Letters from our readers
Earlier this year some members of the Churches of God announced via the Internet they intended to take legal actions against the Worldwide Church of God to prevent the sale of its Pasadena, Calif., properties.
In the Scriptures Paul instructed brethren not to go to court before nonbelievers in order to restore what was taken fraudulently (1 Corinthians 6:7-10). However, in the case of the Pasadena properties many do not consider members of the corporate board of the WCG as brethren and refer to more than a decade of heresy and deception to justify this conclusion.
When a person or persons consistently and flagrantly act like nonbelievers for years, I cannot expect brethren to treat them as believers (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). For these reasons I must take the position that it is not wrong for brethren who had contributed to the WCG building funds to take legal action against the WCG to insure any of the following: (1) proper use of properties purchased with those funds; (2) proper use or distribution of funds generated from the sale of the Pasadena properties.
I must also strongly disagree with so-called brethren who have irresponsibly promoted trespassing (entering the property of a church of which you are not a member and acting as you please) and disorderly conduct (handcuffing yourself to property of a church without permission from its officials). It is true that in 1979 a sit-in was held by church members when the WCG was improperly placed in receivership. It should be remembered that that sit-in was led by church officers (ministers) on the church's property by church members and was legal and respectable.
Unfortunately, today, brethren who are well intentioned but overzealous and not wise are planning to do things that may not only give the Churches of God a bad name but displease God.
As members of the Body of Christ, we are commanded to obey lawful instructions given by government authorities and the laws of government so long as doing so does not interfere with our obedience to God's commandments, rules of conduct and traditions (1 Peter 2:13-16; Acts 5:28-29).
Call the unions
Please advise your readers of the phone numbers of the union officials to contact referred to in the article about me in the March 31 issue. [See "Cincinnati Sabbath-Keeper Says Religion Under Crossfire," page 5]. They are as follows:
Jerry Monahan (Cincinnati Building Trades Council), (513) 541-0328; V. Daniel Radford (Cincinnati AFL-CIO), (513) 421-1846, email@example.com; Greg L. Martin (Carpenter's Union), (513) 772-1555.
Where do ministers come from?
Some members have been in the Churches of God for 10, 20, 30 even 40 years now, which brings me to a point that needs to be addressed: How long must a person be in the church to be an effective minister? How many years must one be associated with his church to be in consideration for a ministry position?
There are those in God's church who say that, unless he has been taught and qualified, he should not preach! The question that rises is, How long is long enough? And who should give him his authority to preach? And who should be the one to say he is qualified?
To be sure, there are as many answers to these questions as there are to the many Churches of Gods. But there should be a simple answer to these questions, for Christ said, "I have given you an example." Question: Who appointed Jesus? Was He self-appointed?
I would like to ask The Journal and its many readers for answers to these simple, yet complex, questions.
On April 26 about 3 p.m. Mrs. Jeananne Gibson died. She had slipped into a coma about 11 a.m. the previous day. From what the doctor said, her body's immune system just gave up after a series of repeated infections since her accident seven months ago when she fell down the stairs and broke her neck.
The family thanks all of you for your prayers on Jeananne's behalf during this trial. We can say she met the challenge and overcame it, maintaining her faith in God's promises to the end. Jeananne was a tremendous example during the last 34 years in God's church. We are confident that in the future she will be set at liberty with all the saints of God.
Polygamy isn't all right
Obviously, Deuteronomy 17:17 is a warning that polygamy can lead to disaster. [See "Baby Makes 19: David and His Wives," Jan. 31, page 3; and "Word to the Wives," Feb. 28, page2].
Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is a ruling to deal with one of the difficulties arising out of polygamy. It seems King David did not heed the warning. Perhaps he never read it. Nevertheless, we do have this warning. Is it just for kings?
We can agree that in neither the New or Old Testament is polygamy specifically condemned, but, in the rules of soccer, it is not forbidden to kick a ball into your own goal. The rules do say the goal goes to the other side.
Polygamy in the Bible does not get a good press. In 1 Timothy and Titus it says that for some Christians polygamy is wrong. From this it is somehow deduced that for other Christians it is right.
However, these same scriptures also say that for the same Christians drunkenness is wrong. We would be reluctant to deduce that for other Christians it is right.
There were Christians with more than one wife; there were Christians who had problems with drunkenness. But, perhaps, they were the ones you could not risk on your A team.
The Bible teaches monogamy. If a husband has enough money to afford another wife, is not he stealing some of his wife's share of their money? Perhaps King David thought polygamy was all right, but that did not prevent him from committing adultery.
