Thursday, October 20, 2016

When Your Feast Fever Breaks

By now, those of you who observe the Feast of Tabernacles are several days into the festival. Are you having the best Feast ever? Were you able to find enough palm fronds and willow branches to build your booth? You don't have any bugs in it yet, do you?

Wait, you didn't build a booth? Why not?  Couldn't find enough palms in Victoria, British Columbia? And I won't even bring up the fact that you're keeping the Feast in Victoria, British Columbia and not Jerusalem.

I know, I know, He didn't come to change one jot or one tittle. Like the jots and tittles about three times a year and Jerusalem and building a booth from particular trees and then staying in it rather than a condo. Ok, maybe just a couple jots and tittles. But certainly nothing more.

Anyway, we're sure some out there are having the best Feast ever. But they probably aren't the ones who read blogs like As Bereans Did.

Maybe you feel guilty that you're failing to rejoice as well as everyone around you. Maybe you wonder why God let your original LCG site in Hilton Head, South Carolina get washed out by Hurricane Matthew. Maybe God was sending a message when He allowed the remains of typhoon Songda to lash your booth, er, hotel, in British Columbia. Is God punishing you? Is Satan angry with you?

Or is it simply that man was never intended to celebrate a Hebrew harvest festival in hurricane-prone North American cities? Yes, I know, He didn't come to change one jot or tittle. Right.

The Feast is a tough time of year for those beginning to question Armstrongism. We know, we've been there. If you're out there and feeling bad because your "Feast Fever" broke - or maybe you didn't catch it at all this year - please stop. It doesn't necessarily mean there's something less righteous or spiritual about you. Maybe it means you are on the right path. You are growing up, spiritually speaking. Why?

Few new people are coming into "The Church," which means that most of us grew up here. The Feast was super hyped for us as children. And it was an easy sell.  A road trip, new toys, the one time of year we got to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast... what's not to love? The same goes for teens. Dances, new clothes, hanging out on the beach... why would anyone question the Feast? You'd have to be nuts.

You may coast on your childhood feelings about the Feast even into adulthood. This is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, people! You are practically commanded to snorkel or ride a camel or go parasailing, if it's what your heart desires. Second tithe can buy you a steak dinner, a new iPhone and a Coach handbag. But it can't buy you spiritual fulfillment. Even Solomon eventually found these kinds of things to be vanity.

(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, NIV) I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

But the Feast isn't about things, Martha. It's meaningful because it pictures the Kingdom and time spent with our spiritual brothers and sisters! Spending time with family and our far-flung friends!   That's really what makes the Feast great!

Yes, your kids will treasure their memories of that trip to Dollywood with their cousins. When they meet up with them after attending COGWA services in Pigeon Forge with God's real "true church," of course. With cousins who finished up services in Gatlinburg with God's Laodicean "true church," UCG. Later, the innocent children will be the only ones to ask the lamentable questions you are all thinking - why do grandma and grandpa meet them for dinner but not for church?  Shame on the "leaders" whose pride and ambition puts families in these situations, dividing you among scores of organizations and more than 227 Feast sites, often in adjacent cities or hotels.

And those friends... enjoy them while you can. If statistics are any guidance, you will lose at least half of them in your next church split. And we won't even talk about what happens when you leave. What happened to the friend who sticks closer than a brother?

Well, there's your problem, Martha. You're counting on men to make the Feast meaningful. Only God can provide that. That's why Solomon felt empty. He wasn't pursuing God.

Are you sure you are? I empathized with Solomon for years. It was only when I dared question the narrative I had been handed that I could understand the hollowness of the Feast. The funny thing is, I think that's what God wants all of us to see.

Though many groups try to read the Hebrew holy days into Genesis, the Bible does not mention them until they were given to Israel at Sinai. They contained imagery that pointed to the Savior, and demonstrated why the Sinai Covenant and its observances were incomplete. It was a fleeting, shadowy celebration intended to dissipate in the Light of the World.

Ethnic Jews like Paul continued to observe these festivals after the New Covenant was established, but there is no command for gentiles like you and me to observe them. There is nothing sinful about marking them, but they are shadows that were components of an obsolete covenant that has been replaced with one that's much better. They often set us on a slippery slope toward pride, spiritual confusion and faith in our own works. They give us a form of godliness, but deny its power - the power of Jesus Christ -  to remove our sin and reconcile us to God. Instead, we focus on a shadowy, multi-step plan of salvation intuited by a man. A multi-step plan that hints our path to the Kingdom depends upon our steps, not His.

(Hebrews 8:7-9) For if the first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 

(Hebrews 8:13) In that He says, a "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

A new covenant. Not according to the covenant God made after he led Israel out of Egypt. Not according to the Sinai Covenant. That one is obsolete, and that includes its worship practices, like the holy days. So if the Feast is starting to ring hollow for you, consider the reason might not be something you are lacking. It might be something the Feast is lacking.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Just what do you mean... ATONEMENT?

One of my children recently learned about compound words. It was fun to see the lights go on and the connections made. Sunshine is the light that the sun shines. The mailman is the man who brings the mail.

I can remember a similar light-bulb moment in my life, when a deacon in the Worldwide Church of God explained that the Day of Atonement is when believers will finally achieve at-one-ment with God. It sounded good. Of course, back in elementary school, I didn't know that the Bible wasn't originally written in English.

To be fair, this wordplay is a connection that some even outside the Churches of God try to draw out of Leviticus 23. Unlike other arguments that have come out of Armstrongism, the idea that "atonement" allows sinful man to be reconciled with a Holy God makes sense. But just what is atonement, and what does the Day of Atonement picture?

COGWA, one prominent Armstrongist splinter, calls the symbolism of the Day of Atonement "unique, intriguing and often misinterpreted."

"But considered in conjunction with with the prophetic timeline in Revelation, the meaning becomes clearer," COGWA posits

ABD's translation: Traditional understandings of the Day of Atonement are misinterpretations. You probably misunderstand it yourself. But when you marry our correct interpretations with our brand of speculative prophecy, the meaning is clear and rock-solid.

COGWA's explanation gives low-billing to Jesus Christ in its article about the Holy Day plan of salvation, mentioning only that event the Day of Atonement pictures is after His return. According to COGWA, this day is all about breaking Satan's hold on humanity. Not surprisingly, the sacrificed goat gets little more than a mention, despite the fact that at least half - if not more - of the holy day ritual focused on goat whose blood is shed. (Since COGWA mostly focuses on the meaning of "atonement" and the symbolism of the goats, I will do the same. I assume that those who are reading this are familiar with the Old Testament rituals of fasting, the high priest's individual sacrifice, his entrance into the Holy of Holies, etc.)

