My association with the Association for Christian Development (ACD) has again been called into question on grounds that some of ACD’s contributors teach doctrines with which I am not in agreement. (See firstname.lastname@example.org.) The writer doubted that am even “in” the Church of God because I write for ACD. The writer wrote “…I still do not believe that if he is in the COG he should have the type of affiliation he does with ACD.”
Let’s get something out of the way up front: If I wrote only for publications whose contents I’m in complete agreement with, I would write for no one. Even when I edited The Plain Truth I didn’t agree with every word in it. No editor worth his salt forces complete uniformity of content. Publications compete with each other, and internally, in the market place of ideas. This is healthy.
Authoritarian organizations, on the other hand, seek a forced “unity” in order to “all speak the same thing.” Those who dare to express heterodoxy are instantly labeled heretics and marginalized. In times past, those who were labeled heretics were stoned, burned at the stake, tortured and murdered. Do we want to return to such hateful, ungodly times? Do we want Nazi-like churches in which teaching is more like propaganda than sound exegesis? Do we want congregations of sheep-like conformists who nod like bobble heads at everything the minister says?
Am I in the COG?
It depends on what you mean by “Church of God.” If by that you mean those fragmented church organizations that believe Armstrongian doctrine, no I am not. I believe that Mr. Armstrong was fundamentally wrong on many of his doctrines. I am not a part of the “Church of God Pod.” I left it a long time ago – after years of trying to encourage its reform from within.
If you mean the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13), yes, I am part of that body. That identity transcends any denominational affiliation. It is based on the immersion by the Holy Spirit into the Body of our Lord. I am a follower of Yeshua the Anointed One who alone is the Head of the Church. He is the sole mediator between God and men (I Timothy 2:5).
When it comes to my “Christian” writing, I am responsible only for what is published under my byline, and nothing more. I am not the editor of ACD publications or its web site – therefore I am not accountable for what appears there.
After more than 50 years of studying the Bible, the last 28 of them in Hebrew roots studies, I am convinced that I am on the right track doctrinally speaking. To get there, I had to “unlearn” mountains of false doctrine – both in the Pod, and in Protestant and Catholic Christianity as well. Jettisoning exegetical detritus sometimes seems like a full-time job!
When it comes to interpreting the text of Scripture, I am much more flexible than I used to be. As a scholar for whom I have great respect writes, “The rabbis taught that every verse possesses seventy faces. Hence there are numerous ways to interpret each text of Scripture,” Paul the Jewish Theologian, by Brad H. Young, Ph.D. p.xi. This does not mean that we can subjectively interpret Scripture any way we feel like. It means that is a range of legitimate applications to any given passage or pericope.
The president of ACD, Ken Westby, has never asked to compromise my beliefs. He has not sought to force me to conform lock-step to his personal notions about anything. I am, and have been, a self-correcting mechanism. If in the light of better understanding I see something in my own articles that needs correction, I pull it or ask Ken to edit it. We should all be growing in understanding as we move Godward. We should all be open to new and better insights into the meaning and application of Scripture.
I am grateful to the forums I have had to express my views: ACD, The Bible Advocate and The Sabbath Sentinel.