Some Problems with the God's Church Through the Ages booklet, 2010 edition
By Bob Thiel 2/22/2011
Dr. Winnail asked me on Friday to put together some quotes and comments about problems with the 2010 edition of John Ogwyn's God's Church Through the Ages (GCA) booklet. Instead of bringing up all of the issues (which I am willing to do if that would be helpful), it seems that bringing up just some of the more problematic portions should highlight why action to correct this booklet should be considered.
Essentially, the GCA booklet currently contains contradictions, many clear errors, and needlessly perpetuates a variety of Catholic and Protestant myths. It also does not prove our ties to the early apostolic church as well as it could. We should correct this immediately.
We Should Not Disparage Ignatius
In one section, the GCA booklet states:
Many of the supposedly “Christian” writings that have been preserved from the second century onward put forward a totally different theology from that of the Apostle John, who wrote just 10 or 20 years earlier. As Bacchiocchi asserts, “Ignatius, Barnabus, and Justin, whose writings constitute our major source of information for the first half of the second century, witnessed and participated in the process of separation from Judaism which led the majority of the Christians to abandon the Sabbath and adopt Sunday as the new day of worship” (p. 213). Ignatius of Antioch, in about 110ad, wrote, “It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism” (Magnesians, 10).
Now, this is problematic on many fronts. That quote from Ignatius is not supportive of switching from the Sabbath to Sunday and is out-of-context here. Dr. Bacchiochi and I went over some of Ignatius' writings related to this a few years ago. Dr. Bacchiochi did not believe that Ignatius' writings supported doing away with the Sabbath. The “Judaism” Ignatius is referring to appears to be the extra rules that the Pharisees, etc. added that Jesus Himself condemned. I have written a detailed paper to demonstrate what Ignatius was trying to say which can be viewed at http://www.cogwriter.com/ignatius.htm.
Two paragraphs down, GCA states:
Two prominent second century theologians, who played an important transitional role in the change from biblical theology to Roman Catholic theology, were both baptized in churches under faithful Polycarp’s leadership. Polycarp (ca. 69–155ad) had been a personal disciple of the Apostle John and was one of the few church leaders of his day to hold fast to the Truth.
Well, we have a problem then as Polycarp wrote the following about Ignatius and his writings:
CHAP. IX — PATIENCE INCULCATED.
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.
CHAP. XIII — CONCERNING THE TRANSMISSION OF EPISTLES.
Both you and Ignatius wrote to me, that if any one went [from this] into Syria, he should carry your letter with him; which request I will attend to if I find a fitting opportunity, either personally, or through some other acting for me, that your desire may be fulfilled. The Epistles of Ignatius written by him to us, and all the rest [of his Epistles] which we have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are subjoined to this Epistle, and by them ye may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord. Any more certain information you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and those that were with him, have the goodness to make known to us. (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson; American Edition, 1885; Reprint Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, pp. 33-36)
So, either we trace our history through Polycarp and Ignatius or we declare that someone added this to Polycarp's writings. We should not complain about Ignatius, but instead try to understand what he really was trying to say.
As it stands, condemning Ignatius (multiple times) while claiming Polycarp is a blatant contradiction that is a major error.
We Need Caution About Discussing Apostolic Succession and "Bishops of Rome"
GCA also states this about Ignatius and some others, and I have at least five concerns about it:
But, beginning with the writings of Clement, bishop of Rome, we find a new emphasis. Clement wrote a letter to the church in Corinth about 100ad, probably very shortly after John’s death. The editors of Masterpieces of Christian Literature summarize Clement’s principal ideas as: “The way to peace and concord is through obedience to established authorities, the elders. Christ rules the churches through the apostles, the bishops appointed by them, and the approved successors of the bishops.”
About ten years later Ignatius stressed the same point, “Unity and peace in the church and the validity of the church are acquired through faithful adherence to the bishop” (Masterpieces).
By the middle of the next century, the claims had grown so forcefully that Cyprian of North Africa stated: “The focus of unity is the bishop. To forsake him is to forsake the Church, and he cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother” (Chadwick, p. 119).
These claims were being made to hold brethren in an organization that was rapidly developing into what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church.