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, let's make sure we understand what's meant by "atonement."

Some sources say that the English word comes from the idiomatic phrase "one-ment"  (an idiom is commonly-used expression whose meaning does not relate to the literal meaning of the individual words in it) that can be traced back to the 13th century. Others believe it came about in the 16th century and owes its origin to the Latin word adunamentum, or "unity." William Tyndale's 1534 New Testament uses the word in 2 Corinthians 5:19 to express the idea of reconciliation and restoration, concepts which the original Greek text encapsulates. Just a few decades after Tyndale, William Shakespeare used the term "atonement" to explain reconciliation of characters in his play "Richard the Third."

This is all good background information to keep in mind, but if we are really going to understand what the Day of Atonement pictures, we need to go back to the Hebrew language of Leviticus 23. This book was written about two thousand years before the earliest traces of English and several centuries before the earliest forms of Greek language appeared on the scene.

Looking at Leviticus 23:27, we see the word used in "Day of Atonement" is the Hebrew hakkipurim. It is derived from the Hebrew words kopher and its close relatives, koper, kapar and kippur, which we see reflected in the Hebrew name for the day, Yom Kippur. These words communicate the concept of ransom or "price of a life."

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament expounds further. Kopher, for example, is parallel to the word "redeem." It is occasionally used in the negative to describe the concept of bribery. The Theological Wordbook states that the verb is always used in connection with the removal of sign or defilement, except for 3 instances where it refers to appeasement with a gift.

"It seems clear that this word aptly illustrates the theology of reconciliation in the OT. The life of the sacrificial animal specifically symbolized by its blood was required in exchange for the life of the worshiper," according to the Theological Wordbook (p. 453). "This symbolism is further clarified by the action of the worshiper in placing his hands on the head of the sacrifice and confessing his sins over the animal which was then killed or sent out as a scapegoat." 

Right. About that scapegoat. What did it symbolize? And why was it sent into the desert rather than killed?

The United Church of God, another splinter, aptly explains the symbolism Herbert Armstrong attached to the Day of Atonement through the lens of speculative prophecy, for which he was famous. Armstrong claimed that the scapegoat released in the wilderness pictured Satan being be bound and thrown in the bottomless pit, as described in Revelation 20. Removal of the devil would allow man to achieve "at-one-ment" with God, they say.

"This sending away into the desert is part of the reason for translating Azazel as scapegoat, or goat that escapes. But many scholars identify Azazel as the name of a demon inhabiting the wilderness," UCG explains. "It stands to reason that Azazel is one in stark contrast to the Lord—indeed, the ultimate enemy Satan the devil."
This explanation sounds good until you examine the context and timing of Leviticus versus the literature that names Azazel as a demon. The primary source scholars use to support the Azazel theory is the Book of Enoch. Scholars believe the Book of Enoch was written between the 300s B.C. and the first century A.D. because it includes late Aramaic names not present until that time period, according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary. It is likely that the Book of Enoch used Leviticus, which is believed to date to the 1440s B.C., as a source. Not vice-versa. The demon of the wilderness likely got its name from lore related to this ancient ritual, according to both Expositor's and the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon. The ritual did not borrow a name from a figure that appears in literature at least a thousand years later.

Further, the COGs have traditionally rejected non-canonical sources such as the Book of Enoch. In fact, the Living Church of God disfellowshipped members last year for reading and discussing the Book of Enoch. So the Azazel teaching puts the COGs in the precarious position of placing faith in a book that it tells its own members is heretical.

COGWA, UCG and LCG put forth several other arguments about the Day of Atonement, the Azazel goat and Satan. But all depend upon Armstrong's speculative prophecy regarding the Hebrew holy days and the relatively modern designation of Azazel as a demon. Unless the Book of Enoch really did come from Noah's great-grandfather, unless it was preserved on the Ark, AND unless Herbert Armstrong's prophetic speculations have been shown to hold water, there is no point in discussing them further.

The Expositor's Bible Commentary offers an explanation that avoids time travel. Many biblical translations do not alter Azazel - they translate it as one word. But literal, word-for-word translations like the King James Version and New American Standard Bible, based in the Septuagint, explain the concept as the "goat of departure."

"The first part (`az) can mean "goat" and the last part ('azel) is from a verb that means "go away," Expositor's explains. "Compound nouns like this are rare in ancient Hebrew, but new evidence for them is turning up in Ugaritic. It is simply the designation of the goat to be taken away, the escape goat."

Expositor's notes that Numbers 29:11 also describes the scapegoat as "the sin offering for atonement." But how is this possible? This goat was not slaughtered.

The goats were opposite sides of the same coin. Both goats pictured both pictured aspects of Jesus' sacrifice. One goat was killed as a sin offering. The other one took the Israelites' sin out of their presence.

"The two goats thus symbolized both propitiation for sins by death and complete removal of the sins for which atonement was made," according to Expositor's.

Many believe that the Hebrew holy days were given as a picture of what Jesus Christ would accomplish for humanity. This is what Colossians 2 means when it discusses observances as shadows. These shadows have value in that they teach us about the Savior, but we are meant to embrace Him, not the shadows. The Day of Atonement - the priest, the sacrifice, the goats and the mercy seat - pointed to what Jesus would do - die in your place and remove your sins.

Theologian John MacArthur concurs.

"This goat pictured the substitutionary bearing and total removal of sin which would later be fully accomplished by Jesus Christ" (MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 154).

Psalm 103:12 gives us a poetic picture of what the Azazel goat accomplished.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."

Remember, the priests confessed the sins of Israel over the goats. But the goat charged with the sin was falsely accused - just like Jesus. Satan would would not be falsely accused, especially according to COG theology.

"In contrast, Satan bears the blame for sin as he was the first to lead mankind astray in the Garden of Eden and continues to deceive humanity today," UCG states.

False Armstrongist teachings about the Day of Atonement subtly prop up HWA's teachings about
man's tabula rasa nature. This theory, which originated with Aristotle, contradicts multiple scriptures by teaching that man is born morally neutral. According to HWA's teachings, Satan broadcasts his evil, subversive thoughts through the air like radio waves, silently influencing mankind to sin.

Now, I'm not going to argue that Satan doesn't influence mankind. He clearly does, as both the Bible and anyone who spends a day observing news outlets can see. But HWA claimed that humans were capable of changing their "tuning" back to God's if they just tried hard enough. Oh yeah, you somehow use the Holy Spirit to do it. And you must do it to an acceptable degree to maintain the justified state that Jesus' sacrifice bought for you. And if you don't do a good enough job, God will abort you.

