Letters from our readers

Higher ground

In the letters section in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue ["Servant Leaders in United," page 14], Stuart Segall takes issue with one of my generalizations in the Dec. 31 issue [see "Attention All Christians: Persecution Is on the Way," page 3].

I'll admit that generalizations are a weakness of mine. I tend to traffic in them.

I still think I'm generally right about the purging of intellectual classes--those who could actually "do theology" at some primary, creative level--from the Churches of God. How many Charles Dorothys and Lester Grabbes are there in the Churches of God these days?

On the other hand, I'm greatly encouraged by Stuart's statement that United is actively encouraging servant leadership.

Since minister means "servant" rather than "master," it would seem fitting that the church move in this direction.

Of course I'm not privy to the inner councils of United or any other WCG splinter group. I know only what I read, see, hear and experience. When I read about how some United ministers have been treated by those "over" them in the ministry, I am often appalled.

Stuart is such a civilized guy that he almost makes it a pleasure to be disagreed with. If more people displayed the spirit of brotherhood that he does when he demurs, the whole dialogue within the Churches of God would move instantly up to higher ground. I too count him as a friend and brother in Christ, and I accept his correction.

Brian Knowles

Monrovia, Calif.

Who's holding fast?

Are those who claim to hold fast to the doctrines taught to the church by Herbert W. Armstrong really doing so?

The comments Dave Havir made in his article in The Journal dated Jan. 31, 2001, on page 3 ["Some Questions Sure Do Make You Think"] was appreciated. He spells out some hypocrisies of the groups who are claiming to be holding fast.

Letters in which similar questions to those in his article were asked have been written to ministers requesting them to be totally honest in their proclamations of holding fast. As you may have already concluded, a person is not all that welcome if he asks such questions.

We also are a group that lays claim to holding fast to every doctrine given to the church through Mr. Armstrong. We search the teachings of those who claim to be holding fast to find if what they say is really being taught and practiced or just a camouflage. We seek the full truth, and we seek to be with those who also are seeking the full truth.

Of the groups who claim to hold fast, we haven't found any yet who haven't tinkered with, changed, added or omitted something. We have found a few members and one minister holding fast.

Arlen Berkey

Stedfast Church of God

McMinnville, Ore.

Laodiceans just want to decide

In the Jan. 31, 2001, issue of The Journal were two articles--one by Rich Traver, the other by Bryn Hendrickson--that were somewhat critical of various aspects of the church's traditional place-of-safety teaching.

As the preceding statement of each of those articles mentioned, I had an article on the place of safety in the Feb. 29, 2000, issue of The Journal (it is also available at my Web site, that explains that one group of Christians goes to a place of protection while the rest of God's people do not (Revelation 12:14, 17).

I would like to briefly point out some of the biblically inaccurate points raised by these authors in the January issue.

Mr. Traver wrote: "We used to talk about it [the place of safety] a lot . . . There is only one verse, and most people are unaware of it . . .[:] Revelation 12 . . . In verse 14 we find something that repeats, or seems to repeat, the information given in verse 6: 'And to the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place where she is nourished for times, time and half a time, from the face of the serpent.' Verse 14, from its context, seems to represent the end time."

Mr. Traver is correct that this verse mentions a place of protection, but it is not the only verse.

Mr. Traver also seems to believe that, if there is such a place, those who do go to it are probably spiritually weaker than those who do not go. He wrote:

"You have to be good enough to go there. We have more or less concluded that the ones who don't get to go, who are not taken there, are the bad Christians. We've allowed that there is a good-Christian­bad-Christian dichotomy. This is similar to our concept of the Philadelphian and Laodicean eras, which perhaps could be better presented in a different context. The concept of good Christians vs. bad Christians is what we need to reconsider . . . What if those taken to an end-time place of safety were the weak Christians instead of the good Christians?"

The Bible, however, supports the concept that it is a reward to go to a place of protection and that it is the Philadelphians who will go (Luke 21:36; Revelation 3:7-8, 10).

In the second article, Mr. Hendrickson wrote of Revelation 12:14: ". . . The woman spoken of here is not the church, a fact that a careful reading of Revelation 12 demonstrates."

Without going into all the details, I'll mention that one of Mr. Hendrickson's "proofs" is his statement, "Ask yourself: Did Jesus come from the church or from Israel?"

