Saturday, November 18, 2017

UCG on how to stop worrying about the end of the world.

United Church of God has an article in their Compass Check, geared towards youth and UCG members, telling people to not worry about the end of the world.  That is pretty ironic coming from a church that has made its financial living off of endtime malarky.

UCG writes:

Literature throughout the ages explores what the end of the world might be like. Blockbuster movies paint pictures of destruction from earthquakes, alien invasions, nuclear warfare and asteroid collisions. While there might be much to say about it, the end of the world is an unknown quantity to many people.  
In God’s Church, we are blessed with significant and uncommon understanding of what “the end of the world” will actually be like. The Bible even comments on the end of the age within its opening pages, a passage we will turn to shortly.  
Biblical prophecies about the end times do speak of dire and horrifying events in the future. In Leviticus 26:16, God vows He will bring “sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever” to the nation which does not obey Him (New International Version). As another example, God discusses a soon-coming beast power in Revelation 13. It will have vast control over the world’s economies and brutally murder those who oppose or refuse to worship it, especially the Church of God (verses 15-18).  
These and other end-time events are disturbing and troubling to many. What can you do to grow in courage and not be so afraid? How can you stop worrying about the end of the world? 
So what is the first things UCG members need to do?
Perhaps the most important thing to remember regarding the end times and prophecy in general is that God is sovereign and in control of all things. God inspired the words of the Bible, and prophecies are only going to be fulfilled as part of His schedule and His plan. 
If UCG and other COG's actually believed that, then why do the warble on incessantly about prophecy?  Let God take care of it when he is good and ready.  There is no need for endless theories and speculations about what "might" happen.  Not one single UCG minister or any other COG member actually knows what might or will happen.  Not a single one.

On the Bible’s opening pages, God says this about Satan and foretells an end to his worldwide deception: “I will put enmity between you [speaking to Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).  
That “Seed” is Jesus Christ. He is returning to stamp out Satan’s evil from the earth and establish truth and justice. The Messiah will put an end to the violence, destruction and suffering of the end times and usher in an age of joy and peace. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). This present, evil age will be replaced by the glorious Kingdom of God (Galatians 1:3-5). We can be absolutely sure that this will happen because this is God’s plan, and He is in control.
Do they even believe this?  They cant discuss too much about the guy during the week, but they believe he is coming to kick some ass and bring in world peace.   This is the same guy the crucify every year in some high school gym or Masonic Lodge, but don't discuss much of the rest of the time.
You and I also have a role to play in this. God expects us to persevere in His truth to the end, no matter what. Note what God says about those who do so in Revelation 3:10: “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.” God, who is in control of everything, is certainly able to protect His Church in a time of crisis. He extends an offer of end-time protection to those who faithfully and wholeheartedly follow Him (Zephaniah 2:3). 
UCG expects it  youth and members to do two things:

Pray to develop a trusting relationship with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is one way that you can get to know God and more deeply understand His Will for your life. Navigating life’s ups and downs can be difficult. Turn to Him on both the good days and the bad, talking to Him both when it’s easy and when it’s hard. 
As much as UCG claims to not want its members to worry too much, they turn right around and tell them to always be aware of prophecies and to look to them in comfort.
“Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:20). Another important action we can take is to not neglect but instead become familiar with the prophetic insight God provides. Prophecies of historical events demonstrate God’s control and influence over human affairs, which can really help build our faith. Likewise, we can look to the Bible’s end-time prophecies with comfort and confidence that they will proceed just as God has planned because He is in control. Furnishing a good understanding of prophecies about “the end of the world” can help stop you from worrying or being afraid of it. If you aren’t sure where to begin or what to look for, the United Church of God has many different resources to help guide your studies. God wants us to live by His every word, and prophecy is no exception (Matthew 4:4).  
UCG members, as well as COG members, are sick of the endless speculating and moronic utterances by various self-appointed Church of God false prophets.  How many lies do these men need to speak before everyone abandons them?  Is it really about prophecy or a means to manipulate member to keep them under control?
The end of this age is coming; the Bible leaves no doubt about that. But God does not want us to worry about this treacherous time. He wants us to remember that in the good times and the bad, He is still in control. God is willing to protect and comfort His people, even in the despair of the end times. We must draw near to Him in spite of these trying circumstances, with prayer and with confidence in His Word, looking forward to the time when God will establish a new age of goodness, peace and joy on earth. In that day, the entire world will recognize God’s sovereignty and take comfort in the fact that He is in control. 
For some reason all of the self-appointed prophecy gurus in the Church of God conveniently ignore this verse:

