Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Plain Truth About Peter's Hypocrisy


As an Armstrongist, I heard often about Galatians 2: 11, where Paul confronted Peter to his face. Sadly, I never heard an in-depth explanation of the rest of the chapter. Why did that confrontation occur? What was Paul's objection with Peter's actions precisely? How was Christ a minister of sin? And verse 21... that might as well not even have existed!
Sure, some things were explained away using the Fred Coulter patented "'the works of the law' versus 'works of law'" mind-trick. Word games!
I would like to take a closer look at these things, because in Paul's objections I see some incredibly forceful objections to the teachings of Herbert W Armstrong that I had never noticed before. I think it's worth going over.

(GAL. 2:11) Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;

The line, as I heard it, was that Peter was snubbing the Gentile Christians - treating them no longer as equals - and the Jews with whom Peter was associating were obsessing over Talmudic cleanliness rituals.

I want you to notice something here -- it does not say that Paul is accusing Peter simply of belittling the Gentiles and elevating the Jews, as I was taught. The details of the Armstrong interpretation are inaccurate and wholly insufficient.

Peter once ate with the Gentiles, but withdrew when certain Jews "of the circumcision" arrived. Was Peter looking down on the Gentiles? Yes. But that is not by any means all that it means. It says he, "played the hypocrite" (v. 13).
In other words, Peter was putting on a "false face," which is to say he was not practicing what he preached. To put it bluntly, Paul got after Peter for changing his act one way at one time, and another way at another time. But once we get into the gritty details of this hypocrisy, we will see that it was not about treating one group as valuable and another as valueless.

Let's answer an obvious question: who were "those who were of the circumcision"?

First, they are a group of Christians (they had accepted Christ to some degree) about whom Paul has much negative to say. In Colossians 4: 10-11, Paul notes only three men out of the whole group who are "of the circumcision" who are of any help to him. That is about the total of Paul's positive remarks about this group.
In Philippians 3: 2, Paul refers to their circumcision as "mutilation," and warns us to beware of it. In Titus 1: 10-14, Paul complains that those of the circumcision are especially prone to teaching things they ought not to teach, and ruining the faith of many. How did they do this? What did they teach?
Throughout his writings, Paul shows that these men boast in their having been physically circumcised, which prompted Paul to show how his own physical pedigree is far superior (PHP. 3: 4-6). Their confidence in their own flesh over Christ's victory on the cross is their failure. In Romans 2: 28-29, Paul remarks that physical circumcision is devoid of value, but spiritual circumcision of the heart alone has value.
The flip-side of this coin is how they treat anyone who is not circumcised (meaning all Gentiles, but not only Gentiles) as if they are not Christian. In fact, in Galatians 5: 11, Paul remarks that "those of the circumcision" were literally persecuting him for not going along with them. But Paul was circumcised. Was circumcision the whole deal, then? What else did they teach the Gentiles to do?
They taught that, “It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentiles], and to command them to keep the law of Moses" (ACT. 15: 5, 24). I am often told by well-intentioned Armstrongists that the issue was solely one of physical circumcision. Unfortunately for them, it was not just circumcision, but circumcision and law-keeping! This is inescapable.
However, especially in Romans 2: 27 and Galatians 6: 13, Paul shows that even though this is what they taught, it was not what they practiced (remember Peter's hypocrisy - this is the same thing). They taught the law, but didn't keep the law. Paul reiterates in Galatians 5: 3 that if one chooses to be circumcised and keep the law, this one is indebted to keep the whole law! All 613 of them. James 2: 10 agrees with Paul on this. Yet these ones "of the circumcision" were not by any means keeping the whole law.
They had put their faith in the physical circumcision and their own works, and failed in their own standard, and were leading many others down the same path to false pride and frustrated failure, to the point that in Galatians 5: 2-4 Paul declared the death and resurrection of Christ had no value whatsoever down this path - they had all fallen from grace. What they were teaching was the opposite of the Gospel of the grace of God (ACT. 20: 24), which Paul makes abundantly clear in Galatians 1: 6-9 was a false Gospel and deserving of the most powerful condemnation possible. Paul found their conduct so distasteful and destructive, that in Galatians 5: 12 Paul wished these men would go the rest of the way and emasculate themselves! 

So that is "those who were of the circumcision" with whom Paul is dealing in Galatia, and this is their error with which Peter and the rest were flirting.

Peter was not being "straightforward about the truth of the gospel" (GAL. 2: 14), and was compromising with a false gospel, one that would actively negate the sacrifice of Christ. So you can see that this is no mere case of looking down on the Gentiles. No wonder Paul withstood him to his face. He did Peter a massive favor!

So back to Paul's statement to Peter.

Peter was at one time eating with - and living like - the Gentiles, until these "of the circumcision" came along with their false gospel of mixing grace with law-keeping. Peter, having been circumcised since he was 8 days old, then took off the truth of the Gospel and put on a different garment, lapsing back into old habits, and now hypocritically pretended to be keeping the laws of Moses. For Peter, a circumcised Jew, circumcision was a foregone conclusion. That obviously wasn't what this was about. His hypocrisy was law-keeping. More accurately, his hypocrisy was living outside of the law with one group (the Gentiles), then pretending to live in it with another group (those of the circumcision) when pressure was brought to bear.

The real mystery to me is that this isn't the first time Peter had dealt with this. In Acts 11: 1-3, immediately after the calling of the first Gentile, Cornelius, Peter encountered the opposition of the circumcision.

(ACT. 11: 1-3) 1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

Peter went in among the Gentiles and ate with them! Clean or unclean, it doesn't matter. According to the Jewish understanding, the whole house and all that was in it was defiled.
Until this time, Peter himself agreed that what he did was unlawful.

(ACT. 10: 28-29) 28 Then he said to [Cornelius and his family], “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for....

This isn't just a tradition Peter is talking about, as any Armstrongist minister will make this out to be. This is genuine Old Covenant law. There were a series of laws to keep the Jews separate from the Gentiles: meats laws, marriage laws, circumcision laws, and etc. So we are not talking Talmud here.
It took a miracle from God, the Sheet Vision, for Peter to be convinced that God had removed any and every separation between faithful Jew and Gentile - a point Paul makes so succinctly in Galatians 3: 28 as well as Colossians 3: 11. So Peter went in and ate with them.
Those of the circumcision were not so convinced, and accused Peter of violating the law. Truth be told, Peter had violated the Old Covenant law by what he did! 

Someone schooled in the teachings of Herbert Armstrong would miss this entirely by assuming that Peter went in among the Gentiles and ate "clean" Jewish food with them. This is not what Paul was (rightfully) accusing Peter of. Peter was living his whole life "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" (GAL. 2: 14). As difficult as this may be for an Armstrongist to accept, Peter had clearly abandoned the Old Covenant food laws. He was disregarding the laws of Moses! He was not mixing grace with law. Then, after that point, he turned 180 degrees in the opposite direction, back to the Old Covenant, and started to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the law. This prompted Paul to ask "and why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?" (GAL. 2: 14).
This was Peter's hypocrisy plain and succinct! But it was not Peter's alone; clearly this also applied to Barnabas, and to anyone else who may have acted similarly.

The miracle God showed Peter in Acts 10 convinced Peter (it would appear temporarily convinced) that God had completely changed the order of things in the New Covenant. This was something those of the circumcision could not abide. They demanded the New Covenant was merely a slightly-modified continuation of the Old Covenant. They demanded the Old Covenant laws must be kept (even though they were not truly keeping the law). This very issue was dealt with by the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15.

Note here that, plainly, James confessed to having nothing to do with what the circumcision group were up to. "Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, 'You must be circumcised and keep the law' — to whom we gave no such commandment" (ACT. 15: 24). Even though both Acts 15: 24 and Galatians 2: 12 suggest that this group were going around claiming to be from James, they were not from James. Thus we must conclude that Paul's statement that these men came from James was merely tongue-in-cheek; a mockery of the claims of the group.

The conclusion of the Holy Spirit (ACT. 15: 28) and the council was that the Gentiles were not to be compelled to be circumcised and keep the law. There is no arguing around this. There is no wiggle room. Yet, boldly and unrestrained, the group of the circumcision marched onward with their message.
With enough time and pressure even the timeless rocks of the earth will succumb and change their nature, it seems an Apostle of Peter's stature was no exception. Good thing for Peter that Paul, with the support of his close friends, "did not yield submission even for an hour" (GAL. 2: 5). 
Now, if this group of the circumcision could bring to bear sufficient pressure that "even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy" (GAL. 2: 13), how on earth could the Galatians escape? Paul had to bring out every possible tool in his arsenal to correct the Galatians. Notice that he has nothing good to say about them at the start of his epistle. This was a weighty and critically important task indeed!

