Personal Canon

Cannon Firing
No, I do not mean a pocket sized one of these. That’s a cannon, not a canon. (Photo by David Brandt via Wikipedia)

Just a brief thought today about what I am coming to call “personal canon.” It might seem an odd topic–or, perhaps, a normal topic oddly worded, but, to be honest, it is still a “thought in development,” so hopefully you will bear with me.

Most of us are probably familiar with the word “canon” in our readings about the Bible, as in the biblical canon is the collection of works that are believed to be authentic and authoritative–or “canonical.” However, the word admits to usage outside of discussions of the Bible, such as in sci-fi franchises. For instance, with a franchise such as Star Trek, which has produced eleven movies so far (the twelfth is coming out next summer, apparently), practically countless books, a cartoon series, and story-based video games–let alone fan fiction–those who are “true fans” want to know which stories are “canon”–that is, which ones should be considered “true” and part of the franchise’s universe, such that any canonical additional stories must take into account those canonical stories that were written before them and can’t contradict them. Other, non-canon stories can differ from other stories as much as they like.  (Star Wars fans have not had as complicated a time as Trekkies, since their favorite franchise has not had as long to develop a vast amount of novels, but the new Disney-produced movies may pose a challenge as they will likely establish a new line of canon after the six previous Star Wars movies that will differ from the novels that had been considered canon up to this time.)

“Canon” is, in that sense, the “official tale” or “authorized story or set of facts.”

So, that said (why did I say it would be a “brief” thought today?), what do I mean by “personal canon”? I’m speaking of our individual efforts to weave a narrative tale for ourselves that we take to be true and by which we judge the truthfulness of other tales. For instance, one might be a aficionado of the American Civil War and have, in your mind, a working “canon” of how it progressed and what influences were responsible for what effects over the course of the war. Then, when you encounter new information, you compare it to the canon you’ve established: Does it fit your canon or not? If not, we tend to want to reject the idea outright or to accept it only with modification. If it fits our canon, then the information is assimilated more easily–even possibly reinforcing the canon.

If we’re rejected the information “as is” due to its disagreement with our personal canon, then we’re either right or wrong to do so… If we’re right, then no harm done in most cases. If we’re wrong, then we’ve missed a chance to revise our canon–to see that, just maybe, we don’t have things right after all.

What concerns me, though, isn’t so much our opinions about the Civil War. What concerns me is my interactions with others.

It is not uncommon (in my experience, at least) to see grudges continued on and on and on out of problems with personal canons: “This is the way it was, and there is no telling me that it was some other way!” And sometimes it seems that the individual who will not budge works hard at maintaining his or her belief in his personal canon even when ample evidence mounts that the canon is wrong.

Actually, I am reminded of the Apostle “Doubting” Thomas, with whom I identify a bit. When ten of his closest friends try to explain to him that they have seen the risen Christ, he refuses to modify his personal canon, part of which includes the belief that dead people just don’t come back to life again:

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)

I really do sympathize with Thomas, here. As they surely relate to him the details of their encounter with Jesus–the sights, the sounds, His specific words–he is willing to say that each and every one of these ten men is, essentially, either insane or lying, rather than to accept that he is simply wrong about the matter. (David Hume would be proud.)

And I’ve seen the same in personal grudges and disputes…

  • “I’m upset because they said X.”
  • Who said X?
  • “A, B, and C said X.”
  • But I just spoke with A, B, and C, and all of them say that they didn’t mean to say X at all–they were trying to say Y. Perhaps you just misunderstood what they meant.
  • “Well, they are lying now. They said X and meant it the way I know they mean it.”

In other words, “I’ve established my personal canon, and there is no going back.”

(By the way, any resemblance between A, B, & C and certain children whose last names rhyme with “Schmith” is completely not coincidental. 🙂 Resemblance to anyone else in your life, on the Internet, working in talk radio, or staring at you from your mirror may or may not be also. I will let you make that call!)

I am thankful to have had my tendency to build personal canon thrown in my face when I was 19 years old by my college roommate. We were in our beds chatting before falling asleep and he said something with which I disagreed and told him so–not rudely (at least I don’t think), just making conversation. He then, after a brief pause, said, “You know Wally, when someone says something you disagree with you don’t even consider what they said–you just figure it’s wrong and then keep thinking what you were thinking.” (Or, at least something to that effect.)

Of course, my first thought was, “That’s not true!” But, hopefully realizing that I was, perhaps, validating the very accusation that was presented to me, I resisted that thought and considered what he said. And, sure enough, as I examined myself that evening I found, annoyingly enough, that he was right–that is how I tended to react. I really didn’t give the comments of others enough weight if they obviously challenged my personal canon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that every such comment should be given equal weight. If anyone ever comes up to me and says that they just saw Elvis dressed like a leprechaun and chasing Bigfoot while riding a diamond-studded unicorn, I will be unlikely to exert any effort at all in examining my personal canon to revise it for this new “fact.” (Everyone knows Elvis rides UFOs, not unicorns.)

But when it comes to relationships or what I “know” to be true about others and what they’ve said and done or even thought and felt, I must be willing to see them differently than I do at any given moment. I have to be able to revise my personal canon, developed over my history with them, because–last I checked–I am human, and making mistakes is something that we humans are good at, even over long periods of time.

Marriage teaches this, or at least it should. We think we really know this person we’ve been married to for X years, and then they go and surprise us! Sometimes good, sometimes bad — I know that I have given my Beautiful Wife plenty of examples of both over the last 20 years. 🙂 But if I can still be surprised by someone whom I know better than anyone else on the planet, is it possible that I’ve made mistakes in my effort to understand anyone else? To be sure, I have and do.

I hope God will protect me from getting so married to my own personal canon that when reasonable evidence arrives to let me know I should revise it I end up refusing and risking damage to my relationships, my character, or even those around me in the future. Our personal canons should reflect reality, and that will take a willingness to revise them from time to time. Sometimes that thing I think A, B, and C meant really isn’t what A, B, and C meant.

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong

Oh, my poor neglected blog. I’ve had so much in my head running around that I would love to spend some time talking about, but I am prevented by the same reason I haven’t written much over the last couple of weeks — being blessed with work! 🙂

However, today I did want to say a few words on the anniversary of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s death, which occurred 26 years ago, today. I wish I had time to think it through more clearly so that I could write something more eloquent, but I hope this will still communicate what’s on my mind to say well enough, however imperfectly.

I remember seeing Mr. Armstrong on television so long ago, now, and being astounded at what was in my Bible that I had never seen before. I knew, however, that he was wrong on some things — like keeping that old Sabbath day! — but I was also intrigued by how much he got right. Then came his challenge (new to me, old to so many before) on the Sabbath: Don’t take my word for it! Sunday-keeping is not in the Bible–look for yourself!

[Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?]It worked. “Well, I will look for myself, sir — I’ll show you!”  I just knew that I had read somewhere in Scripture about why we should go to Church on Sunday. But while I did, indeed, come across many of the verses most use (and stretch!) to justify keeping Sunday instead of the seventh-day Sabbath, it was clear to me that I was wrong, and that the Sabbath deserved more attention than I had thought. (Feel free and begin taking a look for yourself.) It would be hard to describe all the feelings I experienced at that moment, but there were many.

So many years later, I look at the life I now have — and, most importantly, the God I now know — and I have so many reasons to be thankful.  But today, I want to simply say that I am thankful to Herbert W. Armstrong for his willingness to do God’s Work.

He is, sadly, so carelessly appropriated by those who would use his name to validate themselves and their own, personal work and ministry. I’ve covered this on several different occasions (e.g., “Recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image” and “Herbert W Armstrong and the ‘Whole, Pure Gospel'”), and I’m sure it will come up again. So many of those who piously wrap themselves in flags bearing his face and name seem to so consistently discredit him in the way they twist his words. They limit the gospel he preached. They limit what he said the Church should do. They limit how he said the Church would grow. While he was alive, he vehemently and publicly condemned spending time, money, and energy trying to pull members away from other Church of God fellowships, and yet many of those pretenders claiming his name spit in his eye and do exactly what he condemned. (That the letters are easily proven false and are generally ineffective does not reduce their shame.) They claim whatever links to him they can, hoping some of his authority will be seen to have rubbed off on them. (“I married someone who worked for him!” “I used to drive for him!” “I… er… have a cousin with the same name as him!”) They throw around deceptive and misleading “statistics” trying to say they have matched the fruit God produced through him. (They haven’t.) Some commit atrocities against their own members, claiming that this is how he would have had it done if he were still alive. Some have turned him into a Pope, or a Joseph W. Smith, or an Ellen G. White — acts which he warned against while he was alive. Some treat his writings as if they were scripture — denying they do this with their words but confirming they do their with their practice. Some are preaching the weirdest things in his name (e.g., anti-501(c)(3) silliness) when he, himself, would not recognize those teachings and, in some cases (e.g., anti-501(c)(3) silliness) condemns their ideas posthumously by his own recorded decisions (e.g., he personally made the WCG a 501(c)(3) compliant church until his death). The list goes on and on and on and on.

