Letter: First written in 1996
Dear Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Son or Daughter (you fill in),
I know that you want what is best for me, and that you believe that your understanding of God’s word is the correct understanding. At this time I don’t see things as you see them. Perhaps it is because such truth has not been revealed to me in the same light as it has been revealed to you.
As we grow in the grace and knowledge of God and His word, He reveals more of His truth to each of us as we are able to receive it. As you grow He reveals more to you and things as you see them now may be somewhat different in days, months, or years to come. So it is with me. As I grow in faith and understanding with God’s Holy Spirit guiding me I will see things differently in the future.
As you see, we don’t see everything in exactly the same way because we all grow at a different pace and our Father in heaven reveals His truth to us at a different pace. Wherever we disagree now we will find agreement at a time when all of God’s truth will be revealed to us.
For now, let us rejoice in the things on which we agree and let us, in love, be patient with each other in the things on which we do not agree.
With love, patience, and understanding,
Your (Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Son, or Daughter)
— Gene Phelan, Texas
Response: Is this letter peaceful wisdom or watered-down liberalism? The answer is fairly simple. If an individual really believes he understands what the Bible says on a certain subject—or many subjects, then he should do what he understands. He should live up to his high standards. But if someone else does not have all of our understanding, then we do not have to hold him to it or judge him for it.
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand (Rom 14:4).
It is not a sin to have high standards for ourself and low standards for others, as long as our acceptance of others does not cause us to become like them.
If we have low standards for others and low standards for ourselves, then this is indeed watered-down liberalism and a dangerous thing.
If we have high standards for ourselves and high standards for others (even though they may not understand), we will be a good example, but we may find very few people with which we can fellowship or teach.
If we have low standards for ourselves and high standards for others, that is hypocrisy and the most dangerous of all possible combinations.
Letter: February 29, 2000
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I’ve just finished a quick reading of your paper on Eternal Judgment and want to thank you for the well-balanced and well-thought-out approach you have taken with this difficult subject. My husband and I have studied and discussed this subject on many occasions with his conclusion being that what everyone does now in this life affects their eternal salvation whether or not they have a real understanding of God and my conclusion being that God would not condemn anyone without giving them an opportunity to know him and his plan of salvation. It seems to me that you have addressed both of these issues in your paper and I found it immensely interesting to read.
I also found it personally motivating to change my life so that it more accurately reflects that Jesus would be doing in my life and am very excited that it has been published before the Passover season when we should all be taking a good look at our relationship with our Savior and with each other.
Again, thank you for your dedication to serving God’s people.
— Ann P. Stevens, California
Response: In a nutshell, it seems that much of the history of religion has been a debate between “who you are”, and “what you do”. Numerous religions, from the Catholic Church to Protestant denominations to the WCG claimed that being a member of their group was the main thing necessary for a favorable judgment. Many evangelical groups would say the group doesn’t matter, but those who have publicly “professed Christ” will be saved., while the others will not be. Many Pentecostal groups would say that those who speak in tongues or who have had other signs know they will be saved. Nearly all of these people, no matter how sinful, would not want to trade places in the Judgment with a kind and compassionate Buddhist who never heard anything about Christ. They believe their knowledge of Christ or their church membership would get them a lot further than those “pagans”.
I am not convinced. Sinful Sodom and Gomorrah, which knew very little about the true God, will apparently fair much better in the judgment than Jews who know a lot about God (Matt 10:14-15). Matt 25:31-46 indicates those who knew little of Christ in this life, but who served others will receive Eternal life.
Thanks for your encouragement.
Letter: March 1, 2000
I hope this finds you well and happy and enjoying God’s blessings each day.
I know you are very busy with all your work with the Servant’s News and all the mail you must get, and all the reading you need to do. I do not envy you in this. However, I have a few questions regarding “original sin” or the “fall” of Adam to which I hope you will respond directly if possible. I am quite in agreement with your view of the subject.
(1) Did Adam’s “fall” affect only Adam or did it also affect his descendants? And, if it did affect his descendants, what was the effect.
(2) What do you believe in regard to Adam’s fall (original sin) and mankind’s subsequent ability to obey the commandments and laws of God?
(3) Does man have the natural ability to obey God’s laws? If not, why not? If so, how so?
(4) Did man’s nature change because of the fall of Adam? If so, to what extent was it changed?
(5) Is God’s prior grace or intervention (apart from mere preaching the Word) necessary for natural man to obtain the ability to respond in a positive manner to the Word of God? If so, how does this work?
(6) Can man respond positively to God on his own, or must God first open man’s understanding by making some sort of internal influential changes or adjustments within the man’s disposition or basic nature?
Thanks much, Norman. Sincerely,
— F. Paul Haney, Connecticut
Response: Whenever the word or phrase that describes a doctrine is not found in the Bible, I become suspicious. For example: Trinity, Rapture, Christmas, “succession of ordination”, “third resurrection”, “church authority”, etc. “Adam’s fall” is another one of those doctrines. The Bible talks about “Adam’s sin”, but not “Adam’s fall”. The Bible discusses this issue here:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned — (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come (Rom 5:12-14).
This scripture answers many questions. It shows that all sinned, though not necessarily in the same way that Adam sinned. The WCG used to teach that Adam was “taught the law of God”, but this scripture indicates that sin was not imputed at that time because there was “no law”. The people still suffered and died because of their sins, but when the flood came, God faulted them for being “evil” (Gen 6:5), not for breaking a specific set of laws. Obviously, Abraham kept God’s laws (Gen 26:5), but he had a relationship with God wherein he may have been given laws, whereas most of the world apparently had none. It appears that the Eternal left men complete on their own to see what they would do and the results were not good. Continuing:
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made [appointed, set in place] sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Rom 5:15-20).
