Thursday, December 24, 2020

Is There a Contradiction Between Learning New Knowledge and Recognizing Herbert W. Armstrong as the Elijah to Restore All Things?

Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong could well be, and I think probably was, the Elijah to come to restore all things.  Some people latch on to that "all things" to say that, since Mr. Armstrong restored all things, there is nothing left to restore, and doctrine should now be locked in place - no more changes, no more additions, no more discovery in the Bible of new knowledge we did not have before.  The thinking seems to be, if we were to discover something new, new truth, new doctrinal knowledge from the Bible, and if we began to believe that new doctrinal knowledge and teach it and practice it and make it a part of the body of doctrinal knowledge of the Church of God, we would be restoring doctrinal knowledge that had been lost.  But that would contradict the principle that Mr. Armstrong restored everything, because if some new knowledge was restored today, that would be something Mr. Armstrong did not personally restore, and that would contradict the principle that Mr. Armstrong restored all, things, not just some things and leaving other things to be restored in the future after he died.

I have to respect those who sincerely feel this way, assuming they are basing their beliefs on God's word concerning the Elijah to come and restore all things (Matthew 17:11, Mark 9:12).

But there is a flaw in this thinking, a mistake, and I want to point that out.  I hope those who think that we cannot learn and accept new knowledge because that would contradict Mr. Armstrong's role of restoring ALL things will read this post and consider this issue with an open mind.

A person may say, "If I am wrong, tell me, I want to know."  This is a commendable attitude, one we should all have, and is endorsed by God's word, which says, "Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:8-9).

If this thinking - that Mr. Armstrong's role as the Elijah to restore all things prevents learning new knowledge - were correct, it would be hard for me to reconcile it with the principle that we should practice what we preach, and since we teach the public to learn new things and believe the Bible more than their traditions, we have to do the same to successfully preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning.  And we have to preach the message because the majority of Israel who needs a warning has not been reached with the message.  So they need the warning, and we need to preach it.  But to do this successfully, with God's blessing of an open door, we have to be willing to do what we ask others to do - to learn new knowledge from the Bible and believe what we learn and prove from the Bible more than our traditions.  God hates a double standard (Deuteronomy 25:13-16, Exodus 12:49, Numbers 15:15-16, Matthew 23:2-4, Luke 11:46).

So is this a problem of reconciliation?  God teaches that the Elijah to come, who I and many others expect was Mr. Armstrong, was to restore ALL things, yet to avoid hypocrisy in preaching the gospel we have to be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible just as we ask the public to do.  But if we learn something new, that would be something Mr. Armstrong did not restore.  So apparently, that would contradict Mr. Armstrong's Elijah role, which we believe based on scripture (Matthew 17:11).

How can we be willing to do what we ask the public to do, learn new knowledge, if we expect that there is nothing new to learn - that Mr. Armstrong restored it all?

There is an answer in the Bible.

The Bible teaches that when someone does something through the work of someone else, that action is attributed to the first person who started it, supervised it, or had authority over it.  

I have posted about this before, but many current readers of my blog may not have seen my old posts.

The world knows this too.  One may say that Henry Ford is the maker of Ford cars.  Yet he did not directly make the cars, but he did it through the workmen who worked in his factories.  They made the cars, but their work is attributed to the man, Henry Ford, who employed them and caused them to do the work of making cars, and that work continues today.  Mr. Armstrong, some of you will remember, used that example.  Another example: a historian of World War II may say that Adolf Hitler defeated France in 1940.  Yet is was the German army, officers, and soldiers that did the actual fighting and conquering of France - yet that action can be attributed to Hitler because he set it in motion.

God the Father created all things, but through the Word who became Jesus Christ.  Christ did the work of creating, but under the authority and supervision of God the Father (John 1:1-3, Ephesians 3:8-9, Colossians 1:15-16, Hebrews 1:1-2).

Look at Mr. Armstrong himself and the work God did through him.  He restored truth, yes.  But he had human helpers.  The whole membership and ministry backed him up.  Many articles that taught and expounded on truths that Mr. Armstrong restored were written by other men under Mr. Armstrong's supervision.  This truth was given to the public through the tithes and prayers of the membership.  It was taught in local congregations by ministers.  And there were no doubt times when Mr. Armstrong wanted and asked for feedback and scriptural research from some of his top men before he fully accepted a new idea he had.

He even allowed himself to be corrected, as with Pentecost being on a Monday or Sunday, by men under him.

The whole Elijah work was a group effort.  Yet, we attribute the restoring of doctrine to Mr. Armstrong personally because he caused it to happen.  He had authority over it.  He started it.  He set the example.  He caused it to happen, though it was Christ working in him, as he often said.

A very clear proof of this principle is in the Bible.  "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)" (John 4:1-2).  Notice, the disciples did the actual baptizing.  But their action is attributed to Christ who authorized, supervised, and caused them to do it.  The practice of baptism continues today.

Mr. Armstrong established the principle by his teaching and example of believing the Bible more than tradition and being willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible.  We should continue living by that principle, as Mr. Armstrong taught us, and if we discover and restore doctrine, that restoration can be attributed to Mr. Armstrong as the Elijah to restore all things because he started the process - he taught it to us by word and example - and we continue in the work he started.

