Letters & Responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print. We include our response to each letter in this type-style. We have selected a title for each letter for easy reference. If writers supply their own title, we will be happy to use it.

Agrees With Servantsí News

Letter: July 1, 1997

Dear Norman,

Those who are condemning you must be reading a different Servantsí News than the one I get. Every copy I have received has a list of sources for information. You are right to only print the truth you understand. Unless they are limiting God, anything "the Eternal wants to be printed" will get printed by someone, some place.

Indecisive? Never. How well I remember the dogmatic statements made in the late 50ís and early 60ís by Rod Meredith (he was our pastor) about conditions, events, and dates that would occur in the USA. Never happened. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

—Mr. G, California

Response: Thanks for the encouragement. We read nearly all, and publish some critical letters because we want to be corrected when we are wrong. Yet we receive many articles and letters from individuals who apparently are not open to discussion or correction of their ideas.

—NSE

Marriage and Divorce Part II

Letter: June 6, 1997

Dear Mr. Edwards,

I just read your article on D & R- Part II. I think it is quite helpful in trying to sort out the subject.

You comment that each converted person should be completely aware of Godís teaching or laws on the matter. Make up his or her mind to follow God and be prepared to stand before God.

—Arthur Roesler, Texas

Response: Some people greatly object to this, saying that "if people do not have to listen to the ministry and are allowed to make their own decisions in these matters the law of God will largely be ignored." Undoubtedly, there are some cases where ministers have commanded people take the correct action in their marriage when, left to themselves, the people would have ignored, misapplied, or misunderstood the scriptures. Their lives were probably better because of it. However, the purpose of the Eternal calling brethren now is so they can learn to apply the Bible in their lives—so they can learn from the mistakes they make. Those who seek to obey the Eternal will be blessed for it. Those who seek their own way will learn their lessons the hard way.

—NSE

Revisit to Grammar Class

Letter: July 16,1997

Dear Mr. Edwards,

Your lead articles in this latest Servantsí News are informative. However, both you and Mr. Wiedenheft would profit from a revisit to grammar class.

Perhaps you two should each strive to "be an overcomer" in this matter, while possibly I should grow in patience.

—Beth Linehan, Wisconsin

Response: When I was in school, spelling, punctuation, and grammar were among my worst subjects. A number of volunteers help look for such problems in each issue. We can use more help from readers skilled in these areas. The only other requirement is easy access to a fax machine.

Thank you for your patient approach.

—NSE

FindFellowshipwithFormerFriends

Letter: May 27, 1997

I was in a hospital recently and I want to thank the many people who sent get well cards, phone calls, or visited me.

The people were not just from one Church of God organization, but from various United, Global, Worldwide, Independent, Church of the Very Elect, etc. Some even met others not from their particular group whilst visiting me in the hospital and chatted friendly.

Is being ill or funerals the only ways old friends and acquaintances from a former church organization ever contact each other now? In some cases, it is and how sad. What an example to outsiders.

One last tip before we contact or speak to them—think on a good point about them to say when we speak to them.

Also, in some letters, I notice attacks on one or two doctrinal or organizational differences between churches, or people who have come out from our former association; when really they agree with over 90% with each other. Yet, they tend to dwell and argue about the small points they disagree on.

Letís think on Philippians 4:8, virtue, good report, praise—United, Global, Philadelphia, International, etc. Letís be positive one to another.

—David Young, Scotland

Response: This is a very fine letter. It is indeed sad that funerals, illness, and occasional weddings are the only things that bring together former friends in some cases. We have heard several specific cases where hierarchical organizations refused to let their congregations participate in local socials for multiple congregations. Their reason is to "protect their congregation from different ideas." How sincerely they want to protect or how badly they want to keep tithe-paying members for themselves will be judged in the end (1Cor 4:5). But for now, it seems that they are sowing a certain amount of discord among people who otherwise would be brethren (Prov 6:19).

—NSE

When Does the Sabbath Start?

Letter: June 7, 1997

Dear Brother Edwards,

Thank you for sending Servantsí News. It is enlightening and I sometimes use its articles in my sermons (I am a minister on radio and a jail evangelist.)

Since you publish views on various doctrines and understandings of the Faith, I wonder if youíd appreciate material I have on a Thursday crucifixion—Sunday resurrection concept (which I have come to believe after much prayer and study). Iíll send this if you wish.

Also, I have an out-of-print booklet by (now deceased) Brother (Elder) John Kiesz of the Church of God Seventh Day Iíll send you. It is non-Trinitarian and is titled The Christological Controversy (he was formerly a college professor.)

I myself have been led to reject the Trinity concept as unbiblical (I am now what I term a Binitarian, i.e., I believe the Godhead, the Qeothz (Col 2:9), is composed of Father and Son.) I am a firm believer that God Himself, our father, is only one God, whose name is Yah (I donít know the ending; some say Yahwah, but this is not provable, though I personally believe this.)

One burning question: If we are commanded to keep the Sabbath from evening to evening, from sundown to sundown, how can a person in the far latitudes, such as Scandinavia, where at a certain season the sun never sets, know when the Sabbath starts and ends (one such nation is called "the land of the midnight sun)?

Another question: If men colonize the moon, how will they know when to keep the Sabbath? I have never seen these questions discussed before, but would like to read a discussion in Servantsí News.

