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**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, February 23, 2009

New Covenant Sabbath

Since I discontinued association with my former COG on August 23rd, 2008, I have heard much ado about the Sabbath. It is THE sacred cow of Armstrongism. Well, I need to talk frankly about the Sabbath.

I see that "Sabbath" means "do nothing" to some groups... in exact opposition of what God wants.

(MATT. 11: 28-29) 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

'Rest', as you can see here, is for the soul in the NT, not the rear-end. Working or not working is not what the Christian concentrates on. Being laden isn't with a physical burden.

(HEB. 3: 18-19) 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

The rest is not physical rest, but something to be 'entered into' by those who follow Christ. It requires faith! Almost no faith whatsoever is required to rest from physical work. It is plain to see, physical work and obedience through physical rest are not being spoken of here.

(HEB. 4: 1) Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.

The rest is a promise from God. Do we need a promise from God to sit? (Some do. But I mean in general?) The answer is no. 
For instance, and of great importance, the rest being spoken of can be fallen short of. How do you 'fall short' of physical rest? By not resting fully enough? Hardly! I once "rested" from physical work in a pool on the weekly Sabbath at the Feast of Tabernacles in Tucson Arizona. The heat was unbearable. My friends and I decided we would sit in the cool water and rest. Everyone else sat in the heat with all their fine clothes on because they were too afraid it might be too close to "work", and by extension, a sin. (The looks I got must have been similar to those Jesus got when He and his disciples went through the fields.) My friends and I weren't swimming, or even horse playing, we were sitting and talking. We were doing the same thing hundreds of other people were doing, only we were in a pool in the heat of the day. When the sun went down, everyone else got in too. Now, what Spiritual benefit do you suppose those people had by exposing themselves to the hot desert sun and sweating for hours? Not one bit!

We are talking about physical matters when we talk about physical rest. Sin is spiritual. Some would say, "It is because people aren't keeping the Sabbath in their heart. They secretly desire to break it and only keep it grudgingly." So let me get this straight. It's not only warming a chair on the 7th day of the week that counts, but HOW you warm that chair? I disagree. Although, this answer does start down the road to understanding! (It just fails to continue thereon.) 
The problem IS with the heart! That much is absolutely correct. Only, the fork in the road presented is physical rest from work vs. spiritual rest from sin, and the COGs take the path of physical rest. With the physically-oriented mind, that is the logical path, I'll admit. But it neglects to take into account the verses I've just presented which clearly and plainly show the rest is not physical after all. Therefore the true path is not to physical rest, but spiritual rest. It begins in the heart, and it ends in the heart, not with the rump.

How very often did I hear, and parrot, "Have a relaxing Sabbath!" Think about this for a moment. Of what benefit to the world is inactivity? Whom have you benefited? Have you not several hours of rest each day? Does not the Biblical day begin at evening, and therefore is not physical rest one of the very first things you do each day? Whom, besides yourself, does this truly benefit? Can you share Christ while you lie still and silent? Can you inspire others through your relaxing? Can you preach the gospel in snoring? What good comes of it?

(PRO. 6: 6-11) 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, 8 provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. 9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep— 11 so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.

Consider the ant, you sluggard! While you rest on your laurels in slothful inactivity every 7th day, what good have you done? Whom have you fed? Whom have you lifted up? When Christ asks you why you didn't do as He asked but chose to spend every 7th day holding still, will you tell Him "I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground" (MATT. 25: 25)?

(PRO. 24: 30-34) 30 I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; 31 and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. 32 When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; 34 so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.

So, those who rest their backsides every 7th day in idle uselessness, thinking you keep the law, consider the ant you sluggard, because it clearly states unless you keep every last stitch of the law you have only managed to estrange yourself from Christ. Physical rest won't heal that breach. But those who rest your souls in Christ, enjoy your peace every day, while it is called "today". The Lord will come to His temple, which you are, and your soul will have true rest --- daily.

Why do you keep the Sabbath? 
The number one explanation I've heard is "It's the 4th Commandment." Let's briefly look at that, starting by asking "Is the Old Covenant still in force?" Of course your answer would be "no", or at least I hope it would be. So, let's clarify with, "What was the Old Covenant?"

(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

The 10 Commandments were the Old Covenant! So when you say "The Old Covenant is gone", you must include the 10 Commandments which framed it! So when Christ says "If you love Me, keep My Commandments" (JOHN 14: 15) it is not speaking of the 10 Commandments at all (not according to the old physical, shadowy keeping of law anyhow). 
Too much for you to bear? Let me also give you this which Paul had given us.
Romans 7: 1-4 and I COR. 7: 39 both spell it out quite clearly through an example of marriage. When a spouse dies, the covenant that bound them is nullified. Christ, being the first party to the Old Covenant, died, thus nullifying that agreement - and the 10 Commandments that framed it! There is no reasoning around this fact. There are but two options: ignore Bible truth to blaze on in your opinion anyhow, or accept this. 
And don't think to haul out yet another saying of Mr. Armstrong's, "The only Commandment anyone has a problem with is the 4th!" Because I guarantee you that very saying, which ensnared me and many others in the past, in fact works completely against you. I would ask you the same question; what problem do you have with the 4th Commandment? What I mean is, why do you see the other 9 have been magnified, but not this one? Murder is in the heart long before the act thus it is spiritual, adultery is in the heart long before the act thus it is spiritual, covetousness is in the heart long before any outward show appears therefore it is spiritual, circumcision is of the heart, sacrifices are of the heart, etc, etc -- but we, in our misunderstanding and legalism, clung to the idea that only the 4th Commandment has made it into the New Covenant absolutely unchanged and unmagnified. We patted ourselves on the back so very often saying the rest of the world does not understand. The joke was on us, because it was we who did not understand. It would appear the only Commandment the COGs have a problem with is the 4th!

(GAL. 4: 21-25) 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—

And what happened on Mt. Sinai? The giving of the 10 Commandments. This fully applies to the Sabbath!! And the point is of utmost importance. Taking the wrong stance and trusting in your own keeping of the law could very well cost you everything! 
(GAL. 5: 4) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 
But closely note the very next thing Paul writes. What does he emphasize?
(GAL. 5: 5) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith

The number two explanation I've heard is, "God rested on the 7th day of creation; the Sabbath was from the beginning." Review the entirety of Hebrews 4. God rested when the works were finished - not just 'on the seventh day', but when the work was finished. This was symbolic. God offered rest to those in the Exodus, who every last one learned to physically rest every 7th day or they were removed, but yet they were not allowed to enter "that rest". Joshua took them into the Promised Land, but even those ones, who were idle every 7th day, still did not enter "the rest". Therefore, as the author of Hebrews rightly concludes, there remains a rest to be entered into. This is not a 7th day sluggishness, or certainly "that rest" would have been attained by those people. God spoke of another day. As in the beginning, Christ said "it is finished" (JOHN 19: 30), and now He rests from that work. He came to save all mankind, and the work of opening salvation is complete. Right now there is a rest, attainable in faith. We can enter this rest when we cease our works... carnal works. It is a spiritual rest --- a rest for the soul.

