Sunday, September 9, 2018

Overcoming and the Feast of Trumpets

As the Churches of God are celebrating the Feast of Trumpets, I'm sure there will be plenty of COG critics who make a big deal about the fact that this day is never even mentioned in the New Testament.

I won't be one of them.

Sure, if you want to get technical, it isn't. The epistles do make passing references to the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and the Day of Atonement. But, despite NT references to trumpets and resurrections and Jesus' return, poor old Rosh Hashanah itself doesn't even get a mention.

But that's ok. I don't really care. Because today, I don't want to argue about whether the COGs are correct about what the Feast of Trumpets pictures, or how it will play out. I don't plan to debate Heaven versus soul sleep. For the purposes of this discussion, let's just assume you're right. Because, at the end of the day – or really, the End of Days – you and I basically share the same hope: that Jesus Christ will return, that the dead in Christ will rise, and that we will be numbered among the saints in God's family. 

Paul gives us the basis for this hope in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

No matter what our differences, this victory over death is our common hope. So how can we be sure we will "make it"? How can we make sure we have overcome? That we'll be there? This is the real question, the real important point of discussion. Many Feast of Trumpets sermons - and really, a good number of messages - come back to in the COGs. They seem to be pretty certain we must DO something, although they tell us in different ways:

The United Church of God, for example, soberly calls us to action:
"Think about this in regard to this festival, this holy day, and this assemblage. Every day in our life, there should be the sounding of a symbolic trumpet of urgency for us to live for God, developing a relationship with God, preparing for that time when we will be changed at the sounding of a trumpet, and our bodies changed from mortal to immortality, as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection chapter". (Beyond Today: Feast of Trumpets: An Urgency to Live for God Everyday, Darris McNeely, September 11, 2015)

The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, reminds us that failure is not an option - but not quite how the Bible teaches it (and I'm still waiting for them to explain me how to "use" the Holy Spirit like a pressure washer or something):  
"God did not call us to fail. When we repent and die with Christ through baptism, we begin a new life—a life fueled by the Holy Spirit, the power of God. There’s a lifetime of work ahead of us as we strive to put out sin and grow in righteousness, but thanks to the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it’s work we can accomplish." (, The Plan of God, Day 3: The Power to Overcome.)

The Living Church of God invokes Herbert W Armstrong, founder of the COG movement, in their current literature to deliver subtle, thought-provoking ultimatums: 
"Repeatedly Jesus warned us to watch, regarding His second coming! Could it be possible that, unless we are observing the Feast of Trumpets, as the first-century Church of God was observing Pentecost, that we shall not be ready, or caught up to meet Him? We do not—we cannot, of course, say; but we do ask the question. Is it not possible? Let us humbly and willingly yield to walk obediently in all the light.” (Herbert W Armstrong, Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which? , p. 34.)

And the Philadelphia Church of God hands us not-so-subtle ultimatums: 
“We can’t carelessly relegate the Feast of Trumpets to just another day to give an offering and then get on with the fast to sort of punish ourselves before the “fun” starts at the Feast of Tabernacles. If we allow ourselves to drift into that contemptuous attitude, then we will not be accounted worthy to escape His wrath at His coming! (Luke 21:35-36). He won’t count us worthy to be born into His Family.” (Remember the Feast of Trumpets, and God Will Remember You! John Amos, Philadelphia Church of God, 1992). 

Regardless of which COG flavor you choose, the same underlying message comes through loud and clear: you must be doing something, the right something, and keep doing it correctly until you're done. Granted, they never tell you exactly WHAT that something is, or how well you must do it, or how long you must do it. 

Thankfully, the Bible DOES tell us how this victory over death comes, though it isn't through what WE do. Not surprisingly, it comes just a few verses after Paul's description of the resurrection:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:57. 

Wait, what? 

Let me rephrase that without the complicating commas and clauses. 

God gives us the victory. 

We do not secure it ourselves, through works:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  - Titus 3:4-6

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  - Ephesians 2:8-9

This victory comes through Jesus, not through maintaining a state of grace through ongoing justification

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. - Romans 5:1-2

We do NOT begin our Christian life with an act of faith, but reach its final objective through physical works. 

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works on the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? - Galatians 3:2-3

In fact, our works would secure a much different outcome

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. Romans 4:4.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23. 

This victory - over sin in this life and over death at the end - is the eventual fruit of our faith, not of our works

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? -  1 John 5:4

We overcome by professing our faith in the blood of the lamb, not in what we do. 

"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. - Revelation 12:10-12. 

So what can we do to make sure that we "make it?"

Not a whole lot. Not keep the Sabbath. Not count the new moons correctly from Jerusalem, to make sure we are spot-on about when to keep the holy days. Not adopt a vegetarian diet to avoid eating any unclean ingredients. Not take a vow of silence so that we can never lie again.

Really, all we can do is choose to believe the One who promises to forgive our sins and grant us eternal life through the shed blood of His Son. And then take it on faith.

Good thing that was what He really wanted anyway.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

British Israelism: A Royal Mess

Apparently, I was a traitor to my country and my gender when I slept in a few Saturdays ago instead of getting up to watch the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Yankee Meghan Markle. I later saw that I had missed hours of chatter between my girlfriends - the dress, the flowers, the royal lip bite... I guess I shouldn't be surprised. No matter how old we girls get, deep down, we still want to be a princess...

What did surprise me, however, was the number of Church of God members who got up at 6:00 on a Saturday morning to watch the event.

Let me repeat that, in case you missed it.


Given that, growing up, I was expected to turn off my favorite TV show mid-skit at sunset Friday, I was more than a little shocked to see people openly broadcasting their decision to watch.

So how was it that these proud, faithful Sabbatarians were not seeking their own pleasure on the Sabbath? Because, of course, it was an important event in the timeline of The Church!

Wait, what?

According to Herbert W Armstrong, the founder of the organization that has splintered into today's Churches of God, the British people are descended from the "lost" Hebrew tribe of Ephriam. This theory, known as British-Israelism, also claims that Americans are descended from Manasseh and many European nations descended from the other "lost" tribes. Most of the COG splinters still believe and promote British Israelism today.

Coronation chair with the Stone of Destiny.
Further, Armstrong taught that the British throne is the fulfillment of God's promise that David would never fail to have a descendant on the throne of Israel. As COG legend had it, David's "true" throne departed Israel when the prophet Jeremiah and his daughter, Tea-Tephi, took Jacob's pillar stone to Ireland and buried it in Hill Tara. The stone later traveled to Scotland,
and then down to England, where it is known as the Stone of Scone/Stone of Destiny, and the royals still use it as part of their coronations. So, as heirs, Prince Charles and Prince William must be descendants of David. And if his father and brother are, well, Henry must be, too.

(Wait a minute. Descendants of David would be from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Ephriam. So is the British royal family descended from Judah or Ephriam? I'm so confused!) 

Don't overthink this, Martha! The British monarchs are descended from Hebrew tribes and sit on the throne of David. Who could be more Jewish, er, Ephriam-ish (?) than the British royals? And we, as Americans, are their brothers, also descended from the Hebrew tribes. It's our DUTY to watch this wedding! It would be like missing a major moment in family history, or a family wedding. We CAN'T have that! (Warning: Don't EVEN get me started on the way Sabbath weddings have played out in my family).

No. I maintain that we NEED to overthink this. If neither one jot nor tittle claims what the COGs claim it means, then it's our DUTY to analyze this point. So, is there any way to find out whether princes William and Henry, AKA Harry, are really descended from any of the tribes of Israel? It's an important question, since we're flirting with Sabbath-breaking at the very least. Is there any way to test Armstrong's theory?

Well, there is, thanks - unfortunately - to the turbulent relationship and well-publicized extramarital exploits of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. The royals, tabloids and British DNA testing companies have been rehashing that topic for more than a decade. After all, if William and Harry were not sired by Charles, Prince of Wales, then they are not heirs to the throne. And if they were, then they share his royal blood and his DNA. And, if they and Charles are descended from the tribe of Ephraim, they should share genetic markers with those who have Jewish DNA.

