Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reading PCG's Booklet, God is a Family

Let us now take a look at Stephen Flurry's booklet, God is a Family. Stephen Flurry went to work with his father in setting up the Philadelphia Church of God after his father was fired from Tkach's WCG. Stephen Flurry quickly rose up the ranks within PCG. In 1995 his first booklet for PCG, God is a Family, was published. This booklet teaches HWA's dogma of the God Family. This booklet has since been revised in 1999, 2004 and 2010. You can read the current version of this booklet on their website. However for this post I am going through the 2004 version, which appears to be very similar to the current version.

This booklet teaches that God is a family of divine beings presently composed of God the Father and God the Son but at the return of Christ church members will be born into the God Family and become God beings as fully divine as God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is reduced to some sort of impersonal force of God.

We now begin.

Chapter 1
Remember this particular point made by Mr. Armstrong, because it is crucial in disproving what the WCG is now teaching about the Family of God. The Word was made the Son of God when He was begotten by God of the virgin Mary and later resurrected as the firstborn Son of God. Prior to that time, He was not the Son of God, nor was there in all actuality a Family of God—yet! Again, John 1:14 says that when the Word was made flesh, He was “begotten of the Father.” The Word became the Son! (pp. 2-3.)
Apparently even with two members of this God Family it did not really count as a family. Yes, Stephen Flurry, that makes a lot a sense. So we now learn somehow there was no God Family in the beginning. I did not expect to read that from Stephen Flurry.

Now I am aware that in Mystery of the Ages HWA taught that Christ was the Word at first but only after being conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary did he become the Son. But I cannot recall HWA claiming that this meant there was no God Family before Christ's conception. I cannot recall HWA saying that because the Word was not yet the Son that the two two present God beings cannot be called the God Family. 
Mr. Armstrong went on to explain how God is now a family consisting of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Mr. Armstrong, however, did not say the word Elohim technically meant the “God Family,” because as we have already pointed out, there was no family until Jesus Christ was begotten of God and became the Son. (p. 3.)
I will say again that I cannot recall HWA ever saying that God was not a Family until Christ was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. HWA did say Christ did not become the Son until then, but I cannot recall ever reading that it is wrong to call them the God Family until after the conception. At present I cannot believe Stephen Flurry's contention. I do not believe that is what HWA taught.

In this chapter Stephen Flurry criticizes an article by Dr. K. J. Stavrinides that condemns the God Family doctrine.
Dr. K. J. Stavrinides, a WCG scholar, wrote an article in the August 3, 1993, Worldwide News titled, “Does Elohim Refer to a Family of Divine Beings?” In the conclusion of the article, Dr. Stavrinides says, “The attempt to make elohim reflect a family of divine beings is not only impossible historically, linguistically and culturally; it is theologically wrong, and inappropriate in the discussion of the true God.” (pp. 3-4.)
This article is often mentioned in this chapter. Even when explaining the God Family doctrine PCG's leaders make sure to incite the widespread anger and resentment against the Tkach changes among those who continue to believe most of HWA's teachings.

In contrast when I first learned of the God Family doctrine by reading Roderick C. Meredith's booklet, Your Ultimate Destiny, he never directly discussed the Tkach changes there. Actually LCG's recruitment writings rarely mention the Tkach changes but simply present HWA's dogmas.
We have already read Romans 8:29 where it says Jesus Christ was the “firstborn among many brethren.” Christ was first. Many brethren are to follow after Him. The Greek word for “brethren” is adelphos. That word is used frequently throughout the New Testament. Thayer’s Lexicon says this about its usage in Romans 8:29: “Christians, as those who are destined to be exalted to the same heavenly [glory] … which he [Christ] enjoys.” Christ was born as a Son by a resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4; Colossians 1:18). And we will be born as sons by that same process! God is a family! (p. 10.)
HWA's God Family dogma is so easily proven that Stephen Flurry has to use a 'worldly' commentary (that does not believe in the God Family doctrine at all) to prove it. He has to twist the Thayer's Lexicon's words and make it appear as though it support HWA's dogma. I have no doubt that if one approached the author of those words they would most strenuously deny the meaning Stephen Flurry implies here. Thayer's Lexicon does not teach the God Family doctrine, despite what Stephen Flurry implies here.
We are children and joint-heirs with Christ, due to inherit what He did, if we remain faithful. Paul concludes the verse by saying we will be “glorified together.” Concerning that word glorified, Thayer’s Lexicon says, “to be exalted to the same glory to which Christ has been raised.” How plain! God is a family into which we have an opportunity to be born! (p. 11.)
The authors of Thayer's Lexicon would object that their words are being used in this manner. Their words are being twisted to lend support to HWA's teaching. If Stephen Flurry can play so fast and loose with the Thayer's Lexicon why should anyone trust what he has to say?