How shocked will Herbert W. Armstrong be in the resurrection when he learns about how his name was used and abused after he died?

In the world, how many times have humans killed each other on the battlefield, claiming to do so in the name of “Jesus”? In nominal Christianity, how much doctrinal deception has been foisted on the world in the name of “Paul”? And in the collection of those with a background in the old WCG, how many delusional despots and deceived-and-deceiving, self-appointed False Apostles, False Prophets, and False Witnesses have claimed their lying title in the name of “Armstrong”?

Yet, just as the atrocities claimed to be committed in Jesus’ name do not take away from the real Jesus Christ, and the false doctrines claimed to be taught in Paul’s name do not take away from the real Paul of Tarsus, the delusions of a few vainglorious, self-serving men claiming authority in the name of Armstrong do not take away from the real Herbert W. Armstrong.

As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite pictures of Mr. Herbert Armstrong.

I am so very thankful for Mr. Armstrong, and his willingness to allow God to do something through him that benefits so many to this day. I am thankful that he sought to found the Church on the solid rock of God’s Word. I am thankful for the work he did to spread what he called the “whole, pure Gospel” — the gospel of the Kingdom of God, including everything that gospel entails — so that I could learn it myself and pass it on to others.

I am thankful that Mr. Roderick C. Meredith has so faithfully continued the work Mr. Armstrong — and God through Mr. Armstrong — commissioned him to do. In the work it accomplishes, the truth it preaches, and the government it practices, I see no other organization anywhere on earth that better represents what God did through Mr. Armstrong than the Living Church of God. If I did, I would be there instead of here. Some claim to do so here and there, but their fruits show otherwise (no matter how hard they try to disguise those fruits from the public and from their members). More importantly, God’s Word shows otherwise.

Is that boasting? I hope not. But we all have to call them as we see them. Let God test those works — and He will (cf. 1 Cor. 3). Regardless, I absolutely know that I am not worthy of being where I am, knowing what I know, and getting to do what I do. I am just thankful.

And while he may (or may not) be shocked to see how many have used his name since his death to glorify themselves and act on their own ambitions, surely he will be overjoyed to see how many more people were added to the called-out saints and to the Family of God after his death through those who continued to do just as he had taught them from God’s Word and to see how his efforts continued to have an impact in the world in that way — all the way up to the return of the Savior he had come to know and love so thoroughly.

Although he won’t hear this until after the resurrection to glory, please allow me to say it here, even if it is a bit early…

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh… oh my…

Today’s Tomorrow’s World commentary, “Green Trees and Jesus,” brought the carol referred to in my title to mind. Worth a read! Here’s the first paragraph:


Green Trees and Jesus
by Gary F. Ehman

Looking back over the years, it has become evident to me that the gap between what the Bible says to do, and what its alleged followers actually do, has reached near absurd proportions…


Read the whole thing! You may not look at Christmas trees quite the same way again.

Herbert W. Armstrong and the “Whole, Pure Gospel”

Herbert and Loma Armstrong (from Autobiography, Vol 1)
What an incredible amount of abuse Mr. Armstrong is taking from those who claim to be "following" him. I suspect he will "have words" with some in the resurrection....

Well, thank God for Roderick C. Meredith. His article in this month’s Living Church News, “Which ‘Armstrong’ Do You Follow?” not only made the same point I did back in my “Recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image” post, but he said it better. (Go figure!) More importantly, as someone who spent so much of his life working with Mr. Armstrong so intimately, he said it more authoritatively than I–or, really, anyone else–ever could.

God’s Word is incredibly clear. It is a lie that the gospel is simply a story about Christ’s life. That’s not the gospel of the Bible. Even secular resources recognize the vital and central position that the Kingdom of God had in the message of Jesus Christ and the apostles. For anyone actually reading the Bible, the Kingdom of God cannot be escaped in the teachings of Jesus, and it is a scandal that mainstream Christianity neglects it so. It is also a lie to say that salvation through Jesus Christ is not a part of that gospel of the Kingdom of God and is not to be preached to the nations. It is. Don’t believe me, believe your Bible. And it is also a great lie to say that Jesus taught nothing about Himself in the message He brought from God. He did. Again, just read your Bible. Really, try to read the book of John while skipping over all of the teaching Christ gave about who He was to the masses. He truly was going to be the King of that coming Kingdom. He didn’t walk around telling everyone stories about His birth, etc., yet He truly did explain His role as the King of the kingdom and His role as the Way to that Kingdom.

When one reads the Bible—actually paying attention to it the way Mr. Armstrong taught us to do instead of simply trying to grab from it what they already agree with and ignoring the rest—the gospel brought by Jesus Christ and taught by His disciples, and by His Church today, is one of the greatest subjects ever discussed, truly vast in its scope, implications, and power.

Really, the Bible is clear, and that should be enough for us. But there are those who are so enamored by their own version of Mr. Armstrong and how their version of him emboldens them in their own stances and pursuits that they fail to see the truth of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong taught us so much about. They fail to see the man through the caricature they’ve created.

But Mr. Armstrong was clear, too. He preached the whole gospel. Indeed, I wouldn’t understand any of the gospel at all save for what God taught me, and many of us, through the words of Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.

Did Mr. Armstrong recognize that the gospel taught by mainstream Christianity was disastrously off? Of course! If anyone reads anything Mr. Armstrong wrote and doesn’t pick that up, they haven’t read much at all! He recognized that the “gospel” being touted by most was simply a story about Christ—not the actual Divine Message that He preached at all! Most cut the very heart of the gospel right out: the coming Kingdom of God! And the part they tried to teach about salvation, he recognized was a counterfeit that didn’t explain salvation, at all!

Plenty of quotes could be provided from Mr. Armstrong demonstrating that he understood this—and many provide such quotes. That Mr. Armstrong recognized that the shallow “gospel” about Christ had replaced the actual gospel OF Christ is a given, as easily demonstrated by ample amounts of “quotable quotes.” Who disputes that? I don’t. No one I know in the Church does.

But what about the quotes that those who attack the gospel don’t give? What about the quotes that illustrate Mr. Armstrong understood the gospel more fully than those who attack his message (while claiming to believe in it) give him credit for? Why don’t they provide those quotes, as well? And in the rare case when they do provide one of them, why do they insert their own commentary into the middle of Mr. Armstrong’s words, making him out to be the world’s worst writer instead of the powerfully effective “plain truth” preacher that he really was?

Again, for the sake of emphasis: The Bible record is clear about the gospel brought by Jesus Christ, and I am humbled to be allowed to be a part of a Work that continues—just as Herbert Armstrong did—to preach that gospel. If anyone would like to prove to me that what we preach is not that gospel, they are free to open their Bibles and try. I’d rather be shown to be wrong and be right with God, than to be declared right but be wrong with God. Really: Show me. Put your Bible where your mouth is.

However, this post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that many continue to, in effect, slander Herbert W Armstrong by saying that he preached an incomplete gospel—all while claiming to “stand for Herbert W Armstrong.” Some seem to do so with good intention, being honestly deceived by those skilled at quoting a lot without (wink, wink) quoting too much (nudge, nudge). Those who are self-deceived by their Jeremiah 17:9 hearts are another matter. It’s one matter to believe a lie out of confusion, but another entirely to continue in a lie because it serves one’s ego. As for which category one falls into, thankfully it is not my task to judge, but His. I’d rather assume the best until I have good reason to believe otherwise.