Yours in Messiah,

—Joseph M McGuire, Alabama

Response: Please send the material that you mentioned. We are interested in studying all of those subjects, and your sources seem to be unbiased studies by sincere men. We value this kind of source much more than the paper that comes from an individual that is trying protect the existing doctrine of an established group or trying to establish himself as the leader of a new group by unique doctrinal teaching.

See page 3 of this issue for a discussion of when the Sabbath begins. The Bible gives no specific instruction on how to keep the Sabbath when there is no darkness (or sunset) during certain times of the year. Only a few people live in such places, but they still must make a decision on what to do.

The Talmud originally placed the international date line on the east coast of China. When Jews first went to Australia, they kept the Sabbath with the Western Hemisphere. However, since the commonly-used international date line is east of Australia, the Australians considered their Sabbath, to be "Sunday." After some years of going to synagogue on Sunday in Australia, the Jews finally agreed to accept the common international date line so that they could go to synagogue on Saturday.

The Bible provided no specific guidance for the above decisions; they were made by men seeking to make a wise decision. I believe that far-north communities should decide on a time so that they can keep the Sabbath approximately together. (If one started the Sabbath at 6PM and another at midnight, that would create much difficulty in having people over for Sabbath dinner.) Personally, I think I would use the darkest part of the night to start the Sabbath.

How do we keep the Sabbath in space? The Eternal gave man dominion over the Earth (Gen 1:26), but not the moon or other planets. Twenty-four-hour days do not exist at these places. While I am not against space exploration, I believe it is economically impractical for men to live off of the Earth. While science fiction treats travel between stars as a trivial matter, there is no known technology to do this in less than many human life-times. I see no reason for people to live in space other than to explore it. If I were in space, I would try to keep the Sabbath based on the time at my Earth home—but that is not in the scripture.

—NSE

What is a Womanís Role?

Letter: February 3, 1997

Your November 1996 issueís article on "Marriage & Divorce" was enlightening!

Iím 61 years old, been in Godís Church for 26 years and still do not know how much of a person I can be without overstepping my bounds. Many sermons have been preached on wives submitting. Consequently, some wives feel guilty if they disagree with their husband.

Years ago, a friend told me she had asked her husband to read one of Dr. Dobsonís books on marriage, but her husband would have nothing to do with the book. This reaction seems typical of so many men in Godís Church. Is Godís ideal of a converted wife an "Edith Bunker?"

I would like to see more written on the marriage roles. You would think Godís people would have learned that well, by now!

Sincerely and thank you,

—GN, Arizona

Response: Perhaps one reason that so many women are confused about their role in the church and world is because the subject is not well understood by the teachers to which we have listened. Maybe the reasons our former WCG teachings on women were unclear is because many of the leaders taught a mixture of Biblical truth and their own beliefs and erroneous teaching from elsewhere. Some verses about women were taken out of context and misunderstood. There are some good writings available that take a more biblical/historical approach to a womanís role, but they are hard to find.

Women, like men, have diverse talents and skills. Women are to work with their husbands and be supportive (as long as the deeds are in line with biblical teachings) and are also to use their talents and gifts to serve others. In the past, some taught that women could only serve as their husbands serve others. We cannot find this limitation in the Bible. Some men appear to be so possessive and jealous that they will support their wifeís service and gifts only if it serves or benefits them in some way. This may come from a feeling of inferiority, inordinate desire for control, or some other personal difficulty. Nevertheless, the reason such men usually give for demanding control of nearly every aspect of their wivesí lives is to produce complete "unity" in the family. The reasoning is very similar to the reasons given for absolute ministerial control over church organizations. However, both produce a forced and shallow unity that needlessly narrows opportunities for all involved.

What can a woman do who finds herself married to an "Archie Bunker" who wants his wife to be an "Edith"? First, she should pray and ask the Eternal to work with him in the way that he will best respond. When our hearts are right, this can be amazingly effective (Matt 21:22, 1Jn 3:22). A woman must also learn how she can best work with her husband. Nagging and confrontations are rarely effective. A woman can use her female wit and wisdom to both satisfy the needs of her husband and to serve in the areas where the Eternal has given her talents.

Some jobs, such as the head of families and overseers in congregations, appear to be reserved for men according to the Bible. If a real wolf threatened a physical family, it would be the men who would fight it off. Similarly, men have the job of fighting off the wolves that attack spiritual congregations. In many other areas of service, it seems that the scripture indicates that the most gifted person should have the job, regardless of gender. Does it really seem logical to stop a female professional music teacher from starting a childrenís choir in her fellowship because the policy is that "only a man can do that"? Is it sensible to require her to be an "assistant" to a man who has much less experience and training? Is the opportunity for good instruction for the children important? We are aware of cases just like this occurring in congregations. The Bible sets up men as leaders in families and certain congregational functions, but not in every area of life!

No, women should not feel guilty for disagreeing with their husbands. Women and men think differently and need to reason together on diverse subjects, then come to a peaceful solution. That is easier said than done. A woman should not try to force her ideas on her husband, nor should she give up on good ideas just because he rejects them the first time. Women need to express their ideas logically in a way that their husbands can understand. If a woman wants to begin a worthwhile project (a personal hobby or a service of some kind), but her husband disagrees, she might try asking him if she can spend only two hours a week on the project. She may need to promise to find a way to do the housework two hours faster each week in order to make time for it. This seems like a lot of effort required just to begin a worthwhile project, but a husband will be more likely to agree in this "no cost" way. Also, it will give him a chance to see the fruit born by the project and the positive effect it has upon his wife.