When was the last time you asked "Why do I keep the Sabbath?" It's not so simple as "It's the 4th Commandment" or "God rested on the 7th day of creation." The Bible tells us specifically why the Sabbath was instituted:

(DEU. 5: 15) And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Maybe the correct question is "When was the last time you were enslaved in Egypt and brought out from there?" If you see yourself as being Spiritual Israel, and Christ brought you out from the Egypt of sin, then why do you insist on a physical Sabbath? It is contrary to the very theology you espouse. Our rest is in Christ. Our rest is Christ. "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (MATT. 12: 8). And what is that rest?

(MATT. 12: 12) Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath

But, do we do good only one day each week? No! There is the carnality of mind coming through again. Not one day a week, but each day! When we enter the rest, through faith, which is to do good and put away evil, we do it at all times. There is no special day of the week when it is better to do good or worse to do evil. The rest of Christ is entered in to. When we enter, we are there! Just as we are the temple of God's Spirit and Christ enters into it. It's not a rest for the body. Consider the ant! No, it is a rest for the soul, just as Matthew 11: 29 says it is!

Therefore Paul says:
(COL. 2: 11-17) 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Don't let anyone judge you that you aren't keeping the Sabbath correctly when you keep it in Spirit and truth, as it was intended. They will come after you with their words and condemn you in that you aren't sitting and being useless like they are. But be bold, knowing the work of salvation is complete, and knowing the rest is open to you.

If you take nothing else away from this, then take this one point: make your keeping of the 4th commandment about spending time following Christ as opposed to wasting time resting the flesh. Work on the Sabbath, work your butt off! But work to do good. Do as much good as you can! Don't sit there uselessly wondering if you've been inactive enough to please God. God is not the God of the dead, who are all inactive, but of the living! Do as much good as you possibly can. 

If you read I John 2: 3-4 and see "[Old Covenant] 10 Commandments", this is a mistake. Do a word study on "commandments", you'll see just what I mean. It does not refer to the 10 Commandments at all, but rather all that Jesus commands. You could say that includes the 10 Commandments... if you conveniently set asside all I've said here. Let me show you from John's hand what commandment John was referring to:

(I JOHN 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

John spoke a great deal about love. Love! This is the fulfillment of the whole law (ROM. 13: 8).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Meats: Universal and Plain?

In my investigation into meats laws I tried to learn why it was that the WCG taught what it did. If the laws were in effect, and it was so plain, the believers should be able to explain their reasoning. I started at HWA's beginning, with the Church of God (Seventh Day). They kept the food laws. However, some influential ministers’ understanding of those laws was different than what Herbert Armstrong taught. How can it be so universal and plain if he thought his own superiors in the church were wrong?
Unfortunately, the investigation didn’t get any easier. It would appear that after certain years in his own church, Herbert Armstrong returned to the interpretation held by the Church of God (Seventh Day). And not only that, but I wound up seeing that many of the splinters that came from the Worldwide Church of God disagree again with Herbert Armstrong. (And I apologize in advance for the length of this post.)

In his autobiography, volume 1, chapter 30, Herbert Armstrong speaks of his own beliefs and experiences as a young minister regarding the dietary laws. Here is an excerpt:

The "Pork" Obsession
"The opposition through the spring and summer of 1933 had come through the two ministers who had moved up to Oregon from California, Elders Sven (Sam) A. Oberg, and A. J. Ray. Mr. Ray was developing, through the summer, a sort of obsession against the eating of "unclean" meats -- pork, ham, bacon, seafoods, and those labelled "unclean" in Leviticus 11. The emphasis he continually put on this doctrine, almost with vehemence, rather gave the impression that, in his eyes, the eating of pork, which came in for his greatest condemnation, was the greatest of sins.
"About the time the Firbutte school meeting started, July 9, 1933, Mr. Ray began aiming his "anti-pork" guns directly at me. He demanded that I state definitely my stand on this question. I had written him a Biblical exposition of the subject, showing that it was a physical FOOD question, rather than a spiritual or Gospel subject. Unless a man broke the tenth commandment by lusting after it, the eating of pork did not violate the Ten Commandments, which constitute a SPIRITUAL law.
"I quoted Mark 7:15-23, where Jesus explained that sin is a spiritual principle -- that which is coming out of the heart of a man -- evil thoughts leading to actions of adultery, murder, theft, deceit, blasphemy, pride -- violations of the Ten Commandments; but that nothing from without, entering in his mouth, defiles the man spiritually. Jesus was speaking of SPIRITUAL principles, and SIN as a spiritual offense."
-Herbert Armstrong, Autobiography, volume 1, chapter 30

These are very important points. Mr. Armstrong, in contrast to his own church, did not teach the clean and unclean meats laws as a spiritual sin. He clearly says that eating the meats is not a sin. Instead, he taught the foods were unfit for the digestive process. As Herbert Armstrong said in His booklet

“God did not give poisonous herbs as food. He gave man the healthful herbs. Man can determine which herbs are healthful, but man cannot by himself determine which flesh foods are harmful. That is why God had to determine for us in His Word which meats are clean. Since the Flood every moving clean, healthful, nonpoisonous type of animal life is good for food—just as God gave us the healthful, nonpoisonous herbs.”
-Herbert Armstrong, “Is All Animal Flesh Good For Food”, p. 3

Actually, Genesis 9: 3 does not specify "clean", but rather it says "every moving thing that lives", the root word of 'moving thing' includes reptiles, and again it says "all things".
I utterly disagree when HWA says, "man cannot by himself determine which flesh foods are harmful." Let’s think about that for a moment. If this is not a sin issue, but a health issue, then we have a physical law of nature that can be proven with observation. What do we observe? That certain regions in Japan, certain regions in Germany, and certain regions in Italy have much higher life expectancy rates than the rest of the world. Why mention that? They eat unclean meats regularly, some of them almost exclusively, and they will probably outlive you. How can that food be bad for your digestion if people who eat it regularly can expect to outlive the rest of the world? Look in the United States. The life expectancy rate climbs upwardly. Most people in this nation eat unclean meats regularly. Look at what is called the “Mediterranean diet”. It includes meals with seafood and lean pork, but is considered one of the healthiest diets on earth. There is simply no truth to the claim that pork is bad for your health. Obviously, after thousands of years of eating "unclean" meats, it would be widely known if it were physically unhealthy to eat pork. High fructose corn syrup was discovered in the 1970's; not 30 years later many people are aware that it isn't the best idea to ingest it. Same with hydrogenated oils, or saccharine. But we are to believe that after thousands of years and trillions of people eating pork and shellfish, the majority consensus is that there are no physical ill effects, yet it isn't healthy to eat? That's just ridiculous.

So the claim evolved to emphasize improperly cooked pork. “God was protecting His people from trichinosis,” was oft heard. OK. Trichinosis is terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy. But what then do we say about mad cow, tape worms, ring worm, lice, salmonella, liver flukes and other parasites, avian flu, and not the least of all anthrax? All of these things can easily be contracted from clean meats. All of these are centuries old diseases that have plagued man. Why single out trichinosis and not these?
And if it is a health issue, proper digestion being the focus, how on earth can we continue to eat hydrogenated oils? They are the plague of modern man, raising levels of homocysteine and other bad chemicals in the blood, punching holes in our arteries and causing the liver to produce cholesterol to patch the holes which then blocks up our arteries and causes heart attacks, strokes, and death. Yet neither God nor Armstrong has said, “Thou shalt not eat Crisco!”