His context appears to presume that Israel was not a church. But the Bible says otherwise; it calls Israel the "congregation ['church,' KJV] in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38).

"If we look to the Bible as the source of knowledge on this matter," Mr. Hendrickskon also wrote, "we can see that, although Jesus does promise protection from the plagues to come, He does not promise that we will be taken out of the world to be so protected."

This statement is simply not completely accurate because Jesus promised to keep the Philadelphia Church, those "who kept My Word" (Revelation 3:8), "from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world" (verse 10).

Mr. Hendrickson, like some others opposed to a place of safety, claims: "The errant doctrine of the place of safety has been used by many in the church as a means of controlling people . . . However, when we know the truth of the matter and know that the Bible does not promise a place of safety, we are free from these fear tactics. We are free to serve God and His Son as They lead us by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Since the Bible does promise to protect the Philadelphians, this sounds like a Laodicean attitude on Mr. Hendrickson's part. As the Greek reveals, Laodicia means "people rule" or "people decide." The Philadelphians "hold fast" (Revelation 3:11) and "have not denied My name" (verse 8).

Perhaps a reason the Laodicians are not promised a place of safety is that they do not hold fast and have denied Christ's authority (one of the ways the word name could have been translated).

Furthermore (and this is getting a bit personal), since I have probably written more about the place of safety than anyone else in the Global Church of God or Living Church of God (since their formations) and am not a minister or a paid church employee, to me this argument about control is preposterous.

It is my observation that teaching against the place of safety has recently been adopted by those who do not place the church's top priority on proclaiming the gospel as a witness as well as by those who reject a biblical hierarchical form of governance (the anti­place-of-safety teaching has also been a longtime teaching of the Church of God International).

A place of protection is promised for the remnant of the Philadelphia era of God's church. It is quite likely that those who have been misled about the place of safety will not go to it.

Sadly, true doctrines of the church are being attacked these days on nearly all fronts. This is probably another trait of the Laodiceans (they feel they can decide, thus they have need of nothing; Revelation 3:17).

The Church of God would be better served if The Journal would devote more space to explaining and supporting the teachings of the WCG before the apostasy and a whole lot less space putting forth arguments against those teachings.

Robert J. Thiel

Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Mind changed

I wasn't intending to renew, but then Iread the articles in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue by Wes White ["New Testament Sanctions Three Kinds of Law, Condemns One"] and Ed Burson ["Christians Must Deal With Discrepancies in the Preserved Text"]. For these, which help me grow, I do want to renew.

Doris Bailey

Laurens, S.C.

Complete set

Could I please subscribe to your fascinating Journal. I get literature from various Church of God groups: WCG, CGI, UCG, ICG, PCG, etc. But yours (to me) is the most interesting of the lot! Please send me a complete set of your back issues.

Randolph Wainewright

Hobart, Australia

The vision thing

I believe the time has come to do something that has been neglected and perhaps even forgotten to an extent in the rush of new doctrines and the effort to please God thereby. The thing of which I speak is "the vision."

Gerald Waterhouse, during his early days on the road, spoke much of the vision and how we needed to catch it and hold onto it, quoting many times the scripture that tells us that where there is no vision the people perish.

That scripture has never been truer than in these days of uproar within the COG. In the scramble to devise doctrines that would replace those we now deem to be in error, we have allowed ourselves to depart from this vision, which is not our vision at all but the vision of God, for us as the called and for all mankind in time order.

We have talked and written much about the requirement of providing a witness to the world, as we call it. However, it seems our first responsibility might be to restore those who have lost their confidence and vision because of the workings of men.

I think I have seen the same thought expressed already in The Journal. We have, I believe, neglected those who have also been called to be our brothers in Christ. Our direction and our input to these must not be as in the past or the direction we see in many existing groups and organizations.

We must direct these folks not to us or a group or organization, but to the Christ and to our Father and the vision that He has for mankind.

A friend in Florida, an elder in the United Church of God, an International Association, and I have discussed this matter and believe this is the first step in the process. This is not a call for another organization nor a group of any kind. The only objective is to help those who feel they have been put upon by men and thereby have lost confidence in our God.

Sam Metz

Barton, Md.

