Letters from our readers

Peace at any price?

I found both interesting and alarming Joseph Tkach's article that was discussed in Bill Stough's feature on the front page of the July issue of The Journal.

I disagree that observing the Sabbath and holy days is harmful to faith and a hindrance to the gospel. I believe they can enrich our faith and provide a valuable adjunct and enhancement to our understanding and appreciation of the gospel.

Mr. Tkach wrote in his article "Peace at Any Price?" (The Worldwide News, July 2003) that those who want to observe the Sabbath and holy days are weak in the faith.

This appears to be a judgmental statement and contrary to the teachings of Paul. In Colossians 2:16 he admonishes that we are not to allow anyone to judge us in respect to a holy day or the Sabbath.

In Romans 4 Paul continues his caution of judging our Christian brothers in regard to many of these things.

Perhaps I really am weak in the faith, but I find that observing these days has much value and provides valuable perspective to the understanding of the plan of God as revealed in the gospel.

Some (though not Mr. Tkach) disdain the observance of Sabbaths and holy days because they are physical and tie one into natural cycles that they equate with putting us into bondage under the elements of this world (Galatians 4:3). An attempt is sometimes made to shame us for needing physical things.

Neither do I allow myself to be judged in this way. Even with the Spirit of God residing in me, I am still a physical being tied to a physical universe. My body is intimately linked to the cycles of nature. I find exercising certain physical rituals helpful in fixing my mind on spiritual truths.

As long as I am in a physical body, I intend to continue observing these days. Anyone who tries to judge me in these days will hear about Paul's admonition not to judge!

We are saved by faith and not by works. Therefore I do not believe that observing the Sabbath and the holy days is mandatory for salvation. However, I do believe that doing so is beneficial on many levels.

Observing these days is not for me an attempt to obtain favor with God. However, so doing is a higher response to Him. This higher response includes many elements, including a greater recognition and appreciation of the glory and majesty of our Creator.

It is ironic that, though these verses in Romans and Colossians are often used to denigrate the observance of the Sabbath and holy days as being unnecessary or worse, these scriptures show that they can have their place in the Christian experience.

It is also ironic that some of these folks urge the observance of another system of days: Christmas, New Year's, Easter, etc.

The observance of days and associated rituals seems to be an innate need for man. Why not observe the God-ordained days instead of those of human invention?

It is true that some important elements of the gospel are illustrated in Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. But what of the doctrines of justification and sanctification and important happenings such as the receiving of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the saints, the Second Coming and other end-time events? Where does one find these important lessons in days largely of pagan origin?

The observance of these counterfeit days has actually obscured much of the gospel over the centuries.

Yes, salvation is a free gift from God. I believe one needs only a rudimentary understanding of God's Word and His plan of salvation to be saved. Salvation is determined by the reality that one lives in Christ and Christ in him. Salvation is not conditional on the knowledge of nor the observance of days.

However, a deeper study of the Bible including these days can enrich our understanding and provide an infinitely greater appreciation of the glorious things that God has in mind for all mankind.

Robert Macdonald

Pasad ena, Calif.

Blue in the face

You recently published a letter by Gerry Russell concerning issues arising from his conflict with Mrs. Barbara Fenney and remarks to another Feast participant that he overheard [see "More on UCG-BI's Recent History," July 31, page 10].

I must confess that I am tired of hearing sniping remarks made against another member of God's people and was ready to dismiss his remarks against Mrs. Fenney for the unpleasant railing that it quite clearly is. But there are some interesting aspects to this saga.

Firstly, let's discuss this situation of overhearing someone else's conversation, possibly out of context, then making a judgment about it and proceeding to report this judgment to others.

Now, I am sure you (unlike me, who thought, hey, get a life, please) were simply surprised that people in God's church go around reporting on other people's conversations, but if that is the case that misses some of the import of this.