God said that the sins of the fathers are visited upon children to the third and fourth generation (Ex 20:5). Modern studies have shown that this frequently happens automatically—without some intervention by God. If parents are liars, thieves, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc., their children are much more likely to be.
When Adam was expelled from the Garden and the tree of life, his children for all generations no longer had a chance to live there. His children grew up seeing their parents sin and imitating it without even knowing it. The term “made”, used in verse 19, above, does not mean “created”, but “appointed” or set it place. All people since Adam have been turned into sinners by imitating imperfect parents. Sin may not be imputed to them if done in ignorance, but it still produced death.
Numerous scriptures say that each person has sinned (Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:23; Gal 3:22; 1Jn 1:8-10, etc.) Most Christians accept that. I think they depart from the Scripture when they say that Adam could have achieved eternal life on his own, without the sacrifice of Christ. Genesis only records a few commands to Adam and Eve, and their breaking of one of them. It does not record that the Eternal told Adam and Eve about the tree of life or that He told them where it was. We do not know what they would have had to do in order to eat from it and “live forever” (Gen 3:22). Would they have had to live a lifetime without sin and be tested in many other ways? We know that once they sinned, they could not eat of the tree of life and had to leave the Garden.
One could call this “Adam’s fall”, but it would probably be better classified as “mankind’s first sin”. We all sin, and Adam and Eve were the first ones to do it. Consider the analogy of a watch that runs both on sunlight and an internal battery—but comes in the store without a battery.
If the watch was set at the store, it will continue to work throughout the day. It will look nice and give accurate time. But when it becomes dark, the watch runs out of power and fails—it sins. The watch did not “fall” from one state to another, it is still the same watch that was purchased at the store. It can still use the light that will come the next day. But in order to completely fulfill its mission as a watch, it needs to have a power source from within to carry it through the dark times.
Like the watch, Adam and Eve were made “very good” (Gen 1:31). As the watch works when the sun shines, so Adam and Eve avoided sin when God was with them. Even today, almost every society has some form of the “golden rule” and most people believe that it is a good thing to follow. This is a reflection of the truth of God.
However, when Satan and his evil temptations came, Adam and Eve did not have the power to overcome him. They listened to his temptation and did not follow the Eternal. They did not have His power inside them. Certainly, the Father knew this was likely, as the sacrifice of Christ was planned from the beginning of the world (Rev 13:8). Adam and Eve were not in some elevated state of existence before they sinned. They were sinful humans who simply had not sinned yet.
Like the the watch in the day, men and women naturally have some ability to do what is right. Most of the Bible is the story of the decisions people made—good and bad. “Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right” (Prov 20:11).
God told Ancient Israel that they could keep His physical laws: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off… But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut 30:11,14). But neither they, nor we can be spiritually perfect until our human nature is gone and we receive Eternal life (a battery that lasts forever).
Can man respond positively to God on his own or does God have to change him some how? “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God” (Rom 3:11). “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
The Eternal must be involved in bringing people to Him. But here is the big mistake that the WCG and nearly all other groups make: it does not say that “the Church” or “Church leaders” must be involved in bringing people to Him. The WCG frequently said that “God is not working with the world” and the “world”, to them, was “everyone not in the WCG”.
The truth is, we simply cannot know or understand all that the Eternal does (Eccl 3:11). He caused an unrighteous prophet, Baalam, to speak his words. He caused Baalam’s donkey to speak to Baalam. Our Father even prophesied through Caiaphas, the high priest, while he was plotting to kill Christ (John 11:49-53). Was there some person present at that meeting with whom the Eternal was working? Did He hope that that person would repent? We don’t know. I can now see how the Eternal was working with me before I was baptized or had much of an interest in Him.
Once we all realize that the Eternal can work with whomever He will in whatever manner He chooses, then nobody has to worry about what He has to do to get us ready to come to Him. We could study the Scripture and probably learn more about this subject, but the bottom line is that any person who had the least bit of interest in God or the Bible needs to act on that interest—we cannot say that “God is not calling them.” Furthermore we cannot excuse our own lack of effort to preach the Gospel by saying, “we can’t do anything, God has to call them.” We need to prepare ourselves so we can be used to help those whom the Eternal is calling.
I took time to answer these questions because many people ask them and they are sincere. Nevertheless, this history of both Jewish and Christian religion is too often about more and more complex doctrinal arguments, and less and less helping those truly in physical or spiritual need. Christ did not answer every doctrinal question put to him. He told his disciples that they did not need to see the Father, (John 14:8-9) and that they did not need to know when He would set up the Kingdom (Acts 1:6-7).
Yet theologians have spent millions of hours debating the “nature of God” and “the timing of the return of Christ”.
When I am judged, I would rather have been able to say that I helped six people in need, than to be able to say I have the most Biblical answer to your six questions.
May the Eternal strengthen all of us to live by what we know He wants us to do.
Letter: September 5, 1999
Dear Norman and Marleen,
Thanks for the literature packet you sent to me that I had requested. Among this literature were co-worker letters from HWA that spanned years from the 30s to the 80s. Talk about an eye-opener. I had begun attending WCG in the early 70s and knew about his (HWA’s) basic appeal for money on up until he died. But I had no idea how far back he did this nor to what depths he went in order to squeeze out every dime he could from the people. I hope everyone who has not already done so will send for these letters and read them. [Ask for HWA coworker letters from Servants’ News.]
I am truly appalled at the audacity of this man. I am nearly speechless. How in the world can anyone justify his actions and still uphold that he was some great leader from God? To make things worse, he did all these things in the very name of Jesus the Messiah who taught against treating people in such a manner. Jesus lambasted the Pharisees for doing exactly what HWA did.