Now, I am not arguing that we should put things that are bad for our health into our bodies. We are the temple of the Living God, and we must respect and care for that temple as we are able. But to claim pork and seafood is somehow unhealthy, or more a risk than what we normally eat and call “clean”, is simply not accurate, nor is that found anywhere in the Bible!!
Let’s continue on in the Autobiography and see how that isn’t exactly what HWA believed:

"I told him I refused to make this food question a subject for sermons to the unconverted, unless he could show me Scriptural grounds for so doing."
-Herbert Armstrong, Autobiography, volume 1, chapter 30

HWA plainly shows that in his opinion the laws were not for the newly converted, but for the experienced Christian only. I cannot fault that logic. We cannot expect all people to understand all things from the start of our journey. However, on one hand he says it is not a sin, but then on the other hand he says the law is still in effect. If the law is still in effect, and it is violated knowingly, that makes it a sin. It cannot be a sin, and not a sin. His teaching was inconsistent.

HWA continues:

"Point number one: I read in Scripture that sin is the transgression of the Law. In Romans 7 Paul says the law it is sin to transgress is spiritual -- a spiritual, not a physical law.
"Point two: Jesus Christ, speaking of spiritual defilement in Mark 7, says that physical food entering a man's stomach from without cannot defile him spiritually, but that which comes from within, out of the heart -- adulteries, murders, thefts, covetousness -- transgressions of the Ten Commandments -- defile the man spiritually.
"Point three: The 'clean and unclean' laws of Leviticus 11 are physical, not spiritual laws.
"Point four: Christ preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He commanded the Apostles, and us today, to preach the KINGDOM of God. That is the GOSPEL I am commanded to preach.
"Point five: Paul says plainly in Romans 14 that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, which is obedience to God's Law.
"Point six: Therefore I do not preach to the unconverted meat and drink because it is not the Gospel. But, on the other hand, the physical body is the 'temple of the Holy Spirit,' and we are taught not to defile it, even physically.
"Finally, point seven: I realize fully that there were both the clean and unclean animals long before Mosaic Law -- even prior to the Flood -- and therefore from creation. God did not create the unclean animals for food. Just as many plants and weeds are poison and not food, so unclean animals were not made to digest properly or nourish the human body. They are not "creatures of God" intended for food. They are not sanctified -- or set apart -- by the Word of God. Peter's vision of the unclean animals in the sheet was given, it is distinctly stated in Acts 10, to show him that he should not call any man unclean -- not to make unclean animals clean. Therefore I do teach every convert and every church member that they should not eat the unclean meats. We do not eat them in our home. Not one of our church members -- not one of my converts -- is eating unclean meats. But I teach it as a physical matter of health, not as a spiritual matter of the true Gospel."
-Herbert Armstrong, Autobiography, volume 1, chapter 30

And that, my friends, was the opinion of the Church of God (seventh Day) and Mr. Armstrong in his early ministry. The clean and unclean meats laws were a physical matter of health, not a spiritual matter of sin.
A massive problem in the Worldwide Church of God was assumption. Even though we commonly claimed to be Berean, we always believed our leaders over the Bible. In fact, to believe unquestioningly was commanded and harshly enforced. No one could question anything. God only worked through the ministry, and not through the congregation. In other words, the members at large were leaves attached to the ministry, and the ministers were small branches that were attached to Mr. Armstrong, and Mr. Armstrong was a large branch attached directly to the Vine. We commonly said to reassure ourselves, “God inspired Mr. Armstrong to teach his converts exactly as Paul and James taught,” when that is often demonstrably false in many areas. The proof comes when we review the scattered COGs – very few believe exactly what Mr. Armstrong taught but at the same time few truly agree with each other. How is this teaching universal and plain, then?

For example, the CGG teaches the matter as one of the spirit, and of health, as well as a random and rather meaningless “test commandment” given by God just because He can. They have all the bases covered. This partly contradicts Herbert Armstrong, whom they quote.

“Even though people throughout the world eat unclean food and live, and even though we could probably do the same – and many of us once did – for Christians, it is more than a health matter. In the Bible, God never directly connects keeping the laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 with health. In reality, it is a test commandment to see if we will obey God.”

If God never associates the food laws with health, why do the COGs? Incredibly, when the need arises to explain away Genesis 9: 1-5, they resort to calling the foods laws a matter of health again, preferring to compare pork to deadly nightshade:

“Does God allow us to eat poisonous plants like poison ivy, hemlock, deadly nightshade, etc.? Of course not!”

But if clean/unclean is a matter of poison, as with the plants, then why are there no unclean plants? [Answer: clean/unclean is ceremonial and relates to sacrifice.]
In this next quote from the founder of the CGG, notice a few things. Note how it is now both a health and a spiritual issue. Carefully note how this is also a sign of keeping the Old Covenant. None of us should be keeping the Old Covenant!

“…in refraining eating the forbidden flesh meats listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 is a sign of keeping the Covenant. Do you understand the spiritual issue that is involved in this? Do you understand that your and my health is secondary? The issue is HOLINESS—spiritual holiness; not physical health. [Directly contrary to HWA!] Why did God do this? I don't know. Maybe it was only arbitrary. [Nothing God does is simply arbitrary. JR just doesn't understand why his desire to partially follow HWA doesn't match the gospel of the New Covenant.] He wanted to see whether we would restrain ourselves. [Because the 612 other laws wouldn't do that well enough?] That's a possibility. Restrain ourselves, refraining from eating those things that everybody else in the world seems to be enjoying and finds tasting so good."
"Now please don't be misled by what I said, because I think there is a physical health issue involved here. But God wants above all that we be holy, and that is the real issue, and so the first place that the "clean and unclean" appears is in what book? Leviticus — the book of holiness.” [Or, if you ask HWA, it first appears in Genesis 4.]

As a second example, most people who came out of Worldwide only keep the meats laws because they were taught to. They don’t know why. They don’t generally care why. They say, “God said ‘do it’, so I do it.” Noble indeed! Except they have not proven whether or not God says for them to do it. The majority of what Paul taught must be ignored or explained away in order to return to the “yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear”. They read in the abolished Old Covenant some verses that say to Israel that they should not eat pork, so they also avoid pork. Meanwhile, they don’t realize they are keeping the sacrificial law that they themselves teach was abolished. Nor do they realize that avoiding unclean meats was only a small portion of the various washings and sprinklings and meats and drinks laws – most of which they do not keep. They say “I keep the law”, but as I have already demonstrated time and time again, they most certainly do not!
The COGs would love everyone to believe they keep all the food laws. Anyone who does not keep all the food laws is disqualified from sainthood in this age, by their theology. But let's just see if they keep all of the food laws.

(LEV. 3: 17) 17 ‘This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.’
(LEV. 7: 25-27) “22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. 25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”

In Armstrong's zeal for the law, did we ever eat beef fat? Answer: yes! Every time we ate McDonald’s french-fries, or any beef broth, or a juicy steak (if one could be afforded), etc.

All discussions on clean and unclean meats would be incomplete without someone mentioning Isaiah 52: 11 (even though the context of this chapter has nothing at all to do with food laws)
(ISA 52: 11) Touch no unclean thing
I ask you, do you own a pet? Have you ever touched a dog? A cat? Hamster? Gerbil? Iguana? Horse? Donkey? Been to an exotic petting zoo and perhaps touched a stingray or a shark or a sturgeon? Ever kill a spider? Guess what, you’ve touched an unclean thing! No self-respecting Armstrongist in all their legalism ever mentions that, though.

