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Comments are again being allowed.
I figure there may be someone who needs my help, and posting a comment may be easier than emailing me. I would prefer an email, but I am here to help those in need.

**Do you have history in the Worldwide Church of God? Are you still attending one of its offshoots? Do you see cracks in the doctrine and want more information, or do you not know why you're still there anymore? Is there a hole in your heart and just don't know why God isn't granting you the happiness you were promised would come through tithing and following a man? Do you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot live up to your own standards, and you feel like a failure? Do you find your pursuit of God to be based on fear?
Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Slandering HWA? I Think Not! - Part 2

This is a follow-up post to my original post "Slandering HWA? I Think Not!"
The minister responded! I am shocked, to say the least. Here is the correspondence, as promised.

Original message from me to minister:
 
I recently listened to your message about Slander. I find that in general, your advice was good.

However, I would point out that you have preached it to be true that the Catholic Church is a harlot and the Protestant churches are the daughters of harlots - often calling them all "so called Christians" or some similar thing, insinuating that they do not follow Christ but the deceptions of Satan - and all of this based largely upon unprovable prophetic speculation and the teachings of a proven false prophet. Your accusations are virtually baseless!

You say it is NEVER good to say anything other than what is positive, it is NEVER allowable. You who participate in the accusation and slander of BILLIONS, shall one not be accurate to call you a hypocrite?

Original response from minister to me:

Slander is making untrue charges about others. I don't know where you are coming from with your insinuation that I am a hypocrite or that "my accusations are virtually baseless". I am not making accusations--only teaching the accusations made by God. God throughout the OT indicts Israel as well as all nations for harlotry when they pursue false gods and idolatry. If you have ever studied any history of the Catholic church and all of the groups that came out of the RCC, then you cannot deny that they all practice idolaty. The entire Xmas season is considered harlotry by God. Easter, Lent, etc. are all the continuation of idolatrous practices founded in ancient religious rites. The indictments against the mother of harlots in Revelation are made by the same God from the OT. Jesus' example was the same: He indicted the Pharisees by calling them serpents and a generation of vipers; that was not slander, it was the truth. It is the duty of Christ's ministry to teach what God says; if you don't like that, consult God and tell Him you aren't in agreement with His charge to the ministry to preach the Word. While you're at it ask Him to help you examine your condemnatory, self-righteous attitude because the tenor of your correspondence to me is not a humble one. In fact, I will never again respond to anything you send if the attitude is not different than what you exhibited in this email.

Final reply from me to minister:

I am sorry you were so easily offended by my letter to you. I did not insinuate that you are a hypocrite. I merely pointed out that what I heard you say doesn't match with what I know you say in other places. Is that an invalid topic? I know in the past no minister would have allowed such a question. I thought you were different. I was wrong.

I have studied the history of Catholicism, as well as the history of Armstrongism. I have studied the accusations of Alexander Hislop and found him to be utterly false. Indeed the Catholics are in error, but not any more than you are - only in different ways. You say "the law! the law!" You seem to believe it all is made better by a confession that you have flaws. But it still remains that you fail to keep the whole law. Tell me, when is the last time you made a booth at Tabernacles, as you are commanded to do? I'll wager not once. Or when was the last time you traveled three times in the year to the place where God puts His name, as Deuteronomy 16 commands? No, you only travel once. And these are minor examples! The parts of the law you do teach are twisted and cherry picked in favor of making lords of men who rob homes and lead away captive the hearts of God's children into the yoke of bondage. You have failed in more than one portion of the law, yet you disregard your own teachings of the law that only a keeper of it is justified. You charge the entirety of the earth with idolatry, but you overlook your own flawed teachings. You yourself have made a false god of Herbert Armstrong and his cherry picked version of the law as well as his failed prophecies. Name two that have come to pass? Certainly you will not include his prediction of Christ's return in 1936. The very name of Christ is disparaged around the world because of the horrendous damage the "ministry of God" as you call it has caused. And this is not slander, but the horrible truth.

I think I would be wise to cease corresponding with a person whose best answer to a valid question is to vomit more accusation. And then you attempt to place some burden of humility upon me as if you bear none of your own. It is a right proper indicator of the true contents of your heart. I can see plainly that you do not grasp the very New Covenant which you claim to be a minister of. I deeply believe the ministry of God is charged to preach and warn. What I fail to see from you is proof that you are a minister of God. But merely a minister of error, false prophecy, accusation, and hypocrisy. I see a Pharisee.

Good day.

My commentary:

Well, I suppose it was a bit much hoping I could ask an Armstrong minister about hypocrisy. What did I expect? Was he going to think it over? No. He did the typical holier-than-thou maneuver and claimed I wasn't being humble. I've gottent that treatment somewhere before. I once received this gem from the false prophet du jour, Ron Weinland:

"This will be my last attempt to respond, as it is quite evident your mind has been made up on many matters for some time. You are seeking to find fault with me. ... It has been obvious to me that you did not recognize me as your minister. If I am not your minister, I am certainly not your brother. You can't have one -- in this case -- without the other. You don't seem to recognize your true relationship with God. A minister is to teach and instruct God's people in His ways, but when those whom He has called are in judgment of His ministers, then instruction is obviously being rejected. You are in a spirit of bitterness and can't even see it because of your self justification. 

"You have placed yourself in the position of the minister -- of the teacher -- you have elevated yourself above what God gave you. Read your letter again. You are now the teacher. Do you really believe that is how God works? 

"You even signed your name as a minister of Jesus Christ -- in His service. You have never been ordained to that responsibility. You have truly taken too much on yourself and I do fear for you if you do not repent speedily for such presumptuousness. Do you think you can do this lightly before God and He not correct you mightily for it? ... you have really gone way too far. In addition, it is quite evident from such a response that you are far from having any love for me as a brother, but instead you are in a gall of bitterness and it will eat away at you and consume you if you fail to repent.

"Please don't delude yourself by speaking about Jesus Christ, God and love, and do so in a railing manner with such sarcasm and anger." -end

Notice any glaring similarities? It almost seems as if both letters were written by the same hand. Well, it seems that the whole lot of Armstrong ministers are indeed cut from the same cloth. I am without words to express my grief that so many people are under the sway of these men. 

I once held this particular minister in very high esteem. I thought of him as a friend. I defended him often when others attacked him. My heart is torn for him. I will pray for this minister that he doesn't end up like Ron Weinland. He could use your prayers as well.

**A very brief follow-up to this post can be found here: A Funny Little Story. If you're interested.

Slandering HWA? I Think Not!

Nolo.com defines Defamation as such: 
"A false statement that injures someone's reputation and exposes him to public contempt, hatred, ridicule, or condemnation. If the false statement is published in print or through broadcast media, such as radio or TV, it is called libel. If it is only spoken, it is called slander."

I am somewhat concerned that there is a minister out there who is indirectly accusing people of slander who are attempting to tell the TRUTH about Herbert Armstrong. Not only that, but this minister also commits slander against these people by insinuating they are merely a tool of Satan; a manifestation of Satan's desperation to deceive as many of "God's elect" before his time is up. Accurately, this minister paints Satan as the accuser. Inaccurately, he paints those people who tell the truth about HWA as accusers.

Now, I do not agree with the people who unfairly attack HWA. I am not writing this to throw in my money with genuine slanderers. For what it's worth, I agree with much of the minister's sermon in that he displays slander to be an ungodly act which our Lord finds unacceptable. Conversely, I do wholeheartedly support and agree with those who tell the hidden truths about the kind of person HWA really was and the kinds of things he really did that run contrary to the image of "God's chosen apostle" which he painted for the public to buy.

Am I trying to say that every story out there about Herbert Armstrong's misadventures is true? No. I am certain there are things on the Painful Truth, just for example, that are not exactly truthful. I am also certain that the vast majority of things most certainly are truthful. That is one danger that this particular minister points out - we cannot be certain of the quality of what we read. So that is why I try to stick to things I can prove.