After all, didn't God Himself tell David that his descendants would never lack a man " to sit on the throne of Israel? (1 Kings 2:4 and 9:5). Those who believe in British Israelism say that the throne of David still exists in the form of the British monarchy, so if anyone should have DNA evidence that they're related to other Hebrews, it's the royal family, right?

Let's not get the cart before the horse, though.

(Again, please don't discount DNA evidence because it is a product of science and scientists, who are frequently atheists. DNA evidence is not speculation about what happened millions of years ago. It's largely performed using tissue like hair, cheek swabs and blood samples from living humans (or tissue left on confirmed, authentic artifacts, mummies, and in some cases frozen human remains) and is considered reliable enough that it's admissible in court.

Princess Diana and Hewitt in 1989
First of all, though he's far from the heir apparent, Prince Harry IS Prince Charles' son, as is his brother William. It was rumored for years that Harry might have been fathered by army officer Major James Hewitt, with whom Diana admitted she had an affair. But that affair started when Harry was three years old - Harry was born in September 1984 and Diana
didn't meet Hewitt until 1986. Charles himself confirmed he was Harry's father before the young prince went away to school at Eton in 1995.

Still, when it comes to the throne, one can't be too careful. Apparently, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband insisted upon a DNA test, according to the  Agence France-Presse, which proved Harry was Charles' son. As if that wasn't enough, the former News of the World tabloid was reported to have obtained and tested a lock of hair from Harry and determined he was not Hewitt's son.

Prince Harry/James Hewitt
Now, the royals have not released DNA test results - presumably, it would be beneath them. But you'd better believe if something were found to be amiss, we would know about it, and the royal succession would have been changed. This is the kind of stuff over which the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War were fought. Tabloids and DNA companies have run their own tests, reportedly on samples from the princes, and demonstrably on their cousins, and their findings have never been challenged. While parents, children and siblings do not have identical DNA, they are usually close, so we'll take a look at the results for Prince William, since he the one most discussed as the presumed heir to the throne.

Historical quirks like Hundred Years War and King Henry VIII mean that royal lineage has been documented very well. The late William Addams Reitwiesner, a well-known historian, has calculated Williams' ancestry as about 57 percent British and Irish, 39 percent French and German, 3 percent Eastern European, 1 percent Scandinavian, less than 1 percent South Asian (During the British colonization of India, Diana's great-great-great-great grandfather had a child with an Indian woman), and less than 1 percent... Middle Eastern! But before you get all excited, that Middle Eastern DNA is Armenian and comes from the maternal side, not the paternal side, which, in this case, are the genes that would correspond with the "throne of David" claim.

Now let's get a little more specific. While William's DNA test has never been released to the public, that of his father's patrilineal cousin has. While that may not sound like a big deal, among royals, it is. Here's why: some geneticists actually consider "royal" to be a specific ethnic subset in Europe because of the shared languages, culture and genetics. Until very recently, the only acceptable marriage partner for a royal was another royal. Because of all the intermarrying between cousins to maintain thrones across Europe, the genetics of the "royal" class are both painstakingly documented and relatively stable since the time of Charlemagne. In this case, the cousin who was tested was Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia.  His body was tested after being found in the mass grave his family was thrown into after the Russian Revolution. The genetic results matched those from his blood-stained shirt kept in a museum in Osaka, Japan following an assassination attempt in the same city.

Basically, when tracing patrilineal ancestry, scientists study the Y-chromosome to determine a person's haplogroup - those with whom they share a common ancestor. This is pretty solid science - Y-chromosomes have been demonstrated to stay relatively stable over thousands of years. And in this case, we not only have DNA samples from the family but also a list of pretty much everyone (of genetic significance) in the family for more than a thousand years.

Nicholas II
Nicholas II's Y-chromosome haplogroup was found to be R1b, which is not a surprise, because it's a pretty common DNA haplogroup in Europe. In case you care, the common patrilineal ancestor between Nicholas II and Prince Charles was Frederik I, King of Norway and Denmark from 1524-1533. Whose line is known from the time of Elimar I, the first count of Oldenberg, a Saxon who ruled in what's now northern Germany from 1101 to 1108 A.D. Anyway, short story long, no one has released William's DNA results, but thanks to the multiple tragedies that befell poor Nicholas, we know that there's roughly a 97.2 percent chance that William's haplogroup is also R1b.

But we know this for sure: even if, somehow, William's DNA falls in that 2.8 percent margin of error, it's still in R haplogroup family. We have the man's genealogy traced practically back to the 700's A.D., and it's pretty much a mix of British, Germanic, French, Scottish, Armenian, Scandanavian and one lady from India.

So why do we care? Because, honestly, apart from what I'm about to say here, I don't. It is difficult to overstate how little I care about the lineage of the British royals. Except for this one point:

Brits and Americans primarily belong to the R1b haplogroup - which, as I already stated, is the most common one in western Europe. You see many variations on that theme - an R1a, an R1b1a2-M (M indicates Eurasian lineage). But you know what you don't see, at least among those who claim to be British, Irish, French and Danish? You don't see a J, at least in most individuals who don't claim Jewish ancestry.

Both Palestinian Jews and Arabs belong to the J haplogroup. This makes sense, since scripture specifically states that Jews and Arabs both descended from Abraham. Genetic research is able to trace a common father between Jews and Arabs even several generations before Jacob, the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

So if Brits descended from related Hebrew tribes, you would expect to see genetic markers for the J haplogroup on their Y chromosomes. You would especially expect to see these genetic markers in the royal gene pool; in those whose lineage is relatively documented,; whose genetics haven't changed all that much over the centuries; in those who are allegedly descendants of David and sit on the throne of David.

But you don't. DNA evidence shows that R and J are two entirely different ethnic groups; groups who do not share a common ancestor. At least not, in all likelihood, until about the time of the Ark, which was at least 750 years before the birth of Abraham.

So why don't you see those genetic markers? Maybe it's because British Israelism was not a divine revelation, but a lie peddled by a false prophet. Or even worse, a lie peddled by a false prophet who plagiarized the theory.

Armstrong taught over and over and over again that the claims made by British-Israelism were divinely revealed to him, and were the key to understanding Bible prophecy. Without this "vital key", he taught, no one could understand where Israel is today, and thus no one could understand how prophecy was going to play out. But British Israelism been debunked, over and over again. Is it any wonder that his prophecies failed, and that those who continue building on this foundation are crumbling?

Simon Abney-Hastings outside his home in Australia.
So, should we be getting out our DNA kits and start looking for the true heir to David's throne? Perhaps it's Simon Abney-Hastings, an Australian textile worker who's the direct descendant of the royal Plantagenet line that lost power during the War of the Roses.

No. We know which ancestor of David's currently reigns, and it's the best one possible. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, sits on His throne today. Though different translations muddy the meaning, many believe that God told David he would always have descendants to sit on the throne - in distinction to Saul, whose line had been cut off and later died out due to his disobedience. Jesus was physically David's descendant, and we know He ascended to heaven and took His throne. As usual, Armstrong's doctrines distract and detract from Jesus Christ - the Way, the Truth and the Life. The author and finisher of our faith. The only means through which we can approach the Father. Our only hope.  The Bible makes it clear that salvation only comes by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, but Armstrong wove a tangled web of religious practices he claimed we must follow to remain in God's grace. Many in the splinters of the Worldwide Church of God are still caught in that web today.

As for me, I care about as much about royal lineage as I did before I started this post. After all, Titus 3:9 tells us:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  

Armstrong and those who keep his teachings alive must have missed that one. Makes you wonder what else they might have missed.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Professing Polytheism

If you are in one of the Church of God splinters that came out of Herbert W Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, then I have some unpleasant news for you - you are a polytheist!

Don't tell me that surprises you. (It sure was a surprise to me when I first found out.)

