Letters from our readers
Deepest appreciation goes out to all of you who are sending cards of encouragement and making donations for the Karen brethren in Thailand ["Karens Are the Forgotten Brethren," Sept. 28]. I will be going to Thailand next month and will visit them then. I am sure they will be overwhelmed with the kindness and support shown by their brothers and sisters from America, and I know God is pleased. Gloria and I want to thank all of you for kindnesses and encouragement on behalf of all the Karen refugees.
Note: Please make out any donations to Leon Sexton. Then put "Karen Fund" at the bottom or somewhere else on the check. This will make cashing of checks much easier.
Multitude of counsel
In a lengthy article in your recent Journal ["RCM Says No Takeover in Offing," Aug. 31], I was extensively quoted from a sermon in Tulsa on the subject of church government, specifically as to how we function in the Global Church of God.
While a few of my statements appeared to have been misunderstood by The Journal, I certainly acknowledge that wrong conclusions could be drawn from some of the comments which I did make. Consequently, I want to clarify my statements to avoid further misunderstanding by any of your readers.
First, let me say that our practices are best enunciated in my "member letter" of June 11, 1998, which you kindly ran as a guest editorial in a recent issue of The Journal ["Global Seeks Biblical Government," June 30].
The bylaws of the Global Church of God, which govern our administrative processes, clearly state that the council of elders has final authority in the church in all major doctrinal as well as administrative matters. The board of directors is charged with conducting the business of the church, including hiring or terminating personnel, establishing their duties and setting their compensation. While both the board and the council have confirmed my leading role in the church, all final decisions are made by consensus-usually after much discussion and prayers.
In reviewing the tape of the sermon, it is clear to me that, in an effort to address certain unfounded concerns expressed by a number of the Tulsa brethren, I somewhat overstated my current role in the government of Global. Obviously, my comments sometimes harked back to a time when we did not have the council in place.
As chairman of both the board of directors and the council of elders, I want to make it clear that we stand by our commitment to the principle of "multitude of counsel" and to decisions by consensus of Spirit-filled and -led members of the council and the board.
In a meeting of the board of directors of Global this week, I was asked to communicate to you our concern about the article by Jeff Patton ["Wanted: Righteousness and Justice"], which appeared in the Aug. 31 Journal. While much of what Jeff said on the subject of justice was interesting, there were inaccurate personal accusations and gossip contained in the article which-we are advised-border on libel.
We will not be interested in engaging in any mud-slinging match with Jeff in The Journal or elsewhere. We do want your readers to know, however, that we unequivocally deny the factual accuracy of many of Jeff's statements, such as his allegations of sexual harassment of one of our Canadian employees. At one time certain accusations were made, but after diligent investigation the church found those allegations to be without any basis or foundation.
Read the law
In regard to the editorial by Jeff Patton ["Wanted: Righteousness and Justice," Aug. 31]: Jeff states: "A Canadian office employee (not a minister) has been accused of what the modern legal system would call sexual harassment and other offenses. The person accused has been publicly (by the church) exonerated without a public hearing of all sides, testimony and evidence. Some of the members involved feel betrayed by what they perceive as a miscarriage of justice."
If the "reading of the law" as in Deuteronomy 31 and Leviticus 25 had been done every seventh year at the Feast of Tabernacles in the WCG, we as a group would have been well trained in righteous judgment. As far as we know, it was never read.
That is water under the bridge. We can only go forward. When do we, scattered sheep, step out and begin to do what the Bible says?
How about now? I did hear a few made a start last year. Good for them. We all need to step out and act on what we are finding. You learn by doing.
The Christian Churches of God has made the determination that this is the third seventh year or the 21st year of the 40th jubilee. The CCG stepped out and read the law at the Feast this year: the men, the women and the children. This, of course, took many hours. Seven years from now it will be repeated. You learn by doing.
Jeff's article talks about misuse of the third tithe. How about misuse of all tithes, period? In the seventh year there are no tithes. Only offerings are made. Read it. It's in the book. If we had "read the law" every seventh year, we'd have known that. Now maybe we know why we weren't reading it in the WCG and why the major splinter groups still aren't.
In this seventh year the land is to rest. This year the land is resting via floods, fires and droughts from Florida to Texas, to California and now Alaska, not to mention overseas lands with their weather problems. Do you think God might be trying to get our attention?