This teaching has led to scores of suicides in the COGs and has landed even more members in lifestyles of despair and depression. On many levels, it is what keeps many of you in your seats, even though you no longer believe what Armstrong taught or his ministers perpetuate. It is what keeps you in fear. It is what allows the ministry to keep on dividing you from your friends and family - fear that following the wrong splinter will land you in the Lake of Fire. And it is what leads you to continue to hand in your tithes and keep their dying organizations on life support.

The symbolism of the Day of Atonement - the substitutionary sacrifice and removal of sin pictured by the two goats - did produce "at-one-ment" with God, in both the ancient Hebrew and the modern English sense of the word. Fasting denoted the symbolic gravity of the solemn day that the Savior died.

But that day, the day of the atonement, is finished. Jesus rose victorious. He paid our ransom. We are redeemed. We are reconciled to God now. We have no reason to remain in the shadows of mourning.

(Psalm 30:11-12) You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Friday, September 30, 2016

Are You Ready for the Feast of Trumpets?

So, are you ready for the Feast of Trumpets? 

I sure am, Martha, you're probably thinking. My boss approved my time-off request months ago. I have directions to the building for our local church service. I even have lunch plans with friends. I'm ready. 

No, that's not what I mean. Are you ready for the Feast of Trumpets? 

Oh, now I get it. Have you seen the news lately? Did you watch the debate this week? I know a lot of prophecy remains unfulfilled, but I'm still praying that that Jesus returns next week. I've never been more ready, Martha. 

No, I mean, are you ready? Like, personally?  

The Churches of God traditionally associate the Feast of Trumpets with the return of Jesus Christ and resurrection of those who have “qualified” to enter God's Kingdom. It's interesting to note that the Feast of Trumpets is never mentioned in the New Testament. The Hebrew people – to whom the festival was given – viewed the observance as an alarm and call to repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur . Whose interpretation is more accurate is certainly debatable. Still, since both traditions associate the festival with judgment, my original question is relevant. 

So, I ask, are you ready for Jesus to return? 

The answer might depend upon whom you ask and which church you attend. 

But wait, don't all the COGs basically teach the same things? Not according to United Church of God's Donald Ward, who recently gave a sermon on authority hinting that Christians needed to attend and obey UCG ministers in order to be right with God. This seemed out of step with UCG's usual moderate tone and has many wondering whether this well-publicized, hard-line message indicates trouble is brewing again in the group. 

“People ask me if I think that the splinters of the former Worldwide Church of God will ever get back together. They go on to say, ' After all we basically believe the same thing,” Ward explains.
“And I say, 'No I don't think they will get back together. And there are far more differences than one might discern at a distance,” he says.

Ward never explains just what these differences are. Rather, he says they are largely matters of mindset and organizational culture. But, he then defines culture as “a reflection of everything you believe at the core of your being.” At least we know it's nothing serious. Only vague, trivial stuff that's at at the heart of your existence. Stuff that determines whether or not you're part of God's true church. Minor stuff like that.

About the only point on which Ward ISN'T vague is that faithful church members don't buck church authority, citing 1 Corinthians 12. After all, God has placed these ministers in authority over the body. Who are you to reject His decision?

While church authority is a valid concept, Ward's use of 1 Corinthians 12 to support it is ironic. It's hardly a treatise on cold, steely hierarchy. Read in context, 1 Corinthians 12 discusses topics like unity in the Spirit and exhorts members of the church body to rejoice and mourn together as one. And, of course, it leads into 1 Corinthians 13 – commonly known as the “love chapter.”  

At any rate, Ward's position on authority must be news to the former UCG members and would-be leaders who bucked UCG's leadership in 2010 to create COGWA, God's new-and-improved only-true-church. So, what do those errant COGWA leaders say you must do to qualify for the Kingdom? 

As usual, COGWA's web site is sparse. We get the usual cognitive dissonance, like this:

 “Jesus told the wealthy young ruler that the way to salvation required keeping the 10 Commandments (Matthew 19:16-21). Jesus Himself kept all the 10 Commandments, including the seventh-day Sabbath (Luke 4:16),” explains longtime COG writer Cecil Maranville (Law and Grace: Jesus vs. Paul?). 
“Obviously, Jesus wasn’t intimating that anyone could earn salvation by keeping the 10 Commandments. Yet He taught and showed by example that God has set a reasonable standard of behavior for His children. That standard is the 10 Commandments,” Maranville tells us.
Ok, I see. I can't earn salvation by keeping the Ten Commandments, but I am required to keep the Ten Commandments for salvation. Got it. Thanks.  

Another article from COGWA elder Charles Haughee gives further insight into the group's mindset. 

“God declares that He is holy and wants us to be holy (Leviticus 11:45; 20:7) as His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). John 1:12 and 20:17 and other scriptures also verify this concept. Our Father wants all of us to be like Him—holy and clean,” Haughee writes. 

“Every father wants what is best for his children, and God is no exception. We cannot remain clean if we eat things that are unclean.”

We cannot remain clean if we eat things that are unclean. COG elders like Haughee remind listeners every week that they must remain clean if they wish to qualify for the Kingdom. Obedience can't earn you your white robe, they tell you, but you better keep it spotless if you want to “make it.” The problem is, there is only One who can make us clean. And it isn't us. 

But the Living Church of God appears to demonstrate the most ignorance on this topic  In his article, “Love and Government,” Wyatt Ciesielka, an adjunct assistant professor of theology at LCG's Living University completely butchers the deep symbolism of of Genesis 15 as an opportunity to commend Abraham for his righteous behavior.

“While no human can act perfectly as God acts, notice that Abraham is counted as practicing righteousness (cf. Genesis 15:6),” Ciesielka writes. "It is no wonder that Abraham and David will receive very high positions in the coming Kingdom of God! What then is the purpose of this royal and perfect law? The purpose is to reflect His righteousness, which leads to salvation.” 

The problem is, Genesis 15 is almost universally recognized as the template through which Christians receive salvation today - by faith. Genesis 15:6 doesn't tell us that God numbered Abraham as someone whose behavior was righteous. Rather, it tells us that God recognized the depth of Abraham's faith and, as a result, credited him with righteous standing before Him.

(Genesis 15:6) And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

This is not Martha's interpretation of scripture. This is Paul's interpretation of scripture.

(Romans 4:1-6) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him to who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.

Further, God credited Abraham with righteousness before he attempted to sacrifice Isaac (an act of faith for which the book of James commends him). It was credited to him even before he was circumcised.

(Romans 4:9-11) Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also...

Still not convinced? Let's turn back to Genesis 15. Have you ever studied the bizarre account toward the end of the chapter? Rounding up animals, cutting them in half, spreading them on the ground, then chasing the vultures away. Craziness. Abraham must have looked like a madman.