First, there were no clear "bishops of Rome" prior to Anicetus, hence we are perpetuating a Catholic myth that there were. Notice what Priest and former professor of theology of the University of Notre Dame, R. McBrien has gone so far as to admit:
History, "the teacher of life", teaches that there were no popes in the modern sense of the word (that is, as the sole Bishop of Rome) until the middle of the second century. Until then, the church of Rome was governed not by a single bishop but by a committee or council of elders and presbyter-bishops, perhaps with one individual acting as the body's convener or chair. Those prominent in the Roman community may have been the ones whom the Catholic Church regards as immediate successors of Peter himself: Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, et al., but we cannot be certain. It is significant, for example, that when St. Ignatius of Antioch (d ca. 107) addressed his famous letters to the various churches of the Mediterranean world, the letter to Rome was the only one in which the local bishop is not mentioned. (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 396)
Many Catholic scholars understand that the apostolic succession that the Roman and Orthodox churches claim is either a myth or otherwise not provable.
Second, the "writings of Clement" never say that they were written by him. Nor should we—this also perpetuates another Catholic myth if we say it is. The letter says that it contains "our advice" without specifying whose advice it represents nor who wrote it.
Other scholars have also figured that out which is why many non-Catholic ones refer to it simply as the Letter to the Corinthians and not I Clement. By the way, a careful read of that letter does not show that it intends to support anti-COG doctrines.
Third, even the Catholic scholar F. A. Sullivan, a Jesuit Priest and professor emeritus of theology, Gregorian University in Rome (who elsewhere refers to it as "The letter of the Romans to the Corinthians") does not believe that "I Clement" supports what John Ogwyn said it did:
I Clement certainly does not support the theory that before the apostles died, they appointed one man as bishop in each of the churches they founded. (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 101)
So why would we suggest it supports the Catholic version of apostolic succession?
Fourthly, Ignatius is supporting the idea of church government. Something we in LCG support. Remember that his letters were specifically endorsed by Polycarp. Just because we use terms like “pastor” instead of “bishop” (like Ignatius did), this should not turn us off from his writings. The Apostle Paul specifically used the Greek term for “bishop” (episkopeés) for church leaders (1Timothy 3:1).
And finally, at the time of “Clement” and Ignatius, and even through Tertullian, it was believed that there were two groups with “apostolic succession”. Notice:
Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Notice that Tertullian (who must have known some of the differences between the two groups) felt that only two groups could claim ties to the apostles. But according to admissions from more modern Catholic scholars, only Asia Minor had demonstrable true succession from the apostles through Polycarp.
Since we claim to have descended from Church of God in Smyrna, we should be more careful how we write about “apostolic succession” as our people essentially claimed to have it back then, as well as in the British Isles centuries later (I can provide additional information on this as it is in my new proposed GCA revision paper).
There is No Proof that Sixtus Instituted Weekly Sunday Worship Services
Prior to the quotes about Ignatius, the GCA booklet states:
During this dangerous era, the Roman church under its Bishop Sixtus (ca. 116–126ad) began holding Sunday worship services and ceased observing the annual Passover, substituting Easter Sunday and “Eucharist” in its place. This is the clear record preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea, a late third- and early fourth-century scholar, who became known as the “father of church history.” Eusebius quoted his information from a letter of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (ca. 130–202ad) to Bishop Victor of Rome.
The idea that Sixtus “began holding weekly Sunday worship services” simply is not “the clear record preserved by Eusebius”. There is nothing I have seen in Irenaeus' writings that mentions weekly Sunday worship services. Perhaps I should add that at least one Catholic scholar hinted that Irenaeus may have even made up the name Sixtus (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, p.14) and The Catholic Encyclopedia reports that Eusebius' two writings on Sixtus' “reign” did not agree with each other. For reference, here are the only two quotes from Irenaeus that mention Sixtus that I have found:
Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telesphorus, who was gloriously martyred (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses (Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 3). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
For the controversy is not merely as regards the day, but also as regards the form itself of the fast. For some consider themselves hound to fast one day, others two days, others still more, while others [do so during] forty: the diurnal and the nocturnal hours they measure out together as their [fasting] day. And this variety among the observers [of the fasts] had not its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors, some of whom probably, being not very accurate in their observance of it, handed down to posterity the custom as it had, through simplicity or private fancy, been [introduced among them]. And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. Thus, in fact, the difference [in observing] the fast establishes the harmony of [our common] faith. And the presbyters preceding Sorer in the government of the Church which thou dost now rule--I mean, Anicetus and Pius, Hyginus and Telesphorus, and Sixtus--did neither themselves observe it [after that fashion], nor permit those with them to do so (Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).
