Letter: November 22, 2001
Dear Mr. Edwards,
My husband Norman died July 13 of this year. But aside from that, I have noticed how some people are still talking on about past tithes they gave to WCG. We were long time members of WCG, and haven’t been now for over 10 years. Before Norman died we talked a lot about our past and what we learned from it. Neither of us had ever regretted the years, or what we learned or tithed. We felt God called us, to learn what He wanted to teach us. And we saw nothing wrong until we had learned enough to follow Him. Then we slowly started seeing the wrongs and then quit.
But we both thought that’s why we didn’t have any mind problems. We just kept reading, learning and following God. Oh we have changed our views on some things, but not without prayer and searching. And the tithes, we gave to God’s work in faith, with prayer and thanksgiving—have no regrets there either.
I just thank God daily for bringing us to Him in whatever means He used. And now onward. Yes I lost my greatest joy to God, but what I’ve learned from Norman through God, I will always have. And no, my husband had nothing to leave me, but again because of God’s work through him, our children take very good care of me. Please keep sending future Servants’ News to me. I need all the reading I can get, God isn’t done with me yet!
May God Bless all of you
— Jackie Firestone, Montana
Response: I agree with you. I never felt bad at the more than 10% that I gave to the WCG for about 14 years. I did it in faith. I did what I believed God required of me, and that is a good thing to do. I know that at least some of the money was used to do some good for some people.
I can guess, but cannot possibly know what would have happened if I would have done something different.
Letter: November 8, 2001
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I understand you have some knowledge of plagiarism and wonder if you can advise me.
I have been trying to confirm that a World Tomorrow broadcast which quotes extensively from old Plain Truth articles constitutes plagiarism. I have raised the issues with the National Council of the United Church of God—British Isles, but the CEO asserts that it is not plagiarism.
I also believe, but have no proof, that another part of the same broadcast has been “lifted” from an encyclopedia but have not been able to trace the source.
I do have a transcript of the programme, which I have made myself. The original broadcast is available on the UCG-BI web site—details attached.
— Barbara Fenney, United Kingdom
Response: Thank you for your letter about the United Church of God—British Isles. I have some knowledge of plagiarism in the United States, but internationally is a completely different matter.
In general, plagiarism was not even considered a crime until the age of printing. Before printing, anyone who was a skilled copiest could make money by copying and selling a book—he would not make more money by pretending it was his own work and the real author was usually glad that someone was copying his book. But today, in some countries, making 10,000 copies of a book often costs less than the writing and research for a good book. Plagiarism laws vary greatly from one country to the next, based upon their tradition of printing and their social and political ideas about protecting “intellectual property”. Some less-developed countries still do not have plagiarism laws. Some communist countries have almost no copyright protection—from the false idea that everything belongs to the state and the state belongs to everybody. Some countries are good about recognizing their own copyrights, but not as good about recognizing the copyrights of other nations.
Obviously, Britain is neither less-developed nor communist, but copying old magazine articles from another country may not constitute legal plagiarism there. I do not know. But even if it is legal, is it not deceitful for them to use somebody else’s work as if it were their own? Probably so—but it is a deception used by nearly every church organization that claims to be the “one true church”. Most such groups fail to acknowledge that they could not be doing their work if it was not for other groups that copied and translated the Scriptures. Most fail to acknowledge that they use Bible helps and commentaries by men from other denominations. And as in your case, they apparently failed to acknowledge when they are reading someone else’s material.
Just looking at the list of broadcast titles at www.goodnews.org.uk/audio, there are some new ones about current issues, but many are identical or similar to previous Worldwide Church of God titles. The same prophetic flavor maintained by the WCG in the 1950s through to the 1970s remains: Cracking Open The Apocalypse; The Urgency of the Times!; Apocalypse USA—Behind the Atrocity; Armageddon—What Does It mean?; Britain In Prophecy (Parts 1 & 2); Condition Critical; etc.