So, in the interest of serving those who can be served and of showing deception about a man many of us love and learned so much from for what it truly is, I provide the following far-from-exhaustive list of…

QUOTES THEY “FORGOT”

Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis on the coming Kingdom of God is legendary—he restored to the gospel what was lost or, worse, covered up. Quotes could be piled up forever to demonstrate that. But he also clarified and rectified that part of the gospel that others claimed to preach but corrupted and counterfeited. Here are some quotes a few seem to have forgotten and some self-appointed teachers seem to ignore. If you’ve never seen them before, perhaps they will help.

(Note: Where possible, I provide a link to the source, as well, so that you can also examine the quote in context. Many deceptively claim that the context changes the meaning of these quotes—I invite everyone to check the context for themselves to prove that this is not the case. In most cases, you can click on the title of the work or the date of the letters to see the whole file for yourself.)

In each case the emphasis is Mr. Armstrong’s except for any underlining I might use to draw attention to the parts relevant to the point at hand–which I will try to avoid, tempting as it may be!

“Now for centuries that Gospel has not been preached! It’s the ONLY true Gospel–the Message Jesus brought and preached–the one His first-century disciples DID carry to all the world of that day. Today that which is being preached around the world is a DIFFERENT gospel–a preaching which DENIES the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples. The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM is not being preached today to all the world for a witness to ALL NATIONS, and it has not been preached since Jesus’ first-century disciples carried it!”

(from September 21, 1944 co-worker letter)

Yes, the message preached by the world’s Christianity is, indeed, a “DIFFERENT gospel.” But does that mean that Christ’s role as Saviour is not a part of the message? Well, not according to Mr. Armstrong: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Wow. You’d think Mr. Meredith had written that very statement today. Those who erect a version of Mr. Armstrong in their own image try to make one part of the gospel replace the other, but—as Mr. Armstrong understood—they are part of the same gospel together!  It’s not that “Christ as Saviour” is NOT part of the gospel (as some would say)—rather, there is so much more to the gospel!

Read it again if you didn’t get it the first time: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples.” Note: “MORE than that,” not one instead of the other. This is exactly what we are saying, and it is exactly as Mr. Armstrong understood: we are to preach, in his words, not mine, “The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM.” To completely leave out “Christ as Saviour” from the message would FAIL to be the “whole, pure” gospel just as leaving out the Kingdom of God. Why should we make EITHER error? The first century Church didn’t. Mr. Armstrong didn’t. And we won’t. Why won’t others preach the whole gospel? I don’t know, but they certainly can’t claim Mr. Armstrong as their reason (let alone the Bible).

(And in case someone claims that the context changes the meaning of the quote, please feel free to read the entire letter. It’s clickable there at the date under the quote.)

“The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Thanks, Mr. Armstrong—we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

“THE TRUE GOSPEL

“Over 1900 years ago Jesus Christ came into this world with a Message direct from GOD. His Message was the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of His coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to abolish all present governments, to rule the whole earth, and bring, at last, PEACE, PROSPERITY, HAPPINESS, JOY, to sin-cursed suffering humanity.

“He proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom of God. He revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today–no real happiness or joy! The ways of God are the TRUE values. But men are living wrong. Jesus taught men how to live–revealed and taught the LAWS of His coming millennial Kingdom. He called on men everywhere to REPENT of the ways they live now, to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted–CHANGED by the power of God from sinning mortal flesh into righteous immortal spirits.”

(from June 9, 1947 co-worker letter)

So, the “Message direct from GOD” that Jesus came into the world to give about the Kingdom of God included a lot of things, didn’t it!  Mr. Armstrong says that Jesus “proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom… revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today… called on men everywhere to REPENT… to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted…”

Just to be clear, Mr. Armstrong says here that Jesus Christ’s message to those who heard Him included—among many things—that they should repent, live by God’s laws, and accept Him as Saviour.  Don’t believe me, believe Mr. Armstrong! (Of course, believe your Bible, but notice how Mr. Armstrong’s message matches that Bible.) Those who claim that Mr. Armstrong denied part of the gospel or that he taught that teaching “men everywhere” Christ as our Savior has no part in the gospel brought by Christ really have no leg to stand on.

Some try to make this mean that Christ had two “good news” messages (despite Mr. Armstrong’s statement that “Christ Brought No Other Gospel” on p.13 of The Incredible Human Potential) or that salvation and Christ as Savior is only taught to those who’ve been called and have responded (despite his comment that Christ taught these things to “men everywhere” and despite the fact that our booklets included Mr. Armstrong’s wonderful “Just what do you mean… SALVATION” (linked to below) which was offered publically and which tied in the truth about salvation and the kingdom of God nicely).

In the event that this quote from that letter doesn’t do the trick, Mr. Armstrong makes it explicit later:

“THIS is the TRUE GOSPEL–the Good News of the Kingdom of God, its Message of the right way to live, its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life! Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago–THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL–the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”

(from same June 9, 1947 co-worker letter)

(By the way, I’d like to see a certain self-appointed apostle stick some commentary into the middle of that sentence and change its meaning.)

Who can read that sentence and claim that Mr. Armstrong thought that the “TRUE GOSPEL”—“the Good News of the Kingdom of God”—did not also include the “Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life”? Notice, he calls redemption through Christ and salvation “its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life!” The “its” refers back to the “Good News of the Kingdom of God”! If it isn’t clear enough, after mentioning the Message about the right way to live, redemption through Christ, God’s gift of eternal life, Mr. Armstrong says immediately after: “Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago—THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL—the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”

Don’t read my commentary—read what Mr. Armstrong wrote! Don’t believe what I say that he said, read what he said! And don’t fall for the line that the quote is out of context—click on the date and read the entire letter. You tell me if the context changes anything. (Hint: It doesn’t.)

The letter explains how the false “gospel” of mainstream Christianity has rejected the Kingdom of God and perverted that portion of the gospel—“salvation”—which they claim to retain. Mr. Armstrong explains that “They [ministers today] have, thru deception and without knowing it in most instances, rejected the true way of salvation and entrance into that Kingdom!” He continues, explaining that they pervert “born again” and try to do way with God’s law. It’s good stuff! And stuff we preach, ourselves. To say that Mr. Armstrong’s condemnation of the world’s counterfeit “gospel” meant that he did not preach the whole gospel, himself, is to tell a lie. Or, at best, it is to mistake what he powerfully emphasized for the whole. (I may emphasize to my wife over wine and candlelight that she is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a smart cookie, too. Don’t mistake emphasis for entirety—Mr. Armstrong didn’t. Many who boast of carrying his banner do.)

“Back in 1934 God began RESTORING the knowledge of THE KINGDOM of GOD to those who would listen. That knowledge–the true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ–is being thundered with constantly multiplied power over ever-increasing areas, now WORLD-WIDE. God is now pleading with people around the world, THRU PREACHING–by A MESSAGE OF LOVE–to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”

(from November 27, 1958 “Dear Friend” letter)

So, preaching the “true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ” means preaching “A MESSAGE OF LOVE—to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”

How does this differ from the gospel we are preaching? Not a bit. Why do some want to perform a “Saviorectomy” on the gospel—as if “soon-coming KING” is a part of the gospel, but “Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest” is not. Sure they have the right to claim that. But it’s not in the Bible. And it’s not in the writings of Herbert W Armstrong.

“Yes, what GOOD NEWS! A world filled with good, sound, vigorous HEALTH—beaming, happy faces—PEACE—prosperity—JOY—SALVATION! It is to be real UTOPIA. It’s not impossible! ALL things are possible with GOD, and this is the DOING OF GOD.

“The original apostles carried on GOD’S WORK thru their lifetime. They preached this GOOD NEWS. They preached OBEDIENCE to GOD! They preached, not only believing in Christ—not only believing He is the divine Saviour—but also BELIEVING CHRIST— that is, believing what He preached and taught.”

(from January 8, 1958 co-worker letter)

How crucial a “not only” can be, hmmm? Apparently, it has the ability to make certain words invisible to some people. “Not only” implies a “this too” not a “that instead.”  Mr. Armstrong understood.

“Yes, JESUS CHRIST is opening doors–SPEEDING UP His powerful Message to a dying world. As world events hurl a helpless humanity faster and faster toward DESTRUCTION, so CHRIST hurls to a deceived world, faster and faster, His Message of PEACE, and SALVATION by God’s GRACE (those who try to deceive people into thinking we preach a gospel of salvation “by works” are deceived or deliberately misrepresenting to serve Satan)! The way is being prepared before CHRIST’S RETURN TO EARTH! Christ’s own Gospel is being RESTORED!”