Did anyone ever, while asking question for conscience’ sake about pork, ask their generous host if there was any beef fat in their food? Then they didn’t keep all of the food laws, did they? Only the ones that suited them.

In conclusion, while this meats issue may appear very simple it most certainly is not. Just look at the many posts I've made on the subject of meats, and I'm not done yet! While the COGs may appear to be keeping the law they most certainly are not. We were clearly cherry-picking and keeping only the laws we felt like keeping! While the COGs claim it is universal and plain it most certainly is not. There is little agreement among the COGs. I suspect the main issue here is not the law, but that we were attempting to force the Bible to conform to our flawed assumptions. Unwittingly we followed a man rather than God. The confusion that surrounds this topic is not from God! And there is certainly plenty of confusion to go around. Even I don't claim to fully understand the whole scope. I am still, months into my study, trying to separate what flawed teaching was placed into my head from what the simplicity of Christ's gospel for the New Covenant actually teaches.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All My Yesterdays

Dear readers, first I would like to take a moment to express my deepest appreciation to you for your visiting, commenting, and even supporting this blog. I welcome all of you, whether you agree with me (in whole or in part) or not. You've come from all over the globe - Italy, China, Australia, Chile, South Africa, to name a few... all to my little corner of the Internet. I am humbled, I am without the proper words to express my gratitude, I am encouraged, I am hopeful. Thank you! I mean that.

What I would like to share with you today is a letter from a couple (Bob and Connie) who were seeking many of the things I have so very recently sought (and so have many others, including many of you). This letter was written in 1974-75 and is addressed to a minister of the Worldwide Church of God by the name of Hunting. What I found most striking about the letter was the similarity between the author's own search and mine. In more than one place the author's comments were virtually identical to some I have made. The questions, the search, the frustration, the areas investigated, the order of the process, the conclusions, all eerily similar to my own... and here that was 35 years ago. It was as if this person reached forward in time into my thoughts in the present day and pulled them back to record them in his own words. I get the feeling as if this letter was written for me.
I honestly believe this one letter summarizes every COG splinter group, indeed even the entire history of what I call "Armstrongism" itself.

I am going to quote from that letter, and there are so very many things I believe must be quoted (all emphasis mine) - things that touch deep in my soul and speak immeasurably to what I felt and thought and wrestled with for the past year as I came to realize God was lifting me out of Armstrongism. Please read these along with me and share in these vital new ideas recorded so long ago.

"Both Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong have said 'Follow me as I follow Christ,' or in other words 'as I follow the Bible.' Yet these words are rendered empty and meaningless when we are told we must leave certain decisions up to 'the church,' and that if we don't think a decision constitutes 'following Christ,' we must abide by it anyway, since 'it is 'the church's' responsibility.'"

"...this attitude is a large part of what is wrong with the Worldwide Church of God. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (and, I think, much of the ministry) looks at the members as poor, dumb sheep; innocent, helpless, babes who must be sheltered, spoon-fed, kept in the dark, told nothing, never consulted, and guarded strictly lest they fall helplessly away or are defenselessly led astray. This is the way the Catholic Church looked at and treated its laity during the Dark Ages."

"Before an individual becomes a member of the Worldwide Church of God, he is encouraged 'to prove all things, hold fast that which is true.' The ministry tells him, 'Don't believe what we say -- check it out.' 'If we teach contrary to God's Word, do not follow us.' Etc. Unfortunately, the opposite process begins once one is in the Worldwide Church of God. The member is told that 'Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is closer to God and has more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else, which is the reason he is the leader of the Church' or 'Since Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is the leader of God's Church, he must be closer to God and have more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else.' Therefore his opinions (re: scriptural or non-scriptural matters) are more godly than anyone else's can be, so to do as he says must be the course of action which most pleases God. This type of circular reasoning is taught to the members, and is applied to a lesser degree to Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, then the evangelists, then the pastors, then the preaching elders, etc., etc. By the time you get to the lowly lay member, his opinion is worthless, when compared with the hundreds of those who must be closer to God since they have higher positions, or who have higher positions since they are closer to God. In this way the member is stripped of any confidence in himself or God's Spirit in him. He places Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the rest of the ministry in the position of defining what he must believe -- in place of Jesus Christ and the Bible. The ministry carefully shows the lay members how to prove the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God from the Bible. The member thinks his belief is firmly grounded in the Bible, but for him to prove it he must rely heavily on the proof-texts and the explanations he has been given."

"The approach of the Worldwide Church of God indicates that the lay member needs the Holy Spirit only to help him overcome 'personal problems' and help him accept that which the ministry tells him the Bible says. The Holy Spirit isn't simply to help us agree with the way the Worldwide Church of God explains it. In this way, the 'weak of the world' are being made weaker. It doesn't take a spiritually strong person to merely accept exactly what the Worldwide Church of God teaches and to obey it strictly. But it does require strength of character and spirit to question, research, prove, and then abide by your convictions, regardless of what the Worldwide Church of God or anyone else says.
In this way I think the members of the Worldwide Church of God are not being helped. They know what they believe and how to 'prove' it. If there is a doctrinal change they are then taught what new thing they should believe and how to 'prove' it."

"[HWA] called our Divorce & Remarriage change 'new light,' 'new truth' which God has (finally) shown us. In other words, he subtly blamed our doctrinal error on God. He never once admitted that he had simply been wrong. He never apologized to all the people whose lives and marriages he had ruined. He gave God all the credit for wrecking and destroying thousands of families."

"Another quote from the [May 14, 1974 Letter to the Brethren]: "Brethren, this very experience (the Divorce & Remarriage change) ought to teach all that loyalty to God and to His Church must always be placed first, over supposed or real wrongs or personal grievances." Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is saying loyalty to the Worldwide Church of God must be placed above loyalty to God's Word! He's saying that it was right for us to obey the Worldwide Church of God's unbiblical and anti-scriptural teaching on Divorce & Remarriage all these years, because this is what he terms "loyalty to God's Church." And he says this loyalty must "always be placed first, over supposed or real wrongs or personal grievances." In other words, loyalty to the dictates of an organization must be placed first over what the Bible really teaches..."
"Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong goes on to say...'God has given those of us who are loyal to Him and His Word the relief we relied on Him to give us.' In actual fact, the "relief" has been there for 2,000 years, but it has taken the Worldwide Church of God this long to discover and accept it. And those who were 'loyal to Him and His Word' on the subject of Divorce & Remarriage needed no relief since they refused to ever submit to the Worldwide Church of God's incorrect teaching in the first place. Yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong would consider those who ten years ago refused to obey the Worldwide Church of God's teachings on Divorce & Remarriage, Pentecost, etc. to be disloyal, even though they were being loyal to what God said in His Word."
"Then Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong tells how much he and the other ministers appreciate 'the faithfulness of those of you who have endured this anguish in order to be obedient to our God.' Actually, they were obedient to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God rather than God Anytime we obey men rather than God, He is not pleased, regardless of the sincerity of the individuals involved. Mr. Hunting, is it ever right to obey Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong rather than the Eternal? Yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong commends the brethren for doing exactly that, and then labels it faith in and obedience to God."

"When I first began attending the Radio Church of God, I was told this was the true church because we did and taught exactly what the Bible said. Recently the Worldwide Church of God has said we're the true church because we change our teachings when they are wrong."