Now, only after having gone over and over the material we just reviewed, can we move forward in this section of Galatians.

Notice how I emphasized that Peter et al had been living "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" (v. 14). Keep in mind that this is Paul, an ethnic Jew, speaking with Peter, an ethnic Jew, and appealing to Peter as the Jew Peter was now claiming to be once again. When Paul says, "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews," he is making a statement very much in regards to the Old Covenant law. For emphasis, Paul even contrasts that with this statement "and not sinners of the Gentiles [nations]" (v. 14). Paul is referring to the centuries of experience the Jews had with God, and how God had made the Old Covenant with them, and gave them the priesthood and the laws - which the other nations did not have (EPH. 2: 12), and were thus given over to idolatry and otherwise lawless living. So, Paul is referring to the Old Covenant laws. Paul then goes on in verse 16 to make it abundantly clear that the law, which this circumcision group was promoting so heavily, can never in any way justify even the Jews to whom it was given. Only faith in Christ can justify us from sin. There is no mixing of grace and law. It is by faith from first to last (ROM. 1: 17).
So keep everything you've read to this point in the forefront of your mind, because this next sentence is key. Paul is about to turn Peter's new outlook on its ear.
Pay attention now...

(ACT. 2: 17) "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!"

Peter and Paul and Barnabas and all of the Apostles - and indeed all who had come to Christ - had come to grace and were justified by faith in Christ. That is not to say faith AND law. NO! Law does not factor in! By miracle and by council and by the Holy Spirit they each accepted that the Old Covenant was gone and the Gentiles were brought in equally with the Jews. All were convinced that there is no longer any distinction for the faithful. All were one body in Christ (ROM. 12: 4-5). All were justified in Christ by faith alone apart from the law (ROM. 10: 4).
Thus all were living "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" - not just Peter! It was all of them!

Stay with me now...
But, if the truth of the matter was that they had all been so very wrong this whole time, and the law was required of them this whole time and the circumcision group was right this whole time, as Peter was now saying, then that makes them all flat guilty of violating the Covenant and preaching a false Gospel! Peter was saying they had the law, then died to the law, then found later that they needed the law after all. Unfortunately, that would mean they were disqualified because of their gross neglect - the lawless example of these Apostles who had been supposedly sent by Christ had made Christ himself a minister of sin! God forbid!

GOD FORBID!

Once again, Paul turns Peter on his ear:

(GAL. 2: 18) "For if I build again those things which I destroyed [reliance on the Old Covenant law], I make myself a transgressor [of that law]"

Peter lived in grace apart from the law. If he builds the law up again, he is now more guilty than ever before!

To prove that this is not the case, Paul finished off with this resounding correction of Peter's new-found "truth":

(GAL. 2: 19-21) 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

If Peter was right, and the Old Covenant law is required in the New Covenant, as the circumcision group claimed, then Christ died IN VAIN! Peter began in faith, and now vainly wanted to finish with law. Now, Paul's statements in the next chapter become clear:

(GAL. 3: 1-4) 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Peter was clearly wrong! And it was of utmost importance that Paul make this abundantly, inescapably clear to the Gentiles in Galatia who were being carried off by such a heinous example of error.

Now, let's turn our attention forward.

According to the teachings of Herbert W Armstrong, the Gospel, and therefore "the truth of the Gospel" (GAL. 2: 14), is that only a select few would keep the Sabbath and various other Old Covenant laws in order to qualify in this age to be in the 144,000 of Revelation (see Rev. 14: 1) when Christ returns to establish the "coming Kingdom of God" on earth, into which all nations would be called. That is the Gospel that Herbert W Armstrong taught. That is a Gospel of "works of law." That is the same message (sans circumcision) that the cursed group of mutilators taught. That is the same thing that carried away Peter and Barnabas into error. That is one and the very same thing that Paul was desperately fighting against in Galatia! Just like then, the law is preached but not kept. And it is every bit a false gospel today as it was then!

The Armstrongist ministers will play word games (eg. "works of law" versus "the works of the law"), rearrange sections of the Bible (eg. you need the Old Covenant to explain the New), play "blame the translator," redefine words (eg. "works" in James means "law"), practice proof texting, twist and contort scripture and logic and reason (eg. "A man is not justified by the law except through faith in Jesus Christ" [a quote from Harold Smith of the Church fo God Fellowship]), attempt to resurrect the Old Covenant bit by bit (eg. "We are modern Levites"), teach another gospel (eg. "Only those who keep the law will be saved"), and even blatantly contradict the very inspired word of God (eg. claiming that righteousness is keeping the law; but GAL. 2: 21 right there says "for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain") - all to take this very thing that Paul is pleading with Peter about, and completely undo it!
And through it all, they still do not keep the law that they preach! Everything is precisely as it was with the circumcision group that persecuted Paul!

Paul deftly shows that this viewpoint simply cannot be true. Christ is not a minister of sin. The Apostles accepted justification by faith alone, and left the Old Law where it belonged - in the past.

(GAL. 3: 10-14) 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."  11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

If, after this, you preach the law, you are again obliging yourself to keep it. If you don't keep it all - all 613, perfectly and without interruption in that perfection - then you are once again cursed and Christ's sacrifice is made void for you! Indeed the whole point of the Old Covenant period was to prove that you cannot keep it. A curse is inevitable. If it were possible to be righteous in the law, then Christ died in vain! God forbid!!

Beware of the error of the Galatians!!

(MAT. 24: 24) For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

They almost got Peter.... if it weren't for God's love through his beloved brother Paul (2 PET. 3: 15) they would have. Paul wasn't berating Peter, he was saving Peter's life.

Deeply loved by God, you who are in Armtrongism, I desperately plead with you to pray about this. If any of this rings true to you, run, don't walk, out that door. RUN, don't walk, into the arms of Jesus Christ who will completely and lastingly justify all who come to Him in faith alone, apart from the law. Run, don't walk, into the New Covenant.
The alternative, which even seemed right to some of the Apostles, is horrendous.



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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
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Sunday "Pagan" Worship

Sunday "Pagan" Worship


The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. – John 4:19-24
If the hour was coming, and now is, that people would be worshiping God in Spirit and in truth, then it was not happening prior to that time. Prior to this time/era the Jews worshiped God, but according to a formula of worship that included the details of when and where and how.

The Jews had to conform to this standard, and it became little more than religion by the numbers; a ritual followed where one's heart wasn't necessarily in it. The people would have been just going through the motions, fulfilling their religious obligations.

The new covenant swept all this away. Instead of worshiping God because one was required to do so, now people worshiped God because they truly wanted to. The formula prescribed by the old covenant law was no longer a standard that had to be followed. There is a freedom; a “Liberty” that Christians have in regards to their worship. No longer was the worship of God restricted to location, time, and form. Christians are free to worship God whenever and wherever and however they so desire.

Unfortunately, there are those who would restrict Christian's liberties and freedoms found in Christ. There are those who would insist on returning to at least some of the form of old covenant worship, while doing whatever they can think of to disparage people's new-found liberties in regards to worship. This is an attack on several fronts, and I will address each attack and expose them for what they are; shameless ridicule and an arrogance unbecoming of those who would call themselves Christian.

I will break down what they teach into claims so as to better define the issue at hand, and thereby show the fallacies behind their claims.

Claim: Sunday was/is a pagan day of the worship of the Sun. Therefore, Christians should not worship on that day. To do so is to partake in the incursion of pagan practices into Christianity.

This is an example of a class of fallacies known as: “fallacy of relevance”. One of the more common names for this particular fallacy is: “Poisoning the Well”.

There are associated claims.

Claim: Christianity adopted Sunday worship in an attempt to transfer their formerly pagan observance of Sunday to Christianity.

Furthermore, they claim early Christians were gathering on sabbaths for corporate worship, and that the move away from the sabbath and the embracing of corporate worship on Sundays constituted the apostasy of mainstream Christianity.