Just as wives do not want their husbands to pick at them for every little thing, women will fail if they try to change their husbandsí mind on little details. Stick to issues that are really important. One way to reason is: "Will this issue make any difference ten years from now?" Since the Bible holds men ultimately responsible for their family, a woman need not feel guilty if she cannot convince her husband to change on an issue that she has presented to him.

It is not surprising that your friendís husband rejected the book she gave him. As a general rule, men donít tend to read books or seek the advice of other men for instruction and edification in their personal lives. Men tend to feel that they can think through a problem and solve it their way, with their knowledge and expertise. Obviously, there are men who are exceptions to this. If a book is really helpful, a woman might ask her husband for a "book swap"—he reads the book she has chosen, and she reads a book he has chosen or does something else special that he wants her to do.

There are many ways a woman can serve in what nearly everyone would accept as a "traditional female role". An excellent book on the subject is: Spiritual Mothering—The Titus 2 Model For Women Mentoring Women, by Susan Hunt, Crossway Books. The book contains scattered bits of incorrect theology, but most of it is real stories about older women encouraging and teaching younger women the good things in Titus 3:2-5. It shows the far-reaching effects of womenís influence from seemingly humble accomplishments. You may call Great Christian Books (800-775-5422) to order this inspirational book.

—Marleen & Norman Edwards

Who Can Baptize & Lay on Hands?

Letter: July 9, 1997

Dear Norman,

Thank you for all the literature you sent me a few weeks ago, my family and I really appreciate it. As I told you in my last letter, we are meeting together with another family. Fortunately we are growing and we already are five families (so far) joining together as a Body.

We have our services in a house (living room) of one of the families. We, as a group, are taking the major and minor decisions about all the things the congregation needs. What to study, How we should organize ourselves, How our services will be, How to help others, What our preaching plan will be, What our statement of belief will be, How we should solve our doctrinal differences, etc. We, as a group, are trying to answer all the previous questions.

Our sincere wish is to be led by the Holy Spirit, we want to be real tools in the hands of God. We want to thank you again because in the most difficult time, we received a lot of documents from you.

This helped us to see that if we have doctrinal errors or doctrinal misunderstandings in any Christian subject, with a real and honest Biblical study we can know the right answers and obviously the things to do.

We have studied the Passover and after several months of study we have seen that God is merciful with us and no matter how much time we live in error, He sees our attitude and lets us be aware of our doctrinal errors and gives us the opportunity to CHANGE.

The Passover is not an easy subject and we have many questions to answer yet. But at least we have accepted what the Bible says on this regard.

We have made several studies more: Church Government, The Church, The Ministry, etc. and we are happy of the results we have.

Right now, we are studying Baptism. The reason is because one of the persons who is meeting with us is not baptized. He is very interested to know everything about the subject. Not only he, but all of us are interested to know what will be happen in this case. There is not any deacon, deaconess, elder or minister in our congregation. The Big questions are: Who can baptize this person? Is a minister required to do this? Who can lay on hands on him? Can we as a congregation do this?

Our specific request to you is: Do you have any document to send us about this matter? Could you answer the questions above mentioned? Could you give us your experience on this regard?

You can send me an E-mail. I am using the E-mail of the company that I work for, just write clearly my name. I do not have problems to do that.

Thank you again for everything.

Norman: Keep doing the Good Work. Best regards.

—J. J., Mexico

E-mail: laprensa@spin.com.mx

Response: We are happy to see that your fellowship is going well. We encourage you to remain diligent in your studies.

Regarding baptism: It is important to realize that baptism was not a new thing introduced by John the Baptist. Immersion in water for cleansing oneís sin is a practice among Jews today and was apparently used well before John. Our Saviorís disciples baptized people long before His death and resurrection (John 3:22;4:1-2).

Three thousand people were baptized on Pentecost. If only the 12 apostles did the baptizing and laying on of hands, each one would have to baptize and lay hands on 250 people. That would give them less than 2 minutes for each person if they did it for eight hours. If all 120 disciples participated in the baptism and laying on of hands, they could devote 15 minutes to each person and finish in 6¼ hours.

We see no command in the scripture that requires people to be of a certain status or "rank" to baptize others or lay on hands. The Eternal commanded Ananias to baptize Paul, and even though we have much description about Ananias, he is not called a prophet, minister, elder, or any such thing (Acts 9:10-18; 22:12-16). Paul clearly explains that who baptizes a person is not very important—even though he preached in many places, he rarely ever baptized anyone, and he could not remember for certain how many people he baptized! (1Cor 1:13-17).

Some have taught that a certain "rank" is required to "lay on hands" based on Acts 8. Philip baptized people in Samaria (v 12), but they did not receive the holy spirit until Peter and John came (v 14-17). The chapter says nothing about why they did not receive the holy spirit. However, it is unlikely that it was due to a "lack of spiritual power" on the part of Philip—great miracles were performed through him (v 6-7). We believe the Eternal withheld his spirit so Peter and John would have a face-to-face encounter with Simon Magus (18-23), whom some historians believe was the false "Peter" who was buried at Rome and founder of a church that is headquartered there to this day!