"...there is no such thing as one True Church the way the Worldwide Church of God believes there is -- in other words there is not one true organization."
"The one true Church of God certainly does exist, but it has no organizational boundaries. The definition of a Christian, one who is a part of the body of Christ, a member of the Church of God is one who has God's Holy Spirit in him (Rom. 8:9)."

"I came to realize that simply taking the word of Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God would displease God. I would be placing them above Him and His Word as the primary molders of my beliefs."

"I perhaps reached the depth of my disappointment with the Worldwide Church of God when I read a statement written by Mr. Armstrong appearing on page 631 of the December 3, 1974, Bulletin. It's implications are horrendous. He said, 'Christ has BOUND in heaven what His Church, even in unrealized error, has bound in earth.' The statement hit me like a lightning bolt."
"The Worldwide Church of God cannot afford to openly present both sides of the story, cannot allow its members to read the opinions of those who disagree with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the official stand of 'the church.' ... This is why disfellowshipment is such a handy tool for them. New, unapproved, 'heretical' ideas and opinions can be stopped by kicking the trouble-maker out of 'the church' and then forbidding anyone in 'the church' from talking with him."
"...whenever someone who used to be a loyal supporter and member of the Worldwide Church of God begins to believe and teach something different, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong declares them to be 'in the bonds of Satan.' ... the Pharisees accused Jesus of acting 'by Beelzebub the prince of the devils,' although Jesus said His actions were 'by the Spirit of God.' If God through His Holy Spirit is motivating and guiding certain individuals, He will not look lightly on accusers who claim the Spirit-led individuals are actually motivated by and in the bonds of Satan."

"I vividly remember attending, in my freshman year, Pasadena Bible Studies conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He was always getting upset at people who sent up questions during the Bible Study. If any question expressed even slight disagreement with him, what he had said, a belief of the Worldwide Church of God, etc., Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong became very irate. He would scold the questioner for 'his attitude,' his lack of respect, disloyalty, and so on. [Where have I seen that before?] Mr. Hunting, I'm not exaggerating. He made it quite clear he does not want to be questioned. He was very defensive and constantly felt the questions to be a challenge to his authority." [Excatly as John Keisz said!]

"Being a student at Ambassador College, and to a lesser extent a lay member in the Worldwide Church of God, is to experience a type of brainwashing. The indoctrination results in a form of mental castration; theologically the individual will not or cannot think for himself. He will blindly accept, believe, and obey whatever Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says. He will loyally support and uphold the Worldwide Church of God's castigation of those who question, doubt, or criticize."

"I've read Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet, What is the True Gospel.  He only quotes five or six of the New Testament scriptures which mention 'gospel.' Three or four of the quotes serve as his 'proof-texts' -- and he proceeds to draw dogmatic conclusions, ignoring both the immediate context and the rest of the New Testament. If he'd examine the other 95 places where 'gospel' is mentioned, the meaning would be quite clear, although very different. This booklet is typical of the research and 'open-mindedness' which has gone into most Worldwide Church of God publications and conclusions. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s concept of the gospel is similar to the blind man who got hold of the elephant's tail and quickly concluded that an elephant resembled a piece of rope."
"I hope you will look at what Mr. Armstrong writes and says about 'the gospel,' and then contrast that to what the New Testament says. Look at the approximately 100 places in the NT where the word "gospel" is found; read the context. Please read Acts 17:3; I Cor. 1:23; 2:~2; II Cor. 4:5; Gal. 1:16 -- you will see Paul emphasized Christ, and didn't merely allude to Him in a way which would prevent embarrassment. When Paul preached Christ, the listeners knew Christ had been preached to them, whereas Mr. Armstrong prides himself in being able to preach the "gospel" in a way that no one realizes it has been preached."

"Although God has personally given Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong no commission, he nevertheless feels that virtually every commission God has ever given is his. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong either thinks he is, or is to do the job given to: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 'watchman,' the 'inkhorn,' the one who 'cries aloud and spares not,' Elijah to come, a type of John the Baptist, either Joshua or Zerubbabel, one of the two witnesses, an apostle, a 'messenger' one who 'prepares the way,' Hosea, Malachi, Moses (anyone who disdains Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s authority or position is immediately compared to Korah), Daniel, Joel, Amos, etc., etc., etc. And, of course, he primarily feels he is to fulfill Matt. 24:14 -- see Rev. 14:6 for the most likely individual to take care of that job."

"When I examined Mr. Armstrong’s 'United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy' belief and found it to be not only scripturally and historically unprovable, but untrue, I realized that virtually my entire concept of Bible prophecy was built on sand; not necessarily the what, but certainly the where, when, and to whom."

"Not only has the Worldwide Church of God set specific dates and placed clear time limits on its prophecies, but time and again it has been in error -- prognosticating that a certain thing will not occur and it does, or that something else will occur which doesn't. Certainly a few of the forecasts have been correct, but when so many are made a few are bound to come to pass."

"When I graduated from Ambassador College, I had no real understanding of the old covenant, and why we kept and followed certain things, and ignored others. Much of the Bible became crystal clear when we realized and accepted that the covenant was made with Ancient Israel, and no one else. Also, we saw that God plainly states that the covenant was to be kept in its entirety, completely, and no place in either the New or Old Testaments are Christians told to keep whatever they feel like keeping. Yet, Mr. Hunting, this is what the Worldwide Church of God does!"
"Please read the covenant to which Israel agreed in Exodus 20-23. How much of that does the Worldwide Church of God obey? I don't mean partially, but exactly as God stated it. The Worldwide Church of God would say that certain portions of the covenant aren't applicable today, or can't be followed because of changed circumstances. However, there is no biblical authority for obeying only part of that covenant. Take Lev. 23 -- where in the NT does it say the Holy Days can be kept apart from the sacrifices which were an integral, if not focal, part of each holy day observance? Why does the Worldwide Church of God, completely arbitrarily, not enforce the blowing of trumpets portion of the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24), but does enforce the removal of leavening and eating of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but does not enforce God's command to build of branches booths which are to be lived in (Lev. 23:40-42) during the Feast of Tabernacles, does enforce fasting (Lev 23:27, 29, 32) on the Day of Atonement, does not enforce the waving of a sheaf of first fruits during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:10-11), etc., etc.?
There is no biblical authority for such haphazard, fragmented, and selective obedience to God. The entire Day of Atonement observance (as commanded by God in the OT and modified nowhere in the NT) revolved around the goat ceremony, and the Worldwide Church of God is kidding (pardon the pun) itself if it thinks it can observe the Day of Atonement, almost totally disregarding God's instructions for said observance, and then claim to be uncompromising in its obedience to God.
But the problems mentioned above are unavoidable when Christians today try to put themselves in a system God never intended for them. If we offend God's laws regarding the Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, etc., "in one point," we are "guilty of all," and that is exactly what the Worldwide Church of God is doing as long as it professes to obey portions of God’s Word which were never intended to be followed today."

"Anyway, we have come to research many of the Worldwide Church of God's doctrines, and a close examination shows most of them to be in part, if not completely incorrect."
"Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong always claimed that he 'let the Bible interpret itself.' However, the truth of the matter is that his beliefs and teachings embody a plethora of 'private interpretation.'"
"Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has frequently quoted Gal. 1:6-9, wherein Paul warns against those who 'pervert the gospel OF CHRIST' and preach 'another gospel.' Well, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is a victim of his own quotation -- he indeed perverts the gospel of Christ and preaches another gospel -- the gospel of Herbert Armstrong."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Isaiah 66 and Meats

In my continuing investigation into clean/unclean meats, I would like to take a serious look into Isaiah 66. I had a friend who agreed with everything I said about meats, but because Isaiah 66 confused him so, he could not accept it.

