Would you please give your views on the Worldwide Church of God's (WWCG) claim to orthodoxy, and their "transformation" from a cult to Christianity? WWCG has been praised by mainstream evangelical denominations as being a "gift to the body of Christ" because such a dramatic change has not occurred before. What is your opinion on all of this?
Like yourself, I have been a little skeptical about their claims of transformation from their errors of the past. But yet, I have to remember the Book of Revelation, and Jesus walking among the churches, asking some to repent before He takes away their light. I see Jesus standing outside the church, knocking on the door that they might let Him in to restore truth and fellowship. Maybe we never thought a church would actually let Him in and confess their sins and truly repent and renounce their old ways and false doctrines. Recently, I have been to the WWCG website and read much of their material and cannot find fault, so far. I read their Statement of Faith, and it seems "right on". I also read of their other beliefs and practices.
I have just a bit of concern about their support of Promise Keepers because of that movement being unevenly yoked with non-Christians in a spiritual endeavor, and also concerned about their statements of knocking down the walls of denominationalism and becoming one--I would want to ask them just what denominations did they have in mind (Catholics, Mormons, Liberals). They also talk about being "cultural sensitive and relevant" which could mean a watered down message. Sad to say, if they are guilty of what I have concerns over, then they are very much in line with many "Evangelical Churches" today.
Bottom line, I would actually like to go to one of their churches and see how they are in practice. There are many "Baptist" churches today teaching gross errors (Tongues, and women preachers, etc.) and we would be pleased if they would turn back to the truth, but somehow when a cult turns to the truth it is hard to take. But maybe it is like watching Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of the Church and a killer of Christians become an Apostle of Christ, it's hard to believe, but eventually we rejoice that it happened.
Time will tell with the WWCG, if the change is real--if it is then I will have learned even more about the Great Grace and Mercy of our God.
Note: Here is a recent comment I received about the changes in the WWCG:
"I'm sorry but I just read your reply on the Internet to the WWCG's claim to orthodoxy. I'm sure the WWCG took every precaution to make sure that every document 'appears' perfect. Underneath the surface there are adults who spent their whole lives in the WWCG and have unbelievable scars. Letters have been written to the 'leaders' asking how they intend to help the survivors, plagued by nightmares, anxiety attacks, and that feeling that we are all sinners. Mr. Takch never even bothers with a reply. Is that repentance?"
sister wrote them telling them their stance on eternal security doesn't make
sense, and questioning their doctrine of hell. They wrote back replying that
they believe Jesus will present the gospel to unbelievers at the judgment. I
then wrote asking for Scriptures to back that up. About all they told me is
that they can't back it up, but those that believe those who die in their sins
go to hell can't prove that either. This is their old doctrine of
universalism. They really haven't changed. They also don't know if the
unsaved will be tormented forever in hell, or annihilated. Nor do they know,
or won't take a stand on whether the dead are conscious or not. They use to
hold to soul sleep, so this is a continuation of that doctrine. They like to
stress that they aren't dogmatic in what they believe.
I hope you can use this information, and will update your writings on the WWCG. They are anything but orthodox, and need to be exposed. You might read some of their study papers on their website--they are very convoluted, and go directly back to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong. Also, they've decided to republish his writings to sell for their "historical value", all the while still holding him out to be a "minister of Jesus Christ".
Note: Here is recent comment by Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church on the changes in the WWCoG
(Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved.):
Has the Worldwide Church of God really become evangelical? The WWCoG, of course, is the group founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. He blended elements of Arianism, Seventh-day sabbatarianism, Anglo-Israelism, Galatian-style legalism, Pyramidology, and various other quirks and heresies into a deadly mix of false doctrines. Armstrong also falsely prophesied some end-times events, including the rapture of the church. (He predicted the group would be miraculously taken to Petra in Jordan in 1972.)
After Armstrong's death in 1986, the group abandoned his anti-Trinitarianism, disclaimed his rigid Saturday-Sabbatarianism, and made several other significant and much-publicized concessions to historic Christian orthodoxy.
