Archive for October, 2007

Halloween in Mexico, Japan, and China?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007


Tonight has been labeled by many as Halloween.  And while it is a Roman Catholic holiday, in an AP-reported story I noticed that the Catholic Church has condemned its observation in Mexico: 

Mexico’s Roman Catholic church slammed Halloween as “damaging and against the faith” on Monday, as conservatives sought to stem celebration of the ghouls-and-goblins holiday and return to the country’s traditional Day of the Dead.

The U.S.-style holiday has made broad inroads in Mexico, with monster costumes almost as widely sold as the marigold flowers traditionally used to decorate relatives’ graves during Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead ceremonies, when families build altars and leave food, drink and flowers for the dearly departed.

“Those who celebrate Halloween are worshipping a culture of death that is the product of a mix of pagan customs,” the Archdiocese of Mexico published in an article on its Web site Monday. “The worst thing is that this celebration has been identified with neo-pagans, Satanism and occult worship.”

The archdiocese urged parents not to let their children wear Halloween costumes or go trick-or-treating — instead suggesting Sunday school classes to “teach them the negative things about Halloween,” costume parties where children can dress up as Biblical characters, and candy bags complete with instructions to give friends a piece while telling them “God loves you.”…

Pre-Hispanic cultures celebrated a similar holiday in August, but after the Spanish conquest, historians say the date was changed to Nov. 1 to coincide with the Catholic holiday…

In another article, Onesimo Herrera-Flores complained that “Halloween, for a variety of reasons, has imposed itself on other nations, displacing native customs.”

Celebrating Halloween, he said, citing a church authority, is “like inviting Satan into your home.”  (Mexico’s Catholic church slams Halloween; conservatives call for return to Day of Dead. Associated Press – Oct 29, 2007

Bolding above is by COGwriter. 

Interestingly, there are other cultures that celebrate some version of this holiday, such as in Japan and China and its date is similar to that of the pre-Hispanic Mexicans:

Japan has its own Halloween-type celebration known as “O-bon,” an old Buddhist holiday meant to honor ancestors. It takes place in mid-August or July. Graves are visited and cleaned, food offerings are made, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide spirits, and a ritualized dance called “bon-odori” takes place to welcome them. On the last day of O-bon, to guide spirits on their journey, the Japanese partake in a ceremony called “Toro nagashi,” in which paper lanterns are floated down a river.

O-bon originates from the Chinese Buddhist celebration of “Ullambana,” which has the same notion that during this time, spirits are able to move among us.

The Ullambana Sutra, a traditionally Indian story, is the scripture that addresses this day, with the story of Mahamaudgalyayana, a disciple of Buddha, whose mother had been reborn into a lower realm. Though interpretations of the story vary, Buddha’s instructions to his student mirror modern practices of the day, which is to offer food and pray for the souls of both living and dead relatives. People also would give donations to monks.

The current celebration in Taiwan and China of the Ghost Festival pays homage to this Buddhist holiday, but includes the practices of burning money, clothes and goods, which are believed to then make it to the spirit world in full, as well as the release of paper boats and lanterns into rivers. (Meaning, sanctity of Halloween is lost in translation St. Cloud Times, MN – Oct 21, 2007

I would like to add that one of my first memories after arriving in Sri Lanka was noticing that the Buddists used what we in the West would call Christmas lights, and not just for Christmas (we arrived when it was dark in the early Fall).  Hence, it is likely that “light” holiday celebrations were also of Satanic origin.

Furthermore, while the pre-Hispanic Mexican holiday moved from August to tonight, the Celtic one also had/has an August component:

Halloween is date of astronomical interest. It has to do with seasons: Halloween is a cross-quarter date, approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. There are four cross-quarter dates throughout the year, and each is a minor holiday: Groundhog Day (Feb. 2nd), May Day (May 1st), Lammas Day (Aug. 1st), and Halloween (Oct. 31st).

“Long ago, the Celts of the British Isles used cross-quarter days to mark the beginnings of seasons. Winter began with Halloween, or as they called it, Samhain,” says John Mosley of the Griffith Observatory.

“Halloween marked the transition between summer and winter, light and dark — and life and death. On that one night, according to folklore, those who had died during the previous year returned for a final visit to their former homes. People set out food and lit fires to aid them on their journey — but remained on guard for mischief the spirits might do.” (Spooky Astronomy. present 10/31/07).

Satan has successfully gotten many of his holidays endorsed by many cultures and religions of the world.