In order to move forward into this section, one absolutely must keep in mind the whole body of evidence on this topic. Temper that with the fact that prophecy cannot undo the New Covenant made in Jesus' blood. If it appears to, then we can be fairly certain that we are understanding something very much incorrectly.

In the COGs we would spend the better part of an entire sermon hearing about clean and unclean meats, then we were pointed to a place where “clean and unclean” are mentioned, where the minister would hope we would think that all instances of the words “clean and unclean” can mean only meats.

(EZE 44: 23) And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.

After such a verse, the minister would follow up with, “The teaching is that God clearly shows in the future there will be a keeping of the meats laws, therefore, they are in effect now.”

This is very much something Armstrong did often – sleight of hand. Notice the redirect. This helps set up the illusion which exists only in the properly distracted mind, that meats laws will be in effect - not that Jesus Christ pointed us to the spiritual meaning of “clean and unclean”.
Now notice another thing Armstrong does often – only giving part of the story. The verse is given, you look it up, you find it, you see the word 'unclean', they tell you what to think about it, then you feel like you’ve proven it and you are a Berean. Is that really proving it for yourself? Is that really, “Don’t believe me, believe your Bible”? No.

Ezekiel 44 refers to the Levitical teachers of the Old Covenant church. Not for everyone, nor for the Gentiles, but: “the Levites, the sons of Zadok” (EZE. 44: 15). Yet no one in Armstrong teaches the Levites are still commanded for our day (except where tithes are involved, of course).

(EZE. 44: 10-11) 10 And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.

Armstrong never taught that animal sacrifices are currently commanded. How then can we possibly think that since we see the phrase “clean and unclean” here (in prophecy) it can mean nothing else than the meats laws are still in force (right now)? This assumes this is even referring to meats.

After a good long sermon on meats laws, the ministry would point out Isaiah 66: 17.

(ISA. 66: 17) [AMP] Those who [attempt to] sanctify themselves and cleanse themselves to enter [and sacrifice to idols] in the gardens, following after **one in the midst, eating hog's flesh and the abomination [creeping things] and the [mouse--their works and their thoughts] shall come to an end together, says the Lord.
**Some commentators also suggest that this may refer to the cultic leader in the center who shows by his example how to conduct the ceremonies.

“See?” they say, “God still yet believes pork, creeping things (abominations), and mice to be unclean, eaten by pagans, and contrary to His faith.” And thus conveniently forget their own oft-used argument: "The context of this verse is idolatry, not clean and unclean meats." If Paul can be speaking of eating meats but they say he is only speaking of idolatry, then how can this clearly be speaking of idolatry but they say it is speaking of meats? We always wanted it both ways! And let us never forget that ALL prophetic interpretation is but speculation. When does shifting speculation become certain doctrine? It should not!

We must start at the beginning. This prophecy starts a few chapters beforehand in chapter 63 around verse 11. Isaiah (on behalf of Israel) is praying for God to return. He makes Israel’s case. God then spends the next 2 chapters making His own case in response to Israel. This is very much towards Israel; very specifically for them only. And it was written in the words that were meaningful for them at that time (those meats were condemned at that time).

In Isaiah 65: 1, God is referring to the calling of the Gentiles and the New Covenant. Paul confirms this in Romans 10: 20. That was 1,900 years ago! And why did God (temporarily) reject His people? Isaiah 65: 2-5 talks about the Jews committing idolatry. Baal worship, necromancy, witchcraft – you name it, they did it.

God was always trying to be with Israel. God wasn’t far from them; they were far from Him. Is it any wonder God hates idolatry? These were the practices of certain Jews who profaned themselves among the Gentiles. They practiced more than just eating of swine’s flesh. Even the most foul and ungodly things that men did to debase themselves to idols are implied here in this verse. It is these ones, these idolaters, towards whom the wrath of God is directed, that we see referenced in Isaiah 66. There is absolutely no way this verse is undoing the great and tremendous sacrifice of Christ in ending the Old Covenant.

What would God have loved to see from His people?

(ISA 66: 2) But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.
God wanted moral excellence, but the people, the ones who weren’t outright idolatrous pagans, only gave Him legal excellence.
(ISA. 66: 3) He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck; he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.

So, how do we understand ISA. 66: 17? It so closely matches ISA. 65: 4, they must be tied together. In chapter 65, God makes His case against Israel. In chapter 66, He judges. Who is He judging? All people who eat pork? No. Idolatrous Israel! Pictured in these verses are people secreting away for an idolatrous worship service in a grove, for crying out loud, yet all Armstrong ever saw was meats. But it goes much farther than that.

What is God’s focus? Animal sacrifice? Physical meats? Not at all! But the inward man is what God looks on. Exactly as Christ teaches:

(MARK 7: 18-23) 18 So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" 20 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

This is the magnified relationship; the New Covenant! God is not pleased with physical temples and physical sacrifices (ISA. 1: 11-14), nor is He displeased with physical meats (I COR. 8: 8). This is why it is so important to keep in mind my whole series about meats through this. God is not pleased with the Old Covenant worship, much less a cherry-picked version of it, but Armstrong uses this prophecy to say that is the only worship God accepts.
God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit, not in physical (JOHN 4: 23-24; ROM. 2: 29, 7: 6; II COR. 3: 6; PHP. 3: 3). God’s temple is inside us (I COR. 3: 16; HEB. 3: 6). God’s requirements are a humble and faithful mind (I TIM. 1: 5). God’s approval is not on those who keep outward rituals, like avoiding meats; most especially if those outward rituals do not come first of all with faith in Jesus and moral excellence (PHP 3: 7-11). Clean is what is spiritually pure, unclean is what is spiritually impure. Nothing like pork defiles us, but idolatry, pork or no pork, is contrary to God. How dangerous it is to idolize a man!

This really gets to the heart of two arguments that hold no merit. The first is “we see it before Sinai, therefore it is in force,” the second is “we see it in prophecy, therefore it is in force.”
We speculate (all prophetic interpretation is speculation) from Ezekiel that in the future there will be a Levitical priesthood with their proper clothing and ceremonies, a physical temple, animal sacrifices, and all sorts of such things that were done away with in the New Covenant. That's not now, that's future. How on earth, then, can we say the meats laws are any different? No Levites today, no commanded garb, no sacrifices, no temple worship.. but meats laws-- that's today! It doesn't make any sense.
We know that from the time of Cain and Abel there were animal sacrifices, and from Abraham we had circumcision. Both gone in the New Covenant. How on earth can we say those things are gone but meats are still in effect? They were a shadow from the day they were instituted. “The Kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks”! “Circumcision is of the heart”! We are “living sacrifices”! Why do we refuse to accept that moral excellence trumps legal excellence? It always has (EZE. 33: 12-20)! It always will! That is the very nature of the New Covenant. The old shadow is revealed for what it is – merely a shadow. The reality is now clearly available to us! We (as Gentiles) are no longer unclean. We are no longer to enter the temple of God through washings and blood of animals. The veil is taken away. We are the temple! We are clean! By the blood of Christ Himself, not by animals. Christ said "It is finished." And it is finished. By faith, not by law. If by law, then Christ died in vain!

