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The notion that humans who have died can be resurrected by God is found in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, and al...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Lessons of 2020

A friend sent me an article today entitled "1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020." And, as this is the last day of what has been widely acknowledged as a very rough year, it seemed appropriate to me to share a little bit of my own personal inventory for 2020.

Whatever one believes about God's involvement in (or detachment from) the events of 2020, most of us could probably come to some agreement that such an extraordinary time is ripe for gleaning a few life lessons from such a period. At any rate, the year just past has been such a time for me.

However, before proceeding, I wish to clarify what I mean by "life lessons." I'm talking about wisdom, insights and self-awareness gleaned from my experiences of 2020 that will make me a better person going forward, and I don't mean to suggest that many of these "life lessons" are new revelations (most of them have merely served to underscore/reinforce things that I already knew on some level). Having said all of that, what are the life lessons that I'm taking with me from the year ending in less than two hours?

I have been reminded of just how little control we exert over events and the world around us - of the very limited nature of our own personal resources. I'm reminded of how fragile this life of ours really is - of how susceptible we all are to disaster. It has brought into sharp focus for me how quickly things/people which/whom we take for granted can be lost or whisked away. Hence, I believe that I will be more appreciative and thankful for those things and people in 2021 (absence does make the heart grow fonder).

And, although it would seem to contradict the points just made, 2020 has also reminded me about just how resilient and tenacious we humans really are. God has given us an enormous capacity to improvise, heal and bounce back (what doesn't kill us really does make us stronger). And, finally, 2020 has taught me what a truly valuable commodity empathy for our fellow humans really is - In fact, the ability to try to see what other people see and feel what other folks feel is priceless!

Anyway, that's a few of the things that I'm taking away from 2020. What about you? Any life lessons you'd like to share in the comments section (remember posts and comments are shared with the hope that they may be of use to someone else)? At any rate, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish my readers a Happy New Year with God's blessings in the year ahead!   

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

God and Willful Ignorance

Banned by HWA recently posted some commentary on a video produced by Dave Pack which purports to definitively answer the question: Does God Exist? In fact, Mr. Pack's video is only one of many offerings from the ACOG's on this topic - The founder of the movement, Herbert W Armstrong was the first of this tribe to discourse on the subject.

The problem with these offerings is that they almost always rely on false science - bits and pieces of real science which ignore anything that might contradict the point they are trying to make. This is often called confirmation bias in the real world. What is confirmation bias? According to Psychology Today, "Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions."

This phenomenon is closely related to the concept of willful ignorance. In defining the term, Urban Dictionary tells us: "The practice or act of intentional and blatant avoidance, disregard or disagreement with facts, empirical evidence and well-founded arguments because they oppose or contradict your own existing personal beliefs. This practice is most commonly found in the political or religious ideologies of 'conservative' Americans. Many times it is practiced due to laziness--people not wanting to have to do the work to rethink their opinions, the fear of the unknown, the fear of being wrong, or sometimes simply close-mindedness." In this connection, it is interesting to note that the author of the Second Epistle of Peter denigrated those who are "willingly" ignorant (see II Peter 3:5).

However, this kind of ignorance is not the exclusive property of Armstrongites or Christians in general. Unfortunately, it also very often afflicts the atheists and intellectuals who are fond of pointing out the cognitive dissonance and outright hypocrisy of their religious counterparts! Very often, these folks ridicule or dismiss the concept of FAITH (which should be the real basis of the true Christian's belief in things Divine).

And most students of the Bible know that the best definition of faith is found in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. As with many things biblical, however, the flowery old King James English sometimes gets in the way of comprehending the real import of what is being said. Please allow me to paraphrase those critical first three verses of the chapter: "Faith demonstrates the reality which underscores our hope - it is our EVIDENCE for the things that we cannot perceive or evaluate by the exercising of our human senses. Our forbearers shined through the expression of their faith (and we should not devalue their contributions to our understanding of these things). Faith is our tool for understanding that God created everything out of things which are also not readily perceived through our five human senses - it allows us to conclude that God is the source of all things without having all of the physical evidence at our disposal to reach that conclusion based entirely on our own observations." (see Hebrews 11:1-3)

It makes me sad when folks attempt to negate or dismiss things which they don't understand (and don't demonstrate any inclination/desire/willingness to understand). Unfortunately, most of us reach conclusions about things based on varying degrees of research and consideration (often little to none), and then we are finished with it. We have proven our belief(s) to our satisfaction, and everyone else be damned! The problem with this should be obvious to everyone. When we are no longer willing to explore and learn, when we close ourselves off to the possibility that others may be right (and we may be wrong), we have taken the path of willful ignorance. Is it really so terrifying to admit that we don't know something? Is God finite or infinite? Is God contained? Is God finished? What is the origin of our ability to learn? Can God learn? Can God grow? Is ignorance bliss? What do you think?


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Nationalism is incompatible with Christianity

Merriam-Webster defines nationalism as "loyalty and devotion to a nation." How is that different from patriotism? According to most sources, the difference is one of degree/intensity. Again, Merriam-Webster tells us that nationalism implies "exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups." see https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nationalism Unlike patriotism, nationalism tends to exclude others/foreigners and has been known to cause conflict with other nations. Nationalism is the antithesis of having a globalist or cosmopolitan outlook - it is more parochial, inward looking and self-interested. And, contrary to what is currently being preached in many pulpits, nationalism cannot be reconciled with the teachings of New Testament Christianity!

When Jesus Christ was standing before the Roman Governor of Judaea accused of trying to overthrow Caesar's government, he said: "My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) In other words, the Kingdom of God (the focus of his message and the goal of his followers) was not a part of this world or any of the nations which comprised it.

Moreover, this notion of Christ and his followers NOT being a part of this world or its nations runs deep within the writings of the New Testament canon. Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi: "For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior." (Philippians 3:18-20)

Likewise, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews elaborated on this same concept. After citing the righteous examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, the author wrote that "All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16) 

Thus, while it is possible for a Christian to also be a citizen of one of this world's nations, the New Testament teaches that true Christians have a higher loyalty - a loyalty to Christ's Kingdom - a loyalty that transcends any earthly citizenship. Christians obviously exist in this world, but it is also apparent that Christ didn't intend for his followers to immerse themselves in it (see John 17:15-21).

Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with loving one's country and being loyal to it. However, we should all be able to see that viewing our brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to hail from other nations as inferior or aliens is inconsistent with the principles outlined above (and with Christ's commandment to love them). If one is completely devoted to the cause and interests of one nation over all others, that person has effectively separated themselves from the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. After all, it is also a basic tenet of the Christian religion that a person cannot effectively serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24).

And, finally, we must never forget that the prayer which Jesus modeled for his followers explicitly implores "May your kingdom come soon" (see Matthew 6:10). Hence, when we really ponder these things, we realize that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that true Christians are supposed to be praying every day for the overthrow and replacement of the nation in which they currently reside!

Yes, nationalism is a seductive concept, and many Christians have been enticed into adopting it. Nevertheless, as with all of the other "isms" that we could name, it is not really consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ or his apostles. Indeed, when we examine the Judeo-Christian Scriptures with an open mind, we are forced to conclude that the very concept of nationalism represents the antithesis of basic Christian theology!


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Armstrongism: The Diametric Opposite of Christ’s Teachings

Central to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong and his followers is the notion that the teachings of “Traditional Christianity” bear little or no resemblance to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, in what many consider to be one of his most important books Tomorrow…What It Will Be Like, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “Reluctant though we are to recognize it, we find the established religious organizations which profess the name of Jesus Christ teaching the diametric opposite of His teachings-condemning the customs He practiced - following, instead, the pagan customs He condemned!” (page 21)

But what about Herbie’s teachings? How do Herbert Armstrong’s teachings compare to those of Jesus Christ?

Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God taught and practiced a hierarchical form of church government. In a memorial edition of the The Good News magazine which appeared shortly after the founder’s death, “The basic doctrine” was summarized: “God's government in His Church is a theocracy, with Christ at the helm and God's chosen ministers fulfilling responsibilities under Christ in the form of a pyramidal hierarchy. It is a government of faith, in which the leaders submit their wills to Christ and the members trust God to administer His Church through those leaders.” (page 28, May 1986 edition, Government in God’s Church)

Jesus Christ, however, taught that his followers should follow a model of government based on service to others. He taught: Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God taught and practiced the disfellowshipping of erring members. In the Pastor General’s Report of 12 June 1981, Robert Fahey clarified Mr. Armstrong’s position on the excommunication of problem members. He wrote: “Those who sow discord, cause division, speak evil of Church leadership, are contentious, or in any way try to pull God's people away from His Church, should be disfellowshipped. These are the ones we need to protect the flock from regardless of previous status. They may have to be publicly marked. They want us to be - of them--out of God's Church!” (page 1)

Jesus Christ, however, taught the religious leaders of his day that a good shepherd seeks that which has strayed away. He said: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7) He also taught his disciples the “Parable of the Tares.” Christ said: “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)

The Worldwide Church of God taught that everyone should tithe (give ten percent of one’s income) to the Church, and that this ensured complete equality (rich or poor) in what each individual contributed to the church. In the January 1982 edition of The Plain Truth magazine, an article entitled “There Is A Better Way” by Clayton Steep touted the equity of the tithing system. He wrote: “everyone would pay taxes at the same rate-l0 percent. Everyone would be in the same bracket. Those who have enough initiative and resourcefulness to become ' prosperous would not be penalized for their industriousness. (God doesn't penalize the prosperous tither. But humans do penalize those who honestly prosper.) No matter how much money a family made, they would still owe only 10 percent.” (page 16)

In the Gospel of Mark, however, we learn that Jesus had a different perspective on giving. We read there that: “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:41-44)

The Worldwide Church of God taught that God’s TRUE Church could be positively identified by finding the one that taught the correct doctrines. In their booklet Where Is God’s True Church Today?, Brian Knowles stated: “The Church of God, then, must be a Sabbath-keeping Church with the correct name. It must keep all ten of the Ten Commandments and live by every word of God - not rejecting part of the Bible. It is God's Church because it collectively possesses the Holy Spirit. It preaches the true gospel of the coming government of God, bearing the good fruit of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the identification of God’s Church was based on its understanding of certain doctrinal “truths.”

Jesus Christ taught that his true disciples/followers could be easily identified by the possession of one trait. He told his disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35) Now, I ask: Does lording it over the membership, disfellowshipping those who step out of line, failing to appreciate real sacrifice in giving and demanding an understanding of certain “truths” sound like a proper demonstration of love for one another to you?

Who was/is teaching the diametric opposite of what Christ taught? When we compare just a few of Armstrong’s teachings to those of Jesus Christ, we are forced to reach the conclusion that Herbert Armstrong was engaged in a little bit of “the pot calling the kettle black.”

**All of the writings of the Worldwide Church referenced in this post can be found at The Herbert W Armstrong Searchable Library

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Political Church of God International

Over the last ten years, the Church of God International has evolved into a very political and highly partisan organization. During that period, Pastor Bill Watson has pushed that organization to adopt a radical right-wing agenda and a message that supports Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular. In more recent times, Watson and his allies (Adrian Davis and Tony Buchert) have cast aside any pretense of objectivity or neutrality. And, if there are any voices left within that culture who disagree with Watson’s message, they have been effectively silenced and/or rendered powerless to stop it.

Even a casual perusal of that church’s website will demonstrate the pervasiveness of this transformation. Their currently featured Armor of God episode is one by Bill Watson entitled “Make America Great.” See https://www.cgi.org/armor It is interesting to note that this program was recorded in the heyday of the Trump Administration, and now appears again in the wake of Trump’s defeat in November. And Mr. Watson’s message is clear: America was doing really well under Trump and will collapse if he is forced to leave office.

Likewise, among CGI’s most recent sermons posted on their website, Tony Buchert’s “Hostile Takeover” (https://www.cgi.org/weeklysermons?sapurl=LytxNWdtL2xiL21pLyt5NGg5Mzk1P2VtYmVkPXRydWU=) is a simmering rant about political developments since their homespun local Feast of Tabernacles. Pastor Buchert talks about the “inexcusable ignorance” of folks who don’t support Trump’s agenda. He rails against the “ridiculousness” of mask wearing and complains about the infringements on his rights and freedoms. And, although there has been a great deal of discussion in recent days about educating the public about the efficacy of taking the new Covid-19 vaccine, the good pastor makes clear that he doesn’t intend to participate and suggests that everyone should resist mandatory vaccination (a straw man). He even goes on to imply that the primary motivation behind the whole thing is the monetary compensation that “big pharma” is going to receive as a consequence of the push to vaccinate the public (after all, any concern for public health is largely a hoax perpetrated by the mainstream media).

Buchert scoffs at anyone who would dare to contradict Trump’s narrative about election fraud. However, like the president whom he supports, the pastor fails to offer any evidence that Biden’s win was anything other than the consequence of a fair election. Later, Buchert even implies that folks who don’t support Trump are “traitors.” Although he professes not to have reached any personal conclusions about the matter, Buchert suggests that we may be in the process of a “hostile takeover.” He goes on to speculate that God may be chastening America right now, and that Christians should be praying hard for God to intervene and set things to right (help Trump to prevail). Before finishing, he reminds his audience that Satan attempted a coup d’état (the thought has never crossed his mind that this might be what Trump is attempting to do). He concludes by making fun of the office of President-elect.

To be sure, these folks quote a lot of scriptures, but they always employ them to buttress whatever political argument they happen to be making at the time. Watson and his allies are convinced that the United States is modern Israel. They are also convinced that Trump and Republicans represent “traditional Christian values” and are the only thing standing between them and godless socialism. Hence, although their messages are clearly a reflection of the lens through which they see current affairs, we should also be aware of the fact that a majority of folks (even other supporters of Trump) view the CGI lens/perspective as being DISTORTED! Thus, while their messages may make them and their supporters feel good, they have doomed the Church of God International to be perceived by a large slice of the American public as a collection of Trumpist, right-wing nut jobs. For a Christian Church that is ostensibly trying to proclaim Christ’s gospel to the world, that’s probably not a great image to present.

 

Lonnie Hendrix  

Friday, December 4, 2020

THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS TREES AND SANTA CLAUS

In his infamous booklet The Plain Truth About Christmas, Herbert Armstrong wrote about Nimrod: "From many ancient writings, considerable is learned of this man, who started the great organized worldly apostacy from God that has dominated this world until now. Nimrod was so evil, it is said he married his own mother, whose name was Semiramis. After Nimrod's untimely death, his so-called mother-wife, Semiramis, propagated the evil doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead tree stump, which symbolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Nimrod. On each anniversary of his birth, she claimed, Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25th was the birthday of Nimrod. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree." see The Plain Truth About Christmas

Is this true? Did two of the most important "secular" symbols of our modern observance of the Christmas holiday originate in the ancient and pagan religious system created by Nimrod and Semiramis? What does history tell us about the origins of these symbols?