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Is Halloween Holy Time for Christians? This article provides some historical and biblical insight on this question.
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
India, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part I: Any Witness? The Bible discusses the origins of those of Indian heritage and discusses some of the witness to them.
China, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 1: Genesis and Chinese Characters This article provides information showing that the Chinese peoples must have known about various accounts in the Book of Genesis up until their dispersion after the Tower of Babel.
China, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 2: The Sabbath and Some of God’s Witness in China When did Christianity first come to China? And is there early evidence that they observed the seventh day sabbath?
China, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 3: China in Prophecy What is Ahead for China? What will happen to nearly all the Chinese?
Japan, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 1: Any Witness? This is a draft of an in-process article about Japan. Have they had any witness? Japan, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 2: Prophecy Japan in prophecy. What is prophesied for Japan. Will God save the Japanese?

COGSC’s David Antion Against Unitarianism

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

History of Early Christianity 

Although the following was from his personal Guardian Ministries site, David Antion is affiliated with COGSC, hence its use in the title of today’s post:

I have listened to, read and studied the arguments of the “One God” presenters or as I have renamed their theory: “God Can Only Be One Person.”  The purpose of Guardian Ministries is to “guard the treasure” of the New Testament – the “truth of the Gospel.”  After considerable study and analysis I have presented a 13-sermon series in answer to these arguments…

Truthfully, the New Testament is very cautious to avoid any hint of polytheism.  There is only one God – the Old Testaments says so, and Jesus said so (Mark 12:29-30).  But, the man Jesus is a unique man.  He was a sinless man according to the New Testament (1 Pet. 2:22-24; 1John 3:5; 2Cor. 5:21). 

But, according the both Old and New Testament passages, no human person can be sinless (Ecc. 7:20; Psa. 130:3; Prov. 20:9).  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 5:12).  Remember also, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”(1 John 1:8). Here is an interesting passage that opponents to the deity of Jesus quote.  A man came to Jesus and said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”  They place great weight on the fact that Jesus wouldn’t even call himself “good”.  But was He good?  Of course he was and many N.T. passages show that Jesus used the same Greek word for “good” to refer to other men and things.

But, those who quote this passage to say that Jesus rebuked a man for calling him “good” pass right over the statement of Thomas in the Gospel of John when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”  John records no comment from Jesus.  Now, why not rebuke Thomas right there and then?  “Hey, Thomas, don’t call me God.  I don’t even let men call me “good” let alone call me “God.”  You’ve just committed blasphemy!”  In the Book of Revelation on two occasions when John was overwhelmed with what he saw and bowed before an angel, he was told to worship God only.  See Rev. 19:10 and 22:9. The N.T. definitely shows a much greater reverence, exaltation and praise for the risen Christ than for the flesh and blood Christ.  Jesus did not want anyone to look on flesh and blood as “God.”

THE WORSHIP OF JESUS:  Worship of Jesus began in the earliest Palestinian Jewish Christianity the evidence shows.  In the earliest Christian community Jesus was already understood to be at God’s right hand in heaven, risen from the dead, and active in the Church by His Spirit, and coming in the future as king, ruler and judge of the world…

Philippians 2:6-9 is a most power passage.  Most scholars believe that Paul was quoting a hymn already sung in the early church.  The phrase “being in the form of God” has been explained away by those who believe God can only be one person.  They say, “The text does not say he was God.”  In other words he was in the form of God but not God.

But, to be fair, we have to consider the rest of the passage.  We see that he emptied himself and took the “form of a servant (slave).”  Now, was Jesus the “servant” of God or was he just in the form of a servant but not really a servant?  On the night he was betrayed he said, “I am among you as he that serves.”  The book of Acts refers to Jesus as “servant.”  If “in the form of God” does not mean he was equal with God, then “in the form of a servant” does not mean he was a servant!  The Greek words, “in the form of,” are the same!! (Antion, David. THE DEITY OF JESUS A response to the “One God” theory being widely presented to the Churches of God

Comments by COGwriter:

In the past, David Antion has attended one or more of the “One God” seminars that Ken Westby has put together.  He has essentially been one of the main opposition speakers there.  The “One God” unitarians essentially normally claim that Jesus is not God.

History shows that those who early confessed Christ understood that both the Father and the Son were God.  For example, in what has been called “the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived” (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)–outside those in the Bible–sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement, it seems to support binitarianism. It was given perhaps with a year or so of John’s death and begins with the following:

Brothers, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as “Judge of the living and the dead (An Ancient Christian Sermon, 1:1. In Holmes M.W., p. 107).

So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father…(An Ancient Christian Sermon, 14:1. In Holmes M.W. , p.121).

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell “what things the Lord hath prepared” for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon, 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W., p.121).

Thus, what may be the oldest preserved sermon (which can be seen at the link Ancient “Christian” Sermon) says to think of Jesus as God and that the Father is God, but it never indicates that the Holy Spirit is God. This is consistent with the binitarian view.