For example, do we now have to start worrying that when we speak to someone at a church meeting our conversations may be monitored? And do we also have to worry that these conversations, if found wanting, will be judged and used against us without even extending the courtesy of first discussing any potential difficulty with the offending party?

However, that in itself is less of a problem than is the cavalier manner in which brethren seem to be treating each other, even in the same church groups.

Secondly, did it not occur to Mr. Russell that Mrs. Fenney, as a long-standing member of the church group she attends, might be entitled to express an opinion on a matter that is hardly 100 percent clear in the Bible?

Prophecy, as far as I understand it, is not and has never been doctrine, so what is the problem?

The only possible mistake Barbara may have made was to think that in asking to clarify a point in his sermon she wouldn't offend him. This has clearly happened in the case of Mr. Russell, who seems to have taken offense at someone having a different opinion on a point of prophecy.

In turn, Mr. Russell has not paused to think that in expressing his annoyance by attempting to damage the reputations of Mr. and Mrs. Fenney he has caused considerable hurt himself.

After his so doing I note that he wants to leave the matter. Yes, let's, please. Let us learn lessons and move on from this terrible bickering. After all, we are all on the same side, aren't we?

Whatever our prophetic leanings, we all love God and want to do the right thing by Him and each other. Let's do it. Let's have so much love for each other that the world will start to sit up and take notice. As things stand, we can preach till we are blue in the face but no one will want to know.

Elaine Jolly

Wiltshire England

Strange silence

It is interesting to note that Gerry Russell, in his response to my article in The Journal, continues to focus on apparent "issues" that had nothing to do with the arbitrary disfellowshipping of Barbara Fenney and the wrongful suspension of David Fenney.

However, Gerry raised no defense against most of what I stated ["Letter About UCG-BI Omitted Some Facts," page 3, The Journal, June 30], which leaves me wondering if he now realizes that he was wrong in all those other instances, including John Jewell's approach to church spending.

Gerry does, however, touch on what the real issue was in his closing paragraph when he mentions that "servant leadership" is sadly lacking today.

If John Jewell had demonstrated true servant leadership, which, in essence, involves humility, then this whole sad saga would never have come to this. I have already pointed out how John ignored his own "preaching," in a letter to brethren and coworkers, regarding reconciling with one's brother prior to taking the Passover.

Gerry is, however, strangely silent regarding the crux of the matter. Was John Jewell right or wrong in his modus operandi with regard to church finances?

I suspect Gerry avoids the heart of the matter because the facts and documentary records speak loudly enough in their condemnation of Mr. Jewell.

Do you, Gerry, now accept that the things said relating to Mr. Jewell's nonconsensus spending are true?

I have no doubt that Barbara Fenney would be very happy for the council of elders to allow the release of all the documentation relating to this matter. Since Gerry is so very obviously in contact with Mr. Jewell, he might like to ask him if he would be happy for this information to be made available to church members.

Gerry also referred in his letter to "God's Feast site in Grange, England," last year and states I was not there when I have already mentioned that I did visit that site.

He also states that I was not, at that time, a member of United. Maybe Gerry would be kind enough to tell me when my "membership" was terminated.

On the 29th of April 1998 I was disfellowshipped by Peter Nathan for exposing his plans to form a David Hulme breakaway group from the UCG. On Dec. 31, 1999, 20 months later, in a formal letter on UCG notepaper, Mr. Jewell rescinded that decision.

I thanked him at the time, even though I knew that it was only because of the urging of others that he eventually decided to take this action.

I have also, on several occasions in recent times, been asked to song-lead and give a prayer.

I would also be interested to know how Gerry thought it was "pleasing to God" to overhear part of a conversation and then make a complaint about it, without hearing the entire conversation or checking any of the details with those actually involved.

I really do find it amazing that, having made more obfuscating accusations, Gerry then had the audacity to suggest that it would not be pleasing to God for anyone else to respond! Is this an example of how Gerry Russell views "servant leadership" and the "spirit of Indianapolis"?