This whole post got started while we were reviewing the COGWA's "Origin of Easter" article and we noticed the author belittling the idea of polytheism and associating it with paganism. We chuckled at first until we realized that he was serious. But ...then the COGWA was really belittling itself. So here we are today to demonstrate that Armstrongism is indeed polytheistic and so COGWA shouldn't be pretending like that's not a fact, and most certainly should not be pointing fingers at others and insinuating others are pagans for their polytheism.


I love history, and this is my blog post, so we're starting with some history. I promise to keep it simple.

Back in the early 200s AD there started an idea that says there is only one God, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just three different ways that this one God presents Himself to us; "modes" if you will. This idea is called by many names today, among which are Sabellianism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Patripassionism, and etc. One of the main teachers of this view was Sabellius. If you are new to Christianity or maybe you are really trying to get away from the Trinity doctrine, this view of God might even make logical sense to you. Good thing is most people eventually give this up. Maybe some day we will go into detail on why this view of God cannot work. If you really want something right away, read Tertullian's "Against Praxaes" and Hippolytus' "Against Noetus" (and keep clearly in mind that these were written in the early 200s). But for the purposes of this blog post, let's just say that the early church was very much opposed to this view.

In the early 300's, along comes a guy named Arius. Arius was one of many Christian leaders around the world who were passionately opposed to Sabellius and his Modalism. So Arius came up with his own view to oppose Sabellius. He went too far in the other direction. According to Arius, Jesus is a created being and is completely separate being from the Father. This view of God started to attract attention and eventually Christianity was split over the nature of God between those who agreed with Arius and those who had a more Trinitarian position. Both halves were opposed to Sabellius. It was this division that motivated Constantine to call the Council of Nicea to settle the issue and reunite Christians. Arius actually accused Niceans of Sabellianism. The decision came down against Arius.

After Nicea, Arianism changed and blended with Trinitarianism. Since all were required to abide by the decision at Nicea, people who still held to Arianism (including Arius) had to try and force their views to make peace with the decision of the Council - at least on the surface. This new view has the Father and the Son as separate beings, but they share a similar substance. The Son is like the Father. They are two separate Gods who consist of the same kind of stuff. This new view is given the name Semi-Arianism. The West held to Nicea but there were so many people in the East holding to this new Semi-Arian view in violation of Nicea that another Council was called, this time at Constantinople.
And the view was indeed new to the fourth century. It was not old or original by any means, as some COG writers might have us believe. Such a claim is simply not true.

In summary, anyone who believes that the Father and the Son are two separate God beings but consist of the same sort of stuff fall into the Semi-Arian category. This is the official view of Armstrongism. The COGs teach the Father and the Son are two completely separate beings and the same stuff that the Father and the Son consist of is called the Holy Spirit. I want to point out that there are two Holy Spirits here - the Father's and the Son's.

Armstrongism is Semi-Arian.


The Jews truly believe in one God. They are monotheists. Islam, which seems to be a combination of Ebionite Christianity and Gnosticism, believe in one God. They are also monotheists.

When Jesus arrived and demonstrated that He is both God and distinct from the Father, using language like "the Father and I are one" and "My God! Why have You forsaken Me?" the issue became complicated. How can Christianity be monotheistic, like Judaism, but still recognize the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit)? The answer that the early church offered is Trinitarianism. There is only one God being of one substance, but three personalities or minds. One God in three persons. Trinitarian Christianity is monotheistic. One God.

Semi-Arianism has two Gods, the Father and the Son, who are truly separate from one another. "God" is a family.
This can be seen in the way Armstrongism teaches how Jesus took on human flesh. According to Armstrongism, God the Son completely divested Himself of Godhood and became 100% man in every way. (This is called Monophysitism.) Yet, the Father was utterly unaffected by this because He is a separate God being. So, how many Gods do we have here? Two! Is that monotheism? No. Is is Binitarianism? No. Despite how some COGs writers try to use the phrases Binity and Semi-Arian as synonyms, they most certainly are not synonymous at all. A Binity is monotheistic; one God in two persons. We don't have that here. We have Semi-Arianism. Two distinct Gods. Armstrongism would condemn Binitarianism. Armstrongism does not have one God; it has two.

Two Gods = Polytheism.



Back in August 2010 we wrote a piece called "Primer to the Trinity Doctrine." In this article we tried to explain the Trinity. Please don't be afraid of that article! We made it pretty clear that we weren't trying to push the idea, just show our readers what the Trinity Doctrine really says. The post came from us recognizing that we had a great deal of misinformation fed to us over the years about what the Trinity doctrine actually is. So we tried to clear it up a little. Very basic stuff.

We thought we would compare and contrast views. To represent the Armstrong view we figured what could possibly be a better comparison than the "Is God A Trinity?" booklet. This was the premier booklet on the subject. Everyone was referred to it back in those days. Much of the current COG material comes from it. But as we read through it again, something really stuck out at us that none of us had ever noticed before. The COGs were polytheistic, and they admitted as much!
"The ancient idea of monotheism was shattered by the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ on the earth. Here was someone who claimed He was the Son of God. But how could He be? The Jewish people believed for centuries that there was only one God. If the claims of "this Jesus" were accepted, then in their minds their belief would be no different from that of the polytheistic pagans around them. If He were the Son of God, their whole system of monotheism would disintegrate. 
When Jesus plainly told certain Jews of His day that He was the Son of God, some were ready to stone Him for blasphemy (John 10:33). To get around the problem of a plurality in the God head, the Jewish community simply rejected Jesus."
-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.15 
If monotheism disintegrates we are left with what? That's right. Polytheism.

But who is George L. Johnson? It's not like Herbert W Armstrong came out and said this kind of thing, right?
"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
I just want to point out that Armstrong is trying to have it both ways here. But he just can't quite seem to make a plural singular. That polytheism shines right through.
"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
Oh yes. Herbert Armstrong did come out and say this kind of thing. When he says "person" he is not using accepted theological language. He really does mean there are two Gods - two minds and two substances and two beings - in one family. Even when he says there is "but ONE God", he still says there is more than one God, because "ONE God" is in reference to the family not the beings. This is doublespeak. The Father and the Son are no more one God in his view than you are one human with your parents.

Notice that these quotes aren't from the "Is God A Trinity" booklet. No, they are from THE book - "The Incredible Human Potential." This book was Armstrongism's magnum opus. It was said to be the last book of the Bible. If Herbert Armstrong will talk polytheism here, then absolutely nowhere can be more official.

Herbert Armstrong once was required to describe himself under oath in court. Here is what he said about himself:
"I am the founder, Pastor General, and spiritual and temporal leader of defendant Worldwide Church of God, Inc. (" Worldwide") . In addition, I am chief executive officer, chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the board of trustees ... I am the appointed Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and, as such, have been both the spiritual and temporal leader of the Church from its inception."-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, pp. 28-29, Jan. 8, 1979
The prime leader in the prime material. Cannot be topped. If this guy, the founder, Pastor General, appointed Apostle, Chairman and CEO, and spiritual and temporal leader of the Church of God on earth says the COGs have more than one God being, within the pages of his most important publications with one of them being the last book of the Bible, then the COGs have more than one God.

Polytheism confirmed. Yes, it's so.


While Armstrongism is quite comfortable with its polytheistic view of God, there are issues with Semi-Arianism. To be completely forthcoming, there are issues with every attempt mankind has ever made to explain God. All views have issues, even monotheism, because God is far beyond our understanding. But let's explore a few problems with Armstrongism's Semi-Arianist doctrine.

>>It's polytheistic.

This is the main topic of this post. Polytheism is a dirty word in the COGs. It's too pagan. The obvious link with paganism is precisely why the author of "Origin of Easter" article was using the word. He wanted to cast aspersions. But mote meet beam!

>>The Son cannot fully know the Father.

Because they are two separate beings, and the Son is lesser than the Father (to a great degree), the Jesus of Armstrongism cannot truly, fully know the Father. The Son may know the Father a lot better than anyone else besides the Father, but He cannot fully know the Father. The Son would be on a journey of discovery just like everyone else. This would also make Him less than omniscient. If we say the Son is omniscient and omnipotent, then we must abandon the idea of Him being less than the Father.