The attitude of exalting oneself above everyone, controlling and exercising authority over everyone does not come from God.
At certain times, in earlier years, he informed people that in just a few short years they would not have their money, possessions or property so why not “invest” them where they would be building up treasures in heaven. That place, of course, was his pocket. All the while, he was telling people this and was trying to strip them of every dime he could, he was busy as a bee building his own empire, colleges and “fine” auditorium.
HWA used fear, intimidation and guilt to drain the people dry of any personal assets they had down to basic survival.
I am interested to know exactly when he began receiving his “modest” annual salary of $200,000. How could he justify this kind of salary while he consistently demanded the widow’s mites? He was also quick to inform that the mites were plural. He didn’t want people to get the impression they could send just one “mite”.
Now after all is said and done, where is his empire today? Has its destruction been an act of Satan as proponents of HWA might say or a fulfillment of prophetic words of Gamaliel? Acts 5:34-39. His empire and his works have come to nought. All the people who followed him and believed in him, will be judged by their hearts.
For years, people sacrificed everything in order to support what they thought was of God. They are not the ones I fear for. They are not the ones to be pitied. Those who took advantage of and abused these hearts are to be pitied and prayed for. For the first time since I have begun to see HWA (and other leaders) for whom they really are, I can sincerely from the heart pray for them. I truly do desire God’s mercy for them all!
For many years, HWA held over the heads of the people the threat of the tribulation and the lake of fire all by the authority of Jesus Messiah.
One of the big ten clearly states “You shall not take My name in vain”. HWA did this. In God’s name, he heaped upon himself treasures on earth, a vast empire with millions of dollars at his own discretion: no checks and balances. If he decided to do something, feeling strongly about it, then it was God doing it. No questions asked.
If anyone desires to defend HWA against these words, let them first read his own letters. [Please ask Servants’ News for the Herbert Armstrong Co-worker Letter Reprints, 104 pages, and they will be sent upon request].
The leaders who even now stand upon the foundation HWA laid will not answer any questions concerning his atrocities. They continue to uphold his position as a great leader from God whose only “boss” was Jesus Himself.
Several claim that now they occupy that exalted position. Would they if they thought the people would stand for it pick up where HWA left off in squeezing the people dry of all their assets?
Do they resume the same abusive tactics in their co-worker letters that is so prevalent in HWA’s? For those who are affiliated with these men, it would be well to question.
Many of us were not around in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s so unless we check back on material written during these years, we cannot know the hypocrisy and false prophecies within his words. He shouted, time is short! He emphasized in large, oversized letters, as if doing so would make it more believable. This was done in the 30’s. Sure, in God’s time, time was short. But HWA was not referring to God’s time, but ours. He said he did not set dates. Read the letters. He set dates! He had a clever way of getting around his “mistakes” when his prophecies did not come to pass. How did he explain Jesus not returning in the mid-70’s? He said Jesus “delayed” His coming because the people weren’t ready. He blamed the people! He would not admit he was wrong. He upheld the prophecy that the date was correct for Jesus’ return, but because of us, Jesus had to delay.
Also, in reading these letters, one can see that he gave many prophecies in a total, assured and dogmatic fashion that never came to pass. How can a man who sits in a position directly under Jesus, who is led and guided by Jesus Himself, be so wrong in his many prophecies?
He justified his many mistakes by saying that he was only human and he made mistakes. All the more reason for individuals not to look to him or to any man, but to the Father and Son alone.
How many times were we told that even if he was wrong, God would back him up? In saying this, he was teaching that even if he sinned, we were to follow him as God demanded that, due to the all important government issue.
HWA wrecked families (divorce and remarriage issue), drained people’s assets, conned people, threatened people with the Tribulation, or eternal extinction, and did so all in the name of Jesus.
Many times as he judged other religions, he would say that they were sincere but they were sincerely wrong. Also, anybody who was deceived did not know he was deceived. As he pointed a finger at them, he should have been facing a mirror. At least I hope he was simply deceived, for if he did all that he did knowingly, he is in a serious state of reckoning.
As I hope for mercy on my own sins and weaknesses, I also hope for mercy for HWA and the others who sailed with him on his abusive, materialistic voyage at the expense of many pure and faithful hearts. Shame on them.
— Tawanda Ray, Alabama
Response: Your letter seems to be accurate. We don’t know how much Mr. Armstrong understood the error of his ways and how much he was simply deceived. We do know that those of us who understand it will be held responsible if we repeat his errors. We must acknowledge that many people were helped by the teaching of Mr. Armstrong and the shepherding of some of his ministers—just as we acknowledge that many of the scribes and Pharisees who put Christ to death also helped many people by teaching and copying the scriptures. Works and fruits are different. [See page 5 article, Nov 1998 Servants’ News.]
Letter: January 5, 2000
Please continue to send me the Servants’ News and Shelter in the Word. Enclosed is a donation to help you with expenses.
Now, just a comment about this latest issue of SITW. In your reply to Jeff Castle Nov 18, 1999, your comments were frighteningly familiar. Please continue trying to come on out of WCG, and discard more of those “ingrown toenail” beliefs, as it is difficult to walk on a sore toe!
I know you have the tools to check this out! If you check it thoroughly, I think you will see what I am suggesting is true.
Scripture clearly shows that we become Christians, first of all, because God our Father initiates a calling! If you will check the scriptures about our calling, you will also begin to see, that by His having extended His grace, His faith, and His Holy Spirit to us, that He is directing our thought processes, as we are learning to trust Him.
Yes, we can take credit for making decisions, especially at times when we are not as close to God as we need to be, and those decisions culminate in negative or unpleasant results!