While the Church of Rome likes to act like Sunday was instituted early there, it is NOT clear from any documents that I have thus far come across that they did prior to 130 A.D. We should not be spreading information that claims otherwise without actual proof. Despite various assertions, it is not clear where Sunday originated for the Greco-Romans. The Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Sunday” states:
St. Justin is the first Christian writer to call the day Sunday (I Apol., lxvii) in the celebrated passage in which he describes the worship offered by the early Christians on that day to God... Tertullian (202) is the first writer who expressly mentions the Sunday rest...
Justin was in Asia Minor, not Rome, when he wrote what he did circa 135 AD.
Getting back to Sixtus, GCA also states:
As the conflict between Judaism and the Empire heightened, many “Christians” in Rome, under the leadership of Bishop Sixtus, took steps to avoid any possibility of being considered Jews and thereby suffer persecution with them.
The Bar Kokhba revolt from the Jews began in 132, which is believed to have been after the death of Sixtus (if someone with that name existed)—though there were other anti-Jewish pogroms. To claim that ”Bishop Sixtus, took steps to avoid any possibility of being considered Jews” is uncertain as there is no proof of anything other than he may have supported a Sunday Passover date.
No Proof that Polycarp Objected to Weekly Eucharist Services
In his old age, Polycarp even made a journey to Rome seeking to convince the bishop of Rome, Anicetus, of his errors in not celebrating the biblical Passover date and in observing, in its place, an annual Sunday Paschal observance (Easter) and a weekly celebration of “Eucharist.”
There are a couple of issues with the above. While it is true that Polycarp objected to the Roman position on Passover being on Sunday, there is no evidence that I am aware of that he said anything about weekly Eucharist services. If someone has an actual primary source citation for this that is one thing, but I simply do not remember seeing anything like that and I believe I have read the available primary sources on this.
Also, we are overlooking the fact that Polycarp went to Rome to attempt to deal with heresies—and not just to meet with the Roman Bishop. He specifically denounced Marcion (the first known Christ professor to teach against the Sabbath and the millennium) and Valentinus (the first known Christ professor to teach the "three hypostases"). Yet, the Church of Rome kept Valentinus for decades after he was denounced by Polycarp, even though the Church of Rome now acknowledges that Valentinus was a heretic. We should emphasize that it was our spiritual ancestors who were at the forefront of denouncing heresies that were entering the churches.
We Seem to Have Inadvertently Overlooked Revelation
By Jude’s time, the true faith had already been once and for all delivered. Modern scholars who claim that it remained for second and third century theologians to begin to formulate an accurate understanding of God’s nature would do well to reread Jude 3. It is clear that Jude does not allow for “progressive revelation”!
While the basic point is valid, the first statement could turn off many who realize that several books of the Bible, including the Revelation of Jesus Christ, had not been written when Jude wrote that.
I would suggest that we modify the first statement to read, “By Jude’s time, the true faith had already been understood and not intended to be changed by human philosophy (cf. Colossians 2:8)”. This seems to be more scripturally accurate. The third statement could also be slightly re-written with the word “unscriptural” added before “progressive revelation”.
Origen Did Not Originate the Term “Three Hypostases”
The GCA booklet quotes The Roman Catholic New Theological Dictionary:
Origen, like Tertullian coined a generic term for the ‘three’ of the divine triad. The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are ‘three hypostases’.
This is another Catholic myth. Valentinus coined the term “three hypostases” and he got it from Plato. Here is the record of a Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra, who wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century:
Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'. For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9. Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95)
GCA is perpetuating a Catholic myth that their great theologians came up with terms like “three hypostases” (especially when GCA quotes that Origen “was the greatest scholar and most prolific author of the early church”).
A person that even the Catholic call a heretic (Valentinus) came up with “three hypostases” and Valentinus was condemned by Polycarp (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4). That is what we should have said as opposed to teaching it the way we have. We need to denounce, not perpetuate Catholic myths about errors in their doctrines.
Polycarp and John: Caution Needed
As a young man, Polycarp had been a personal disciple of John and had observed the Passover with him on several occasions.
Now, while the above may be true, there is no early documentation that I have found that clearly supports this. Caution is advised as we do not want to assert unsupportable “history”. What we should have perhaps said, instead, is that there is written evidence that supports the idea that Polycarp observed not only the Passover, but the seventh-day Sabbath and other biblical Holy Days.