Orchids, onions and grapes
Many thanks to Carolanne Patton and Eric Snow for their insightful letter ["Animated but Friendly," March 31, page 4] and article ["Heresy of 'Arianism' Calls for Drastic Step," March 31, page 3]. I agreed with every word, especially Eric's comments re the role of The Journal!
With respect to the letter "Grape Fruit" [March 31, page 4] and Lawrence Gregory's tape given at the Churches of God Outreach Ministries conference, people may be interested to know that Jim Rector has an interesting tape, "The Role of Women," that presents a very different picture to that which has permeated the church in recent decades. This would appear to be an area that needs a lot of work.
Why we don't fly United
In the March issue a letter to The Journal set forth the reasons the writer believes everyone should join with the United Church of God, and one of the reasons he gives is that the independents and small groups are scattered and divided ["Why I Fly United," page 15].
Really? I was under the impression that it is the large corporate groups that are divided and causing further division and scattering of the people of God, not the independents and small groups. That is sort of like blaming the victim of abuse for the rise in violence in this country.
"Now is the time for all those independents and those scattered to have another look at UCG and reconsider joining the winning team," wrote Bruce Porteous of New Zealand. "As a church, we are on a roll, with new opportunities to preach the gospel opening up all the time.
"There is no need to remain being scattered; little can be achieved with small groups all competing with one another."
The writer asks why are people going to different fellowships when obviously the UCG is doing "the work of God."
May I please have an opportunity to explain to this writer why we don't attend the UCG or any of the other COGs that are corporate entities?
The church (Body of Christ) is not scattered because the people are being callous or indifferent to the "work of God." The church is scattered because the people have awakened from sleep and found themselves in the hands of false shepherds who were more concerned about feeding themselves than about caring for the flock of God.
Lo and behold, as they departed from the false shepherds, they came into contact with the one true Shepherd. They found the one and only Shepherd who was willing to lay down His life for the sheep.
They now follow that Shepherd and listen to His voice and only to His voice. They see gifted teachers as just that: men who have been given the gift of teaching. But they no longer blindly follow teachers while mistaking them for shepherds (read Ezekiel 34). God is gathering His flock to Himself from all the corporate churches, where they have been scattered.
The writer states he has committed himself to supporting the UCG. Well, we have committed ourselves only to Jesus Christ and God the Father. We have no other masters to whom we owe loyalty.
nWe are increasingly impressed by the leader of the church, Jesus Christ, who has proven Himself prepared to humbly submit to the Father and to do the will of God.
nWe are excited by the direction the church is going in realizing Christ's followers are the work of God and living the Bible or gospel message. We no longer measure the success of God's work by how many magazines or booklets have been published, nor in the quality of those articles, but in how lives have been and are being changed.
nThough the church has been through numerous trials, the individuals looking to Christ as their sole and only leader grow stronger and learn from the experience of their trials. This is giving the Body of Christ growing confidence in the direction we are going. Real progress has been made. We have learned that tithing is not required under the New Covenant, rather we should support those who help us in spiritual understanding through freewill offerings. We have learned not to call any man our leader, master, teacher, father, mister or pastor or to give them any other religious title.
nWe have learned that Christ told His followers they should not allow others to give them religious titles. Hence, any man allowing such a title to be given to himself or demand others use the title in reference to himself is not a true disciple of Christ. "But do not you be called Rabbi, for One is your Leader, the Christ, and you are all brothers" (Matthew 23:8).
nFurther, we have learned that we are not to have any elohim (god, man, authority, teacher) between God and us. That is breaking the First Commandment to have no other elohim before God.
We finally have learned that we need teachers but that we have one Leader, Jesus Christ, and that His Spirit will guide us into all truth. We have learned to listen to that Spirit living in us to guide us into discerning between truth and error. We have learned to give our allegiance to no man but to God and His Son, who died for us. We have found that we can assemble together often with one another without assembling with a corporate group.
nOf all the groups, I believe that only the independents who are living as salt and light are doing the work in bringing the gospel message to the world in a positive and effective manner. They have borne fruit with changed lives. We no longer look to quantity but to quality.
nThe resources of the entire Body are being used. We no longer recognize the term lay members because we have found it to be unbiblical and part of the Roman Catholic system adopted by the COGs in the past. God's management style is suitable for every age. It doesn't need to be updated for the age we live in. Jesus Christ is alive and leading His church personally into the truths He alone can reveal as He lives His life in those who strive to be constantly in a spirit of repentance before Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him.
nWe don't need checks and balances in place (in the form of a man or group of men known as a doctrinal committee; again, there is no biblical support for such a system) to prevent the teaching of heresy. When one begins to look strictly to Jesus Christ for understanding and gets self out of the way, that person has a tremendous confidence in the one Leader in whom is placed trust and confidence.