To me, the plagiarism issue that you mentioned is important, but the overall direction of the UCG’s work is crucial. In a few hours they could rewrite, in their own words, the WCG booklet or the encyclopedia article that you mentioned. That would avoid any problems with legal plagiarism. The difficulty is that they are continuing to preach the same message: “Bible prophecy states that the world is about to destroy itself and Christ must return in our lifetime”. We must realize that the WCG (and the Radio Church of God before it) preached that message in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and most of the people who heard it are now dead—never seeing it come to pass. Many other Adventist groups preached a similar message before the WCG and RCG. Each dogmatically stated that “they were living in the time of the end”.
Can God hold the world today responsible for refusing to listen to this prophetic message that has been preached for decades and not come to pass? Can any objective person really believe that a just God preached “His warning to the world” through the “one true church”, the WCG, but that warning was a whole generation early and now the real warning is coming through a whole bunch of little “one true churches” that preach the same thing, but can’t get along with each other?
The UCG is teaching a lot of sound Bible truth. If they (and the other groups) could properly present themselves as one of many groups serving God, they would not have to copy the works of others in an effort to pretend that they have the answer to everything. They could do what they do well, and refer readers to other groups that also have good teaching in other areas. May God give all of us wisdom to better serve Him.
Letter: August 28, 2001
At the end of an article of yours, you quote 1Cor 7:23: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men”. That was an eye-opening statement as so many have been just that, slaves of men for so many years and still to this day.
This, however, is not what was on my mind at the moment. A certain problem that has existed for many years for some of us in the churches of God has never been addressed properly or not at all in the many years we have been associated with a church. (We are no longer with any church of men. Have a deep and abiding love of God and Jesus Christ.)
Many of us have been or are still farmers. Along with this are the many hours milking cows, feeding, watering, taking care of orphans, scrubbing milk machines, and other chores too numerous to mention. In the old Worldwide Church some even taught that the cows should not be milked on the Sabbath. (What a disaster!!!) (This from “citified” ministers knowing nothing about farming.)
Some taught that there should not be that big of an operation. Have only one or two cows. Could anyone make a living with one or two cows? From where would the milk come from for the many people living in the cities? The butter, the eggs, the cream and the ice cream…?
In the Bible, Abraham had many cattle. His, however, must have been more the beef type that just graze and have only enough milk for the calves.
Some people have criticized others for doing a little more than milk cows on the Sabbath while they themselves spend two hours or more in the barn twice a day on the Sabbath, which is about 4 to 6 hours of hard physical labor.
I guess that what I would like is your thoughts on this problem that for most farmers does not go away. Keeping the Sabbath certainly has to be different for different people. Just going to a building and sitting there in a row listening to another person funneling information about what they know is not “keeping the Sabbath” as far as I can see. Keeping the Feast days are another thing with the same format. Here again it is just men standing in front of people funneling in their information and their thoughts about what they think the Bible says.
Why do some people think they have
so much more knowledge about what the Bible says when anyone can read it for
I don’t think God meant for it to be so difficult.
Freedom in Christ is exactly what it says. It really boils down to everyone working out their own salvation. One between the person and God and Jesus Christ. Not allowing oneself to be a slave of men is a good one.
Now back to the cows… Any good, helpful thoughts??? I certainly want this to be a private letter and answer… in other words not to be published in the Servants’ News, etc.
Response: Your quote about not being slaves of men relates to how a farmer should keep the Sabbath. Many Sabbath-keeping groups have written huge amounts of detail about how to keep the Sabbath—the Jews lead the pack. While some of it is certainly helpful, I am convinced that a lot of it makes the Sabbath a burden rather than a delight. I am enclosing my tract entitled Scriptures about the Sabbath, which covers most of the scriptures in the Bible about the Sabbath. It is amazing how relatively few verses there are.
We are accountable to God to keep the Sabbath. “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12). He tells us not to work (Ex 20:9) or do our own pleasure (Is 58:13). He tells us not to work our animals (Ex 20:10). It is all right to feed animals (Luke 13:15), and tend to unusual or unexpected conditions on the Sabbath (Luke 14:6, John 5:9). It is commanded that we assemble on the Sabbath (Lev 23:1–2) and the Holy Days (rest of Leviticus 23). God will know whether a farmer is trying to do these things or whether he is trying to use his farm to avoid obeying Him.