Well, not exactly. Abraham was setting up a traditional middle eastern covenant ceremony. In this "walk into death," the parties involved in the agreement would walk between the pieces of the animals, indicating that they should suffer a fate similar to the animals if they broke the agreement.

But Abraham fell into a deep sleep - some believe it was supernatural - leaving God alone to pass through the pieces Himself (Genesis 15:17). This indicated that God alone was responsible for bringing these promises to pass.  As we have seen, Abraham had responsibilities according to the covenant. But it would be God's actions - not Abraham's - that would fulfill the covenant promises.
Our salvation is no different.

Now,  I know you COG folks start getting nervous when I say that your salvation depends upon what Jesus did, not what you do. Trust me, this is a blessing. Because if your record of obedience is a factor in your salvation, then everything you do matters. And I mean EVERYTHING.

What, you didn't know the beef-with-broccoli at your favorite Chinese restaurant was made with oyster sauce? Too bad. You're unclean.  

That doesn't count, you respond. I didn't know that. I didn't do it willfully. God is merciful. He wouldn't judge me for something I didn't know I was doing wrong.

Ok. So, tell me, how are you observing the new moon tonight? That's right. The U.S. Naval Observatory lists the new moon as September 30. Technically at 8:13 p.m., so maybe you've still got time. Observing the new moon is listed in the same "forever" scriptures as the Sabbath. They are listed in the same passage you use to support Sabbath-keeping and dietary laws in the New Testament. It's not stealthy, like oyster sauce. The weather app on your phone tells you the moon every time it boots up, for crying out loud. You knew. Or you should have known.

I know, I know, your minister says you don't have to observe new moons. Why are you taking his word for it? If forever means "forever" with regards to the Sabbath, then it means "forever" with regards to the new moon, too. Will you believe man or believe your Bible?

And how about the meal you planned to eat at that restaurant on Trumpets, anyway? You're paying that waitress to work on a holy day. Both your father-in-law and your best friend's wife have confronted you about it. Would you do YOUR job on an annual Sabbath? Then how can you justify paying her to do hers? 

You might disagree that it's a sin, Martha. That's fine. We all must have faith unto ourselves. But if your teach that your righteousness is dependent upon what you do, then you must accept that your righteousness really hinges upon everything that you do. But if we're to the point that we base "God's standards" on knowing and agreeing with subjective standards, then we're on pretty shaky ground. The book of James tells us the law - which you cherry-pick to define your righteousness - is like a plate glass window. You break one, you've broken them all. You must get it all right - the oyster sauce, the new moon, the calendar, the proper Sabbath observance. You must have the proper checklist. And having the right checklist isn't even enough. The Sermon on the Mount tells us that even our silent thoughts can condemn us.

(Galatians 4:21) Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

(Galatians 5:4-6) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Neither the context nor the historical record indicate that Paul is simply talking about circumcision alone here).

Estranged from Christ. That's a bad place to me. So I ask you again, are you ready for the Feast of Trumpets? Would God count your behavior as righteous, as Mr. Ciesielka of LCG would put it? Are you clean, as Mr. Haughee of COGWA explains?

You already know the answer. You know that you can't make yourself clean. But understand that you can't even keep yourself clean. Attending UCG, exclusively, or COGWA, or LCG won't make you clean. Dutifully marking the new moon, keeping the Ten Commandments perfectly and adopting a vegan diet won't keep you clean. Your righteousness is like filthy rags before Him.

How can you ever hope to bridge the gap between your behavior, as obedient as you try to be, and God's perfect standard of righteous perfection? Well, the same way that Abraham did, all the way back in Genesis 15:6.

We must stop placing our faith in ourselves and instead place it in the promise of salvation through the blood of the Lamb. We must repent of our sins and dedicate ourselves to God. And when we do, God credits us with Christ's righteousness. Now, we stand justified before Him and can begin the process of sanctification through the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is a process led by God, not us. It is the evidence of our salvation, not the cause of it.

Quit placing your faith in attending the right church, in keeping the right days and eating the right foods. Wash the filthy garments of your righteousness in the blood of the Lamb. Only then will you be clean, and truly ready for the Feast of Trumpets. 

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Friday, August 5, 2016

David Hulme's Tips for Raising a Christian Moral Child

Hi guys. It's been a while. In light of UCG's recent stance on women in media, I took some time off to reconsider my roles in this blog and my family. I came to one definite conclusion:

It's really hard to type with cookie dough on my fingers.

(insert rim shot here)

Seriously, though, life did require some time away. And some of it did involve baking cookies and playing board games with my children. Many of you have been in a similar season of life, and I thank you for understanding.

Actually, children are the reason I'm writing today. As I mentioned, I have some. I've managed to keep them alive for several years now. So I was naturally intrigued when I discovered the existence of a “special report” on parenting from Vision magazine, which is published by David Hulme's Church of God, an International Community. It had some good points. It certainly offered better counsel than the Philadelphia Church of God, which has advised the parents of a disabled child to abandon them at the mall and to cut off contact with unbaptized children who have left the cult.  Mostly, though, Vision's special report reminded me why I'm thankful I'm no longer raising children in the Churches of God.

I have some experience with parenting in this community. I've spent several years raising my children both the inside the COGs and outside of them – as of late, in an evangelical Christian setting. And I was raised in the Worldwide Church of God. No, this isn't one of those posts. I wasn't beaten or abused. I will say that my family would have benefited greatly from a religious system that encouraged mercy and grace. But in comparison to others, I was very blessed. My parents tried their hardest and did the best they could, and I'm grateful for the reverence for the Bible and fear of the Lord them instilled in me. All that being said, I can see how the religious climate and parenting philosophies of the COGs are spiritually damaging.

How so? Well, Armstrongist parenting philosophy is based in the Aristotelian theory of tabula rasa, or, in Latin, "blank slate." Herbert Armstrong taught that children are born morally neutral and acquire their sinful behavior from Satan, who broadcasts his sinful, selfish, hateful attitude though the air like a radio signal.  Many COGs do not directly state their foundation of tabula rasa as overtly as UCG does.  But nearly all groups minimize scriptures about the original state of man's heart (Psalm 51:5, Job 14:4, Psalm 58:3 and Jeremiah 17:9) and instead focus on man's absorption and acquisition of this satanic “broadcast.”

Who cares, you ask? Who would argue that Satan doesn't influence the world for the worse? Does it really matter?

Yes, it does. Because Armstrong also taught that we are able to change the channel on the “receiver” of our hearts. And, by the way, your eternal destiny depends upon your ability to do so. HWA taught that you must qualify for eternal life by showing that you are trustworthy through works of obedience. And that God might choose to abort you if you do not grow and change enough in this life. These statements all appear directly in Armstrong's writings and underpin the salvific theology of today's COGs.