Claims are supposed to be accompanied by evidence. These claims are left standing alone, without Biblical support by those who espouse them. Their hope is that the claim, in and of itself, is sufficient to cast a shadow of doubt upon those who attend corporate worship on Sundays.

Claim: Sunday was/is a pagan day of the worship of the Sun. Therefore, Christians should not worship on that day. To do so is to partake in the incursion of pagan practices into Christianity.

“Sun” day is the name assigned to the first day of the week of our present calendar. We could just as easily refer to it as the “first” day of the week, or the next day after the sabbath, or, as became customary, the “Lord's day” based upon Rev. 1:10. Whether John here means the first day of the week, or the Lord's day eschatalogically is unimportant, as many early Christians made the association between the first day of the week and that day being the Lord's day, regardless of the reasoning and whether that reasoning was valid or not.

That pagans worshiped the sun is not in question. The pagan world worshiped the creation to the exclusion of the Creator. What is of note is that the pagan nations did not have a standardized calendar, let alone a standardized week. It was not until 46 B.C. that the Romans adopted a more “modern” calendar that incorporated a 7 day week. Prior to this time, the Romans had an 8 day week, and the day apparently dedicated to the worship of the sun was the second day. These two methods or forms of weeks continued side-by-side until Constantine in 321 made the 7 day week the “official” week. So, if the pagan Romans continued their pagan religious practices in relation to their 8 day week, our Sunday and the “Sunday” of the earlier, nundinal cycle week would match up only once every 8 weeks. Likewise, this “Sunday” would line up with the 7th day of the week with the same frequency; the 7th day being the sabbath.

This claim then that the first day of the week of the seven day weekly cycle was the “Sunday” of pagan sun worship loses credibility when you realize that the weekly sabbath fell on this day with the same frequency as the first day of the week did.

In the English language however, the first day of the week is named Sunday, as well as the rest of the days of the week receiving an association with paganistic deities also.

This brings us to the second claim we are covering:

Claim: Christianity adopted Sunday worship in an attempt to transfer their formerly pagan observance of Sunday to Christianity.

Kerry Wynne, in his book “Lying for God” covers this issue in great detail. This book can be accessed at: www.truthorfables.com He shows that even Dr. Bacchiocchi could not make such a claim “stick” seeing as Christians were gathering together for communal worship way too early for there to be any validity to the theory Christians were abandoning sabbath keeping in favor of pagan days and festivals.

Early Christians were gathering on Sundays for communal worship and prayers as a matter of convenience as well as the prevailing belief that, seeing as Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and there was an association in Scripture with the Son of God and the sun, with the attendant analogies of light in relation to that day from creation, this scenario is much more believable than a conclusion the Gentile Christians in their new-found faith would be so willing to sneak back to pagan days and rituals.

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. – Malachi 4:2

This whole argument that Sunday is unsuitable for Christian worship hangs on two assumptions:

1. That Christians should be gathering together on sabbaths for the purpose of communal worship, and:

2. Sundays were stolen or misappropriated by heathens for the purpose of pagan sun worship.

I would remind sabbatarian readers that the sabbath was a commanded day of rest and not corporate worship. In Leviticus chapter 23, the sabbath is referred to as a “holy convocation” however it is assumptive on the part of sabbatarians to conclude this refers to corporate worship, contrary to the context:
Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. – Leviticus 23:3
An holy convocation is a condition where the people come before God. In this case, the individual or his family are seen as being in the presence of God on that day, all day, in relation to being in their dwellings. It was time owed to God.

In the new covenant, the Christian is seen as being in God's presence always, being in receipt of the Holy Spirit.

Item 2 above unveils the nature of the claims against Sunday worship. They are accusations more than legitimate claims. They seek to sour Sunday as a corporate day of worship through a false association between Christianity and paganism solely based on a day that is a day of God's creation. God created the days, and the days are His. Neither paganism or the devil is capable of stealing a day from God and making the day contemptible for Christians or God's use. God did not relinquish His sovereignty over His creation. Even if that were possible, Jesus has already defeated Satan.

If these arguments had any real validity, what then of the sabbath? The “pagan” name associated with the sabbath is Saturn. This would imply the day was set aside for the worship of Saturn, would it not? And using the same (flawed) logic used to sour Sunday worship, could we not use the same argument to make Saturdays unsuitable for corporate worship? Indeed, no day would be suitable!

In the old covenant law, sacrifices were required of the people. But the pagans in the pagan nations practiced sacrifices also. Their sacrifices were performed for demons; they sacrificed to demons. Did pagan sacrifices result in the Israelites abandoning sacrifices because the pagans sacrificed to demons? No, yet this is precisely the same form of argument people use to claim Sundays are inappropriate for Christian corporate worship.

Those who would dare bring these false associations up in accusative claims are those who are quick to judge the intent of heart of others; something God DOES address. We are not to judge others and their relationship with God for we all have one judge we will stand before in the end.

Those who would judge others according to the day they worship God need to read through Romans chapter 14 with this in mind.


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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

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Primer to The Trinity Doctrine


This post is a sort of "The Trinity for Dummies." Only I'm not insinuating that Armstrongists are dummies. I'm of the opinion that most Armstrongists are quite bright, in fact. If they weren't, I wouldn't bother to write this post. This post is for the inquisitive Armstrongist who simply has not had the Trinity explained to them before.

I am taking a neutral stance on the Trinity doctrine. I am neither promoting nor dismissing it. I am simply explaining the basics of the Trinity. I am doing this because most Armstrongists think they know what the Trinity doctrine teaches, but in reality they only know the barest minimal of basics, and lack the genuine understanding to form a proper opinion. I think this is why we see so much "I'm agin it! It's evil!" attitude coming from Armstrongism regarding the Trinity.
Be against it if you feel you must, but for honesty's sake, please do yourself the favor of knowing what you're against.

ONE DISCUSSION IN THREE PARTS

To start, we must keep in mind that any Christian discussion regarding the nature of God must by necessity be a three-part discussion. Even within Armstrongism.

Herbert Armstrong continued to teach a version of what a theologian would call "semi-Arianism." This is what was taught to him, and that is what he passed on.
What this means is that HWA taught polytheism, where there are two distinct God Beings. The Father is a God Being, and the Son is a separate, eternal, God Being. Neither had a beginning and both have no end. The Father, however, is the greater and more powerful of the two God Beings.
This has the effect of rendering at least one of the God Beings not-infinite (you cannot have two infinite Beings, much less an infinite Being with another Being even more infinite than He - it doesn't work), at least one of the God Beings is not-omnipresent (to have two Beings means at least one is limited in location), and the Son at least is made less than omnipotent (He is less than the Father).
The Holy Spirit is believed to be simply the force (likened to electricity by analogy) and substance of God (it is what God is made up of). The Holy Spirit is not a God Being at all and has no mind or rational power to think or act on its own.

Since most of you already know this, what I want you to notice is, even if Armstrongism rejects the Trinity, there is still a discussion about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Voila! A tripartite discussion, just as I said. It is inescapable!

So, the discussion about God is a three-part discussion. That's the way it has been since Jesus' day. The early Christians were no different. There was nothing unusual about asking how these three parts relate.

MONOTHEISM

To help understand why anyone would believe in a Trinity, we take our previous three-part discussion of God, and then we add Monotheism.

Abraham, when he was first encountering God, left the idolatrous polytheistic culture of his homeland and travelled west towards the land the one and only God would show to him. This one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is not many Gods, but one. This is the God that revealed Himself to Moses(EXO. 3: 6). This same God said this as the introduction to the first of the 10 Commandments:

(DEU. 6: 4) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

All the law and all the prophets are built primarily upon this one point (MAR. 12: 29)!

I have heard Deuteronomy 6: 4 explained away by an Armstrongist minister, saying that it means "Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD alone!" This is a proper translation as far as the words go, but the meaning of the words is significantly altered by this minister. He changed it to say, "Listen to the LORD only." But why did he make this change? It is only to undo Monotheism. His semi-Arian view of two Gods makes this verse impossible to accept on face value.

The Jews have no such understanding of God. Here is what Judaism 101 has to say about the Jewish view of God:

G-d is One
One of the primary expressions of Jewish faith, recited twice daily in prayer, is the Shema, which begins 'Hear, Israel: The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd is one.' This simple statement encompasses several different ideas:
1. There is only one G-d. No other being participated in the work of creation.
2. G-d is a unity. He is a single, whole, complete indivisible entity. He cannot be divided into parts or described by attributes. Any attempt to ascribe attributes to G-d is merely man's imperfect attempt to understand the infinite.
3. G-d is the only being to whom we should offer praise. The Shema can also be translated as "The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd alone," meaning that no other is our G-d, and we should not pray to any other.

