuse and mistreat others. Let's return toour "humble" or "humbled" beginnings.
How to avoid a split
The air is rife these days with rumors of an impending split in the United Church of God, an International Association. What began as a fresh, newapproach in church government, at least as we have known it-something called "consensus"-is in the process of coming unraveled.
Taking into consideration these two conflicting philosophies in the United Church of God, I'd like to address a few specifics and offer some practicalsolutions as ways whereby we may be able to avoid a cataclysmic split that could leave a lot of hurt feelings and broken relationships in its wake. Enough is enough. We don't need anothernew church organization.
One area that has become a sore spot with many is the lack of a media outreach by the home office. While we already have a fine-quality publication inThe Good News, all we have seen for a mass-media effort has been a lot of expensive foot-dragging. Meanwhile, the nonaligned ministries of Ronald Dart and Ray Wooten already have radio andtelevision productions that are available for use by anyone willing to sponsor them.
Mr. Dart's radio program is highly effective and well done, in my opinion. United has said much in the past about relationships with "other groups."It's time to translate talk into action. Since the UCG has yet to produce its own media outreach, why not permit and even encourage congregations to sponsor Born to Win or Hope for Humanity(or both) in their areas?
I know many pastors would object because they think such programs will generate a following for Ron Dart and Ray Wooten. Wrong. Let them read theUnited Christian Ministries' mission statement in the Oct. 31 edition of The Journal.
Similarly, Mr. Dart also has disavowed any desire to establish a church organization or exercise any control whatever over any local church (2Corinthians 1:24).
These men's mission is to point people to Jesus Christ, not to them nor to a church organization. That should be the burning desire of every ministerof God.
What about United's financial woes? The home office complains about local churches with swelling bank accounts for building funds and the like. Butshouldn't we look at the UCG budget, which is top-heavy with ministerial salaries?
I realize that when United was founded there was a need for ministers to pastor the new congregations, and a large number of ministers were suddenlyunemployed. Now that most of the churches are stabilized (?), many are so small that they don't warrant a full-time salaried pastor. Why not encourage these men to seek other employment,hopefully within their home area, so they can still serve their congregations? They can still be reimbursed from local funds or by the home office for certain expenses incurred whileserving in the ministry. That would free much more income for producing evangelistic outreach programs from the corporation.
One of the reasons the Church of God International was able to spend almost 50 percent of its income on evangelism for so many years is that itdoesn't have a salaried ministry, aside from the few assigned to the home-office staff.
But, then, a highly centralized organization without a paid ministry wouldn't have as much control over local churches, would it?
Those of us with a WCG background are well aware of the time when news out of headquarters was highly managed, of how the church would go from crisisto crisis without the general membership knowing what was really transpiring. The few who did know and dared to speak out were quickly dispatched as "dissidents" and malcontents. Memberswho would seek them out for information were threatened with disfellowshipment. To point out mistakes by the organization was to tread on thin ice.
When the UCG was founded, there was to be a certain "transparency" on the part of the organization. We were to be kept informed, even if the news wassometimes bad.
Well, I've seen slight improvement in that area, but there is still a concerted effort on the part of the UCG leadership to avoid admission ofinternal problems plaguing the church. Instead, we hear criticism of news sources such as The Journal for reporting of splits and schisms in several United congregations over the past yearor two.
Open discussion among the elders on United's elders' E-mail forum has also been a target of home-office ire. They don't seem to understand that thisis what they must expect in a more-open church organization. We should be thankful to have The Journal and the Internet. There is no reason for God's people ever to be hoodwinked again theway we were in 1974, 1979 and the post-HWA era.
As I understand it, the UCG constitution and bylaws were written with enough latitude to allow for both a centralized organizational structure and adegree of autonomy for congregations. This mix varies from church to church. Some want and have local boards, others would rather just let the pastor run things. That's their choice, as itshould be.
Those who are of a minority opinion, whichever it is, should be willing to respect and work with the majority, and the majority should respect theviews of the minority and not discriminate against them when it comes to opportunities to serve in the local congregation.
There is more diversity in the Body of Christ than we have been previously willing to admit, and, if the United Church of God is to avoid a split, wemust recognize and respect it and learn to work together. We must come to understand that true unity comes through the Holy Spirit working in each of us to bring us to the fullness ofChrist (Ephesians 4:13). No manmade organization can create that kind of unity.