Most parents would give their right arm – probably their own life – to keep their child out of the Lake of Fire. So what do we do? We get started right away on the obedience checklist. After all, it's for their own good. I'm not judging. It's exactly what I did. Further, it's natural, normal and perfectly appropriate. For toddlers and preschoolers.

But as our children mature, continuing the  carrot-and-stick method the COG prescribes for both children and adults places us on one of two dangerous paths. I suppose there is another path - those who casually follow the tenets of their religion but do not focus purposefully on the implications of their theology or their behavior. Which leads to a whole new set of difficulties. But I digress.

Please note, these ideas are not the product of Martha and her alleged bitterness toward the COGs. These are the conclusions of respected Christian writers like Jerry Bridges, Ravi Zacharias and Chuck Swindoll, among others. These writers, and many more, have addressed this troubling dynamic in mainstream Christianity. I believe that the “unique theology” of the COGs as established by HWA puts our children at even greater risk.


As our children get older, our goal should be for them to obey from the heart; not out of fear of punishment. Unfortunately, Armstrongism never makes this transition. We are still obeying out of fear of punishment. We may dress it up in grown-up clothes and describe it as “doing the right thing” or “doing what the Bible says.” But in the COGs, both of these statements have an implicit, unstated “or else” at the end. I get messages from adults in their 60s admitting as much. The only difference is, a 6-year-old or 16-year-old may still believe he is capable of changing the channel, while the 60 year old knows it is futile.

The portion of Vision's special report concerning self-esteem actually gives us insight into this dynamic. In it, author Gina Stepp explains how the concept of "agency" – or an individual’s sense of personal and independent control over an outcome or event – starts developing in infancy.

“Over time, this realization matures as they successfully complete tasks by setting goals, maintaining effort, and overcoming failure to achieve a desired result. Through repeated opportunities to test the effects of their actions, they form beliefs about their self-efficacy, their ability to perform at the level they have intended or to produce a desired result." Stepp says. "This, it turns out, underpins an individual’s motivation to change his or her behavior and is therefore also crucial to the development of the other component of a positive sense of self: self-esteem.” 

Armstrongist theology completely undermines  this process because it sets the bar impossibly high – the goal is completely overcoming sin in this lifetime. We're not simply talking about acing a math test or achieving the correct form in ballet class. We're talking about overcoming sin as a means of attaining, or more accurately, maintaining, our eternal life.

On the flip side of this concept, each failure reinforces the belief that they are not good enough, will never be good enough and destroys their motivation and self-image. The Vision special report points out the importance of a “history of successes” to creating a child's sense of reality. But in COG theology, one's history of success doesn't matter, because each poor choice separates us from God. We are only as good as our last choice.

Vision quoted a Pavlovian shock conditioning study of dogs that discovered the animals who learned they could avoid a shock by performing certain actions continued those actions even if they stopped producing results. But dogs whose actions never stopped the shock quickly learned that their actions didn't matter and became passive; giving up on affecting the outcome - an important note for parents, according to quoted motivational researchers William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick:

“To assert that a person is responsible for deciding and directing his or her own change is to assume that the person is capable of doing so. The person not only can but must make the change, in the sense that no one else can do it for him or her.” 

Armstrongism teaches us that we are the only ones who can make the change (somehow wielding the Holy Spirit, of course).  But in reality, we can't do it. Failure and fear of punishment can't change our hearts. Instead, they fill us with despair and bitterness because we know we'll never be able to change the channel. It leads us down a dark path of failure that ends in depression at best, and suicide at worst. I've seen many whom I love echo Paul's thoughts in Romans 7:22-24 – minus the encouraging resolution in verse 25:

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 


Not surprisingly, the second path leads in the opposite direction. It was the path I walked. Some children, like me, are naturally obedient and enjoy following rules. Their sticker chart is full. They are told they are good and, over time, they come to believe it. Since they are at least "pretty good” on their own, they grow to trust in themselves rather than God. After all, they don't really need Him that much. They're doing pretty well on their own. Jesus spoke of these people – people like me – in Mark 2:16-17:

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, "Why does He eat with such scum?" When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners." (New Living Translation) 

Like the Pharisees, we set ourselves apart from the “scum.” We wonder why they just don't obey like we do. We judge them. Sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking we are justified in judging and criticizing them, because they need to know they are wrong. What could possibly wrong with trying to keep someone off the road to hell? But really, we are looking down our noses at them. Gradually, our hearts grow cold and harden against our fellow man.

So how do we help our young pharisee stop looking down scornfully from her ivory tower? In its article on raising moral children, Vision encourages parents to foster empathy from an early age. This is a noble goal, no doubt. But is it the solution? Will it make a child change her "channel?"

Stepp, who also wrote the report's article on morality, tells us that brain scientists have determined children are born with innate ideas about things like fairness and harm, responsibility and integrity, sexuality and cleanliness. The key, then, is to wed these innate ideas to a set of virtues to create a "moral belief system."

How does one do this? Well, virtues are mostly established by the example the parents set. Most importantly, parents should establish a good socializing relationship - secure attachment and parental warmth – as the basis for moral training. Beyond that, parents should use emotional language and talk about feelings – their own and those of others – with their children.

Parents should give guided practice in thinking about the connection between decisions, behavior and compassion, Stepp advises, possibly by posing hypothetical questions. For example, questions about the morality of running a red light in an emergency will help children practically apply the virtues of kindness and compassion through their innate understanding about harm or suffering. Over time, such thinking is proven to result in “brain change.”

To be fair, this is good parenting advice, on a secular level. But will fostering a child's “moral belief system,” as Stepp puts it, change her channel to the proper broadcast? The answer is no. Parental prodding cannot change a heart. It can guide one to think of others, or at least to keep her judgmental thoughts to herself. Even then, her empathy and understanding is based on the subjective standards of her parents, not an objective source. She will likely learn empathy for those people and situations that her parents taught her were deserving. But empathy for everyone? That's just crazy. Not everyone deserves it. They made their bed, now they need to lie in it.

Following Stepp's advice may lead our little pharisee to look down from her ivory tower with pity rather than scorn, but she still doesn't identify herself with the sinners below. Deep down, she still believes she is better than those around her. Especially if she is taught, week after week, that she is special and that others around her are deceived and false Christians because they do not keep the Sabbath. That she is responsible for purging her spiritual leaven; and that not doing it to an unspecified amount will cost her salvation. This theology teachers her to focuses on the checklist of works she was handed, blinding her to her own self-righteousness and pride.