Everyone should be fully aware that Herbert W. Armstrong was a master advertiser and the founder and leader of an organization which looked to him as a holy man and an apostle, but behind the scenes what type of a man he was most certainly did not match the image he portrayed. There is ample evidence for this. The evidence is both primary and secondary. Primary being people who were eye witnesses on the scene. Secondary being people, like myself for example, who were not there but have other evidence to show.

What is the motivation for this? I cannot speak for everyone. I simply will not accept that everyone who put forth information about Herbert Armstrong and the happenings in the Worldwide Church of God and its splinter organizations did so for noble reasons. It is obvious that some people gave information out of hurt or spite. But that is most certainly not the case in the majority of instances. Most of the people that I have read or spoken to have come across to me as being desperate to get this information to the public as a warning. And they did so out of concern for the people who are being deceived! In the majority of instances, the motivation IS noble.
Does wrong motivation equal false accusation, though? Certainly not! People turn state's evidence all the time. In order to save their own skins they sell out their friends and break sworn confidence. Is that noble? No! There is no honor among thieves. However does that mean their testimony is false? No! The testimony itself is separate from the motivation. Without this sort of dishonorable testimony, several horrible characters could never have been brought to justice. But the real question remains - is the information accurate? If so, then by the very definition it was not slander. And such, even those who put forth information about Herbert Armstrong with less than honorable motivation must not themselves be falsely accused of slander! Be careful, you who cry "slander!", lest you yourself become hypocrites!

The minister in question says, "Never circulate a negative report." Generally speaking, this is good advice. He says slander and accusation are "verbal murder" and "weapons of destruction". Genuine slander and false accusation are indeed such! 
Let me say this, however, when the accusation is a revelation of the honest truth, to save the people who are in clear and present danger, then what sort of nonsense is this sort of teaching?? To say "never" makes this advice unstable! 
There is a great gulf of difference between gossip and warning someone about danger. If you knew that there is a serial rapist dating your friend, would you not inform them that they are in danger from a serial rapist - thus bringing a negative report? Or if there were a known child molester living in the neighborhood of your friends, would you not warn them - thus bringing a negative report?
Is it not hypocritical that this minister warns of gossip and slander, while he himself accuses the Pope of being the Second Beast of Revelation 13 and the entire Catholic Church of being the Great Harlot of Revelation 17, and the entire Protestant community as being daughters of harlots?? I advise this minister should first pull the beam out of his own eye (MATT. 7: 3)! 

Take this warning from Ezekiel, for example:

(EZE. 33: 1-6) 1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

When a person sees a danger like a false prophet or a false minister, it is his obligation to warn people of it. Motivated by this very verse, this minister follows his mentor into a flood of unfounded defamation against Christianity. And based on what? Proof? No! Based on private speculation about prophecy. It is the stated motivation of the Armstrongite churches that they must warn the world! And indeed, their accusations are generally false. "The Pope could lead the future Beast." But perhaps not! We don't know that for a fact. What is a fact is that Armstrong has already done terrible things in the past, and those things have been covered up. However, when someone speaks the truth about Herbert Armstrong, and reveals the danger to those deceived by his ministers, then all of a sudden we hear "Slander! Slander!"

(JER. 6: 17) Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ 

Of course they won't listen. This minister makes a distinction between "the world" [a derogatory term implying anyone who is not of Armstrong is of Satan], and "the brethren" [loaded language implying that association with Armstrong equates to favoritism from God]. And what is the real demarcation? That Armstrong was an apostle and we all must follow his cherry-picked version of the law. Accept that and you're in. See through it, and you're a slanderer.
So, it's OK to say bad things about "the world", but not "the brethren". So, SOMETIMES "slander" is more OK, and sometimes it's not. How is this not hypocrisy? How is this not a dual standard? How is this not ungodly? So, this minister looks down on people because they are not of his group, while he preaches to us to speak evil of no one. The Almighty God does not respect persons (ROM. 2: 11). There is no double standard with God. Does this minister think somehow that his own slander and accusation and verbal murder will get past God (PSA. 101: 5)? Remove the plank from your own eye and then, by the grace of God, perhaps you will see!

This minister gives himself an out and says, "criticize those people who are lying." Very good, then. Finally, we have come to an agreement. When I see Herbert Armstrong lying, I will criticize. This minister says "we must be careful of what we allow into our minds". YES! And the works of Herbert Armstrong are not exempt from that!

I will give you two undeniable truths about Herbert Armstrong: 
1) He was a false prophet! Read: The Plain Error -or- Prophecy for Fear and Control
2) He was a teacher of falsehoods! Read: COG Theological Ancestry -or- The Babylon Connection

And those are just a couple of selections from my meager blog! There are the plethora of other former Armstrongist blogs out there who have much more information than I do. Or, if you really want a site to behold, go to the Exit Support Network and read up.  Listed there are many primary sources of information from first-hand witnesses of the upper echelon of Worldwide.

Is it slander to point out truths?  Here is some more interesting slander from the Exit Support Network's article entitled "The Rich Apostle":
"Herbert Armstrong had five luxurious homes filled with art treasurers. (Post-Gazette, Thurs., Nov. 24, 1977, "Worldwide Church of God Amasses Wealth Amid Rising Criticism). His 1980 income tax returns showed that he gave himself and his wife Ramona an income of $387,755, paid federal taxes of $147,545, and deducted only $37,427 (or just over 9.5 percent) as church contributions.  His accountant, Jack Kessler, said HWA gave himself a salary of $500,000 per year in 1981. (Jack Kessler 1981 Letter to Worldwide Church of God Board of Directors). HWA had a number of Swiss bank accounts, many foreign bank accounts, owned considerable wealth and had all his living expenses paid for by the church. (AR#26, October 1983)
"HWA's opulent Ambassador Auditorium was built for $11 million in 1974. (LA Times, January 17, 1986) "

"By the mouth of two or three witnesses..." (MATT. 18: 16) it says. Well, please allow me to point out that we have not just one, or two, or three, or ten, or fifty. There are hundreds of people who are primary and secondary witness to the destructive teachings and the deceptions of Herbert Armstrong!! 
I cannot speak for everyone. This blog is not a matter of returning evil for evil. I mean that honestly! This blog is a case of warning. This blog is a case of trying to help people get away from that system of abuse. And if those who hear this warning do not heed it, then their blood is on their own heads, as they say. For those of you who are still in the COGs, you who think you needed to sound the warning and you who thought you had no need for a warning of your own, please listen to clear ringing of the truth!

So, this minister who gets up on his bully pulpit and reviles unfairly, would like people to believe all sorts of negative things about those who tell the truth about Herbert Armstrong and his ministers, all the while accuses and slanders BILLIONS of Christians, let him take his own medicine. 

I sent him an email and asked him if that doesn't seem hypocritical to him. I don't expect a reply to that. (I'll let you know if I ever do get a response.)
**Well, guess what! He DID respond! Read it here.

(LUKE 6: 22) Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. 

This minister isn't just lashing out at me. I'm small fish. But for what it's worth, I won't let it bother me any more than what has motivated me to write this post. I forgive him. Armstrong has no hold on me any longer. Let them rage that their tithe income is reduced. I know there's joy in heaven for my having left (LUKE 15: 7)! And I know that same joy awaits all who see through Armstrong's lies and by the grace of God step out of his yoke of bondage and into the New Covenant!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Is A Biblical Tithe?

If one strives to keep the law, one had better familiarize one's self with it. We must look into the law and see what was tithe-worthy and what was not. Let's not forget the story of Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu who offered profane fire on God's altar and were killed (LEV. 10). After all, God could not possibly want an offering of anything except what He commands... right?

(LEV. 27: 30, 32) 30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s.
32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.

(DEU. 14: 22-23) 22 You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

(NEH. 13: 5, 12) 5 the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers
12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse.

(DEU. 14: 28) At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates.

(DEU. 26: 1-2, 10) 1 And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, 2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground
10 and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.’ 