Thus, Judaism is strictly monotheistic. With the Jews being monotheists, the Christians also are monotheists. So, we can plainly see that the Armstrongists do not agree with the Jews or the mainstream Christians. A fact they are quite proud of.
That they are inescapably teaching polytheism, however, is something not too many Armstrongists like to talk about.
"The ancient idea of monotheism was shattered by the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ on earth."
-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.15
But there are more verses we should look at.

(DEU. 4: 35) To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.

(DEU. 4: 39) Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

(DEU. 32: 39) Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me

(ISA. 44: 6-8) 6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. 7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. 8 Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one."

(ISA. 5: 5) 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. 

(ISA. 43: 10-11) 10 “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior."

God is the One and Only God. There is no other. Seven times God specifically says that there is one God. Seven verses that neither the Jews nor the Christians could ignore.

The neat little box that Herbert Armstrong would like us to believe that the scripture fit into according to his teaching and his teaching alone isn't quite so neat after all. There are problems with his teachings as well.
Seven verses not found in the "Is God a Trinity?" booklet. Seven verses that George L. Johnson must ignore and wipe away in order to expound the "plain truth" of Herbert Armstrong's "strictly Biblical" doctrines.
If George L. Johnson can say "The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity," then he must explain why he holds a polytheistic doctrine which the Bible in seven places teaches openly against.
God started by commanding Moses that He is not like the many, many pagan gods - there is only one of Him. George L. Johnson comes along and in effect claims God isn't one like He said; the Godhead really is just like the many, many pagan gods after all.
"If the claims of 'this Jesus' were accepted, then in their [the Jews] minds their belief would be no different than that of the polytheistic pagans around them. If He were the Son of God, their whole system of monotheism would disintegrate."
-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.15
Even so, Herbert Armstrong has made highly irregular claims like this one:
"Only ONE God - More Than One Person!"
"One Family. God IS a Family. That Family is ONE GOD."
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Incredible Human Potential", 1978, p.62
"Likewise, there is but ONE God - but GOD is the family name, and there is more than one person in the ONE Family."
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Incredible Human Potential", 1978,p.64
So ... Armstrongism teaches monotheistic polytheism?

We have some intriguing clues that the nature of God isn't simplistic as we would like things to be.

(GEN. 1: 26) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness"

Puzzling, no?

TOUGH QUESTIONS

Armstrongists often reject the Trinity because it makes God a "closed system." "God is a family and we are to become God beings ourselves," they teach, "so if God is a Trinity then that means no more can be added." Unfortunately I find this objection unsatisfying. 
Whether God is a Trinity or a single being, no more will be added to Him in either case. Armstrongists teach that they are to become separate God beings, not God Himself. None of them are to become the Father, and none are to become the Son. So an individual Father and the Son are every bit as closed a system as a Trinity.
Trinity does not negate a family. The Orthodox church believes in Theosis and they fully accept the Trinity doctrine. So I don't see this objection as bearing any weight at all.

Armstrongists often reject the Trinity doctrine because it is an "incomprehensible mystery" (which it is) and they conclude that if one cannot understand it then it should be rejected. I beg to differ, as swapping a Triune God for a polytheistic Godhead does nothing to make God more comprehensible, it just changes the perspective a little.
God is infinite. Have you ever comprehended infinity? No finite human can truly understand the nature of an infinite God. It is simply impossible. You can study God intensely for the rest of eternity and you will never have Him completely grasped. Thus is infinity. So, whether we have Trinity or polytheism, God is inescapably an "incomprehensible mystery." The Trinity isn't the "incomprehensible mystery" the nature of God is! And that is true no matter how we choose to see Him.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand what we can. Everything in creation seems to be designed for us to search and explore and learn and grow. God is no exception (II PET. 3: 18). So, for 2,000 years, Christians have asked questions.

Since the day Jesus revealed Himself to be God, and that is precisely what the Apostles taught (JON. 1: 1-5), Christians have asked questions like this one: How do we have one and only one God given that we have a discussion in three parts?
This is not the only question by any means, but this is certainly the crux of the riddle that is God.

There is no easy answer to the nature of God. The response of the early church is that there cannot be anything but one and only one God; so therefore we must have one God in three parts.

An Armstrongist would probably wonder at this point why God has to be in three parts. An Armstrongist is used to thinking of the Holy Spirit as a force - the power and substance of God. I am not going to get into why mainstream Christianity is adamant that the Holy Spirit is also God; that is outside the scope of this post. Instead I will refer you Bill's post on the Holy Spirit for more info on that. At any rate, had the early church believed that the Holy Spirit was not also God, they would likely have concluded a Binity rather than semi-Arian polytheism. They still would have disagreed with Herbert Armstrong. God is one!
I say "likely have concluded" because the Trinity is not a doctrine that someone came up with one fine day. 

The Trinity doctrine was formed very early on when Tertullian first wrote it down in his work "Adversus Praxeas" sometime around 208 AD (some 110 +/- years before the Council of Nicea). Tertullian appears to have borrowed the language of an earlier writer, Theophilus of Antioch, who in 180 A.D. used "trias" (a Greek term of which trinity is a Latin translation) in a letter to Autolycus. The basic ideas of the doctrine, as you can see, were quite early. Hammering out the finer details, on the other hand, is an ongoing debate lasting hundreds of years, thousands of people, conference after conference and study upon study.
Over this time there have been a great number of ideas proposed about the nature of God. There have been a great deal of people who have run off after every possible tangent of ideas (there is only one God, there are two Gods, there are three Gods, God is two Persons in one Being, God is three Persons in one Being, God is this, God is that, etc, etc, etc). Who can say how things would have turned out if the early Christians hadn't accepted that the Holy Spirit is a rational God being? 
We cannot know. So, instead, keep in mind that this is a process. People have asked "what if this?" and people have answered "it cannot be that because..." or "it must be this because..." All of the answers are not in the Bible, so the clues had to be discovered. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (ISA. 28: 10).

At times the process involved compromise. At times the process involved politics. At times the process involved philosophy. At times the process took one step forward and two steps back. There was a lot of wrangling over words. There was a lot of logic. Every minutiae was explored. In a theological investigation, this is necessary.
This kind of investigation isn't unique to the early Christians, nor is it heretical (as some will no doubt claim). The Worldwide Church of God's Systematic Theology Project in the 1970's, where the leadership of the WCG gathered to study and review and determine what they believe, is the exact same sort of thing. Only rather than lasting several weeks, the Trinity investigation lasted several hundred years.

IMPORTANT CONCEPTS

One absolutely cannot move forward into an understanding of the Trinity doctrine without understanding some fundamental terms used in the doctrine. They make a world of difference! If there is any section of this post that I would say is the most important, it is this. I ask if you are to pay attention to anything that I have written here, it is this section.

BEING
The first term we need to discuss is "being." In Trinitarian theology, "being" describes what something is and what something is like. Is there a God? Then what is He composed of (if we can think of it in such simple terms)? Human beings exist, and are composed of flesh. That is what "being" deals with.

To put it in terms an Armstrongist can relate to, HWA taught that the Holy Spirit is what God is composed of, therefore the Holy Spirit is what makes up God's "being."

A monotheistic belief demands one "being." There cannot be two. If we have more than one fleshly body, then we have more than one human being. If we have more than one Spiritual body, then we have more than one God Being, and monotheism is undone. If there are two God Beings, as in Armstrongism, then we have more than one God, and thus polytheism.

Does "being" make sense now?
So, when Trinitarian theologians talk about one God being, this is what they mean. They absolutely reject the idea that there is more than one "being."

Synonyms are "nature" and "substance". At first, "being" was not synonymous with "nature," but over time they have come to mean the same thing. 

Now here is where we get into a word that scares a lot of Armstrongists because of Joe Tkach Sr's book "God Is." Theology is a form of philosophy, so, early on, words were borrowed from pagan philosophy in order to be used in theology. One such word is "ousia."
Ousia is simply a Greek word used by Aristotle to describe a thing's essence. It deals with the outer reality of a thing. In theology, "ousia" means the same thing as "being."