The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible's notes to 2 Chronicles 36:21 read "the captivity was for Israel's disobedience in not keeping the sabbatical years," letting the land rest every seven years. To whom is this talking to spiritually? Judah? America? The Church of God? (Deuteronomy 15:1-23; 31:10-13; Leviticus 19:33-34; 25:1-55; 26:34-35; Exodus 23:10-11; 2 Chronicles 36:21). You learn by doing.
Nails on the head
I would like to comment on many articles I've read in The Journal, but I'll try not to make this too long. I especially enjoy Melvin and Diane Rhodes, John Wheeler, Gary North, Jeff Patton, Dave Havir and A.W. Lane ("Letters," Aug. 31).
What finally got me to sit down and write this was Jeff and Carolanne Patton's article, "Wanted: Righteousness and Justice," in the Aug. 31 issue. They have hit the nail (several nails) on the head. I'm not going to quote particular passages. Anyone who is interested should read the entire article.
One of the things I really appreciated in Jeff Patton's article was about the "Mr." prefix. I was raised a country boy, so to speak, in Small Town, U.S.A. No one ever put too much emphasis on titles. There are a couple of elderly ladies in our congregation I refer to as Mrs., and I call our pastor Mr. Bald out of respect for his position. I really don't think he'd mind too much if I called him John; I could be wrong.
I had a good friend in the church who moved up north, and I haven't seen him for several years. Harold Smith was in his 80s and I in my late 40s when he lived here. I always called him Harold or Smitty. I respected him as much as anyone, and he knew it.
Doug Hulings, a deacon, was one of my first friends here in the church, before he was a deacon. I call him Doug, and he calls me T.R. We have several deacons in Corpus Christi, and I have always called them Pat, Arnold, Tony and Larry, with much respect for them as friends as well as for their "office."
I just felt I had to comment on a few things, and, if you print this letter, I hope those mentioned will read it so they'll know they are much appreciated.
We are members of United and have no plans to change, even though I don't agree with much that's been done (like the Big Sandy fiasco). I know all the COGs have problems. My family and I will not hesitate to fellowship with the brethren across corporate boundaries at any time. We may not have the authority to make changes, but we try to live by Jesus Christ's instructions and keep God's law.
We enjoy your daughter's [Jamie Cartwright's] articles.
God bless you, your family and your staff. Keep up the good work.
Tragedy at the Feast
My mother-in-law, Jeananne Gibson, a retired schoolteacher, has been a long-time member of the church: more than 31 years. She was a pioneer member of the Toronto-Hamilton congregations in Ontario, where she is widely known. For the last 10 years Mrs. Gibson has lived in the Victoria, B.C., region.
Jeananne had just attended opening-night services of the Feast of Tabernacles at the United site in Kelowna, B.C., when in getting ready for bed fell down the stairs in her son's summer house on Lake Okanagen, breaking her neck and injuring her spinal cord. Her injury is similar to the one Christopher Reeves ("Superman") received when he was thrown from his horse.
Jeananne cannot breathe or eat on her own without the assistance of medical technology. Her mind, however, is alert and uninjured. Her mailing address is Vancouver General Hospital, Spinal Cord ICU, Centennial Pavilion-East 9, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1M9, Canada. E-mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeananne likes newsy letters that give her something to think about besides looking at the ceiling above her bed. Your prayers for her recovery are much appreciated by her family.
State of the churches
Following the Feast of Tabernacles is a good time for a few comments on the present state of affairs in the church and the world. As our president and nation sink deeper and deeper into the mire of corruption and immorality, and as world conditions worsen more and more, we continue to be sobered by trying times. We continue to wonder just how close are we to the end of the age.
There are no two ways about it. National and world conditions are much worse than they were just a few years ago: not only in people's character, but in the weather, economy, you name it. I believe the Clinton administration will go down in history as being one of the most vile and corrupt ever, a modern-day Roman Empire.
After all, Bill Clinton is the embodiment of the adulterous and rebellious baby-boomer generation. All the leaders in government, business and industry are the baby-boomers from the 1960s and 1970s, the free-sex, make-love-not-war generation. So it's no wonder that our times are more evil than ever!
How would Herbert Armstrong have reacted if he were still alive, in good health and writing and broadcasting? I know for sure that he would be speaking out with great power against the evils all around us. And who in the Churches of God is speaking out today?
