Is United Church of God getting ready to liberalize doctrine? Some believe that is happening. Some believe that a desire on the part of the current leaders of UCG to liberalize doctrine, to water down the truths of the Bible and of the Church of God, has been an important cause of the split. According to this view, now that the current leaders of UCG have strengthened their power, they will move to change doctrine, to move in the direction of traditional, mainstream Christianity as Mr. Tkach did in Worldwide, slowly and gradually perhaps, but in that direction nevertheless.
I personally do not know if this is true. It might be. There have been clues and hints, but so far no smoking gun that I can identify to prove the case. So this is a hard question for me to answer definitively. And I do not advocate any member of UCG leaving that fellowship just because of rumors that they may change doctrine in the future.
But I can answer how to prepare. If you are a member or attendee of UCG and you want to be protected from wrong doctrines, I think I know how you can prepare. The steps you should take are good steps to take even if doctrinal change does not take place, and they will help you see through any errors if change does take place.
If change comes, there will be a great effort to make the changes appear right. Many scriptures will be used to support the changes. That is how it was in Worldwide. There will be some truth and maybe some error mixed in. One point of truth that is likely to be included is the truth that we are to grow in grace and knowledge and be willing to be corrected by the Bible and learn new knowledge from the Bible. And that is a true and valid principle. UCG teachers may say that members should not be afraid of changes in doctrine if those changes are right and needed, and that is true. They may say that changes should not be rejected just because they are changes and sound different but that we should examine what the Bible says on the subject with an open mind, a mind willing to admit error and be corrected.
Nevertheless, the actual changes themselves might not be right.
So how can a member know? And how can a member be protected from deception in such a case?
This applies not just to members of UCG but all of us Church of God members wherever we may fellowship.
We have to know our Bibles. We have draw close to God in an attitude of meekness, humbleness, and willingness to believe God and the Bible more than man. And we have to put in the time to really study the Bible in an attitude of belief, to prove for ourselves what we believe and what we have been taught. This takes time. It takes time away from TV and entertainment. It is a sacrifice we must make if we want to be on solid ground. This kind of study can't be improvised suddenly at the last minute when you have to make a decision.
Prayer, meditation, and fasting can also help one draw closer to God.
Then if changes come, we will have the overall background in Bible knowledge, not based just on Church of God literature, but based on our own study of the Bible, and we will have the attitude and habit, built up over many months or years, of proving what God says and believing Him. With that attitude and background, we can examine any proposed change in doctrine in the Bible itself, and the Bible, which is God speaking, will tell us if the change in doctrine is true or false.
We have to apply the principles of Bible study that God Himself teaches through the scriptures:
"Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
" 'Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him' " (Isaiah 51:1-2).
"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (Romans 4:3).
"And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (James 2:23).
"...just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (Galatians 3:6).
"And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
" 'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the LORD. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:2).
"But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:14-16).
"And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:18-19).
"You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:19-22).
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).
Notice that Jesus Christ said that faith is a weightier matter of the law. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23). Faith is more than believing God exists (James 2:19). It means believing what God says. And that is a matter of law, as this passage shows. It is a violation of God's law, one of the three weightier matters of the law, to disbelieve what God says, and therefore since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), to disbelieve God is sin. Notice that those who do not believe God will not be in the kingdom of God: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
It is a serious matter to refuse to believe the Bible in matters of doctrine. If I understand these scriptures correctly, you could lose your salvation if you disbelieve what God says. We all make mistakes, I do not say any of us will lose salvation because of sincere mistakes. But we better have an attitude that trusts God and His word to be true and is willing to believe God more than man.
There is one more point about being protected from deception, and I make this point in my book Preaching the Gospel. If we want to have God's help to have spiritual discernment so we are not deceived, we better be careful that we do not ourselves deceive others in anything. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Don't lie to anyone. In any situation, speak the truth or keep silent, but don't lie. If we lie and deceive others, God may let us become the victims of deception, letting us reap the consequences of what we sow. If you study the life of Jacob, you will see that after Jacob lied to his father to obtain a blessing, God let Jacob suffer many things because of how others lied to him. See Genesis 27:1-35, 29:18-25, 31:7, and 37:31-35. God let Jacob learn the hard way the consequences of lying. There may be a lesson in that.
Something to think about.
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1
How to Understand the Bible, Chapter 1
Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5
The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6
Faith, Chapter 6
How Could Trained and Experienced Ministers Be Deceived?, Chapter 5