While it is true that many ancient pagans associated evergreen trees with the supernatural and decorated their homes with cuttings from them, it is also clear that the association of evergreen trees with the Christmas holiday is a development of the Christian era. According to History.com, "Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles." see History of Christmas Trees

From The Christian Index, in their article Martin Luther's influence on Christmas traditions, we read: "The Christmas tree, special carols, and presents on December 24th: these much-loved traditions are all linked to Martin Luther. Start with the tree. While walking through snowy woods under a bright starlit sky, the beauty of the scene so moved Luther that he wanted to recreate it at home. So, he cut down a fresh tree, brought it inside, and decorated it with real candles. Or so the story goes. What is known is that The Great Reformer composed the Christmas carol still sung today: “From Heaven above to earth I come, To bear good news to every home.” He also moved the date gifts were given from Saint Nicholas’ Day, December 6th, to Christmas Eve, December 24th."

As for Santa Claus, there is a broad consensus among historical scholars that this character can be traced to a Christian bishop who lived during the Fourth Century. In their article on Saint Nicholas of Myra, New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia states that "The following places honour him as patron: Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Campen in the Netherlands; Corfu in Greece; Freiburg in Switzerland; and Moscow in Russia. He is patron of mariners, merchants, bakers, travellers, children, etc. His representations in art are as various as his alleged miracles. In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, they have the custom of making him the secret purveyor of gifts to children on 6 December, the day on which the Church celebrates his feast; in the United States and some other countries St. Nicholas has become identified with Santa Claus who distributes gifts to children on Christmas eve."

History.com informs us that this Saint Nicholas was transformed into our modern notion of Santa Claus over many years. In Nate Barksdale's article Who was St. Nicholas?, we read: "By the Middle Ages, Nicholas’ fame had spread to much of Europe, thanks in large part to the dissemination of parts of his skeleton to churches in Italy, where they were venerated as relics. St. Nicholas’ popularity eventually spread to northern Europe, where stories of the monk mingled with Teutonic folktales of elves and sky-chariots. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas took on the Dutch-friendly spelling Sinterklaas. He was depicted as a tall, white-bearded man in red clerical robes who arrived every December 6 on a boat to leave gifts or coal-lumps at children’s homes. Stories of Sinterklaas were likely brought to the New World by Dutch settlers in the Hudson River valley. In his satirical 1809 “History of New-York,” Washington Irving portrayed St. Nicholas as a portly Dutchman who flew the skies in a wagon, dropping gifts down chimneys. In 1823 another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, penned the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”, which traded the wagon for a sleigh drawn by “eight tiny reindeer.” Beginning during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast published the first of a series of popular depictions of a rotund and jolly St. Nicholas. In 1879 Nast was the first to suggest that St. Nicholas lived not in Turkey, Spain or Holland but at the North Pole."

Hence, while the origins of the Chistmas tree and Santa Claus stretch back into antiquity, they clearly belong to the Christian era and are associated with real people who were Christians. Thus, the narrative that Nimrod and Semiramis were the sources for our modern notions of these Christmas symbols is not supported by the historical evidence. The rejection of the Christmas tree as pagan because of the beliefs that the ancients associated with evergreen trees is tantamount to refusing to plant or appreciate them because of their former associations with pagan religious practices. In other words, the tree itself can't be tainted because of what some folks who lived a long time ago believed about it. Likewise, Saint Nicholas may not have climbed down any chimneys or road around in a sleigh, but he was held in high esteem by ancient Christians and has inspired many generations of Christians down through the centuries since his death. Nimrod and Nicholas were separated by many centuries and completely different ideologies. We can point out similarities and compare ancient beliefs to our own, but saying something is PAGAN does not necessarily make it so!   

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Imagery of the Nativity

In modern times, scholars and critics have called into question the veracity and accuracy of the Biblical accounts of Christ's nativity. They have pointed out that similar narratives were extant prior to the birth of Jesus, notable differences and/or inconsistencies in the various gospel accounts of those events, historical/chronological problems, the misuse and misapplication of Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah, and the fact that supernatural or miraculous events can't be verified or replicated by science. And, on the other side, we have the Biblical Fundamentalists/Literalists who insist that everything written in their Scriptures happened exactly as it was recorded there; and the failure to regard those accounts as anything other than completely accurate is blasphemous. However, while both camps work themselves into a lather over the veracity and accuracy of the nativity narratives, the profound meaning behind the imagery in those accounts is largely ignored and/or dismissed.

If we take a moment to actually consider the implications of that imagery, the arguments between scholars and Fundamentalists take on an air of absurdity - an exercise in futility. Were the authors of the Scriptural accounts of the nativity interested in presenting a factually accurate account of Christ's birth? OR Were they interested in portraying an imagery that their intended audiences could appreciate and/or relate to? Were they interested in presenting history and biographical information regarding their subject? OR Were they interested in evoking an imagery of those events which underscored the fact that something fantastic, supernatural and unique had happened? And, if they were more interested in imagery than in reality, what do the kinds of images which they employed in their narratives suggest about what they wanted their audience to glean from them?

Look at the imagery. There is a census for taxation purposes. There is a couple engaged to be married - obscure Jews living under a government subservient to the Roman Empire. The Savior of humankind is born in the normal way. After nine months of pregnancy, Mary delivers a healthy male baby. The baby is laid in a manger. There are shepherds watching over their flocks. The normal and the mundane are exalted. God brings the Messiah into the world as a helpless babe. Why would God choose such a vehicle, such circumstances, to introduce his Messiah to His people and the world? Are the authors trying to tell us that miracles can be found within the ordinary - among the stuff that happens every day?

To be sure, there are also extraordinary elements within the narratives. There are angelic messengers. There is a special star. There are three wise men who present valuable gifts to the baby. The child is said to be the descendant of the ancient Israelite king, David. There is a wicked king interested in destroying the child and preventing the displacement of himself and his dynasty. A virgin gives birth to a baby boy. A man accepts a child that isn't his, and the woman who has given birth to him. Once again, were these elements introduced to exalt the ordinary - to make the ordinary extraordinary? Were these elements introduced to underscore that this baby was special - different from all of the other babies that had ever been born? Did the angels and the star signify God's presence - His involvement and interest in what was happening? Was the Davidic ancestry meant to fulfill the Hebrew prophecy that the Messiah would arise from his line? Was the interest of Herod and the wise men intended to represent the wider interest of humankind in the coming of this child?

The authors of these narratives had been profoundly touched by the ministry of an extraordinary man - Jesus. They believed this man to be the promised Messiah. They wanted to assure his followers of the special nature of the man whom they had chosen to follow and to convince others that they too should be following Jesus. Long before these narratives about his birth had been written, Jesus Christ's life and ministry had inspired the devotion and extreme loyalty of many people and given rise to a movement that had attracted the attention and persecution of the authorities extant at that time. Did these narratives detract from what Jesus had already accomplished? OR Did they serve to exalt/enhance/support what he had accomplished? Do the nativity narratives detract from the mystery and legend of Christ or enhance it? Does the story of the cherry tree detract from the legend of George Washington or enhance it? Does the narrative of Abe Lincoln's log cabin birth add to his mystique or fundamentally alter what the man accomplished as president? Is it really important whether or not Alexander the Great ever said "There are no more worlds to conquer," or is it more important to see that as part of his reality?

And let's consider for just a moment a few of the things that the imagery in these narratives has given rise to over the years. I'm thinking now of things like the song O Holy Night. Consider the lyrics in the first verse:
"O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!"
Think about the magnificent paintings and sculptures which this narrative has given rise to! I ask again: Does this imagery detract from the narrative about Christ? Is "Peace on earth, Good will toward men" a worthwhile narrative? I think so. What about you?


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Losing My Religion

The title of this post was borrowed from the famous R.E.M. tune of the same name. I chose it because I felt that it would be descriptive of my own experiences and a discussion that I wanted to inaugurate about an article that was referenced several days ago over at Banned by HWAPeople of the Book? The article originally appeared over at Christianity Without the Religion (Plain Truth Ministries), and it presents a very interesting quotation from a book by Barbara Brown Taylor (Leaving Church: a memoir of faith).