I don't know of anyone doing so on any grand magnitude. There are a few here and there warning our peoples and the brethren. Just like our peoples of modern-day Israel and Judah, God's people are slumbering and going back to sleep again.
It's good to see that a precious few more of God's people are starting to learn some lessons as more and more small fellowships, newsletters and other nonaligned publications proliferate. There have been many changes just this year, not only among God's people, but in the state of the world. Things are moving rapidly.
It should be a prod to all of us to be sure we are deepening our relationship with God and His people. The day will definitely come, sooner or later, when all of God's people will have to individually and collectively stand on their own two feet, without the crutch of the corporate church organization.
Jesus Christ gave the command. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35, RSV).
He didn't condition this commandment on anything or say only to keep it when "the timing is right." More need to realize that a lack of deep, abiding love for one another as brethren is one of the main problems, if not the main problem, among many if not all the COG offshoots throughout the world.
In addition to our collective sins as God's people, for idolizing the corporate culture created by the WCG, a general lack of love for one another is the main source of the problems in the COG today. Brethren show lack of love mainly by not communicating with one another, be it by phone, letter, card or E-mail or in person.
Some of the COG articles lately have been getting to the heart of the matter, the weightier matters of the law: like love, mercy, justice and the serious need for repentance and change, especially by the ministry. The articles are talking about things that the greater COG ministry at large should be preaching from the podium, but the elders are afraid to! Too few who call themselves elders are preaching with power and warning the brethren of what is coming. Terrible times are definitely coming on this world. Will we as God's people be able to endure those times?
John Wheeler's article on the divinity of Christ [Aug. 31] leaves many of his readers somewhat helpless. The secret to the Godhead, he says, lies in the accents that primarily mark punctuation in the Hebrew text. He speaks of the "imprecise unity of Yehawweh" in Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4, NKJV).
But there is nothing at all in the language or the accents, thankfully, to throw the slightest doubt on the meaning of "one" in the famous and cardinal creed of Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord."
Mr. Wheeler names the accents that fall on the words "one Lord." These accents are supposed to add something to the words in terms of meaning. "One," because of the accent, he says, actually means more than one.
As a matter of fact, the word one occurs at the end of a sentence with exactly the same accents in Deuteronomy 17:6 where a man is not to be put to death on the evidence of "one witness," as distinct from two or three.
Again, in Leviticus 22:28 an animal with its young is not to be killed "on one day." The accents here are exactly as in Deuteronomy 6:4, "one Lord."
It is therefore impossible to argue for a special meaning of "one" on the basis of accents. The silluq accent, which Mr. Wheeler says gives room for "imprecise unity," occurs anyway at the end of every verse in the Hebrew text. It has no effect on the meaning of the words.
The Hebrew word for "one" (echad) means "a single one," "one and not two or more." When Adam and Eve became "one flesh," they were not "two fleshes." To argue, as popular Trinitarianism does (not Mr. Wheeler), that one really means a "compound one" is fallacious. One might as well say that "one" in "one tripod" really means three, or "one" in "one centipede" really means one hundred!
The public is easily swayed by "technical" arguments that sound plausible. The safe procedure is to consult a good lexicon that gives the definition of biblical words. You will find nothing about "one" meaning "more than one."
Little progress in settling this vital issue of who God is can be made until the linguistic facts in relation to God and Jesus are established. It is a fact that the Messiah is never once referred to as Adonai, the Lord God. A precise distinction is always made between the Lord God (Adonai, 449 times) and a human (or occasionally an angelic) superior (adoni, 195 times). It is false to assert that in Psalm 110:5 the Messiah is called Adonai, the Lord God. The distinction between God and the Lord Messiah is maintained always.
Adonai in Psalm 110:5 is the Lord God who, at the Messiah's right hand (this image is found several times in the Psalms), assists Him in His future Messianic victory (see any good modern commentary for corroboration).
I must mention also the confusing theory of Carl Franklin, who maintains that "Yahweh spoke to Yahweh" in Psalm 110:1. No scholar could possibly support this idea. I long for the time when WCGers and ex-WCGers will perceive that taking positions about Hebrew words that no other scholar at any time has espoused is at least risky and almost bound to be wrong! Theology may not be done, in HWA fashion, on an island.