What is also very sad about this whole matter is that it took so long for John Jewell's overspending, nonconsensus spending, failing to keep to budget targets, etc., to be questioned by those in "authority," and thus it was left to Barbara Fenney to stand up against him.

Hopefully, Gerry Russell will find the time to focus on the real issues and then declare to The Journal readership what the UCG council of elders has already concluded, that John Jewell was wrong to have disfellowshipped Barbara Fenney and wrong to have suspended her husband, David. I suspect that if he does do so that may well be "pleasing to God."

Ron Whiteman

Narborough, England

Why do we fail?

At nights when I am at Freda's home, after I put her to bed, I stay up for an hour to catch up on news and other things since our TV blew a month ago.

Something troubles me. We see on cable several huge TV stations that promote mainstream Christianity, basically those who are Sunday keepers. They have done quite a good job getting on the airwaves, and more and more people daily convert to their belief system. I am not attacking them, but I am troubled because there aren't strong Sabbatarian Christian entities out there to start up TV networks of their own.

Why aren't they strong enough to band together and do like the mainstream has? Mainstream has within itself divisions, yet mainstreamers seem to work together to hit the airwaves strong!

I am greatly disappointed in the Sabbatarian community in its failure to become a candle out there on a lampstand, proclaiming more truth to the populace. Why do Sabbatarians hide their lamp under a bushel?

Is there anyone out there willing to stick his neck out first on faith who has the know-how to start?

Lee Ann Sanders

Branchland, W.Va.

Unwelcome interference?

The United Church of God council of elders' recent decision to continue to forbid applause for special music shows yet again that they just don't get it [see "UCG Keeps Policy of No Applause," beginning on page 1 of this issue].

I attended a UCG Feast site in 1996 when the church's policy of not allowing applause for special music (other than for children) was first publicized. At that particular site the policy was--happily--widely ignored. The COE looked silly--and toothless--for enacting and publishing a policy that was successfully flouted.

But even this loss of credibility did not deter council members or instill some sense into them. To this day they stubbornly persist in their pettifoggery.

When I first read their edict seven years ago I was appalled by their unwelcome interference. I asked myself why do they have to try to control members' spontaneous responses to music.

If someone is moved to applaud, let him or her applaud! If someone who presents special music doesn't want applause, he or she can ask the audience not to clap. Why does the COE have to even feel it has to enunciate a policy for this?

The tradition of people who have some sort of official role in religious groups having an almost irresistible urge to control other people's expression of appreciation or joy or emotion goes back a long way, but when will the UCG's COE outgrow it? The indicators are not good.

How many times did Jesus' followers try to control people's responses and access to Him? Didn't He try to help them see that they should be allowed the freedom to respond to Him as they were moved to do so? Maybe, just maybe, God was inspiring their response.

Further, to whom does the worshiper belong? To Christ? Or to the UCG's COE? If to Christ, then let Him be the Master and the Judge. Arrogating authority to themselves--to any human--that is rightfully the Master's alone is not only arrogant but patronizing and paternalistic. It is spiritually stultifying, impeding the growth and maturation of the flock.

This absurd and condescending usurpation and misuse of authority is a sad reflection of the oligarchical and authoritarian mind-set that these men have inherited from their previous affiliation. They may have left the WCG as an organization, but, sadly, they have never really left its culture.

Reginald Killingley

Big Sandy, Texas

Cancel my subscription

This is to notify you to discontinue my subscription because I will be leaving this facility at the end of October.

I want you to know how much I have appreciated your paper over the years. It helped keep me informed of what was going on in the scattered churches. But the most important thing was some paid and nonpaid articles on teachings that conflicted with the original Worldwide Church of God.

They challenged me to go and study the Bible, leading me to read and closely look at what I was taught.

I also used those articles to challenge another inmate who grew up as an atheist in Cuba but with whom God the Father began working six and one-half years ago. His greatest desire before he dies is to be baptized by a pastor who believes in the Sabbath and holy days. He is doing life in prison for being an accessory.