The quote that really caught my eye and spoke to my own experience was this one: "I know that the Bible is a special kind of book, but I find it as seductive as any other. If I am not careful, I can begin to mistake the words on the page for the realities they describe. I can begin to love the dried ink marks on the page more than I love the encounters that gave rise to them. If I am not careful, I can decide that I am really much happier reading my Bible than I am entering into what God is doing in my own time and place, since shutting the book to go outside will involve the very great risk of taking part in stories that are still taking shape. Neither I nor anyone else knows how these stories will turn out, since at this point they involve more blood than ink. The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God’s sake. For me, this willing conversion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith."

As long time readers of this blog know, I have written numerous posts about Christianity and its attitudes toward the Bible. I believe many Christians have been seduced by THE BOOK. Unfortunately, instead of using Scripture as a guide to God, Jesus Christ and salvation through him, the Bible is seen as the Source - the Final Authority - something to be revered and worshipped. Indeed, God and Jesus Christ are unwittingly relegated to a secondary or unimportant role in establishing truth, doctrine and theology in general. Experience and what we can observe about the world around us are dismissed as legitimate sources for revealing God and "His" will to us (or they are only valued in so far as they can confirm/reinforce what's revealed in THE BOOK). The Scriptures are selectively mined for proof of the tenets/doctrines or prophetic interpretations of the Church. In other words, like the Pharisees of old, the form becomes much more important than the substance. And, sadly, many Christians never quite get around to living what the Bible teaches.

Some of my readers will recall a post that I did regarding the Christianity practiced by Jane Fonda. As someone who was previously seduced by THE BOOK, I can attest to the real value of this alternative view of Christianity - a Christianity rooted in action and experience. The article referenced above describes a faith that "is far more relational than doctrinal." This type of religion believes "that God is found in right relationships, not in right ideas." OR As the Apostle James expressed it, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (see James 1:27)

Is this a permission slip to turn one's back on traditional Christianity and its churches? Not at all. The author of the book of Hebrews said that there was real value in Christians coming together in community learning and worship. Paul said that Christians should be helping each other and lifting each other up when we fall (and we all fall down sometimes). I can attend the local Lutheran Church on Sunday and enjoy the message and the fellowship without absorbing the corporate mindset - the corporate religion. In other words, true Christianity is a state of mind - something that you can carry with you wherever you go or wherever you're at (whether sitting on a rock overlooking the Grand Canyon or standing in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome)!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.” —Tecumseh

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." ---Paul to the saints at Thessalonica

 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Evangelicals Got Nothing on Armstrongites!


CHURCH OF GOD CULTURE IS IN THE BAG FOR TRUMP!

 

For several months now, I’ve been drawing attention to the blatant partisanship exhibited by many of the church organizations that have emerged from the wreckage of Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. Although the ACOG culture has always leaned right, like most of the rest of Americans who are so inclined, many within that culture are in the bag for Donald Trump. Perhaps this development should not have elicited such surprise and consternation on my part - as it would be completely disingenuous to suggest that we shouldn’t have expected it. After all, those who have willing given themselves to the personality cult surrounding Herbert Armstrong and his teachings were bound to have a predisposition for joining the cult of personality surrounding Trump!

Predictably, Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God is completely in the bag for Trump. In a recent offering at the Trumpet.com, Brad MacDonald wrote: “Mr. Biden has a long, easily proven track record of political corruption. The Hunter Biden scandal shone the light of truth on this reality just days before the election. Joe Biden supports both Antifa and Black Lives Matter. He also has a record of rejecting the rule of law and the Constitution (for example, he is a key member of the Obama-led cabal behind the Mueller report and impeachment trial, both of which were unconstitutional). Meanwhile, Kamala Harris, the candidate for vice president, is even more far left than Joe Biden.” – Thanks to Democracy, America is Over, Virtually

MacDonald continued: “To choose Joe Biden and his radical agenda, one must suffer from at least one of two basic flaws in thinking. First, he would have to be totally ignorant of the facts illuminating Mr. Biden’s condemning record, his radical policies and his sadistic ambitions for America. Second, a person must not sufficiently value America’s continuation as a capitalist Republic, its political and social stability, and the general idea of traditional America. He mustn’t value America’s Constitution, the rule of law, and its Judeo-Christian heritage and morality. As president, Mr. Biden would assault all of these.” – same article reference above

Mr. MacDonald concluded his diatribe with a discourse on the failure of democracy in America. His reasoning – Since a majority of Americans were stupid enough to vote for Joe Biden (instead of the obvious choice, Donald Trump), democracy has failed. The underlying thesis, of course, is that America’s only hope is Trump staging a successful coup, overthrowing the results of the election and continuing in office!

It should be noted that MacDonald’s effort was intended as a companion piece to the main offering in this regard provided by none other than the notorious pastor general of the PCOG, Gerald Flurry. In an article entitled Donald Trump Is Going to Win This Election (penned November 9), Mr. Flurry wrote: “Regardless of how things look right now, I am confident that Donald Trump will remain president.” See Flurry Article at Trumpet.com He continued: “The radical left in America have done everything in their power for the last four years to discredit and destroy Donald Trump. They have spied. They have lied. They have cheated. They have broken laws too numerous to count. They have committed treason, trying to depose the duly elected government! And somehow, President Trump has weathered all those storms.” He went on to declare that “a Biden presidency is contrary to Bible prophecy.” Really, that will come as quite a shock to millions of Christian Americans!

Flurry went on to say: “The mainstream media insist there is “no evidence” the Democrats tried to steal this election. This is patently false: There is plenty of evidence. But it is also absurd, when you think about what the left has been doing for the past several years! You would have to be naive not to think they are committing great frauds with this election.” He continued: “I also marvel that so many people voted for the radical platform the Democratic Party has embraced. They want to encourage illegal immigration, even giving them free health care and welfare and education. They want to ravage the economy to combat “climate change.” They accept radical racist ideals and far-out sexual practices. They applaud lawlessness and a spirit of insurrection. It doesn’t take much to understand that in a democracy, when that many people are so ignorant, it is over. This nation is lost, virtually.”

“Oh well, that’s crazy Gerry and his minions!” some will innocently declare. “You can’t paint the entire culture with that paintbrush.”

Nevertheless, I have pointed out some of the very partisan articles and sermons delivered by “moderate” Church of God International pastors, Bill Watson and Adrian Davis. And those gentlemen apparently aren’t the only “reasonable” ACOG folks who have fallen into this partisan trap!

Dave Havir’s Church of God Big Sandy has published some very interesting articles in the latest edition of their Eye on the World. In an article entitled No Time for Phony Healing by Michelle Malkin, we read: “We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not forgive. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not forget. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not surrender. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, resoundingly reject the phony olive branches of former Vice President Joe Biden. After liberal media operatives prematurely declared Biden the winner of election 2020 this weekend, Biden’s handlers carefully trotted him out in front of the cameras to read a script that proclaimed: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again.”

The author’s response to Biden’s overture: “This is the time for hell-raising, not healing. Every legal vote must be counted, every illegal vote thrown out, every lawsuit heard. Anything less amounts to exactly the kind of “coup” undermining the “peaceful transition of power” that anti-Trump forces falsely accused our president of perpetrating. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, resist the media-Silicon Valley coronation of Biden-Harris. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not relent. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not yield. We, the 71 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald J. Trump, do not concede.”

How can anyone claim with a straight face that the rejection of forgiveness, the offer of an olive branch, reconciliation and humility be characterized as "Christian"? Do Christians advocate for "hell-raising, not healing"? Indeed, I can't imagine anything being more antithetical to the tenets of the Christian religion!