In Psalm 110:1 there is no doubt about the text: Yahweh (the Lord) spoke to the human lord of David (adoni). Adoni is regularly the royal title and fits the Messiah beautifully. No one among the writers of the Old Testament ever imagined that God was two persons, and no one ever thought that the Messiah was to be God Himself. They did, however, believe He would be a unique human person, fully endowed with divine character, authority and power.
Deuteronomy 18:15-18 gives us the perfect picture and was used by the apostles (Acts 3:22; 7:37). The WCG and ex-WCGers have been taken for a ride both by orthodoxy (Trinitarianism, which is a fourth-century development not true to the Bible) and by the old HWA view of the "God family." It would be simple and beneficial for us all to look to Jesus, the Jew and Savior of mankind, who constantly referred to the Father as God, recited the unitary monotheistic creed of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:28; John 17:3) and never suggested any new definition of the deity. His own claim was to be the Messiah.
The Bible, on page after page, distinguishes God from Jesus Messiah. Once you catch on to this fact, the Bible will become clear in a new and exciting way, as several ex-WCGers have recently testified. What I propose here has been well understood by Bible readers throughout the ages.
At the risk of tedious repetition, I must also point out that we can make little progress in the discussion of who God is and who Jesus is if we actually misstate the facts of the biblical text. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact: In Psalm 110:1 the word for "my lord" is positively not Adonai (the divine title) but adoni. The latter is used 195 times in the Old Testament and refers to superiors of various kinds, but never to God. It is therefore futile to mount an argument for the deity of the Messiah from that verse.
Adonai and adoni are quite distinct in the Masoretic text and distinguish God from man. I am referring to Lon Lacey's contribution to the discussion (The Journal for Sept. 28, page 8, bottom of left column). I am sure he inadvertently misstated the fact about the Hebrew word "my lord" in Psalm 110:1.
For those wanting to get a handle on the discussion, it will be helpful to know that the Messiah is never called Adonai or Yahweh, and the Old Testament nowhere expects the Messiah to be God. God and the man Jesus are constantly distinguished in the New Testament, and no verse in the Bible ever says, "There is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit," or "There is One God, Father and Son."
Paul did, however, say that "there is no God but One; there is One God, the Father" (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). He added that there is also "One Lord Jesus Messiah."
By "Lord" he meant the Lord Messiah (adoni) of Psalm 110:1. Jesus is the highly exalted, ascended Lord, and He is Lord in the sense described by Psalm 110:1. Thus there are two Lords: One is the Lord God (the Father of Jesus), and the other is the Lord Messiah (Luke 2:11 and very often the Lord Jesus Messiah).
This is biblical monotheism and the creed of Jesus as he affirmed it in Mark 12:28 and following verses.
Both are God
There are plenty of scriptures that Gary Fakhoury and others did not address that show that Jesus is God and that one of His titles is YHVH. I list some of them here:
John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 show that Christ performed all the creating and is thus the Creator, and Isaiah 40:28 says that the Creator is the everlasting God, the YHVH.
Romans 9:5 states that Christ is over all, the eternally blessed God.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 says that the king who will rule the earth in righteousness (Christ) will be called the Lord [YHVH] our righteousness.
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 and Psalm 28:1; 144:1 state the Lord (YHVH) is the Rock, which together with 1 Corinthians 10:4 shows that Christ also has the title YHVH.
In Psalm 90:13 Moses asks how long it will be before YHVH returns, clearly referring to Christ.
Isaiah 41:4 and 44:6 show that YHVH is "the first and the last," and Revelation 1:17-18; 2:8; 22:12-13 show that "the first and the last" is none other that Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 10:20; 41:14; 43:3,14,15; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; and 54:5 clearly show that "the Holy One" is YHVH; and Luke 1:35; 4:34, Acts 2:27; 3:14; 13:35 identify "the Holy One" as Jesus.
Perhaps Mr. Fakhoury could also explain these to his satisfaction. However, there is a much simpler explanation that doesn't require paragraph after paragraph of reasoning:
Just as man can mean mankind (as in "man inhabits the earth") as well as just one man, so too can "God" mean God-kind as well as God the Father or the Lord Jesus Christ.
With this understanding, scriptures affirming the oneness of God are clearly understood either to affirm the oneness of the God-kind (that is, there is only one God-kind just as there is only one mankind) or to affirm the unity of the Father and the Son. Further, scriptures affirming that Jesus is God are clearly understood at face value without any need for lengthy explanation to the contrary.