Scottish fellowship

We, the Scottish Fellowship Group, are a group of people living in Scotland who meet together regularly on the Sabbath. We are totally nonaligned to any organization. We believe in the Ten Commandments, the Saturday Sabbath and God's holy days. We would welcome others who share our beliefs to meet with us on an informal basis.

For further information please phone 01563-532525 or E-mail

Susan Smith

Kilmarnock, Scotland

Don't take a fence

More than 50 years ago there was a popular cowboy song titled "Don't Fence Me In." One verse goes "Let me ride through the wide open country that I love. Don't fence me in."

It seems many church groups are in the business of building fences; that is, assembling doctrines about calendar, holy days, Sabbath dos and don'ts, etc. Any subject you name has to have a different take on it.

In the process of putting these doctrines together, they build fences to keep others out. If you don't accept my doctrines, you cannot come in. My church is the true church. Any other church can't be the true church. You can't have a difference of opinion; you must believe what I teach. If you have a difference of opinion, then you are an outsider. Outsiders are not welcome in my church."

What are we doing? We are building fences. We fence others out, and we fence ourselves in.

John 13:35 says all men know that you are His disciples if you love one another. Do we love our fellowman by fencing ourselves in and him out?

John 17:11 wants us to be one as God and Christ are. But the plain truth is that we are divided.

Why don't we look at the doctrines we have in common?

  • Christ our Savior.
  • Repentance, baptism.
  • Sabbath.
  • Holy days, plan of God.
  • Keeping the Commandments.
  • Receiving of the Holy Spirit.
  • Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

If we have these seven doctrines in common, and maybe even more, are we not brothers and sisters in Christ? Is Christ divided? Is Christ coming back for His churches or for His church?

Let's tear down the fences and build bridges.

Don't fence me in.

Meyer Stahl

Las Cruces, N.M.

Don't vote against God

Since I managed to set off a minor firestorm by defending the church's traditional teaching that Christians shouldn't vote ["Dubya vs. Algore: WWJD," Dec. 31, 2000, page 5], it's necessary to make some brief reply to those who advocated Christian involvement in the world's political processes in the December Journal.

Those who argue that Christians should vote and that they have a "dual citizenship" in both heaven and earth ignore the implications of Hebrews 11:13, 15-16 that Old Testament believers were "strangers and exiles on the earth" and that they desired "a better country, that is a heavenly one."

As those verses show, we are simply not full citizens of this world if we really believe that the next life is far more important than this one. If God considers us spiritually to be legal aliens in our nations in any sense that becomes literal, not just metaphorical, then we aren't full citizens of our earthly nations, regardless of what our passports say.

Since we're called out of the world, we shouldn't be so intimately tying ourselves to its governments such that we're determining (through voting) their policies through the people we would choose.

Why is the Catholic Church pictured as a great harlot "with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality"? (Revelation 17:2).

If we're even vaguely familiar with the history of medieval Europe, we know that the union of church and state, of professing Christians as part of an institution in Europe's governments, corrupted them both. Why should we believe it would be any different?

Whatever responsibilities we have as Christians and as citizens of the United States (or other countries) doesn't mean we should be involved in setting the policies of our nations by any means that ultimately use coercive power (that is, the power of law behind it, not mere persuasion), which voting most certainly does have.

If He were on earth today, Jesus certainly would publicly condemn sins our nation is guilty of, such as abortion. But He wouldn't pollute Himself by participating in a human government that Satan ultimately controls (Matthew 4:8-9) and that His own incoming administration shortly will replace (Revelation 11:15, 17-18).

A major mistake in the piece by Bryn Hendrickson ["TWJD: He Voted for Life," Dec. 31, page 3] (besides its general tone of terrible moral judgmentalism, in stark contrast to Jack Demirgian's ability to disagree without being disagreeable ["The Duty of a Christian," Dec. 31, page 5]) was to assert that God has delegated to humanity who our rulers are: "But, when God gives you the option to choose, don't thumb your nose at Him and tell Him you don't like your choices."

In this context let's remember Daniel 2:20: "And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removed kings and establishes kings."

Similarly, when God made Nebuchadnezzar insane for seven years, it was "in order that the living may know that the Most high is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and set over it the lowliest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

Since God may have chosen the man (or woman) who's the "inferior" choice from our viewpoint as Christians in order to speed up (or slow down) prophetic events, if we vote we may be choosing someone God didn't choose.