(GAL. 2: 21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain

And no prophetic MIS-interpretation can undo this New Covenant.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flurry's Follies

I've been poking around Gavin's (from Ambassador Watch) old website. You can find it here. I was Googling for a bit of information about one Mr. Gerald Flurry. You may never have heard that name before. He usually goes by his title, "the end-time Elisha". Now you know who I'm referring to? Yeah, him! That's the guy! Well, Gavin, having done so very much foot work for us through the years, had everything I needed right there. It was all low-hanging fruit! I just walked in, scooped up all I could stomach, and I simply had to post about it and refresh this information in everyones' minds.
What Gavin did was assemble a group of quotes from the Ambassador Report. What I am going to do is borrow a few quotes from Gavin... to whet your appetite and hopefully get you reading the rest for yourself. They are incredibly telling!

"Malachi's Message is a new vision from a mighty angel. It's a NEW REVELATION - not something somebody already knew!
This new revelation is God's way of saying that we must give the little book a special importance and the majesty it deserves. Only then can we properly respond to the great Work of God - much of which revolves around the little book.
-Gerald Flurry, "Philadelphia Trumpet", Sept./Oct. 1992, p.8

Here we have a man, Gerald Flurry, who is claiming direct divine revelation from God (through an angelic representative). Let me repeat that for emphasis: Gerald Flurry is claiming that he spoke with an angel and received prophetic revelation from God!

Flurry (ie. Elisha) is bold in his claims about the authenticity and "majesty" of "Malachi's Message" (ie. the 'little book' of Revelation 10 & 'scroll' Ezekiel 3). Does that make him the Apostle John and Ezekiel as well? He is bold before man and God that this book is divinely inspired and accurate for prophecy.

"God will look to and use THIS MAN who is childlike before His word (Matt. 18:1-3). For example, this man will read God's revealed word in Malachi's Message and act on it out of godly fear! He KNOWS that book contains God's truth. He trembles and obeys."
-Gerald Flurry, "Philadelphia Trumpet", December 1993, p.20

We ought to obey God rather than men (ACTS 5: 29). I wonder if Mr. Flurry read as far as Matthew 18: 6?
At this point, I must remind you of Deuteronomy 18:

(DEU. 18: 20-22) 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Blasphemy? Ehhh, close, but probably not. Let's read a little further.

"There is a colossal reason why Christ moved us [the PCG] to print both these books ["Mystery of the Ages" and "United States and Britain In Prophecy" by Herbert Armstrong]. WITHOUT THEM WE CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE OR GOD'S MASTER PLAN! That's how critical they are today!"
-Gerald Flurry, Co-Worker Letter, 1/21/97

The Ambassador Report paraphrases another of Flurry's comments this way:

"HWA's Mystery of the Ages and Flurry's Malachi's Message go together 'hand and glove'"
-"hand in glove" by Gerald Flurry, "Philadelphia Trumpet", April 1993, p.24

What Gerald Flurry is saying is absolutely positively no different whatsoever than what Joseph Smith of the Mormon faith claimed, that an angel delivered him a new book of the Bible. To follow the first act of Armstrongism where Herbert Armstrong stole doctrine from the Latter Day Saints church, Gerald Flurry now steals their ideas too.
If you haven't caught on yet, what Gerald Flurry is saying is that the "Mystery of the Ages", the "United States and Britain In Prophecy", and "Malachi's Message" are three new books of the Bible, without which no one can understand the rest of the Bible. If you will but read my posts on British-Israelism, you will see how these claims simply cannot be true. But the "Elisha" appears t have missed one!

"My book, The Incredible Human Potential, has appeared in bookstores all over the English-speaking world. It’s story too comprehensive to even begin to condense in this article.
Actually I feel with very deep conviction that I myself really did not author this book  — that the living Jesus Christ is its real author. I was merely like a stenographer writing it down. And with that understanding, I feel I may say that this is one of the most important — and most tremendously revealing — books since the Bible!"
-Herbert Armstrong, "Youth '86", Feb. 1986

So make that FOUR new books of the Bible between the two of them.
I find the next quote particularly disturbing. It goes very well with my earlier posts about "Following A Man"

"Of course, there are different groups of lukewarm and dead churches. But Mr. Armstrong ALWAYS PREACHED THAT GOD WORKS THROUGH ONLY ONE MAN AND ONE CHURCH! The rest are deceived....
"This leader I quoted earlier [Meredith] is teaching a satanic doctrine! IT IS VERY UNBIBLICAL TO SAY THERE ARE BRANCHES OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH!....
"Where did I get this new revelation [Malachi's Message]? As Paul said, it was "NOT AFTER MAN." It came from God! Members of God's Church who can't see that revelation are BLIND!....
-Gerald Flurry, "Philadelphia Trumpet", March 1993, p.28

Mr. Flurry takes it one step farther in saying that no matter what you do, no matter what you know, no matter anything whatsoever... if you do not follow him, then you are Spiritually blind. He has placed himself in the position and authority of Jesus Christ.
I am at this point ready to accept that what Mr. Flurry is doing here is blasphemous!

Finally, let's close up with this quote from the Ambassador Report from Issue 69, July 1998:

"[Randy] Schafer also doubts Flurry's claim that his book Malachi's Message was personally delivered to him by a great angel and that it was intended to be a part of the Book of Revelation. If that is the case, says Schafer, why then has Flurry revised the book a number of times since the angel originally gave it to him? Mike Okamura additionally points out that in Malachi's Message Flurry claims that WCG Pastor General Joseph Tkach Sr. is the prophetic "Joshua," but that "Joshua" is supposed to be alive at the second coming of Jesus Christ, while Tkach Sr. has been dead now for almost three years." [Better make that 13 years!]

Looks like Flurry has massaged the Message over time. Not only that, but we have our first false prophecy pointed out right there for you to read with your own eyes. Please re-read Deuteronomy 18:20-22, paying close attention to the end of verse 20. Gerald Flurry is a false prophet. I will disregard him completely. I suggest you do the very same. And may God have mercy on his soul.

Reader, please get yourself reacquainted with this eye-opening material which you can find on Gavin's site(s) and in other places so that you never forget it! For those still in Armstrongism, children of God, please allow Christ to lead you out of that sore yoke of bondage and into His New Covenant. ASK!

Gavin, There are three great mysteries in life: 1) How many licks does it take? 2) What on earth did I or anyone else ever see in Herbert Armstrong? and 3) How do you, Gavin, stomach reading so very much Armstrongist-related material? You, sir, should have literally exploded years ago. Perhaps you write from a crystalline fortress somewhere near the North Pole, and the earth's yellow sun has imbued you with an incredible constitution. At any rate, I would have given up the ghost while you carry on. Shine on you crazy diamond.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meats and I Timothy 4

This is another in my line of posts about clean and unclean meats. This time I would like to go over a few verses in I Timothy 4.

First and by necessity we have to get a little off-topic, then we will get back on topic again. 
Paul goes into a certain discussion with Timothy about a distortion of the truth to occur after their time (in the "latter times"). Nothing must be taken for granted because these two men had studied and practiced and worked in God’s Spirit for years.