Scriptures such as Acts 3:13; 5:30 and 1 Corinthians 10:4 show that the Old Testament men of God worshiped the one true God (God-kind): both the Father and the Son.
John 17:3 can be explained easily as well. At the time Jesus referred to the Father as the only true God, there was only one true God being, because Jesus was not divine while in the flesh (as Lon Lacey pointed out in his article in the Sept. 28 issue of The Journal).
Lastly, it is worth noting that the Father and the Son both being God does not imply they are coequal. For, in the same way that a human father is greater than his son, yet both are human, so can God the Father be greater than the Son, yet both be God.
A real dilemma
I am writing in regards to the series that you are running on the nature of Jesus Christ. In the past you have published articles that attacked Herbert Armstrong and some that attacked the holy days (via the calendar controversy), but it is too much to see you run articles attacking Christ Himself.
Now, I understand that you are trying to justify yourself by saying that they all consider Christ to be Savior. But the fact still is that you are allowing them to deny, in your publication, that Jesus Christ is a member of the God family and is every bit as much God as the Most High Father is God. To deny that fact is Antichrist!
The problem that this gives me is that I have only three issues left on my subscription. I hate to let it expire because, although the news out there about the many groups is sparse, your paper is the only source where I can get information about what is going on in Global. It seems they will give you reports that they will not give their own members. So I don't want to lose the information that I get on Global-or the other groups, either, for that matter.
But I fear that to send you money to subscribe to The Journal would be supporting Antichrist, because, if you print these heresies denying the true nature of Christ and it destroys the faith of even one person in Christ, that is too high a price to pay, even in the name of journalism!
I understood that The Journal's purpose was to report the news of Sabbath-keeping groups, not to be a vehicle for every crazy idea that anyone could think up. Please consider this and repent and retract that Antichrist stuff in an open statement to your readers and get on with informing God's people of what's happening in the many divisions of God's people.
With regard to the "nature of Christ" article by A. Buzzard and C. Hunting in the July 31 issue, I offer the following observation about one of the authors. A bit over a year ago I heard Anthony Buzzard on the radio and was intrigued by his presentation. It sounded much like the information once espoused by Worldwide in regard to the destiny of saints.
I contacted him to learn more and was disappointed to find that, although he had once been part of the WCG, he had since abandoned the Sabbath and also dismissed the concept of Christ's preexistence. I believe it is important that The Journal's readers be aware of this and consider it when evaluating his article on the nature of Christ.
I also would like to point out a discrepancy between God's Scriptures and a statement by Gary Fakhoury. Gary's central theme, like that of Mr. Buzzard and Mr. Hunting, was that Jesus never preexisted as a member of the God family. Gary supports this contention, on page 16 in the section labeled "Only Jesus Was Given Authority to Pronounce Forgiveness of Sins," by agreeing, correctly, with the scribes' and Pharisees' contention that only God can forgive sins.
He states that Jesus only pronounced that sins had been forgiven by God, "but Jesus never says that He forgave the sins," implying that Jesus was never God. He provides Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 as support for this statement.
However, Gary quotes only a portion of Mark 2:12 and Luke 5:26 about the amazement of the people at Christ's pronouncement of God's forgiveness of sins.
To illustrate the danger of taking someone's word for what the Scriptures say, the following quotes from Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5, KJV, show what power Christ actually claimed for Himself. I encourage everyone to read the entirety of all three scriptural accounts:
"But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house" (Matthew 9:6).
"But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house" (Mark 2:10-11).
"But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins-He said to the man who was paralyzed, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house'" (Luke 5:24).
In all of the above-quoted references, Jesus plainly claimed the power to forgive sin, not just the "authority to pronounce God's decision" regarding a person's sins.
Unity of God
Thank you immensely for your recent articles by Anthony Buzzard, Charles Hunting and Gary Fakhoury on the "nature of God." For more than 10 years we have corresponded with Anthony and Charles, as well as Sidney Hatch of Oregon and Howard Clark of California, on this subject.
We've studied "the unity of God" thoroughly and prayerfully, and-upon grasping this truth of "the only true God" (Ephesians 3:9; John 17:3) and "the one Lord Jesus, the Messiah" (1 Corinthians 8:6), who proclaimed "the gospel of the Kingdom" (Matthew 4:23)-we have found our Bible study inspiring, with revealing clarity on every subject and doctrine.