A recent Journal article written about troubles brewing in the Connecticut congregation of the United Church of God, an International Association["New England UCG Congregation Splits Over Governance, Personal Responsibility," Nov. 21] had a quote from Paul Sucking about a visitor to Ray Wooten's Feast site.
The quote was: "I had a visitor recently who was at Ray Wooten's Feast site, and on the very first night they ended up in disagreement with him, andhe said they ended up at the end of the Feast in disagreement. So I don't buy this idea that there's a wonderfully pious, self-perfecting individual groups of Christians outthere."
I have called and spoken to Mr. Sucking and confirmed that I was the person he was quoting. This statement totally misconstrues what I said, and Ifeel compelled to set the record straight.
I invited Mr. Suckling over for my official resignation from United after our Feast in Gatlinburg, although I had attended United only a half dozentimes since the Feast a year before. I told him that there was a major philosophical difference between us and United. I told him we had to follow the path that God set before us. We wishedUnited well and that, if it followed the path God set before it, then it would bear godly fruit. I talked about Paul and Barnabas separating.
During that conversation, my wife and I mentioned our Feast in Gatlinburg. We had the pleasure of having Ray and Peggy Wooten, along with a number ofother people, over to our condo during the middle of the Feast. During dinner I told Ray that I thought the first 20 minutes of the sermon on the first day was great, but that when he beganto read Jim Bishop's book on the birth of Christ instead of using Scripture I, along with many people I knew, lost interest.
Ray and I had an amicable and productive conversation on the philosophy of public speaking but ended agreeing to disagree.
I told Mr. Suckling that at the end of the Feast I did not agree with everything that happened at Gatlinburg, and I did not agree with Ray Wooten oneverything. But I forcefully said that I believed Ray Wooten was being used powerfully by God, and I believe Ray is an evangelist, one who evangelizes.
My wife and I told Paul and Mrs. Suckling that it was refreshing to have ministers whom you did not have to agree with totally, that you could be openand honest about that disagreement and still work together.
I believe your quote of Paul Suckling places my comments totally out of context. It is most likely that you have quoted him correctly, and, if so,then Mr. Suckling's comments represent a departure of 180 degrees from what I told him.
This misconstruing of what I said probably goes back to the philosophical difference that separates us from United. I believe that God's work is beingdone right now. I believe the living-room Church of God is an active, vital part of that work.
But Mr. Suckling told a story as he left our home that displays his disagreement with my philosophy. His story had a little boy who wanted a cookie,but it was only half an hour before supper, so his mother would not let him have a cookie. That boy threw a tantrum on the kitchen floor.
When the father saw the boy on the floor, he asked what was wrong. The mother told the father that the boy wanted a cookie and threw a tantrum when hewas not allowed to have it because it was only a half hour before supper.
Mr. Suckling asked us if we knew what the boy's problem was. My wife said that he wanted a cookie. Mr. Suckling said, "No, his problem is that hewants to be No. 1."
I did not let the story end there. I said that was the difference in philosophy that we had with United. In the first place, the child did not want totake the place of the parent and be No. 1. He simply wanted to be fed.
In the second place, I trust God's Spirit in His people. I do not see His people as little children who need to be protected from eatingcookies.
Mr. Suckling said that was not the point he was trying to make, and I told him his point was the crux of our philosophical difference and I knew thathe did not see it.
The ministry of United in general and Paul Suckling in particular will not understand the problems that United is undergoing if they continue to placeeverything that is said and done into their context. Words and events must be placed in the context in which they truly take place.
Of course everyone will have a slightly different point of view, but to use my words to give credence to a belief that I made clear I totally opposeis not seeing things for what they truly are.
I know that Mr. Suckling considers people like me a distraction from his work of "preaching, publishing, teaching and feeding the sheep that God maychoose to call into the Body of Christ at this time."
But what I told him was that there were groups out there that were finding God and were making disciples. I used my disagreements with Ray Wooten toshow how this was being done, yet Mr. Suckling used my words in an attempt to show such groups do not truly exist.
I believe that those whom God is working with try to see people and events from the other person's point of view and work from that point rather thantrying to foist everything and everyone into a perceived mold.
I hope we can all be like the apostle Paul and be a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks.
If we do, we will have a part in making disciples for God.