>>Jesus had an end.

We just pointed out that Jesus is without beginning or end. But that is wrong too. Armstrongism teaches soul sleep. In the Armstrongist view, He had an end. God the Son completely emptied Himself of Godhood. Therefore, the God was gone. Then there was a three day period where even Jesus did not exist except for a dead corpse and a memory in the Father's mind. So He cannot be without end in the Armstrongist system.

>>God the Father and Son are still a closed system.

One of the main objections that Armstrongists have voiced over the years against the Trinity is that it makes God a closed system. "How can God add to His family if He is a Trinity? You can't add to a Trinity." But I want to point out that Armstrongism does not teach that mankind will become the Father or the Son. They aren't adding to the Father or the Son either. So this point is moot.

Bear in mind that Trinitarianism does not in any way exclude being part of God's family. The Orthodox church has had this idea for several hundred years. The word for this is Theosis. Even though the Catholic church doesn't make such a prominent case about Theosis, they too believe we all have an opportunity to "partake in the Divine nature."
My point is, the Semi-Arian view isn't really coming to the rescue here. In all reality it's just fighting a straw man.

>>Many Holy Spirits.

In all my years as a member of the COGs, I never gave a second's thought to the fact that if the Father and Son are separate then by necessity there had to be more than one Holy Spirit. In Armstrongism, the Holy Spirit is a force, a power, without a mind of its own. The Holy Spirit is not itself a God, but it is what God is made of. We as humans aren't told how God works, probably because we couldn't grasp it anyway, but if the Holy Spirit is what the Father and the Son are made of then this demands there must be multiple Holy Spirits. This is a real issue because throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit is singular.

>>Monophysite Holy Spirit??

Remember how Armstrongism teaches Monophysitism - where Jesus has only one nature of either God or man but not both at the same time? OK. So, when the Son completely divested Himself of divinity and became 100% the man Jesus, what did He do with the Holy Spirit? Did He put it in a box and save it for later? Was it destroyed? Was it absorbed into the Father? If the Son's mind left His substance, did the Holy Spirit die?

I am not going to go into any more issues today because we already have an article on the biggest issue, "Jesus' Death Under Trinitarianism." I think we've brought up enough issues for now. I only wanted to point out that there are issues - real issues - and the puzzle is not neatly arranged in the COG doctrine with all answers found and all loose ends tied. Many people join Armstrongism because they are looking for some answer or the other, but they just don't like the answers in mainstream Christianity as they understand them. Armstrongism claims to have an answer for most everything. But as always, when we truly dig, we find that things just do not work as well as advertised. A spray-on theology just doesn't cover that unsightly bald spot.

I know a lot of people are opposed to the Trinity because it doesn't make sense to them. It's fine that things don't always make sense. God invites us to investigate but He didn't hand us the answer in a tidy box, so not making sense is going to be part of this. But I don't see how Semi-Arianism makes any more sense once we start critically investigating it. I suspect that not making sense is more of an excuse to avoid the issue. It was for me! Mea culpa!


Polytheism. Just like the pagan Babylonians, you have it.

All we are doing in this article is pointing out what has been forgotten. Really, we are asking the same question George Johnson asked:
"Is God one, or are there two separate Gods and is Christianity, therefore, polytheistic?"-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.41  
In the COG's Semi-Arian view of God the answer is polytheistic. As Johnson said, "no different from that of the polytheistic pagans around them."

Perhaps someone will say they believe in only one God Family, therefore they are monotheistic.
No. It doesn't work that way. There is no way around this. Armstrongism is inescapably polytheistic.

I am going to assume that many of our readers are still questioning and could use a little more assistance. I would like to recommend to you Martha's article "Rainbows and Earthworms, Or Making Sense of God's Nature." God doesn't always make sense. We don't need to force Him to.

If for any reason you are a member at a Church of God splinter group and you do not agree that you are a polytheist, then we would be glad to welcome you into mainstream Christianity ...because you aren't an Armstrongist anymore at this point anyway.

But if you are comfortable with being just like the pagans and don't mind polytheism, please tell the COGWA leadership that they ought to stop talking down to polytheists.

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

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review Of COGWA Origin of Easter

Today we are going to do another article review. Few things are so reassuring and entertaining to write than an article review.

I just happened to stumble across an article from the Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA). The article is "Origin of Easter" by John Foster. From the Life, Hope, and Truth website of the COGWA. Accessed 3/31/2018. This seems to be something that their other articles link to, so I figured I would take a look. What I found troubled me.

The article is the standard claim about Easter being pagan. The problem with such a claim - a claim that history played out in a certain way - is that one needs evidence from history. Other COGWA articles point to this one as their proof, so we know that this article is going to really be something. We are really going to pull out all the stops.
Or not. One theme that runs throughout the article is a series of the worst possible source material I've come across yet. It gets progressively worse and worse as it goes along. Keep an eye out for this.

One would think that if we want to prove history, we would go to the oldest, most reliable sources. The author doesn't do that. The author pulls from one scholarly source. The rest are just websites that seem to be chosen because they say what the author wants to hear. But how is that researching? How is that investigating? Would you buy medicine by going into dark alleys and handing money to whomever happens to tell you it works? If you wouldn't treat your physical health that way, why would you treat your spiritual health that way?

Before I say another word I want to point out that today's review is about a publication, not a person. This review deals with ideas, not the author. The author is a beloved child of God. It's the author's claims that I have an issue with. That said, let's just get on with it, shall we?

It begins thus:
Where did Easter and its customs come from? The Bible doesn’t mention rabbits or eggs or sunrise services. So what is the origin of Easter?
A standard claim, all in all. But a claim of truth; historical truth. There should be some historical evidence to go with that claim. There is. But first, a doctrinal statement. The Armstrongist tradition says that if the Bible doesn't specifically say it then it's not to be done. The Bible doesn't say Easter so it's not not something to be done.

That is the standard he sets. So, does Armstrongism meet its own standard? No. Let's observe.

The Bible doesn’t mention a separate Night to be Much Observed from Passover. Passover is the night. They aren't separate. They are the same. But Armstrongism treats it as separate. Go ahead and ask yourself, how does the Bible specify the rules for observing the Night to be Much Observed? It doesn't. Most Armstrongists will just say, "We have to do something." Ah! But that's exactly the point. If the Bible doesn't say it then you're not supposed to do it. That's the standard.

Exodus 12 is all about Passover. To somehow separate a night before Passover is to invent an entirely made up observance. The COGs can't even decide on the name. It used to be called Night to be Much Remembered. Read Exodus 12: 42 in the New King James. It reads, "night of solemn observance." There is no proper noun in there. Passover is the night of solemn observance. Not the night before Passover. What happened on the night before the Angel of Death came through Egypt? Nothing much.

The Bible doesn’t mention the Last Great Day apart from Tabernacles either. The Last Great Day is now being called The Eighth Day because the COGs are starting to wake up to the fact that they invented a holy day. That makes two made up holidays. So when I say Armstrongism doesn't meet its own standard, I wasn't just taking that from a website that says what I want to hear.

The Bible never mentions Tabernacles in a hotel. Doesn’t mention Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, or Tabernacles being observed outside of Jerusalem. It never mentions a removal of the law that bans Gentiles from observing Passover.

I could have listed more but didn't see the need. So if one is going to hold up "it's not in the Bible" as litmus test, then mote meet beam.