I should make a serious note here - simply because later generations chose to borrow phrases from philosophy to describe the Trinity, it does not mean that the Trinity doctrine is borrowed or created from pagan philosophy. They had a new idea and had no words to describe it, naturally they would borrow words. The idea of the Trinity formed among Christians before they decided to borrow any phrases. The words borrowed were also redefined to fit the uniqueness of the new concept. 
George L. Johnson would paint Athanasius as a Platonic philosopher, and an Egyptian pagan, but let's keep in mind that Athanasius was born some 80 years after Tertullian wrote about the Trinity. Debating that, however, is outside the scope of this post, but The Interactive Bible has some info for you if you're interested.

PERSON
The next term we need to discuss is "person." In theology, "person" describes the mind or rational capability of something. A brick has "being" but it has no "person."

In humans, philosophers have debated for centuries where the person begins. If you reduce your "being" by cutting off your limbs, are you less of a "person"? No. So you possess both "being" and "person" separately. The whole question of life after death involves the difference between "being" and "person." We are asking, "What happens to my 'person' after my 'being' ceases to exist?" HWA taught that the "person" ceases to function and is taken to Heaven to be with God until the "being" is resurrected. Mainstream Christianity teaches that the "person" continues to function, and is taken to Heaven to be with God until the "being" is resurrected.

Does "person" make sense now?
So, when Trinitarian theologians talk about three Gods, what they are saying is that there are three "Persons" [three minds; three centers of intelligence] in one "Being" [one body], not three separate "Persons" in three separate "Beings." Herbert Armstrong taught two separate "Persons" in two separate "Beings", so "Persons" and "Beings" are not alien to Armstrongism. There is a belief that there is one God with multiple persons. Only the definition of "one God" was not one at all, but a family of separate persons in separate beings. I refer you to the earlier quotes from Herbert Armstrong when he said this, "...and there is more than one person in the ONE Family."

Here is where we get into another word that scares a lot of Armstrongists. Again, theology borrowed a phrase from philosophy. This time the word is "hypostasis."
Hypostasis is simply a Greek word used by Aristotle to describe a thing's foundation. It deals with the inner reality of a thing. The precise theological meaning of hypostasis has been a serious bit of business over the years, but eventually it was accepted to mean the same thing as "person."

As a side note, I have seen former Armstrongists going about the Internet claiming that the Greek word "hypostasis" is a mistaken substitute for the Greek word "hupostasis", thus the Trinity is true but incorrectly understood. They claim if people would read Greek then they would know this. 
This is bunk. 
There is no valid record of this anywhere. It is entirely fabricated. Plus, the Orthodox church not only fluently read Greek but to this very day uses the same terms they did some sixteen hundred years ago and have the records to prove it. You convince them, then come and talk to the rest of us.

Back to the main idea - simply because later generations chose to borrow phrases from philosophy does not mean that the Trinity doctrine is borrowed or created from pagan philosophy. It is not.

Now that you know these definitions, you should be ready to understand Trinitarian theology. I find that a proper understanding of these words "being" (substance, nature) and "person" (mind, intelligence) is the key to a foundation in this dialog.

Before we move on, this is the cardinal rule:
You must not divide the substance (aka "being") or you will get Polytheism, and you must not confuse the persons or you will remove any difference between the Father and the Son!

Three Persons; one substance. This is the Trinity doctrine. This is the answer the early Christians came up with to explain how the Father can be God and the Son can be God and the Holy Spirit can be God, given that the scriptures are unquestioningly Monotheistic. The one and only one God is three "Persons" in one "Being."

TRINITY IN CREED

Now, having read and comprehended all of these things, you should be prepared to roughly understand the Athanasian Creed:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

CONCLUSION

As I said at the beginning, I have tried to remain neutral. I did take the opportunity to point out a few issues with Herbert Armstrong's teachings on the nature of God, specifically the "Is God a Trinity?" booklet, but I felt that was necessary in order to get people to see that this isn't a cut and dry issue they can just dismiss because they already have all the truth they will ever need.

This post is about helping people who do not understand the basics of the Trinity doctrine, not to push the Trinity doctrine. I have tried to explain how to understand the doctrine; I have not gone into whether or not anyone should accept it. I am not speaking to whether or not the Trinity is true, I am speaking about the many times I have heard the Trinity described by people like Herbert Armstrong and his ministers, or wild Internet conspiracy theorists, but that description is only partially correct.

For many years I took these "teachers" at their word and followed along, thinking I knew something about the discussion. These teachers focused on the weaknesses of the Trinity doctrine, and whitewashed the weaknesses of their own alternative (Polytheism). I felt content using infantile reasoning like, "The word 'Trinity' isn't even in the Bible." Well, the words "Bible" and "Millennium" aren't in the Bible either, so what does that prove? It proves that we were dancing around the issue! I rejected something off-hand about which I had an incorrect understanding. Even though the teaching from HWA was always vehemently anti-Trinitarian, what is worse to me is that the teaching was not accurate. If I gain for myself an accurate understanding, at least I can reject something with intellectual honesty! Once I investigated the debate on my own I began to see clearly that most Armstrongists (including myself) had barely an idea of what was being spoken about.

So I write this post, not to convince anyone to agree or disagree with the doctrine of the Trinity, but to clear up the terms used in order that people can see for themselves.
I pray that the indescribable God leads you, now armed with this knowledge, to whatever destination He wishes you to come to -- but most of all I pray that destination is the truth in His Son Jesus Christ.



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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
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reader Testimonies -- Ray


We're taking a break from polemics for a real treat. Here is a true story from a new friend of ours here at ABD, who is going by the name of "Ray." He wants to share his story with you in the hopes that you will find something to relate to, that you might be strengthened and come to share in his hope in the love of Jesus Christ. This testimony is one about overcoming the pains of the past, walking forward in faith through uncertainty, and finding your eternal home in the New Covenant.

How often do we get to do this? I'm rather excited about it. When we can we would like to share the stories of the people we have met who have stepped into the New Covenant. We've already shared our own stories, which you will find links to on the Categories page. Hopefully someone out there will be able to relate, and will find strength and peace in these experiences.
Thanks for sharing with us, Ray!



My Conversion (for real)

I have posted on other blog sites such as Facebook and ExitSupportNetwork (who has since deleted anything I've posted) my story of how I journeyed through Armstrongism into saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Mine is a story of years of my childhood going from obeying the "law" because it was the law of the house, to trying to prove myself before God, to total surrender. Here's how it went for me.

As I stated elsewhere, after having been baptized as a baby in the Catholic church and receiving my first communion in the second grade, and attending CCD classes up to that time, life was fairly normal for a young boy from a French-Catholic family from New England. Prayers were recited at the family altar weekly and nightly I remember saying the "Our Father" (Lord's Prayer) and the "Hail Mary" in French yet! I didn't even know what it meant in English! But I did it.

But then one day in 1971 it was announced that we would be soon entering a different church, the "one true church" without which there would be no hope. We would have to drive an hour away to get to this church every week as opposed to our Catholic parish that was within walking distance of our house. I was told birthdays and just about all holidays would never again be celebrated in our house. We would have to alter our diets to exclude certain meats that had been family favorites. We would also be required to strictly observe Saturday as the day of worship and attend annual feast days and the TV would be shut off at sunset every Friday. (that one hurt) But on the bright side, I would no longer be going for my every other week allergy shots that I hated getting from that nasty pediatrician. These became the regular practices but not without some "minor things" that would happen.

Weekly sabbath gatherings with the brethren became all out drinking parties laden with the worst gossip about other "church members" that I have not seen rivaled to this day. My mother and brother came close to death from lack of medical treatment. And I even contemplated suicide for some time during at age 11. Beatings from my father were severe, and necessities like food and clothing became scarce at times because of the "triple tithe" system. I also was dragged two hours away from home to holy day services with a raging fever more than once. And unfortunately, this was all too common with "child survivors" like myself.

