Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mr. Armstrong Held Fast to a Way of Life

Since I have written the last post, "Philadelphians Are Not to Hold Fast to a List of Doctrines", I have thought of an alternative argument someone could make, and I want to address that.

In the message to Philadelphia, Christ says he is coming quickly and we are to hold fast to what we have.  Someone might say that the whole message to Philadelphia does not all apply at the same time.  The open door applied from the beginning of the Philadelphia era, and Christ says in the message, I have set before you an open door.  Notice the past tense.  Then, later in the message, Christ says, I am coming quickly, hold fast what you have.  Christ was not coming quickly in 1934, so this is like a time marker that sets it apart and indicates that the "holding fast" takes place after the open door, maybe many years after, and maybe after all the doctrines were restored.

Is that possible?

I suppose, just based on just the message to Philadelphia itself, it might be.  But that idea ignores something important.

It ignores the vast difference in importance between a list of doctrines and a way of life.  God is teaching us a way of life.

Catholics and Protestants believe man's soul is immortal.  We believe it is mortal.  Catholics and Protestants believe God is three persons.  We believe God is two persons.  Catholics and Protestants believe the day of rest when we should meet to worship God is Sunday.  We believe it is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.  Catholics and Protestants keep Christmas and Easter.  We keep the holy days.

Catholic and Protestant children are taught their beliefs growing up.  Our children are taught what we believe growing up.

What have those differences to do with building godly character that we will carry into the kingdom of God?

It can mean a great deal, IF we believe what we believe because we believe what God says in the Bible.  And the test of that is when we see and read in the Bible God telling us something we didn't know before - do we believe God more than what we have been taught by man?  Do we believe God when it is hard to change?  THAT is a matter of character.  And that is what is important.  Not just the doctrines themselves.  The faith and trust in God to believe what He says unconditionally.  It is that faith in God's word that leads us to right doctrine.

The way of life of believing what God says even when it means changing the beliefs we have been taught is more important than any list of doctrines, because it involves character.  It is a matter of righteousness.  It is a matter of faith.

Just believing what your parents and church have taught you does not necessarily require faith in God.  And faith is one of the weightier matters of the law, according to Christ (Matthew 23:23).

Consider also that there is a direct contradiction between the way of life of accepting correction and believing new knowledge from God's word and the way of life of trusting in a fixed set of doctrines taught by man - any man, including Mr. Armstrong.

If you want to hold fast, you have to make a choice.  Do you want to hold fast to the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced, a way of life taught by God in the Bible, a way of life that enabled God to work with Mr. Armstrong and teach him new knowledge, or do you want to reject that way of life in favor of believing a fixed list of doctrines produced by that way of life?  Not that that way of life made those doctrines fixed and unchangeable.  But that way of life enabled those doctrines to be discovered.  But they are not fixed.  If there are mistakes in them, those mistakes can be corrected.  If there is more knowledge to be discovered in the Bible, we can add that knowledge to our doctrines.

That is the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.

And the thing to remember, for those who think there are different time periods involved in the message to Philadelphia and that the instruction to hold fast comes after the open door and after those doctrines have been restored, is that Mr. Armstrong practiced the way of life of learning and teaching new knowledge to the end of his life.  There was no moment in the Philadelphia era when Mr. Armstrong stopped learning and said, "Ok, time for doctrine to be fixed in place - no more changes - because we have to hold fast to what we have".

Mr. Armstrong did "hold fast", but never to a list of doctrines.  To the end of his life he held fast to the principle of learning new things from the Bible.

I was in the Church of God during the last few years of Mr. Armstrong's life.  I remember a sermon he gave not long before he died.  He announced new knowledge.  I don't remember exactly what the point of new knowledge was.  It may have been the knowledge that the Church of God is the kingdom of God, in embryo.

I don't remember at the time I heard this that it seemed very new or dramatic.  I thought it was not a big thing.

But Mr. Armstrong announced it as if it was big, new knowledge.  He was dramatic about it.

What a contrast with many Church of God leaders today!

Even some Church of God leaders who make small doctrinal changes or additions try to minimize it.  They don't like to admit they are changing anything.  They call it a "clarification".  It is as if they are afraid of the criticism of some members who will criticize them for changing anything Mr. Armstrong taught.  They act like they are slightly embarrassed about or ashamed of learning anything new.

But not Mr. Armstrong!  He dramatically announced even a small change as "new knowledge", and he taught the brethren to be willing to accept new knowledge.  He made a contrast with the Church of God Seventh Day, criticizing them for not being willing to learn new things and being content with the knowledge they had.  They were not willing to learn anything new.  Mr. Armstrong wanted the Church to be willing to learn new things.

And this is the way of life he practiced to the end of his life.

So from the time the Philadelphia era started in 1934 with the open door given to Mr. Armstrong till he died in 1986, Mr. Armstrong never once held fast to a list of doctrines.  So if that was what Christ meant we should hold fast to, Mr. Armstrong never obeyed that command of Christ.  But I say, he did hold fast, not to a list of doctrines, but to a way of life, and that is exactly what Christ wanted him, and wants us, to hold fast to.

You have to make a choice.  Holding fast to a list of doctrines, not allowing any correction or additional new knowledge from the Bible, is in direct contradiction to the way of life Mr. Armstong held fast to that produced those doctines.

You can hold fast to one or the other but not both, because they directly contradict each other.

You can hold fast to a list of doctrines taught by Mr. Armstrong.  But if you do, you reject the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  He never held fast to any list of doctrines.

Or you can hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's way of life, a way of life of learning correction and new doctrinal truths from the Bible.  But if you do that, you cannot hold fast to a fixed set of doctrines.

You have to choose.

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