Now is the time for all those members scattered throughout the corporations to have another look at Jesus Christ and reconsider joining the winning team. As a Body, we are on a roll, with new opportunities to preach the gospel opening up all the time--in fact, each day as we come into contact with other people at work, play, the community, school and home.
There is no need to remain scattered. We can all have fellowship with one another through our fellowship with Jesus Christ and God our Father. Little can be achieved with corporate groups all competing with one another.
A year ago we wondered if the church would survive. Now we are on a roll.
All things are possible
After reviewing articles questioning Jesus as God, I choose to continue to believe Jesus is God, is eternal and inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15), for He who was a child, who was born, is called the Everlasting, the eternal Father, in Isaiah 9:6. The words eternity and everlasting are translated from the same Hebrew word, ad.
With God all things are possible. There can be two beings as one (John 10:30). Jesus can be a Father and can fulfill the role of a father, yet His Father is greater than He (John 14:28). There will always be one God, the Almighty, the Father, who is the greatest of all gods, greater than Jesus, but this reality does not preclude the possible truth that Jesus is also a Father and eternal. An eternal being, God can, because all things are possible, become flesh and be born of a woman.
Perhaps those who have referred to various scriptures to preclude Jesus as God should instead refer to the same scriptures to complement the concept that Jesus is eternal.
All you need
I greatly appreciate The Journal's open journalistic policy that allows the kind of debate like the series on the nature of Christ [which ran in several issues July 1998 through January 1999].
Censorship of obvious immorality is one thing, but censorship of reasonable discussion is itself immoral and ungodly. The historical censorship we experienced in the old WCG was immoral and, for the present, a happy relic of the past. Thanks to an independent rag like The Journal, Gary Fakhoury is allowed to present his views on the nature of Christ, and people like me are allowed to disagree.
I can't argue with Gary's basic logic. The majority of scriptures do emphasize monotheism, and one of the Ten Commandments pointedly commands us to have no other gods before the true God.
But, while the majority of Scripture promotes God as monotheistic, the strong implications--supernatural implications, if you will--that Jesus is a godlike being are pervasive.
Gary would have us believe that these implications are because of some archaic Asian concept of agency: that Jesus isn't really almighty or eternal or the First and the Last, or God; that the Father is just lending Jesus these titles. Since Gary likes to be so rational, what sense does that make?
Too often Gary explains away the scriptural implications of divine duality that contradict the monotheistic scriptures. He has us jumping through too many scholarly and intellectual hoops.
How does the average believer know that certain scriptures are disputed by certain scholars? Who are these scholars, and why should their opinion about certain scriptures matter to me? How do we know for sure this agency concept is truly an underpinning for understanding why Jesus has the same titles as the Father? What scholarly journal do I find that in? Am I scholarly enough to read this stuff?
Then, to add insult to injury, Gary has to teach us the scholarly methodology for studying the Bible and in the process disallow proof-texting. Jesus proof-texted, often taking scriptures totally out of context to prove His points. The apostle Paul makes avid use of proof-texting and is notorious for his gross violations of the context rule. If proof-texting were good enough for Jesus and Paul, it's good enough for me.
This is my main problem with Gary, Ian Boyne and the theological scholarly community in particular: They reduce Bible study too much to an intellectual exercise. The obvious implication of their arguments on this and many other issues is that--unless I can find out which translation of a particular scripture is reliable or not, unless I can get the Greek and the Hebrew just right, unless I can make sure that this or that scholar is biased or unbiased--I can't understand the Bible.
The average joe has neither the time nor inclination for the work that scholarly methodology involves. Scholarly methodology is a science, and scientists rely heavily on rationalism and naturalism, which are antithetical to the supernatural nature of Scripture.
Anybody who believes in any kind of God is a supernaturalist. Ultimately the supernatural defies most understanding based on diehard rationalism. God describes Himself in the Bible as Almighty. Almighty means He can do anything.
Why can't the Almighty God be God and then choose to be a man when He wants to be? Why can't the Almighty God be immortal and then choose to become mortal when He wants to be? Why can't Jesus be God in the flesh?