(Revelation 3:17) Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.


To be fair, Hulme's special report offers some helpful parenting tips. But they could be just as easily be employed by parents who want to raise moral children who grow up to be Buddhists, Mormon, Muslim or secular humanists. If these strategies could be used interchangeably to raise well-adjusted, empathetic Taoists or Scientologists, then they aren't Christian.

Vision's special report gives only passing references to the Bible and fails to mention Jesus even once. Stepp's article on moralism gives a nod to scripture in its admonition to “love thy neighbor,” “love the stranger” and “love thy enemy." But it fails to mention who made these statements or why we should give them any more weight than the words of the Buddha or Mohammed.

And this problem is not isolated to David Hulme's COG-AIC. COGWA's Equip, Encourage and Inspire parenting manual is much more explicitly Biblical. But it noticeably fails to mention our Savior in its “People of the Bible” section of role models from the pages of scripture. In both its original edition and in later online editions that add more material. It's not surprising. Back in the Worldwide Church of God, our monthly YES lessons did not discuss Jesus outside of a Holy Day context until somewhere between third and fifth grade.

(John 14:5-6) Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As a result of HWA's errant theology, the COGs misunderstand Jesus and the grace His sacrifice provided. The focus of the gospel is not Christ's return and reign. Nor is it the Sabbath, the Holy Days or the Sinai Covenant. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save sinners from condemnation when they repent and place their faith in Him. It is this true gospel and the grace it provides that both our despairing sinner and our self-righteous pharisee need most. Both their paths converge at the level ground of the foot of the cross.

Any truly Christian parenting guide must be based in these scriptural truths:

(Romans 3:21-24) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus  All have sinned and fall short of God's glory – both the sinner who lies and the pharisee who scorns the sinner in pride. Both have sinned and cost their Savior's blood and have earned condemnation, whether through a sinful act of commission or a prideful act of omission. But true righteousness, or right standing with God, is freely available to both through faith in God's promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. 

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Jesus died for everyone, not just those who are worthy. None of us are worthy. Not the one who cheats, nor the one who is angry because he was cheated. Not the disobedient child. Not the one who obeys, at least most of the time. All of us are equally guilty for His death and all are capable of receiving His love and forgiveness.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Our salvation is a gift from God, it is not from ourselves. We did not earn it through works and, by extension, neither can we maintain it by works, or else we would have something to boast about. 

(Romans 4:22-24) And therefore “it was accounted to to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Just like Abraham, Christ's righteousness is credited to us when we place our faith in him.  This standing comes from God, not our own works. 

(John 6:28-29) Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Our job is to believe or trust in Jesus for salvation. This "work" is the basis of our Christian walk.

(Galatians 5:4) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Those who try to win their salvation through obedience rather than faith are severed from Christ's sacrifice. 

(Romans 12:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  We do not obey to win God's approval. We obey (the covenant to which we are party) because we already have God's approval and He has changed our hearts. This obedience is proof of that regeneration and the Holy Spirit at work in our lives; not what makes it happen. It is a reasonable to dedicate our lives to God since He has saved us from condemnation. 

(Ephesians 2:10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  God is the Creator; we are the creation. He created us and set aside specific things for us to do. It is only by Him and through Him that we are able to achieve them. We do not perform them in order to win His approval. We do them to demonstrate our love and obedience to the Lord of our life, and to draw others to Him.

*          *           *

If you want to raise a moral child, that's fine. Vision and COGWA are more than happy to tell you how to do it. But if you want to raise a Christian child, there is only one Way. Give that child the gospel.

The true Christian gospel gives both the despairing sinner and the self-righteous pharisee an accurate picture of their true human condition, their standing before God and their worth to Him. When the sinner's heart is encouraged and the pharisee's heart is softened, both are fertile, well-prepared ground for life of service to God and showing grace and love to his fellow man.

I don't know about you, but I think that's a better goal for my children than discerning when it's morally acceptable for them to run a red light.

But maybe I'll change my mind when they're old enough to drive.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit - Were the COG Prophets Right?

One day after the Brexit vote, various Armstrongist leaders, prophets, and talking heads are publishing mostly pre-written statements about the future implications of Britain leaving the EU. For a good idea on what they're already saying, read Banned by HWA article "Was He Right?" Years ago, it was foretold that Britain would leave the EU, then Germany would rise and enslave us all. All of Armstrongism watched the Brexit with great anticipation, hoping after decades of worrisome prophetic failure that finally they can hold their heads high and say with confidence, "We were right!" It's a much needed boost of confidence for an ailing system.

But we have to ask - were they right?

Let's briefly review some of the details that are being left out in all this rush to proclaim victory over the mapping out of the end times.

Don't forget for one moment that Armstrongism comes out of Ellen G. White's Seventh Day Adventist movement, and that was born in the prophetic failures of William Miller. A long and storied past of false prophecy is in the DNA of Armstongism.

Herbert Armstrong, “the founder, Pastor General, and spiritual and temporal leader” of the Church of God on earth had barely just incorporated the Radio Church of God (later the Worldwide Church of God) when he began publishing his false prophecies that Christ would return in 1936. He did it again in World War II. And again in the early 1970s. Then Christ was to return in the 1980's. Then by the end of the 20th century. But he never once even hinted that he might be wrong. Instead, he claimed no association with being a prophet at all. Those exceedingly detailed claims spoken under the authority of God were all just educated guesses, in effect. Then he tried to bury the past. People were told to burn the old material which contained the errors. All then proceeded as normal with new predictions. "All Systems Go!"

This pattern of false prophecy and cover-up continues to this very day under the guidance of Herbert Armstrong's many "one true" successors. A fabulous example is Ron Weinland's spectacular failure with "2008: God's Final Witness." In summary, we were all supposed to begin dying in 2008. "But wait," you say, "It's 2016." Correct. I don't want to ruin the end of the book for you, but [SPOILER ALERT] Ron got the predictions right from God and transmitted them to us all accurately, but God was lying in order to fool Satan. [END SPOILER] Well, if you can't blame God who can you blame?
He's still at it even now. For a great deal more, I highly recommend you read our friend Mike's blog about the False Prophet Ron Weinland.

Don't be so surprised by this. Armstrongism has a very long history of prophesying something that never comes to pass, moving the goal posts, then proceeding forward as if they were right all along. We've written about it more than once before (eg. Herbert W Armstrong's Doctrine and FruitAn Inconvenient Plain TruthAll Systems Are Go, or read our Categories page for many more). The story ends the same every time with wait and see. And tithe.

Why dredge up this ugly past? Because in order to properly understand the current clucking about Brexit, you absolutely must know there's a lot more to it - decades more - than just Britain leaving the EU. If you don't know your history, you won't know that Britain leaving the EU isn't even what was supposed to happen in the first place.