Polycrates Only Letter Does Not Say What We Indicate
Polycrates taught the true Gospel of the literal establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, the unconscious state of the dead awaiting the resurrection..
There is only one letter found that was written by Polycrates. And while he probably did the above, the above is NOT in the only letter from him we have. Now there is possibly a missing letter, but unless someone has it, this is not how we probably should have worded the above.
Instead, I originally proposed changing the word "Polycrates" to "The Smyrnaeans" and still think that is a better and more defendable position.
Laodicea Was a Greek Council
About forty years later, the Catholic Church followed up on this imperial edict in “canon  of the Council of Laodicea [363ad], which forbids Christians from Judaizing and resting on the Sabbath day, and actually enjoins them to work on that day” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., “Sunday”).
The very fact that, in the latter fourth century, the Roman Church felt the need to legislate against Sabbath observance shows that faithful remnants, particularly in Asia Minor, persevered in the Truth.
Yet, the above Council was in Greek-speaking region of Laodicea. An area that was considered to be under the jurisdiction of Constantinople and not Rome. This was not a Council of the Roman Church. There were significant differences on many matters between Rome and Constantinople then and for us to say that this was Roman, and not a Greek, Council is not accurate.
The Orthodox are very sensitive about their differences with the Latins and we should be historically accurate in our portrayal of who did what.
Let's Be Cautious About Perpetuating Protestant and Catholic Myths
Towards its beginning, GCA states:
Protestant author Jesse Lyman Hurlbut acknowledged the dramatic change that took place. In his book The Story of the Christian Church, he wrote, “For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120ad with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (p. 41).
The history of the Christian Church between Pentecost of 31ad and the Council of Nicea in 325ad, almost 300 years later, is truly amazing. It is the story of how yesterday’s orthodoxy became today’s heresy, and how old heresies came to be considered orthodox Christian doctrine.
The early history is truly amazing as John Ogwyn wrote, but we do not do as good a job documenting in the GCA booklet position that Greco-Roman-Protestant saints held that we in LCG hold, yet that they no longer do.
Furthermore, while there is limited truth to Jesse Hurlbut's statement, I do not believe we explain it properly. We should explain that while the Greco-Roman-Protestant faiths cannot clearly document that their beliefs were held by the earliest Christians, that we in the Living Church of God can. The lack of better explanation in GCA can lead to perpetuating Protestant and Catholic myths.
The Protestants believe that since the records are incomplete, they basically should overlook church history as it really does not tend to support their belief system—thus they probably find Hurlbut's comments comforting. The Orthodox and Roman Catholics believe that they are the only ones to have direct ties to—and hold the faith of—the early apostles and basically do not care if Protestants are confused. Our GCA booklet does not do enough to disprove these myths. The fact is that while in Rome and Alexandria there were highly compromised faiths there in 120 AD, the majority in Asia Minor, Antioch, and Jerusalem were still faithful to COG doctrines in 120AD.
Herbert Armstrong once stated that you can find parts of the history of the Church of God, if you are willing to look at enough of the writings of those who opposed it. And he was most certainly right.
We have the only real claim to early “apostolic succession”. Our views on born-again, state of the dead, birthdays, the canon, the millennium, the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, Passover, the Sabbath, Christ's gospel of the Kingdom, the 6000/7000 year plan, apocatastasis/plan of salvation, purgatory, 100 year period/age to come, unclean meats, future fulfillment of Daniel 11, seven-year deal of Daniel 9:27, heaven, military service, the ten commandments, and tradition are basically documented as existing in the earliest centuries by people considered to be Roman and/or Orthodox Catholic saints. Yet, we do not do as good of a job of showing how our biblical beliefs were held by early leaders respected by the Greco-Roman-Protestant types as well as we could. The GCA booklet, along with a more detailed text for Living University, could do so.
Irenaeus Did Not Exactly Say Something GCA Indicates
The current version of GCA says:
Irenaeus, heavily influenced by Justin, also preserved bits and pieces of the Truth in spite of conforming to Roman practices. He rightly taught: “The purpose of our existence is the making of character by the mastery of difficulties and temptations” (p. 81).
This indicates that it is an exact quote from Irenaeus, but that is not so. It is a quote from Chadwick's book and Chadwick's interpretation. I probably should research this part a bit more to see what Irenaeus wrote that supports that as my initial research found that only LCG's booklet and Chadwick's book contain this quote online. And Chadwick's book does not specify which writing that Chadwick concluded this from.