This next verse is used by Armstrong to say that the tithe was of everything. It uses the phrase “tithe of everything”, but to say 'tithes were of everything and therefore they were of cash' is contradictory not only to the rest of the Bible but contradictory to the very verse where the phrase exists. The verse explicitly lists what tithes were brought in, then uses the word “everything” in reference to those things – not every possible thing in Israel. Top not come down!

(II CHR. 31: 5) As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.

Where were the tithes taken from? The farming communities!

(NEH. 10: 35-37) 35 And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD; 36 to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; 37 to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities.

So, it is clear that tithes were specifically of the garden, the field, the orchard, and the flock. No mention of fish nor money. The tithe was not of money. This is evident in that the second tithe only was allowed to be exchanged for money (DEU. 14: 24-25). Anyone who says differently doesn't have a Biblical leg to stand on here.

Legion are the men who hope if they can prove that if God owns everything then money can be tithed on. This is absolutely false. God indeed owns everything... EVERYTHING! No Christian denies that. He owns athlete's foot fungus. He owns the vast methane wastes of the gas giant planets. He owns all that is beautiful and priceless. He owns the cold vacuum of space. He even owns those crumbs of toast at the bottom of your toaster. Simply proving that God owns all things does nothing for the tithing argument. Yes, the silver and gold are His (HAG. 2: 8). The Lord says in Psalms 50: 10-11, “10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.” And again “For the world is Mine, and all its fullness” (v 12). Yes, indeed everything that has been created is His (JOHN 1: 2). But that does nothing for the tithe argument.

In order to look at what is titheable, we must not look at what God owns, but what He and He alone says is to be tithed upon, and TO WHOM! The simple and undeniable fact here is that God tells us in the verses I've collected for you at the beginning of this post what He commands will be tithed upon, and no man has the authority to expand upon or decline from that. In a chapter which specifically lays out the tithe laws, God also says “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (DEU. 12: 32)

Those who misunderstand the tithe law look around at the grand ministries they have raised up and say “If tithing were only limited to agricultural produce, then preachers could not be sent out.” According to whom? The gospel that God sends out is His power to us (ROM. 1: 16), and if you are called to take that gospel where God desires it to be sent, then He Himself will see it is accomplished (ROM. 4: 21; I COR. 4: 12; HEB. 1: 3; II PET. 1: 3). God doesn't need the tithe laws to be messed around with in order to do what He purposes.  God doesn't need Herbert Armstrong or any man besides to figure out how to finance the New Covenant! Remember Luke 19: 40, where Jesus said “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

When it is argued that freewill giving is not acceptable to God in the New Testament, and the example of Cain's offering is brought up to illustrate the point, everyone should take a lesson in what exactly Cain did. Cain was making a burnt offering, which we must not do. Cain was indeed bringing what the Bible tells us time and time again that God finds acceptable to offer: produce of the ground. However, Cain brought a defiled offering. Genesis 4: 7 tells us Cain did not do well in his offering. Was that simply because Cain “brought whatever he wanted to God”? NO! What was done was done for a reason, and four our edification.
Read this excerpt from my post about The Genesis Prophecies:

Everyone knows that Genesis 3: 15 is a prophecy of Christ. In Genesis 4: 1-8 is the story of Cain and Abel.  Most people think this is a great little story, but it is much more - it is a prophecy too! With all due respect to the Jews, for whom I have great respect, Cain, the older brother, represents the Jewish Old Covenant church, and Abel, the younger brother, represents the Christian New Covenant Church (including the Messianic Jews, IMHO). Cain was a farmer, as Israel was an agrarian nation; Abel was a shepherd, as Christ is the Lamb of God (JOHN 1: 29) and the Great Shepherd (HEB. 13: 20). Cain's sacrifice was perfectly fine in God's eyes but was not accepted because of faithlessness, as the Jews were not accepted because of their faithlessness; Abel's sacrifice was accepted through faith (HEB. 11: 14), as the Christians are accepted through faith. Cain was jealous of Abel's blessings and set out to kill him, just as the Jews immediately set out to persecute and kill the Christians.

Now, take a very grave lesson from this. Those who say they can determine for themselves what the tithe laws say, those who think they must solve some problem in God's laws by taking the initiative and altering the law as they see fit, those who say they are modern Levites and ignore the plain words of the Bible, those who argue the Pharisees whom Christ cast out of the priesthood are our best example for tithe law – ALL skate on thin ice, dangerously close to hypocrisy. While they say “don't offer whatever you want”, they must add to and take from the clear law of God in order to offer [read receive] what it is that they want – money! You simply will not find money listed as an titheable item in the scriptures. Money, on the other hand, is a perfectly acceptable freewill offering. All should beware, unless they find themselves attempting to be more righteous than God. If the tithe law says “plants and animals”, then the tithe law is “plants and animals”. End of debate.

Those who demand tithes have used conjecture and human reasoning to conclude that since the nation is no longer primarily a farming community, we must tithe off of other sources. They hope to say, “God owns money, and so you must give some of yours to me.” This isn't what God says. Armstrong was adept at altering the law to suit himself, but no man can change tithe law! If there is a tithe, it must be from only what God selects. This is the problem that you get when you try to force the laws for one agrarian nation in the Old Covenant into a global religion in the New Covenant. It won't work. God foreknew that and prepared – not by adding money to tithe law – but by removing the Levites and the tithe. In their place is an entire way of life which could very much be referred to as “the way of give”. This goes well beyond money. God expanded giving into all things. We can give of money in a New Covenant fashion, we cannot tithe of it. Once again we hear from the tithe commanders “Keep the law! Keep the law!" ...Just not THAT law.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The 1979 Receivership and the Big 3

I was reading through some of the old Pastor's Reports (later, Pastor General's Reports), I had a hunch that it would be interesting, and I wanted to review what I saw there with you.

Reading those reports reminded me of something. Recently, I saw the CEO's of GM, Ford, and Chrysler appear before Congress, begging for Congress to forcefully extract money from the taxpayers and transfer it to them in return for nothing. Generally, this is called "theft". They can't sell us their cars, so they figure rather than build a car that we will buy, they will simply confiscate our money. I very much enjoyed listening to the Senators rip them up one side and down the other for show. Oh, they'll get the money. But the rub is that those three men flew to D.C. on private jets. This is something HWA often did. Cry and cry about cash shortages, but live like a god on earth. And so he was, in his own mind. That's where I'd like to start.

HWA was the 'god on earth' of the Worldwide Church of God.

Mr. Armstrong has been the spiritual and temporal leader of the Church since its inception
-Mike Blackwell, Pastor's Report, p. 3, Jan. 30, 1979

Not just temporal, but spiritual and temporal!

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 of Worldwide and its two related entities, defendants Ambassador College, Inc. ("Ambassador"), and Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, Inc. ("AICF"); together with Worldwide, Ambassador and ASCF will collectively be referred to herein as "the Church".
The Church, which was originally known as the Radio Church of God, was founded by me in the mid-1930's for the purpose of proclaiming "the Gospel throughout the world as a witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God." Matthew 24:14. 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

JESUS CHRIST chose and appointed me
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, Jan. 31, 1980

Of 5 general categories of letters received by Worldwide's Mail Processing Center, number 5 was:

"The writers know that Mr. Armstrong is God's Apostle."
-Richard Rice (Mail Processing Center), p. 4, Feb. 5, 1979

The April 23rd, 1979 Pastor's Report includes some of the most unsettling diatribes on HWA's personal power and authority that I have ever read, and he authored the material himself. He made it perfectly clear, he is the sole head of the church on earth, all plans are planned by him, all decisions are made by him, and there is no number 2.
He was so confident in his authority, he felt he did not have to submit to the authority of the state government.

I will not submit to government's administering the Government of God's Church and Work. 
Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 31, Jan. 8, 1979

When they wanted something (usually money) they could be very liberal in Biblical interpretation, for example changing Deuteronomy 16 from speaking of 3 holy days into speaking of 7 holy days, or for another example changing burnt offerings into money offerings. As such, when they wanted to get away with something, they were equally as fast and loose.