This to me shows our Father does the calling, and not some man.

I was able to get a couple of tapes of Herbert W. Armstrong from before the '70s, and that was the thrill of my friend's life, to actually hear HWA speak.

Thank you again for providing a free subscription that helped one man in his conversion and me to get involved once again in a total commitment to our Father.

Name and location withheld

The Trinity as a phallus

As they have done in the past, so have the presenters of the One God Seminars succeeded doing just recently: expounding thoughtfully and with thoroughness on the inherent oneness of God ["ACD Seminars Promote 'Unitary Monotheism,'" The Journal, July 31].

Theirs was a theme fully consistent with every statement made by the writers of the epistles on the concept of God and on Christ's actual relationship to God.

"And the truth is this," writes Paul, "one is God, and one also is the mediator of God and of man--the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5).

Attempts to coerce the meaning of "one" in this context to extend to one group or one family lead only to a hopelessly confused sentence at best and a consciously self-imposed state of delusion otherwise.

Christ is positioned as the "mediator of God and of man." The Greek noun underlying "mediator" denotes a "go-between"; the compulsion to read into this relationship concept the addenda ". . . who happens to be God, anyway" is driven mainly by a mix of past inculcation and fatuous loyalty to corporate policy.

It should be noted, additionally, that Paul writes of the already-risen and ascended Christ, who did not become God even at His resurrection.

Of course, Paul was inspired of God to write what he did. Nonetheless, endowed as he was with his Judaic background, he must have found the inspired prophet Isaiah quite revealing in this area of inquiry:

o ". . . Before me, there was no God formed, and there shall be none after me" (Isaiah 43:10).

o "I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me" (Isaiah 46: 9).

Significantly, a God being who asserts Himself with singular pronouns "I" and "me" declares that He is unique: "There is none like Me," and "there shall be none after Me."

What was once approvingly known as the "incredible human potential" would never have been deemed credible in any sense by the ancient Israelites or by the Christians of the first century.

Ultimately, it was only a matter of ecclesiastical expediency that would lead eventually to a redefinition of God as a "family of persons." From Sex and Sex Worship by Dr. O.A. Wall we find that:

"Up to the Second Century, Christianity was a monotheistic religion, like that of the Jews; but, at the time mentioned, the Bishop of Alexandria introduced first the worship of the Father and Son, then of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost--or, the Trinity--to facilitate proselytism among the Egyptians; and, by the end of the Fifth Century, the theory of a triune God was accepted also by the other churches outside Egypt . . .

"The idea of God the Father was the old Biblical God of the Jews; in the year 325, the Council of Nicea affirmed the divinity of Jesus as Christ, and, in the year 381, the Council of Constantinople added the doctrine of the divinity of the Holy Ghost . . .

"[Yet], it [does] seem likely that, if human thought had not been so thoroughly imbued with the trinity of the phallus, the other triads and the trinity might never have been considered or evolved at all. The phallus was a trinity, acting as one impregnating unit, although composed of three separate and differently functional parts."

As Dr. Wall shows in his first paragraph, above, it was the Bishop of Alexandria (Athanasius) who first proposed the binity and, somewhat later, the more familiar triangular godhead known as the Trinity.

The distinction in persons between Christ and His Father is fairly obvious (John 17), so that Athanasius needed only to declare the Son also to be God in order to establish a two-person Godhead.

Athanasius was finally able to create the Trinity by his personification of the Holy Spirit as a "Holy Ghost"; this new definition of God as a Trinity was then complete.

Dr. Wall also shows that the actions of the Councils of Nicea (Christ declared to be God) and Constantinople (the Holy Spirit as a "Holy Ghost") were particularly significant in formalizing this new definition.

The priestly theologian Arius, also of Alexandria (albeit of Greek origin), preceded Athanasius by about a generation; Arius upheld what he understood to be the original monotheistic concept of God that had been revealed to the ancient Israelites.