A 1996 article in Christianity Today hailed the group's entry into "the fold" of evangelicalism. The WWCoG has since been accepted into the National Association of Evangelicals, and the group's president even sits on NAE's board of directors. They have received public approval from numerous evangelical leaders, including Hank Hanegraaff and D. James Kennedy.
But are they really orthodox? They teach a doctrine of post-mortem salvation; a muddled view of justification; and a confusing version of "the gospel of the kingdom" that still contains strong elements of Armstrongism. Judging from various WWCoG-related Web sites, doctrinal confusion is still rife within the group, and their teachings have been constantly in flux since Armstrong's death. Their halting movement toward evangelical "orthodoxy" still looks as if it may de-rail before they actually shed all their founder's false teachings.
WWCoG's published "Statement of Beliefs" does include an appendix with the Nicene Creed, the Disciples' Creed, and the definition of Chalcedon. But there is no explicit affirmation of these historic formulae—and the introduction to them warns that "creeds can become formal, complex, abstract, and sometimes equated with Scripture."
Furthermore, the modern doctrinal statement offered by the WWCoG fudges on issues like eternal punishment and soul sleep, and where it deals with vital doctrines like justification by faith, it is abbreviated and framed in unnecessarily ambiguous language. (For example, Scripture is affirmed as inspired and "foundational to the church"—but not expressly said to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith.)
About a decade ago, several elders of Grace Community Church met with the top leaders of the WWCoG and urged them to publish an explicit repudiation of founder Herbert W. Armstrong, identifying him as a dangerous false teacher. WWCoG leaders demurred at the time, saying to do so would alienate too many of their constituency. We still think such a statement would help demonstrate that changes in the group reflect real biblical convictions and not merely a radical public-relations campaign.
In any case, the WWCoG today is probably not as solidly in the mainstream of the evangelical movement as some of the recent giddy reports (cheered on by the WWCoG's own tireless PR department) have tried to make out. It appears uncertain at this point whether they intend to be truly orthodox, or merely stake out a permanent position on the fringe, doing what they have always done: borrowing popular errors from other groups and trying to amalgamate them into a mongrel system that is uniquely their own.
In any case, their journey away from error is certainly far from over.
Speaking of false teachers who try to reform themselves, we would do well to remember that the exit ramp from the broad road that leads to destruction is notoriously difficult to manage (Matthew 7:13-14).
And Worldwide Church of God leaders who want to avoid falling into the ditch ought to pay careful attention to the sad case of Robert D. Brinsmead: religious hell-raiser.
Bob Brinsmead's spiritual journey is a classic example of what can happen when someone reacts against error by running to extremes. He left Seventh-Day Adventism when he discovered the doctrine of justification by faith, and Brinsmead's early writings against seventh-day Sabbatarianism are some of the best and most thoroughly biblical you'll find anywhere.
In the early 1970s Brinsmead edited a fine Puritan/Calvinistic journal named Present Truth. But by the late '70s Brinsmead's own tastes were running to neo-orthodoxy, and the journal was retitled Verdict.
Brinsmead finally abandoned "organized Christianity" altogether, labeling Christianity itself a "cult." More recently he has published articles claiming that the supernatural Jesus of the New Testament never even existed. His current views amount to a kind of gnosticism—a tragic journey's end for a man who has enjoyed every spiritual advantage but evidently never really believed (cf. Heb. 6:4-6).
According to this Web page, "He currently lives in Australia, where he lives as a simple farmer, shunning the trappings of success."
That's hardly the full story, though. Brinsmead's "farm" holdings include Tropical Fruit World—"one of the largest tropical fruit plantations and research parks in the world" and a popular tourist attraction on Australia's Gold Coast. Spiritually, however, he has made it clear that he is bankrupt.
Why should any of this be of interest to the leaders of the WWCoG? Many of the recent doctrinal changes in that organization are a direct result of Brinsmead's writings against Sabbatarianism. His early papers were what convinced some of that cult's core leadership that their Sabbatarianism was biblically untenable.
We would hate to see the WWCoG follow Brinsmead the rest of the way down the trail he blazed (Matthew 15:14).
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Tony Capoccia's Questions and Answers" by:
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