However, I respectfully suggest to you that our Heavenly Father knows exactly what choice we will make, before He allows a situation to encounter us, which forces us to make a decision. The decision and the lessons learned by it are for us in our experience of walking in righteousness as we are yielding more to Him.
He is not leaving us to ourselves as you suggested to Jeff, to see what decisions we will make. Surely you know that when we are resurrected and have the “fullness of the Spirit”, decision making will not be a problem. We will not become perfect before we die, nor will we learn every jot and tittle we will need to know after our resurrection, before we die!
Without God putting His Holy Spirit in us directing our thought processes, few, if any, would ever make a righteous decision! God does make evil people obey Him, but He does it by calling them out of evil, like He did the Apostle Paul. Then He begins to direct their thought processes to think righteous thoughts.
Your answer to Jeff was very disappointing and lacking in spiritual understanding. I hope you will prayerfully take another look at what you told him and try to generate a better response than that.
Also; just one more thing: Those scriptures you gave him from Revelation are scarcely relevant to irrelevant and steering him away from the real truth of what they actually do represent. I hope you will do an in-depth study of those scriptures and come to know them for what they are, not what WCG thought they were.
I think you are a sincere man and that you try hard, and I know that everyone is not right all the time, not even you, with all your computer equipment and research ability. Sometimes you just don’t aim it in the right direction. Please read Isaiah 45 very slowly.
Sincerely in Christ,
— Darl Arbogast, Georgia
Response: Eternal Judgement is certainly a complex subject—probably as complex as all of the various judgments in the Old Testament. However, I disagree with your statement that I need to “come out of the WCG” on that issue. What I teach is not what I learned in the WCG, but what I learned from the Bible which differs considerably from the WCG teaching. The WCG never had a book specifically on “eternal judgment”. I believe that the second death is the end of existence because I see absolutely nothing about a resurrection from it, as well as other scriptures indicating that those who do not want eternal life will be destroyed.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:5-7).
How can God be sorry for doing something if He knew it would happen exactly that way from the beginning?
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions”’ (Jer 18:7-11).
If the Eternal knows everything that everyone will do before they do it, why should He have to change His prophecies? Why does He not prophecy only what He knows is going to happen? How can God reconsider anything if He already knows everything that will happen? We could look at the times that Moses and others plead with the Eternal and “changed His Mind”. Did He know they were going to do it all along?
The idea that “God is omniscient” (knows everything about everything, past, present and future) is from Greek philosophy, not from the Bible. Some people would say that “He could not be God if He didn’t know everything”. But where does that idea come from? The Creator identifies himself as “Eternal”, as “all powerful”, as “completely righteous”, etc., but not as the one who knows everything. He has the power and ability to change events as they are happening, But in general he does not control the decisions of men. Notice:
Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so’” (1 Kings 22:19-22).
If the Eternal knew when He created the universe what each person would do, why did He not create the universe so that Ahab would think to go up to Ramoth Gilead and die like he was supposed to? Why did the Eternal plan the universe so He would need to use lying spirits to help do his work? The answer is that the Eternal directs the affairs of men and evil spirits as things occur.
Darl, you asked me to read Isaiah 45 slowly and I did. I was amazed at how many places there are where The Eternal says what He will do—not what “he already knows will happen”. He also commands things of men: “Look to Me, and be saved” (v 22). He did not say “I already know which of you will be saved”, or “you are all saved whether you like it or not”. Verses 23 to 25 say that all men shall bow, take an oath, be ashamed if they were angry and be justified by the Eternal. The word “all” used in these verses is a general word referring to the mass majority, not “every single person”.
(Use a concordance or see my eternal judgment paper’s appendices section on “Universal Salvation” and “Predestination”—there are places where there are exceptions to “all”).
The next chapter goes on to explain that the Eternal takes actions to bring about what he wants. Men are free to decide within the parameters that He allows them.
Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel (Isa 46:8-13, NIV).
If the Eternal knew everything that everyone would do before He created the universe, then He knew about every lie, murder, theft, adultery, etc. that every person would commit before they were born. Could adultery be judged a sin if it conceives a child that the Eternal “planned to have born from the creation of the world?
Did the Eternal know that I would write this letter before He created the universe? Did He know you would read it? Do you have to finish reading it because He has already planned for you to do so? Or can you stop? If everything we do is predetermined (the Eternal already knows), then eternal judgment is a pointless exercise for everyone. Each person can simply say “I acted out the script that the Eternal knew I would follow when He created the universe.” How can I, a mortal human, do anything other than what the Eternal already knows will happen?
The obvious answer is that each person can make decisions, and is expected to do so—in a limited way if they have limited understanding, in a powerful way if they have the Holy Spirit and knowledge of the Bible. This is best explained by the “parable of the talents” (Matt 25:14-30). We are all given different amounts of abilities. The Eternal is compared to a master potter in Isaiah 45; He makes some vessels to honor and some to dishonor. But we are judged on what we do with what we have been given. The New Living Translation puts it well:
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 25:29-30).
Our Father is merciful. But let us not lull people into thinking that what they do now does not matter. As a practical example, most of the people I know well who are over 40 wanted to be married, sought out a mate, and nearly all of them got married. By contrast, a few people I know well believed that if the Eternal wanted them to be married, He would pick out a mate for them and the two would meet and it would be obvious that they should get married. Most of those people are still single.
Letter: September 23, 1999
Dear Mr. Edwards:
I have read with interest your item concerning “plagiarism” on page 9 in the new July/August 1999 issue of Servants’ News.
I find the conflict among various Christian ministers very unusual and unique in view of the cultural context in which the New Testament scriptures were originally written.