(from April 18, 1961 co-worker letter)

So, Christ’s own Gospel, His Message, included “SALVATION by God’s GRACE.” For those who do not include it, as Christ’s gospel did, what does that say about their gospel?

 “Christ’s new Message for this hour — His TRUE Gospel — is going to ALL THE WORLD, into all nations, where it HAS NOT GONE, and could go in NO OTHER WAY, than this way God has opened up — of giving me such providential FAVOR in the eyes of heads of state — of delivering the Message through the very TOP officials in these nations. It is the MESSAGE OF WORLD PEACE — for universal PROSPERITY — and of salvation and ETERNAL LIFE — the Message of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

“NOBODY ELSE is carrying this Message to these nations! NOBODY!!!”

(from July 25, 1974 co-worker letter)

So the “Message of the KINGDOM OF GOD” that we are to preach to “ALL THE WORLD” is the Message of “salvation and ETERNAL LIFE” – pretty clear. They are a part of the Message about that coming Kingdom.

I could quote letters all day—the point would be the same. YES, Mr. Armstrong condemned the false gospel of his (and our) day. YES, he pointed out that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was not being preached, and that he was restoring what so many had rejected or lost—and how thankful we should be that he did! YES, he illustrated that the “substitute” gospel about the person of Christ instead of the message of Christ was a deceptive slight-of-hand by Satan the devil! YES, he pointed out that the world’s version of “salvation” is corrupt and degraded and that the true Way to salvation is not truly taught, unlike the vibrant fullness of salvation as described in the Bible and the true Way revealed there!

But, YES, he also understood that true salvation and redemption through Christ by grace, acceptance of Jesus Christ as our perfect Savior, the gift of eternal life and the true WAY to eternal life were all a part of that Message, as well—the Message Christ brought of the coming Kingdom of God. No one can legitimately deny that Mr. Herbert Armstrong believed these things. And though he recognized, as we recognize, that not all would “get it”—that not all would understand in this age—he also recognized that the mission to preach these things is still our mission, and that the Gospel will go out as a witness to the entire world, whether believed or not!

Since the theme of this (long) post is the “Quotes They ‘Forgot’” let’s look at a few others from the literature Mr. Armstrong produced.

One I won’t quote from because it would be too much, but here is a link to it: “Just what do you mean… SALVATION?” In this booklet offered to the public, Mr. Armstrong explains the topic SO plainly and he ties it in with the Kingdom of God. Anyone who does not believe that preaching the gospel does not involve preaching forgiveness through Christ’s blood on repentance and the unearned gift of eternal life (including what both of those things actually MEAN) either haven’t read this booklet in too long or else are in denial.  Feel free and read it for yourself.

Then there’s Herbert W Armstrong’s booklet “What Is the True Gospel?” In it, like Mr. Meredith does in our booklet “Do You Believe the True Gospel,” Mr. Armstrong makes the powerful case that the Message of Christ was the Message of the Kingdom of God! Makes sense to quote from this one, huh? But why is page 10 avoided?

“Conditions of Entering

“Now, HOW do we enter into that glorious KINGDOM? Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, ‘REPENT,’ and ‘BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.’

“Just TWO things we do – REPENT and BELIEVE. We must BELIEVE the Gospel, and that means also believing on JESUS CHRIST, the KING of the Kingdom of God, and coming KING of kings over all the families of the earth. It means believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR, as High Priest now, and as coming KING.”

(What Is the TRUE GOSPEL?, p.10)

So believing the Gospel includes “believing on JESUS CHRIST” and “believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR” (Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis, not mine). This makes no sense whatsoever if Christ’s role as our personal Savior were not a part of the Gospel.

Feel free to read the entire booklet. Get all the context you want. Nowhere does it contradict the idea that Christ’s role as our Savior, yours and mine, is, indeed, a part of the Gospel.

Mr. Armstrong makes the inclusion of these things even more explicit in his article “Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible”—published no less than FIVE TIMES while he was alive (July 1949, July 1953, July 1959, January 1971, January 1980) [Note: The one I link to is the original July 1949 publication, but feel free to look any of them up that you like in various resources on the Internet. If anyone claims that one of them says something different, I will happily post it here, too.]

Read what Mr. Armstrong says so clearly in the section titled “The True Gospel”—I will quote a large section partially because some say that we’ve taken his statement out of context and partially because some have inserted their own commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s plain words so as to twist what he says. Read it for yourself—no twists, just the facts:

“What is Christ’s Gospel? What is the Message God sent to mankind by Jesus Christ? It is the GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD! ‘Kingdom’ means GOVERNMENT! It is the Message of Divine Government–government by GOD’S LAWS!

“It is the prophetic proclamation of the coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to rule all nations and bring today’s confused, chaotic, war-weary earth PEACE, and JOY! It is the vital, dynamic, powerful living Message of GOD’S GOVERNMENT, first in individual hearts now in this world, later over all nations internationally in The WORLD TOMORROW!

“Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost! And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom–the fact it is this earth, and not heaven! But there can be no GOVERNMENT without LAWS, and so the TRUE GOSPEL also must proclaim the LAW of God, which alone can bring peace to the world and success, happiness and joy to the individual!”

(Plain Truth, July 1949, “The Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible”)

Again, if you don’t trust the context, read the whole article. Nothing in that context changes the simple truth of what Mr. Armstrong says. And, just as importantly, the actual context completely disproves the silly commentary that certain pretenders have inserted themselves, as if Mr. Armstrong couldn’t carry a coherent thought through a handful of paragraphs. Unbelievable.

Reading the whole helps to shine light on the deception in some who claim that somehow in that entire passage, “Message” means Gospel except for the one sentence where Mr. Armstrong says that the Message includes “the knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation.” Look at the VERY NEXT SENTENCE: “And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom…” The “it” refers to the Message just discussed—you know, the one that “of course” includes the knowledge of the Savior and the true way to salvation. Was Mr. Armstrong truly the worst writer in the world, or did he actually mean what he said? Did he actually write an entire section about the “Message” of the Gospel, but—in one, single, weird non sequitur sentence—change “Message” to mean something else, and then CHANGE RIGHT BACK to meaning the Gospel, again?!? In the very next sentence?!? Did Mr. Armstrong use “Message” five times in one small section of an article and mean “Gospel” in four of them and “Not Gospel” in one of them—and changing the meaning without notifying the reader that he had done so, and then changing it back, all in the space of two or three sentences?

One who claims this is either a deceiver or self-deceived (cf. 2 Tim 3:13). Regardless, they insult Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.

The fact is, those things—“knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation” are so obviously a part of the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong prefaces each statement with an “Of course”: “Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost!”

No wonder particular deceivers have to insert commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s words and fail to quote the entire passage. Mr. Armstrong really did write the plain truth. Why are we criticized for including something in the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong said was included “of course”?

Again, the Bible is clear. But, for the record, so is Mr. Armstrong.

I know this has been a long post, and I do beg your forgiveness, but given the way a tiny few desire to twist and pervert Mr. Armstrong’s words, this topic gets me rather riled up. While we could swim in quotes forever, let me just give you one more reference: the first two chapters of Mr. Armstrong’s amazing book The Incredible Human Potential, both of which cover the Gospel.

There is WAY too much to quote from this source, and I encourage the reader to obtain a copy of this magnificent book. You can find it on Amazon or Ebay at times. My copy is the orange-covered “Special Commemorative Edition” from the 1978 Feast of Tabernacles. Rather than link to the entire book (though I do encourage you to read the entire book!), let me provide a link to a copy of the first two chapters.

Read the whole thing, but here are some highlights that put the lie to the idea of a narrow Gospel that has no room for salvation, and Jesus Christ as our Saviour and the true way to salvation…

“I must call the reader’s attention again at this point to the fact that a full and complete understanding of the message sent by God to all mankind, by His Divine Messenger Jesus Christ, involves a vast comprehension of God’s great purpose, and of events prehistoric, historic, present and future.

“I might say that it means an overall understanding of everything!

(The Incredible Human Potential, p.15)

Interesting that it somehow isn’t supposed to include the meaning of or need for Christ’s sacrifice for us, huh? I suppose that “everything” doesn’t include those things. (I hope you note that my tongue is in my cheek.)