Irenaeus is fairly well known, and if there is a modern translation that supports this, we should use it, otherwise we should state that, “Chadwick concluded that Irenaeus taught that the 'purpose of our existence is the making of character by the mastery of difficulties and temptations' ” (p. 81).
The Law Was Always Considered Important to the Greco-Romans
The importance of the law was the major area of controversy from about 50ad until 200ad.
But while Marcion (the original "protestant") had issues with the law, the law was always important to the Greco-Roman supporters. By wording it the way we have, they will disagree and be turned off. The issue really was not the importance of the law, but the applicability. That is probably how we should word this as well.
Origen Did Not Really Come Up With Purgatory
This same utter lack of sound-minded understanding of the real meaning and intent of Scripture is poignantly displayed in much of his theological writing. “Origen introduced the possibility of a remedial hell [purgatory]” (International Bible Encyclopedia, “Hell”).
Now while that quote may have been accurately copied, it is not really accurate.
Origen specifically taught that God had a plan to call everyone--this was later labeled by some as part of “Origenism”. When “Origenism” was condemned in the late fourth/early fifth century, purgatory itself began to be developed.
The fact that later Catholic writers now ignore Origen's condemnation and attempt to find and twist things in his writings to support the myth that purgatory was an early belief of the Church of Rome is not something I believe that we should perpetuate.
We Seem to Say We Made Something Up, Yet Restored It
However, in modern times, it was not until the spring of 1953 that Mr. Armstrong and the other ministers began to develop a clear understanding of the biblical teaching that God is a divine Family into which converted human beings will be born at the resurrection. At first, they attempted to prove this understanding false, from the Bible. Instead, they found this vital truth reaffirmed throughout God’s Word. Though this understanding was the clear implication of much that had previously been taught, Mr. Armstrong and the others found it challenging to accept this simple—yet profoundly important and overwhelming—truth. This key teaching of Scripture—that we can be born into the Family of God—is perhaps the single greatest truth that God restored, through Mr. Armstrong, to the Church of God.
Well, the reality is that deification is what early Christians believed. Yet, the way we are wording it, it sounds almost like we are teaching progressive revelation, something that the GCA booklet condemns earlier.
Perhaps, to improve something like the above, we should state that the Bible warned that the Sardis Church would lose COG doctrines, refer to Revelation 3:1-3, and say that God used Herbert Armstrong to restore at least 18 teachings to the Philadelphia era that the early eras like Ephesus had (which by the way is what Herbert Armstrong claimed in his sermon on the 18 truths, dated 12/17/1983).
Now, perhaps I should mention that I have been able to document that the concept of deification was a belief that early Ephesus and Smyrna era. It is supported by writings of Ignatius (late Ephesus era) and Theophilus (early Smyrna era).
Yet, however excited we may be about this particular truth, please realize that while it is somewhat foreign to Protestantism, it has never been lost to the Eastern Orthodox, and is even taught by the Roman Catholics.
Notice the following from my article titled Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? at COGwriter:
Clement of Alexandria (mid-late second century) wrote:
And now the Word Himself clearly speaks to you, shaming your unbelief; yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God (Clement of Alexandria . Exhortation to the Heathen (Chapter 1). Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
In the early third century, Origen of Alexandria wrote:
But both Jesus Himself and His disciples desired that His followers should believe not merely in His Godhead and miracles, as if He had not also been a partaker of human nature, and had assumed the human flesh which "lusts against the Spirit;" but they saw also that the power which had descended into human nature, and into the midst of human miseries, and which had assumed a human soul and body, contributed through faith, along with its divine elements, to the salvation of believers, when they see that from Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine, not in Jesus alone, but in all those who not only believe, but enter upon the life which Jesus taught, and which elevates to friendship with God and communion with Him every one who lives according to the precepts of Jesus (Origen. Contra Celsus, Book III, Chapter 28. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
Thus, Origen is teaching that Christians are to rise to be divine, to become God.
In the 4th century, Ambrose of Milan taught:
Then a Virgin conceived, and the Word became flesh that flesh might become God (Ambrose of Milan. Concerning Virginity (Book I, Chapter 11). Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
In the late 4th century, John Chrysostom wrote:
...the man can become God, and a child of God. For we read, "I have said, You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High" (John Chrysostom. Homily 32 on the Acts of the Apostles. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
The 5th century Bishop Ibas of Edessa allegedly taught:
I do not envy Christ His becoming God, for I can become God no less than He (Labourt J. Transcribed by John Fobian. Ibas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
In the 13th/14th century, notice what the following from a famous German Dominican theologian Meister Eckhardt (c. 1260–c. 1328):
Meister Eckhardt said that in union with God we become God (Fanning S. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routeldge, New York. 2001, reprinted 2006, p. 219).