Whether or not copyright laws are man-made is an irrelevant and pointless argument. In 1 Corinthians 6:7, the apostle Paul clearly tells us that brethren should allow one another to be defrauded by each other instead of brethren taking one another into the carnal courtrooms of this world. If we do take one another before the carnal judges of this world’s courtrooms, we most definitely defraud one another, according to Paul’s judgment in verse 8.
Anciently, ministers were financially supported by what we today would call patrons (compare Matt 10:9-14). It wasn’t until after the invention of the printing press that authors and musicians sought their financial support from publishing their works for profit to financially support themselves. The various copyright laws were enacted to protect the financial incomes of book authors, music composers, and others.
Today in our Western Christian civilization, the Christian Religion is divided into many differing and conflicting groups, each one seeking tithes and offerings from their fellowships. Getting money is the bottom line—not the spreading of the Gospel to the world. This carnality makes copyright laws most important to worldly types of Christianity and relevant to the seeking of financial support to each differing Christian sect.
In Phil.1:15-19, the apostle Paul expresses that he didn’t care under what circumstances the Gospel was preached—by enemies of the Gospel, out of contention, not sincerely, or whatever. Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached, and exactly by whom didn’t matter to him (verse 18).
As predicted by the apostle Peter, we have arrived at the time when true Christians are being exploited by the carnal world. The practice “to make merchandise” of true Christians can take many forms (2Pet 2:3). The Greek term is “emporeuomai” which means “marketplace” or “to make a gain of” (See: Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Entry: from their copyrighted books, videos, cassettes, etc.) It is a shame to witness ministers in the Church of God caught up in the carnal pursuits of this present ungodly argument!
— David Whitaker, Oklahoma
Response: I agree that it is wrong to copyright Bible-teaching works in order to protect the income of the authors. I think truth suffers a lot because of that. I freely give permission to people to copy my works. People who believe that the Eternal wants them to teach should trust that He will supply their needs.
I also believe that if a poor person asks a person of means for help, that he should receive it (Deut 15:7-8). However, I do not feel he should steal from the wealthy if he doesn’t get it. Similarly, I don’t believe that teachers should steal the written works of those who claim ownership of the writings—especially when they have not gone to the trouble of even asking permission to use them. (I have asked for and received permission to reprint copyrighted stories.) Is the Eternal so short of people who will preach the gospel for free that He has to steal the writings of people who want to preach it for money?
Furthermore, I think it is utterly wrong for anyone to claim to be a teacher inspired of Christ, yet read other’s works and pretend as if they were his own. If someone really believes that Christ wants them to spread a certain book or tape to others, then they should be straightforward enough to tell others: “I believe I have been led by Christ to read this other guy’s work to you.”
Letter: February 3, 2000
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I am very glad to have this opportunity to return a blessing to you. For several years, you have faithfully provided me with the Servants’ News and I have made very good use of every issue.
I know there are many people like yourselves who are doing a good work for our God. He knows who they are. You folks are dear to my heart because of your humble attitude, putting others ahead and a sincere desire to serve.
Here in Winnipeg we had a small church of about 21 adults but we just got smaller, recently. They have left for various reasons, but they are still in God’s church. There is a positive side to this turmoil we have gone through. It has helped us to re-focus and to continue on in love and peace.
My desire for you is to continue being a blessing to others. May the Servants’ News reach far and wide. If there is anything I can help or be of service to you, feel free to call on me.
Your friend and fellow worker in Jesus,
— Olivia Gardner, Canada
Response: Thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes we have been able to use volunteer help of various kinds, and other times we have not. We made a note of your offer.
Letter: February 3, 2000
In your paper on tithing, on page 3 in the section on supporting the apostles’ ministry, tithing nor non-tithing is mentioned in the verses. Is there a verse in the Bible that says tithing is done away?
Response: The only verses that establish tithing, establish a tithe of people’s increase paid to the Levites.
“not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord…” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Heb 8:9,13).
The Sabbath, Holy Days, clean meats and much other old Testament instruction existed apart from the covenant made with the ancient Israelites. However, all of the things associated with the Levitical priesthood did vanish away in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem, not long after the book of Hebrews was written.
Letter: Also, in Heb 7:6, it says that Abraham paid tithes. Is this the only verse that mentions Abraham paid tithes?
Response: If one reads all of Hebrews 7:1-10, it is clearly talking about one incident where Abraham gave a tenth of spoil to Melchizedek. This was not increase as Abraham did not keep the spoil (Gen 14:23-24). Spoils of war are not mentioned as tithable under the Sinai covenant, and one time they clearly gave 2% to the Levites (Num 31:27-30).
Letter: Some ministers teach that the church (called out believers) is the spiritual nation of Jacob’s descendants of Israel. They say that the church is bound by the agreement that Jacob made to God to tithe for the rest of his life. (Matt 21:43 erroneous teaching is that the nation here really refers to the church, since it is bearing fruit). These ministers teach that the promises to the church include salvation, physical blessings, and a spiritual priesthood, which of course means modern day ministers.
Response: I realize that many people teach this, but the Bible does not. All believers are priests (1Pet 2:5,9), not the ministry. But tithes did not go directly to the priests, they went to the Levites. The New Testament is silent on the concept of “spiritual Levites”.
Letter: Also, on page 19 of your paper, it says that Abraham paid tithe, one time, not his entire life. Would you please explain where in the Bible it says Abraham did this only once?
Response: The quote from the article is referring to Hebrews 7 and it says: “three separate statements here declare that Abraham tithed one time-not his entire life.” In other words, all of the statements in the Bible about Abraham tithing are about the spoils of war he gave to Melchizedek. There is absolutely nothing about Abraham tithing on his flocks and herds, even though he had those things.
