There is an article in the latest issue of The Journal interviewing CG7′s former president Robert Coulter. And while I have issues with many parts of it, I will try mainly to focus on three points today: church eras, change, and Sardis.
Here was a question related to church eras, with the answer coming from Robert Coulter:
Q: What about the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 and Mr. Armstrong’s teaching that they represented seven church eras?
A: Let me say that the Church of God (Seventh Day) never taught the seven eras. There were some men who taught the seven eras. Dugger and Dodd’s book sort of appeals to the seven church eras, and I know Herbert Armstrong appealed to the seven church eras quite strongly.
(Cartwright D. Former CG7 president gives his understanding of history of Church of God and Mr. Armstrong. The Journal: News of the Churches of God. Sep-Dec 2008)
Notice that while denying the idea of church eras, Robert Coulter essentially admits that some (like A.N. Dugger, one of CG7′s longest and most effective leaders) did believe in church eras, thus his contention here that CG7 never taught church eras is somewhat in error (he also admitted this to me personally when we spoke in late 2008).
Notice what The Journal said that Robert Coulter said about CG7 history:
He said Mr. Armstrong was a close associate of Andrew N. Dugger and that Mr. Armstrong looked upon Mr. Dugger as a mentor. In 1933 Mr. Dugger “led a rebellion in the Church of God (Seventh Day)” after failing to gain office during a conference of August 1933.
“On Nov. 4, 1933, Andrew Dugger and several colleagues organized a separate conference at Salem, W.Va., to compete with the conference at Stanberry, Mo., which was the original one organized in 1884.”
…Mr. Coulter noted that the Salem conference, during its time of separation from Stanberry, made up an official seal that stated around its edge: “Church of God (Seventh Day), Organized 33 A.D., Jerusalem, Palestine, Reorganized 1933, Salem, W.Va., U.S.A.”
Mr. Coulter sees that wording as a misleading attempt to authenticate the notion that an unbroken line of apostolic succession existed between the 1st century and the CG7 of the 20th.
Apparently, it sounds like Robert Coulter is somewhat hinting that CG7 does not acknowledge that the Salem group was truly part of CG7 (which elsewhere it has said that it was). So, what Robert Coulter appears to believe is that while A.N. Dugger (who had ran CG7) and others believed in church eras, the fact that he later split and formed the Salem group meant that the Salem group was never part of CG7, so in that respect CG7 never taught church eras. And while there may be some technicality there, I believe that to claim that CG7 never taught church eras is really a stretch.
Also in the interview, Robert Coulter specifically stated:
Let me make an observation here. When Herbert Armstrong left the Church of God (Seventh Day), his doctrinal position, his representation of the teachings of the Church of God (Seventh Day), were frozen in time to that point.
[For example] there was a point in time when some ministers in the Church of God (Seventh Day) taught that we were begotten but not born again, and that was primary, a big thing, with Herbert Armstrong at one point . . .
But that was a temporary thing [in the CG7]. It was like going through a phase. The church finally said, no, our conversion is a completed work. When Jesus said you must be born again, He facilitates the spiritual rebirth of the convert, and it’s a completed work. We continued then to strive for sanctification, a lifelong process.
Anyway, we abandoned that position years and years ago, but Herbert Armstrong froze that position at the time of his departure from the church, because essentially in the early and mid-’30s that was being taught in some quarters in the Church of God (Seventh Day)…
I think our membership in the U.S. and Canada is close to 12,000 to 15,000. Worldwide it’s 400,000 to 500,000.
By making some of the statements that he did, Robert Coulter also is showing that Herbert W. Armstrong was correct that CG7 lost truths, but gained adherents. Believing certain doctrines and then changing them, however, is a CHANGE, not merely “going through a phase”.
To suggest that the doctrines of being begotten by the Holy Spirit and being born-again at the resurrection were only a phase misses the fact that it can be proven that they were actually held by some of the earliest professors of Christ (see Born Again: A Question of Semantics?).
Of course, to admit that those doctrines were original teachings would be to somewhat admit that the church truly did start in Pentecost in Acts 2 and continued through the centuries (which is the only real way one could understand Jesus’ comments in Matthew 16:18; cf. Hebrews 13:5). But CG7 does not want to acknowledge or believe that if it supports the truth about church era.
Rebuilt Gymnasium in Sardis.
This is one of the most impressive buildings in the area of any of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3. However, it has been recently and massively rebuilt as its original condition was in ruin. And while it and its size are impressive, it no longer functions as it once did. CG7′s current size (claiming over 400,000) seems to fit the situation in Sardis.
Garner Ted…was somewhat apologetic for his dad’s attitude and [his dad’s] referring to the Church of God as the Sardis church and so on.
I want to tell you the references to the Sardis church were a joke. I mean we never took that seriously.
I would say that this is not entirely the case, if “never…seriously” means that they never tried to do something about the charge.
Although Robert Coulter himself may have never taken them seriously, CG7 apparently has. CG7 specifically brought this Sardis Church teaching up with Tkach WCG years ago and encouraged it to change its position on it (and the Tkach WCG complied).
Furthermore, CG7 wrote to the Living Church of God a couple of years ago essentially asking it to tell me NOT not post articles that teach that CG7 is/was the Sardis era of the Church of God. If CG7′s leadership still considered this a joke, then I doubt that they would have taken the time to make the effort to try to stop me from doing this.
While I like Robert Coulter personally, I wish he would re-think his position on church eras and certain other matters.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you (Revelation 3:1-3).
With its intentional lack of knowledge on church eras, its doctrinal changes, its tendency to joke that it could not be Sardis, and its lack of prophetic understanding (see the article Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings), it really does seem to me that no other group throughout recent history fits Jesus’ description of the Sardis Church than CG7.
Some articles of possibly related interest may include:
The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.
Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace their history through this group. Whaid Rose is the president of the largest CG7 group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
18 Truths Restored to the Churches of God Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that he felt he had restored at least 18 lost truths to the Church, here is Herbert W. Armstrong’s list given 12/17/83. This articles also has links to show that these truths were believed by professors of Christ in earlier times, hence they were not some invention of Herbert Armstrong.
Born Again: A Question of Semantics? Many Protestants use the term born-again. Do they know where the concept came from or does it matter? Are we born or begotten at baptism?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?