Please note this passage on p.16.  Those who believe that preaching the truth about Jesus Christ or about salvation or about a right understanding of grace (which Mr. Armstrong explained thoroughly) need to understand the real problem Mr. Armstrong saw in the world’s “gospel”! The following passage has his usual emphases (with full caps for small caps, though), but the underlining is mine to highlight what so many seem to miss:

“I have said that you hear many gospel programs today. One uses the slogan, ‘Preaching Christ to the Nations.’ One might ask, ‘Well what’s WRONG about preaching ABOUT Christ?’ Or, ‘Well what’s wrong about preaching a gospel of grace?’ Or, ‘What’s wrong about proclaiming a message about salvation?’

“I have shown you the scriptures showing they started, even in the first century, preaching about a DIFFERENT Jesus – a Jesus supposed to have abolished His Father’s commandments – who turned ‘grace’ into license to disobey (II Cor. 11:4, 13-15 and Jude 4). They do not today preach the REAL Jesus, who said, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments,’ setting us an example that we should keep them also.

If those who claim to preach a gospel of SALVATION understood and proclaimed WHAT salvation really is – whether it is going to a PLACE, being changed into a different CONDITION, or WHAT – or WHERE – and HOW it may be obtained, it might be a part of the true gospel. But today’s ‘gospel’ programs do not teach what salvation really is or how one may receive it. Then the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the ditch.”

(The Incredible Human Potential, p.16)

How much plainer can Mr. Armstrong make it? In fact, if you’ve actually read his booklet on Salvation, linked to above, then you know this is EXACTLY WHAT HE DID PREACH ABOUT SALVATION! By his own words, if the TRUTH about salvation—what it really is, what it truly means, and how it is truly obtained—were taught, then it could be—according to Mr. Armstrong—a part of the true gospel! Did he teach correctly about these things? Yes, he did! Then they were a part of the true gospel!

He didn’t take issue with the fact that Jesus and salvation were being talked about, in and of themselves. Rather, that a DIFFERENT Jesus and a COUNTERFEIT salvation were being preached!  Not only were these things, alone, insufficient to encompass the Kingdom of God, they were counterfeits of the truth! And he showed repeatedly the plain truth of this in his own writings.

For anyone to say that teaching biblically and accurately who Jesus Christ was and what salvation truly means and how salvation may truly be received is somehow NOT part of the gospel, they disagree with Mr. Armstrong.  Again (again, again, again,), the most important thing is whether or not the BIBLE says these things! But for those who are smearing Mr. Armstrong by claiming that he preached otherwise, it’s important to know that he preached them, too.

Really, read both of those chapters from The Incredible Human Potential—if not the whole book.

For those who are simply confused about how salvation through Jesus Christ relates to the Kingdom of God, Mr. Armstrong touches on this in his last section of Chapter 2 (pp.18-19):

What Christ’s Gospel Was All About

“I say Christ’s gospel – the message He brought from God – as the advance good news of the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

“But just what does that include?

“And why is the Kingdom of God necessary?

“Just how does it affect and relate directly to your personal and individual life?

“Actually, Christ’s message of God’s coming Kingdom is directly concerned with world origins as they are – with human nature – its source and origin – with world evils, suffering, unhappiness – with world peace. It’s concerned with government – with the reason present human governments fail to be the benefactors of their peoples they are supposed to be.

“His message hits directly at the very roots of individual personal happiness and at the awesome transcendent potential of each human life. It is concerned with the CAUSES of present conditions that affect every human and with the WAY that will solve all problems.

“But it is concerned with far, far more.

“It is concerned with God’s tremendous, overwhelming, overall purpose a Creator of the entire universe. It’s concerned with the entire vast universe, filled with its uncountable galaxies, nebulae, suns, stars, planets, and with God’s purpose for them. It’s concerned with all the angels – with the fact that one third of all God’s created angels turned to SIN from which there can be no redemption, and God’s great purpose and plan to prevent such a catastrophe happening to the other two thirds.

“Most of these things are never remotely considered in religious teachings in this world. God’s message is concerned with overall truth.

“What has been covered so far should be considered as merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”

(The Incredible Human Potential, pp.18-19)

Wow. The purpose of man, his whole history, the way he has failed and the Way to succeed—the universe in all its created majesty and all it contains…  All of this, “merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”

Those who claim—against all evidence—that the sacrifice of Christ, His living in us, and the way of salvation are no part of the gospel should be ashamed. The Bible shows them to be wrong. Mr. Armstrong’s words show them to be wrong. The Gospel that Jesus Christ brought to mankind and asks us to proclaim really is, as Mr. Armstrong described it, “all-encompassing subject that can enter the mind of man.”

For those who’ve too quickly taken the word of confused individuals concerning what Mr. Herbert Armstrong said about these things, I hope this is a help.

There are so many more quotes we could go through, but this post is gigantic as it is.

In conclusion:

  • Thank God for Mr. Roderick Meredith and his willingness to be faithful to the Bible, which just so happens to mean being faithful to Mr. Armstrong in this vital issue, as well. Thank God for his friendship with Mr. Armstrong, and for living long enough to provide a living link to the man instead of the false images of the man crafted by others.
  • Thank God that Mr. Herbert Armstrong did not match any of the caricatures his supposed, self-appointed “standard bearers” make of him.
  • Thank God for the truth about what Mr. Armstrong called “the whole, pure gospel.”
  • Don’t let anyone slander Mr. Herbert W Armstrong by saying he only preached part of the gospel—waving their hands like a magician and trying to turn what he powerfully emphasized in the gospel into the “only” thing he taught of the gospel.
  • Don’t let anyone perform any similar “hand waving” to make you think that Mr. Armstrong said something other than what he actually said. Don’t take their word for it—read the original in context and without their inserted commentary.
  • Don’t let anyone take advantage of your love for Mr. Armstrong and what God did through him in such a way that they ironically pull you away from the very gospel he, himself, preached.
  • If anyone can prove to me from God’s Word that the gospel is somehow different than what we are proclaiming, they are free to do so. I’m all ears. Until then, we’ll preach the same biblical message Mr. Armstrong believed and preached in. Thanks.
  • And, as always, don’t believe me—believe your Bible.

I do believe that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was used as an Apostle by Jesus Christ. It is a shame to those who would twist his words today while professing some sort of weird faithfulness to him.

Recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image

Herbert and Loma Armstrong (from Autobiography, Vol 1)
One of my favorite pictures of Mr. Armstrong, taken from the first volume of his autobiography.

I thought this would be a good place to follow up on some comments I made in a recent Bible study in our area. Wyatt Ciesielka’s excellent commentary out today has prodded me, as well (read here: “Are you being taught a false gospel?”).

One thing I appreciate about the Living Church of God — and something that I do not find anyplace else I have looked — is an effective dedication to the Bible above all else and to the proper respect for the teachings and work of Herbert W Armstrong. These intersect, of course, in the fact that Mr. Armstrong taught all of us — often before we even had attended, though watching him on television or reading his many (many!) writings — to look to the Bible for our source. He frequently said as we continue to say on the Tomorrow’s World program: “Don’t believe me, believe your Bible!”

Consequently, we use God’s Word as the foundation for what we teach and practice, and what we teach and practice is a continuation of what we learned under Herbert Armstrong. We continue in the dedication he instilled in us: If we find a practice or belief that we hold actually disagrees with Scripture, we are committed to change it. Thankfully, that’s a rare occasion, indeed, due in great part to the Bible-based foundation God laid in the Church through Mr. Armstrong, himself! However, Mr. Armstrong stressed that such an attitude would be a hallmark of the true Church of God, and we believe him to be correct.

All of this said, when we are justifying our beliefs it is sufficient to point out the Scriptural basis. The Bible is our foundation, and if what we say and do is in accordance with God’s Word, then we need no other justification: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Yet, our (very appropriate) love and fondness for Mr. Armstrong, a man we rightly believe to have been a modern day apostle, is used by many to turn some away from the truth — and even from what he, himself, taught — in subtle, deceptive ways. They do this by recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image.

