Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On a Personal Note - Why We Do What We Do

We've noticed that a number of people have been checking out the “About ABD” section lately. It seems a few of you out there wondering who we are, what we're doing and why we're doing it. Fair questions.

As Bereans Did is a collaborative blog that examines the teachings of the Church of God movement, often called “Armstrongism” after its founder, Herbert W Armstrong. God called the writers out of the Churches of God and, as folks who have been on both sides of the fence, we feel uniquely qualified to address many doctrinal issues from a standpoint that many who've spent their entire lives in mainstream Christianity cannot. We try to offer a respectful, Christian perspective, in contrast with many other ex-COG blogs. Although we do enjoy us some sarcasm.

The following are NOT some of the reasons we run this blog:

We like to make fun of the COGs and its members. While some of the COGs doctrinal wranglings are amusing, for the most part, we try to attack ideas, not people. Sometimes it's hard to separate the two, and there are some people who, well, you know... many of them are probably the reason you found us in the first place. But we believe that all of us – you, me, Rod Meredith, Jim Franks, Victor Kubik and, yes, even Dave Pack – were made in God's image; that Jesus died for all of us, and that all are worthy of respect.

We think you believe you are earning your salvation. We know that most of you absolutely do NOT believe this. We know most of you feel  that your behavior absolutely does not merit you salvation. A carrot-and-stick salvation is the logical conclusion of the belief system you've been handed, but over the years, cognitive dissonance on these teachings have made things very, very muddy. We'd be lying if we said we weren't concerned about your eternal destiny. The Bible has strong words for those who add to the gospel. Is the responsibility with the teacher? Does God honor the faith of the listener? These are questions we are glad are above our pay grade.

We think you intentionally are following a man. We focus so much on Herbert Armstrong precisely because many of you believe you do not follow him. At this point in the COG movement, you're so far removed from HWA that you're learning from men who were taught by men who followed a man. You can't understand where you've arrived are unless you understand where you were, or more accurately, where past generations came from.

We are bitter people who hate HWA. Actually, some of us are young enough that we barely remember Herbert Armstrong. We're not thrilled what what his false teachings have wrought in our families, and we fear for his soul, but there's no deep-seated loathing on my part.

We think everyone in the COGs are dumb and/or bad people. Don't forget, we were with you. We WERE you. We have come to understand the New Covenant only by the calling and grace of God. We know you are genuine, sincere, thinking people who are trying your best to live in a way that pleases your Creator.

So then, why do we run this blog? In short, because of you.

We care about you. There's no doubt that relations are frequently strained between those who leave the COGs and those who remain. Many of us left without saying good-bye, because we wanted to avoid the inevitable arguments. We know what's said about us, to our faces or behind our backs - because we said those things about others. We know we are judged harshly for some of our choices - because we judged others harshly. We often keep our distance, and that's easy to do since we no longer share Sabbath or festival fellowship time. But you are our friends and family, and we care about you.

We want to “pay it forward.” Those who went before us – sometimes those whom we talked about and judged harshly – helped us negotiate our questions and confusion. We know you think we “took the easy way out,” but in reality, there's nothing easy about this road. Coming out of a controlling, restricted religious environment is difficult, and asking questions in such a place is often an invitation for abuse and harassment. It can feel like there's no one to talk to, nowhere to turn. Without these people, we would have felt stranded and alone. But someone was there for us, and we want to do the same for those who will come after us.

We know how it feels. This is a frustrating time to be a COG member. Splits and financial crises are coming more and more frequently. Almost as frequently as open letters from young COG members  pleading for unity among the divided groups. It's maddening to have your support system, your friends and your family torn apart each time the ministry decides they are no longer “pleased to dwell” and must separate for the sake of all that is Holy. If you're reading this blog, then either you or someone you know is discouraged with the state of the COGs. We are thankful that the drama no longer affects us, but we are still grieved to see it happen to you. True, Jesus did come to turn father against son, daughter against mother. We must “hate” our own family and our own lives by comparison to our dedication to God. But is what we see today really what Jesus meant?

We want you to have the joy, peace and rest of the New Covenant. Even at the height of the Worldwide Church of God's success, it was not a happy place. Feelings of impending doom as the end approaches. Strife that naturally accompanies legalism. Worry that you won't be good enough to “make it.” These are discouraging, demoralizing feelings that can paralyze you, rather than live the abundant life Jesus came and died for you to have.

Life as a Christian, mainstream or otherwise, is not all sunshine and lollipops. In fact, much of the New Testament is devoted to teaching Christians how to conduct themselves when life is less than ideal. But there is joy in knowing that my salvation and my righteousness are found in Him. This security does not give license to sin, but rather affords peace and rest in Christ rather than a lifetime of worry and doubt. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

Here's the bottom line: we don't care if you never, ever eat a bite of pork. It seems to have worked out OK for Peter. We don't care if you prefer to worship on Saturday, although we wish you understood how the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ. Many churches – even mainstream Christian ones – offer Saturday options. We find the Holy Days distasteful and wish you'd embrace the reality of their fulfillment in Christ rather than their shadows. But we know you find some of our practices distasteful, too, like Christmas and Easter. On that note, we wish you'd see their significance and examine their real, historical roots rather than the fabricated ones Herbert Armstrong and Alexander Hislop handed you. But in the end, that's not what we really want for you.

What we want for you is to quit living in fear and despair. Despair about your future – and your children's future - in this dying religious community. Fear that leaving will land you in the Lake of Fire. Fear that, even if you stick with it, you won't be good enough to “make it.” Spoiler alert: you won't.  That's kind of the whole point of salvation by faith through grace.

Bottom line, if the COGs are right about your eternal destiny and how to achieve it, then it's all worth it. But what if they're not? Would that change your answer?

We don't believe it has to be this way. We believe God wants more for you. Hear us out. That's all we ask.

That's why we do what we do.

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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