Finally baptizing or laying on of hands are not in the Bibleís spiritual gift lists (Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:7-11,28-31; Eph 4:11-15, 1Pet 4:8-11). Rather, they are listed as basic doctrines that mature believers should have mastered (Heb 6:1-2). Anyone baptizing another should thoroughly understand baptism. The baptizer should talk to the person and make sure they understand that they are making a life-long commitment to obey the Eternal and to live by His word—they are not joining a human organization. The baptizer should refuse to baptize a person obviously in a wrong attitude (Matt 3:7-8). However, the person requesting baptism must understand that he or she is making an agreement with the Eternal, not the baptizer. If a person convinces someone to baptize them for wrong reasons, that person is sinning, not the baptizer!

We have participated in two baptisms since working as an independent ministry. One person was baptized in a horse-watering tank (a clean one), and the other person in a lake. One or two persons assisted the new members in and out of the water, and then many brethren laid hands on them. The idea that a "minister" must push a person into and pull them out of the water is from Baptist tradition, not from the Bible. Jewish tradition indicates that the person went under the water themselves—the baptizer only watched to be sure that they go completely under water. Neither method is described in the Bible, but the symbolism of the later seems better. The first one seems to symbolize a minister "controlling a believerís new spiritual life." The latter seems to symbolize a person responsible for their own spiritual life with other brethren there to find mistakes that they cannot see themselves. We believe that the Eternal honors both methods of Baptism, since the Bible does not spell it out.

We hope this information has been helpful to you. We do not have any other information available on this subject now.

—NSE

Praise & Worship Songs of Jesus

This is Part 4 of a series of letters beginning in the Sept-Oct 1996 issue.

Letter: January 13, 1997

Dear Norm and Marleen,

I would like to respond to Paul Haneyís letter in the November, SN, in which he objected to my not singing certain hymns praising Jesus Christ at the FOT. I had mentioned, "the reason Debbie and I did not sing certain songs was that they overly praised ĎJesus, Jesusí to the exclusion of God." I also said , Debbie and I felt this was a reflection back to the Protestant misconception of the Messiah, Christ. We could not in good conscience sing them." I suggested that rather than ask everyone to sing for the sake of unity it would be better to respect each otherís stand in the same way that Paul asked vegetarians and non-vegetarians to respect each other.

I think Mr. Haney may have misunderstood me. I fully agree with most of what he wrote. I extol Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus the Christ) as my Lord, my Saviour, my Shepherd, and my Door to God. My bumper sticker reads, "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter." I spent hundreds of hours over a two year period putting together a paper on the chronology of Christís life. For years, in the WWCG I decried the lack of emphasis on Christ. I donít relegate Christ to a backseat, but neither do I replace God with Jesus Christ in my worship of God. Jesus himself directed our worship towards God, "His disciples said to Him, ĎLord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.í So He said to them, ĎWhen you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.í"

The reason the apostasy of the Trinity was so successful in the WWCG was that there were questions asked for which we didnít have all the answers. For example, the Bible teaches monotheism, the belief in one and only one God. "Jesus answered him, ĎThe first of all the commandments is" Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one...So the scribe said to Him,íWell said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He" (Mark 12:29,32). Yet, we had Jesus Christ as the Creator of the Universe, the God of the Old Testament, the God of the fathers, and the One claiming to be God doing all the speaking in the Old Testament. Where was the Father? Are we faced with two Gods in One, a Binity? After all, we had Christ performing all the activities of God. Yet the Bible teaches monotheism, one God, not two Gods.

In our addressing this question of who Christ was we are going back to the primary issue that brought about the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Most of the attendants were ignorant of the issue. In a politically influenced vote, those who declared Christ and God were of one substance won. This was not the end of the matter. Hundreds of years of debate, persecution, and actual war followed until the emerging Catholic Church silenced all opposition by force. Today we are blessed with religious freedom and academic resources unknown in the past to once again look at this issue.

Protestantism in general worships Christ and excludes God the Father. The image worshiped is that of a baby in a manger, an effeminate man, or a dying man hanging on a pagan instrument of torture. The message taught is that Christ kept the law for us and all we have to do is verbally accept Him as our Saviour and we will go to heaven. This is particularly evident in many Protestant hymns. Yahshua the Messiah said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matt 22:37-38). When we center our worship on Jesus, which many Protestant hymns do, we are replacing God with Christ, which actually becomes a form of idolatry because we are to have no other gods before the one and only true God.

Jesus the Christ is never described in the Bible as "God the Son". He is always described as "the Son of God." There is a tremendous difference. Christ never claimed to be God. He claimed to be Godís Son. "I adjure you by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, ĎIt is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heavení" (Matt 26:63-64). The Father is greater than the Son. This is true by definition as well as by Christís own words. "I am going to the Father, for My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

Christ did not speak on His own. He spoke the Fatherís words. "...I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things" (Jn 8:28). Christ did not claim to be the God of the Old Testament. Rather He said His Father was the God the Jews worshiped in the Old Testament. "Jesus answered, ĎIf I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your Godí" (John 8:54). Christ even called God, his God. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Matt 27:46). "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God (John 20:17). Paul likewise said God was God to Jesus Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:3). "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom..." (Eph 1:17).