(I TIM. 4: 1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 

Paul is forewarning Timothy, who will continue after Paul is gone, to hold fast to the things he had already learned. Paul is not giving any new instruction here, or trying to insert any new law from God that Timothy didn’t already know from years of association with him. This verse is often used this as a stick to swat xCOG members with, causing them to fear when they read their Bibles. But “love casts out fear" (I JOHN 4: 18).
Pay close attention to what Paul says these people will fall into:

(I TIM. 4: 2) speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron

"Speaking lies in hypocrisy," Paul says. "In hypocrisy" would lead me to believe this is a "do what I say not what I do" crowd. "Lies" would lead me to believe these people are aware of their deceit, and perhaps even work to cover it up.
HWA does not escape this verse. If there is anything I have discussed on this blog (not that I am the only person to discuss such) it is the cherry-picking, deceitful, hypocritical nature of what Armstrong and his ministers teach. Should I ask you to read my other posts for more on this, or give a few examples? ...I will give a few examples. Actually, I'll do both. Examples first.

Armstrong preached the law, but he didn't keep the whole law -- When have the xCOGs built a booth at Tabernacles according to the design clearly laid out in scripture? Why does Deuteronomy 16 say you should travel three times in the year, but the COGs only travel once? Why do Armstrong's ministers claim to be "modern Levites" when tithes are involved, but not when the myriad other laws and rituals of the Levites are involved (eg. why don't they wear the required garments of a Levite)? The Jews count 613 laws in the Torah. What a small fraction Armstrong chose to keep!

Armstrong preached prophecy, but he failed in almost every single instance -- HWA predicted (on authority from scripture) the return of Christ in 1936, again in 1972, at various times between '36 and '72, and then the ever-shifting "within 3 to 4 years". HWA predicted (on authority from scripture) that the "Times of the Gentiles" ended previous to 1936, and again in 1982, and who can find all the references to the time when "the world" will be ended? There are hundreds of such examples!

Armstrong preached giving, but practiced taking (a salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while his followers went without); preached faith healing (which killed his wife Loma), but made special exception for himself (when he had health issues he had no issue with visiting a doctor); taught only those who keep the whole law will be justified, but kept a fraction of the law (the rest he "changed"); taught the 10 Commandments, but made an idol of himself and his church organization; failed Paul's requirements for an elder (by my count) on 11 points; etc, etc, etc.

(I TIM. 4: 3) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain food [Strong's 1033: food (literally or figuratively), especially (ceremonial) articles allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law], which God created to be received [Strong's 3336: participation] with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 

I have heard men argue that the word “foods” does not mean “foods”, but rather means some other thing. This is obviously not so. It means all foods; whatever is eaten. I have also heard men argue that "received" does not mean "eat". What else besides "eat" then? Are we to believe it is OK to receive a ham as a gift, then not eat it? What, then, put it on a shelf? The word “received” does not immediately mean “to eat”, so what they say about that is technically true, but it is clear from the context that foods will be eaten. You don’t just receive food for the sake of it, as if to put it on the shelf, or hang it over the fireplace. Which foods did God create to be received? To Adam only plants were given. To Noah all foods were given. To the Jews, only certain foods were given. To the Christian without conscience issues, the Jewish laws do not pertain. Do we not already know that Christ died to abolish the Old Covenant, with its regulations about meats and drinks, and restored us to the days of Abraham and Noah where He gave us all things as food?
The Kingdom is not in meat and drink (ROM. 14: 17).

Worldwide was quick to point out the Catholics abstain from meats at certain times of the year according to an ancient pagan tradition that you will never find in the Bible. And they forbid their priests to marry. On the surface this is a close match for the prophecy, I’ll admit. But, technically, the word "foods", which refers to all foods, can especially refer to Jewish ceremonially unclean foods, which the Catholics do not forbid. Worldwide abstains from Jewish ceremonially unclean foods all the time (according to their own unique cherry-picked version of the Old Covenant), and their divorce and remarriage rules were brutal. Could it mean the Catholics? It might. But could it mean men with teachings like Armstrong's? It might! In my opinion, Armstrongism is a closer match. I advise caution when concluding the only possible interpretation here is towards Catholics.

A little known implication of these verses is that they describe more about the details of the "Great Falling Away". Since the time of HWA's passing the great falling away has been said to be from within Armstrongism, but of the people who reject HWA. This is mere speculation, as is any prophetic interpretation. But let me offer to you a twist which you may not have contemplated before. 
Read this excerpt from the John Darby's Synopsis of the Bible: 
"But there would be some who departed from the faith, from this knowledge of the one Creator and Saviour-God — Him who was manifested in the flesh. They would attack precisely these points which we have named. It might be that they would pretend to carry the idea of christian privileges farther than all others had done, as well as that of profound knowledge of God; but they would sin against first principles, against the faith which connected the Saviour God revealed in Christianity with the one only Creator-God."

Now, what this says to me is, Herbert W. Armstrong may have promoted the falling away, as opposed to guarded against it. For all the times that ministers taught us to hold fast to what was taught at the beginning, they did not mean "the beginning of Christianity in 31 AD", no! They meant "the beginning of your time with Armstrong". For any first generation xCOG member, you would have to fall away from what you were taught in order to pick up this new teaching with Armstrong. So, you have indeed "gone away from what you were taught at the beginning", because you have switched the "beginning". Even HWA himself went away from what he taught at the beginning of his ministry. Many times he changed his policies. Read my article about "Church Government - Image of the Beast?" for more evidence. So, what is the real "beginning"? Mr. Raymond C. Cole fought long and hard in his own mind over this very question. Read my take on his solution in my article "More Following Men"

I ask you, who wonder why you remain in Armstrongism, loved by God, to seriously meditate on the possibility that you are following a cult, and perhaps one prophesied from the beginning --- the REAL beginning; specifically in I Timothy 4! Am I saying HWA has fulfilled this? No. I'm merely saying prophetic interpretation is speculation, hence I speculate on the possibility that this is a match. What if it isn't? I would rather contemplate it then dismiss it, than not contemplate it at all! ...but what if it is?

(I TIM. 4: 4-5) 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received [Strong's 2983: to take; take hold of] with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Worldwide taught the word ‘received’ has nothing to do with eating, then they would explain away the meaning of the verse with semantic acrobatics. God created pork and saw that it was good. If it’s ok to receive it, why isn’t it OK to eat the food which was received? That is never explained, however. While nit-picking the context of other sections to "prove" Armstrong's positions, they ignore the clear context of this section to "prove" Armstrong's positions. This is quite the double-standard. It most certainly is about food, and it most certainly is about eating.
As a matter of fact, the thing that is most surprising is that not once, not one single time in the entirety of the New Testament, is anything written that remotely resembles “food laws are in effect”. For all the times Paul says “everything is good for food”, despite that Jesus said “nothing that goes into a man can defile him”, time and time and time again, Armstrong always has a clever intellectual way to get around allowing the Bible to interpret the Bible. Not one time does it say “avoid foods ceremonially unclean,” or any such thing. Think about that.

What God created and gave to man is good. The animals are good. They were NOT unclean from the beginning, as some teach. See my post on "Clean/Unclean For Noah" for more on that subject. The faithful Gentiles are good (again, cleansed, as were the animals). Life is good. Truth is good! In fact, everything God created is good (GEN. 1: 31). God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (I COR. 14: 33). The Kingdom is not foods, but love. But that does not by any means or any interpretation tell us that disobeying God is good. We have already covered idolatry. That isn’t good.