Romans 13: 1 says " Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." But notice carefully that it doesn't say "obey" every detail of what the higher powers may tell you to do. Be subject to those higher powers, nevertheless. During Nazi Germany there were laws and programs of the state that you as a Christian would have had to refuse to do. Perhaps you in many cases would have quietly, non-violently disobeyed by omission, being subject to the powers that be and any penalties they might impose.
-Rod Merideth, Pasor's Report, p. 8, March 13, 1979

God help you if you so much as question church policy, but rebellion against the state is no big deal. After all, when the state wants HWA's ill-gotten gains, it's tantamount to Hitler's Nazi Germany! And why not? When HWA wanted your hard-earned gains, it was tantamount to the end of God's work on earth!

Therefore, as the appointed Apostle of Jesus Christ, I commanded Messrs. Raymond McNair, Roderick Meredith, Ellis LaRavia, Ralph Helge, and Stanley R. Rader, in Christ 's name, to do everything possible to protect the Church's operations under me
Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 31, Jan. 8, 1979

He appointed those men to protect his physical organization, all the while telling the lay members that the physical organization was not important. "The church is spiritual!" he said. This is double-speak, of course. Often one thing was said in one place, and another thing in another place. It depended on what outcome was desired. Take this next statement for example:

Although Armstrong did not advise followers to break the law, he stressed that loyal members of the Worldwide Church would “obey God . . . and fight to protect and honor the very building of God.”
-Russell Chandler, L.A. Times, Jan. 23, 1979

The "very building of God" was Worldwide. HWA fled out of state, to Tucson, Arizona. He left his generals in charge in Pasadena. And when it became convenient, HWA planned to abandon the WCG (the "very building of God") and begin a new organization under the name "Philadelphia Church of God". Not so important after all, I guess. But why abandon it?

When the temporary Receiver (now dismissed) fired me, I was not in California . I continued to RUN THE WORK from Tucson. The Receiver tried for a short time to run the Work, but he was UNABLE! Immediately I had money sent in MY care which was deposited in a corporate account here in Tucson [corporate perhaps, but NOT a WCG account; they were separate. See Pastor's Report, p. 4, April 17, 1979]. He had no control over GOD'S tithes. We funneled funds into Pasadena just in time t o pay God's Church bills and the Receiver was unable to lay his hands on the money--which was his goal.
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, Jan. 31, 1980

It is always about the money!! The state of California was interested in taking control of the money. If there's one thing governments love it's money. However, the stated purpose of the receivership was to stop HWA and Stan Rader from stealing it for themselves. It was just as much about the money with HWA as with the state of California. Now HWA put into practice his rebellion against the state; he had his precious tithes diverted to Tucson, and safely out of the hands of the government.

let the brethren know emphatically that Mr. Armstrong has directed (and, for the record, I and all on our P.A.D. team emphatically agree!) that ALL U.S. tithes and offerings be sent to "Herbert W. Armstrong" P. O. Box 431 Tucson, Arizona, 85702"
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, March 5, 1979

As you know, Mr. Armstrong has asked that all donations to the Work be made payable to "Herbert W. Armstrong" and sent to Tucson for processing. However, some are still making their checks out to "Worldwide Church of God" and sending them to Tucson. These "WCG" checks cannot be deposited in Tucson and are forwarded to Pasadena for processing. Any checks of this type will be acknowledged on "Worldwide Church of God" receipts.
All checks should be made payable to "Herbert W. Armstrong" and mailed to Tucson.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 4, April 17, 1979

"Headquarters today is in my very small office in Tucson, Arizona.
"Some get the idea that Headquarters is in Pasadena"
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 6, April 23, 1979

On Jan. 27, 1979, previous to these announcements, the ministers were forbidden by the state of California to contribute to Herbert Armstrong's new ministry or to allow the diversion of church money to him. Now we see why the loophole to disobey the state had to be created - MONEY!

From the comfort of Tucson, Arizona, outside of California's jurisdiction and in complete safety, HWA said:

‘‘I wonder If people aren’t going to have to go to jail,” he continued, adding: “If we have to suffer the persecution of being thrown in jail, then I’m ready to go. . . if they want to arrest 86-year-old people”
-Russell Chandler, L.A. Times, Jan. 23, 1979

Of course he's going to say that. He was completely safe. He was in utterly no danger of jail. It's easy to talk smack when you know you can't be called out. I could say that I will go to Mars right now and without any helmet, because I'm not afraid! But that's because I know there's absolutely no chance of me being put in that position.
And the beat went on.

I want to ask every one of you to give a sermon within the next couple of weeks encouraging the brethren to do their part in God's Work and to enthusiastically build their zeal toward paying God's tithes to his Work and toward generously and even sacrificially giving the generous offerings that are so needed at this time in the very Work of the Living Christ!
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 2, March 5, 1979

It wasn't good enough to ask for tithes. A tithe is only 10%. No, HWA needed 3 tithes, a 'tithe of a tithe', 7 holy day offerings, freewill offerings whenever it could be afforded, and still that wasn't enough!

Because of the very tight financial situation we will be in for the next few months, we want to start immediately to implement a fine idea Mr. Richard Rice has submitted. It involves church fund raising projects. We will send you a complete packet on this within a few days, but I would like to ask all of you personally to start NOW to begin planning and perhaps even preliminary organization of fund raising projects in your area as a special emergency crusade to raise monies to be sent to Tucson at the earliest possible date. Get your leading members together, and begin to organize different groups to engage in painting houses, cleaning houses, ironing, mending, etc., washing cars, selling farm produce, artwork, baby sitting, conducting paper drives, yard and garage sales, bake sales, quilting bees, collecting scrap iron, delivering sales papers or advertisements for local firms, etc.
This is one way the members can directly have "a piece of the action" in SERVING God's Work at this time, and yet it will involve very little of their own personal money -- merely time, effort and elbow grease. So please try to catch the vision, fellows, and get your churches enthusiastically involved in these projects as soon as possible.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, p.1, March 27, 1979

Never mind how having "a piece of the action" in serving God involves living a Godly life, loving one another, and confessing that Jesus is Lord. Never mind that. They didn't understand it. These men were so confused that they thought raising money of all things is the responsibility of every Christian.
At the very same time they were asking ministers and local churches to go without pay (see Pastor's Report, p. 10., March 13, 1979). Yet, exactly like the now infamous CEO's of the "Big Three", they didn't bother to stop their own wastefulness:

God willing, a number of us will be flying out from headquarters to visit many of your areas during the Passover season!
I will be going to Cincinnati for the Passover and then to New York for the last part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Denny Luker will be going to Seattle-Tacoma for the Passover and then to Portland for the last half. Burk McNair will be going to Washington, D.C. for the Passover and then to Charlotte and later Richmond for the last part of the Feast. Gerald Waterhouse will be going to St. Louis for the Passover and then to Nashville for the last half. And Sherwin McMichael will be going to Minneapolis for Passover and then to Kansas City for the last half of the Feast.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, pp. 2-3, March 27, 1979

Yes. While the church sacrifices and the ministers go without pay, the elite are jet-setting. And if you didn't like all this, should you somehow cut through the layers of secrecy and find out about what was really going on, you would be under strict command to shut up and do as you are told or be disfellowshipped and "marked".

So you listen carefully , and all of you, as you know, are forbidden to associate with, and to eat with, or fellowship with, and if you're really loyal, you're not going out and commiserate with people and say: "Oh well, let's all be the underdog and yak it up and try to judge God's apostle."
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, p. 10, Jan. 8, 1979

This from the same man who wiggled his way out of responsibility to obey the state of California. I say, the same logic applies here.