Peter preached that the God of the fathers was God, not Christ. "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate..." (Acts 3:13). The apostles in prayer to God said God created the heavens and the earth, not Christ. "So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ĎLord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, . .For truly against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together" (Acts 4:24,27). Stephen plainly declared throughout his defense in Acts 7 that the God who appeared to Abraham, the God who spoke to Abraham, the God who spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai "with the Angel" (nowhere does the Bible specifically say this angel was Christ) was God the Father and not Christ as Protestant and Catholic Trinity doctrine presupposes. In contrast, note what Stephen says about Christ in this same chapter. "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ĎThe Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hearí" (Acts 7:37). "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers" (Acts 7:52). "But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus (Yahshua) standing at the right hand of God, and said, ĎLook! I see the heavens opened and the son of Man standing at the right hand of God!í" (Acts 7:55-56).

Mr. Haney strongly asserted 1 Timothy 1:17 refers to Christ, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever." Mr. Haney uses 1 Timothy 6:13-16 as proof this refers to Christ, "...until our Lord Jesus Christís appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality ... to whom be honor and everlasting power."

I do not agree with Mr. Haneyís assertion that 1 Timothy 1:17 is referring to Jesus the Christ, nor I do not believe his proof is adequate. In Paulís letter to Timothy, Paul makes it very clear he is referring to the Father when he uses the term "God." Paul also plainly uses "Lord" or "Jesus Christ" when referring to Christ. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord" (1Tim 1:2). "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour (God is also our Saviour!), who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." (1Tim 2:3-5). "God was manifested in the flesh" (1Tim 3:16). (God wasnít in the flesh. Rather, He was manifested through Jesus Christ.). "I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels..." (1Tim 5:21). "I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christís appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen" (1Tim 6:13-16).

Mr. Haney uses this scripture to prove "God" in 1 Timothy 1:17 refers to Christ, not God, yet itís very clear from reading the entire letter that Paul uses the term "God" to refer to the Father, not to Christ. Also, it is very unclear in the NKJV whether Paul is referring to God or to Christ in 1 Timothy 6:15-16. Cassirerís translation renders it, "till the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be shown forth, at the time appointed for it, by him who is the sole Sovereign, ever-blessed, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. To him alone immortality belongs ; unapproachable light is his dwelling place; and it is he who no human eye has ever seen nor can see. Let honor and everlasting dominion be ascribed to him. Amen." Here, clearly, it is God who is being ascribed, not Christ.

The apostasy of the trinity, in the WCG should cause us to ask whether we are absolutely correct in our concept of the Messiah. In the above I quoted just a few of the scriptures that seem to conflict with our traditional view of the Messiah. When we find scriptures conflicting with what we think we know, it is usually a sign that we donít know everything. Perhaps there is more, much more we need to learn about who Yahshua the Messiah was.

It was out of deep respect for God and His only begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah, that my wife and I did not sing certain Protestant songs. They portrayed a different Christ from the Christ of the Bible. Actually these hymns are closer to portraying Mithra, the pagan son-god from Mithraism, the chief rival religion to Christianity in Rome in the early centuries A.D. On the other hand there are many majestic Protestant hymns that praise either God or Christ from a Biblically accurate basis that we love to sing.

We hope all is well with you.

In Christian fellowship,

John Sash

Response: We agree that there are some Protestant hymns that carry Trinitarian, "sweet baby Jesus," "the law is done away," and "we are such good people" themes and we avoid singing them. At some other time, we can discuss specifically which hymns you found fault with and why. Obviously, the Bible does not give a guideline such as "if your service has more than 30% songs praising the Messiah, it is idolatry." It is hard for me to believe that is is possible for someone to commit idolatry praising the true Savior "too much", because He represents the Fatherwords are the same as the Fatherís words (John 12:50). On the other hand, yes, people probably do commit idolatry worshiping a false understanding of our Savior.

We understand how the "Should we praise Jesus?" question relates to the question "is Jesus Ďthe Lordí (YHVH) in the Old Testament?" If Jesus (Yeshua) is YHVH, then most of the Old Testament praise commands apply to Him. But you have made a good case showing that the Father was "the Lord" (YHVH) in the Old Testament.

Who was the "God of the Old Testament?" We cannot answer that question without more study. In fairness to those who believe that "Jesus was the God of the Old Testament," we will list some of the scriptures used to support that idea:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Col 1:15-16).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before meí" (John 1:1-3,14-15).

And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ (1Cor 10:4).

And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You [the Jews] have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form (John 5:37).

We are aware of many arguments about these and other related scriptures; there are other possible ways of translating them and interpreting them. There are many teachers who claim to have it "all figured out," though we do not believe we have received a paper with a consistent explanation for all of the scriptures on the subject.

Lest we be misunderstood, we are not saying that Trinitarian doctrines might be correct. We do not see any evidence whatever that the holy spirit is a "third person" of "the godhead." The holy spirit has no name (as do YHWH and Yeshua) and no permanent form—it appeared "like a dove" (Matt 3:16, et. al.), as "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:1-4), and in other ways—but it never appears as a person. The nature of the Eternal is clear in the book of Revelation: "...The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,..." (Rev 11:5).There are two! The "holy spirit" is not mentioned in the book of Revelation!