Now, it is true that Pastor Havir prefaced these offerings with a disclaimer: “This compilation of material for “Eye on the World” is presented as a service to the Churches of God. The views stated in the material are those of the writers or sources quoted by the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the Church of God Big Sandy. The following articles were posted at churchofgodbigsandy.com for the weekend of Nov. 14, 2020.” Nevertheless, I fail to see how the inclusion of this material could be considered to be rendering "a service to the Churches of God."Moreover, another article in the same offering dealing with the political cult of personality surrounding Trump was prefaced with this qualifier: “Following is a letter from an individual who claims that “[President] Trump has succeeded in creating a cult.” This letter probably reflects the opinion of 90 percent of the corporate media and many of the population that voted against President Trump. (For the record—Although the current vote tally has half of the voting population as voting against President Trump, not all of them would go so far as to claim that his supporters are members of a Trump cult.)"

Now, while I’m confident that most of the folks in the ACOG culture will be perplexed that anyone could find fault with these offerings, I am also confident that objective Christians will find these remarks to be very objectionable. Once again, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A REPUBLICAN OR A TRUMP SUPPORTER TO BE A CHRISTIAN! Unlike Herbert Armstrong, I do not have any problems with Christians voting or expressing opinions about the moral implications of policy, but I do object to ministers announcing the correct political view from the pulpit! And we should all be able to recognize the fact that such offerings severely curtail the appeal of any religious message offered by these groups. After all, almost 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden and telling them that they are ignorant and Satanic for doing so is NOT likely to make them very receptive to any appeal offered by these folks.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Parable of the Sower

The Armstrong Churches of God have used Christ's "Parable of the Sower" to club those who would dare to leave them and as a prop for explaining their behavior to the folks who stay. However, if one is willing to take an objective look at the parable, any use of it as a cudgel or excuse is rendered preposterous.

The parable occurs in three of the four gospel accounts (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15). It has been summarized thus: "Jesus tells the story of a sower who scattered seeds on four different types of soil. The first type of ground was hard and the seed could not sprout or grow at all and became snatched up instantly. The second type of ground was stony. The seed was able to plant and begin to grow, however, it could not grow deep roots and withered in the sun. The third type of ground was thorny and although the seed could plant and grow, it could not compete with the number of thorns that overtook it. The fourth ground was good soil that allowed the seed to plant deep, grow strong, and produce fruit." see The Parable of the Sower

Fortunately for us, Christ himself explained the symbolism in the story. He said: "Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!" - Matthew 13:18-23, NLT

Notice that the folks in the first three categories either never accepted or abandoned altogether Christ's message about the kingdom. In other words, the message is not retained by them. Hence, while we could make a compelling argument that those who have turned their backs on God, Christ and His message could be associated with this parable, it does NOT necessarily follow that someone who has abandoned some or all of the teachings of Herbert Armstrong has done any of that. In other words, the discovery of error in the teachings of some follower/minister of Christ is NOT the equivalent of rejecting God, Christ or His message! Those who accept Christ and His message (irrespective of the degree to which they may or may not fully comprehend it, because we <Christians> all currently have an imperfect understanding of both) can continue to grow in grace and knowledge. All of Christ's followers have the potential to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Hence, in the language of the parable, those who continue to follow Christ and His message are among "the seed that fell on good soil." Now, we do know from Christ's "Parable of the Tares" that the enemy can sew bad seed among the good. However, even in this instance, Christ told his followers not to attempt to remove the tares because they might uproot the good plants in the process! - Matthew 13:24-43 So, we see that ANY attempt to portray those who leave an ACOG as failures, or anything other than a brother or sister in Christ, is NOTHING but a flagrant misuse of Scripture!

What does it mean to be persecuted?

The leadership in many of the Armstrong Churches of God frequently claim that they are being persecuted because of the message they preach. They are in good company among U.S. Evangelicals in this regard. In short, they don't like the fact that some folks have characterized their messages as racist, homophobic or contrary to the spirit of Christ; and they call this persecution. In other words, any effort to denigrate or limit the appeal of their message is regarded by them as persecution. But is it really fair to characterize that as persecution?

Jesus Christ is reported to have said: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:10-12, NIV Notice that Christ differentiated between those who were to be persecuted "for righteousness' sake" and suffer as a consequence of false accusations, and those who would suffer for the sake of genuine wrongdoing. Moreover, this differentiation is reaffirmed in the First Epistle of Peter where the apostle is discussing the treatment of slaves. We read there: "For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God." - I Peter 2:19-20, NIV

Now my ACOG and Evangelical friends would say that they are standing up for righteousness when they advocate for the harsh treatment, imprisonment or death of homosexuals, abortionists and protestors; and they claim God's sanction for their persecution of these people. And, they have the audacity to claim persecution when someone dares to criticize them for doing it!

From a scriptural perspective, the kind of persecution that Christ and his followers experienced is not even comparable to what these ACOG and Evangelical leaders are claiming. Jesus wasn't simply criticized and insulted because of his message - HE WAS BEATEN AND PUT TO DEATH! Stephen was stoned to death! Paul was imprisoned for years and eventually executed! Indeed, when past persecutions of God's saints were discussed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read: "Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground." - Hebrews 11:36-38 How many of these ACOG and Evangelical leaders have experienced these things?

Indeed, the way that the Greek word translated into English as "persecuted" is used in the writings known to us as the New Testament suggests people pursuing someone to the death! In other words, real persecution is indicative of an existential threat to the one being persecuted. And, as far as I can tell, none of these ACOG or Evangelical leaders have been imprisoned or put to death yet (at least, not for the sake of the messages they are preaching). On the other hand, the Yazidi people or Chinese Christians would certainly be justified in claiming persecution. However, a little criticism for what many folks would consider the persecution of others, does not even approach the level of real persecution. Even if we consider the targets of these folks to be "evil," we are hard-pressed to find any scriptural justification for persecuting them. In fact, isn't the proper role of a minister of Jesus Christ to seek that which was lost and to bind up the brokenhearted?

Hence, as long as these folks continue to peddle their hate-filled messages about "sinners", they should expect to be challenged by others. My advice to them: Stop whining about persecution and put on your big boy pants and get ready for some tough talk!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

God looks at the heart!

When it comes to the topics of politics and religion, not only do we frequently disagree with each other, we very often attribute the worst possible motives to the folks who disagree with us. The folks on the other side cannot be simply wrong - they must be evil or stupid (or some combination of the two). I believe that this tendency to demonize the other side is at the root of the extreme polarization which currently exists in the United States. And, just for the record, I'm not pointing a finger at others (we've all been guilty of this at times).

Jesus Christ instructed his followers not to judge each other and cautioned that God would judge each of them by how generous they were in judging each other. Scripture informs us that God looks at the heart - not the superfluous and obvious stuff which most of us are preoccupied with. Is the person motivated by a spirit of love or hate, mercy or revenge, humility or arrogance, greed or generosity, helping or hindering, obedience or rebellion, etc. ? In other words, the motive behind our thinking and activities is very important to God. And Christ understood that motivations are not as readily apparent to humans (who tend to focus on the obvious feedback which they receive via their 5 senses).

Christ also informed his disciples that it was dangerous to characterize their brothers and sisters as being a fool. He knew that the impulse to conclude that those who disagree with us must be stupid beats strong in the human heart, and he knew that that impulse tends to symbolically "murder" the other person by assassinating their intelligence.

Unfortunately, most of us are very impulsive - we tend to rush into those places where angels fear to tread. Anyone who disagrees with us must be in the bonds of Satan. Those who support/oppose this or that can't be a Christian. People who believe/don't believe this or that must be stupid! Anyone who supports socialism/capitalism must be EVIL - the thing that motivates that support becomes irrelevant. The principle is the same for almost any religious or political issue that comes to mind.