But alas, one fateful sabbath in 1976 (I was 12) a strange thing happened, on our drive home from "services" Dad was infuriated by what came out of the pulpit. It seemed the minister had declared himself the ultimate authority and told the congregation if they didn't like what he said "there's the door, and if one's not big enough, use both!" It was all downhill from there. My folks started to read the Bible on their own and made many startling discoveries that many reading this already have as well. At first I wasn't sure what to make of all of it. Our last year in the WCG was curious to say the least. That summer, Dad had announced that the upcoming feast would be our last. I was actually crushed because that was the only traveling we ever did at that point. But that last feast was by far the best ever. We only attended 5 of the 13 mandatory services. We did some traveling and took a drive down from the Poconos to the Dutch country and did some sightseeing and even went to "Chocolate World" in Hershey. We still have the home movies from that event now on DVD! Although I was still concerned about traveling coming to an end with the feasts, but when Dad quit tithing that summer, he celebrated by taking us to an amusement park, first time since we had entered the WCG. What fun that was. But I was still nervous. Although I knew things were going from bad to worse with Dad's relationship with the church, the friends that I had there were the only friends I really had. If we left, then what? Another church was never an option when leaving was speculated. So I was enjoying doing some breathing again, but was somewhat nervous about what the future held. Maybe I can post some stories in the future about how my folks kept getting into trouble that last year by speaking their minds! Some stories are quite humorous. We actually left right after "unleavened bread", even though we didn't observe it. We did attend the first sabbath service on the last day but didn't return for the second. (it was one of those first and last day falling on Saturday deals)

When we left in 1977, we joined a newly formed "offshoot group" with other disgruntled members from our congregation that had also left a couple months earlier. When they formed this group a before we actually left, I wanted us to join them as well. I had known most of the people there since day one, and most of them had kids my age, even though, they were all girls. This newly formed group claimed to have rejected Armstrongism, claiming to believe in grace. But in reality, they kept much of the WCG teachings in tact minus the holy days, the triple tithe, and British-Israelism. Our leader wanted the group to join the Church of God Seventh Day, but was voted down. He did purchase new hymnals from them for our group and that started me on a love for Protestant hymns.

But a couple real turning points happened that following year in the offshoot. The first for me was when Dad brought a book in the house that changed my life. It was Dr. Walter Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults". I started reading some of the book. I was intrigued. Although I thought at the time his arguments for the Trinity and the hereafter were unconvincing, I was able to focus on salvation by grace and what that meant. Another turning point was that year in my freshman year of high school. I took a Western Civilization class. In the spring we arrived at the topic of the Reformation and the story of Martin Luther. I then learned that much of what the reformers originally taught was very much based on scripture and that the Protestant churches were not necessarily "satanic counterfeits" that they were still being categorized as by members of our offshoot.

This all absolutely intrigued me, and it all got me studying the Bible. Dad had just given me a "Good News" Bible of my own, so I began really searching. My search was two-fold, first to understand the way of salvation, second to get back at WCG. It gave me great pleasure to prove them wrong. As time went on while still in the offshoot group, I changed my mind about the Trinity (of which I was ahead of my parents on that one), the existence of an eternal soul, and about the sabbath (again I beat my folks on that one). We had returned to eating whatever we liked and celebrating as many holidays as we liked, even though most in the offshoot looked down on us for doing so. I also was praying regularly. The offshoot by this time, a couple years later, was fizzling fast. So instead, I was l trying to get my "doctrine" correct and focusing on that. But something was missing, what could it have been?

I then realized, of course, I had to go to church! A real church, on Sunday, like everybody else! That would do it. Eventually we tried a non-denominational church about 10 minutes away, and at first I loved it. But alas, the love affair was short-lived. The emptiness and uncertainty returned. "What am I doing wrong???" I would look up and shout. I was ready to forget the whole thing at that point.

But at that time, I started hearing something I had never heard before. I continued to read Christian magazines that Dad had subscribed to (Moody Monthly, and Christianity Today) and listened to Christian radio and watched Billy Graham crusades and the 700 Club. I began hearing about "accepting Jesus into your heart", asking Him into your life, surrendering to Him. I thought, "what, are they crazy?" and "it couldn't be THAT easy!". I wrestled with this for months until one day I was riding my bike through town and the thought finally set into me that if I were to die that night, I wasn't sure if I would go to heaven or not! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to prove myself, and if this accepting Jesus in didn't work, then what???

But finally one night at my bedside, I finally gave in. Instead of my normal prayers of a list of petitions, I asked Jesus into my heart and life. Nothing dramatic happened, I crawled into bed and went to sleep. But as the weeks went on, I noticed something different, a peace that I had not had before, a sense of a presence that had been missing previously. I felt joy, and I didn't really know what was happening to me. It took a few weeks for me to really grasp what was happening because during that time I had stopped going to the church I had went to previously with my parents (not the offshoot, the one afterwards) and had started attending a fairly liberal church, that didn't preach much of anything. But I realized what happened when I came across John 5:24 and read that he who believes (present tense) has passed (past tense) from death to life. I then realized what happened, I had been granted eternal life by the Lord Jesus Christ Who died in my place. I later found a gospel-preaching church that nourished me in my very young walk with the Lord.

That was 30 years ago. I have since experienced college, many friends, marriage, parenthood, unemployment, family struggles, church boards, you name it! But in all the good and the bad, Jesus has never left me. Oh, there have been times where it seemed He wasn't, but I later found out, He was closer than I could have even imagined.

I hope my story has been a help to someone reading this. I hope this helps anyone on the fence who has been burned by Armstrongism. There is a God! He loves all of us and desires each one of us in His Kingdom which is now by faith in the future by sight. Don't let a false teacher hinder you from Christ's love for you.



Awesome testimony, Ray. This truly demonstrates that justification is a journey, doesn't it? Thank you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rome's Challenge


I would like to discuss "Rome's Challenge." No doubt you've heard of it.

Back in September 1893, one James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, approved a four-piece article for his personal newsletter, the Catholic Mirror. The title was "the Christian Sabbath."


In these articles we find someone who designs to represent the Roman Catholic Church thumping their chest against Protestantism by claiming that Sunday is the Christian day of worship by sole authority of the Catholic Church, thus all Protestantism has no reason to observe Sunday except by authority of the Catholic Church alone. Therefore, they might as well return to Saturday worship. This has taken on the name "Rome's Challenge."

I see a lot of the Rome's Challenge these days. It seems as if every Armstrongist must have been issued a copy, along with talking points. [Why was I never issued a copy??] It is often used in a passive-aggressive attack, to accuse me of following the pagan sun-worship of the Nimrod-Pope in Rome. Here is a sample comment: "The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church takes great credit in establishing Sunday (yes, in the 3rd century)".

This is nothing new. Sermons and articles during my whole time in the Worldwide Church of God were peppered by references to it. Second only, perhaps, to references to the Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition. Since the time it was written, the Adventists have taken to Rome's Challenge with a special fondness.

Truth be told, what Archbishop Gibbons allowed to be published does not exactly match with the official catechism of the Catholic Church. And if it doesn't mesh with the Catechism, then it doesn't mesh with the Magesterium of the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not support Sabbath observance. Telling Protestants to return to Saturday observance is tantamount to telling them to leave the New Covenant. And to top it off, crucial details are being conveniently left out  that you should know about.

I want to divert over to a little history lesson, and then I would like to introduce you to someone I hope you'll enjoy.

IMPORTANT HISTORY

If you're new here, you might be dumbfounded to learn that the term "catholic" was used since the early second century or perhaps earlier. Our first-known written record of the word comes from Ignatius of Antioch, student of the Apostle John:

"...wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church" 
-Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrneans 8: 2 (circa A.D. 110).

There is no solid reason to believe that this term was coined by Ignatius; it was likely already coming into use. The word catholic simply means "universal", or in other words "worldwide". All Gentile Christians, in the east and in the west, came to use this as a general "nick name" for the Christian faith.