Now let's look at what the Bible does say. The Old Covenant never condemns adding holidays. It just condemns joining into pagan ones. Don't believe me? Ask the Jews. Or, read our article "Established and Imposed" and learn about Hanukkah and Purim. Martha goes over it again in "What the Days of Unleavened Bread Don't Tell You." Better still, open your Bibles and read it for yourself. It's right there. (EST. 9: 18-32) and (JON. 10: 22-28). Made up by the Jews, recorded in the Bible, not condemned. The main difference is that these days commemorate something God did - and that is never discouraged.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear that the Bible never tells us to honor the resurrection of Christ, which is the absolute proof that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the greatest miracle in the history of mankind. The New Testament never directly tells us to honor any day. It also never tells us not to.
Since Easter is one of the most renowned holidays in the Christian world, why should we be concerned about the origin of Easter?
For centuries, questions have arisen as to the relationship between bunnies and painted eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is that Easter has its roots in ancient paganism and polytheism.
We should be concerned about the origins of Easter. We really should! But we should be equally concerned about where we get that information. A lie that we like to hear is still a lie. If Easter is a lie it shouldn't take lies to prove it.

What does genuine history show us? The roots of Easter are not in ancient paganism. If it was, there would be some ancient document providing the evidence. If John Foster, or any of the multitude of other COG authors before and since, had any hard evidence we would see it. The oft repeated claim is that the name of Easter is from Eostre and that's the damnable proof. But that's not what the evidence actually says. Do you want to know what the evidence actually says? I'll tell you.

There was a man named Bede. He was an English monk in the early 700's. He wrote a book about calendars and the passing of time as part of his greater interest in the history of the English. In this book he mentions that Easter takes its name from the month Eosturmonath, in which the Easter season began. That's what the document says. Not that the name Easter comes from a pagan goddess, not that it came from ancient Babylon, but that it comes from a month. People who say that Easter comes from the name of a goddess haven't even bothered themselves to read the history.
Bede does a little etymology and speculates that the month took its name from a goddess. He speculates an English name - Eostre. Because Eosturmonath. The problem is that no other evidence exists for this Eostre. None. None at all. There is plenty of evidence for other gods and goddesses, but not this one.
In the 1800's along comes Jacob Grimm (of Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales). He takes Bede's Eostre, admits there isn't anything like that in any other document, and speculates that in German (English is a Germanic language) the name probably was more like Ostara. Because in German the month was Ostarmonath rather than Eosturmonath. He did the exact same thing that Bede did. Only in German.
Same problem here. There is no Ostara. There is no evidence for Ostara. None. Many people say that Eostra and Ostara come from Ishtar and Astarte. That's a baseless lie. Eostre comes from Bede's imagination and Ostara from Grimm's. They couldn't come from Ishtar because neither of them ever existed.

Ishtar was an ancient Mesopotamian goddess. Akkadian and German are not related languages at all. Babylonian was a Semitic language. German is an Indo-European language. They are completely separate, unrelated languages. The very notion of German inheriting words from Babylon is ridiculous. Don't just take my word for it. Look it up yourself! Look up any language tree and see how German and Semitic have nothing to do with each other.

And that's the sum total of the evidence. Everything else is made up. The reason I point this out is to emphasize the layers of uneducated claims that have to be invented just to get to the starting point of the Easter is pagan claim.

“Truth of the matter” he says. Would we not expect the truth to actually be, you know, demonstrably true? And if it isn’t true, then what is it? Not truth, that's for sure! But if it's not true, then ...

Hey! Wait a minute! I almost missed this. Does John Foster use the word "polytheism" here in a derogatory manner? Yes. Yes he did. And he'll do it again later. Doesn't he know that Armstrongism is polytheistic?? In our article "Primer to the Trinity Doctrine" we discuss this with quotes from the Worldwide Church of God premier booklet "Is God A Trinity?" I don't say "premier booklet" lightly. This was one of the WCG's top of the top booklets. Let me give you just one quote here, for convenience' sake:
"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 [underline mine]
If monotheism disintegrates then you are left with what? That's right. Polytheism. How can you be a polytheist and talk down about polytheists?
The origin of Easter
According to William E. Vine, “The term 'Easter' is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast. … From this Pasch the pagan festival of ‘Easter’ was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1997, “Easter”).
John Foster accurately quotes Vine’s Expository. I commend that much at least. This is his one and only scholarly source. He's going to prove the origins of Easter, and this is his one and only scholarly source.

The Expository is not wholly unreliable but I take issue with this claim that there was a pagan festival of 'Easter.' Vine has no more evidence for this claim that I gave you earlier. We also take issue that Easter comes from Astarte. This claim was popular before 1950, but has since been proven false. Vine clearly pulls from 19th century German Protestant scholars whose ideas have been abandoned. The etymology of the English word Easter does not come from the Mesopotamian word Astarte. We are all human and we do the best we have with what we are given. Originally written by William E. Vine, (1873-1947) in 1940, the book relies on what it had at the time. But in nearly a century we’ve learned quite a few things that make this particular section obsolete. Sadly, it's too late for Vine to do anything about it.

But it's not too late for John Foster to do something. One wonders why he hasn't.

In our article “A Pattern of Dishonest Documentation” we showed how the COGs prefer to cite outdated source material from the turn of the 20th century. For example they love to cite the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 Edition. And why is that? Because there is an article in that specific edition which makes a claim they prefer to hear. As we point out, the article so beloved by the COGs is contradicted by another article in the same encyclopedia. That encyclopedia is over 100 years old. Are there no other sources available? Of course there are. The problem is the new scholarly sources don’t tend to say what the COGs want to hear. So they are forced to keep going back to this one. They will only quote those sources that say what they want to hear. Hence why the LCG quotes The Golden Bough by James Frazier, who believed Jesus never existed, because it says a couple things they want to hear. We go into detail on this in our article “The Quotes Before Christmas.”

Before anyone gets after me about disagreeing with Vine’s, I just want to point out that this isn’t my selection, I’m just rebutting, and Vine’s in many places doesn’t agree with John Foster either. Vine was a Trinitarian after all and if you look up the word Spirit you’re going to see starkly clear Trinitarian verbiage there. I disagree with Vine's in one place and the COGWA disagrees with him in another place. So, it’s not as if either side of today's debate really hold Vine’s Expository as being infallible. We at ABD disagree with what we can demonstrate is incorrect. The COGWA disagree with whatever they don't quite like.
Another source states: “The history of Easter reveals ancient pagan roots; this holiday was not always a Christian-based holiday. It is believed that the term Easter& is literally derived from the term Eostre, the name of a Teutonic feminine deity. The latter goddess is a fertility goddess, a goddess of the spring, and the hare is sacred to her. … “The association of Easter practices with the pagan goddess Eostre makes clear some of the traditions that are carried out today. The goddess Eostre was honored toward the end of the month of March, right around the time of Spring Equinox” (
This quote has a source cited. Way to go! But the link is dead. We didn’t let that stop us. We searched until we found it. And it’s a Sapercom site. What is Sapercom, you say? Here is how they describe themselves:

We believe that small websites which focus on relevant information about a single topic is helpful to people who don't want to spend a lot of time searching for that information. So, our websites are focused on a single topic. See, it's simple. We focus on content that is relevant to the topic of the website. Even the domain names of our websites reflect the specific focus of each website.

So, was not a history site, it was a site about history. Not necessarily by historians, but by anyone. Not necessarily historiographical, but just topically relevant. Not necessarily scholarly at all, just convenient. I would take info from that site only with an extreme caution.

So I checked the selection and I want to assure you that this quote is ... partially correct!

What? That surprises you? No, it’s true! The word Easter is English of German origin (English is a Germanic language) and Ostermonath gets its name from the something pre-Christian. So the quote is partially correct.

But if it's of German origin, then it can't be of Babylonian origin.

The rest of the quote is bunk. There is no record of Eostre so there is no record of when Eostre was honored or how or by whom. Just because the name of Easter comes from a German month doesn't mean the day of Easter is pagan. It just means the Germans gave it a new name. What was Easter called before Christians came to Germany? The holiday was called Pascha. Even Bede called it the "Paschal Month." And the record of Pascha goes back to the cross. It wasn't called anything at all like Easter until the German Christians changed the name of Pascha. The point I'm driving at here is there is no possible way that Easter came from Germany if it predates Christianity coming to Germany.