Polycarp was known as the Bishop of Smyrna and probably the first physical head (under Jesus Christ) of the era when Smyrna dominated. He was neither trinitarian nor unitarian according to various historical documents. The following quote attributed to him shows that he (and thus by inference the rest of Smyrna) was not unitarian,

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).

There are other quotes from true Christians, as well as those not in the Church of God, that show that unitarianism simply was not the teaching that Christians held to from the earliest times, in the following articles (most of which have been recently updated, and thus, contain additional documented materials): 

Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.

More information on early Christianity can be found at The History of Early Christianity page.

CGOM-UK, Christianity Today, & Halloween

Monday, October 29th, 2007

History of Early Christianity 

In its latest newsletter, CGOMUK reports:

…Christian bodies…worship on the seventh-day Sabbath. They avoid Christmas, Easter. They observe the Biblical worship days – called in Leviticus 23 ‘the feasts of the LORD’ and ‘My feasts’.

Danger…ghoulish glee

It’s now the second largest annual celebration, pushing Easter into third. In the USA there’s a $2.5 billion spend and a projected £140 million in the UK. Ghouls, witches, horror masks – all ‘a bit of fun’. It’s the night that spirits, supposedly, walk the earth. That’s Hallowe’en.  It’s the night – 31st October – that Satan has implanted as a fun time especially for impressionable children. An ensnarement to make out he’s a nice kind of guy (II Corinthians 11:15). In reality he is the great Deceiver who has ensnared mankind and plans to one day demand universal worship. Not a day, surely, for Christian celebration! 

CGOM is correct that Christians should not celebrate Halloween, and no early Christian ever claimed to. 

Even though it endorses it, according to Christianity Today, Halloween is clearly of pagan origin.  Notice what it admits and implies:

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween’s unsavory beginnings preceded Christ’s birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions…

Chrysostom tells us that as early as the fourth century, the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints…Some people question the whole idea of co-opting pagan festivals and injecting them with biblical values. Did moving the celebration to November to coincide with the druidic practices of the recently conquered Scandinavians simply lay a thin Christian veneer over a pagan celebration? Have we really succeeded in co-opting Christmas and Easter, or have neopagans taken them back with Easter bunnies and reindeer? In a sense, it’s always been the same debate: do we ignore a pagan romp, merge with it, attack it, or cover it up with seasonal fun?…

However we must never be superficial about it. Evil exists. It impinges on our world. Jesus, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, was never naive about evil. Some, hearing the call for celebration of the light, would reassure all with a Disneyesque church production on heaven’s delights.

Unfortunately, the more gruesome aspects of Halloween observances carry a certain authenticity…

Those who feel squeamish about immature children identifying with evil should not be too lightly dismissed. Nor is it necessarily healthy for witches to be depicted as darling little black-magic miscreants, as if all evil were simply a silly folklore heritage for our enlightened contemporary amusement…(Myra H. Is Halloween a Witches Brew? Christianity Today, October 22, 1982. verfied 10/18/07).

Comments by COGwriter: 

Although the above implies early Christian observance of an all saints day, this is simply not true of the early true Christians.  Halloween/All Saints’ Day is NOT listed in the early observances of even the Roman of Eastern Orthodox  Catholic churches as the early writings by Tertullian and Origen show (see article What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?).

Furthermore, three points related to John Chrysostom need to be mentioned.

The first is that a careful reading of his 74th homily (which supposedly is where he declared this observation according to The Catholic Encylopedia) shows that he discussed the deaths of prophets, but it is not clear to me that John Chrysostom declared the “Christian” observation something that resembles “All Saints’ Day”.

The second is that John Chrysostom was a hater of Jews and biblical practices (see article Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?). So even if he somehow was endorsing something, why would anyone wish to cite him for support of activities for true Christians? 

And the third point, is that John Chrysostom was speaking over a century after the Greco-Roman confederation took over as the predominant claimers of Christianity (this is discussed in the article The History of Early Christianity), hence John Chrysostom was not even part of the true Church of God when he spoke.

Of course, as even Christianity Today admits, the more gruesome aspects of Halloween reflect undesirable pagan authenticity. So contrary to the leanings of Christianity Today, its own writings should be understood as admitting that Halloween should be condemned and not observed by true Christians. 

Christianity Today is an essentially Protestant publication.  Those who are Protestants may wish to ask themselves,

“Why would those who claim to be Protestants to the unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church embrace a clearly pagan observance of the church they supposedly are protesting against?” 

The plain truth is that the Protestant reformation simply did not go back to true early Christianity.  But instead the Protestant movement has made too many compromises with unbiblical doctrines that were either introduced or endorsed by the Roman Church.  If Protestants, including Martin Luther, truly believed in Sola Scriptura, they would not accept as doctrines of God, the traditions of men.