We have found, as your readers will find, that this foundational truth will open new paths to understanding who our great Creator is, who His Son is and in what direction we, as Christians, should be moving! Once we're all on track, we will see there is a close connection between recognizing the oneness of God and loving both Him and one's neighbor.
As Sidney Hatch once said: "God is one, a personal being who relates to us and is quite knowable. Jesus is His Son. We can love a personal God, and when we love Him then we can learn to love our fellowman."
He also said: "Few people, however, find it possible to have a warm, living, personal relationship with a philosophical abstraction, which is what the doctrine of the Trinity is." (Sid is a former Baptist minister.)
This truth that you've shared with your readers has been, and continues to be, a great blessing to my family. Now we can truly love our God (not a Greek philosophical abstraction) and in doing so learn to love ourselves and others.
That is true worship. Thanks again for the witness. It has renewed our minds (Romans 12:2).
I have tried for weeks to think of some charitable way to comment on Gary Fakhoury's essay, "Was Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God or God the Son?," in the August issue.
I could write pages of proof of the divinity of Jesus, but I will leave that to better writers. We have been bombarded in recent months with proofs of political fornication; now we are confronted with this example of spiritual fornication.
I am particularly outraged by his assessment of Jesus' prayer to the Father in Mark 14:36. Roger Rusk, in his book The Other End of the World, proposes that this "cup," which Jesus dreaded, was the cup filled with the sins of all the world throughout all ages, plus the cup of Mother Babylon, spoken of in Revelation 17:4. Surely no Christian will deny that Jesus took upon Himself our sins in order to open the way to our salvation.
Could it also be that Jesus' cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" was uttered because the Spirit of God the Father, which had been with Him through all eternity, could not remain present during this period when Jesus was filled with all the evil of the world? Think on this.
I hope all your readers will study the fine essay by John Wheeler, "How the Bible Speaks of Jesus and the Father's Divinity," in the same issue. Not only has he put forth a strong case built on God's Word and the original texts, but he has managed to express the faith, hope and love that should be a part of every Christian's life.
It strikes me that men who have studied the original languages of the Bible have a profound understanding of the truth. I study with two such teachers, Fred Coulter and Carl Franklin of the Christian Biblical Church of God, and through their encouragement have been able to learn how to study my Bible from God's point of view and the original texts.
Who is Jesus?
"By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every Spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (1 John 4:2-3).
This raises the question: Who is Jesus Christ? (See the essays on the nature of Jesus in the July, August and September issues of The Journal.)
Here is the scriptural record:
This leaves us with only one conclusion: "By this you know the Spirit of God, every spirit which confesses that God has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess that God has come in the flesh is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already."
Thank you, staff of The Journal, for helping us better understand the Word of God.
Thank you for publishing the thought-provoking essays on the nature of Christ. While we as readers may not agree with all the various authors' conclusions, the points presented challenge us to reconsider preconceived or assumed ideas about the Godhead. All of us should accept the challenge to prove to ourselves from Scripture every doctrine that we believe rather than taking for granted what we have been programmed to accept in the past. All of us are accountable personally for what we understand from God's Word and how we apply that understanding daily.
I look forward to future Journal publications of similar controversial subjects.
The main theme for our 1998 Appointed Times was the oneness theme in Christ's prayer. The continuing series on the nature of God and Jesus in The Journal gave us an excellent background on this subject, proving that Scripture is never going to achieve, or even help, to bring about unity. It was not designed for that purpose, nor was it applied by Christ or His disciples and chroniclers.
Christ's prayer for the unity of His people was as follows: "Neither pray I for these alone [meaning His disciples who were with Him] but for them also which shall believe on me through their word [meaning us who believe in the words of Christ's disciples] that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee" (John 17:20-23).
Reading this text in its original language, we immediately notice the problem. The English rendering "shall believe on me" is a mistranslation. In our culture the word believe is used as "to have confidence in." This is not the meaning of the word in the Greek. There the word pisteuo means "a living relationship" or "a closeness of walk." The correct translation of John 17:20 is: ". . . but for them also which shall have a living relationship with me through their [apostles'] word."