Sure, it sounds irrational. But it's definitely very Almighty. The Bible was written mostly by simple men: farmers, sheepherders, fishermen, scribes. If we need to resort to the amount of intellectualism and scholarly methodology that Gary, Ian and others resort to to understand the Scripture, then I for one am in woeful danger.
All the average believer needs is the Bible, maybe a few Bible helps and some good old-fashioned common sense to go along with a healthy dose of supernatural revelation.
As Passovers go by
I followed with interest the essays on the doctrine of the preexistence of Christ in your July, August and September issues last year. They covered a broadsheet of the mind-boggling mysteries set in place at that historic Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 and extended later to include the Holy Spirit, thus formulating the Trinity at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
The series was most instructive and enlightening and cleared away a lot of the cobwebs that were forever clogging up my thinking and my ability to discuss or debate the various nitty-gritty texts with my Trinitarian, binitarian and unitarian friends.
After my studies in 1990, I knew that I was a non-Trinitarian when I dispensed with the Holy Spirit from the Godhead, but at that point I had not heard of the word binitarian. Little did I realize that I was still not worshiping YHWH, the one true God, Him alone. I now realize that being a binitarian (believing that Jesus is God, or, more explicitly, Yashua is Yahweh) let me agree with Nicea in 325, and therefore I was only a short step away from returning to Trinitarianism.
This is the sad state in which the Worldwide Church of God found itself as soon as it was introduced to the Greek philosophy of the hypostases, which was the thinking of the divines who sat at Nicea and was the catalyst by which they slipped quickly back into Trinitarianism and Protestantism.
It astounds me, therefore, that most of the present Churches of God have not yet jumped that stumbling block of Nicea and returned to the understanding of the apostles and of Yashua Himself. They are only proof-texting and confirming the very texts that prevailed at that council.
The aura and idolizing of Herbert W. Armstrong has not yet dissipated to the extent that they are free to reassess his doctrines, which he firmly set in his book Mystery of the Ages, and they do not realize the finely balanced Humpty-Dumpty seat on which they are sitting, ready for the next salvo to be launched by Hank Hanagraaff and the Christian Research Institute.
I know it's hard to have to cut what seems to have been a spiritual lifeline for many decades, and especially is this so for the ministry. I came out of the Seventh-day Adventists a decade ago, and it took a few years to cut Ellen White totally loose from my system.
There are three contributors to The Journal's essays who have taken up the unitarian model: Anthony Buzzard, Gary Fakhoury and Wade Cox [as well as "Anonymous," in the Feb. 28 issue]. I don't know much about the overall theology of these first two, but, as I understand their concept of Christ's beginning at His human birth, I feel that I have jumped the Nicean hurdle and into the true apostolic understanding of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Yashua Himself.
Wade Cox has Jesus preexisting as an angel in much the same way as the Jehovah's Witnesses but with textual variations that make his theology hard for me to understand.
It is my understanding that, by having Yashua preexisting in whatever form before His birth, He can always be seen as Yahweh or as Yahweh's spokesman or messenger in some form or another. Therefore He can be the one who shut the door of the ark, brought Lot out of Sodom, was the angel who wrestled with Jacob, led the Israelites by fire and cloud, spoke to Moses from the bush, gave the Ten Commandments from Sinai, was the angel who defeated the Assyrian host, was in the fiery furnace, etc., etc.
But, worst of all, Yashua was the one who created the world. Yahweh, the Father, did practically nothing.
This is what was taught to me when I was in the Trinitarian SDA Church, and it always wrangled me when I was the dummy who could not understand its "simplicit mystery." Sometimes I had to teach it against my conscience. No wonder it has been so easy for me to come (ever so far) out of Babylon.
Implicit in coming to the understanding of Yashua's beginning at His birth is in getting our English uppercase (capital) letters for divine titles and lowercase (normal) letters for human titles, in agreement with the original Hebrew or Greek script. Most Bible translations have used Lord (all caps and translated from the Hebrew YHWH) in defining the divine name (since Anglicized to Yahweh or Jehovah) as per the Hebrew tetragrammaton, and this procedure is given in a good summary in the preface to the NIV.
The Jerusalem Bible is the Catholic replacement for the Douay Version and contains the Apocrypha. The original Hebrew quotes Psalm 110:1 (RSV): "Yahweh said to my lord [human]," not Lord (divine).