Letter: Also, where in the Bible does it say that tithing was annulled?
Response: Hebrews 7:18 mentions an “there is an annulling of the former commandment”. Most people would agree that animal sacrifices were annulled. I believe other evidence shows that the funding system for the Levitical sacrificial system was annulled also.
Letter: Some teach that since we have a high priest (Heb 8:1 referring to Christ), then we must have a priesthood and tithing system that goes with it. Please comment on this.
Response: The Levites were told to give one tenth of the tithes they received as an offering to the Lord, to be received by Aaron the priest: “Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest” (Num 18:28).
Notice that it does not say that the Levites were required to tithe on their own increase, but simply on the tithes they received. One could try to assign “spiritual roles” to all of these things and work out a system for now. Shouldn’t we tithe on wisdom and faith, which are much more valuable than gold (money)? (Prov 16:16; 1Pet 1:7).
The truth is that we are inventing all of this. Numerous verses show that the New Testament gospel was preached from a variety of offerings, and that tithing was never transferred to the ministry. Historically, the “church” did not begin collecting tithes until well after 300 A.D.
Letter: Many ministers teach that the book of Malachi is for our day. Under this assumption, it is easy to feel it is impossible to rob God if the tithes have been annulled. Their reasoning is, we are robbing God in tithes by not paying tithes to a tithe law. Obviously, Malachi was not written for us today. Please explain.
Response: I believe that Malachi was written both for Israel and for the Church, today. Many of its statements clearly apply to both. The part about “bring all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house” (Mal 3:10) is obviously about tithing on food to the Levites who tithed to the priesthood. That was a problem for the several hundred years after Malachi was written, but before the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. Malachi also mentions God being robbed in offerings. Both Old and New Testament people have probably spent far too much of their resources on themselves, offering little to the Eternal. But if we want to take a complete “spiritual” view of Malachi, then we could ask: “of all the truth, wisdom, faith and strength that the Eternal gives us, how much do we use for ourselves and how much do we give back to him?” Are church organizations most interested in brethren developing these things, or do they simply want a steady income? (For more information on this subject, ask for How Do We Give to the Eternal.)
Letter: January 9, 2000
Dear Norm and wife,
I have been praying for you ever since reading your explanation, “Why So Long?”
You have a very heavy load to bear, but you have done it so beautifully all these years.
You have no idea what a blessing Servants’ News has been to me. I thank you so very much. Please don’t be discouraged.
Much love and blessings.
You need not respond
— Neva Squires, Texas
Response: I do appreciate the prayers. I am not catching up to my publication schedule, but at least I am not getting further behind. Sometimes, it seems like there is so much to do that I will never get it done, so why even try. And when I think like that, I get even less done. What a lack of faith! The ancient Israelites, the apostles and others all faced many “impossible situations”, but were able to accomplish what the Eternal wanted. I can see why Abraham was called the “father of the faithful”. He was promised to be the father of a great nation (Gen 12:2) when he was 75, then had to wait till he was 99 for Isaac to be born. He was patient for 24 years. I have been doing this only 5 years!
Letter: July, 2000
I was wondering if you could help me with something on prophecy. I know that you know much more about it than I do. My question is this. You have talked about it in your articles and others have always taught it, but I can not find any Biblical scripture or evidence of anything to do with “duality of prophecy.” Meaning that a specific prophecy would be fulfilled more than once. Could you show me the scriptures and the evidence of one that did. I do not know of any that have ever been fulfilled twice, only prophecies that men have said would happen again after they happened once.
Could you please help me with this.
— Ron Wilson, Illinois
Response: I am not sure I know anymore about prophecy than you do, but others have asked this question. I think there are a number of prophecies that have or will be fulfilled more than once, but all of these things depend upon one’s standards for fulfilling prophecy. Does the prophecy have to be fulfilled according to how you imagine it? How much of the prophecy has to be literal and how much can be symbolic? If the prophecy says, “They shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Is 40:31), do people literally have to sprout wings? Or does this simply mean that they were given divine protection as Israel was fleeing Egypt: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Ex 19:4). The Israelites did not grow wings; they walked out of Egypt.
I am much more a believer in multiple prophetic fulfillments. I think Leviticus 26 has been fulfilled many times—it is a general prophecy. I think the letters to churches in Revelation 2 and 3 have applied to many different groups—they all say “he who has an hear, let him hear...”. I think there have been corrupt shepherds throughout the ages about which Ezekiel 34 has warned many people. I believe that Old Testament prophecies such as this and many others apply to both the Nation of Israel (which has had bad leaders) and the Church (which has also had bad leaders).
I think some of the Psalms applied to both David and Christ. Some of the more specific captivity scriptures seem to apply to the Israelite captivity, Judah’s first captivity and Judah’s second captivity. I think Matthew 24 applied to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and will apply to the final fall of Jerusalem in the end. Most people agree that Revelation was written after the fall of Jerusalem, yet it contains many prophecies similar to Matthew 24. If the Revelation prophecies come to pass, then the Matthew 24 prophecies will come to pass twice.
Sometimes, people will take several chapters of prophecy and apply it to a church organization or its leaders. I cannot refute them, but nor do I believe that God had a book written and carefully copied for a few thousand years so that a few people, could look back and say “God predicted what would happen to us.”
David Koresh and the Branch Davidians believed that many chapters of prophecy applied to their situation. Whilst the number of people there were small, their worldwide notoriety far exceeded anything the Church of God movement has ever done. I think it is possible that some prophecy applied to them, but not exclusively to them.
Probably most serious dedicated believers from across the world would say that they know of one or more prophecies which they believe applied to their leaders or group. The Jews certainly have many cases where they believe prophecy has been fulfilled, but Christians would know little about them.