Surely, as CGOM has written, real Christians do not celebrate Halloween, but instead avoid such pagan practices and observe the biblical Holy Days.

Several articles of related interest may include:

Is Halloween Holy Time for Christians? This article provides some historical and biblical insight on this question.
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church?
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most ProtestantsHow the COGs differ from mainstream Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a COG background.

PCG Reports on HWA’s Final Handling of Finances

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Order of the Sacred Treasure 

In the November issue of PCG’s Philadelphia Trumpet is another excerpt from S. Flurry’s book Raising the Ruins:

Herbert W. Armstrong prepared his last will and testament on Jan. 12, 1986—four days before he died. Knowing he was near death, his first directive was that Herman Hoeh officiate the funeral “without pomp and undue ceremony.”

In his second directive, he bequeathed all his property of “every kind and nature” to the Worldwide Church of God. Think about that. He had been pastor general of that church for more than 50 years. And though it started pitifully small, at the time of his death, the church’s annual income was $164 million. As founder and pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong could have amassed a personal fortune by the time he died. As it was, the house he died in belonged to the church. The plane he traveled in belonged to the church. The cars he commuted in belonged to the church. And what he actually did own at the time of his death—even though he had three living children—he left to the church.

Had he been in it for the extravagant opulence that Tkach Jr. accused him of, can you imagine what kind of retirement package he could have set up for himself after 30 or 40 years as pastor general? Yet, he served God and tirelessly worked right up until the day he died. And at his death, every material possession he owned went right back to the church.

In his will, he explained that he chose not to leave his descendants anything—not because of any ill will toward them—but because he believed they had “adequate means of their own” and because leaving what he had to the church would ensure that it “be put to more permanent and beneficial use for many people.”

That about sums up Herbert W. Armstrong’s legacy.

Even on his deathbed, his final wish was for everything he owned to go toward the work so that “many people” might benefit.

Mr. Armstrong put God’s Family and God’s work first. And as difficult as that might be to grasp, looking at it humanly, isn’t that what we should expect from a man of God? Jesus Christ, after all, said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” That’s what Jesus taught—and lived.

Wouldn’t you expect Jesus Christ to put God’s Family and God’s work first? “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work,” Christ said. It wasn’t an option for Him—He had to work. He never considered retirement. He kept right on working until the day mankind murdered Him for putting God first.

Putting God and His work first is the basic theme of the Bible.

Herbert W. Armstrong put this principle—this law—into action. He gave and gave and gave and gave. Then he died—exhausted from the heavy load God had laid on his shoulders. But God brought him back to life—and though he would have rather died or at least retired, he kept right on giving for another 81/2 years! His lifelong work of service and sacrifice for the good of others proved, as our Savior promised it would, that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

S. Flurry’s book is more popular than I first thought as I saw two copies of it for sale at the local Barnes & Nobles bookstore.

Two articles of related interest to HWA would include:

Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today? Includes quotes from the 1973 edition of The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong and explains how he is and should be viewed today.
15 Accusations and Truthful Responses About Herbert W. Armstrong He, even after his death, keeps being improperly maligned–here is the truth on these matters.

The Plain Truth About Halloween and WCG

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

On its home page, WCG mentioned and promoted its current article, with the related picture, on Halloween which states:

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

May Christians and their children participate in Halloween activities? To answer this question, we should first distinguish the secular observance of Halloween from such important Christian festival days as Christmas and Easter. Christmas celebrates the birth of our Savior and Easter commemorates his resurrection. Both these Christian holidays memorialize profound aspects of the life of Jesus.

The celebration of Halloween has no such Christian spiritual features. True, this holiday falls on October 31st, which is the eve of All Saints Day, which is a festival day celebrated by some Christian churches. However, the modern celebration of Halloween is not generally thought of as a Christian time of worship.

The day does have religious significance for some people, particularly wiccans and druids. For some people and in some regions, Halloween or some of its elements may have a non-Christian religious meaning. Some Halloween activities could be considered anti-Christian, and would, therefore, be avoided. Christians would want to avoid demonic associations, for example. With these things in mind, it would be appropriate for Christians to consider carefully their activities on this holiday.

…It’s true that such things as jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires and black cats, which are part of the Halloween tradition, may have roots in pre-Christian activities…

Most Christians believe they can celebrate Halloween (in some respects) as a purely secular day of fun…

Should Christians and their children participate in Halloween activities if they are unsure whether it is the right thing to do or are convinced it is wrong? The Bible teaches us that we should be fully persuaded in our own minds about these things—either pro or con. But we should not judge or condemn others who are of a different persuasion. The apostle Paul’s advice in Romans 14 can be applied to the question of Halloween activities.