I believe it is a great mistake for preachers to insist that Sabbatarians live a certain way, and then live a lifestyle that is not compatible with that way. For example, if a preacher declares that Sabbatarian farmers should have only one or two cows, then he should also declare that Sabbatarians try to get their milk from a farmer with only one or two cows. (It would have to be a local farmer as no dairy could profitably pick up milk from a farm with two cows.) Similarly, if a preacher declares that no Sabbatarian should be in the dairy business because it is impossible to keep the Sabbath, then they should declare that no Sabbatarian should drink milk because producing it requires the breaking of the Sabbath.
I think each farmer can figure out how best to limit their Sabbath work to that which must be done for the sake of the animals. I know of some who milk Friday afternoon, and then Saturday after dark, but I do not know that all can do that. I did this when I had milk goats. Goats were fairly flexible and could wait a number of hours to be milked. It is possible that there are (or were) some breeds of cattle that were more flexible in their milking requirements, but they probably do not produce the huge quantities of milk that modern cows do. Is it possible that there are some that do not need to be milked at all one day in seven? I do not know. But it will be farmers who should find or produce such a breed and raise and milk them. Preachers cannot preach such cows into existence.
Both Leviticus 23:1–2 and Hebrews 10:25 indicate that we should continue assembling together. The purpose is to encourage each other, learn from each other, and share our spiritual gifts. However, I can understand not wanting to attend a service that consists primarily of men just lecturing people and funneling what they think they know. That is why the New Testament teaching is primarily questions and answers, not just long sermons. You should find a place where you can contribute your spiritual gifts as well as benefit from others. That can be in a “church building”, or with a few other believers at home.
Letter: December 4, 2001
Regarding “e-mail subs” on Page 2, I would take Option 3. This would save you time and money. I would still be able to access and/or print it out much cheaper.
Looking forward to delving into your paper: “Starting a Local Congregation”.
Norm, I would appreciate your input on a subject of concern: In your opinion, does the term “faith once delivered” refer to Mr. Armstrong’s work, or does it refer to Christ’s teaching?
Hope this finds you all well.
Response: I will begin sending you an e-mail link.
Your question is obviously referring to Jude 1:3:
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (KJV).
The word “saints” is used about 95 times in the New Testament and always refers to all of the believers—or all of them in a specific geographical area. While it does mean “holy ones” or “set apart ones” the Bible says nothing about a subclass of people who are believers but somehow not good enough to be “saints”. Paul addresses one of his letters: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1Cor 1:2). Yet Paul goes on to mention numerous sins and problems among those Corinthian saints.
Now that we know who the saints are, we can see the the book of Jude is clearly talking about the message that was once taught to many saints by Christ, His Apostles, evangelists and other teachers. Jude was certainly writing this letter to real people who were alive at his time, but affected by false teaching (see verse 4) and in need of “contending for the faith”. There is no hint that Jude is prophesying some event 1,900 years into the future. Nevertheless, many Bible stories and prophecies will apply to multiple times throughout history. Today, could this scripture mean that believers should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the twentieth century saints by Herbert Armstrong?
This is a fair question. Let us compare the sources of what was delivered to the saints, both in the first century and the twentieth century.
The saints of the first century were taught primarily by the Apostles. When Judas was replaced, the Apostles chose another who had been with Christ from the beginning (Acts 1:21–22). Paul was taught directly by Christ (Gal 1:11–16). In his writings, Paul sometimes makes clear when he is giving a command he heard directly from Christ (“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord…”—1Cor 7:10), and when he is using his own understanding (“But to the rest I, not the Lord, say…”—1Cor 7:12).