What is the Thayer's Lexicon that Stephen Flurry inaccurately appeals to? It was written by one Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901). Who was he?
He studied at the Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard in 1850. Subsequently he studied theology at the Harvard Divinity School, and graduated from Andover Theological Seminary in 1857.
He served as a minister in Quincy, in 1859–64 in Salem, Massachusetts, and in 1862–63 was chaplain of the 40th Massachusetts Volunteers during the US Civil War. He was professor of sacred literature at Andover Seminary in 1864–82, and in 1884 succeeded Ezra Abbot as Bussey professor of New Testament criticism in the Harvard Divinity School. He died soon after his resignation from the Bussey professorship. (Wikipedia.)
Or, in COG jargon, Thayer was a Sunday keeping, false Christian, who possessed the mark of the Beast by observing Sunday, the type of "professing Christian" that the COGs love to belittle and condemn as blind heretics.

Furthermore Thayer served as a chaplain for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. This contradicts HWA's teaching forbidding service in the army. He is far removed from what HWA and the Flurrys would call a "true Christian".

Thayer never taught the God Family doctrine. Why does Stephen Flurry pretend as though he did?

I will say again, Joseph Henry Thayer would be absolutely horrified that his words are being twisted to appear as though he supports the God Family doctrine. He never believed in it or taught it.

Where did the Trinity doctrine come from? Stephen Flurry says it came from Satan.
The Trinity doctrine doesn’t include any of us because it limits God to three. Satan can’t be in the God Family. He doesn’t want man to be there either. So he inspired the Trinity doctrine, which teaches a closed Godhead. (p. 11.)
What a mature and reasoned way to settle an argument. Just say, Satan did it!

Is that how he settles all arguments? Is that how he solves problems among disaffected PCG members? Is that what he says to any PCG member unhappy at any injustice such a person would see within PCG?

Chapter 2

In this chapter Stephen Flurry presents seven supposed proofs that supposedly prove that the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force and not a personal being as is taught in most Christian churches.

Considering how he tried to portray Thayer's Lexicon as saying things it does not I find it very hard to take his words at face value.

It is also worth considering that even as early as 1995, when this booklet was first published, Gerald Flurry was boasting that PCG had an "annual income" in "the multiple millions." 
Look at how the PCG has grown since Malachi's Message was first mailed just prior to January 16, 1990. Already we have bought and paid for three new buildings with over 8500 square feet and are producing a beautiful monthly magazine that is mailed to tens of thousands of homes in over 80 countries. We have access to hundreds of millions of people with our television program. Our annual income is now into the multiple millions. (Gerald Flurry, The Little Book, 1995 version, p. 7.) 
This was done largely by continuing to teach much of what HWA taught, including his anti-trinitarianism. It is no wonder that Stephen Flurry is highly motivated to alienate the reader from Trinitarian churches so that they are more likely to join PCG and pay three tithes and extra offerings, which Stephen Flurry lives off of. How can Stephen Flurry be taken seriously? 

It should also be stated here that many of the ideas within Malachi's Message, which PCG teach to be the Little Book of Revelation 10, were plagiarized from The Letter to Laodicea by Jules Dervaes, written December 1986-January 1988. It was sent to 237 WCG ministers including Gerald Flurry and John Amos. In fact on September 26, 1990 Jules Dervaes sent a letter to Gerald Flurry in which he denounces Malachi's Message as "a direct and clear plagiarism" of his work.

Within this chapter Stephen Flurry tries to explain away Matthew 28:19 and weakly insist those words do not support the doctrine of the Trinity.
Another scripture many trinitarians use to “prove” the Trinity is Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit].” The fact that the first two mentioned, God the Father and Jesus Christ, are two separate Beings does not make the Holy Spirit a separate being also.