The German pagans weren't time travelers. John Foster is preaching an anachronism.
Another source describes a possible ancient link to Good Friday: “In ancient Roman history, the 24th of March (VIII Kal Apriles) was the Dies sanguinis ‘day of blood,’ possibly a precursor of Good Friday. On the 22 of March, the arbor intrat, a procession of palms or a pine tree was brought to the shrine of Cybele. Two days later, at the Day of the Blood, the priests of Cybele slashed themselves and spun around to sprinkle her statue with blood” (
Another dead link. Beginning to get frustrating. This isn’t the article’s fault, it’s the Internet’s fault. Links in old articles sometimes go away. So I dug and found the site anyway. And oh, shame on this quote! This is clear and unambiguous Confirmation Bias on display here. I will direct you to our reliable friend and historian Roger Pearse, who has an entire article on this very quote: “Dies Sanguinis – what do we know about this?" The historical record annihilates John Foster's quote.

I want to point out two things.
First, Roger Pearse wrote this article in 2011. For several years this information has been available to the COGs. Second, Roger finds no support in history for the claim that Good Friday came from any pagan source. No support! None.

Why are claims being made about so many things with zero evidence? Notice that Roger Pearse pulls his information from ncient primary source documents. He went to the source. The truth about Deis Sanguinis was actually available to us all for thousands of years. But there COGWA is, ignoring it to this very day. There are no primary source references in the Origin of Easter article. Nor either can there be else the article would prove itself wrong.

Life, Hope, and what?
The following is from another source: “Rabbits, of course, are a potent symbol of fertility due to their prodigious output of young. Eggs, likewise, have always been considered representative of new life, fertility, and reincarnation. Painted eggs, thought to imitate the bright sunlight and gaily colored flowers of spring, have been used in rituals since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. …“The pagan celebrations most associated with modern Christian practices derive from Mediterranean cultures. The Phrygians celebrated a spring festival honoring Cybele, a fertility goddess. Cybele had a consort god named Attis, who was born of a virgin, and who died and was resurrected after three days, an occurrence commemorated sometime around the vernal equinox. Worshippers of Attis mourned the god’s death on Black Friday, then celebrated his rebirth on the following Sunday.“Attis was simply the latest manifestation of earlier resurrection myths like those of Osiris, Orpheus, Tammuz and Dionysus, who were likewise said to have been born of virgins and resurrected three days after their deaths. In areas where Christian beliefs later took hold, these already existing tales were grafted onto the story of Jesus Christ, and continue to be retold to this day.”
This is a standard quote, unfortunately. I want to get your attention here and point something out.

I am so glad Mr. Foster put this information here. I believe it's the strongest evidence against his claim. How so? Because - not only is most of this selection inexcusably false, it betrays the lack of solid evidence for his original claim. If there really was an Eostre, he wouldn't be attempting to shotgun information about Cybele.

Two years before Origin of Easter was written we already had articles on all of this. History of Easter Part I and Part II. See for yourself.

And where did he get this stuff in the first place? There's that "another source" phrase again. (I would love to see what his bibliography looked like.) Who is this unnamed expert and why does this article keep citing unnamed sources? What terrible luck. Yet another dead link. Back to digging. But persistence has paid off once more. The link points to That was a forum website where anyone could contribute. The quote could have been from anyone …anyone at all. But you are here at AsBereansDid, dear reader. We don’t settle for that. We dig! And what did we find? The author’s name is most likely Jenny Ashford.

Who is Jenny Ashford? Probably a nice enough person. Creative. Maybe even educated. We wouldn't know. We don’t know her. But she describes herself as “a writer and graphic artist from central Florida.” I would't mind doing that myself.

Except we're talking about history here and she's not a historian or a specialist (she never claimed to be). By this point I no longer think it odd that John Foster cites as an authority someone who isn't really an authority. He isn't quoting her because she wrote a thesis; he's quoting her because she says what he wants to hear.

What else can we find about her? She has a website! What is that like?

. . . .
. . . . . . . o_O

Is the COGWA aware of this?

I can see why he kept her a secret. Moving on.
There are hundreds of other websites that discuss the pagan origin of Easter.
No doubt there are several hundreds of other websites out there that will affirm the author's position. Goodness knows I've been to my share of them. But it doesn't matter how many websites there are out there. Do you have any idea how many Muslim websites there are out there and they all say Jesus isn't God. So, is it true that Jesus isn't God because there are hundreds of Muslim websites? No.

This is not only an illogical appeal to popularity, but it's a horrid, awful way to do "research." No, scratch that. I will come right out and say it's not research at all! It's Confirmation Bias plain and simple. It's irresponsible. They have every opportunity that I have to get the right information but they refuse! To the point where they actually hide who the sources are.

Life, Hope, and what was that again?
Should Christians celebrate Easter?
So, what is a Christian to do with the knowledge of the pagan origin of Easter?
Throw it out! It's garbage knowledge. What do you do with the knowledge that the moon is made of cheese? Certainly do not base your faith and doctrines on it!
According to the Bible, God does not want His people to follow or seek after pagan customs.When ancient Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned them not to seek after the teachings and traditions of the nations that once inhabited the land. He said, “Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30-32).Later, Christ told His disciples: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8).Therefore, anything that has pagan origins must be avoided by Christ’s disciples, no matter what the intent or long-standing tradition.
Let's stop right here. What has the author done? He's scoured the very bottom of the Internet to get the most useless and unreliable support for his claims against Easter - claims that were already set in stone before he even joined the team to write the article in the first place - and with that terribly irresponsible source material supporting his pre-conclusion he has joined the fray to label Easter as pagan. So now, with Easter seemingly pagan, he pulls out some comfortable and familiar Bible verses against paganism.

What's the big deal with this? He has still not proven his main point! He has yet to demonstrate the origins of Easter! He's just begging the question is all. To start quoting verses now is just more and more of the same.
What the Bible tells us to celebrate
It is also important to note that the Bible nowhere tells us to honor the day of Christ’s resurrection. Instead, God established a command that the Passover should be observed annually to honor Christ’s death. Today, Christians are not to participate in the Easter holiday, but rather in the New Testament Passover, which is the memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
It is even more important to note that the Bible nowhere tells Gentiles to honor Old Covenant holy days. (Remember the standard from earlier - if the Bible doesn't tell you to do it then you shouldn't do it.) I know! I know. That's too big a bite for you to chew on right there. But give me just a minute here and I'll show you why I say this. First, I want the author to have a chance to speak.
In great solemnity, once a year on the 14th day of the first month on the Hebrew calendar (Leviticus 23:4-5), we are to observe the Lord’s Passover.
The COGs say don't keep Easter, keep the Old Covenant Passover. Because the law! But is that so? Not according to the law. According to the law, anyone who is not a member of the nation of Israel is forbidden from participating in Passover.

(EXO. 12: 43, 45, 48-49) 43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.
45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it.
48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.

So, for all of this talk about God gave us holy days the reality is quite different. No, God gave the Jews holy days. He indeed forbade them from us, except if we literally join the physical nation of Israel. That is the law. Don't believe me, believe your Bible. I didn't put those verses in there.

Knowing that the Gentiles were forbidden from participating in the law, and claiming that the law will never change, Armstrongism has gotten itself into a hole. How can they get themselves attached to the law that forbids them? Thus they invent things like British Israelism, and they claim that we are all Spiritual Israel now the law that prohibited us is bound on us. But this point was flatly rejected in Acts 15. The Holy Spirit declared that we do not need to be Jews to be Christians.
On that special evening, the apostle Paul instructed the members of the Church to partake of the bread, which symbolizes Christ’s body broken (beaten) for us, and to drink of the wine, which symbolizes the New Covenant in His blood (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Does Paul instruct anyone to observe the Passover in this selection? Let's look. In verses 23-25, Paul re-tells the story of the night Jesus ate the Last Supper with the Apostles. In verses 27-29, Paul tells us to take special care to treat the bread and wine with the respect it deserves. So far, no instruction to observe Passover. If you notice, I skipped verse 26:

(I COR. 11: 26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

As often.