…The day has religious significance only to those who give it religious significance. (Of course, as mentioned earlier, we would do well to avoid those activities that still do have an unChristian flavor.) It is the responsibility of each Christian to decide, based on biblical and Christian principles, whether to participate in Halloween activities, and to avoid judging other Christians who have different circumstances and make different decisions.

COGwriter comment:

The clear and biblically correct answer to the question of the WCG article, Should Christians Celebrate Halloween? is no.  But the WCG article refrains from clearly stating that.

Of course, WCG is promoting Easter (a holiday named after a pagan goddess that contains many pagan elements) and Christmas (a time chosen to coincide with a pagan celebration that still contains many pagan elements).  And now it is even stating that “Christians” celebrate Halloween (something that true Christians should not do), but that since it is so pagan, perhaps people should not, but at the same WCG still teaches that celebraters still should be thought of as Christians. 

The plain truth is that WCG knows that many of the holidays it advocates are essentially pagan.  However, the current WCG wants to fit in to the traditions of the world so much, it simply will not clearly condemn pagan practices like Halloween.

However, the old WCG used to clearly condemn Halloween.  Here is some of what the old Plain Truth magazine once said about it:

What about you and your children? What comes to your mind when thinking about Hallowe’en? The truth of the Bible? Not at all! Instead, weird and FRIGHTENING MASKS — persons PORTRAYED AS WITCHES AND DEMONS. Pumpkins and turnips hollowed out in the shape of EERIE-LOOKING faces! Lighted candles are placed inside to help bring out the more frightful side of these carvings. Dough is baked into small figurines RESEMBLING WITCHES AND SPIDER’S WEB CAKES are baked by the dozen for this occasion. Children, dressed up in the most revolting garments, are let loose on the neighbors, trying to scare the daylights out of them. Let’s be honest. I have before me the Good Housekeeping’s Book of Entertainment, which my wife picked up from the local library. On page 168 of this much-read book, there is a section on what to do on Hallowe’en. Notice the astonishing advice given! “Halloween decorations are quite as important as the food. When planning them, remember that if the room is to be dimly lit (preferably by candle and FIRELIGHT) the decorations must be bold to be effective. Orange, black and red, THE DEVIL’S COLOURS, are the colours associated with Halloween and THIS SCHEME SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT as far as possible . . . . Have paper streamers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling, or, if you would like to have something less usual, you could make a giant SPIDER’S web with black and orange strings, or in narrow strips of crepe paper coming from the four corners of the room, complete with a LARGE SPIDER — one of the DEVIL’S FAVOURITE FOLLOWERS.” Notice where the stress lies! Read further of the black magic associated with this festival. “To decorate the walls, make large silhouettes of CATS, BATS, OWLS AND WITCHES ON BROOMSTICKS . . . . For the supper table small WITCHES WITH BROOMSTICKS can be made by using lollipops on 4-inch sticks.” Weird lanterns, witch-balls, and witches’ cauldrons are some other objects, the book suggests, which must fit into the evening somehow. How pagan can you get?

NOWHERE does the Bible command us to observe Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en and other common festivals which people observe in the Christian-professing world have NO BIBLICAL BASIS. They originated in paganism. The testimony of history stamps Hallowe’en as a HEATHEN festival. It’s built on a PAGAN FOUNDATION. Your Bible warns: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). Which is the BASIS of YOUR practice and belief? Turn to Deuteronomy 12:29-31 and read God’s condemnation of Hallowe’en! (Marx, Gerhard O. The Origin of Halloween. Plain Truth Magazine, October 1967).

Comments by COGwriter:

The condemnation of such pagan practices remain in the Bible irrespective of WCG’s pagan tolerance or other opinions of men. Remember the Bible teaches:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:8-9).

Certainly Halloween contains strange doctrines.  Therefore, irrespective of the opinions and traditions of men, true Christians still do not celebrate pagan holidays like Halloween.

More information on Halloween, including more from the old Plain Truth article, is included in the article Is Halloween Holy Time for Christians?

Feast of Tabernacles Attendance for 2007

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Children's Choir in the Bahamas


In past few days, there have been some reports concerning attendance at the 2007 Feast of Tabernacles.

LCG reported:

The overall attendance figure for the Feast of Tabernacles 2007 (including shut-ins receiving CDs) was 7,086.  This year, some international areas experienced fewer incoming transfers, had fewer sites, and saw more brethren staying home because of rising transportation costs, so these areas posted a decrease in attendance.  In the USA, attendance was up 3.5 percent (with eight sites in 2007, up from six the previous year).  In Latin America, attendance was up 14 percent (with one new site in Chile).  Attendance in the Caribbean was up 11 percent, with record-breaking attendance in Tobago.  The U.K./Ireland region was up 32.5 percent this year, largely due to increased numbers of incoming transfers.  The Church continues to serve its shut-ins who are not able to make it to the Feast—285 brethren received Festival CDs in 2007, compared with 187 in 2006.