And, just in case anyone out there is getting ready to pounce, I'm not advocating for a kind of moral relativism. Right and wrong do exist, and some folks are motivated by hate, revenge, arrogance, greed and a spirit of rebellion - some folks are stupid! Nevertheless, we should all be more willing to heed the words of Christ and be cautious about jumping to negative conclusions about the other guy's motivations. Shouldn't we be leaning into the direction of giving each other the benefit of the doubt? Shouldn't we as Christians be focused on believing the best, building each other up and not tearing each other down?

And, once again, I'm thinking about my own behavior in this regard. I feel compelled to try to do better. What about you?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Does God Appoint Our Leaders?

The question inevitably arises around U.S. Presidential elections: Does God choose the person who becomes our president? Unfortunately, from  the perspective of many Christians, the answer to that question is an emphatic YES. They point to Paul's letter to the saints at Rome as the "proof" that this is so.

However, if we are really interested in answering this question from a Scriptural perspective, then we must be willing to look at the totality of the evidence available to us. In short, is Paul's statement in that epistle the last word on this subject? Did Paul actually say that God appoints mankind's rulers? And, if he did, what does that imply for our notions about free will, and mankind proving that he cannot govern himself?

The King James Version renders the first two verses of the thirteenth chapter of Romans thus: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Now, I'll admit that this Elizabethan English may be a little obscure to the eyes of the average 20th Century American, but it appears to me that Paul is talking about political/governmental authority - not specific individual rulers. The New International Version makes this even clearer: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." In other words, it's not the individual whom God has appointed - it's the position of authority.

Moreover, if we insist on the more traditional Calvinist interpretation of this scripture - that God has appointed the person occupying the position of authority (as the NLT reads: "those in positions of authority have been placed there by God"), then we are forced to explain another passage from the book of Hosea. In the eighth chapter of that book, the prophet is expressing God's displeasure with the decisions which the Israelites have made for themselves. In verse 4, God says: "They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval." OR As the NLT renders it, "The people have appointed kings without my consent, and princes without my approval." Hence, this scripture clearly indicates that God believed that "He" had not appointed these rulers of Israel! And, if God didn't appoint these rulers, doesn't that kinda torpedo the notion that he appoints all rulers?

"What about what God said to Nebuchadnezzar?" my skeptical friends will demand. Let's take a look at that one too! The King of Babylon had been arrogant about his position, authority and accomplishments (see Daniel 4:30). Prior to this incident, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. In the dream, it was announced: "The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people." (Daniel 4:17) We are also informed that Daniel told the king that this dream applied to him, and he suggested that Nebuchadnezzar immediately humble himself before the Lord and repent of his pride (see Daniel 4:19-27). Again, do these verses establish God's supremacy? OR do they suggest that God appoints all world leaders? Did God appoint Hitler and Stalin? Did God intend for their people to submit to their every whim? Were they fulfilling God's will when they murdered millions of their fellow humans?

Finally, we should consider some of the things that Christ is reported to have said during his ministry on this earth. For instance, we know that Christ was not pleased with the way that humans exercised the authority which they possessed. In the Gospel of Luke, we read: "Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves." (see Luke 22:24-27) We also know that Christ established the principle that humans were subject to time and chance (see Luke 13:1-5 and compare with Ecclesiastes 9:11). In other words, not everything that happened on this earth was ordained by God! Christ also established the principle that humans had specific responsibilities relative to God and human government (see Mark 12:17). Finally, when Christ stood before Pilate, we are informed by the author of the Gospel of John that the Roman Governor grew frustrated with Christ's refusal to defend himself and asked him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (see John 19:10) What was Christ's response? "Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." (see verse 11) Again, the clear implication being that God grants the authority, but doesn't necessarily dictate which person will exercise the authority or how they will exercise it!

If we are truly learning that we cannot govern ourselves, then logic and common sense dictate that we be allowed to govern ourselves! If we must choose between right and wrong, good and evil, God's way or Satan's way, then we must be allowed to make that decision for ourselves. In other words, God pulling the strings does not work if God is really attempting to teach us that "His" way is superior to all other ways - the only way that leads to true happiness and salvation. Otherwise, we're all just a bunch of robots which have been programmed to go through the motions and perform the tasks assigned to us! And what's the point of that?


Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Inscrutable God

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! - Romans 11:33 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

CGI IS COMPETING WITH RCG, PCG & CCG FOR MOST CRAZY!

The obsession of two of the leading pastors of the Church of God International with right-wing politics and conspiracy theories is clearly pushing that group into the “Bat Shit Crazy” category (Banned by HWA may soon be forced to add them to their poll). Recent sermons by Adrian Davis and Bill Watson have been literally chocked-full of warnings about folks on the left as socialists, communists, globalists, homosexuals, Jewish elites, Black Lives Matter supporters and pedophiles. In fact, listening to some of their most recent sermons one might conclude that the fall of the United States is imminent if Joe Biden and the Democrats are swept into power in the rapidly approaching U.S. election! Pack, Flurry and Thiel haven’t got anything on these guys!

In his most recent sermon, Pastor Davis declared that no matter who wins the election “America is gone…It’s just a matter of time – It’s just how quickly America will collapse.” He went on to say that America is already gone as an idea, and that the communist takeover is almost complete! He goes on to suggest that anyone who supports those wicked globalists and communists is in reality worshipping Satan! Pastor Davis proceeds to decry the “beautiful rhetoric” of the Left about coming together to solve problems and helping the disadvantaged. He then goes on to attack those who have advocated for a more serious and sober approach to handling the Covid19 pandemic. Pastor Davis believes that those who are advocating for global cooperation in instituting scientific health measures to protect folks are pushing fear. He says the coronavirus is contagious, but not very lethal. He points to Donald Trump’s quick recovery from the virus as proof of his point. Davis then proceeds to denigrate anyone who would deign to find fault with what happened to George Floyd. After that rant, the good pastor returns to his attack on those nasty advocates of social distancing and mask wearing – even injecting a right-wing video to buttress his attack! And, if you think I’m making up stuff about poor Pastor Davis, then just listen to the sermon for yourself (if you have the stomach) at https://www.cgi.org/weeklysermons?sapurl=LytxNWdtL2xiL21pLytoM210Mng4P2F1dG9wbGF5PXRydWUmZW1iZWQ9dHJ1ZQ==

In his most recent sermon, Pastor Watson calls out those “self-proclaimed” socialist Democrats: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Like his preferred president (Trump), the fact that none of these individuals is the current standard bearer of the Democratic Party makes no difference to him! He proceeds to decry just how much America has changed in his lifetime – things like two homosexuals being able to marry each other! Pastor Watson also spends a great deal of time defending his obsession with politics - often pointing to the moral implications of issues like abortion and transgender rights. He says that folks on the left want to replace the U.S. Constitution with a socialist platform. Watson proceeds to decry professional athletes taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events. And, if that isn’t bad enough, Mr. Watson is outraged by the fact that Ohio has recently instituted a mask wearing mandate because of Covid19. The gall of these folks to interfere with his rights! For Pastor Watson, masks don’t make sense, and he glories in the fact that the mandate exempts him as a pastor. “America!” he declares, “Freedom to travel…freedom to breathe fresh air!” Mr. Watson is paranoid about the collection of data. He sees dark conspiracies at work everywhere. He decries the fact that we are “quarantining the healthy.” Watson says he has no problem with folks wearing masks, just don’t force him to wear one! Later, he launches into a diatribe about a socialist platform and suggests that these folks are coming for your guns and are going to take away your right to vote. Once again, you don’t have to take my word for it – If you can stomach the message, you can view it in its entirety here: https://www.cgi.org/weeklysermons?sapurl=LytxNWdtL2xiL21pLytydDg5M3lkP2F1dG9wbGF5PXRydWUmZW1iZWQ9dHJ1ZQ==

Now, while I’m confident that these rants will appeal to a great many of the supporters of Donald Trump, I do not think that they have much to do with proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, if one is truly trying to reach the broadest possible audience with that message, how do you think an extremely partisan message will accomplish that? I have no idea how much of the leadership and membership of the Church of God International actually subscribes to these extreme views – hopefully not many of them. However, by providing a platform for these views, we are forced to conclude that that organization has clearly gone off the rails!