If we restore anything, based on the example and teaching of Mr. Armstrong of believing the Bible, then it is Mr. Armstrong who restored it because he started the process, he taught it to us, and we continue in that same work.  Anything we restore is something Mr. Armstrong restored, because he caused us to do it, by his teaching and example.  We merely continue in his work.

The clearest example of this sort of thing is, coincidently (?), from the life of Elijah himself.

God gave Elijah a job.  "Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place' " (1 Kings 19:15-16).

So Elijah was to anoint three people for jobs they were to do or offices they were to hold: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.

Did Elijah personally anoint these three men before he was taken away?  No.  The only one he personally appointed to an office and job was Elisha (1 Kings 19:19).  After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1-14), Elisha, not Elijah, met with Hazael and told him he would be king over Syria.  Although it is not mentioned he anointed him, he apparently did, according to God's instructions to Elijah - Hazael did not seem to know before this that he would become king.

But the account of how Jehu was anointed is crystal clear - it was not done by Elijah.  It was done by Elisha, under Elisha's authority, and not even directly by him - it was done by an unnamed individual acting under Elisha's instruction, and Elisha probably got the general instruction from Elijah.  "And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, 'Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, "Thus says the Lord: 'I have anointed you king over Israel.' " Then open the door and flee, and do not delay' " (2 Kings 9:1).

Notice that God says that it was He who was anointing Jehu king of Israel.  God anointed him.  But God did it through Elijah by giving Elijah instructions to do so back in 1 Kings 19:15-16.  Elijah must have passed it to Elisha, who ordered a servant to do that actual anointing.  In other words, the work God gave Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-16 continued after Elijah was gone.  Yet, it was the work of Elijah which God gave him.  The work was attributed to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-16 even though was not done by Elijah directly - it was done by those who followed Elijah.

Likewise, any new knowledge we discover and teach from the Bible, anything we restore that Mr. Armstrong did not personally and directly restore, is attributed to Mr. Armstrong as the Elijah to restore all things, because Mr. Armstrong started the work of restoration of truth and taught it to the Church of God, and by so doing caused it to happen, even if we are the ones who do it by continuing that work Mr. Armstrong started.

This is a way to reconcile these three things: we are to preach the gospel, we must practice what we tell others to do, and Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to restore all things.

If you know of another way to reconcile these things, I would like to hear it.  If I am wrong, tell me and show me from the Bible, from Church history, and from sound logic.  Comments are open.

There is no contradiction between the policy of believing the Bible more than the Church while being willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible, and the recognition of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong as the Elijah to come and restore all things.  They fit together when you realize that the work of restoration of doctrine that Mr. Armstrong started should continue today by those who have been trained by his teaching and example.  In effect, Mr. Armstrong, by starting the process as Christ led him, continues the work of restoration through us today.  In that sense, Mr. Armstrong not only has restored doctrine, but continues to do so now.

The teaching, example, and work of a man of God can continue after his death, according to the Bible.  "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4).  Notice, God says that Able still speaks to us today, though he is dead.  Likewise, the work of Mr. Armstrong of restoring truth as the Elijah to come continues today, though he is dead.

A minister might say, no major new knowledge has been restored to the Church since Mr. Armstrong died.

If you look at the Church as a whole, that may be right, but only because the Church of God has not been willing to accept new knowledge.  But that does not mean that some individuals have not learned new knowledge that the Church as a whole has not yet accepted.

You could ask the question, what new knowledge did Mr. Armstrong restore to the Church of God Seventh Day that he originally attended with?  The answer is, none.  Mr. Armstrong restored nothing to that fellowship.  Why?  Mr. Armstrong did learn new knowledge that had been lost.  Truths were restored to Mr. Armstrong personally, which he accepted.  He tried to teach those truths to the Church of God Seventh Day, but they would not accept them.

Likewise, God may restore and teach, through the Bible, more knowledge that Mr. Armstrong did not have to certain individuals, and those individuals may try to give these things to the leadership of various Churches of God, but because of prejudice against new knowledge and fear of offending the majority of members who are against anything new, they reject any new knowledge offered to them by those individuals, who, like Mr. Armstrong, have discovered new knowledge in the Bible.

It is a little unfair, I think, for a minister or COG leader to back up his teaching that we should not learn new things by saying that no new truth has been revealed to the Church since Mr. Armstrong when it is the very bias of that minister and others like him against new knowledge that prevents the Church from accepting new knowledge.

God can restore new knowledge to any man or woman willing to believe God and learn new knowledge.  But God cannot use that man or woman to then pass on and restore that new knowledge to a fellowship that is not willing to accept it, just as Mr. Armstrong was not able to restore new truth to the Church of God Seventh Day which was not willing to accept it.

But eventually, God used Mr. Armstrong to raise up a new fellowship that was willing to accept the new truth that Mr. Armstrong was teaching.

A similar thing can happen today.

Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, the Churches of God and all the ministry and membership are being tested in a special way.  We are being tested on our willingness to practice the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced and to practice the way of life God taught us through the teaching and example of Mr. Armstrong.  And that way of life includes willingness to believe God more than Church of God tradition and willingness to learn new things from God.

We are all being examined by God right now.

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