If we understood the first two points covered in this chapter, this verse becomes quite plain. We are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10). God the Father brings us to and grants us repentance (Romans 2:4). After repentance, we are to be baptized (Acts 2:38). It is after baptism that God gives us His Spirit. It is the Spirit that actually begets us as sons of God (Romans 8:9, 14, 16-17). As the begetting agent that comes from God, the Holy Spirit then is the earnest, or down payment, of our salvation (Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:16). That is why we are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (p. 23.)
But none of those words explain why if the Holy Spirit is not a being like the Father and the Son why is it that Jesus Christ speaks of the Holy Spirit as though He is equal to the Father and the Son. If the Holy Spirit is not a personal being Matthew 28:19 makes very little sense. One would think if the Holy Spirit was just a thing then Jesus Christ would speak of "it" as such in Matthew 28:19.

I will state here that in my opinion no one in the COGs has ever convincingly explained away Matthew 28:19 to prove that it does not support the doctrine of the Trinity.

Also Stephen Flurry never mentions Acts 5:3-4 though.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? ... why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (Acts 5:3-4.)
How can one lie to a thing?

(I am indebted to George Mather and Larry Nichols' book, Discovering the Plain Truth, for that insight.)

He ends the booklet with these words.
Christ said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). If it’s truth, you can be sure you will be able to understand it. God’s truth is not delivered obscurely while surrounded by a cloud of mystery like the Trinity doctrine. Once God’s truth is revealed, you will be able to prove it. God is a family. Mr. Armstrong not only said God is a family, he proved it. And so can you. (p. 24.)
I will say again, if the God Family is so easily provable why does Stephen Flurry twist the words of Thayer's Lexicon to inaccurately pretend that it supports this idea when Joseph Henry Thayer never supposed this idea?

Actually the idea of the God Family has no scriptural support whatsoever.

Isaiah 42:8: "I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."
Isaiah 43:10: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."
Isaiah 44:6: "Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God..."
Isaiah 44:8: "Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any." (From Mike of Mike's Enlightenment Page.)
I would also like to share these words from Felix Taylor, Jr.
Many years I have took in and on out the library (and I have personally now on photostat), The Armstrong Empire written by [the late] Joseph Martin Hopkins and he too disproved the God Family doctrine. At age 21, I started to begin to take what he wrote seriously.
Here is an excerpt from the book on page 104, "Armstrong caricutures the Trinity as sitting loftilly in condescending disdain of lowly humanity. In doing so he brushes aside clear scriptural teaching about the nature of God and the nature of man, and the contrast between the two. ... The purging of Isaiah's sin [in Isaiah 6], symbolized by the touching of his lips with a live coal from the alter, by no means gave him the illusion that he had been elevated to the level of deity. the goodness attainable by regenerated human beings stand in stark contrast to the glory of the Holy One; and Isaiah was moved to observe that not our evil but "our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (64:6). "O Lord." he acknowledged, "thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand (64:8)."
Here is the nail in the coffin of my belief in the God Family doctrine in my study in 1991. Continuing on page 104, "The vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 goes completely against the doctrine that men can become God. The Apostle John describes,
A great voice from the throne saying, "Behond, the dwelling of God is with me. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death sall be no more...for the former things have passed away"(vv.3-4)
Far from being identified with God as God, the redeemed are described as being in fellowship with God while at the same time remaining distinct and seperate beings. Verse seven promise that "He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be HIS GOD and he shall be MY SON"--a flat contradiction of the teaching that the destiny of the faithful is to be God."
HWA's God Family doctrine is nonsense. Stephen Flurry is preaching nonsense in this booklet.

The God Family doctrine has been discussed elsewhere on this blog.

The God Family discusses how I first learned of this doctrine and how Roderick C. Meredith claim it was 'revealed' to HWA's group.

A Problem in the God Family Doctrine discusses how HWA taught that humanity was simply Plan B for God. According to HWA God originally intended to have Angels govern the Universe but Lucifer's rebellion forced God to create Humanity instead. This aspect of HWA's God Family doctrine is never discussed in Stephen Flurry's booklet.

Called to the Truth? Will all in the God kingdom be Equal? discusses how the COGs teach that those who become God Beings at the return of Christ will be superior in rank then all other people who become God Beings afterwards, even though all are supposedly as fully God as God is God. The COGs nevertheless teach that there will be ranks and that the God Family will be divided into an elite (the deified church) while the rest will be inferior in rank. This aspect of the God Family doctrine is never discussed in Stephen Flurry's booklet.

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