Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do Post-Armstrongists Keep The Law?

What I often hear from people who consider themselves keepers of the law is a series of condemnations and/or predictions concerning my future all centering around my failure to meet their ideals regarding the Sabbath and other Old Covenant laws. I, of course, challenge them with the idea that they don't keep the law either. That has been true in each case, however it never seems to sink in.

What I have found recently is a new and particularly virulent strain of law-keeper; a group of former Armstrongists who now profess that Herbert Armstrong was a false prophet and a lawbreaker, and the Worldwide Church of God was never truly "God's Church." (I agree, but that's neither here nor there.) This, conveniently enough, leaves them as the "true church," and their teachings as the right ones, and their leaders as the only genuine ministry, and etc etc.

The odd thing is, most of what they preach is exactly the same as what HWA preached! (It even has the same flaws.)

So, to test my theory, I questioned one of these new über legalists. I did my usual thing and pointed out how they aren't keeping the law they profess to keep so much better than anyone else. They asked me to explain how they were failing to keep the law. I mentioned the details of a few laws, for example foods laws, Holy Days, and tithing. Yadda, yadda... Predictably, they made a small attack against me and danced completely around my questions.
That's about the point where I get tired of the game, and I just get directly to the issue. I focused on tithing. And here's the gist of how that went.

Über legalists attempt to appeal to our emotions by spinning a tale about how we borrow things from God, and we must respect Him by giving Him some back. Why would God give you something, and then expect some of that back in return for His generosity? It doesn't make sense from the start. Why didn't He just keep the 10% in the first place?

As much as I might desire to agree about wanting to give to God, I disagree that anything belongs to us at any time. Just because we use it doesn't make it ours and not God's any longer. All the universe belongs to God, what can anyone "give" to Him? In addition, He neither wants nor needs material things. His desire is mercy, justice, prayer, love, faith, etc. Which, by the way, He gives us. Do we also tithe 10% of our faith? Or 10% of our life? He gives us those things, too! Why not give Him 10% of our children, or 10% of grace? Am I to believe that God gives us all things, but for some reason only wants 10% of my paycheck back?
God is a "pay it forward" kind of God. If we want to give to Him, we must give to those that are in need of what He has given us (MAT. 25: 35-40).

So these people tithe as a requirement of law. Let's see if they follow tithe law rather than just tithing whatever they want to whomever they want.

Contrary to popular belief, tithes don't go to God, as they claim, nor do tithes go to "the Church." They go to the Levites because God was their part and inheritance in Israel. That's the law. All of this "giving to God" misses the point of tithing entirely. The tribe of Levi depended upon these tithes.
Only the Levites and the very poor are ever said to be able to receive tithes. Are they tithing to a bona fide and credentialed Levite? No. So they are adding to the law!

Also, they tithe on wages or other monetary income, and these tithes are paid out in the form of some money.
However the laws on tithing are specific. The tithes were to cone from the farm, field, orchard, or flock - only! Yet they completely ignore this, to do away with the law in favor of the commandments of men. Once again, they have added to the law!

They boast strenuously in their more accurate law-keeping. But the things the law says to do, they do not do, and the things they do are not things the law says to do.
I find it a bit disconcerting that people would make their boast in the law, claiming to know the law and keep it better than all others, yet they obviously disregard it when it becomes inconvenient for them.

A challenge came across that tithes are commanded for the New Covenant in Matthew 23. Let's look at this confirmation of tithes in Matthew 23, shall we?

(MAT. 23: 23-24) 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

First things first, context! To whom is this comment directed? Us? No! To the scribes and Pharisees. How do we know this? Because it says right there, "scribes and Pharisees." So, why on earth would we take a comment directed specifically towards the scribes and Pharisees, then say it was directed towards us? If we are so quick to say "this means we must tithe" then we must be equally as quick to demand "Jesus calls us hypocrites who neglect the weightier matters of the law." Because we cannot easily dive right into the middle of a chapter, zero in on one phrase out of a hundred, extract it from context, and then start making demands.
"Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"
But that's not all! They do the very same thing in Matthew 15! Jesus corrects the Pharisees regarding the 10 Commandments, and these people say "He was commanding us!!" Yet when Jesus turns to the crowd and says “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” They ignore it completely.

When Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, they demand He was speaking to us. When Jesus says to the crowd, they ignore as if it doesn't apply. Thus they admit, in a round-about way, that they are Pharisees.

Next thing, more context. When was this statement made? During the time of the Old Covenant. Jesus had not yet died, so the Jews were very well commanded to tithe. Rightfully Jesus instructed them on the law.

Next thing, items tithed. If Jesus is commanding us to tithe (which He most certainly is not doing) then He has commanded us only to tithe upon mint, anise, and cumin. Those are the items mentioned in the verse; those are the only things we could possibly conclude He would be commanding should have been tithed upon in the verse. Anything else is out of context.