By contrast, how was Herbert Armstrong taught? He never claimed any direct revelation from Christ—neither visions nor dreams nor face to face meetings. Many times he stated that he was taught by the written Word of God, rather than the spoken Word, and frequently mentioned his intensive 6-month study of the Bible. Of interest, that is about one seventh of the time that the Apostles spent with Jesus. But that is not necessarily a factor, God is capable of making a man who can learn seven times faster. The question to answer is this: Was Herbert Armstrong’s study equivalent to the Apostles learning from Christ?
I think the answer is “No” for five important reasons:
1. The Word that taught Mr. Armstrong was much different than the Word who taught the Apostles. The Apostles understood Christ’s language perfectly and could ask questions if they did not. Herbert Armstrong was not reading the words of Christ and the Apostles, but a version of their words after 1,900 years of copying and translation. He relied on commentaries, lexicons and other Bible helps to gather a better understanding of the original meaning of the writers. He certainly learned a lot from this, but it was far from the abilities of the original Apostles. For example, Mr. Armstrong rightly rejected the long-standing Christian tradition and KJV’s erroneous translation of “pascha” to “Easter” in Acts 12:4, but till the day of his death, he maintained the erroneous practice of having separate offices of “deacon” and “minister” in his congregation. These separate words were written into the KJV Bible because the church of England had two separate offices—the Greek Scriptures contain only one word for both of them, “diakonos”. There are many other examples of Bible translation errors that Herbert Armstrong DID and DID NOT find in the Bible. He never claimed nor apparently had any divine revelation of the precise meaning of the original language texts. He studied to the best of his ability, just like you, I and many other Bible teachers.
2. Mr. Armstrong changed his doctrines as he went along, whereas the Apostles did not. The New Testament contains no example where the Apostles stated that Christ taught them one thing, then later taught them something different. Whereas HWA changed his teaching on several major doctrines. His teaching on church government reversed from his 1939 to his 1974 article. He observed Pentecost by three different methods. He once taught married believers to split up if either had been previously married to someone still alive—then later reversed that teaching. He reversed himself on the wearing of make-up several times. He set numerous ranges of years for the return of Christ, all failed. It is very good that a person corrects themselves when they find errors in their teaching—Mr. Armstrong should have done it and we should do it. However, it is difficult to believe that Mr. Armstrong had some special divine teaching of Christ when he had to make corrections throughout his ministry. His pattern of teaching is more like the pattern of many other teachers: sometimes he diligently sought God and the Bible and God taught him truth; other times he answered questions without adequate prayer and study, and gave answers that he later had to change.
3. Mr. Armstrong borrowed some of his teaching from others. He taught that the United States and Britain were Israel, but borrowed much of the content of his works from J. H. Allen’s book on the subject. He copied the entire booklet “Has Time Been Lost?” from the Church of God Seventh Day. His explanation of the Day of Atonement goats (Lev 16) is the same as a vision of Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists. All of these sources clearly existed before his study into the Bible. There is nothing wrong with learning from the writings of others that teach truth. We should all do it. But we should not ascribe God’s revelation of truth to one man when God has revealed it through many people.
4. Mr. Armstrong did not have the signs and wonders that the Bible speaks of as the identifying signs of an Apostle (Acts 2:43, Acts 5:12; 2Cor 12:12). While he claims a number of miracles in his autobiography, these all occurred before he called himself an Apostle. Indeed, this writer attended the same local congregation as Mr. Armstrong for eight years and does not know of anyone who witnessed a miracle done through him while he claimed to be an Apostle. At the same time, I witnessed or heard about a number of healings and miracles through other church leaders and brethren. Mr. Armstrong certainly never claimed that his miracles were proof of his Apostleship.
5. Mr. Armstrong did not have the humble approach of the New Testament leaders. They did not have this world’s wealth (Acts 3:6, 1Cor 4:11) and were patient with brethren who did not always listen to their teaching. None proclaimed great titles for themselves. Herbert Armstrong proclaimed himself to be both the physical and spiritual head of the Church on earth—and cast out those who understood doctrines differently than he did. He lived an extravagant life-style while instructing his coworkers, about 100 times, to make sure they sent in their “widow’s mites”.