What is not clear to us is the exact nature of Jesus (Yeshua) before his human birth. Was he a being nearly equal with the Father? Was He the Fatherís "messenger" or "assistant?" Was he YHWH? Did He not exist at all until His human birth? These are questions that we cannot answer completely, though we have received many papers that claim to have the answer. While we should all strive to grow in spiritual knowledge, the exact "nature of God" makes little difference in how we live our daily lives. There is no difference between the teaching of the Father and the teaching of His Son: "Then Jesus said to them, Ď...I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these thingsí" (John 8:28). When the apostle Philip asked about the nature of the Father, he received an interesting reply:

Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9.)

Whether we see the Father or the Son, we see the same thing. Our greatest need is to better learn and obey what they taught, not to perfectly understand Their history.

—NSE

Chronology of Christís Death
& Stolen Truth?

Letter: July 8, 1997

Hello Norman Edwards and Staff:

I am sending you guys another copy of an article that I wrote back in February, that is causing quite a stir. Servantsí News, did not print my article, nor did anyone write a reply to me concerning it, but have chosen to ignore me and the article, as did all of the so-called Churches of God, also. My question to you and them is this, "Why??" Are you guys afraid of truth?? I come up with an article that blows the lid off of your so-called "passover", and you guys ignore it. What gives? It appears that you canít figure out Truth if it smacks you in the face. My article "proves" to anyone with half a brain, that Jesus Christ or (Yeshua) was not taken captive by the Jews on a Tuesday night!!!!

Is William Dankenbring and Bernard Kelly and a few others, the only ones out there with more than half a brain??? Norman, why are you rejecting truth? I guess I can understand you not printing everyoneís articles, due to space or whatever, but an article like mine deserves to go to the front of the line with bold headlines! God inspired me to write this article, and you guys don't even have the guts to print it!! Not only have you rejected me, you have rejected the Gods in heaven, who I feel have inspired me to write this article! So here is another copy, in case you trashed the first one! Reject it again, and it will be you who will have egg all over your faces later on!

You have my permission to print it all, in its entirety, without editing it or changing the words, and you may use my name and address also!

Response: We received your article and looked it over. Our records show that we failed to send you a reply. We are sorry for that. We did not print your article for three reasons:

1) It was very difficult to follow. Even if everything you said was true, the article would need to be greatly edited or rewritten to make it easily understandable. (Specific difficulties include: the average paragraph size was half a page, the article wandered between subjects, and numerous spelling, grammar and style corrections were needed.)

2) The article was written in a negative, condemning tone—very similar to your letter printed here. About one third of the article was devoted to condemning people who disagreed with you. We see very little love in your writings.

3) While you raised some good questions, we do not believe that your conclusion is supported by all of the relevant Scripture. You condemn the traditional explanations of "scholars," yet you cite the historian Josephus, orthodox Jewish practice, San hedrin rules, the International Dictionary of the Bible—all information from "scholarly" sources. We will cover a few of the major difficulties we found with your conclusions:

Your article stated that Christís last supper had to be more than one night before His crucifixion because Mark 15:25, which says Jesus was crucified at the "third hour," and John 19:19:14 which says that Pilate was judging Jesus "about the sixth hour". If both of these are in the same "time system," then you are correct. However, we are probably dealing with two time systems here: Hebrew times count hours from sunrise or sunset, whereas Roman times count hours from noon or midnight (similar to what we do today). We agree with your conclusion that Mark was using Hebrew times and therefore Christ was crucified at 9AM (third hour from 6AM, approximate sunrise).

However, it appears John was using Roman time, so his "sixth hour" was about 6 AM, plenty of time for Pilate to finish his judgment before a 9AM crucifixion. Is it reasonable that an apostle would use a Roman time? Yes. Nearly all of the Eternalís people that I know of today use the Roman date and time systems because that is what people understand. John often uses the expression "the Jews," rather than "we Jews" (he was a Jew), so we must conclude that he was writing primarily to Gentiles. There are three other places where John mentions times. One is hard to conclude much from (John 4:52), but the other two both appear to be Roman times. "He said to them, ĎCome and see.í They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour)" (John 1:29). If this is a Roman time, it makes sense to say that they "remained with him that day"—10 AM until dark; if it was a Hebrew time, it would be 4 PM, and most of the day would have already been gone. Also, in John 4:6 we see: "Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." From surrounding verses we see this event occurred at Sychar when Jesus was traveling from northern Judea to Galilee, and his disciples had gone to buy food. Since it would take a major hike to make Jesus tired, we conclude that they must have made the 30 mile trip from northern Judea to Sychar in one day (12 hours at 3mph, with 2 hours for rest breaks, getting water, etc.), arriving about 6 PM in the evening. That would be a normal time for local people to come to the well and for travelers to buy food for a big meal before sleeping. None of these factors make as much sense if we suggest that John was using Hebrew time which would make this event occur at noon. Our conclusion is that John always uses Roman time in his Gospel and that his account does not demand an extra day between Christís last supper and His crucifixion.