But one absolutely, positively must not confuse the phrase "catholic church" with the proper name "Catholic Church". There was no Bishop in Rome holding an office with the power, authority, and trappings that we would recognize as Pope until after the third century. Pope, meaning "papa", was a term used of all Deacons, Presbyters, and Bishops until the Bishops declared it would only apply to them. Each city had a Bishop presiding over it, and it eventually developed that the more prestigious the city, the more authority the Bishop of that city - so the Bishop of Rome naturally inherited the most authority among the Bishops with the Bishop of Alexandria and then the Bishop of Antioch close behind. When Constantine moved the capital of Rome to the previously unimportant Byzantium (aka Constantinople, now it's Istanbul), this upset the hierarchy in the church and caused a huge division between east and west. The Bishop of Rome didn't want to lose his prestige, so alliances were made and power was concentrated in Rome. The claim of the Bishop of Rome's unbroken ordination from the Apostle Peter now gained the forefront (and there is documentation, attested to by several early sources, demonstrating a nearly unbroken line). This arrangement evolved until the first person who could arguably be described as the first "Pope" of any real power was Leo I "the Great" (440-461 AD). One could say the seeds of the modern Catholic Church were not planted at all before this time. I'm not saying the Catholic Church did not exist before this time - it did exist from 33 AD as a unified church with the Orthodox and Coptics; I am saying that the way the "Roman" Catholic Church is perceived today did not exist before this time. In fact, the Latin West was still very much taking a back seat to the Greek East during these centuries. The first Pope to truly wield power in a religious and ecclesiastical sense was Pope Nicholas "The Great" I (858-867 A.D.). Nicholas the Great was the first of the kind of Pope most people think of when they envision a powerful Medieval Pope. This is about the time the seeds of the modern Catholic Church began to sprout, and a division truly began to form between East and West. These divisions would never be healed, however. Finally, in 1054 A.D., the unified catholic church formally split in two, with the eastern churches taking on the name "Orthodox Catholic Church" and the western churches taking on the name "Catholic Church" (commonly called "Roman Catholic Church"). The modern Catholic Church was born. And the infamous doctrine of Papal Infallibility was not formally declared until Vatican I in 1870 A.D..

Why all this boring history stuff? 
Because if we didn't go through this history, we wouldn't be able to see that the Bishop of Rome didn't have the authority to declare a change from Saturday to Sunday, nor would we be able to see that there was no official [Roman] Catholic Church proper until after 1054 A.D. so they did not change Saturday to Sunday.
What's so important about that? 
It's important because now we can see that the entire premise of Adventism's use of Rome's Challenge is that Saturday was exchanged for Sunday on authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and that simply is not possible. 

I find it terribly convenient that Armstrongists accuse the Catholic Church of being filled with little more than the most untrustworthy and pagan liars..... except when they print something inadvertently favorable to Armstrongism; then they're all of a sudden the most trustworthy people on earth. When the Catholic Church has the story straight (which it quite often does), they are called liars. But when it is to the advantage of Herbert Armstrong, that is when they are adamantly accused of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But that isn't quite enough information to get the full picture. You see, in the mind of the Catholic Church, they are telling the truth. What I'm about to say is critical, so please read this twice. 
One must keep in mind that, according to Catholic doctrine, their church was started on that Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first sent to men, and they consider Peter their first Pope. Ergo the Apostles, as with all Christians, were Catholic.
Without understanding this absolutely vital bit of information you cannot possibly understand Cardinal Gibbons position in Rome's Challenge. Nor can you hope to avoid bearing false witness should you represent the Challenge to others. And I for one know that you are quite concerned with truth and accuracy or you wouldn't be here.

Building upon our last point, it is also important for you to understand that the official Catholic doctrine states that it was none other than the Apostles themselves who declared the Sabbath Command to be non-binding on Christians, and set up Sunday observance as a tradition (a position with which we at ABD tend to agree). The Catholics do not claim the Pope in the third century changed Saturday to Sunday; they claim the Apostles did. Since it was the Apostles who did this, and since the Catholic Church claims to be unbroken since that time (a position with which we at ABD tend to disagree, on technicalities) we now see why the Catholic Church claims it was on their authority that this thing occurred. To them, the Apostles were the first of the Catholic Church!

The fact is, someone on Archbishop Gibbons' staff had a bone to pick with the Protestants, and mis-used the Catholic Mirror as a bully-pulpit to undermine all Protestantism (this was still fashionable in some circles, since it was yet the Counter-Reformation age). Rather than seeking to heal wounds and find peace, they inadvertently made the problem worse. Adventists take advantage of this, and take advantage of our own ignorance in not knowing the details, and they paint a perfectly distorted picture in order to disparage anyone who goes to church on Sunday.

To clear this mess up a bit, I would like to introduce someone to you.

INTRODUCING D. M. CANRIGHT

Mr. Dudley Marvin Canright lived from 1840 to 1919. Twenty two years of his life were dedicated as a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was as familiar with Adventism as anyone could be. This is relevant to the Worldwide Church of God because the SDA church is a direct ancestor of the WCG. I think if you took some time to get to know Mr. Canright, you would be shocked at how the SDA church in the 19th century was making many of the very same arguments as the WCG did in the 20th century -- including Rome's Challenge!

I would like to paste here, for your reading enjoyment, an excerpt from Mr. Canright's 1915 book entitled "The Lord's Day From Neither Catholics nor Pagans: An Answer to Seventh-Day Adventism on this Subject" [which I found on truthorfables.com]. This book concentrates on answering Adventists regarding Rome's Challenge. One could say the book answers "The Adventists Challenge." In my opinion, he more than answers that challenge, he decimates it! I highly recommend reading the whole book.

These excerpts I paste here, from Chapter IV. "CATHOLICS LOCATE THE CHANGE OF THE SABBATH BACK WITH THE APOSTLES", have to do with the history of the Catholic Church, and why they claim to have been the ones to change Saturday to Sunday. I think this is important because it is not new, it will clear up the Roman Catholic view on a few things, and it makes plain the outright deception and mangling of facts still being employed after nearly a century.


In 1913 Monsignor John Bunyan was the special representative of the Pope in America. Next to the Pope, he was then the highest official authority of that Church in the United States, and what he says is authoritative. "Why Sunday is the First Day" was the title of an article he furnished the Washington Times, October 11, 1913. He says: "In the New Law the time for the fulfillment of this [Sabbath] obligation was changed by the apostles from the Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week, to Sunday, or the first day of the week, primarily to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, early in the morning on the first day of the week, arose, glorious and triumphant, from the dead. Hence it is that in Scripture, the first, day of the week is called the 'Lord's Day' (Rev 1:10). It was also on this same day of the week that the Holy Ghost came down upon the apostles, and that the faith and law of Christ was for the first time solemnly published to the world by them."  

On this the Advent Review and Herald, October 23, 1913, says:

"As we read this article we should not forget that we are reading the deliberate declaration of the highest official in America of that Church which claims to reach back to Apostolic days."  

Here, then, by the highest authority deliberately stated, is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as to who changed the Sabbath and the time when it was done. It was done by the apostles, in the time of the apostles. All Seventh-Day Adventists certainly know this, for it was published by the editor in their official organ, The Advent Review. Now will they cease teaching that the Catholic Church claims to have changed the Sabbath several hundred years after Christ without Apostolic authority? Remember again the question here is not whether the apostles really did make the change, but what does the Catholic Church claim about it? The papal delegate has settled that.  

Cardinal Gibbons comes next in authority. I wrote him with regard to when his Church began and when the day was changed. Here is the answer:

Baltimore, Md., July 1896 
REV. D. M. CANRIGHT,

Dear Sir: In reply to your favor of the 20th inst., to his Eminence the Cardinal, I beg to say:

First. The Catholic Church dates back to the day when our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Church, and when St. Peter established, first at Antioch, then at Rome, the seat of his residence and jurisdiction.

In these days and those immediately following, we find traces of the beginning of the custom of the Sunday observance. You may refer to the Christian writers of that period. (Confer Ignatius ad Magnes, 9; Justin Martyr, 1, Apol. 59; Tertul., Apol. 16.) All these writers speak of the Sunday as the Lord's Day; no other more distinct trace has been preserved, and the mention which occurs in the following centuries rests on the fact of a previous custom more or less general.

C. T. THOMAS, Sect.  

It will be seen that the Cardinal locates the introduction of the Lord's Day at the beginning of the Church with St. Peter.  

After the Cardinal, the next highest dignitary in America is Archbishop Ireland. In answer to my question as to when the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath, this high prelate answered as follows:

St. Paul, March 1914

My dear Sir:

In answer to your question I would state that the Jewish Sabbath was simply a positive precept in the Mosaic law and lapsed with that law. The apostles and early Christians instituted the Sunday as a day of special prayer in honor of the great mysteries of the Christian religion, the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, both occurring on the first day of the week.

Very sincerely, 
JOHN IRELAND.  