In conclusion, I think it is a big mistake to classify Mr. Armstrong’s teaching as “the faith once delivered to the saints”. While he taught much truth and rejected much traditional error, his track record is nowhere close to the servants of God of the first century. Mr. Armstrong’s track record is similar to many other religious leaders who rejected error, taught truth and turned many people to God and the Bible—but placed far too much emphasis on their own ministries. When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10), I know He will uphold my desire to live by His Words, and the words of those men whom He chose in the first century. I will answer for my life from those words. Similarly, Mr. Armstrong will be judged for his teaching. If either of us taught error due to Bible translation problems or some other factor unknown to us, Christ will be lenient on us for the things we did not know (Luke 12:48). But if either of us deliberately taught error to increase our personal power, we will be punished with many stripes (Luke 12:47). I do not know how Mr. Armstrong will be judged. He built a huge work in a short time, but it came down even faster than it went up. I must not contend for the faith delivered by a man with an unknown status before God, but contend for the faith once delivered to the first century saints.
May God guide us all into that faith!
Letter: November 6, 2001
It is about time that I wrote to you, just wanted to let you know that i am promoting your article.
I’ve e-mailed to at least a half dozen people, posted up on a [name removed] forum and also got my husband (a major skeptic) to reading, and he agrees totally, in fact he was on to a lot of these myths before I was, and your article cleared up a lot of things…
And I’m corresponding with Horst, who read your article some time ago and found it very encouraging and when he tried to discuss it he could only find people hung up on hierarchy, so now we are going to start discussing it… And I e-mailed a link of your article to Monte, and he was really excited about it… (I met Monte in the CEM Forum, but that is run by Ron Dart, and it’s not appropriate to talk about the subject of your article there! Ron doesn’t allow references to “other ministries”, anyway.) I would like to support your ministry, and I have put the bug in my husband’s ear, so please pray about his inspiration to give.
Also, please send me all your plans for the website, and let’s see if we can help you.
My husband and I are musicians and I would like to talk to you about Psalms, but first I’m going to read your article about Psalms.
— Susan Owen, Switzerland,
Response: Thank you for sending How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? to friends. That is often the best way to spread such information. Many people do not want to take the time to read a long religious article from somebody they do not know. It may turn out to be a big waste of time. If they just skim it, or read the end, they may see the conclusions before they see the proof and say “those are really strange ideas” and reject it without hearing the case. But when a friend someone knows and trusts recommends an article, they are more likely to read it all.
Thank you so much for volunteering to help. When my issues are caught up, God willing, I hope to do a lot more on my website.
Letter: Dec 9, 2001
I was looking for some input. I read this quote from an article in Nutrition Action Health Letter, a reputable magazine. “Glucosamine is a simple compound and is easy to manufacture. It’s extracted from the shells of crabs and other crustaceans. Chondroitin, which is prepared from cow tracheae (windpipes) or shark cartilage, is more difficult to make.”
I’d really appreciate your input because many of God’s people (mostly the elderly) are taking this stuff to relieve pain from arthritis. (I’m one of them.)
— Ken Omick, Wisconsin
Response: The Bible teaches us not to eat unclean animals, and to consider ourselves “unclean” if we touch their carcasses. It does not mention what we should do about greatly refined products made from unclean animals. God does not have a secret law that He hopes to “catch us disobeying so He can punish us”. On the other hand, we should do the best we can to follow God. I have not investigated this particular issue, but I make the following general suggestions. 1) Try to adjust one’s diet, exercise and other habits so supplements are not needed. 2) Look for alternatives that are not unclean. 3) If none can be found, pray and ask God to show you what to do.
There are manufacturers who make glucosamine and chrondoitin tablets, with ingredients made from fish (shark cartilage), not from cattle or pigs as in cheaper versions by others. Glucosamine and chrondoitin are both helpful in maintaining connectivity tissue. One source for these is Healthspan, PO Box 64, Park Street, St Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 3BT, telephone +44-1481-714015. —David King