Historically, it was Athanasius who prevailed--and even attained to sainthood--while Arius was condemned and ostracized as a heretic by the Church authorities. Unitary monotheism is sometimes called "arianism," after the priest Arius.

What happened to Arius did not alter the reality of the living God. He is as He always was and always will be: a true singularity and never some mosaic of constituent parts called "persons."

Don Sena

Phoenix, Ariz.

Astonishing application

"The doctrine of salvation requires clear thinking," H.W. Armstrong wrote in a 1963 article "Millions of People Do Not Know What Jesus Christ Really Was!" reprinted in The Journal of July 31. But did Mr. Armstrong achieve clarity in his attempt to show the meaning of the atonement and who Jesus is?

The premise laid out by Mr. Armstrong is that a human Jesus could pay the death penalty for only one other human being. "No one human being could save mankind."

With this rather grandiose proposition, unsupported by Scripture, Mr. Armstrong seems to have contradicted Paul, who wrote: "There is One God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Messiah Jesus."

If God appoints a man to die for the sins of the world, it would be our wisdom to accept that fact on faith and not argue with it. A spotless lamb, Jesus, if God so ordains, is entirely sufficient for the task of saving the human race (1 Peter 1:20).

Mr. Armstrong wrote also: "God cannot die." "Therefore it was necessary for there to be one who was both human and divine."

He followed this with the astonishing application of 1 Timothy 6:16--actually a reference to the Father--to Jesus, who it is claimed "only has immortality." Mr. Armstrong then says that effective atonement for mankind required the life of God, the life of the Creator.

Mr. Armstrong then asserted that Jesus was "translated into flesh and born of the Virgin Mary." Jesus was then, said Mr. Armstrong, "God made mortal human flesh." The result was that "he who had been God" was changed into human flesh with all its weaknesses.

It is clear that Mr. Armstrong has not solved the problem he poses. On the one hand the death of a human being is insufficient to save. On the other hand Jesus stopped being God when He became a man!

So then the one who died (since God cannot die) was a man!

On Mr. Armstrong's premises the death of Jesus was a gigantic failure, because the one who died (God cannot die!) was not in fact, at the time, God but a human being! And one human being does not qualify, Mr. Armstrong had said, to atone for the sins of the world.

The Jesus described by Mr. Armstrong was both God and not God. He had been God but was no longer God when He became a man. The one "who only has immortality" (Jesus, according to Mr. Armstrong) was able to give up immortality in order to die. In so doing the former God was no longer God. As a man He died.

But the whole point of Mr. Armstrong's argument laid out at the beginning was that the death of a human being was inadequate!

The biblical solution, which eluded Mr. Armstrong, is that Jesus was a begotten human being (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35; 1 John 5:18, not KJV; Psalm 2:7). Since the Son was begotten--meaning that He came into existence--He was not God. There is only one God, and that one God is said to be the Father thousands of times in the Bible.

The one Creator God and Father of Jesus ordained that His uniquely begotten, sinless Son achieve the purpose assigned to Him, which was to preach the Kingdom of God and then to die on behalf of all mankind.

Once the Father is proclaimed as the one and only true God (John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6) and Jesus is seen as the human, begotten Son of the one God--adoni, my lord, not adonai in Psalm 110:1--there is no difficulty at all with his death, a death so valuable in the sight of God that it redeems us from our sins, provided of course that we obey the Son (John 3:36).

The common people understood this as they listened to God's amazing Son and marveled that God had given such authority to men (Matthew 9:8).

Anthony Buzzard

Morrow, Ga.

To quote Eusebius

Did you know that Eusebius used Genesis 19:24 to prove the existence of two beings in the Godhead?

"Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven."

Moses did not add the last clause in vain. To use the Lord's name twice to no purpose would be taking His name in vain.

Ned Dancuo

Hamilton, Ont., Canada

What was Christ?