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WHO ARE THE TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION?

"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish. When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified. And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched." --Revelation 11:3-12, New Living Translation 

Folks in the now defunct Worldwide Church of God used to love to speculate about the identity of the two witnesses discussed in the eleventh chapter of the book of Revelation. Before their falling out, Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong were the most popular contenders for the "honor." Since their deaths, speculation has run amok among their successors and their followers.

Unfortunately, most of these folks are completely oblivious to the fact that not everyone believes these two witnesses are synonymous with two literal church leaders in the end time. In fact, there are a number of other notions extant about these two witnesses in the Christian world. Don't take my word for it, just Google "The Two Witnesses" and see for yourself just how many different interpretations pop up!

Herbert Armstrong's literalist perspective got him into trouble in many areas, but its inadequacies are probably no where more glaringly apparent than in the realm of prophecy (his numerous prophetic failures are well-documented on Banned by HWA and elsewhere). Think about it, the book of Revelation is wall to wall symbolism, and it is just plain common sense that this wouldn't mesh well with literalism!

Moses told the people of Israel that the Lord would some day "raise up for you a prophet like me." (Deuteronomy 18:15) What if the two witnesses referenced in the book of Revelation were Moses and Christ? What if their testimony constituted their messages recorded in the Old and New Testaments? Is it implausible to think of them as "two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth"? Is it hard to imagine them and their messages being figuratively killed by modern biblical critics and later reanimated by Divine intervention? Did the messages from their mouths have the power to slay their enemies? Did they have the power to manipulate weather, turn rivers into blood and strike the earth with plagues? Is it possible that this scripture is not referring to 1,260 literal 24 hour days? I'm not saying that I've figured this thing out, but isn't it at least possible that this message has absolutely NOTHING to do with Gerald Flurry, David Pack, Bob Thiel or ANY of their followers? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Supreme God

Longtime readers of this blog know that I have largely avoided discussions about Trinitarianism, Binitarianism or Unitarianism. And, although I am still uncomfortable with being labeled as an adherent of one of those perspectives, I have reached some personal conclusions about the Scriptural teachings on the subject. Moreover, as with most of the other aspects of Christian theology, I find some merit in all three perspectives on the nature of God. Now, I realize that this will seem like waffling to more dogmatically inclined Christians, but we would all do well to remember that all three perspectives claim the Bible as the source of their understanding. Hence, if Scripture was as clear on the subject as the adherents of each of these various beliefs claim, then there wouldn't be three different Christian perspectives on the nature of God!

Of course, it would also be disingenuous not to admit that the Trinitarian view is the most widely held perspective within traditional Christianity. And, even many of those who profess to follow the other two perspectives (Binitarianism and Unitarianism) will acknowledge that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit proceed from God and reflect God's persona. Hence, the heart of the question is how all of these folks reconcile all of this with Hebrew notions of a monotheistic deity.

I would say that, whatever one believes about the nature of Christ or the nature of the Holy Spirit, the New Testament is quite clear that there is ONE SUPREME GOD. Hence, regardless of what one believes about whether there is one - two or three entities in the Godhead, the New Testament makes very plain that there is only ONE entity who is Supreme.

In all four of the gospel accounts, Jesus refers to this entity as his Father (see Matthew 7:21, 10:32, 33, 11:27, 12:50, 16:17, 18:10, 19, 20:23, 24:36, 25:34, 26:39, 42, 53, Mark 13:32, Luke 10:22, 22:29, 24:49, John 5:17, 6:32, 65, 8:19, 28, 38, 49, 54, 10:17, 18, 29, 30, 32, 37, 12:26, 14:7, 12, 20, 21, 23, 28, 15:1, 8, 15, 23, 24, 16:10, 18:11, 20:17 and 21). And, as any serious student of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures knows, a good son honors and obeys his father - is in subjection to his father.

This fact is further reinforced by Christ's own statements. We read in the Gospel According to John: "Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." -John 5:18-23 Christ clearly believed that he was doing what his Father wanted him to do. Was Christ really making himself equal with God as the Jews alleged?

A little later in this same account, we have Christ telling his disciples: "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I." -John 14:25-28 Notice that Christ believed that the Father had the authority to "send" the Holy Spirit, and that he acknowledged that his Father was greater than him!

That his Father was in a superior position is further underscored by what Christ revealed in his famous prophecy from the Mount of Olives which he gave to his disciples. Speaking about the timing of the fulfillment of his prophecies, he said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." -Mark 13:32 In other words, the timing was in the hands of an entity who was superior to him and all others!

Finally, this concept is further reinforced by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the saints at Corinth. Paul wrote: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." -I Corinthians 15:20-28 Clearly, Paul believed that Christ regarded the Father as Supreme.

Hence, whatever one believes about the nature of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit or about humans becoming part of God's family, it is clear that there has always been and always will be ONE SUPREME GOD. No other entity has ever or will ever usurp that position. That there is one Almighty God is the clear teaching of the New Testament, and any suggestion that any other entity is or ever will be on that level is just plain blasphemy! 

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Incredible Human Potential?

Once upon a time, Herbert W Armstrong declared that his book, The Incredible Human Potential, was “the most important book since the Bible!” In that book, Armstrong wrote that God had originally created the earth and the universe for angels to finish. He said that many of those angels had sinned and had consequently forfeited their right to that inheritance. According to Armstrong, this led God to decide to create humankind and give them the opportunity to inherit what the angels had lost in their rebellion. Moreover, Armstrong believed that God had created humans out of matter, so that they could be destroyed if they sinned and not have to suffer in eternal torment like the angels which He had created to be immortal.

And, just in case anyone would suggest that this brief summary is a mischaracterization of what Herbert Armstrong actually taught, I have included below a number of lengthy excerpts from his book: 

“Angels inhabited this earth before the creation of man. And the government of God was administered on earth until the rebellion of the sinning angels. How long these angels inhabited the earth before the creation of man is not revealed. It might have been millions - or even billions - of years. More on that later. But these angels sinned. Sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). And God's law is the basis of God's government. So we know these angels, apparently a third of all the angels (Rev. 12:4), sinned - rebelled against the government of God. And sin carries penalties. The penalty for the sin of the angels is not death, as it is for man. Angels are immortal Spirit beings and cannot die. These Spirit beings had been given dominion over the PHYSICAL EARTH as a possession and an abode. The universal, worldwide sin of the angels resulted in the physical destruction of the face of the earth.”

-Chapter 4, page 41, The Incredible Human Potential

“He had created a beautiful, perfect creation in the earth. He populated it with holy angels - probably millions of them. He put over them, as king, on an earthly throne, the archangel - the cherub Lucifer. Lucifer was the supreme masterpiece of God's creative power as a single separately created Spirit being. He was the most perfect in beauty, power, mind, knowledge, intellect, wisdom, within the almighty power of God to create. God can create nothing higher or more perfect, by instantaneous fiat. Yet this great being, knowledgeable, trained and experienced at God's own throne in heaven over the universe and the administration of the government of God, had rejected that government, corrupted his way, rebelled against administering or even obeying it. He had led all his angels astray and into the sin of rebellion and disloyalty.”