Many do this these days. Tellingly, they do not agree with each other. I remember driving down Central Expressway once in Dallas (actually, it could have been the 635 loop–it’s been a while!) and almost running off the road when I saw a giant billboard with Mr. Armstrong’s face on it. I actually exited the highway, looped around, and got back on to look at it again. It was an advertisement for some sort of public presentation by one of the many “pretenders to the throne” (“graspers of the mantle”?) out there claiming to stand for what Mr. Armstrong preached and taught and claiming that a man who can no longer speak for himself would completely endorse what the pretender had to say.

This fellow is not alone. Many like to parade an image of Mr. Armstrong and claim his posthumous endorsement. Logically they cannot all be right, given how much they despise and disagree each other, yet logically they can all be wrong. The latter would be the case. (Some reading this may disagree. “Well, welcome to my blog,” he says, with emphasis on the word “my.”)

What they do is recreate Mr. Armstrong in their own image. They tend to take the things he said that they wish to emphasize and highlight those things (often with a great deal of bluster and chest thumping), while they tend to diminish, minimize, or explain away those things he said that clearly disagree with their personal doctrinal obsession or their justification for self-promotion. They do this in a variety of ways.

One way is to take advantage of the fact that Mr. Armstrong wrote a lot — and I mean a lot! Consequently, there are many, many, many quotes one can collect from Mr. Armstrong to give weight to your perspective. And for most, you can count on readers not to actually look up the original books and booklets and to read more than the quoted sections to gain a larger, more accurate perspective of what Mr. Armstrong believed and taught. For instance, this happens a lot with the Gospel, which Mr. Ciesielka discussed today in his commentary. For those who actually read what Mr. Armstrong wrote and not just the parts quoted by those who would twist him for their own purposes, Herbert W Armstrong’s view of just how encompassing the gospel of the Kingdom of God was is plain and clear. In his own words, he makes his thoughts clear. The Living Church of God is not only right with Scripture in its presentation of the Gospel, but it is also in perfect harmony with the writings of Herbert W Armstrong. I’ve read more than the quote — I’ve read the whole article, the whole booklet. I’ve read more than the passages — I’ve read the whole book. I won’t be fooled by those who will parade many of his statements around in an effort to contradict the additional statements he made which they will not provide — at least not without deceptive commentary of their own added, which I’ll discuss in a moment — and I am humbled to be a part of the continuation of his efforts to preach the very same gospel to the world via television and other media.

Another way they deceive those who love Herbert W Armstrong and recreate him in their own image is to “enhance” his own words with their own personal commentary. I’ve seen at least one hilarious version of this taken to a ridiculous extreme, in which an incredibly clear statement made by Mr. Armstrong concerning the fullness of the gospel’s content is twisted by inserting the deceptive teacher’s own words and explanation into Mr. Armstrong’s words so as to make Mr. Armstrong’s original writing incoherent. Even today, more than 25 years after his death, Herbert Armstrong remains one of the clearest writers I have ever read — there’s a reason he called his magazine the Plain Truth! Yet this one deceptive “augmented” quote I have in mind would have us believe the man couldn’t put two sentences together without our needing him to explain why the two sentences are self-contradictory. Unbelievable. (And, frankly, a sign of how desperate and self-deceived some people can be.)

While I said it’s “hilarious” it really isn’t, because it’s well-crafted lies like that which are used to deceive individuals of good intention. And, actually, it isn’t “unbelievable” either, since such actions and manipulations are necessary if one is to effectively deceive. For instance, the “teacher” I referenced just above has no choice but to effectively undermine Mr. Armstrong’s ability to string three understandable sentences together meaningfully, because in those three sentences the entire argument of this “teacher” falls apart. But, let’s not let Mr. Armstrong’s gift for clarity get in the way of a good deceptive rant, hmm?

It’s sad, especially given the fact that many of those who do such violence to Mr. Armstrong’s writings would also rail against Protestant scholars and the like who do the very same thing to biblical writers, such as the Apostle Paul! Who couldn’t go through the writings of Paul — inspired, inerrant writings, at that! — and easily pull a volume of selected quotes and passages that seem to confirm every false teaching that law-hating antinomians try to place in Paul’s mouth? Then, we could turn around — like so many do — and use that volume to (deceptively) contradict the other things Paul said, explaining (for instance), “Well, don’t read that the way it sounds, since we know he can’t mean that the law is still to be kept today!” and “enhancing” those passages with their own commentary to make them say something they clearly don’t. They have done this with Paul for almost 1900 years (something Peter warned about: 2 Peter 3:15-17). With so much available in the many, many writings of Herbert W Armstrong, whose amazing writing career as a minister of Jesus Christ stretched over the better part of a century, is it surprising that it’s done today? Nope. But it is surprising that those who rail in particular against the techniques of deceived and deceptive scholars are so quick to use the very same technique themselves. Surprising and shameful.

Now, on one hand, it’s easy to say, “So what?” After all, we know what the Bible teaches, and we are dedicated to teaching what God said. And we know what Mr. Armstrong really believed, regardless of how he is distorted. Why worry about how others are twisting Mr. Armstrong’s words as long as we know the truth?

There is truth in that thought. However, as I mentioned before, there are those — some somewhat innocent and either self-deceived or deceived by others, and others not so innocent who should know better — who would take advantage of a Church member’s good and right loyalty to Mr. Armstrong to lure them away from God’s Word as they seek followers for themselves or as they seek validation for the private religion they have crafted out of their filtered collection of Mr. Armstrong’s teachings and their own opinions.

It’s one thing to differ with Mr. Armstrong over what the Bible said and to discuss that topic together to see the plain truth of the matter, knowing that that is exactly what Mr. Armstrong would want us to do. We should be willing to do that if such times arise as Jesus Christ continues to lead His Church. Should a difference be discovered between those things we teach now in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps and what the Bible says, that difference should be examined and the truth determined beyond doubt. It is, frankly, exactly what he taught us to do, and I am thankful to be a part of an organization that understands that — that understands this practice which, again, Herbert Armstrong called one of the key hallmarks of the True Church: the willingness to change when we discover error.

But it is another thing entirely to actually agree with Mr. Armstrong and then to have individuals and organizations twist what he said to paint a deceptive picture of disagreement in order to gain followers for themselves or to satisfy their own egos. Such lies should be exposed for what they are.

I am thankful to God that the Living Church of God is currently being run under Jesus Christ by someone, Mr. Roderick C. Meredith, who actually knew Herbert W Armstrong — who worked closely with him, who loved him, who respects him, and who has demonstrated over a lifetime his willingness in the face of attack and accusation to follow in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps as he followed Christ. I am thankful to be a part of a Church which recognizes Mr. Armstrong for being the apostle he was, restoring fundamental biblical truths to the Church and beginning a work which continues today and which will continue up to the return of Jesus Christ. I am thankful to be a part of a Church which doesn’t feel the need to toss Mr. Armstrong’s teachings and guidance out the window, as if doing something new or doing something differently than he did is somehow a virtue in itself. I am thankful to be a part of a Church that recognizes one of the greatest gifts he left us: a devotion to the truth of the Bible above all else, in which we change whenever we need to do so — however rarely that may be — in order to better live and teach in accordance to God’s Word, as Jesus Christ continues to lead His Church.

And I am thankful that Mr. Meredith and the organization he runs under Jesus Christ hasn’t fallen into the trap that so many have by recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own images. And how many different images they have created!

One day Mr. Armstrong will live again in the Kingdom of God. Consequently, I imagine a day is coming when he and those who have used his own words to deceive others and or to satisfy their own egos will find themselves having a very interesting conversation…

Until then, I am thankful to be a part of the Living Church of God, where I can honor the memory of the man God used to call me into His truth — by continuing to live that truth, by continuing to teach it to others, by continuing to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 6), and by refusing to reshape that man in my own image to suit my own purposes.

TW article on the 1611 King James Version

[Image of John 1 from the 1611 KJV]I appreciated Mr. John Meakin’s article in the current issue of the Tomorrow’s World magazine on the anniversary of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  It did a great job of honoring that wonderful work without falling into the trap of idolizing it as some “Christians” do (in fact, Mr. Meakin warns specifically against it).

Hopefully those who have fallen for the horrible arguments claiming that the KJV is a perfect translation will re-examine those arguments, as they really are bad arguments.  For all of its outstanding merits, and there are many, the KJV is not a perfect translation.  (I won’t repeat here much discussion of the fact that most who claim the perfection of the 1611 do not actually use the 1611 but a revision of it made in the late 1700s. I discussed that here.)