If in this selection there was any hope of Paul teaching Passover, it would be this verse. Yet there is no command to observe the Passover. In fact, the word Passover isn't in this chapter at all. To take that even farther, the word Passover isn't in either First or Second Corinthians, except in one verse - I COR. 5: 7, where it says "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." And that's it.

How do we get Paul instructing everyone to observe the Old Covenant Passover from this selection? We cannot. Ask them to demonstrate why they think Paul is instructing Christians to observe Passover and they'll go to the Old Testament. The COGs believe Paul is instructing Christians to observe Passover because Moses gave Passover to the Jews. But that's not getting Passover from Corinthians, that's getting Passover from Exodus.

I'm not going to belabor this point. I'll direct you to our article "Must Christians Observe the Old Covenant Passover" for more details.

And that's exactly why "Origin of Easter" is a textbook example of a COG article. It is straight down the line in every way a prime example of how the COGs treat truth. They go into things assuming they are right to begin with, then they run roughshod over the facts from there.
As to Christ’s resurrection, this occurred exactly three days and three nights after His burial (Matthew 12:39-40; Luke 24:46-47). Christ was crucified on a Wednesday afternoon, buried just before sunset, as Thursday was an annual holy day. He was resurrected three days later on Saturday afternoon (the weekly Sabbath) just before sunset. It must also be noted that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb while it was still dark. Christ had already risen—long before sunrise (John 20:1-2).
Amazing. Almost everything in that paragraph is wrong. How many Easter articles do we have to address this? Many! I'll give you just three:

Three Days and Three Nights
Two Sabbaths of Matthew 28
Wednesday Crucifixion? Not Likely.

If you can't find a good answer in there, then write to us.
So, the story of Christ’s resurrection occurring on Easter Sunday morning (as well as rabbits laying eggs) is a polytheistic myth. Instead of observing Easter or any of its customs, Christians are instructed to observe the biblically authorized holy days of God.You can learn more in the section “Holy Days vs. Holidays.”
Tsk tsk. If you live in a polytheistic home, better not throw polytheistic stones.
The polytheistic myth is that there was ever a pagan Easter.


So, we have reached the end of the article.

Did you pay attention to the source material? Was it not as I said? Did you notice the decreasing quality of the sources? They scraped the bottom of the Internet. The pattern of dishonest documentation continues. Some of the claims in this article are so false that it's almost a comfort for me to know that he got it all from someone else. It's as if John Foster is challenging us to choose who we are we going to believe, the woman with the human heart in her hands or our lyin' eyes?

We were promised the origins of Easter, but we didn't see any actual historical documentation whatsoever. Nothing ancient. Nothing older then the 1940s. This was their big chance to make their case but there was nothing. No gotcha! No show stopper. He had this one chance and he did nothing with it. In fact, it was so empty that he shot himself in the foot by blaming it all on Cybele. This was COGWA's best attempt!

It's not as if the article even tried to prove anything. It started by assuming the idea was correct to begin with. There was no reason for the author to challenge himself. Or, perhaps the author did challenge himself but was too afraid of what he found, so this was the more convenient approach.

We were told that the Old Covenant Passover is the proper holiday for us all. But Armstrongism never explains how that can be. Supposedly God gave this holiday to us by forbidding us to participate unless we become Jews. So when did He give it to us? In the New Covenant? Where, precisely, I Corinthians 5? What happened to the law being unchanged? But if it changes not then the Gentiles are still left out. It can't be both changed and unchanged.

But think about this. If there is any symbol in the Bible that pointed to Jesus, it is the Passover symbol. If there is any shadow that was fulfilled by His substance, it's this shadow. All of that pointed to Him and what He would do. All of it. The greatest miracle, the greatest triumph, the very pinnacle of God's strategy is Jesus' death and resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death is no more hopeful than any other death. Each of us will accomplish that much. But with the resurrection it becomes unspeakably great. It is with the resurrection that our tears of  sadness become tears of joy. God died for us, and we will live with Him. How do we know He is who He said He is, because the tomb is empty and no human had a thing to do with it. Now we know He is who He said He is, and we know He will do what He said He will do for us. All season long it's, "Three days and three nights! 72 hours!" Well, 72 hours to what? To the resurrection! But in this article it's "Pay no attention to that resurrection. Have a matzo!" It's precisely as Martha said, none of this is in the Days of Unleavened Bread. It makes no sense whatsoever that Jesus would greatly desire the Gentiles to observe the shadow but ignore the fulfillment, the very point of the shadow in the first place.

You know, I am beginning to wonder if today's blog post is even about Easter or is it really about the way the articles that the COGs rely on are really baseless tangents constructed on assumptions.

In the end, I don't see anything in this Origin of Easter article that is any different than all of the articles that came before it. I honestly would have expected that if these claims were genuine, someone would have produced solid evidence for them by now. They've had multiple people working on it for 80 years.

Some of you may remember back when Herbert Armstrong would say, "Don't believe me, believe your Bibles!" What does the Bible say about bearing false witness? What does it say about being upright and above reproach? All members of the COGs, especially the COGWA, don't you realize that the quality of the source material in your publications reflects on each and every one of you? Demand better!

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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

What the Days of Unleavened Bread Don't Tell You

Today, members of the Churches of God are meeting to celebrate the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Tomorrow, members of my church will be gathering to celebrate Easter.

We've been through this before, so why not get the preliminaries out of the way quickly?

The Armstrongist COGs tell you that Easter is named for the goddess Ishtar and originated in worship of the ancient Babylonian god Tammuz. The History Channel and a variety of other sources will tell you that, too. The problem is, most of those claims go back to a handful of sources from the 1800s that later archaeological discoveries, artifacts and cultural studies have since refuted. Unfortunately, those who continue to put forth these claims – such as cults trying to draw people away from traditional Christianity and anti-religion members of the media – have little incentive to check their homework.

The COGs point to New Testament discussions about false gospels and destructive heresies and insert things like Easter. If they read the scriptures in context, they'd see that the main two heretical movements were the Gnostics and the Judaizers. They are pretty good at finding the gnosticism, but have a poor track record at spotting the Judaizers. Probably because it's largely what they preach, minus a sacrifice here and a foreskin there.

I think it's safe to say that things haven't changed much since I left the COGs. I recently read the March-April edition of the United Church of God's “Beyond Today” magazine and, predictably, saw these regurgitated claims and more in Darris McNeely's article, “What Easter Doesn't Tell You.”

Here are the downright absurd things McNeely claims Easter fails to teach:

1. “Only God coming in the flesh could open the door of salvation for the human creation.”
2. “What's missing is understanding the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”
3. “Jesus Christ tasted death for every man so that God might give eternal life to those who call on His name.”
4. “You are missing out on the wonderful meaning of Passover and the death and reconciliation of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered, died and was resurrected once for all time so that men might have the opportunity to enter into eternal life. Easter obscures the truth about that.”

If you have (as I had been) raised in the COGs and never been to an Easter service, you might actually believe these claims. I didn't know what to expect at my first Easter service. The main thing I remember was that I cried through the whole service. Not because I felt awkward and guilty, like my first Christmas Eve. It was because of the joy that Easter inspired in my heart, and because of the sadness I felt for the rest of my family, eating matzos and focusing on futile task of putting out their own sin. Anyway, the Easter service – and most weekly church services, actually – revolve around those four points.