Therefore we'd be opposing, in our ignorance, God's will by voting for X, who may oppose abortion, rather than Y, who wishes to keep it legal.

Even the worst tyrants of the last century, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, were placed in the positions they gained by God's choosing them, instead of the would-be alternatives, for His own mysterious purposes (see Isaiah 55:8-9). God just doesn't choose positive leaders, such as Winston Churchill, who Mr. Demirgian mentions.

If God is really the One whose "vote" is always decisive and totally controlling, why should we waste even the (say) 15 minutes it takes to go out to vote when the outcome has already been predetermined? Is our faith so weak we think the outcome of elections has been really been delegated to us? (see Luke 18:8).

Merely asserting the rights we have, as Paul did on occasion (Acts 25:11-12), isn't the same as determining governmental policy to begin with. Neither Paul nor Jesus tried to reform Caesar. The would-be counterexamples of Daniel and Joseph may be good precedents for Christians becoming high-level civil servants, but they prove little concerning voting, since neither was the one ultimately responsible for policy, serving as he did an absolute monarch.

Finally, we should not believe that the duties or rights of earthly citizenship require Christians to participate in the political process such that we're determining by a legally binding, coercive process who our nations' rulers are. We have to look at the present world's predicament more strategically instead of getting caught up in the political passions of the moment as our worldly neighbors, family, friends and coworkers do.

Just as God called on Noah to witness to the world while building the ark--just as God called out Abraham from Ur, just as God called out a nation of His own to be separate from the other nations, just as God calls the present church "firstfruits" and isn't trying to save the whole world now--God wants His people to devote themselves exclusively to Him in pure worship instead of trying to incrementally improve a civilization and world system that Satan dominates (2 Corinthians 4:4) by intimately involving ourselves in its political processes.

We need to catch the vision--God's vision--of our human governments, not the world's.

Eric Snow

Ferndale, Mich.

Six of one

I am a member of the Church of God in Truth. In regards to Bryn Hendrickson's, Jack Demirgian's and John Sash's letters on voting in the Dec. 31, 2000, issue:

You guys say we have a right to choose between candidates for president. But Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged."

Only God knows the heart of a man. There is no such thing as a lesser evil. Evil is evil; a sin is sin. The penalty is death. How can you say that one man is better than another? Only God knows that.

"Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts ..." (1 Corinthians 4:5).

The Lord said to Samuel: "They have not rejected you, but they reject Me that I should not reign over them."

How is it that God took us from this world, yet some of us want to go back, like Israel wanted to go back to Egypt?

You say we are citizens of the country and that we should vote. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?

We belong to God, not to this world. Our citizenship is in heaven.

We are patriots of God's Kingdom. You cannot partake of the Lord's table and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21).

"Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."

Satan, god of this world, runs the governments and politics, and the politics stinks. God does tell us to obey the higher authorities over us, but we should have nothing to do with them.

Zbigniew "George" Bokinczuk

San Jose, Calif.

Sense and insanity

I must say that, because of the continuation of the endless diatribe of Herbert Armstrong myrmidons [in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue of The Journal], I am at a loss as to how you can say that what you publish is actually newsworthy.

It depresses most of us even to remember the tragedies of his oppressive tenure. But to continue to relive it in the churches and in your periodicals leads many to consider some alternative like maybe Billy Graham or even the pope. At least we are not pelted with the downgrading of their myrmidons as they compare our unworthiness with His Highness the Apostle through every known medium available.

After all, maybe we need to bring on the ones who speak against that man of wonder and have them slain before us.

Dave Havir was the only one who sounded as though he may still have some sanity amid all the insanity [see "Some Questions Sure Do Make You Think," Jan. 31, page 3]. My congratulations to Dave.

Myron Rose

Via the Internet

Trying to wake up

Many thanks to Brian Knowles for his timely article in the Dec. 31, 2000, issue of The Journal, "Attention All Christians: Persecution Is On the Way."

How often I have heard my teacher-minister, Fred Coulter of the Christian Biblical Church of God, exhort us to "know what you believe and why you believe it."

Not only does he emphasize this need through sermons, but he teaches us how to study our Bibles on our own to strengthen our faith against the dangerous days ahead.

Sooner or later persecution will come to us, and those with a wishy-washy attitude will not be able to stand up to that final and dreadful test of our faith.

Again, thank you, Brian, for trying to wake up the Church of God.