Our unity with the Father and the Son does not come through Bible study but through a living relationship with Christ through the words of His apostles. We have to learn how to receive God's Spirit to understand through the original texts the apostles' words and put them into practice.
Obedience to the commandments and teachings of Christ is the key to the presence of God: "If you love me [Christ], you will keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper [counselor] like me, the spirit of truth, to be with you for this age" (John 14:15-16).
This special spirit, the spirit of truth, is available to us conditionally. Notice the word if in the above sentence. To receive the spirit of truth we have to love Christ and keep His commandments. Most churches seem unaware of the conditional nature incorporated in this promise.
So where does the Bible fit in all of this? The answer is provided in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is for teaching, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness (tzedek).
After all the recent essays and letters on the nature of Christ published in The Journal, I find Eric Anderson in Iowa correct in saying: "The problem is not as much with our knowledge as with our hearts and behavior" (Sept. 28).
The Scrolls (Scriptures) are definitely secondary with Christ. Should it have been different, He would have introduced Scripture studies and would have instructed His followers to keep up with them later on. According to the inspired texts, He read from the Scriptures only once in order to announce the fulfillment of a prophecy. WCG ministries and their offshoots are way off course with their intellectual diggings in terrains where their troops get constantly lost.
No matter how refined, high-flown and intellectual the exercises unearthing the nature of Jesus are, they are all vain considering what God really expects. If we do not learn the basics of humility and of our paraphysical nature, we are missing the target by a mile or more.
The unity among us starts with our close relationship with the Father and His Son. Developing this relationship is a process. It takes time to develop teachers for this process. Shalom.
As I follow the various reports from Feastgoers on the [Internet] forums in which I participate, I notice that some people refer to "fantastic sermons." While I full well realize that these comments are intended to express one's feelings toward a particular message in a complimentary way, this expression always seems to impress me as somewhat of an oxymoron. As we all know, the word fantastic is derived from fantasy, which means "unreal," and I'm sure that no one feels he has heard an "unreal" sermon-at least I hope not.
My little bone of contention is that in many cases people are impressed with noise, hype, emotionalism and theatrics. Those of us who experienced Spokesman Club can remember some guy who always seemed to be awarded the cup for best table-topics comment just because he shouted his words of wisdom accompanied with the solid pound of his fist on the first unfortunate surface at his disposal.
Picky, picky, you say. I suppose. It comes with old age. But I thought that I would share my thoughts on how I assess a sermon (or for that matter the guidelines I try to use in preparing one). Here goes:
One final thought: There are many fine, gifted ministers whose presentation may be somewhat low key in comparison to others'. I would encourage people to train themselves to listen even if the delivery isn't exactly dynamic. Remember, it's not so much how they say it as it is in what they say.
I see your newspaper as a fomenting pit of confusion and secularism, but it is (to many whom I share it with) better than the Enquirer. At least occasionally you print a truth direct from the Bible.
The only writers I see in your paper are the old, HWA-elite graduates and others who are still trying to make a living on the backs of those God calls. If it weren't so sad and evil, it would be comical.
Why do you print only the corporational elite's letters? Are you bought off by the many and varied religious heads? Don't you allow the down-to-earth saints to rebut your coveted writers? Are you of the bunch who believe that the saints will never rule as kings and priests with Christ at His return because they were too dumb ever to become acquainted with God's Word? Is it going to be only college grads who will be given rulership?
We old people are tired of prejudicial editors who spend their time printing the cute, nice, unscriptural, worldly, intellectual ideas, philosophies of secular men who call themselves teachers, doctors, ministers. You won't print anything by even a lowly carpenter or fisherman, yet Christ and many of His apostles were not college grads, especially of Ambassador College.
But you younger '60s and '70s people lack Christ's, King David's, Elijah's and the apostles' guts, integrity and biblical obedience. Maybe you can change and make an old person happy yet. Renew my subscription.
As a witness
Apparently some of your readers think that the gospel of the Kingdom of God was preached to all the nations under Herbert W. Armstrong (see Matthew 24:14). This cannot possibly be true, since the "end" of the world would have come.
Memo to Dave
To Dave Havir [regarding "Do You Mistakenly Believe Two Heresies?," Sept. 28]: Cornelius had more of the fear of God (Acts 10:2) than you have and had more humility than you have. Read and study carefully Luke 7:1-10. What type of government structure will be in the Kingdom of God starting in the Millennium? How can that be? How can heresy exist in the Kingdom of God? The "Texas independent spirit" won't be tolerated and exist in the Kingdom.