Your article cites Sanhedrin rules as proof that an extra day would be required for a "lawful trial." The Eternalís instructions to all judges were "they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked" (Deut 25:1). The Sanhedrin was planning to condemn a righteous man for their own selfish reasons. If they would violate the Eternal's rules, they would violate their own rules—especially when "national security" interests were at stake (we have many modern-day examples). Unjust men try to violate as few rules as possible to look righteous, but their desires often exceed the law.

We also disagree with your argument that Pilate and Herod would not be available at sunrise for a trial. Jerusalem was flooded with people for Passover—you might compare it to Atlanta while the Olympic Games were held. If these rulers wanted to keep their positions in the Roman government, they had to keep order and put down any riots or armed insurrection (which were all too common in Judea). If the city were in an uproar, Herod and Pilate would do whatever was necessary to stop it (Mark 15:15). In this case, it meant getting to their judgment halls a little early, and sending a just man to death.

A straight-through reading of Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15 or Luke 22-23 shows no break in the time when Jesus was captured, to the false charges brought against him, to the formal condemnation by the Sanhedrin, to his Crucifixion. Each Gospel uses a special expression to indicate the formal condemnation of our Savior that took place "very early" in the morning (Matt 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66). A "multitude" was present for all of the judgments by the Romans—it is unlikely that the Roman leaders would take a whole day to act on this problem.

Your article claimed that it would take a long time for Christ to walk between the various judgment halls. From our research, all of them were within about half a mile—less than a 10-minute walk.

Your article contained many other points, some of which we agreed with and some of which we did not. We have Scriptural reasons for the ones with which we disagreed. But should we take the time to explain each one to you? Can we expect that you will listen to us when your article labels everyone who disagrees with it as "blind" and "of Satan the Devil"?

Letter: I am also sending you an article that William Dankenbring has written on the subject! So far, William has not given me any public credit or praise for my article, which was sent to him back in February! It was "me" who gave him the "reasons why" Jesus Was Not Taken Captive On A Tuesday Night, and It was "Me" who sent out my article to all of the so-called Churches of God back in February, that spelled out to everyone these New Found Nuggets Of Truth!!!

Dankenbring has taken my article, and apparently pulled a Herbert Armstrong, by making everyone think that Christ "revealed" this new knowledge to him personally, without ever giving anyone else the credit!! Please let your readers know, that William Dankenbring did not come up with this new knowledge on his own, but has taken my article and my "reasons" and published them in his Prophecy Flash magazine as being his own ideas!!! Isnít stealing against the law???

Sincerely With Love,

—Glen W. Myers

1047 Iroquois St., Clearwater, Fla. 33755

[You may obtain a copy of Glenís article by writing to this address.]

Response: Since we receive literature from so many organizations, we have often heard accusations of "truth stealing." We will get an article one month from an independent writer, and then find a nearly identical article written by someone else in a newsletter a few months later. We are very much aware that Herbert Armstrong took the writings of others and claimed them as his own. We believe people should give credit where it is due. Servantsí News has never received a letter claiming that we have stolen another's material. We are perplexed by people who can appropriate the writings of others, then claim that they were a revelation from God to them. This is a lie and a mockery of true revelation through the holy spirit. How such people will answer in the judgment, we do not know (Matt 12:36; 7:22-23, Mark 2:28).

On the other hand, we are not sure why so many writers are worried when other people are "stealing their truth." Paul was happy that Christ was preached for both good and bad reasons (Phil 1:15-18). If onesí goal is to see truth taught, he should be happy that others teach it whether they give him credit or not. However, if a personís goal is to get followers and money for himself, then it is very important to him to be properly credited for all of his writings so people will look to him. How awful!

We should not be in a hurry to accuse someone of "stealing truth"—we must realize that the Eternal is quite capable of teaching the same truth to many people at once, and demons are capable of teaching the same error to many people at once. Just because two articles reach similar conclusions does not mean that one person had to copy from the other. But when parts of one personís writing are identical to another personís writing (including identical grammatical errors), then plagiarism seems to be the most likely cause. We have no way of proving whether the "two days between last supper and crucifixion" idea originated with you, Bill Dankenbring, or someone else. We will not spend the time to investigate the matter. Bible students need not worry much about possible plagiarism by others. Whether or not a teaching is true is far more important than whether or not it is original. Both truth and error can be self-taught or stolen. Our question should be: "Does this teaching agree with the Bible and reliable history?"

—NSE

Comments on the "Cult" Article

Letter: April 29, 1997

Dear Mr. Edwards,

I have just received my copy of the Mar/Apr issue of Servantsí News, and have read the first-page article, "Cult, Occult, New Age- What Are They?" While you seem to have a fairly good grasp of the last two, your ideas of what constitutes a "cult" and characteristics of cults is quite lacking. I agree with you as far as the definition which the secular media seems to imply by their use of the word "cult", but otherwise what the article has offered is far from what orthodox Christianity means by "cult." Allow me to share with you a few insights.

Dr. Gordon R. Lewis is probably one of the leading experts on cults in the world today. In his book, Confronting the Cults, he offers one of the best definitions of "cult" I have found. Lewis states:

A cult, then, is any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible but distorts the central message of Christianity by (1) an additional revelation, and (2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of the faith with a secondary matter. (p.4)

While Lewis admits that there are sociological matters which sometimes enter into consideration, he says that "Christianity is not primarily a sociological phenomenon. On this view the most significant differences between Christianity and the cults are doctrinal rather than economical" (p.13, note 7). Thus, when we as Christians look at various religious groups which claim to be Christian (such as the Jehovahís Witnesses or Mormons), we check their doctrine against what the Bible teaches.