This is why I believe it is not important to read hundreds of prophecy books to figure out who has “figured out” prophecy, but that it is important that we read prophecy and ask the Eternal to show us what we need to understand in our particular situation.
Obviously, I have not given scripture references and proven my point. I hope to do a more involved study at some time in the future. I suppose the “bottom line” on this issue is this: if one believes that no prophecy is dual, then one could try to figure out which prophecies (or parts of prophecies) have been fulfilled and “cross them off” their list of prophecies to study for the future. The catch is, how can we be sure which prophecies have been fulfilled—only a few dozen are declared fulfilled. Whereas, if one believes that prophecies can be dual, then all prophecies are worth studying for the future.
If any of our readers have done some study into the duality of prophecy, I would be glad to read and maybe print their articles.
Letter: April 16, 1999
It was very good to hear from you and receive more input about this calendar thing.
My little article was not really intended to explain how to set up a calendar. I do not feel the need to calculate a calendar. I just do not believe in postponing it.
Response: The question to be answered is: “postponed from what?” You seem to be taking the approach that the Jews who set up the calendar calculated the “true” calendar and then postponed it some years. That is simply not true. Their own records show that the calendar they keep today is not what they used to, only with the addition of postponements. Every significant aspect has been changed: the month used to begin by witnesses observing the first crescent and the year was begun by a combination of observing the sun and the climate. Now, all of that has been changed to a calculation which frequently yields different results.
The current Jewish calendar calculates from a mean conjunction which is usually before the actual observed crescent. The postponements (about 60% of the years) sometimes delay the beginning of months so that they line up with the first observable crescent.
Letter: My intention with the article was to express my feeling that we should not postpone and that we should consider more seriously than I see people doing, whether we are following the dictates of God about when to keep the Holy Days. You will see in the article that these are my main concerns and I believe originate out of the normal perspective that members of God’s church usually have.
Response: Herb Solinsky and others have done exhaustive work showing that the calendar used by Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc in the Bible began with the observation of the first crescent of the moon. This largely agrees with the Talmudic explanation of what was done anciently. If you take the current Jewish Calendar and stop postponing it, you will observe the “true” days even less often that if you keep the postponements!
Letter: My question further is how can the Jews postpone something unless they know when it occurs?
Response: The Jews could throw dice to decide when to start a new month, and then postpone that result so that the holy days would line up according to their specifications. Just because someone postpones something does not mean that their starting point was correct.
Letter: And if they know when it occurs then why don’t they keep it at that time? They do it only for traditions of men from what they say. That may fly with us, but, God is the judge. [Request for our BIblical Calendar Basics article removed.]
The [other] information I need sparked by your comments is on the orbit of the moon. My question is how would this affect when the Jews calculate the new moon? The new moon is the conjunction of the moon. The Jews use the mean conjunction as you said. So, no matter what the orbit or time schedule, the new moon occurs at a given time for the seventh month, right?
Then that is when they should observe the Feast of Trumpets and that regulates the timing of the other fall Holy Days.
Response: There is no instruction in the Bible to calculate a conjunction (“mean” or “true”) and begin the month.
Letter: Yet they unashamedly say that they keep Trumpets a day or two late in order to insure that their traditions are not violated. They shift the calendar to do this. This is where we part ways. I cannot deny God’s command for Jewish tradition. God did not say keep the Holy days by a calendar. He said to keep them in their month.
Response: If you calculate the mean conjunction to keep the holy days, that is a calendar. The Jewish calendar basically alternates 29 and 30 day months. However, if you were to observe the first crescent of the moon from one place on earth, you would sometimes see several 29-day months in a row and sometimes several 30-day months in a row. Also, the Jewish calculations for the exact length of a month and year are not as good as modern scientific standards could produce. As the years go by, they are drifting away from the actual motion of the heavenly bodies.
Letter: Please be patient with me, but, I do not see [how] you [and] others do not think that matters are so serious. Personally, I would have had it the other way if it were my doing. I would not be on the outside looking in as far as the church of God goes. I would not now be doing this a little different than when HWA, who I love even now very much, was alive. But, as I said before, to me it is denying the command of God. That is serious business.
If you can explain why the new moon’s orbit can rationalize postponing please let me know, because otherwise I will be the one keeping the Holy Days at the wrong time. Maybe that is it. I feel there is a right time and a wrong time. Can a case be made that the timing is not “absolute”, just like the Sabbath, at sundown. Personally, I do not think so.
Well enough said for now I guess,
— Joe [via the Internet]
Response: Many other people have taken the same approach that you do. They find out about the Jewish postponements, so they decide to keep the holy days without them. Some do not ask the question: “Is the mean-conjunction, from which the Jews are postponing, proclaimed in the Bible?”
Then, some people realize that they need to find all the rules for the calendar in the Bible, so they begin to look. The information about how to create a calendar is not perfectly clear in the Bible—there are scriptures that give indications, but people simply do not interpret them the same way. They may use the principle of “interpret ‘unclear’ scriptures by the ‘clear’ scriptures”—but then it is often a matter of who decides which scriptures are ‘clear’ to them.
Most congregations with which I am familiar and which study the calendar end up with individuals keeping two or more different calendars—and changing several times as they “learn more”. Nearly all end up agreeing that there are times (especially when it is cloudy) that they simply have to “make their best decision” as to when to start the month or the year.
Many people compare the Sabbath to the holy days and say “if we cannot postpone the Sabbath to Sunday”, then we cannot postpone the holy days. The reality is that any child can calculate the Sabbath (work 6, rest one), and that there is no dispute to when it is. The holy days are based on a calendar that is not undisputably described in the Bible.