I will continue to climb into the way-back machine and read these Pastor's Reports. I don't know why. I must be a masochist or something. Maybe I think it's relevant for today since these same games go on as they always had.
Anyway, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, [I am] free at last!" ...and I would like those people who are still trapped in Armstrongism to be free with me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Memoriam, Samuele Bacchiocchi

Samuele Bacchiocchi January 29, 1938 - December 20, 2008

"Biblical scholar Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, best known for his teachings on how Sabbath observance shifted toward Sunday worship in much of Christendom, died yesterday at his Michigan home at the age of 70 after a two-year battle with fourth-stage liver cancer."

I have some of his books. I still think I will buy a few more. For a man that Herbert Armstrong no doubt believed was a misled heathen, he epitomized to me the qualities of an ideal Sabbath keeper - far beyond anything HWA achieved. Not a shred of contempt for differing opinions. Not an ounce of condemnation. Loved all. Called all Christians his brothers. Allowed into the Pope's most private archives. Researched his opinion and stayed fast to what he believed, but based on faith and a deep desire to learn the truth. This was a true Christian.

Whether or not you (or I) agree with him, I feel he more than deserves respect.

God rest his soul and comfort his family in their time of loss.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Debunking Zeitgeist Mythology

I stumbled across a website today, completely without looking for it. It is called "The Debunking of Zeitgeist Mythology" the subtitle is "A Response to the Anti-Christian Movie 'Zeitgeist'". Seems to me the author is "R. Christopher".

If you haven't seen Zeitgeist - part 1, then you probably have no idea what I'm talking about and you might as well skip this post entirely. So far as I understand, part 1 was removed from the latest Zeitgeist movie anyhow, and only exists in old copies. 
To fill you in, there was a movie made some time ago called "Zeitgeist" and it was in 3 parts. The first part was supposedly supressed information about the "real" history of Judeo/Christianity (mostly Christianity). The first part I could have done without, but the other two parts - about debt, money, and how our economy really works - were pretty interesting in the light of how they matched with another movie I've watched entitled "Money As Debt". 
"R. Christopher" disagreed with part 1, and did his own research. The linked site is his response.

I'm not endorsing either side. They exist. I've seen them. You probably have too. I'm not going to comment on what I thought about R. Christopher's review, either. It's better that I let you make up your own mind. I have my opinion. They're free. Go get one of your own (that adds the value to the free item).  
;)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

God Is Love

To all my friends who have comforted me, and all those who have found any comfort here:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
“The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Next week is Christmas 2008. I have been out of Armstrongism for about 4 months. I suppose this is as good a time of year as any to do some introspection. I don't personally keep Christmas (but I no longer fear it). Perhaps it's the years of indoctrination speaking. Or maybe I *gulp* agree with Armstrong on the origins of the day and it really does bother me. If my conscience is bothered by something, then I shouldn't do it. I know that in the COG7, Christmas is frowned upon. I support them in every way. God bless them and prosper them. But I will have my own relationship with my Savior, thank you. (Nor have they ever tried to dictate to me. It's really not like Armstrongism there!)
Even so, when in Rome...

I was reading some of the other former Armstrong blogs and some of my older material. I came across some of the stuff my new friends wrote about me and this blog back when I first left my independent COG. They were overwhelmingly supportive. They didn't even know who I was. Nor did they care. They just wanted me to feel welcomed and supported. 
For all of those whom God loves in truth who are still in the COGs (desiring to find Christ but you don't know where or how), I know because I used to do this myself, you call only those  in the COGs "brethren". And why? Because they share a bond with you - though many of them wouldn't give you the time of day. When you leave, they will turn their backs on you too. I can tell you that I still love my old COG associates. I've learned a great deal since I left. One of the first things I learned was that my "brethren" aren't just in the COGs. 

(MARK. 9: 38-41) 38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."

I wasn't exactly one of the former Armstrong bloggers, yet these people to whom I was a stranger gave me more than a cup of cold water. They refreshed my heart with their kindness and sympathy and support. They saw that I was trying, and that was good enough. Jesus is clear that He will repay them for their kindness, and that reward is sure. But take this lesson - Jesus was kind to those who weren't following Him; yet many in the COG's forbid even prayer for those who aren't in the COGs. 

I once got into a most literal debate about whether or not people in the COGs are to ask others to pray for those outside "the church". PRAY!! Not lift a finger, not donate, not even "be warmed and filled". Just ask God for help. There was a man who clearly took the stand that most definitely one must not ask another to pray for someone outside the COGs. 
He said, "Is it appropriate to broadcast special prayer requests to the entire church for any or all unconverted friends, acquaintances, neighbors, or relatives. I still say it is not." 
Well, that's a fine imitation of Christ, THE Council for the Defense, THE Savior of all mankind, THE One who died for even His enemies, THE One to whom they should be pointing people both by word and by deed. This man would apparently love his dog who can't even speak the name of Christ more than a stranger. Good thing this man said each are allowed to pray privately! Still, it was so disturbing that I haven't contributed to that group's conversation in any depth since. This is a "Christian" group, mind you. "Followers" of Christ. But, as we can see in Mark 9, Jesus was not against those that weren't in His group.

(I JOHN 4: 20) If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
(JAS. 4: 8-9)  8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

I think it odd that on one hand we have people who couldn't tell me from Adam yet they welcomed me in and were exceedingly kind to me. On the other hand, I have people who knew me from my youth who don't talk to me anymore; people who were as close as brothers who won't talk to me anymore; people who won't even so much as ask their fellows to pray for 'outsiders' - least of all those who have left to follow Christ. Yet one is generous and kind as Christ was, while the other calls themselves the sole chosen people of Christ while acting as if no one else has value. 

I have to say, if it's at all true that "by their fruits you shall know them" (MATT. 7: 16), I am not too keen on the fruits of the COGs. Search as I may, I could not find 'following the Old Covenant law' listed among the fruit of the Spirit (GAL. 5: 22-23). Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that if we have prophecy and understand all mysteries and possess all knowledge yet we do not have love then we have nothing. Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, not based on who followed Moses in the strictest fashion, but by who showed acts of love (MATT. 25: 31-46). While Jesus stood and watched the Pharisee, strict in keeping the law, praise himself in prayer to God for how he was God's chosen, Christ chose to praise the tax collector who saw himself for what he was and prayed to God for mercy (LUKE 18: 9-14). It says that out of the heart of a Christian there will flow rivers of living water, speaking of the Spirit (JOHN 7: 38-39). Where is even the glass of cool water from these who call themselves "God's elect"? In Matthew 21: 28-32, Jesus tells of a son who did not want to do his father's will but did it anyway, then another son who said he would do his father's will but never actually did. Jesus concludes "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you" (MATT 21: 31). 
Is this what you want? Is this the religion you would choose? To make your boast in the law while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, just as the Pharisee did (MATT. 23: 23)? Take great care in how you think of yourself in relation to God, calling yourself 'God's chosen'. Christ concluded, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (LUKE 18: 14)

(I JOHN 3: 18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
(I JOHN 4: 11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

And where would any person get the idea that Christ is "us vs. them", or loves only those who love Him? Did your "minister" misquote I John 2: 15 to you? I tell you the truth, he did so because he wanted to make an income of you! While Christ died to reconcile man to God and tear down the partitions that separate, they work to build up partitions again and cordon off those who will pay them tithes from those who will not. Why heed him, then? Why do you still entertain the idea that the COG is God's and all else is the unclean world? Did they not also read to you Matthew 5?
(MATT. 5: 43-47) 43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

And who did Jesus say were His brothers?
(MATT. 12: 46-50) 46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” 
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” 

And what is the will of God? 
(I JOHN 3: 11) For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
(I JOHN 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Am I saying this to accuse you? No. Do you feel accused? I don't intend that. I hope that perhaps you feel pricked in the heart, but not accused. We know who the Accuser is - and who the just Judge is. But use your own judgment; look at the fruit and decide for yourself which did the will of God and which did not. Don't I say often that God loves you? And I believe that! He died for you! I say what I say here to make a contrast and to pray that you allow yourself to SEE the difference in the New and the Old Covenants. There is a great difference, and thank God there's a difference! Paul said the Old was the "ministry of death" (II COR. 3: 7) and the "ministry of condemnation", but the New is the "ministry of righteousness" (II COR. 3: 9). So I don't condemn you. Not in what I write nor in my heart. In fact, I deeply desire for you to be where I am and feel the joy that I feel. This entire blog is for you! To help you! There's a love and a joy waiting for you that I never felt while I was in the faith of Armstrong. I want you to have this. I want you to finally be confident that your salvation is definite and sure. I want to seee you follow Christ and not men. I want you to step into the New Covenant! To see you freed, that is my 'glad tidings of joy'. God bless you today and always.