God's work will be done no matter what we do. The question is will we be a part of that work, or will we be like the Pharisees. "Woe unto you, scribesand Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matthew 23:15).
The joke's on us
I appreciate Paul Felton's parody of an attitude that thankfully is dying in the Church of God today. (See "Open Letter to the FA(W)DL," page 18, Nov.21 issue of The Journal.) "Full Autonomous Democratic Liberals," "Wootenites" and "The Coleman and Board Church of God"! What a hoot!
It is good to bring to our attention how not to show Christian love, and parody is a legitimate way to do this. On the other hand, let us understandthe hurt many of us are nursing because of forced separation from friends of many decades and the feelings of betrayal we are now fighting.
My appeal is to forget those things that are behind, to build bridges rather than walls. Paul, I appreciate your bringing to everyone's attention-insuch a humorous way, I might add-an attitude that we all need to battle. We all need reminders. Along with those reminders, we should apply the words of another Paul as he wrote them inPhilippians 4:8-9:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything isexcellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be withyou."
Lee's Summit, Mo.
Seeing old friends
I wanted to let you know you are doing a unifying and healing work with The Journal. We really appreciated your coming to the Feast site in ColoradoSprings. [Publisher Dixon Cartwright and family attended the Feast in Colorado with brethren from the Christian Church of God.] It was good to see you, and we enjoyed your daughter's songvery much.
We went to a United Church of God Bible study this week. These are Amarillo-area people who have been in the church for 30 to 40 years. These arelongtime friends of the Amarillo people who attended the Feast with the Christian Church of God in Colorado Springs. When we all left Worldwide in 1978, our friendship with those who stayedin the WCG died. It was so enjoyable at Bible study when someone said to my husband, "Vance, we saw your dad's picture in The Journal."
The conversation went on to the Ballews, Booths and others [in the Christian Church of God, Amarillo] who had left so many years ago. The brethren inUnited were so glad to hear about these old friends and to find they had not "fallen away." There was such happiness and excitement in their voices as they talked about how good it was tosee faces of brethren they hadn't seen or heard from for so many years.
You are doing a great service to God's people, and I want to thank you.
I am anxious to read the interview with Ken Westby [in a soon-coming issue]. I've never heard any of his story. He "fell away" several years before wedid!
Don't f-stop now
A picture is worth a thousand words. More photos, please. If you must sacrifice polemic, that conversational argument art form, so be it.
If you must sacrifice pontificating, that dogmatic, authoritarian, pompous mix we all love to hate, so be it. Mo' pictures, man, mo'pictures.
Need to care
I hope enough people continue to support you in this work.
We need to care enough to know what the responses are from others to help us determine our own.
A cartoon worth 1,000 words
My compliments to Lorna Thomas for the cartoon on page 3 of the Oct. 31 issue. A picture surely is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, we become soengulfed in searching for righteousness that we are sometimes swallowed up by our own importance, forgetting or neglecting the righteousness of God.
What is depicted by the cartoon is a major threat to the well-being of many of the living-room groups.
We have all, in past years, some even at the present, been subjected to some kind of pastoral superauthority, unfortunately too many times blockingthe way or standing as a gatekeeper to the pipeline to the Father, taking or trying to take the place of the Christ. We must all admit, if we are to be honest, that dominion over our faithhas been fully exercised.
It is time to remember who is the author and finisher of our faith, who is really in charge of our lives, physical as well as spiritual.
We must not allow ourselves to return to those days that, in some ways, mimicked the time before the Christ died for us, when a man, assigned by God,was the only approach to Him.
We must break free of the dominion of man, allowing teachers, etc., to be the only helpers of our joy.
United Christian Ministries makes a beautiful case for this in its mission statement that you also published in the Oct. 31 issue.
That statement should be a source of renewed commitment to our faith through Jesus the Christ.
When we have done so, we will have achieved unity, even physically so, for our faith will be placed in the right entity.
We all need to get down off our soapboxes and allow the Christ to lead.
Thank you so much for the article and photos of the Church of God International [Sept. 25 issue] and the article by Molly Antion [May 30issue].
The Journal has been very good at letting all the Churches of God have their say, but really that would be God's way. A kind word to our old friendsLee Lisman, Richard Nickels and Melvin Rhodes. Please let other people have their say.
Howard and Dorothy Bruce