And, also, hopefully those who have fallen for the “National Enquirer”-style “research” that claims the New King James Bible and some other modern translations are completely New Age products of devotees to witchcraft will also re-examine those arguments, as well, which are just as shoddy.  While I am not a fan of most modern translations on the whole, having actually researched some the facts (as opposed to simply accepting the first thing I might find on the internet that validates my ignorant opinions) I am a huge fan of the New King James version, and there are some more accurate readings in some of the other translations, as well.

Again, I discuss more details in my previous post about the NKJV and the 1611 KJV, but I do recommend Mr. Meakin’s article, and it was great to see it in the current issue of the magazine.

400th Anniversary of the 1611 King James Version

The first page of the Book of Genesis from the...
Image via Wikipedia

This little post will fall quite short of the momentous event it will mention, but I know myself too well: if I wait until I believe I have time to write a lot, I will never write. So I am settling for writing a relatively small amount, knowing that at least I will have written something!

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Translation of the Holy Bible — beyond all doubt, a singular milestone in the long and storied history of God’s Word!  Perhaps no translation of the Holy Scriptures in the last 2000 years has affected the world like the KJV has.  Whether you love the KJV or hate it, you have to confess that the work of those scholars four centuries ago has had an impact that has far outlasted them.

For those interested in thinking of ways to recognize this anniversary in some relevant way, I recommend reading about the history of Bible translations.  Many people who love the King James Version have no idea about its history or the versions which preceded it and laid the foundation on which it stands.

For instance, I often get funny looks from people when I say that many who think they have “original” 1611 King James Translation, when, in fact, they almost certainly do not. “But it says ‘1611’ at the front!’  True, but read more closely; often it says that the text they possess is “conformable to” the 1611 version.  It is not, itself, the 1611 version. Practically every King James Version today is the result of the revision made of the King James Version in 1769 to correct its spelling, punctuation, a small number of perceived translations problems, and printing inconsistencies.  (Actually, there’s more to it than that. Read the history for yourself–it’s good stuff!)  This is part of what annoys me about those in the “KJV Only” crowd who treat the 1611 King James Version as if it were a “perfect” translation: In almost all cases, the “1611 KJV” they quote from is actually a revision of that supposedly perfect translation and they often have no idea.  Which do you have?  Well, one of the quickest ways to check is to check the spelling: The original 1611 translation has very archaic spelling, even moreso than the King James Version in use, today.  For instance, here is Genesis 1:1 in the 1611 King James Version:

“In the beginning God created the Heauen, and the Earth. And the earth was without forme, and voyd, and darkenesse was vpon the face of the deepe: and the Spirit of God mooued vpon the face of the waters.”

If your King James Version Genesis 1:1 doesn’t read exactly like that, then it is not the 1611.  No typos there: u’s for v’s, v’s for u’s, “Heauen”, “voyd”, “mooued” — that‘s the true 1611 King James Version.  Or, perhaps I should say the trve 1611 King James Uersion. 🙂

There’s more to be said — and maybe I will say more another day.  But suffice it to say that a true 1611 translation is a rarity.  If you have a King James Version, it is, in almost all cases, a product of the 1769 revision — a revision to improve spelling, punctuation, and translation, similar in spirit in many ways to the New King James Version, my personal favorite.

There is no perfect translation into English — at least none that has been produced so far. In this, the misguided-but-sincere “1611 Only” folks are mistaken.  At the same time, many of the modern translations are truly very faulty.  It may not be popular to say so amongst many of the reigning “intelligentsia” in the field, but the King James Version remains–however imperfect–a marvelous translation, and the New King James Version–however imperfect, itself–is an excellent one, as well, and, in my humble opinion, beat the pants off of most of the more modern translations, today.

That said, there is, still, value in other translations: the RSV, the NASB, the newer ESV. Even the NIV translators occasionally offer an improved translation, however accidentally they may have tripped over it.  Then there are singular and unique translations, such as Moffatt, the Williams New Testament, or Young’s Literal Translation.  While I know of no other translations that I consider to be “all around” as good as the KJV and the NKJV, there are many benefits that come from comparing translations carefully and considering another translator’s take.  Our Church has a history of using primarily the KJV and the NKJV, but being open to using other interpretations occasionally which may, in some points, be better.  This reminds me in ways I do not have time to discuss of the approach of the original New Testament authors, themselves, in their quoting of the Old Testament.  It is an approach that has served us well, and, thankfully, I do not see it changing any time soon.

And, by the way, some (though not all) of the negative things said about other versions and their translators have been proven false. For instance, I may agree that much of the work of Wescott and Hort is fundamentally flawed and I may disagree with their approach, but the claim that they were secretly anti-“Christian” spiritualists speaking with the dead has been refuted and should die.  Some people are so ready to defend the translation methods of the KJV and the NKJV, as I am, that they are too ready to believe such scurrilous tales. Yes, I’ve seen the so-called “quotes,” too, but I’ve also seen their sources and checked them out. Look deeper, and be more careful about besmirching the character of another human being. As Christ commands, don’t just judge: judge with righteous judgment and not according to appearance (John 7:24).  This usually involves doing more thorough research than most do–and not stopping just because you find “evidence” that supports the position you’ve already taken.  (Just to be clear: I am not a fan of Wescott and Hort; but the truth is too important to me to accept a lie, even if that lie can be used to “support” the truth I believe. Truth is never served by supporting it with lies, however sincerely believed.)

So, hopefully we can take advantage of the 400th anniversary of the creation of the King James Version of the Bible to educate ourselves.  It may not be perfect, but it is a beautiful translation–still, in many ways, better and more accurate than its more recent competitors.

For those wanting to peruse some internet resources, click here for a website containing images from a 1611 KJV, page by page, provided by the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image.

Something similar (with a fancy page-turning effect) is provided by the King James Bible Trust, the website of which has a great deal of information that you might find interesting.

Some great, detailed information on the change from the 1611 King James translation to the “Oxford Standard” of 1769 that is in use today can be found here at www.bible-research.com.

A very accessible book I have really enjoyed which authoritatively discusses the creation off the New King James Version — and, in doing so, says much about the King James Version, itself — is The New King James Version: In the Great Tradition, written by the NKJV translation’s Executive Editor, Arthur L. Farstad.

Also, Thomas Nelson is publishing in various forms a 400th Anniversary reprinting (facsimile) of the 1611 King James Version, itself.  The packages vary: some are bundled with similarly bound NKJV’s, others are just the 1611 KJV, while still others are the 1611 KJV but with lower quality binding to keep the cost down.  At least some of the packages promise something free from the History Channel–perhaps a DVD or something, I’m afraid I do not know what.  Expect to pay $40-$100 in stores, depending on what package you get, but it might be a nice resource to have, and some of the printings I handled seemed to be in great shape and very sturdy.  (Cheaper printings by other publishers are available.)  At the very least, having a real copy or facsimile of the 1611 in your hands is enough to help any doubter to realize that his KJV is not the 1611 original.

There is much I disagree with when it comes to many in the “KJV Only” crowd, but on this we are in strong agreement: The creation of the King James Version was an event that had the attention of heaven and represents a milestone in the history of God’s Word that demands our respect and our appreciation.  The hard and faithful work of those scholars in 1611 has not only shaped history for the last 400 years, it has shaped lives.  And it continues to do so.  I, for one, look forward to meeting those fellows when they are brought up from the grave to physical life once again, and to helping them to see the true meaning of the words they devoted so much of their own lives to translating.  Their work has had truly eternal consequences, and several centuries’ worth of humanity owe them their gratitude.

Life on Mars, Part 4 – Implications for Mars

To summarize what we’ve discussed so far, the Bible – looking at the whole of the revelation and not coming to it with preconceived notions – is seen to describe an earth that was created and existed long before the recreation account given in Genesis 1:2-2:7.  Before the state of chaos and ruin in which we find it in Genesis 1:2, it was inhabited by angels, placed there and given authority do that they might fulfill God’s purpose and serve His plan.  The leader of these angels, Lucifer, rebelled against God, becoming the being now known as Satan the devil, and ultimately about one-third of the angels joined him in this rebellion.  That rebellion ended as all such rebellions do: in failure.  Their sin resulted in the destruction of the world, bringing it into a state of tohu and bohu – it was now a desolate waste and a chaotic ruin.