If the Jewish records are right, the calendar was somewhat determined by man, anyway. If the clouds covered the moon in the seventh month so that it could be seen only from one mountain, witnesses from that mountain could go to the Sanhedrin and they would declare the new month. Suppose all the people living on that mountain saw the new moon, but sent just three witnesses to Jerusalem. Suppose those three witnesses got sidetracked when someone spilled a bag of gold on the trail and they helped searching for the pieces and never made it to the Sanhedrin that night. With no witnesses, the new moon would not be declared until the next day.
The Day of Atonement would also be one day later than “it should have been”. But if the people who lived on the mountain and saw the new moon came at the earlier date, the high priest would not do the two-goat ceremony for them—he was commanded to go into the “Most Holy Place” only day per year, on the Day of Atonement. There was no provision for an individual who has the “right” date, even though the priest may be “wrong”.
The command to assemble is clear in the Scripture. That can be done if everyone uses the same calendar. Since there is no body of Christian Sabbatarians who can get together to agree on a calendar (there was a conference once, and few if any, changed their view), I follow the man-altered system that the Jews have agreed upon for centuries.
If calculating the “right date” made the difference between “keeping the holy day” and “not keeping the holy day”, then we should expect that on years when the Jewish calendar matches the “right day”, that we would have great spiritual blessings and maybe miracles. And in years when the Jewish calendar calculates the “wrong day”, we would have uninspiring or even miserable holy days. I have never heard of a group that reported this phenomena. Have you?
Letter: March 27, 1999
Dear Mr. Edwards:
I’ve just finished reading your article covering Mr. Armstrong’s 18 points [Servants’ News, Dec 1999]. Here are three of my thoughts:
1. I don’t understand the concept of “borrowing” the truth. Truth is not borrowed as much as acknowledged. If something is true, and I’m intellectually honest, I acknowledge and accept it. I don’t see that as “borrowing” it. Where I find the truth is not as important as acknowledging it when I see it. Truth is. I either accept it or don’t. Borrow isn’t an issue. The fact someone else teaches it doesn’t denigrate it’s value or precludes me from believing it and claiming it as truth.
2. Along that same line, the word restore implies a return to an original state after depletion or loss. Restore implies the truth already existed, just either in a dormant form or in a less original state. Therefore, I don’t see why such a big deal is made that others taught the truth or parts of the truth. The issue is not where it came from or did it exist, but is it true.
3. In my mind restore would include taking truth wherever I found it, no matter how many different sources that would be, and putting it into a coherent whole. I believe that’s what Mr. Armstrong did, and that’s okay by me. Even if every truth “borrowed” from these various sources were “borrowed” verbatim, just putting them into a coherent whole would be a restoration.
— T. H. Higgins [via the Internet]
Response: Thank you for your letter. We do not have any difficulty with Herbert Armstrong learning truth from others and teaching it. Many Bible teachers (including myself) do it frequently. The difficulty I see is that Mr. Armstrong almost never said he was teaching truth that he learned (or “borrowed”) from a variety of sources. Mr. Armstrong claimed that he was “the one” through whom the Eternal restored his “18 truths”.
If Mr. Armstrong learned about British Israelism from J. H. Allen, then would it not be fair to say that the Eternal restored this truth through “Allen and Armstrong” rather than through Armstrong alone? Yet we have found no instance where Herbert Armstrong ever publicly acknowledged J.H. Allen. Notice these quotes:
In 1927 God opened my eyes to the continuing command to observe the annual Sabbaths, as well as the weekly Sabbath. None of the Sardis era brethren in the United States would accept this truth of the annual Sabbaths, except for two or three families. As God continued to restore lost truths to His Church through me, the Sardis era brethren rejected all restored truths (Worldwide News, Special Edition, June 24, 1985, bolding by SN).
But before 70 A.D., Christ’s true GOSPEL had been suppressed (Gal. 1:6,7; Rom. 1:18 [RSV]; II Cor. 11:4), and from the first century A.D. THE WORLD HAS NEVER HEARD THE TRUE GOSPEL THAT CHRIST PREACHED (announcing the coming Kingdom of God) until God began proclaiming it through this Work! (October 29, 1976 Co-worker letter).
There are many individuals and whole groups of Church of God 7th Day brethren who keep the Holy Days and believe some of Mr. Armstrong’s other “restored truths”, never-having learned them from him. I personally have met such people. How can I hope that these people will treat me as a brother if I claim that it was Herbert Armstrong who restored these 18 truths and that they cannot possibly have understood the truth without him?
This issue is further complicated by the fact that Herbert Armstrong taught some error, such as hierarchical government, or that Levitical tithing was transferred to the “church ministry”. How does an individual view Mr. Armstrong when he sees these doctrines as errors?
How can we expect any non-”Church of God” members to look to Mr. Armstrong as a “restorer of truth” if his teachings combined previously understood truth with some new truth and with some error? Ellen G. White and the Seventh Day Adventists would have a good claim if they said that they restored the Sabbath as well as other truths. But does that mean that you or I must become Seventh Day Adventists and look to Mrs. White’s teachings? Actually, the reverse is true. You would probably not mind meeting and studying with people who are Seventh Day Adventists, as long as they did not insist that you join their group or continually teach from the writings of Ellen G. White.
Similarly, I believe Herbert Armstrong had so many clearly documented cases of prophetic failure and so many “restored truths” that were either not true or not “restored by him” that most serious outside believers examining “Church of God” doctrines will say: “We like the way so much of your teaching comes from the Bible, but please do not ask us to accept this ‘Armstrong’ who made more dogmatic claims about himself than any servant of the Eternal recorded in the Bible.”