We are writing for the first time in a long time to comment on Dave Havir's article "Do You Mistakenly Believe Two Heresies?" [Sept. 28].
We are members of the Church of God since 1959 and 1960 and so were very, very thrilled to see such an honest summary. What a breath of fresh air Mr. Havir is. We see there might be light at the end of a dark tunnel, and that light is Jesus Christ.
Thank God for men like Mr. Havir and any others who are able to look clearly and closely at past teaching, then tell us where we went wrong-but best of all to light our path to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who said He was the only door.
We have ways
I would like to respond to the article "Y2K Scenario: Blind Man's Bluff, Anyone?" by Gary North [Aug. 31]. This article painted a pessimistic view that the update of the Internal Revenue Service's computers would not meet the Y2K deadline.
I work for the IRS in the Portland, Ore., office. Make no mistake about it, the IRS will be Y2K compliant before the deadline. Let me quote from John Yost, the IRS director of the Century Date Change Project (CDC).
"CDC's job is to make sure IRS computers, telephones and other electronic equipment are able to serve IRS employees-and the taxpayers-on January 1, 2000, and beyond.
"IRS programmers have already converted 80 percent of them (i.e., computer code), and they plan to hit 100 percent by January 31, 1999, a year ahead of the deadline . . . Leaving nothing to chance, we're having Grumman Corporation conduct a 100 percent review of our work."
If there are any tax evaders who-as Mr. North suggests-attempt to avoid complying with their tax requirements because they think they won't be detected, then they will be sadly mistaken. Besides, IRS computers are not the only means for finding tax cheats.
Thank you so much for the article about Wayne Cole [July 31]. My family's and my hearts have gone out to him and his wife since the day that awful thing happened to him at [WCG] headquarters. Never did we agree one iota with what was done at that time. We thank God he held true. I know from my own experiences that Wayne is a better man of God today because of his severe trials and tests. Wayne has always been deeply loved and appreciated, and his strong stand has given much strength to many of God's people, not because his name is Wayne Cole but because he passed the test of endurance.
In a letter on page 4 of the Sept. 28 Journal, F. Paul Haney asked, "Does the Bible even suggest grilling baptismal candidates for weeks or months on end to ensure they have the correct doctrinal positions?" He then stated, ". . . The early HWA taught against the very authoritarian and hierarchical church structure (of the later HWA)."
According to his own admission (page 18 of the Aug. 31 Journal), Roderick Meredith helped HWA understand church government. But Dr. Meredith still refers to church eras, whereas in his final months Herbert W. Armstrong removed such references from his revised Autobiography.
Several writers (in past issues) mentioned the incidents in 1937-38 when HWA started to work independently. He was ordered to do this by the Oregon Conference after the board of 12 elders, by a vote of 11-1, defrocked him. Elder John Kiesz was the only elder of the board (in Salem, W.Va.) who voted in favor of HWA.
Six of one?
In a recent U.K. edition of The Worldwide News [published by the Worldwide Church of God], the following article appeared under the heading "Important Announcement," written by regional director John Halford:
"I would like to introduce the church members to the fact that, in future, reference will not be made within the church to members being 'disfellowshipped' but instead will be referred to as being 'disassociated' in instances where this may be the case. As from 1st September 1998 any member who is disassociated for cause will have the right to a further appeal to an Appeals Committee if they feel aggrieved by the process. The Appeals Committee will consist of three people: Mr F J Bergin, Mr A B Bourne (Chairman) and Mr D J Silcox. If, after a formal Appeal, any member is still dissatisfied with the result, then it will be open to them to appeal to the Regional Director for Europe. I do not personally think that there have been many real problems with disfellowshipment in the past, but this new procedure should certainly ensure that there are none in the future."
This short article begs some questions. Is the WCG about to reintroduce the concept of disfellowshipping? What difference will a change of name have? For what reasons would a person be disfellowshipped? (Reading The Journal is enough cause for some!) What would disfellowshipment entail?
What effect would disfellowshipment have on the individual? Have the three named individuals publicly disassociated themselves from the former church policy on the subject? (If not, what possible hope can there be in an appeal?) Does the regional director really think there have not been many real problems in the past? Who will enlighten him?
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