But God’s plan will not be thwarted, and the earth is renewed over the course of six days, culminating in the creation of man on that day and a Sabbath rest on the next.  Deceived and tempted by that being Satan, who still sits in authority over this world, man took the wrong path in those early days and chose to decide right and wrong for himself instead of accepting God’s revelation of right and wrong.  So the path to tohu and bohu began to be trod anew.

This catches us up with the earth.  But what of the rest of creation?  Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth.  The word “heavens” is, indeed, plural, though not all translations make this clear.  Does the Bible speak of multiple “heavens”?  Yes, it does: the heaven of the earth’s atmosphere (Daniel 2:38); the heaven of space, home of the stars and planets (Isaiah 13:10); and the “third heaven” of the spiritual realm and God’s throne (2 Cor. 12:2).  Genesis 1:1 suggests that the word “creation” – in its broadest meaning – encompasses all of these things.  The earth is surely God’s handiwork, yet so too are the moon, the sun, the stars and the planets.

Romans 8:20-21 teaches us something interesting.  It says that, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  Some have interpreted “creation” here to mean this earth, which was so subjected at Adam’s sin.  Others have said that “the creation” is the society of man and was so subjected at the confusion of Babel.  But there is no need to limit “the creation” in this way.  Actually, Romans 8:22 adds the context that the “whole creation” is under discussion: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

We have sent numerous probes and space craft into the solar system and beyond.  And while the images they bring back are marvelous to behold and stir the imagination, the scenes always communicate the same message: a creation subjected to futility.  Mars, specifically, has been the source of awesome pictures, from the time that Viking landed on its surface until now, when Spirit and Opportunity are roaming and exploring its rugged landscapes.  Pictures from such images always, as varied as they may be, always fit within the same theme, and show us a wasteland, desolate and uninhabitable.  I marveled at the first images I saw transmitted back from the most recent missions, but – right or wrong – two words constantly leapt into my mind as I gazed at them: tohu and bohu.

And the thought makes me wonder: Did the rebellion of Satan and his demons have any consequences beyond the earth?  Was only the earth a beautiful place before that rebellion?   A war in one’s land brings devastation to more than the combatants, themselves, and the effects of humanity’s aggression are often felt far and wide – and the longer the war, the greater the potential for devastation.  What havoc might a war in the spirit realm cause?  How long might such a war last?  God says that with Him a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day (2 Peter 3:8).  We know that time passes for angelic beings (Daniel 10:12-13), but just what is the nature of their relationship to the flow of time?  Resisting the temptation to be too dogmatic (to which I am sure some readers feel I caved a long time ago), we must at least admit that what we don’t know opens up many possibilities.

Was Mars always in such a devastated state as this?  Scientists who have no “dog in the hunt” in terms of Biblical understanding and interpretation have certainly envisioned a “wetter, warmer” Mars in the distant past.  Is there room in Scripture for such a possibility?

While Scripture doesn’t mandate a “life worthy” Mars, I don’t see any passage in the Bible in which it is ruled out.  As far as I can tell, it is entirely feasible within the boundaries of Scripture that in that distant past Mars was a lovely creation, with lakes, oceans, forests – possibly even animal life.  The picture painted by the whole of Scripture demands Adam and Eve to be the first humans beings, in possession of the human spirit and capable of having a relationship with God.  But is there any such restriction on animal life?  I don’t see one – much less on microbes and single-celled organisms, which might be considered more closely related in terms of their importance and role on earth to the non-animal organic landscape of our planet than they are to complex animal life.  (This would seem to fit the view of some authors, such as Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee in Rare Earth).

Given the possibilities for a solar system that could have been in a much better state before the state of tohu and bohu to which (at least) the earth was exposed, what might we find while exploring the desolate landscape of Mars?

  • Nothing?

Certainly a possibility.  Rocks.  Dirt.  Craters.  Maybe some liquid water under the surface.  Scripture certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that what we we’ve seen already is all there is to see.

  • Fossilized microorganisms?

Again, I don’t see anything that rules that possibility out.  (For the record: I do not believe that famed Martian meteorite ALH84001 contains fossilized evidence of life on Mars.  While I suppose it is possible, the other more reasonable explanations seem, at the very least, to make the jump to an “Aha! Life!” conclusion a bit hasty.)

  • Live microorganisms – perhaps under the surface?

Now that would be fascinating.  Certain bacteria (often called extremophiles) can survive in the harshest of environments here on earth, and it is even possible that some can survive traveling through space, embedded within dust grains and protected from harmful radiation (Rare Earth, p. 73).  Again, I don’t see this as being ruled out by scripture.

  • Fossilized complex, non-human life – say the equivalent of a tree, insect, or animal?

Why not?  Could the young Mars – as a part of a beautiful original creation, before it may ravaged by the angelic war that took place in that distant past – have been a beautiful paradise, full of fields and streams and creatures of amazing variety, like we see here on earth?  Was there a Yellowstone somewhere on its surface?

I would be as giddy as the stereotypical schoolgirl if the Mars rover Opportunity were to roll up to a cliff and find exposed there a fossilized grizzly bear, or a petrified Redwood tree – or even the impression of a dragonfly.  Signs of complex life on Mars would be the news of the century.  But highly “evolved,” complex life that appeared to remarkably match that of earth’s would be more than that: It would cause all but the blindest of souls to question whether such life could have “evolved” at all.

Yet, personally, I suspect that any complex life that might have been placed on a beautiful, “original creation” Mars would be wonderfully different than what we see here.  Similar in theme, just as life here seems to display many common themes, but expressive of that love God seems to have for variety – an attribute so remarkably and beautifully displayed here on Earth (cf. Romans 1:20).  Here on our small blue and green sphere, we find such a thrilling yet humbling variety of living things.  What wonders crafted by the hand of God may have trod the ground of a Martian forest?

The time before Genesis 1:2 leaves much room to speculate!  And speculation can be a great deal of fun – as long as we do not lose sight of the fact that it is, as beautiful as the thought may be, only speculation.  And speculation does have its limits, leading us to the last question…

  • Fossilized man?

No way.  Here our speculation comes to an abrupt end.  Man is an original creation on the earth, the tale of which is told in Genesis 1 & 2.  Adam and Eve were the first.  Unlike all the animals that were created on the sixth day in Genesis 1, which were created “according to their kind” (Gen. 1:24-25), man is uniquely not described as being created after a “man kind.”  Rather, man is described as being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26).  Taken together, these three verses, vv. 24-25, paint a remarkable and wondrous picture, as if God is saying, “Let us make the animals after their kind, but let Us make man after Our kind…”  And that is exactly what God did.

That great God, both the Most High (whom we now call the Father) and the living Word (whom we now call the Son) created man to be after the God kind…  a fact that is one of many remarkable clues to our ultimate destiny.  (But that’s a different blog entry!)

For those who have trolled through all of these “Life on Mars” entries, I greatly appreciate your patience, and I hope that the “payoff” hasn’t been too disappointing.  After working so hard to swim through my verbosity, arriving at a conclusion of “Life on Mars? Maybe…” may seem small wages for your toil!  At the same time, I hope it has helped to put the search for “life” on Mars into perspective.  The history of the universe is more amazing than we know, and it is a history surpassed only by its incredible future – a future prophesied to be under the direction and loving care of the expanded God Family (Hebrews 2:5-8; Romans 8:16-22).  Regardless of the verdict as to whether or not there has ever been life on Mars – indeed, whether there is any there now – the Bible does seem to say that there will be one day.

So, as I said many posts ago, I do believe that Mars will be “terraformed” one day, but not the way that our current generation of scientists and futurists foresee!  It won’t be at the hands of a greedy human race, barely capable of managing it’s own planet.  Rather, if Mars is transformed into the beautiful jewel that may have once been, it will be at the hands of the glorious sons and daughters of God, as their Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – grows forever, increasing without end (Isaiah 9:7).

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21, KJV

[If you would like to look further at the connection between the future of the universe and the future of man, consider reading our brief article, Will We Conquer Space?, and (even better) ordering our absolutely free booklet Your Ultimate Destiny, which goes into much more detail and explains – straight from your Bible – why you were born and the mind-bogglingly, glorious plan God has for you.]

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All four posts in this series: