The COG Catholic

From Worldwide to Universal

The COG Catholic blog has found a new home — with its own domain.

It is my personal page, and the blog is located at

The new RSS feed is:

I'm looking forward to writing more often and building my site.

Come see me!

When it comes to our religious faith, we all know it’s better to be on fire than to be lukewarm.

We ask the Holy Spirit to “enkindle in us the fire of your love.” If we cool off — if we don't stay “hot” — we risk quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

It would seem that if cold is the opposite of hot, then to be spiritually lukewarm is better than being spiritually cold. If you go from cold to lukewarm, you're making progress! You're going in the right direction. The closer we are to God, the better. Right?

We want to be like the two men on the road to Emmaus who recognized the resurrected Lord Jesus at the breaking of the bread. When he vanished from their sight, they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). This kind of heat — this spiritual “heart burn” — is what we desire.

What we don’t want is to be like those of whom Jesus spoke in his Olivet prophecy: “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

So what is the deal with Jesus’ words in Saint John’s letter to the church in Laodicea?

His warning to the Laodiceans is found in Revelation 3:15–16:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

Does it make sense to believe Jesus wants us to either love him or hate him — but what displeases him most is if we're somewhere in the middle? By analogy, is a so-so marriage worse than a marriage grown ice cold?

It's indeed counterintuitive to think cold is better than lukewarm — if what we have in mind is a range of spiritual temperatures, with “hot” being good and “cold” being bad.

The truth is, contrary to popular belief, that's not what Jesus meant.

Another read-through

If we discard the “spiritual degrees” paradigm and reread the letter to Laodicea, understanding the city in its historical context, we can unlock this apparent dilemma. We can make sense of Jesus’ call for the Laodicean church to be either “cold or hot” rather than “lukewarm.”

Here is the full warning message to Laodicea in Revelation 3:15–22:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Laodicea's fame

Jesus references specific things notable about first-century Laodicea:

  • Eye salve. It turns out there was a famous medical school in Laodicea that was known for its eye salve, likely more of a medicinal powder, rubbed onto the eyelids.
  • White garments. The textile industry was big in this wealthy city. Laodicea famously produced fine-quality, glossy black wool.
  • Rich. In addition to the wealth from its manufacture of black wool, Laodicea was a huge banking center, with gold being a source of wealth. It was well positioned as a banking center due to its physical location along the great Roman road. The city’s wealth was such that in A.D. 17, when it suffered a great earthquake, it refused imperial assistance. Unlike the city of Philadelphia, which also experienced destruction from an earthquake, the Laodiceans rebuilt their own city with their own wealth and resources — independent of the empire.
  • Lukewarm. For all its wealth, Laodicea lacked its own water supply, so it imported water from the south through a six-mile-long aqueduct. The water apparently came either from hot springs or cooler sources. Whichever the source, by the time it traveled six miles through the aqueduct system, the water arrived at a lukewarm temperature, and reportedly came with sediment.

Putting the pieces together

If we understand these things about Laodicea, we begin to understand Jesus more clearly. The correlations between Laodicea’s attributes and Jesus’ admonitions should become obvious.

Despite the eye salve that Laodicea offered, the church there was spiritually “blind,” but Jesus offers the readers true “salve to anoint [their] eyes, that [they] may see.”

The church’s members were “naked,” and in contrast to the glossy black wool found in the city, Jesus offers “white garments to clothe [them].”

The riches from the city’s industries and banking does not mean the people are not “poor.” “Therefore I [Jesus] counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich.”

Now what about the reference to being “lukewarm”?

Less than 10 miles away was the city of Colosse, where there was cool water, suitable for drinking. And just to the north of nearby Hieropolis, there were hot springs, suitable for therapeutic and healing baths.

But Laodicea? Remember, their water was tepid and full of sediment, which was good for neither drinking nor bathing. That’s why Jesus compared their sins of pride and complacency to their “lukewarm” water. “I will spew you out of my mouth,” he says, because, like their water, they were good for nothing.

So it’s not that Jesus prefers cold mortal sins over lukewarm venial sins. In terms of spiritual degrees, some warmth is better than none. But Jesus was not speaking of spiritual degrees; he was speaking of spiritual usefulness.

Our takeaway

Our takeaway from all of this is simple: “be zealous and repent” (3:19).

Be like hot water, which can be used for bathing. Or be like cold water, as a refreshing drink. Anything but lukewarm. We don’t want to be an emetic — a substance that induces spiritual vomiting in our Lord.

But how do we do that? What does that look like?

Laodicea was just one of the seven churches in Asia Minor that received a custom-tailored message. To most of them, Jesus says, “I know your works” (2:2; 2:19; 3:1; 3:8; 3:15).

Specifically, he says to “repent, and do the works you did at first” (2:5).

So whether you've cultivated vices in your life or allowed yourself to become spiritually tepid — if you feel stuck in a rut, then the only way out is to fall on your knees. Pray. Repent. Confess.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

And no matter how you feel, “do the works you did at first.” Get back to the basics.

Get back to the traditional, tested, and true teachings of the Catholic Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

It's the only way to avoid the “lukewarm” condition.

By the way, despite the lukewarm condition of the Laodiceans, Jesus concludes his letter to them with encouragement:

Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:19-22).

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


I remember Garner Ted Armstrong, who believed in what others call “soul sleep,” offering a “$10,000 cashier's check” to anyone who could find in the Bible a reference to “going to heaven” when we die.

Of course, he never surrendered that money, because the Bible nowhere says the words, “We go to heaven when we die,” or anything else equally explicit.

The problem with this challenge is the assumption that every Christian teaching must be stated plainly in the Bible for anyone to simply read and understand and believe. This is a false premise, because

  1. It is unbiblical (the Bible itself does not teach this standard, making the standard self-contradictory),
  2. It is unhistorical (Martin Luther invented the “Bible alone” theory in the A.D. 1500s), and
  3. It is unworkable (it doesn't work in real life).

One could have easily turned the table by asking Garner Ted, “Where does the Bible say we are 'utterly unconscious after death until the resurrection?'” — because the Bible doesn't say that either.

Without going into the biblical implications of “going to heaven” (e.g., Revelation 6:9-11), let me say I was fascinated when I first came across something in the letter of Clement to the Corinthians.

Clement time

Clement was the fourth bishop of Rome (after Peter, Linus, and Anacletus), and wrote this epistle in the A.D. 90spossibly while the apostle John was still living.

This same Clement was also a coworker of the apostle Paul:

Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:3)

According to early witnesses, Clement was ordained by the apostle Peter himself.

Where Peter is (and Paul)

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Clement praises them for their virtues, but then chastises them for their envies and strifes. (Not much had changed since Paul's time decades earlier.)

One thing that fascinates me about this letter is to see how Clement and the Christians of his time envisioned the state of the dead.

Here is chapter 5 in its entirety:

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

The way this very early, first-century contemporary of the apostles writes, we don't get the impression that he believes Peter and Paul are utterly unconscious or unaware, stuck in a state of soul sleep until they are stirred awake at the resurrection.

Clement says Peter “departed to the place of glory.” Are we to understand he is referring to the hole in the ground where his body lays?

Clement says Paul “obtained the reward” and “went into the holy place.” Should we think that means a state of nothingness, a deep black sleep, as if administered a general anesthetic?


This does not mean there is no resurrection.

I had always been taught that the understanding of a resurrection contradicts the idea our immortal soul survives bodily death. But not so.

Clement assumes there is no contradiction. While he speaks of the dead going to a “place of glory,” having “obtained the reward,” and having “gone into the holy place,” he also affirms the bodily resurrection.

In chapters 24-26 of his letter, Clement speaks of the resurrection. Here is the last of the three chapters:

Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfil His promise? For [the Scripture] says in a certain place, You shall raise me up, and I shall confess unto You; and again, I laid me down, and slept; I awoke, because You are with me; and again, Job says, You shall raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things. Job 19:25-26

Putting it together

It's clear to me that Clement and the early Christians believed just as the Church today believes: that at death, our spiritual soul separates from the body and remains conscious, facing its eternal fate. Meanwhile, the body decays and turns to dust. But at the resurrection, when Jesus returns, our body will rise from the dust and be reunited with our soul. Put together again, we will no longer be disembodied souls (as if ghosts). We will be reintegrated, body and soul, as whole human persons — the way God created us to be.

If we are judged to be unrepentant sinners, then hell is our reward for both body and soul.

But if we are judged to be “in Christ” at the time of our deaths, then, body and soul, we will be glorified and never again see death. We will have truly “obtained the reward.”

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


Due to popular misconceptions, consider this a quick Catholic review of the doctrine of resurrection:

Your eternal reward after this life is not for your soul to leave the body and go to heaven. Neither is it, if you die in mortal sin, for your soul to descend into the fiery pits of hell.

That’s not to say heaven or hell aren't your ultimate destinations—they are—but not without your body: the same body in which you are reading this. At the resurrection, upon the return of Jesus to this earth, you will forever possess your current body, though not without some drastic changes.

What are you?

First, consider who and what you are. You are not a spirit trapped inside a temporary fleshy shell, just waiting to escape this evil body at death in order to become like an angel, a pure spirit. Neither are you operated by an animal soul running on instinct, like a dog.

Rather, you are a body-soul composite. You are not a body, you are not a soul—the real you is both together. Without one or the other, you’re “not all there.”

What is death?

Death, then, occurs when the soul and body are separated (James 2:26). Without the animating function of the soul, the body is no longer a body that lives, but a corpse that decays.

Your spiritual soul, on the other hand, continues after death. The body needs the soul for sustenance, but the soul does not need the body in the same way. The soul may not be complete without it, but its existence does not rely on it.

When you die

You will be judged immediately after death. Your soul will either be damned to hell along with the many who take the wide path to destruction (Matthew 7:13), or you will join the few who find the narrow way to heaven (verse 14)—whether directly or after God finishes his healing work on your soul in purgatory (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).

But that’s not the end of the story. Our good works and evil works were done here in the body, so it is right and just that we reap our rewards in the body as well.


At the end of this age, we will be resurrected from the dead. We’ll be put back together again, our soul and body reunited. This is how we will forever experience the joys of heaven and the pains of hell.

With what bodies?

“How are the dead raised?” asked first-century resurrection deniers. “With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35).

St. Paul’s initial response was, “You foolish man!” before addressing the question (read it!). But just because the foolish ask it, that doesn’t make it something off-limits to ponder in hope.

The bodies of the just

Our bodies will be the same bodies we have now, but renewed and glorified, healed and perfected, whole and complete—changed. To describe them as “spiritual,” as St. Paul did, is not to say they will be non-physical, but supernatural. The Church tells us of at least four qualities of the resurrection body:

  1. Impassibility—We will no longer experience pain or death or physical evils. Good-bye, aches and pains. So long, death.
  2. Brightness—We will literally radiate with glory. We will be shiny, happy people.
  3. Agility—We will be able to go anywhere in the universe at the speed of thought, moving with ease and swiftness.
  4. Subtility—Our souls will rule our bodies absolutely. Nothing—including gravity, walls, or any other force—will hinder us.

These are the traits that the resurrected, glorified Jesus had (see, e.g., Luke 24:31; John 19:20,26). So even though we can’t fully grasp it, we can catch a glimpse. “[I]t does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

The alternative is not worth the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Remember: damned souls will also be reunited with their bodies, which, while lacking all the other traits of glorified bodies, will never die. And so their torment will be even worse than before. They will learn why it’s called hell.

Knowing these things, let us “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded” (Philippians 3:14–15).

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


Mary comes to the aid of her Son Jesus in a flashback scene from The Passion of the Christ.

Mary is a big deal in the Catholic Church, not only because she is Jesus’ mom, but because she is our mom — your mom and mine. Not in a figurative sense, but in a real sense.

“No way,” I might have argued before my conversion. “My parents would have something to say about that. They were present and active at my conception!”

But now I understand that Mary doesn’t have to be our uterine mother to be our real mother.

‘Real’ not always ‘biological’

Even though he didn't engender us after the manner of biological fathers, God is our real Father. He is not like our father; he is our father. We understand he is our “one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).

And Jesus — is he not the real Son of the living God? He did not come into existence, and certainly not through a biological, sexual union. Yet he is truly God’s Son because he was “born of the Father before all ages,” and was “begotten, not made.”