2 Peter 2:1-3The Message (MSG)Lying Religious Leaders1-2 But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong. 
2-3 They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won’t, of course, get by with it. They’ll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The COG Path To Indoctrination

From Beware of Armstrongism
I was a member of Worldwide Church of God for about 10 years under these false teachings. I want to describe the process of accepting these "truths" so you are aware of the danger.   
First, you become indoctrinated into the idea that the Seventh Day Sabbath, annual festivals, and clean/unclean meat laws apply to you as a seeker or believer. Unfortunately, due to the ambiguity of traditional Christianity on this subject, younger or less experienced Christians fall for this idea easily. Many within traditional Christianity itself teaches that the Ten Commandments as a whole apply to everyone. They think the day switched from Saturday to Sunday, but they still think that the Sabbath still applies to everyone due to their assertion that it is a moral absolute, rather than a sign of the Old Covenant. They also fail to teach that the Old Covenant applied to ancient Israel and not New Covenant Christians. There is much ambiguity on this topic, and this ambiguity has created an opportunity for Armstrongism to develop. 
Second, you become indoctrinated into the idea that the whole world, including Orthodox Christianity, is deceived by Satan, including orthodox Christianity. Because of your new-found knowledge, you and your group alone possess 'the truth'. Orthodox Christianity is viewed as a bunch of unconverted, bumbling idiots who know nothing. They are non-Sabbathkeepers who are still in their sins, and have nothing to teach you. Therefore, you reject any source that could correct your errant belief system. The fact that you know 'the truth' appeals to your sinful nature, as the essence of sin is pride. Most Armstrongites are totally absorbed into intellectual pride and superiority. This increases your enslavery to this false belief system.   
Third, you accept doctrines that are even more aberrant because you give great credibility to the source who convinced you of Sabbathkeeping. You are totally ensnared into many false beliefs that you would not have accepted if you had seen the whole picture at the beginning.
Other elements of Herbert Armstrong's teachings include the following: 
  • British - American Israelitism - the claim that Western Europeans and Americans are physical descendants of the "lost ten tribes of Israel". This doctrine was used to strengthen the argument requiring Sabbathkeeping for most individuals who were a part of the church, since they were largely white people of Western European descent. It also created a situation where most of the prophecies in the Bible applied to white people of European descent. Prophecy was a big part of Worldwide Church of God theology.
  • God Family Doctrine - the claim that God is a "family" into which converted human beings would be born into, with the full nature and powers of God. Christians were considered to be literal sons of God in this sense, to be born into the Kingdom at the resurrection as a full-fledged God being. Speculation was that they would have their own planet and be worshipped like a God by other human beings at some point. This doctrine denied the fact that Christians have eternal life now. The focus tended to be on the 'not yet' Scriptures of the 'already but not yet' status of believers.
  • Apostolic Authority - Herbert Armstrong claimed to be God's apostle or sole authority on Earth. He restored true Christianity to mankind after a 1900 year void in spiritual knowledge, much like Joseph Smith claimed as the founder of the Mormon church. He also claimed to be a prophet by calling himself the Elijah to Come. He prophecied the return of Jesus Christ in 1975, which obviously failed to come true, clearly identifying himself as a false prophet. Unfortunately I did not know the details of this until I was already indoctrinated, and his prophecy was misrepresented to me as a speculation rather than a prophecy.
  • View of the Bible - The Bible was written in a coded manner that required putting verses together from different places in the Bible to arrive at sound doctrine. The hermeneutic used to justify this was Isaiah 28:10. If he simply read down to verse 13, he would see that the result of this verse wasn't a good one. The classical error that Herbert Armstrong was engaging in was "collapsing the context"....connecting two unrelated verses in different contexts to create a doctrine.
  • Rejection of Orthodox Christianity - Cults must create suspicion about traditional Christianity and Church History in order to make their erroneous assertions by nature. Herbert Armstrong was no different. Besides portraying other Christians as antinomians which are unconcerned with obedience, he characterized them as blind leaders of the blind.
  • Trinity Doctrine - He rejected well-founded Christian doctrines such as the Trinity as being of pagan origin. The biblical basis for the Trinity doctrine is solid, and I would encourage anyone who doubts this to read Forgotten Trinity by James White.
  • Conspiracy Theories involving Church History - In addition, in order to assert the Sabbathkeeping doctrine, suspicion was created by a distortion of the history of the migration from Saturday observance to Sunday observance. The Emperor Constantine is often blamed for this switch, along with the Roman Catholic church. The reality is that the switch occurred long before that, around 90 AD or earlier, when Christians were no longer welcome in the synagogue due to anti-Christian resistance from the Jews. Christians would often go to the synagogue to hear the Scriptures read on Saturday, and meet by themselves on Sunday to discuss these Scriptures from a Christian standpoint. It was a natural thing for them to begin meeting themselves on Sunday, as they were not parties to the Old Covenant anyways.
  • Legalism - Besides adherence to the Saturday Sabbath, Armstrong taught that Christians needed to observe the festivals of Leviticus 23, clean and unclean meat laws, and a system of tithing which allocated about 23% of one's gross income to devotional purposes. This created a serious bind financially amongst the membership. The funny thing is that the pastors did not tithe, so they subjected others to burdens that they themselves did not bear. This reminds me of the Pharisees and Christ's statement in Matthew 23:4. In addition, the Church was inconsistent in its assertions. For example, they claimed that Colossians 2:16-7 was teaching Sabbathkeeping rather than refuting it, but there are problems with that view. One problem is that it's ignoring the context of the rest of the verses around it and the context of the book itself. The other problem is that they did not observe New Moons which were commanded by the same verse.
  • Rejection of holidays with pagan origin - Christmas and Easter were rejected as pagan. I know this is an issue with many different Christians outside of Armstrongism, so I have some level of sympathy for anyone who holds this position. However, for me, Christmas simply means getting together with family for fellowship and there is nothing pagan about it. In addition, Easter simply means going to church, and inviting an unsaved friend to attend, as the message is about salvation generally on Easter. If God is going to throw me in hell for that, so be it. I don't hunt easter eggs or do anything with bunnies anyways. This reminds me of another thing about Armstrongism...when the Church had Pentecost calculated wrongly, and were observing it on the wrong day, the Church strongly insisted that God was merciful and would overlook such mistakes, but somehow their doctrinal intolerance did not extend to others outside of their circle..hmmmmm. Sounds like a double standard. Legalists want God to be merciful to them, but not to others.
  • Virtual Universalism - Armstrongism teaches that not all are called now, but only a select few individuals, church members, who will be priests and kings in the Millenial reign of Jesus Christ. This is a very dangerous doctrinal position. It implies that today is not the day of salvation, and is a disincentive for evangelizing. In their view, these chosen individuals (again, appealing to human vanity of Armstrongites) are going to guide others into following God in a subsequent resurrection that occurs after the Millennium. A few will reject salvation and be destroyed in the lake of fire, but the majority of mankind will accept salvation during this 100-year period following the Millennium. They call this period of time 'the judgment'. The Bible refutes this idea by stating that the vast majority are on the path of destruction.
  • Annihilationism Annihilationism is the doctrinal position that denies eternal torment for those who are lost, but specifies that punishment will be temporary. I am not going to get into this point too much. Suffice it to say that I think both positions, eternal torment and annihilationism, have some reasonable basis in the Scripture and I neither deny or affirm either one of them. Some Christians consider annihilationism to be a damnable heresy but I do not put it on this level. John Stott, a famous theologian who is well respected in evangelical circles, was an annihilationist.
  • Soul Sleep - This is the position that the dead are not conscious until the resurrection, either to eternal life or eternal death. This is another doctrinal position that I hold no position on. Scriptures seem to indicate either position, and Martin Luther held the position of soul sleep from my understanding.
  • Spirit Resurrection Herbert Armstrong held the position that Christ did not have a resurrection body but that he manifested a physical body at the resurrection. The bodily resurrection is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Scripture uses the phrase 'spiritual body' to describe the resurrection body..the Greek word is pneumatikos. Spiritual does not mean composed of spirit, though. It is a glorified physical body which has been changed to be incorruptible and to have different characteristics than the body we currently have. Armstrong denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. If his view was correct, the physical corpse of Christ should have been in the tomb, and we all know that's a primary evidence that he was resurrected. In fact, there is no need for a resurrection unless it involves the physical body. This is a position that he seems to have obtained from Jehovah's Witnesses theology.