Don't ever forget this:
(I JOHN 4: 16) God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

Mercy triumphs over judgment, and the greatest of things is love! 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Clean and Unclean Wordstudy

Mickey asked a while ago: 
"I wonder, though only if you have the time and inclination (or anyone with a bit of skill for that matter), if you would present a review of the usage of the Greek in these scriptures respecting the words "common" and "unclean". The reason I ask is that someone at UCG gave a recent sermonette online (yes, I was silly enough to listen in - what can I say but curiousity) and presented his argument from the Greek usage of those words."

Sure! ...but I don't know what level you would like someone to go into. I'll go the simple route, then. If anyone is interested in doing their own wordstudies, here is a nice howto from docstoc.com. I really do suggest you read through it if you're not very familiar with how to use a Strong's Concordance. I'll give you some really important info to keep in mind. In Strong's, this symbol ": -" (minus the quotes) separates the definition of the word from the translation of the word. The definition is what the word means, the translations are words the author thinks fit it well. Don't think that just because there is a transliteration, that it is a really good substitute for the word. Like a thesaurus, not all words really fit.

I would guess, Mickey, that this person you heard basically opened the Strong's Concordance and tried to become an armchair linguist. I would about guarantee his goal was not to understand the Bible, but to get the Bible to say what he wanted. Time and time again I've seen the COGs wallop the truth with a creative application of information from Strong's. Ron Weinland uses it often to try and transform Jesus into a created being. Keep in mind that the definition of 'clean' will be what it is, no matter what, and 'unclean' will be what it is. The question is - does the entirety of the evidence in the New Testament support or reject the keeping of food laws? I believe the answer is a resounding 'no'.

I would like to bring up what a commenter named Purple Hymnal reminded us of a while back: 
"In the interest of complete balance, I quote Wikipedia on Strong's Concordance:"
"Strong's Concordance is not a translation of the Bible nor is it intended as a translation tool. The use of Strong's numbers is not a substitute for professional translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English by those with formal training in ancient languages and the literature of the cultures in which the Bible was written.
"Since Strong's Concordance identifies the original words in Hebrew and Greek, Strong's Numbers are sometimes misinterpreted by those without adequate training to change the Bible from its accurate meaning simply by taking the words out of cultural context. The use of Strong's numbers does not consider figures of speech, metaphors, idioms, common phrases, cultural references, references to historical events, or alternate meanings used by those of the time period to express their thoughts in their own language at the time. As such, professionals and amateurs alike must consult a number of contextual tools to reconstruct these cultural backgrounds. Many scholarly Greek and Hebrew Lexicons (e.g., Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Thayer's Greek Dictionary, and Vine's Bible Dictionary) also use Strong's numbers for cross-referencing, encouraging hermeneutical approaches to study."

I'm not knocking Strong's Concordance. It's great! But these words are true. So take what I'm about to do with a grain of salt, because I'm about to list some words and their entries from Strong's. I will also link to some Lexicons to help round them out. These are some important words in regards to the meats topic.

Old Testament

CLEAN 
[Strong’s 2889, Heb. Tahor, adj., from 2891]: pure (in a physical, chemical, ceremonial, or moral sense):- clean, fair, pure (-ness).
  [Strong’s 2891, Heb. Taher]: to be bright, i.e. (by implication) to be pure (physically sound,
  clear, unadulterated; in Leviticus uncontaminated; morally innocent or holy): be (to make,
  make  one’s self, pronounce) clean, cleanse (self), purge, purify (-ier, self).
(LEV. 11: 47)

New Testament

CLEAN 
[Strong’s 2513, Gr. Katharos, adj.]: clean (literally or figuratively): - clean, clear, pure.
(ROM. 14: 20)

UNCLEAN
[Strong’s 169, Gr. Akathartos, adj.]: impure (ceremonially, morally [lewd], or specifically [demonic]): - foul, unclean.
(ACTS 10: 14 & 28; ACTS 11: 8; II COR. 6: 17; EPH 5: 5)

CLEANSED 
[Strong’s 2511, Gr. Katharizo, verb]: to cleanse (literally or figuratively): - (make) clean (-se), purge, purify.
(ACTS 10: 15)

COMMON (also Unclean in ROM 14: 14)
[Strong’s 2839, Gr. Koinos, adj.] common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several, or (ceremonially) profane: - common, defiled, unclean, unholy.
(MARK 7: 2; ACTS 10: 14 & 28; ACTS 11: 8; ROM. 14: 14)

COMMON (also Defile in Matt. 15 and Mark 7)
[Strong’s 2840, Gr. Koinoo, verb]: to make (or consider) profane (ceremonially): - call common, defile, pollute, unclean.
(MATT. 15: 11 & 18 & 20; MARK 7: 15 & 18 & 20 & 23; ACTS 10: 15; ACTS 11: 9)

So, really all we have is two Greek adjectives:
1) Katharos
also see Biblestudytools.net for the Greek New Testament Lexicon entry for Katharos
2) Koinos 
also see Biblestudytools.net for the Greek New Testament Lexicon entry for Koinos

The other words I listed are either the negative or a verb form of these.

This should go a small ways to answering your question. Correct usage and meaning are very difficult to grasp from Strong's. I've seen false prophets twist Strong's a thousand ways from Sunday and generate all forms of distortion from it. But if we can manage to get the agenda out of the way, it's going to come out better.

Now for my typical pontification.

Part of the idea of cleanliness that absolutely must be grasped, but is not by Armstrongism for some unknowable reason, is that the Jews were given the idea of ceremonial cleanliness (and uncleanliness) in order to separate them from the Gentiles, and to be a lesson to them on distinguishing holy from unholy. Meats were a big part of this separation (there were other separators, like the prohibition on intermarriage). Now, in the New Covenant, those partitions must by necessity be taken out of the way. Even the veil to the Holy of Holies is torn in two. Jesus Christ made a reconciliation. If man is not separated from God, how can we separate man from man? Christ fulfilled every last portion of ceremonial cleanliness. It is done. Meats are not a health issue, as Armstrong claimed. Never are they associated with health. I admit that at the time there were health benefits, but that does not make a thing spiritual; this is no different than circumcision. These physical shadows simply have no place in the New Covenant other than as an example to help us wrap our minds around the spiritual reality. What separates now is the presence of the Spirit. Armstrong tries to grasp this, but he refused to accept the shadow is not equal to the substance.

The number one argument I've heard from my former association is "the Lord changes not". This is an easy out, of course. Are we to think the Word did not change from God to man to dead to God? Of course He changed! It is the essence of the Lord - His goodness and mercy - that 'changes not', or else we would be destroyed. His requirements for us do change. The ceremonial laws are a great example. They were instituted, kept valid for over a thousand years, fulfilled, and left in the past where they served their purpose. While Armstrong loved to say 'the Lord changes not' in order to promote legalism, he overlooked that if 'the Lord changes not' actually applied to the law, then they wouldn't have been instituted in the first place.

What I noticed is by far these words for unclean and common appear in reference to demons. That should be a good example of what unclean is. Clean, on the other hand, is the state we find ourselves in. We are not sinless, just under grace. We are cleansed by the blood of Christ that takes away our sins. Certainly the blood does not make us perfect, or what would be the point of this life? We still need to grow and build character. Meanwhile, Jesus takes on our sins and credits us His righteousness for our faith. In Jesus we are cleansed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Babylon Connection

I have finished reading “The Babylon Connection” by Ralph Woodrow, and I wish to share my thoughts on it with you, if you will bear with me.