Next thing, verb tense. Notice how "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" is past tense. Their time was almost up! The axe was already at the tree. There was no implication whatsoever that Jesus wanted the Pharisees to start tithing now. For 1,400 years they had the law witnessing against them. If they wouldn't listen to Moses and the prophets, then they wouldn't listen even if One rose from the dead. So this is in no way a command for us, but rather it was a judgment on them.

Next thing, blatant selective reading. Notice how tithes are demanded, but precisely the point Jesus was trying to make is utterly ignored. Tithes are demanded; justice, mercy, and faith, are abandoned. It should be obvious, and it cannot be denied, that those who do not view the scripture as demanding tithing (tithing as redefined by men) are condemned. Where is the justice and mercy in that?

Next thing, the details. Notice how the scribes and Pharisees understood the details of the tithe law. What did they tithe on? Their income? No! They tithed on what the law said to tithe on: farm, field, flock, and orchard. They were anal retentive tithers; tithing even leaves of herbs. Tiny little herbs! Not 10% of their paycheck. Jesus didn't remark "For you pay tithe on the gross of your business income."
Have you ever wondered why Deuteronomy 14: 25 told us that we can exchange our tithe for money? No?? Here, read it:

(DEU. 14: 25) then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

Now, why would we exchange a tithe of money... for money? Because the tithe was not of money. Look 3 verses up:

(DEU. 14: 22) You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.

Tithe on the field, not on business income. So, here one has 10% of their field in a hopper, and they can't take it all with them to Jerusalem, so they exchange it for money. That is the law!

But watch out! Here come the modern law-keepers to tell you how important it is to keep the law - except they aren't keeping the law.
We are to believe that we can take the law, rearrange it as we see fit, demand God accept our generosity contrary to the law, then others are condemned for not following suit.
They will tell you that God has given to you, and you must give back; which sounds nice but it's not a law-based argument. It's a rationalization. Where do they find that law? All things belong to God, even our very lives. Do we tithe 10% of the fruit of the Spirit? No. We are living sacrifices. A Christian gives 100%. So, we do give to God. But the law says if you will tithe, you tithe only of field, orchard, farm, and flock. Period. But they don't do that. They have changed the law!
Also, the law says to tithe to Levites. But they don't do that either! They argue over which church has the appropriate minister to whom all may legitimately tithe. But where do they get such a law? There is no law anywhere that says to tithe to anyone but Levites (and the destitute). They borrow clever phrases like "modern-day Levite" to anoint their ministry with the ability to accept tithes. But the Levitical Priesthood has ended (HEB. 7: 11-12). If it has not, then Jesus is illegitimate as our High Priest (HEB. 7: 14), and we are hopeless! Still, do their "Levite" ministers obey the laws of the Levites? Have you ever seen one in an ephod, or linen vestment? No?? So, they are not Levites!

Oh, the law! The law!
Just not THAT law.

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


Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post! You most definitely hit he nail on the head with regards this tithing issue. And I must admit, you raised a good point on giving back to God 10% of our lives, faith etc. that is truly in keeping with their baseless argument of giving back to God. They make it sound like a very noble deed which gets God all excited.

Anyways keep up the good work and God bless you.

xHWA said...

Thank you eliteinchrist.
I am humbled by your words, and unworthy. I pass all credit to the One to whom credit is due.

Please do come back and read and share with us more.

May God go with you and overflow you in His grace and mercy!

Anonymous said...

I know a bunch of members who kept attending the "new and revamped" WCG in the 90's-2002 or so even though they heavily disagreed with the changes. They stayed just in case....I guess in case, I suppose, the "revisions" were right. I know some who do foot washings in their own homes on Passover, and deleaven their houses. They know you don't HAVE to, but want to keep all bases covered, JUST. IN. CASE. Like collecting Brownie points. Don't cha know how superstitious a bunch we were? That just doesn't stop for some when they left the organization proper. Sheesh, do it all, or don't bother in my opinion

xHWA said...


You make a great and deep point in three little words - "JUST. IN. CASE."

You are right on the money.
What this says to me is "Don't trust God."
Wasn't that the signature on all of our works when we were in that mindset?
All the words "just in case" say to me is "Jesus' sacrifice is insufficient."
I would like even one Armstrongist to answer this one simple question:
In what way was Jesus' sacrifice insufficient?

xHWA said...

I mean, are you in the Ark, or aren't ya?

If you're in the Ark, what saves your life? Your own effort after the door shuts, or the grace of God? The Bible lists nothing about what Noah did while he was on the Ark. The boat is built; there's no sense insisting that you need to keep building the boat. Once that door shuts, your life is spared; there's nothing more to add and nothing to take away. There's no sense in thinking "I think I'm on the Ark, but just in case, I'll build a little more boat." It has nothing to do with "just in case." You're on the Ark. The door is shut. Get to doing the business expected of you now that you're on the Ark.

Anonymous said...

xHWA, Loved your comments! Especially the Ark analogy. When the "scales" finally fell off my eyes, after being influenced for more than 40 years by the WCG, I felt like the old V8 juice commercial where the guy slapped his forehead and said, I shoulda had a V8! I kind of figuratively slapped myself on the head and thought "Doh! How could I have been so led down the garden path like that!" It's a paradox really, so simple, yet almost impossible to do; to love your neighbor as you love yourself. That's life in a nutshell, not the dog and pony show of ANY organized religion. I am so blissfully free of all of it, and blessed immensely every day since.