Concerning the July 31 issue of The Journal, I read the various articles concerning monotheism in that issue. I saved the best for last and read HWA's reprinted article from 1963 titled "Millions Do Not Know What Christ Really Was!" The article was so current, so uplifting, so clear and concise! I appreciate your reprinting the HWA article in light of the current discussions on the nature of Christ and the Godhead.

Helen Casey

Huntsville, Texas

Open invitation

After 10 years of rather intense study of God's Word to us, I have concluded that we have relied entirely too much on nearly 2,000 years of man's theological interpretations for our understanding of God's instructions.

Once we have been taught certain paradigms (ways of seeing a subject) for understanding a scripture or subject, we have a hard time interpreting it any other way.

Therefore when a scripture seems to conflict with another, rather than ask ourselves the right questions about how we should understand them, we resort to excuses like "it is a mystery."

Christ said we would be saved by the "truth," not by a mystery. When Paul speaks of a mystery he refers to the fact that God has withheld the truth of His plan from most of mankind, not that the truth itself is a mystery.

But, as with much of Paul's writing, Satan has used wrong interpretations of it to confuse the truth.

I have submitted an "open letter" [as a part of the Connections advertising section] in the August issue [see page 21] encouraging brethren in Christ to question and prove whether their present beliefs are firmly grounded in what their Savior actually taught.

If there are any readers anywhere close to the Mobile area who would like to start an informal and open Bible study, please contact me at one of the addresses at the end of the open letter.

James Reeves

Stapleton, Ala.

A small army of theologians

After scanning the July 31 issue of The Journal, I commented to a friend, "The whole zoo is in full cry, myself included!"

If nothing else, that issue of this very valuable publication proved beyond doubt that confusion reigns supreme in the Churches of God Pod. If Herbert W. Armstrong could hear the discordant cacophony of doctrinal sounds that his passing eventually generated, he would undoubtedly do a high-speed spin in his grave.

This is not to say that he was right about everything, or even about most things. But he certainly enforced a form of "unity in error." For some people unity is its own justification.

Freedom from authoritarian ecclesiastical rule is heady wine. It's like the time when Asparagus--or was it Spartacus?--freed the slaves. People tend to quickly find their natural level. They do with zeal what they have long yearned to do, but from which they have been hitherto constrained.

Now we have a small army of amateur theologians who are more than willing to tell us the plain, if conflicting, truth about everything. It's quite amazing.

Church leaders, understandably, seek to insulate their followers from the free expression of doctrinal thought. Some have blasted The Journal from their pulpits. Others have forbidden their ministers to participate in it. Many simply mutter under their breath about the motives of its editor and the "subversive" ideas expounded in its pages.

But, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, there's no putting it back inside. The Journal is a necessary catharsis for long-suppressed ministers and members alike.

Sooner or later all of the dust that is currently in the air will float down and settle. Some sort of consensus will emerge from the fiery rhetoric that scorches the pages of The Journal.

Old, polarizing leaders will die off, and new leaders will arise to replace them.

At least a few of them may be theologically sophisticated.

Of course, the nutcases will always be out there, stirring up the pot. Individuals will find their way into, or out of, church organizations.

New, or restated, traditions will emerge. Sabbatarian churches will begin a process of reemerging under new leadership.

Non-Sabbatarians will find their way into mainstream churches, as many have already done.

The neo-WCG will continue to limp along, searching for winning games.

Someday we'll look back on it all and laugh--or perhaps cry.

Brian Knowles

Monrovia, Calif.

More on Dan Cafourek

The United Church of God isn't serving the only wise God who loves truth and justice in its "disfellowshipping" of Dan Cafourek ["Former UCG Elder Talks About Disfellowshipping," The Journal, June 30].

In this matter Richard Pinelli and council-of-elders chairman Clyde Kilough serve a worthless "no-god-at-all" who has nothing to say!

The living Word says: "Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God" (John 3:21, NIV). Obviously the "disfellowshipping" of Dan Cafourek has not been "done through God."

Jeffrey Caldwell

Cupertino, Calif.

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