CBCG reported:

From the office here in Hollister we sent out over 100 sets of DVDs for small Feast groups in the USA, as well as nearly 400 CDs (with all nine sermons on each CD) to those who, because of circumstances, were keeping the Feast at home…Whether in groups or individually, well over 2,000 brethren observed the Feast of Tabernacles this year with CBCG.  

In the above case with CBCG, it is not clear how many are truly with CBCG as opposed to being independent and simply asking CBCG, and perhaps others, for DVDs.  But this figure may be higher than COGaIC.

COGaIC tends to have about 2,000 who attend their Feast sites.  They tend to have a lot of sites and members in Africa, the UK, and Australia.  Since they have decided to restrict access to their church website to only those they pre-approve for viewing, I have not seen their actual numbers for this year–but am basing my attendance estimate on previous data from about two years ago.

PCG also restricts access to its official attendance figures.  My estimate based upon what I have seen pieces of in the past is about 5,000.  Unlike the other COG groups, PCG also does not allow non-PCG members/attendees to attend their Feast sites.  FWIW, I did run into a few PCG members in Tobago this year (they met down the street from LCG).

Although I have not seen official attendance figures this year, UCG typically has over 20,000 who attend their Feast sites.  UCG typically publishes the details of attendance in the November issue of its United News which will probably be available in about a week.  Once that comes out I will probably update this update. 

Like CBCG and probably CEM, UCG tends to have many who attend its Feast sites who are not actually part of UCG.  While groups like LCG allow non-members/attendees to attend their Feast sites, typically UCG has a greater percentage of “visitors” (mainly people who consider themselves to be independent) at their sites than many other groups do.  There are various reasons for this, including the fact that UCG has the most Feast sites–about 50.  LCG is second as it had 43 sites in 2007.

In order of this writer’s understanding of each groups attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles, the largest groups (those with over 1,000 in attendance) in descending order appear to be:

1) United Church of God, aia
2) Living Church of God
3) Philadelphia Church of God
4) Church of God, aic
5) Christian Biblical Church of God
6) Christian Educational Ministries

Note: If your group should be in the above list, yet has been missed, please send a verifiable reference so I can check it and add your group. It is possible that the Church of God International or Intercontinental Church of God should be on the previous list, but I did not see enough attendance data which suggested that over 1000 actually attend their FOTs–but these appear (and not necessarily in that order) to be the next largest groups).  Nor am I absolutely certain that CEM has over 1,000.

CG7 Denver does not officially observe the Feast of Tabernacles, but announced this past summer that its members can observe it.  CG7 Meridian (a group not affiliated with Denver) members tend to observe the Feast and I had hoped to update this update later today with their attendance figures, but mainly only learned that they had two sites in the USA (and it was not clear if they were combined sites or CG7 Meridian only sites).

Articles of possibly related interest may include:

Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today’s Christians?
LCG 2007 Feast of Tabernacles’ Information Here is information on many Feast of Tabernacles locations for this year.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? Did they? Did Jesus? Should you?

What is the Worldwide Church of God?

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

TRANSFORMED FROM TRUTHWorldwide Church of God Transformed from Truth to Fairy Tales 

At its website, WCG’s J. Tkach reported the following:


Every now and then I get an email or letter from a viewer of Speaking of Life who tells me how much they enjoy the program and then asks, “Who are you? What church do you represent?” So let me take a few moments to explain.

The name of our church fellowship is The Worldwide Church of God. We are a medium-sized Christian denomination with about 64,000 members in 860 congregations. Our international headquarters and administrative center is in Glendora, California. I am speaking to you from our studio there.

We emphasize a faithful and committed personal walk with Jesus Christ, and we believe that such a walk is possible only in a grace-filled life. In fact, our history is a wonderful testimony of God’s grace in action. God delivered our denomination from a central focus on Old Testament law-keeping to a central focus on Jesus Christ. Our denominational goal and collective mission is to live and share the good news of God’s grace, which has been displayed to the world through Jesus Christ.

In addition, on its homepage, WCG’s website also stated:

When Judgment Day comes, and the Judge asks us why he should let us into his kingdom, how are we going to answer? Are we going to say that we have kept particular laws? I hope not, because the Judge could easily point out laws that we haven’t kept, sins that we never knew we committed and never repented of. We can’t say that we were good enough to keep the laws. No — all we can do is plead for mercy. We have faith that Christ died to redeem us from all sins. He died to rescue us from the penalty of the law. That’s our only basis for salvation. See the Bible study: Justification by faith

Comments by COGwriter:

The fact is that WCG is not focused on biblical truth as it badly wants to fit in with the world’s Protestants and attempts to demonstrate this as often as it can.  As I have mentioned before, I believe that WCG has been transformed away from the truth of the Bible. 