In turn, I'd like to share some important spiritual points that the Days of Unleavened Bread don't tell you:

1. Jesus was resurrected.

I know that you guys realize this, but I also want you to realize that the Days of Unleavened Bread in no way address this point. Jesus' resurrection was kind of a big deal. It was, technically speaking, probably the most important event in human history. Not because – as the COGs say – Jesus showed others the way to salvation – leading a righteous life, following Hebraic customs, then hoping you are “good enough” to be resurrected into the God family later. No, it was a big deal because it proved that Jesus was who He said He was, and that the claims and promises He made were true – promises of forgiveness of sins, of salvation, of a New Covenant and faith in HIM as the way to salvation. If they weren't true, and if Jesus had been a madman or false Messiah, then that tomb would have remained occupied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be most pitied.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

But God doesn't TELL us to observe the resurrection, you say. True. Must we formally celebrate Jesus' resurrection to be a Christian? Of course not. But the resurrection is, as I said, a big deal. It's the reason why we can have hope – the hope for which we are always to be ready to give an answer. It's supposed to be a topic near and dear to our hearts, an active part of our faith. I found it encouraging that McNeely's article made mention of the resurrection several times. It was, however, ironic that he insisted Easter misses the truth about the resurrection when his own church does nothing to mark the resurrection. Claim the mainstream Christian world has the timeline wrong, claim it wasn't an observation, ignore the symbolism of the wave sheaf offering, whatever. But stop foolishly insisting that a holiday specifically established to commemorate Christ's resurrection misses the truth about His resurrection oh, don't forget that according to Israel's track record, it's perfectly fine to create holidays to commemorate miracles. It's difficult to claim to be a Christian organization, yet ignore the very historical event that established Christianity, as people younger and cooler than me would say, “a legit thing.” The Days of Unleavened Bread obscure that, and it's exactly why I believe that its observation keeps us focused on the physical, to our spiritual detriment.

2. Physical acts don't factor into your salvation.

Try as the modern COGs might, it's hard to get around the fact that the Days of Unleavened Bread focus on the physical. For days, weeks, and sometimes months, you focus on getting physical leaven out of your home. You pause to celebrate the Passover, and then the Night to be Much Observed – a lavish celebration not observed by Jesus' disciplines and AT LEAST as extra-biblical as Easter – then continue avoid leavening for the next seven days. Do you do it because you WANT to, because it's time to clean out the house, or because you want to try a low-carb diet? NO!!! You do it because you believe that not doing can keep you out of God's Kingdom. Yes, it was commanded – for Israel – and we have record of a few New Testament congregations like Corinth keeping it. It's likely that Christians like Peter and Paul observed it, although they certainly knew that doing so neither secured nor disqualified them. I get the distinct feeling that's not the impression members of UCG, COGWA, LCG or PCG get.

In contrast, Easter, and especially Good Friday, remind us that the filthy rags of our own efforts mean nothing when it comes to salvation. We are saved FOR good works, not BY good works. And even that's iffy, in the case of those who die shortly after conversion. Consider the thief on the cross – he had no opportunity to do anything for the Kingdom. He couldn't feed the needy. He couldn't care for orphans and widows. He couldn't be baptized. He couldn't even move. Yet Jesus told the thief that he had done all he needed to do. You can argue that the thief isn't in heaven, you can argue that he's “asleep” in the ground awaiting resurrection, but you can't argue that Jesus told him he'd done enough by expressing his faith. The message of the Days of Unleavened Bread gives the polar opposite of that message, which leads me to my next point.

3. You will never be good enough – and that isn't the point, anyway.

You must put leavening out of your house, your minister tells you, because it symbolizes sin. In fact, those that don't put out leaven are sinning. But don't go overboard, because it's not possible and your focus should be primarily spiritual anyway. Also, laugh it off when you find a sandwich crust wedged in the bowels of your recliner next week, because God knows how hard you tried and will give you a pass. That one wasn't really sin because, you didn't know it was there. Or you forgot. Or whatever.

Huh? NOW who doesn't understand the gravity of sin?

I personally believe this ritual was intended to teach us one thing – the ingrained, pervasive depth of our sin. This isn't, as Paul wrote, an excuse to live for the flesh, but instead to teach us to recognize our total dependence upon God – for our justification, for our sanctification and our salvation. Once we grasp that, we don't rehearse it year after year. We do something about it. We move out of the shadows and step into the light of Christ. we place our faith in Jesus for salvation instead of our own efforts. It's not 80/20. It's not 90/10. It's not even 99.9/0.01. When we realize we are fully dependent upon Him, we can move past our self-righteousness, drop our checklist and fully appreciate what He's done for us. We are justified, or made right with God, by faith in His promise, and Christ's righteousness is credited to us, as it was to Abraham. Our hearts are changed, and we begin the lifelong process of transformation - with God as the potter and us as the clay.

4. Examination isn't a once-a-year thing.

Now, if you listen to your minister, you might believe that those who leave the COGs live immoral, amoral existences. Some may, but that's not a given. Most who exit to some other form of Christianity did so because they studied their Bibles and found the COG explanations lacking. They still believe in obedience, they just believe in obedience to a different covenant, and for different reasons.

One thing that has struck me in my recent study is the idea of self-examination. The COGs apply scriptures regarding self-examination mainly to the Passover season. He who eats the bread and drinks the wine without self-examination drinks judgment to himself. The messages traditionally start about 6 weeks out, with catchy titles like, "Five Steps for Better Self-Examination," some discussing topics found in the Beautitudes, but many discussing faithful tithing practices (I'm looking at you, LCG) and making better use of the Sabbath day.

It's not a traditional Passover passage, but when I think of self-examination, I think of James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perserveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
- James 2:22-25

While it's not true of all, the annual Days of Unleavened Bread ritual tends to turn us into that man James criticizes - one who looks into the mirror at his natural face - be it for an afternoon, a day, a week or a month - then forgets what he looks like the rest of the year. I literally had a COG member get in touch with me almost two years after she tore me down for my beliefs and kicked me out of her house. It was - you guessed it - right before Passover. Was she not "cleansed" by the previous Passover? Had she thought about her behavior at all during the previous 20 months? I'll never know, but by then, the damage was done. The relationship was strained, and we haven't talked since. This is why I, personally, believe the frequent Lord's Supper model is what the Bible intended. It encourages us to root out sin, mend relationships and consider our behavior frequently, not waiting a whole year to make changes and amends.

And while we're on the subject of James, let's look at the topics the book of James, and heck, 1 Corinthians 5, the COG-celebrated New Testament DUB passage, are concerned with regarding Christian behavior:

  • Quarreling
  • Following men/factions
  • Jealous and strife
  • Tolerating sexual immorality
  • Idolatry
  • Homosexuality
  • Doubting/faithlessness
  • Entertaining sinful desires
  • Filthy ideas and speech
  • Controlling your speech
  • Visiting widows and orphans
  • Showing partiality to the rich
  • Mercy
  • Helping brethren in need

I find two things striking about this list: 1 - very few of these concepts overlap with "the law," and 2 - none of these can be effectively changed in a period of days, weeks or months. even months. James is not talking about annual examination, he's talking about a day-by-day, committed, year-long (really, life-long) commitment. Anything less, and you're the man who's forgotten after looking into the mirror for a short time.


It's no secret that I believe keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread create serious problems for Christians. I believe the practice of mixing the wineskins can spiritually blind us with the veil Paul discusses in 2 Corinthians 3:13-15. Keeping it can puff us up with pride - the achieving the opposite of what the COGs each is intended. Remember, I did not leave "the church" as a rebellious teen after I moved out of my parent's house. I was not dragged to church with a well-meaning grandparent, nor I did not join half-heartedly when I got married. I was as committed as you. I had annual traditions with my family, Pinterest-worthy (ok, Pinterest-fail-worthy) unleavened treats and dutifully started my children on the same path; teaching them to dutifully clean out their toybox at age three. But I came to see that the DUB created more spiritual questions, confusion and emptiness that could only be answered in Jesus. I can fully relate with Paul when he wrote that "whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:7-8a).

Go ahead and eat your matzo if you must. In fact, eat an extra one with peanut butter for me. Those were my favorite. Anyway, keeping the DUB didn't disqualify the brethren in Corinth; so it stands to reason that it won't disqualify you either, done with proper faith in Christ. But take a moment - not on Sunday, if that's too much for you - to read the accounts of Jesus' resurrection, to read how it's regarded in the New Testament, and to contemplate what it means for you.

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