-Chapter 4, pages 50-51, The Incredible Human Potential

“God saw that no being less than God, in the God Family, could be certainly relied on never to sin - to be like God - who cannot sin. To fulfill His purpose for the entire vast universe, God saw that nothing less than Himself (as the God Family) could be absolutely relied upon to carry out that supreme purpose in the entire universe. God then purposed to reproduce Himself, through humans, made in His image and likeness, but made first from material flesh and blood, subject to death if there is sin unrepented of - yet with the possibility of being born into the Divine Family begotten by God the Father.”

-Chapter 4, page 52, The Incredible Human Potential

“This earth, originally, was intended to be the abode of a third of all the angels. The angels, beholding the earth at its creation, found it so beautiful and perfect they shouted spontaneously for JOY! (Job 38:4-7). It was to provide a glorious opportunity for them. They were to work it, produce from it, and preserve and increase its beauty. And at this point, it is well to understand the nature of God's original creation: It is like the unfinished furniture available in some stores. This furniture is "in the raw" - it is finished all but for the final varnish, polish, or paint. Some can save money by doing this finishing themselves - provided they have the skill to do so. This furniture may be of fine and superb quality - yet lacking the final beautifying completion. So it is with God's creation. It is perfect, but subject to a beautifying finish which God intended angels to accomplish. The original "unfinished" creation was produced by God alone. But He intended angels, prehistorically, and MAN, now, to utilize creative power - to finish this part in God's creation - of adding the final beautifying and utilitarian phases of what shall be the FINAL COMPLETED CREATION! And whether or not it had been revealed to the angels, it was a supreme TRIAL AND TEST. It was to be the PROVING GROUND of obedience to GOD'S GOVERNMENT and their fitness to develop into final finished creation the millions of other planets in the vast universe.”

-Chapter 5, pages 54-55, The Incredible Human Potential

“So the angel potential was to take over the entire universe - to improve and finish the billions of physical planets surrounding the uncountable stars, many of which are SUNS. The sun in our solar system is merely an average-size sun. Some which we see as stars are actually many, many times larger than our sun. Our solar system, vast beyond the imagination of most minds, is only a part of our galaxy, and there are many galaxies! In other words, the physical UNIVERSE which the mighty God created is vast beyond imagination! How GREAT is the GREAT GOD! He intended angels, and now MAN, to have a vital part in the final creation of the endless universe!”

-Chapter 5, page 55, The Incredible Human Potential

“The penalty of sin by the angels was not death - for God had made them immortal spirit beings who cannot die. What God gave them was THIS EARTH as their abode and opportunity to qualify to possess and beautify the entire UNIVERSE. Their penalty (they are still awaiting final judgment up to now) was disqualification - forfeiture of their grand opportunity, perversion of mind, and a colossal earth-wide CATACLYSM of destruction wreaked upon this earth.”

-Chapter 5, pages 56-57, The Incredible Human Potential

“Look, now again at God's overall supreme PURPOSE. It is to develop GODLY, PERFECT CHARACTER IN THE MILLIONS OF MANKIND WHO SHALL DO THIS CREATIVE COMPLETION THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE LIMITLESS PHYSICAL UNIVERSE! That is THE AWESOME PURPOSE! For this PURPOSE, God started by creating millions of angels - Spirit beings. Then He created the PHYSICAL UNIVERSE and this earth, and He put angels here to develop this earth, ruled by THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD. But the king He set as ruler - LUCIFER - rebelled, revolted, misled a third of all the angels, and THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD no longer governed the earth. Lucifer was the supreme masterpiece. If Lucifer and his angels went wrong, there was no assurance the other two thirds would not. As God surveyed this tragic cataclysm, He must have realized it left HIMSELF as the ONLY BEING who will not and CANNOT SIN! The only possible ASSURANCE of accomplishing His great PURPOSE was for Him now to reproduce Himself!”

-Chapter 5, page 59, The Incredible Human Potential

Having established what Herbert Armstrong taught in this book that has been considered by many within the Armstrong Churches of God to be essential theology, the question comes to mind: Is the teaching correct? Do Armstrong’s conclusions comport with what is revealed in Scripture?

As Herbert and his followers was/are fond of employing “prooftexts” to establish the legitimacy of their teachings, that technique will also be employed in this post to answer the questions posed. However, it should be noted that my use of the technique does not constitute an endorsement of it is an entirely reliable technique for establishing or defending doctrine. Nevertheless, in this instance, I believe that Scripture is clear enough to refute the above referenced teachings of Armstrong.

First, Scripture clearly refutes the notion that this earth was ever intended to be the possession or abode of angels. We read in Jude 6 about “the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode…” Jesus Christ told his disciple that he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Luke 10:18 Likewise, in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation we read: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:7-9

Second, and closely related to the first point, Scripture refutes the notion that the angels ever had any part of man’s potential. In the book of Hebrews, we read that Christ inherited a more excellent name than any angel. Hebrews 1:1-4 The text continues: “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’? And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son’?” Hebrews 1:5 In other words, God NEVER said this to any angel! Continuing the thought, we read: “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.’” Hebrews 1:6-7 And, just so that there wouldn’t be any room for misunderstanding, the thought is restated more emphatically toward the end of the chapter: “But to which of the angels has He ever said: “‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:13-14 Clearly, angels were created to serve those who will be saved!

Moreover, the thought reaches its logical consummation in the following chapter. In the second chapter of Hebrews, we read: “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.’ For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:5-9 Did you catch that? God has NOT put the world to come in subjection to angels – THAT WAS/IS NOT THEIR POTENTIAL. Indeed, we are informed that Christ took on the nature of humans so “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14 Which brings us to Herbert’s assertion that angels are immortal.

Paul wrote to Timothy that immortality is a God quality. I Timothy 6:16 Moreover, there are several passages of Scripture which indicate that Satan and his minions will be destroyed. We read in the book of Isaiah: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.” Isaiah 14:12-25 And, after making clear that Satan is the subject of the text (see Ezekiel 28:12-15), we read ““By the abundance of your trading

You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. ‘Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. ‘You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you.  All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.’” Ezekiel 28:16-19 And, finally, in the book of Revelation we are informed that Satan and his minions will be cast into the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 20:10), which is the second death.

Moreover, even if Scripture wasn’t so clear on this point, it does not make sense that God wouldn’t have the ability to destroy anything which “He” has created. While angels apparently have the ability to exist indefinitely at God’s pleasure, it does not follow that they are immortal. And, since we are told that there will not be anymore sorrow, crying or pain in the new universe, the continued existence of Satan and his minions anywhere would make that statement a lie (see Revelation 21:1-4).

Third, as I have written in numerous other posts over the years, the notion that God is working on “Plan B” is absurd! As has already been pointed out, the book of Hebrews utterly refutes the notion that angels ever had ANY part of man’s potential. Moreover, the notion that all of the angelic host would lose out on their inheritance because one third of them sinned is contrary to any notion or sense of Divine justice. And, finally, Scripture makes plain that God planned for mankind’s salvation and inheritance before the “foundation of the world” (see Matthew 25:34, Ephesians 1:4, I Peter 1:20 and Revelation 13:8). In short, whatever God intended for humankind was intended from the outset. There has never been any failure of that plan, or any modification of that plan because of some failure on the part of those who were created!

Thus, Herbert Armstrong’s The Incredible Human Potential should NOT be regarded by anyone as a source of sound biblically based theology. By his own standard of scriptural prooftexts, his teachings are shown to contradict the Bible and cannot be reconciled with what is revealed there.