Yes, there are certain biblical doctrines to which groups must adhere in order to avoid being classified as "cult" but these are not determined by ecclesiastical hierarchies or denominational headquarters, but by what the Bible teaches. And, quite frankly, the triune nature of God is indeed one of the cardinal tenets of the Scriptures, thus a "test" of orthodoxy.

While there are some characteristics of cults listed in the article, you seem to omit some of the most telling signs of cult mentality. Such things as: (1) a defective Christology; (2) extra-biblical revelation; (3) a false basis of salvation (a works salvation, or law-keeping salvation); (4) an exclusive claim to truth; (5) an attitude of constantly being persecuted, especially by Christianity. These are just a few characteristics of the cults which I have encountered in various correspondence over the past several months.

Personally, I try to avoid labeling any individual or group as a "cult" until I have done extensive study—examining their teachings against what the Bible teaches. Scripture encourages –even demands—that we "test the spirits" to see if they are from God (1John 4:1-3). We are to "guard the Gospel" (2Tim 1:14), "contend for the faith" (Jude 3) always be ready to defend the faith (1Peter 3:15), and to refute false teaching we encounter (Titus 1:9). Yet, we are to do this wisely and graciously (Colossians 4:5-6). These texts form the biblical basis for apologetics. In my own ministry, I have attempted to follow this outline as best I can.

I appreciate receiving the Servants News, and the literature I request. You have been quite responsive to my requests, and I thank you for that. I continue to lift up your ministry in prayer.

—Michael J. Ediger, Kansas

Response: We defined a "cult" essentially as a group seeking to control the actions and thoughts of its members because that is the common definition used by the media and by Americans today. If numerous unbiased observers watched a group, most could agree on whether it was a cult or not using our definition.

We are aware that many groups like to use doctrine to define a "cult," but this is less useful as it essentially means "anyone who has doctrines very different from mine is a cult." Most of these religions would have to consider themselves cults if they were honest with their own definitions.

Let us examine Lewisís definition that you quoted and apply it to the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics have much "additional revelation" which they hold as equal in weight to scripture. In the 1800ís, they went as far as declaring certain of the Popeís statements as "infallible." Also, the Catholics hold various of their own sacraments, not specifically taught in scripture, as matters essential to salvation.

How well do Protestant churches do at avoiding "additional revelation" and sticking with the fundamental tenets of the Bible? The vast majority of Protestants accept the Trinity doctrine, yet their theologians will admit that it was not taught by the original apostles, but only the "seeds of the doctrine" are in the Bible and the doctrine was perfected by the "church fathers" in the second and third centuries AD—sounds like an "additional revelation" to me! The keeping of holidays like Easter and Christmas on December 25 also fall into the category of "additional revelation" because they are clearly not in the Bible.

We find the fundamental tenets of our belief in Hebrews 6:1-2:

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of [1] repentance from dead works and of [2] faith toward God, of the [3] doctrine of baptisms, of [4] laying on of hands, of [5] resurrection of the dead, and of [6] eternal judgment.

Some modern evangelical Protestants might teach all of those doctrines out of the Bible. But most Protestant churches will probably replace one of these "fundamental tenets" of faith with one of these errors: 1) Some do not teach repentance at all or do not teach that power of the holy spirit causes one to "turn around" and cease from dead works. Some even teach "once saved, always saved" which is in conflict with numerous scriptures (Heb 6:4-6; 13:4, Matt 12:31-32; Luke 9:62; 1Cor 6:9-10; 9:27; 1Jn 4:20; Rev 21:7-8). 2) Some teach "faith in a Jesus who came to do away with the law" more than "faith toward God". 3) Some do not baptize at all or teach baptism by sprinkling, contrary to the Bible. 4) Some do not teach "laying on of hands" at all or teach that it is the prerogative of "the ordained ministry"—another unbiblical idea. 5) Most groups teach that the dead immediately go to "heaven" or "hell" rather than teaching that they wait for a resurrection (Job 14:14, Dan 12:2 John 6:44;11:24). 6) Groups vary greatly in their teachings on who is judged, and when, and how.

From the above perspective, it is clear that many, if not most Protestant groups would be "cults" by Lewisí definition. Lewis would probably object to our use of Hebrews 6:1-2 as the "elementary principles of Christ"—his "fundamental tenets of the faith" would probably be a doctrinal statement written hundreds of years after the Bible. The only reason he does not consider his beliefs "defective" or "added revelation" is because thousands of theologians and people believe them.

We agree completely with your "point (4)" as a characteristic of cults—the Bible never teaches that access to the Eternal comes through one individual or group (John 16:13; 1Jn 2:27). We disagree with your "point (5)"—believers are promised persecution from their own families and those who think they are serving God! (2Tim 3:12; Matt 10:28,36-39; 24:9; John 15:20; 16:12 Mark 10:29-31; Acts 8:1-3)

We agree with you that everyone should be slow to label any group a "cult" unless we really know what they teach and practice. Thank you for bringing up the issue of "cult determination by doctrine"—it is a common practice in the religious world, and we did not cover it previously.

—NSE &


Return to index