That is clear, positive, and directly to the point. Here is another high Catholic authority, "The Catholic Encyclopedia on Doctrine," Article, "Sunday": "Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning time, but for the Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in apostolic times as the day set apart for the public solemn worship of God" (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). The same Encyclopedia, Article, "Sabbath," says: "St. Paul enumerates the Sabbath among the Jewish observances which are not obligatory on Christians (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:9-10; Rom. 14:5). The Gentile converts held their religious meetings on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), and with the disappearance of the Jewish Church, with the Christian Churches the day was exclusively observed as the" Lord's Day."  

Notice that Catholics quote the same texts as Protestants do to indicate the change. They trace its origin to the New Testament the same as we do and thus claim Scripture authority for it. It will be seen that all these high Catholic authorities agree in locating the change in the days of the apostles and by the apostles.  

The following is from "The Catholic Dictionary, the Universal Christian Educator, Containing Doctrine of the Church," by Rev. Wm. A. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A.M., both of the Royal University of Ireland. Endorsed by Cardinal Manning and Cardinal McClosky. There could be no better Catholic authority. Now read, Article, "Sunday": "The precept of observing the Sabbath was completely abrogated in the Christian Church. In commemoration of Christ's resurrection, the Church observes Sunday. The observance does not rest on any positive law, of which there is no trace. Sunday is of merely ecclesiastical institution, dating however from the time of the apostles. Such is the opinion of St. Thomas. The Scripture given above (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10) shows that the observance of Sunday had begun in the apostolic age; but even were Scripture silent, tradition would put the point beyond doubt."  

I quote all these to show only one point; viz., the time when Catholics claim the change was made by the Church. They all say it was made by the apostles. No other date is given or suggested.  

Now read the written testimony of two Catholic priests:

TESTIMONY OF A CATHOLIC PRIEST

"Having lived for years among the Seventh-Day Adventists, I am familiar with their claims that the Pope of Rome changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. Such assertions are wholly unfounded. Catholics claim no such thing; but maintain that the apostles themselves established the observance of Sunday and that we received it by tradition from them. The councils and Popes afterwards simply confirmed the keeping of the day as received from the apostles."

JOHN MEILER, 
Rector of St. John's Church, Healdsburg, Cal.  

The following statement I drew up, and read to a leading Catholic priest of Grand Rapids, Mich., who readily signed it, as will be seen below:

"The Catholic doctrine of the change of the Sabbath is this: The apostles, by instruction from Jesus Christ, changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost, both of which occurred on Sunday. The change was made by the apostles themselves, and hence by divine authority, at the very beginning of the Church. There are references to this change in Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Rev. 1:10, etc. Yet these texts do not state positively such a change; hence Catholics go to the statements of the early Christian Fathers, where this change by the apostles is confirmed and put beyond doubt. Catholics also rely upon the tradition of the Church which says that the change was made by the apostles. Catholics never teach that the change of the day was made by the Church two or three hundred years after Christ. Such a statement would be contrary to all the facts of history and the traditions of the Church.  

"The Holy Catholic Church began with the apostles. St. Peter was the first Pope. Hence, when they say that the Church changed the Sabbath, they mean that it was done by the Church in the days of the apostles. Neither the Church nor the Pope, two or three hundred years after the apostles, had anything whatever to do with changing the Sabbath, for the change had been made ages before. Catholics do not call the first day of the week the Sabbath, for that was Saturday; but they call it Sunday, or the Lord's Day.  This above statement by Rev. D. M. Canright is true and pure Catholic doctrine."

Rev. James C. Pulcher, Pastor of St. James' Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.  

See how all these Catholic authorities agree. Now come to the catechisms which Adventists are so fond of quoting. This is from a " Systematic Study of the Catholic Religion." It is the one used by all students in the Catholic High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. On page 294 I read, "The Church from the time of the apostles has changed the Sabbath into the Lord's Day." In the Advent book, "Who Changed the Sabbath?" page 9, the following is quoted from the "Catholic Christian Instructed."

"Quest. What are the days which the Church commands to be kept holy?

"Ans. The Sunday, or our Lord's Day, which we observe by apostolic tradition instead of the Sabbath."  

You see this catechism refers the change of the Sabbath back to the apostles the same as all other Catholic writers do. The Church did this in the time of the apostles, just as all Protestants teach. Here follows another from the same catechism:

"Quest. What warrant have you for keeping the Sunday, preferable to the ancient Sabbath, which was the Saturday?

"Ans. We have for it the authority of the Catholic Church, and apostolic tradition."  

Here we are again referred right back to the apostles as before.

I will close this testimony of the Catholics with the following from a "Mission Priest." These are priests of the very highest education and influence. Their "mission" is to go from city to city in all the states to their great church centers and give a course of lectures on Catholic doctrines to both Catholics and non-Catholics. They are the best educated and best posted priests in that Church. So what they teach is of the highest character and reliable as expressing Catholic doctrines. I have obtained from my next door neighbor (a Catholic family whose daughter attends the Catholic High School here) the following book: "A Full Course of Instruction in Explanation of the Catechism," by Rev. J. Perry, edited and adapted to the present wants of Colleges, Academies, and Private Families, by a priest of the Mission. It is endorsed by the Archbishop of St. Louis, Mo.  Notice that this is the authority studied in families, high schools, colleges, and academies. Is there any better witness? Now read: "Third [Sabbath] commandment. Its obligation transferred from Saturday to Sunday." "What day of the week is the seventh day or Sabbath Day?" "It is Saturday." "Then why do we not keep Saturday holy?" " Because the Church in the apostles' time transferred the obligation from the seventh to the first day of the week." "Why was this done?" "In honor of Jesus Christ, and therefore the first day of the week is called the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10). It was on the first day of the week (or Sunday) that Christ rose from the dead; that He commissioned His apostles to teach all nations; that He empowered them to forgive sins; that He sent down upon them the Holy Ghost; it was on this day that the apostles began to preach the doctrines of Christ and to establish the Christian religion "(pages 168-169).  

Here it will be seen that the Catholics use exactly the same arguments for the change of the day that all Protestants do, and locate the change at the same date, in the time of the apostles and by the apostles.  

But do not the catechism and Catholic writers, when controverting Protestants, assert that the "Holy Catholic Church" changed the day? Certainly, but they also claim that the Catholic Church began with the apostles who changed the day. Do not Adventists know this? Yes. Why, then, do they not tell the whole facts in the case? Let them answer.  

Consider the high Catholic authorities quoted on this subject - the Council of Trent; the papal delegate, Cardinal Gibbons; Archbishop Ireland; the Catholic Encyclopedia; the Catholic Dictionary; written statements of priests; and the teachings of the catechism. All agree that the change in the day was made by the apostles. Beyond dispute, this establishes the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the origin of the Lord's Day. Not a single Catholic authority can be quoted teaching that the change of the Sabbath was made by the Popes or by the Papacy centuries later. That is purely an invention of Seventh-Day Adventists. Here, then, is the testimony of two hundred and fifty million Roman Catholics, all agreeing that the observance of Sunday as the Lord's Day originated with the apostles. Now if Adventists quote the Catholics, then let them abide by their testimony.  

Now read "Rome's Challenge," "Father Enright's Challenge," and a lot of other Catholic "challenges," which Adventists gleefully gather up and endorse and peddle the world over as unanswerable. Read them very carefully and notice particularly that not one of these Catholic "challenges" ever locates the time when the "Catholic Church" made the change. In all these "Challenges" they adroitly leave this point out, and presume on the ignorance of the general public, which supposes that the Catholic Church began centuries after Christ. Then Adventists take advantage of this popular idea of the Catholic Church and locate the change about 300 years after Christ. Such deception is unworthy of Christian teachers.

Now, if you've made it this far, I applaud you. I also hope that this clears up a few things.

It is my assertion that one cannot hold up Rome's Challenge and say "Look! It's true! The Catholics even admit it." Then turn right around and deny the very reason why the Catholics make that claim. If we are to say Rome's Challenge is true, and the Catholics instituted Sunday, then it follows one must say the very reason why the Catholic Church makes this claim is also true - which means one admits the Apostles instituted Sunday as a day of worship, and the Catholic Church is as old as it claims to be - as this is what the Catholic Church is actually saying when they make Rome's challenge, which Armstrongists say is true. You can't have one without the other.

In closing, I would like to quote Canright regarding the ongoing distortion of facts: 
"Why, then, do they [the Armstrongists who perpetuate the distortions] not tell the whole facts in the case? Let them answer."

Indeed!


************ 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
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