“The Babylon Connection” is 9 chapters, 119 pages, of very easy to read information countering Alexander Hislop and his book “The Two Babylons”. This is no deep scholarly work given to verbosity and headiness. Even though there was an under-tone of sarcasm, I still found the information to be more than valuable.

If you are unfamiliar with Alexander Hislop’s book (and I don’t know how you could possibly not be familiar with it) I will sum it up for you: the Catholic Church is the biblical entity called ‘Babylon the Great’,the Pope is the Antichrist, Protestants are harlots, and all of the traditions of the churches come from ancient Babylon. In fact, the subtitle of Hislop’s book is “The Papal worship proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife.”
And this is a pillar in the theology of Herbert Armstrong, right next to British-Israelism.

Woodrow was once a firm believer in Hislop and probably his greatest proponent. He had written a book based on Hislop’s, entitled “Babylonian Mystery Religion”. After being challenged by one Mr. Scott Klemm, Woodrow began to research and understand the flawed nature of how Hislop came to his conclusions. Woodrow wrote “The Babylon Connection” in response to what he had learned. He points out the many flaws, contradictions, errors, and even lies which Hislop left strewn about in his book. Woodrow’s point in writing the book was not to prove or disprove the claim that the Catholic Church had absorbed many pagan practices. His point was that Hislop’s research was so entirely farcical that it could in no way be trusted. I think Woodrow was quite convincing towards this goal.

What it comes down to is that Hislop took ancient myths from around the world, or even artistic renderings of mythical figures, distorted the information to his liking, and then attributed it to Nimrod… oh, and Semiramis… and Cain, Noah, Adam, Satan, and a host of other people. For example, on pages 7 through 9, Woodrow lists FIFTY NINE separate mythological, Biblical, and historical figures that Hislop claims are other names for Nimrod. If taking three pages to list the various identities of Nimrod isn’t fantastical enough for you, Hislop simultaneously attributes those very same identities to other people.

One example is in that Hislop in various pages of his book referred to Semiramis as being Nimrod’s wife, and again his daughter, and again his mother, and again that Nimrod had two mothers, and again nine mothers. And this is history? Woodrow counters with evidence that Semiramis and Nimrod did not even live in the same century together!

Another example would be this quote from page 21 of Woodrow’s book:
“Hislop says Nimrod was the ‘Father of the gods’; Cush, Nimrod’s father, was the ‘Father of the gods’; Kronos was the ‘Father of the gods’ – all of these statements being found on page 32 [of The Two Babylons]! On page 277 he says Pluto, the god of Hell, was the ‘Father of the gods’. On page 164 he says Seb was the ‘Father of the gods.’ On page 27 he says Vulcan was the ‘Father of the gods.’ On page 299 he says Saturn was the ‘Father of the gods,’ who ‘was in one aspect just our first parent Adam!’ Does any of this make sense?”

I would have to conclude no!

Let’s see… what else doesn’t make sense? Woodrow shows Hislop to be false when states the Catholic traditions were begun by Nimrod and Semiramis. Remember, Hislop claims almost all Catholic traditions started in ancient Babylon – including Christmas, Easter, steeples, the fish symbol, candles, relics, a round communion wafer (emphasis on the round), halos, confession, a mother and child, a trinity, the bright clothes of the Pope, the dark vestments of the priesthood, and a whole host of other such things. Not only that, but the very rites of Christianity itself Hislop attributes to Nimrod - including anointing with oil, baptism for the remission of sins, a suffering savior, and the cross.

Woodrow quotes an article from ‘The Saturday Review’ printed September 17th, 1859. This article speaks about Hislop’s book. I found it so compelling, I would like to quote it here.

“In the first place, his whole superstructure is raised upon nothing. Our earliest authority for the history of Semiramis wrote about the commencement of the Christian era, and the historian from whom he drew his information lived from fifteen hundred to two thousand years after the date Which Mr. Hislop assigns to the great Assyrian Queen. The most lying legend which the Vatican has ever endorsed stands on better authority than the history which is now the ground of a charge against it.
”Secondly, the whole argument proceeds upon the assumption that all heathenism has a common origin. Accidental resemblances in mythological details are taken as evidence of this, and nothing is allowed for the natural working of the human mind.
“Thirdly, Mr. Hislop’s method of reasoning would make anything of anything. By the aid of obscure passages in third-rate historians [sic], groundless assumptions of identity, and etymological torturing of roots, all that we know, and all that we believe, may be converted…into something totally different.
“Fourthly, Mr. Hislop’s argument proves too much. He finds not only the corruptions of Popery, but the fundamental articles of the Christian Faith, in his hypothetical Babylonian system…
“We take leave of Mr. Hislop and his work with the remark that we never before quite knew the folly of which ignorant or half-learned bigotry is capable.”

Indeed! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Now, if only the COGs would read this!! I lost track of how many times Hislop was quoted in the Living Church of God’s material which they sent me.

Speaking of “etymological torturing”, one thing Herbert Armstrong was well known for is completely bogus word etymology.  Take a word, find something else that sounds similar – no matter where the word is from – and draw a conclusion. Voila! Instant etymology. We are all familiar with how Armstrong tried to link the Pope to the word “Lateinos” and thus the number 666. In the final paragraphs of page 2 from the February 1938 Plain Truth magazine, under the section heading “Was Mussolini Reared By A Witch?”, Herbert Armstrong made the following comment, “His title, ‘Il Duce’, is derived from the Saxon word ‘duce,’ meaning ‘DEMON.’” What garbage! I'm calling this. “Il Duce” actually means “the Commander”, and it is taken from the Latin work “ducem”, from which we get the word Duke. 
Deceptive etymology is an honored tradition of Armstrongism. Herman Hoeh was a master at this kind of twisted nonsense. If anyone could excel Hislop, it would be Hoeh. Also, I once personally heard Steven M. Collins claim the Biblical “Javan” is in fact “Japan”; and he based his claim almost entirely on the sound of the words. Never mind “Japan” and “Japanese” are American words. The Japanese call themselves Nahon-jin, they speak Nahon-go, and they are from the land of Nippon - which sounds nothing like Javan. Biblical Javan is associated with Greece by most Biblical scholars. Woodrow points out how Hislop does this sort of thing time and time again.

To make a long story short, why does it even concern me? Well, because Herbert Armstrong so adamantly fed his church Hislop’s swill. He raised it nearly to par with scripture. Not only that, but many splinter groups (though not all, to their credit) continue the tradition – decades after Hislop was proven to be wholly unreliable. As I mentioned before, I have recently received booklets from COGs that all but base their whole argument on Hislop’s folly. If it were just Hislop, that would be one thing. But his material in the hands of Herbert Armstrong makes this stuff dangerous.

Did I fail to mention it is entirely based upon this abject nonsense that the COGs foment an unbroken history of condemnation against the entirety of mainstream Christianity? True!
Before HWA got sucked into Hislop's lies he used to praise Luther and Calvin as messengers from God.
Now they call the Pope the Antichrist for crying out loud! They claim he is destined to burn in Gehenna. They do everything they can to tie the office to the numbers 666. They claim the Protestant churches are the harlot daughter churches of Babylon the Great Harlot in Rome, and Christ does not listen to their prayers. Rarely if ever do they use the term “Christian” when relating to anyone but themselves, preferring the derogatory term “so-called Christians”.
And why debase several billion people against the clear teachings of the New Testament? Hislop.

I used to believe this stuff. I used to say these terrible things. That is why I feel it necessary to write this. God forgive me. My fellow Christians forgive me. I was deceived!