This lord (human) is written in Hebrew as adoni (lowercase), to distinguish it from Yahweh, Lord (Adonai). Putting this into perspective, Hebrews who read this written word given to them through their prophets can distinguish the difference between the Lord YHWH and the prophesied lord Yeshua, still to be born human as the only begotten son (no capital) of YHWH and as the coming Messiah.
This is the human Messiah who was sent by his Father as His only begotten son, and, referring to himself as the "son of God," was rejected by his own by accusing him of claiming that he was YHWH.
Never once did he make that claim. He came to do the will of his Father. Because he lived a sinless life, "he and his Father were one" in thought and deed, but never did he claim YHWH's name.
This substitution of uppercase lettering has smoke-screened the true meaning and distinction of the difference between human and divine.
Another crunch test in the Trinitarian and binitarian larder is John 1:1-2. Here we have "Word" written in the uppercase for no other reason than to change the Hebrew understanding that flowed from the pen of John to Greek polytheism and philosophy that took 300 years to mince monotheism into a binitarianism.
Unitarians who place Yashua preexistent to his human birth leave "the Word" capitalized but subordinate him to the Father by calling him "the Angel of the Lord" or "a god," as this latter is written in the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation.
Within the past decade I have passed through these four phases in my understanding of the nature of Christ, each time progressing further away from the foundational doctrine of "orthodox Christendom." Now I must say how happy and secure that I feel by being so far removed from that Humpty-Dumpty seat while waiting for the events of Matthew 24 to erupt.
The essays of, firstly, Wade Cox, then followed by Sir Anthony and Gary Fakhoury, have been the major contributions in that conversion.
Naturally it is my hope that I can encourage others to at least study the Scriptures as the Hebrews knew them. There is a gold mine of knowledge still to be gleaned by copying the Bereans. I find that I still have a lot of dross to discard as each Passover passes by.
Once upon a time there were sheep. They were not the domesticated kind, but of the wild variety, such as dwell on sides of mountains and in forests. In many ways these sheep were quite independent and had what some might call the personality of goats. They tended not to flock together, but occasionally they did congregate, mostly by chance.
It was on one of those occasions that they found a cave and, seeking shelter from the elements, went inside to find it was a den of sorts. They saw six abandoned, pathetic, starving weak, cute little cuddly wolf pups who were about to die. The sheep, not accustomed to the habits of wolves, took pity on the poor pups.
The young wolves prospered on ewe's milk, amazingly enough. It was a tough go, but little by little they got better until their eyes opened and they could take some stumbling steps toward the entrance of the den.
Taking care of the pups had a curious affect on the sheep. It brought them together and gave them purpose.
As the weeks grew into months, the pups played and frolicked. They were not unlike lambs playing and frolicking, so the nature of their charges was not immediately evident to the sheep.
Oh, as time passed, they noted with interest that the wolves did not like to eat the same things they did. They seemed to grow apart in interests.
Some were alarmed, if not downright suspicious, when the wolves left them for long periods. Rather than imagine the worst, most of the sheep assumed that what the wolves were doing was in their best interest: an important work, as it were. After all, did not the wolves always come back to them? And, each time they did, they seemed all the healthier.
Some dissident sheep bleated in the wilderness that wolves had entered in among them, but the other sheep ignored them. Moreover, the naysayers soon mysteriously disappeared.
The independent sheep had all been brought together and were now a flock under the leadership of the wolves. The sheep became more and more domesticated. The alpha wolf was a stern taskmaster, insisting that he was the one true leader of the sheep. He demanded that the sheep blindly follow him.
As the lead wolf grew more arrogant and strident, the sheep became more submissive. The wolves began to multiply. The sheep began to diminish.
Then came a disagreement among the wolves as to who was the greatest among them. Soon the wolves separated into packs because they wanted to be in authority, and they always took sheep with them.
As the divisiveness grew, so did the number of packs grow, with the wolves taking as many sheep as they could with them. Tales were heard of some of the wolves stealing sheep from other packs. Some of the sheep became so disgusted with the situation they left and went their way. Those who became independent found a new freedom in not having to serve their fellow sheep and the wolves.
More and more mysterious disappearances of the sheep continued, but the sheep who were left suspected nothing. Once in a while some sheep became alarmed upon finding one of their members dead in his own blood with suspicious tooth marks of a carnivore, but they thought their fellow had died naturally and then become prey of scavengers or perhaps had fallen over a cliff.
Or maybe he got what he deserved.
The situation continued until there were no sheep left. But there were plenty of wolves.
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