While it is true that all have sinned, the Bible makes it clear that we are not justified by faith only.  Furthermore, the Apostle Paul said that we are not to continue in sin:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2).

The Bible states that we are saved by grace through faith, but that justification involves works. 

The Bible also makes it clear that we are not saved by “faith alone”–a common false belief that Martin Luther installed within the Protestant movement when he intentionally mistranslated Romans 3:28.  That is probably why he called the Book of James an “epistle of straw” as it states the following in contradiction to Martin Luther’s and WCG’s false claims:

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (James 2:24).

It is true, as WCG indicated, that we will not stand before God and simply be able to plead that we should be saved because we kept the Sabbath, the Holy Days, Ten Commandments, etc.  Salvation and faith are gifts of God.

However, it is not true that God will save those who have intentionally sinned and rejected allowing Jesus Christ to live His life within us–and the Jesus of the Bible did keep the Sabbath, Holy Days, Ten Commandments, etc. 

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Hebrews 10:26-28).

Several articles of related interest may include:

Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants How the COGs differ from mainstream Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a COG background.
Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? Though he is known for his public sola Scriptura teaching, Martin Luther’s writings about the Bible suggest he felt that prima Luther was his ultimate authority.
The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong This article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the COG is NOT Protestant.
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments? This article quotes what Jesus actually said about them (His words are in red).
WCG Announces 35 Beliefs Book A news article that explains some of WCG’s current doctrinal positions.  Most of which appear to have been proclaimed to show why WCG is not a Church of God.

COGaIC: Paul a Monotheist?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

History of Early Christianity

COGaIC’s Peter Nathan posted the following yesterday:

Was Paul a monotheist?

To question the unquestionable.

Mark Goodacre raises this question over at New Testament Gateway. Mark has been reading Paula Fredriksen’s articles that are now posted on line and has noted her handling of the subject. One article of Paula’s that I can’t find listed on line is one from the 1992 Bible Review in which she first posed the question. The articles to which Mark refers address this same question.

“… something of a puzzle to explain how a group of Jews, known best of all in antiquity for their absolute insistence on the oneness of God and their refusal to grant worship to any other, should come in the middle of the first century to worship the man Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the Messiah. The question becomes even more puzzling when you consider that those Jews who believed in Jesus gave him titles apparently ascribing to him qualities and actions previously reserved for God alone” (Paula Fredriksen, Bible Review, December 1992, 14-15).

Comments by COGwriter:

The Apostle Paul was a binitarian as the Bible makes clear (binitarians and trinitarians tend to consider themselves as monotheists, unitarians tend to have a different view).

Even a Protestant trinitarian scholar noted this about the Bible (including some of Paul’s writings) and the writings right after the New Testament:

The binitarian formulas are found in Rom. 8:11, 2 Cor. 4:14, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:20, 1 Tim 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:21, and 2 John 1:13…No doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene sense is present in the New Testament…There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense in the Apostolic Fathers...(Rusch. W.G. The Trinitarian Controversy. Fortress Press, Phil., 1980, pp. 2-3).

The theological scholar L. Hurtado observed that Paul held a binitarian view:

Prior to his conversion experience, Paul saw Jewish Christian beliefs and practices as so improper and dangerous as to call for urgent and forceful action to destroy the young religious movement. He said his own conversion specifically involved a “revelation” of Jesus’ significance that produced as radical change in him, from opponent to devotee (e.g., Gal.1:12; 2 Cor. 5:16). So far as we can tell, immediately after this experience he espoused the remarkable “high” christological claims and “binitarian” devotional practice (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 175-176).

Paul makes the duality of God clear in every book of the Bible he wrote. All, except the Book of Hebrews, have a version of this in the introduction (the third verse in most books), “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). 

Paul also pointed out that Jesus was equal with God the Father:

Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:5b-6).

Hence the Apostle Paul did not hold the view that most of the Jews of his day held.

Several articles of related interest would include:

Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.

IMF Warns of Possible Dollar Collapse

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The following news item was of interest:

IMF warns of abrupt dollar fall

Financial Times – Oct 22, 2007

The dollar hit a record low against the euro on Monday as Rodrigo Rato, managing director of the International Monetary Fund warned that the US currency could suffer a dramatic fall that would shake confidence in American assets.

The outgoing IMF managing director said the depreciation of the dollar had been orderly, but cautioned there was a risk of a runaway sell-off that would hit growth in major economies.,Authorised=false.html?

The time of the dollars’ collapse is not immediate.