And kudos to Ralph Woodrow for his book. You can get one for $8 on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Corinthians 8 and 10

This is another post on the subject of clean/unclean meats in the New Covenant. The more I read the Bible for myself, without the 'guidance' (read 'control') of Armstrong's ministers, the more I see that HWA was very much wrong. I would like to look at select verses from I Corinthians 8 & 10 because these chapters always appear in COG booklets. How do they compare to what I had always thought while I was attending a COG?

Paul lays out his teachings a little more plainly in the eighth chapter of First Corinthians than he did in Romans 14.

(I COR. 8: 4-6) 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

Paul makes it clear that the food is nothing. The point isn’t to focus on eating foods offered to idols, because eating the food is nothing at all, because the idol is nothing at all. It is all about the unintended consequences. Paul talks about conscience and how we either affect our mind and the minds of our neighbors negatively or positively. We who are used to Christianity and have faith in Christ know there is no God but the Father and no Lord but Jesus Christ alone. Paul reminds us that not all (including those who are new in the faith) fully understand this.
Is there really such a thing as idolatry? Yes. Is it a victimless crime? No. Paul takes it seriously. Idolatry is a lie, and as such t is against God. God takes it seriously. Weighing heavy on God's mind is the ability of His children to have a close and meaningful relationship with Him. Are there false gods - literally? No. The only God if the Father and the only Lord is Jesus - if you want to look at it like that. So the idol is just material and the offering is just food. Then what's the big deal? The deal is that when the conscience is injured we can separate ourselves from God out of guilt. We can injure our own conscience in doing what we know we shouldn't - but what we do not intend is when we do what we know we can... and it injures someone else's conscience. Paul wants us to be acutely aware of this!

(I COR. 8: 7) However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 

This is such a confusing sentence; please let me explain it as it was explained to me: 
The new Gentile converts, because they were idolatrous for so long, still regarded the idol as something real. They were not yet experienced enough in the faith to disregard their lifelong customs. The foods which they once ate during their time in idolatry, they ate without hesitation and without knowledge that idolatry was sinful to the one true God; polytheism is what they had always done. But now, knowledge has come in that the idol is contrary to God but that knowledge is not yet mature. Guilt is associated with the entire process - the idol, the food, and all. It shouldn't be, but at this natural and completely understandable phase it is.

(I COR. 8: 8) But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 

Armstrong most certainly taught we are the worse if we eat, contrary to Paul’s clear instructions not just here but in many other places. And not just about the clean/unclean meats issues either (many will recall the white bread, peeled potatoes, etc teachings). This statement from Paul is important in that it can certainly assist in showing the Old Covenant meats laws are not binding on the New Covenant Christian. Armstrong's version of dietary law is cherry-picked and does not completely match the Bible's version anyhow. 
How many times and in how many different ways must this truth that God does not judge what goes into our mouths be illustrated in the Bible before it becomes 'true' to the reader? For some, there simply aren’t enough times. Armstrong trumps all.

(I COR. 8: 9-13) 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

There is liberty in the New Covenant. Even in doing what is perfectly acceptable a Christian should be mindful of others. This goes along well with Matthew 5: 19.

So far we have been discussing how certain verses in the Bible deal with Gentile conversion and idol worship. This is one place where I think my study is different than others. I do not conclude that because people misuse and misunderstand the previous verses (and Armstrong was right - people have), it means the dietary laws are still valid. On the contrary, since we have not proved the law of clean and unclean meats was carried over into the New Covenant - we have clearly shown the Gentiles were taught no such thing - we add weight upon weight that Armstrong was in error in this area, being zealous for the Old Covenant as the Jewish converts who troubled Paul. The Word of God, the main party to the Old Covenant, died, thus relieving any burden to keep the Old Covenant. The burden of proof is now on the COGs to show the burden was reinstated, and they do not come through in that in any way. Not that there is any real problem with observing dietary restrictions. However, the problem comes in when judgment and condemnation come in, or when legalism is depended on for a qualities (such as God's righteousness) that it can never bring.
 
We now shift focus to I Corinthians 10. Our first question in the tenth chapter of First Corinthians should be, “what is the context of the verses we’re about to read?”  Verse 14 sums it up.

(I COR. 10: 14) Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 

The context of this entire chapter is idolatry again - I should say 'still'.

(I COR. 10: 18-21) 18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.

This was this kind of honest talk that frightened some of the new converts.  Paul knew that sacrifices hold no special power or significance.  But we must avoid idolatry (I COR. 10: 14).  These rituals were not in God’s honor, but demons.  We cannot be the resurrected body and blood of Christ, as the Passover meal pictures the broken body of Christ, AND yet take part with demons.  However, Paul now works to reassure.  Paul was telling the Christians not to worry about meat they were unsure of – but definitely avoid eating as a part of an idolatrous act.

(I COR. 10: 25-26) 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.”

Paul is not directly dealing with the clean and unclean meats laws here.  However, I will remind you that the majority of what was sacrificed to pagan idols was not “clean” by Jewish standards.  That Paul isn’t talking about meats here is probably the biggest argument against them; in other words, he didn’t mention unclean meats because it isn’t a New Covenant issue in the first place. Indeed, this is about idolatry, and not about clean or unclean.
The COGs would exclaim, “We cannot read clean and unclean meats into this verse!”  Paul is dealing with meat sacrificed to idols.  But just in case someone ever stopped to think that most meats sold in Gentile markets were unclean – offered to idols or not - the COGs would usually add “Eat everything sold in the market… except unclean meats.”  Thus, they wrote their own Bible, adding to as it fit them, and taking away where they pleased.  I very much respect Fred Coulter, but in his version of the Bible (he authored his own version) those words are clearly added in.  Italicized or not, I feel it is incredibly inappropriate to add in your own personal beliefs into the text of the Bible (DEU. 4: 2; REV. 22: 18-19).
Even so, Paul taught that we should not judge each other.  If someone believes they should avoid something, be accommodating and let them believe this way, praying they mature in the faith.  Do not cause them to do what they honestly believe to be wrong, or to worry about it unnecessarily, or flaunt your freedom in their face. Even though meats laws were not carried forward into the New Covenant, it may not always be expedient or edifying to eat. Think of others. (I COR. 10: 23-24)

Paul also refers to what we often find ourselves doing, having dinner.

(I COR. 10: 27-30) 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake -- 29 the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

First off, Paul says plainly "eat whatever is put before you". This directly contradicted Herbert Armstrong's theology, and accepted practices in the COGs. This leads to yet another important principal expounded here – the well being of the unbeliever! (Who is a child of God and a potential believer.) Do not unnecessarily cause them to worry about offending you.  This is a rule the COGs regularly overlook – asking many questions for conscience’ sake, and making it immediately and openly known to all that they will not eat what is set before them if it is “unclean”.  This makes many people feel uncomfortable and hurt and their effort unappreciated, and makes Armstrongites look like callous and inconsiderate zealots.  We gave God a bad name in their eyes.  We should have just eaten what was set before us with thanks given to God as the Bible says to, and done what we were shown by asking no question for conscience’ sake.
I do not agree with people who say the host in verse 28 is informing the guest that the meat was in the past offered in sacrifice. That doesn't mesh, in my mind, with Paul's flow of logic. However, I agree with Jamieson Fausset and Brown's Commentary, and Vincent's Word Study, who say it is not the host who is commenting on the meat but a fellow Christian guest who is young in the faith. It makes a good amount of sense. I can perhaps agree with Matthew Henry's Commentary that the host is at the time performing a non-Christian rite or service. But I would think that this would be a gathering I would excuse myself politely from. The blunt reality is that participating in the body of Christ which God has called us to is something that is more important than making everyone feel good. (I COR. 10: 14) "Flee idolatry." 
I like to visualize it like this: when you both go before the Judgment of God, how will you explain to God and that person why you allowed that one to cause you to sin? You have then sinned against him as well. 

We have still not seen anything that shows meats laws were carried forward into the New Covenant. We have seen evidence to the contrary, however. I would summarize I Corinthians 8 and 10 like this: be mindful of giving offense, and do not be easily offended (I COR. 10: 32). This is love. And to love is the command we have from Christ.