Anonymous said...

"I know a bunch of members who kept attending the "new and revamped" WCG in the 90's-2002 or so even though they heavily disagreed with the changes. They stayed just in case...."


"I know some who do foot washings in their own homes on Passover, and deleaven their houses. They know you don't HAVE to, but want to keep all bases covered, JUST. IN. CASE."

This is less of an apocryphal story than one might at first assume, nor is it restricted to relatively isolated pockets within Worldwide/GCI: One prominent self-proclaimed member of Grace Communion International has taken at least two, yes, two occasions to defend British-Israelism, despite claiming that he is a member of Grace Communion International (there is some doubt on that front).

There have also been reports of the church in Canada retaining foreshortened versions of Armstrongist holy days, particularly the Days of Unleavened Bread (info is near the end of the page on the link provided), and a calendar posted by the Headquarters congregation in Glendora this year indicates they held a Sabbatarian Easter (yeah, I don't get it, either).

Hearsay also indicates that at least one minister in Grace Communion International may be counseling members that it IS acceptable to not believe in trinitarianism, and to deny the "personhood of the holy spirit" (Um. Isn't that what professing Christians say is the unpardonable sin?) and it is still possible to be a member of Grace Communion International.

Also, we must take into consideration that there may still be a large cohort of underground Wallenites in the church, who style themselves "God's Righteous Under Much Persecution".

In other words, the church that so loudly claims to have been "transformed by truth"....really may not have been "transformed" at all.

Gledwood said...

Does or did anyone ever obey the Old Testament law about not wearing garments of mixed fibres?

xHWA said...


Not in the Armstrongist groups. The thing about mixed fibers was more of a joke than anything. No one took it seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Does or did anyone ever obey the Old Testament law about not wearing garments of mixed fibres?"

It was preached in one congregation I attended, yes, but only a few families/individuals adhered to it closely. The ministry had other, more serious "allegations" they could use, to prove an individual was "weak in the faith", if they needed to dispense with a "troublemaker".

But, yes, for many years, I shopped for clothing with a careful eye to the fibre content that was listed on the tags. Much the same way we used to scrutinize the ingredients list of any prepackaged item we purchased, this made shopping for clothes take much longer than it would have, normally. Unless, of course, one frequented boutiques where it was known the clothing was 100% one fibre or another, or (as in the case of the large families) the wife/mother made all the family's clothes.

Take that with this grain of salt, however: The Canadian congregations did tend to be a little more conservative WRT the Levitical Laws, than our American brethren....

xHWA said...

You actually did that?? I do not recollect if I have ever met anyone besides you who actually did that.

But, then again, I'm from the U.S. The Canadian groups must have been more conservative for sure.

Anonymous said...

"You actually did that??"

FWIW, it was only "preached" once or twice by a local elder in his sermonettes...said local elder who was viewed as a hard-liner, by even the conservatives in the congregation!

Of course, "proving all things", we found the necessary verse to support it, in the Bible ourselves, and from that point on, we followed the letter of the law faithfully. Well. I did. Can't even say the same for my parents, so it was probably only just me. Did it for years, even after we'd fallen away, too. Force of habit, I guess. Speaks a lot to just how authoritative the more impressionable amongst us, took the words of the ministry to be, eh?

"The Canadian groups must have been more conservative for sure."

Without doubt. I always thought it was the other way around, my reasoning being, those congregations closer to Headquarters would probably be more conservative, but the more I've read on the ex-member blogs and forums over the years, the more I realized the Canadian church really was a lot more hard-liner than our American brethren.

*That* said, at 300+ members, my relatively small congregation still had a balanced mix of the stereotypical WCG "types": there were a few depressives, two (confirmed) schizophrenics, a handful of conspiracy theorists, the "chaff" who were basically the notorious church hypocrites, trying to "bend" the "rules" every chance they got (Or so I thought at the I wish I'd had the foresight to join them!), those of us who sincerely had faith, and kept "God's laws" gladly, with a sense of purpose (regardless of how false that purpose turned out to be), but we didn't go over-overboard with it, the way some did...and then there were the hard-liners, who were known to shock Orthodox Jews, with how "observant" they were!

So we were all robots in one respect, being members of "God's True Church", but we still ran the gamut, on an "Armstrongist" spectrum.

That's my take on it, anyway.

xHWA said...

domo arigato Mr. Roboto W Armstrong

Bill said...

"Have you ever wondered why Deuteronomy 14: 25 told us that we can exchange our tithe for money? No?? Here, read it:"

What you mean "us" paleface?

(Borrowed loosely from a Lone Ranger / Tonto joke)

Anonymous said...

"domo arigato Mr. Roboto W Armstrong"

Great, now I've got that song STUCK IN MY HEAD AAAAAIIIIEEEEE....


xHWA said...

"What you mean "us" paleface?" -Bill

you got me there