Eventually, though, the world will run to Euros, oil, and probably preciously metals when the financial markets get shaky because of the overwhelming US debt. This eventually will lead to the fulfillment of prophecies in Habakkuk such as:

“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry…
6 “Will not all these take up a proverb against him,
And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
‘Woe to him who increases
What is not his–how long?
And to him who loads himself with many pledges’?
7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly?
Will they not awaken who oppress you?
And you will become their booty (Habakkuk 2:2-3,6-7).

No country on earth has ever loaded itself with more “pledges” (promises to pay debt) than the USA.

And it may well be that when the effects of weather difficulties severely affect the production of food/grain crops in the USA, that the creditors of the world will realize that the USA is NOT going to be able to pay back its massive debt.

Europa Woman Riding the Beast Coin

But what about the Euro?

Now while Europe is also having some financial and weather issues, Bible prophecy indicates that it will rise while the USA will fall.  Investors still are staying mainly in the US dollar, but that will eventually change.

And although the Euro will have some rough times ahead (see the article The King of the North), eventually it or something similar appears destined to dominate the world financial scene. 

Two articles of possible interest may include:

Europa, the Beast, and Revelation Where did Europe get its name? What might Europe have to do with the Book of Revelation?
Modern Nations and God’s Ancient Plan Many peoples are mentioned in the Bible. And other than the fact that the nation of Israel represents the ancient kingdom of Judah, do you know who any of these people are now?

Weather Problems and Fires in the USA

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

While there are weather problems throughout the world, today I would like to show a few excerpts from news pieces in the past day or so concerning problems in the USA.

The first relates to the fires in California:

Associated Press – Oct 22, 2007

SAN DIEGO – Wildfires fanned by fierce desert winds consumed huge swaths of bone-dry Southern California on Monday, burning buildings and forcing more than 265,000 evacuations from Malibu to San Diego, including a jail, a hospital and nursing homes. More than a dozen wildfires engulfed the region, killing at least one person, injuring dozens more and threatening scores of structures. Overwhelmed firefighters said they lacked the resources to save all the threatened homes.

More than 250,000 people were forced to flee in San Diego County alone, where hundreds of patients were moved by school bus and ambulance from a hospital and nursing homes.

“It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world,” Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter, said as he and his crew stopped at a shopping center parking lot to refill their water truck from a hydrant near a restaurant…

Parts of seven Southern California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, were on fire.

The next two concern the drought and the southeast area.  Here is the first:

11Alive TV – Oct 21, 2007

With all the different figures being mentioned about lake levels it’s easy to be confused as to exactly how much water is left in Lake Lanier.Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers came out with some clarifying information about the lake status.“Although it’s more stressed than it’s ever been, it can serve us for a good while to come,” said Robert Holland of the Army Corp of Engineers. “We’ve heard about numbers in the media put out by the Corps and others that were a little more alarming than they should have been.”

The most glaring numbers refer to available water in what’s known as the conservation pool, or normal use range. However, there is additional water available for use beyond that.

“It may be 100 days or so to the bottom of the conservation pool, but our estimates and under certain assumptions that we beyond that have another 169 days and then if we were able to reduce releases significantly, we can go on for more than a year,” Holland explained.

Here is the second on the drought:

Published on: 10/23/07 Someone has pulled the stopper from the bathtub and all the water is draining out!Metro Atlanta and North Georgia, as well as most of the Southeast, is in the grip of what may prove to be the worst drought on record. At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing extreme amounts of water from Lake Lanier — our region’s key water supply source — to enhance the habitat of two species of mussels and to keep a small coal-fired power plant in operation.Comments by COGwriter:

 Other areas in the USA (including the Midwest and the West) are also in drought conditions.  Also, even in the northern states, unusually warm weather has become the pattern in some areas.

According to the COG understanding of biblical prophecy, the USA is likely to experience a variety of weather problems before it is weakened, then ultimately destroyed militarily.

Regarding weather, LCG’s RC Meredith has written:

Unless America and the British-descended peoples of the world repent of their heinous sins, the very God of creation will soon intervene to bring about the most horrifying storms and natural disasters in modern history! Then “normal” weather cycles will start changing. In fact, nearly everything around us will start changing–unless we nationally or individually repent and truly turn to the God of creation.  

The above and more is in the booklet  Who Controls the Weather? – by Roderick C. Meredith.

As far as the ultimate destruction of the USA and British peoples by a European military power, even Catholic private prophecies seem to predict that.

Two articles of related interest may include:

Who is the King of the North? Is there one? Do biblical and Roman Catholic prophecies point to the same leader? Should he be followed? Who will be the King of the North discussed in Daniel 11?

Europa, the Beast, and Revelation Where did Europe get its name? What might Europe have to do with the Book of Revelation? What about “the Beast”?