If we all recall, in the original version of prophecy there was no EU. It was the early 1930s and no one ever dreamed that an EU was even possible. In the original version, a ten nation group from somewhere in the old Holy Roman Empire was simply going to run amok then Jesus would return. Next, Mussolini was going to become the Beast. Then Hitler was to be the Beast. Then Hitler supposedly went into hiding and would re-emerge as the Beast. There was no EU. There was no Brentrance let alone a Brexit.

In the 1960s it began to become clear that the new European trade agreements were more than just a series of trade agreements. It didn't take a prophet to see that the point was political unity to prevent World War III. What was the reliable prophecy from that time? Britain was never supposed to join in the first place. They might float around the edges, but since this political union was to be the Beast we couldn't have "Ephriam" join in. (For those of you who are somehow unaware, Herbert Armstrong was deeply involved in British Israelism aka. Anglo Israelism. In Armstrongism, England is the modern identity of the ancient Israelite tribe of Ephraim.)

But by the mid-1970's Britain did join. Emergency! It was now necessary that the only people on earth who knew what the future would be like should change their story yet again. In the new version, Britain was going to leave the EU and then the end would come.

This is where we find ourselves today. This is what all the crowing is about. So "We were right!" ...after several attempts. One thing right, out of Lord knows how many wrong things. But are the COG prophets right? We at ABD are not impressed.

The issue isn't just in the past. Going forward is an issue as well. A few additional details come to mind and they are rather important.

  • After Brexit there will still be 27 EU nations. One down, 17 left to go to hit that correct ten-nation Beast power. Technically speaking it's really eleven nations, because ten nations are supposed to ally themselves under Germany. 10 + 1 = 11. 16 nations left to go.
  • The Beast power can't just include Germany, it has to be formed by Germany and dominated by Germany. In other words the whole EU needs to be dissolved and a new ten-nation combine needs to be formed. To put it another way: Britain left the EU -- so what?
  • These ten nations can't just be ten random nations surrounding Germany. They have to be mainly nations that are not on the list of British Isreal nations of western and northern Europe (the Beast isn't Israelite). For example France can't be a partner with Germany as France is the modern identity of the ancient Israelite tribe of Reuben. Or Denmark can't be a partner because Demnark is the modern identity of the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan. (Something we're not even supposed to be able to find out until the very end.) To put it another way: the entire EU -- so what?
  • The Beast power can't just be Germany in the lead, either. It has to be a singular ultra-charismatic human being who leads Germany who leads the ten other nations.
  • This Beast king must be closely partnered with the Pope and at least pretend to be Catholic himself and convert the majority of the world to Catholicism. In an increasingly secular post-Protestant Europe where Catholicism in particular is not very popular and waves of Muslim immigrants arrive daily, this point is going to be particularly difficult to pull off.
  • This whole mess is supposed to happen quickly and it's only supposed to happen at the end. It's supposed to take the world by surprise, not drag out over several decades (or centuries as the case is). And then the end shall come.
  • The ten nations under Germany in association with Vatican City are supposed to enslave Britain, Australia, and the entire North American continent - and then still have enough military wherewithal to turn and attack Russia while a 200 million strong Chinese army marauds its way across the Middle East. I'm no military tactician myself, but as it stands the entire EU doesn't seem capable to conquer even one of these things let alone all of them.

We could go on and on this way. The point is Britain leaving the EU isn't the whole story, and getting lucky on a small fraction of the story (after several iterations) isn't the same as being prophetically accurate.

If this were a math problem, would the teacher grade them correct? No. If a prophet from another religion got only this much right, would we say they were sent by God? No. In what other area of life would anyone with this track record still hold any credibility at all? The only place that comes to my mind is in the U.S. Federal Government. <--- FAR cry from God there. This reminds me of a movie quote that goes like this, "60% of the time, it works every time." Only instead of 60% it's somewhere closer to 2%. And I'm being generous. Does "2% of the time, we're right every time," make sense to you? Because it doesn't to me. One certainly cannot claim "we were right therefore we're God's one true church" and at the same time expect us all to ignore all the overwhelming majority of the time when they weren't. And we are supposed to base our current and future plans, hopes, and dreams on this??

Will Brexit have powerful and far-reaching implications for the world? Yes. That much is inevitable. And I'm not saying that as any form of prophecy. I'm saying that because history proves it's unavoidable. Could it lead to war? It might; it might not. Lots of lesser things have. Lots of greater things have not. Should you worry about it? No. All of this entire mess regarding false prophecy is born in fear and worry. Armstrongists tend to dislike the world and they would rather it finally just go away. They obsess over bad news because it feeds their desperate hope that the end is nigh, even at the door.

But don't be like that. Love your neighbor as yourself. And don't fear. Just trust! Not in COG false prophets, nor us here, but in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Believe in Jesus and love your neighbor. That's your work as a Christian.

There is much more we here at ABD have said and could yet say on this topic. But does what we have seen make Herbert Armstrong or any of the other COG prophets right? When you consider the context and the changes and the details, the answer is a resounding NO!

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honor Thy Father

Within the mindset of Armstrongism, from its heritage in Adventism and even to the COG splinter groups of this day, there is a pervasive belief that in order to honor Jesus one must withhold honor from the Father. This is a clumsy way to put it, but the spirit of what I am trying to convey is true. Armstrongism sees honor as zero sum. In other words, there is only so much of it to go around. It is the overall view that all honor should rightfully go to the Father, and since all honor should rightfully go to the Father in order to honor something other than the Father – like Jesus - one almost borrows against the Father to give to the Son. It is a “Rob Peter to pay Paul” situation. I am not going to dive into the background on what builds up to this conclusion, suffice it for now to simply say that it is.

As a result, we often hear from Armstrongists that mainstream Christians pay far too much attention to Jesus and not nearly enough attention to the Father. Mainstream Christians might say that the COGs take Jesus out of His box once a year at Passover. If there is almost a guilty sensation in honoring the Son because it somehow diminishes the Father, how much less then could an Armstrongist agree that honoring a person can honor bring honor to the Son? Sadly, the view that mainstream Christianity has of Jesus and even our calling as Christians cannot be fully understood while laboring under the COG view of honoring God.

Is this “rob the Father to pay the Son” view Biblical? Can you honor the Father without directly honoring the Father? Can we honor the Son by honoring pitiful, lowly humans? Let’s look and see.

(I JON. 2: 23) Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Whatever you do to one, you do to the other. This is how God views things. Thus is the relationship between Father and Son. There is no such thing as having more of the Father or of the Son. It’s a package deal. There are many other verses to demonstrate this. The main thing to glean from this is that to honor the Father it is required of us to honor the Son. This is how we honor the Father. This is the method.