Eileen Giffin

Urbana, Mo.

Give a euphemism a chance

With the article "Media Flaunt Anti-Israel Bias" [Jan. 31, 2001, page 3], Brian Knowles hit the bull's-eye. The media in the United States report on the Palestinian lawlessness, the constant rock throwing, killings and other barbarism as if they were a normal thing.

What Western nation would tolerate such constant savagery on its streets?

Of course, the phrase peace process is but a euphemism for land giveaway. When Israel has given up all its land, it is welcome to move into the sea with the blessings of the Arabs.

I don't believe any American would want to live under the conditions imposed upon the Israelis by the lawless Palestinians in their midst. People who dispense information to the public have a responsibility to give a complete picture. Otherwise they share in the guilt of the crime perpetrators.

J.B. Smith

Detroit Lakes, Minn.

The 13th tribe

I generally enjoy reading Brian Knowles' articles. However, I must take exception to his article on Israel in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue of The Journal.

He referred to the Arabs as the "beast" that Israel faces. Apparently Mr. Knowles is unaware of just how the Israelis took over Palestine after World War II. They used terrorist methods against Britain, which controlled the area.

It wasn't the Arabs who blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The hotel was the British military headquarters and the civil secretariat. Ninety-one people were killed outright, and 45 were injured. And it wasn't the Arabs who assassinated Count Folk Bernadotte and his aide, Col. Serot.

Count Bernadotte, who had been appointed as a mediator between the Arabs and Jews, wanted Jerusalem to be placed under UN control. He also wanted the UN to affirm the right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory. After his death the UN did not act upon these proposals.

I also wonder if Mr. Knowles is familiar with the attack by the Israelis on the U.S.S. Liberty in June of 1967. The Navy suffered 34 dead and 170 wounded, yet our government squelched the story. This was an unprovoked attack by the Israeli military on one of our ships in international waters.

We make a big deal about the U.S.S. Cole--and we should--but the attack on the Liberty is still mostly unknown. If you want to read about it, you can search for "U.S.S. Liberty" on the Web. You should be shocked by what it says. The Israelis' excuse is that they thought it was an Egyptian ship, even though it was obviously flying a new American flag.

As far as Israel being the Jews' ancient homeland, I recommend that Mr. Knowles read The Thirteenth Tribe, by Arthur Koestler, who just happened to be Jewish. Even though it's tough reading, he provides interesting evidence that Eastern European Jews have about as much to do with the tribe of Judah as do the Chinese.

The Arabs might be a beast, but the Israelis are no beauties.

Gary Muzzelo

Northampton, Pa.

Excellent essay

For any of you who do not get The Journal, you certainly missed an excellent essay, "Christians Must Deal With Discrepancies in the Preserved Text," by Ed Burson, Jan. 31, 2001.

Myron Martin

Via the Internet

Dumb Christians

Greetings in the matchless name of YahShua (that's the name Jesus was called by His mom, dad, brothers, sisters, disciples and others who loved Him).

"His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark . . ." (Isaiah 56:10).

The Taliban Muslims of Afghanistan have nearly completed the destruction of two giant Buddha carvings and every other idol in Afghanistan after not quite one week of effort. The entire world including "Christian" nations has cried out fiercely against this righteous action.

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of that in heaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or that in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4).

I have not seen or heard one word commending this righteous action from any believer.

A United Nations envoy warned the Taliban of "a devastating reaction" if they go ahead.

Read Acts 19:13-41 to find there is nothing new under the sun.

I commend the righteous actions of the Muslims of Afghanistan. Shame on "Christianity" for the deafening silence.

Breaking the silence, I am a watchman on the wall for YahVeh, His Word and His way, truth and life.

Pastor Chris Barr

Little Children of Jesus Christ

Pocahontas, Ark.

Prison letter

"For I was sick and ye visited me not, in prison, and ye visited me not."

Shall I add that I was "disabled, and ye took away my coffee and honey"?

For I was in prison and was allowed only one collect phone call.

I was needy, with six weeping children and a babe in its mother's womb, and ye visited them not, nor provided relief for their escape.

Such is the condition of God's churches. Thus is the prophesy brought to mind: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

Alan F. Croyle

Mecklenburg County Jail, Box 390

Boydton, Va. 23917, U.S.A

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