In the 16th century, notice what even Martin Luther taught:
“For the Word became flesh in order that the flesh might become Word. That is, God becomes man in order that man might become God (On the Word Became Flesh Martin Luther, 1483-1546 From: Sermo Lutheri in natali Christi, [December 25, 1514]) _D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe_ (Weimar: Hermann Boehlau, 1883) Vol. 1, p. 28).
In the 20th century, Pope Paul VI taught:
My brothers, do you understand the Grace of God our Head? Stand in admiration, rejoice; we have become Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the members; He and we are the complete Man . . . therefore, the fullness of Christ is constituted by the Head and Members Ecclesiam Suam Encyclical Letter on the Ways in which the Church Must Carry Out its Mission in the Contemporary World His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Section 35. Transcribed work by Bob Van Cleef. Promulgated on August 6, 1964. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
And while we have not yet "become Christ", even the late Pope John Paul II taught:
In order for man to become God, the Word took on humanity (Joannes Paulus II. Orientale Lumen: Apostolic Letter on the Eastern Churches His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Section 15. Promulgated on May 2, 1995. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
My point is that the Greco-Romans will consider that we are being hypocritical on the idea of progressive revelation based upon what GCA states. Plus, they will lose respect for us as they will claim that they have not lost this particular truth (despite the fact that they generally do not really understand it well themselves). By losing a truth that the Orthodox never lost, and emphasizing it, this gives the impression that the COG has not been particularly faithful.
A Point of Propriety
The GCA booklet has John Ogwyn as the author and a 2010 copyright date. GCA was clearly re-edited since his death. And some of the changes are very helpful.
Yet, unless someone talked him about these changes (and while I did talk to him about changing GCA in 2004, it was on other matters with GCA), it does not seem proper to have a 2010 copyright date on something written by someone who died and did not edit it personally, unless we put a statement that the booklet was edited posthumously. And that is what I believe we should do with a possible 2011 edition.
Now there are many very good and useful points in the GCA booklet. And those can still be retained.
But there are many errors in it and many I have not put in this paper about it.
We have the most incredible story to tell the world about REAL church history and why we have the strongest possible claim to being the descendants of the original apostles.
It was our people in the Church of God that were the PRIMARY body of real and even professing organized Christians in the second century. WE can prove that many of our "unique" doctrines were taught by Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant saints, yet those groups no longer hold to many of those beliefs.
We have the opportunity to set the record straight on matters of church history. We need to stop unintentionally perpetuating Catholic myths in our literature—t hey did not get many of their teachings from the apostles (but we did). We could also, for example, list more of the doctrines of Simon Magus that early Catholic leaders condemned him and his follower for (such as statues, revering a woman, incantations, mysteries, mystic priests, claiming divine titles for leaders, accepting money for religious favors, preferring allegory and tradition over many aspects of scripture, divorcing from Christian biblical practices considered to be Jewish, and having a leader who wanted to be thought of as God/Christ on Earth), and let the reader figure out that Rome later adopted many of them.
The Apostle Paul admonished Christians to “Prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV). Yet any who try to actually prove what is in the current GCA booklet will quickly figure out that it contains many errors and is unreliable. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:23) and neither should we be as we are to imitate Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).
We need to get ready for the final phase of the work. And while the Philadelphia era originally mainly has had to deal with Protestant issues, as the Protestants become less of a factor, the reality is that in the end it will be the representatives of the true Church of God vs. the revised Catholic Church. And church history is a crucial factor that we need to clearly understand and teach in order to properly support the final phase of the work.
The GCA booklet, in my view, needs to better show that what we teach came from the Bible, that our doctrines were accepted by the earliest Christians, and that we truly are the group most faithful to the beliefs and practices of the Apostolic Church of God.
If not us, who? If not now, when?
I was promised that we would do this in 2006, 2007, 2008, and beyond. Yet, as of 2011 it has not been done as well as we are capable of doing. We are still publishing clear errors in the GCA booklet.
Can we finally stop doing that?
I am willing to discuss this with any of you and have taken the liberty to start to preparing a potential replacement to the current GCA booklet for review and further editing.