(JON. 5: 18-23) 18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

The Son should be honored just as the Father is honored. It is commanded it is right and it is just. Perhaps the COGWA could remember this in their next talk about being "Father-Centered."

There is no such thing as having too much emphasis on the Son. To emphasize the Son is to emphasize the Father. To honor the Son is to honor the Father. This is how the Father is honored. Why do we honor the Son? Because of the Father. It is in order to glorify the Father that the Son came. It is in order to glorify the Father that we glorify the Son. No one goes to the Father except through the Son (JON. 14: 6). The Son does not steal from the Father. There is no taking from the Father to give to the Son. All that is, be it tangible or intangible, is the Fathers – and the Father has given all to the Son. That includes glory and honor. Why? Why does this not take away from the Father? Because the Son then turns right around and returns all to the Father, so that the Father may be all in all.

So, the common saying that mainstream Christianity honors the Son too much is not correct. It is untrue. It is a misunderstanding of the Father and the Son, it is a misunderstanding of honoring the Father and the Son, and it is a misunderstanding of what we are called to do as the spiritual Body of Christ.

So, if we honor the Father by honoring the Son, we must ask how do we best honor the Son?

We honor the Son by following the Holy Spirit whom the Son sends. We honor the Son in spirit and in truth, with sincere hearts. We honor the Son with our intentions and thoughts and words which flow into our deeds. What deeds? The Old Covenant law? No. With acts of charity towards those whom He has created. We honor the Son by loving those whom the Son loves.

This is what James speaks of, that faith alone is dead faith. We need to do for those whom Jesus loves. We need to actively love those whom Jesus loves. We need acts of charity. Armstrongism teaches that James is merely speaking of an attempt to observe the Old Covenant law, but that is not what James speaks of. James comes right out and tells us what he is speaking of:

(JAS. 1: 27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James speaks of our true religion; our service to Jesus. What is that service to Jesus? Serving others.

When Jesus restored Peter, what did Jesus say? If you love Me, tend My flock (JON. 21: 15-17). He didn't say "If you love Me, ignore Me and concentrate on the Father." Nor did He say, "If you love Me, tithe and we'll call it even." No. If we love Jesus, we should do well for those whom He loves. The prescribed method of returning love to Jesus is acts of love to other humans. We honor our Lord by honoring others.

For years, as I attended the WCG and later my COG splinter group, I heard about how James talks of the law, and how everything else had to be seen in the light of this interpretation of James. But James isn’t speaking of the Old Covenant law. James is speaking of letting faith and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit have its expression in our lives. James is speaking of charitable actions to others. James is speaking of our reasonable acts of worship. James is talking about how to love Jesus by loving those around us. James is talking about our religion.

Several times in this article I have compared and contrasted Armstrongism to mainstream Christianity. Does that mean mainstream Christianity always get this right? HA! No!! Anyone misleads you who says to you that all we need is faith in Jesus Christ. There is more to it than that simple phrase. This is precisely what James speaks about. Faith must have its expression in our lives. Good thing that most people who say this know there is a lot more to it, and both their lives and their fruit bear this out.

I am not speaking of law but of love. Old Covenant law does not equal love. To love is to fulfill the law. In fact to love is to fulfill the spirit of the entire law. All of it. It’s the only way to do this. The only way to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees is to love. But to keep the law is not to love. The Pharisees had the law, but they did not have this kind of love. They honored God with their mouths and their law-keeping, but not with their hearts. Love fulfills the law, but the law does not fulfill love.

The point is that in order to express your love to Jesus you must pass on to others this love that He has given you. His gifts to us – none of us merit them in the slightest, and none of us are able to repay them. So how do you respond to the love of God? Simple. You believe in Jesus and love one another.

When I search the New Testament in the NKJV for “love one another” I get quite a few great hits from all over. I’ll give you one:

(I JON. 4: 11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. Sums it up.

This is what it means to live as a Christian. Bear in mind that the church is the Body of Christ. What we do to one another that we also do to Him.

(MAT. 20: 37-40) 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

(Mat. 20: 44-45) 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Here is the summary of all that I am saying - you honor the Father by honoring Jesus, and honor Jesus by honoring those whom Jesus loves.

To honor the Son is not to diminish from the Father, and to honor a human is not necessarily to diminish from the Son. I affirm that it is not possible for an Armstrongist to fully understand mainstream Christianity without accepting this Biblical truth.

Is this charity and love to go to the people in your COG splinter only? We were taught as much within Armstrongism many, many times in the past. I know it is still taught today. I personally sat through more than just one sermon instructing us to actively withhold charity from “the world” for one reason or the other. We were instructed that to be charitable to “the world” is to defy God. (Do all COG groups teach this? No. But most do. Kudos to those who do not.)

Are those big-named and many-titled men that lead large splinter groups really correct when they say to shun everyone that doesn’t go to their group? Are they right that they are Philidelphia and everyone else is Laodicea? Are they justified in splitting up families and indirectly causing suicides? Does that teaching really mesh with what you read in the Bible?


(MAT. 5: 43-47) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

No, not just to those in your splinter group. Not just to other Armstrongists. Everyone! Everywhere. Every human being bears the image of God, and we are called to love them all.

How can you love the people with whom you disagree if you can’t even love those with whom you do agree? Oh, how the COG groups fight! How they strive against one another! What do you really disagree on? I mean really. Your current glorious leader? The importance of Herbert Armstrong? The timing of the Wave Sheaf offering? The date on which Jesus will return? Seriously. If we had to quantify what the COG groups truly disagree on, it wouldn’t be more than 2% of the overall body of doctrine. Yet you can’t seem to love one another. Not just failing to love, but actively tearing down.

Since your COG splinter teaches you to observe the law (some of it anyway) I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to implement this honor of the Father into your life. While you go about intending to observe the law, be mindful of the law in its New Covenant, spiritual, royal fulfillment – by that I mean faith and love. Don’t just go to church services on Saturday. Go out of your way to be kind to someone each and every time. Not the same person and not in the same way each time. Go out of your way. At the same time, accept the help and generosity of others. At the time I write this, Pentecost is coming up. More people means more opportunity to love and serve.

Then go out and do the same for people who aren't in your church.

Pray to God that He grant you His love. Then pray to God that He grant you the will and opportunity to give it all away. You cannot just take this up on your own. It has to be granted. Then be a living sacrifice. Do as James exhorted us to do. Live pure and undefiled religion. Be a Christian. Love one another.

In honoring others you honor the Son and through the Son you honor the Father.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11