So if God is our Father, and Jesus is his Son (and our Brother), then could Mary be our Mother? Yes!

And what makes her our mother? Our connection to Jesus, her firstborn Son.

Entering God’s family

When we are joined to Jesus, his family becomes our family. His Father is our Father (John 20:17), and his mother is our mother.

I don't mean “family” in a manner of speaking, but in the highest, truest sense.

Merely sharing a common Creator with someone or something doesn’t make us family. (The housefly is not my brother, and the Mississippi River is not my sister.) When, however, we who are made in God's image are united to Jesus in baptism (Galatians 3:27), then God becomes our Father. We are adopted and made full-fledged members of his family.

A touching scene in the Gospels is when the suffering Jesus, in one of his “seven last words” on the Cross, gave his mother to John.

We are all John

We want to identify with St. John the disciple, who loved Jesus intensely. He is called the one “whom Jesus loved,” and at the last Passover meal he lay “close to the breast of Jesus” (John 13:23,25). He represents us, because that’s the kind of close, intimate relationship we should want to have — and can have — with Jesus.

Of all the disciples, John is the one who followed Jesus all the way to the Cross, as we are called to do.

‘Behold your mother’

While hanging on the Cross, shortly before he died, Jesus knew we needed his mother:

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (19:26–27).

This was not a last-minute advance directive for Mary’s long-term care. He didn't let time slip away and realize he needed to make arrangements. All along he planned to give her to us at that moment. We are all John. We are “the disciple” whom Jesus loved. Jesus' mom is now our mom.

The woman of Revelation 12 “brought forth a male child [i.e., Jesus], one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (verse 5). But he is not her only child. The “rest of her offspring” is described as “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (verse 17).

That's you and me!

What this means for us

It took me awhile to cast aside my prejudices against our holy mother. I thought Catholics made too big a deal about her. Careful to stay away from the appearance of idolatry, I thought of her as an oven Jesus popped out of when her due date arrived, as if she were only used for her womb. I didn't understand how central she was to the gospel, thinking she merely played a bit part in the greater drama of salvation. It didn't realize the profound implications of her as the Mother of God — and that she was my mother! She loves her firstborn Son — and she loves me!

We all need a loving mother to nurture and guide us, to give us insight and advice, to protect us and lead us out of trouble.

I learned if we develop a daily habit of mental prayer and praying the rosary, of deepening our relationship with her, of entrusting our souls to her care — if we “practice the presence of Mary” — she won’t let us down.

Are you tempted? Are you in trouble? Are you weak? Are you lost? Are you scared? Are you tired?

Call out to your mother. Entrust yourself to her. Follow the example of St. John and take her into your home, into your heart, as your mother.

Mary’s last spoken words in the Gospels are also for us, and her maternal instruction never changes: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

“Do whatever he tells you” — Mary
Remember: Never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help or sought her intercession, was left unaided. Amen.

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


Bacon is a special gift from God — one of the tasty ways by which he tells us, “I love you.”

I don't have a Bible verse for that, but I'm convinced.

In my case, bacon has been a healthful “diet food.” With its optimal fat-to-protein ratio, it played a role in my losing 40 pounds in three months. It was part of my dietary strategy — along with intermittent fasting — to reverse my type 2 diabetes. My hemoglobin A1C score plummeted from 8.5 to 5.2.

Of course, I didn't always believe bacon was a health food. I thought it was unfit for human consumption. In fact, I believed eating it was sinful — and not merely because it's “sinfully delicious.”

Bacon Bandits

Growing up in the Armstrongs' Worldwide Church of God, I was deprived of bacon and all other foods considered “unclean” according to the Levitical laws they observed.

But I didn’t feel deprived. I was content. I never coveted the pepperoni or sausage on my classmates’ school cafeteria pizzas, because as pork products they were “unclean” toppings. Why would I want to eat something God forbids?

It’s right there in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The God who says, “I change not” (Malachi 3:6) clearly delineates between “the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:46).

By promoting this simplistic understanding, the Armstrongs and their associates acted as “bacon bandits.” In the name of God, they stole from our menu this perfect health food, along with shrimp (the fruit of the sea), crab, catfish, and any other edible flesh proscribed by the Law of Moses.

They taught that these dietary restrictions were health laws. God knows what’s good and what’s not good for us to eat. So, like a Toyota owner's manual, his Book tells us what fuel to use and what not to use for our body’s best performance.

Spriritual explanations

When I was older, however, I began hearing spiritual explanations, which sounded more rational. (I didn't think I knew anyone who chronically battled trichinosis due to rebelliously eating undercooked, parasitic pork flesh.)

It was said that these dietary laws were daily reminders that we are called out of this world, and that choosing to eat “clean” meats and choosing not to eat “unclean” meats served as a living metaphor for how we must choose between good and evil in our everyday life.

Just as we choose God in our thoughts, in our speech, and in what we watch, we also choose God in what we eat.

Then a few years after I began working at the home office of Garner Ted Armstrong’s Church of God International in Tyler, Texas, I was challenged by a couple friends on this issue of clean and unclean meats. One of them offered mostly secular arguments, which I rejected entirely, while the other posed deeper theological arguments.

Back to the Word

That challenge was a call to arms, so to speak. It was time to “sharpen my sword” and yet again “prove” to myself — and to my friends — what I thought I already knew: the Christian mandate to abstain from “unclean meats.”

So I blew a day’s worth of dust off my Bible and again reviewed the relevant passages. (I had not yet taken Catholicism seriously, and instead had a very Protestant “Bible only” mentality.)

This time, as I sought to contradict my friend's point of view, my new study was leading me in an unexpected direction. While I didn’t want to jump to premature conclusions, I felt I might have to revise my understanding.

I had already gotten past the Fundamentalist, bumper-sticker mentality of “The Bible says it — I believe it — that settles it.” Sure enough, the Bible has to be believed, but first it must be correctly understood, which is what I sincerely endeavored to do.

What I found

I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, but for brevity's sake I can say that one passage of Scripture encapsulates the core of what eventually changed my mind (and later practice). It's a passage that perfectly summarizes and explains the purpose of the clean and unclean distinctions with regard to food. And that is Leviticus 20:24-26:

But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

It seemed clear from this verse alone that the primary reason God made these dietary laws was to reflect or illustrate that God had chosen the people of Israel out of all the other nations. It was “therefore” — because of that — that they were to distinguish between the clean and unclean. Just as God set apart Israel from the nations, so he set apart for them unclean animals.

I didn’t want to flip-flop my position based on one verse alone, in case I read too much into it, but this same concept popped up everywhere else, including our go-to chapters of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:

In Leviticus 11, after its listing of which animals are clean and unclean, we come to verse 45:

For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

In Deuteronomy 14, in the same context as these and other laws of distinction, we encounter verse 2:

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Peter's vision

I realized that this explicit Old Testament reason for the dietary laws fits perfectly with the account of Saint Peter’s vision in Acts 10.

Peter didn’t want to eat all the animals, reptiles, and birds he was told to eat, because he knew they were unclean. He objected, saying, “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean,” but the voice from heaven replied, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times in the vision, underscoring its importance.

Now, COG preachers explain (sometimes bombastically) that the meaning of Peter's vision “has nothing to do with food! It has nothing to do with pig, shrimp, lobster...!” (video). They say his vision only relates to the legitimacy of Gentile believers.

But they don’t grasp the implications of this connection between the Levitical dietary laws and God's covenant people.

The obvious question...and answer

To me, there was no way around the logical question that demanded a logical answer:

If we believe

  • that God gave Israel the dietary laws of clean and unclean as a reminder that God separated them from all the nations to be his people,
  • that the Gentiles are “grafted in” to God’s people (Romans 11), and
  • that the apostle to the Gentiles wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28),

then why on earth are we observing a dietary practice that symbolizes something that is no longer the case?

By insisting we abstain from “unclean” meats, we are acting out and illustrating a false reality — one in which the nation of Israel is still being called to be separate and spiritually distinct from the Gentiles.

The fact is that Jesus, for the past 2000 years, has been calling all peoples — Jew and Gentile — to be united in the one universal Church he continues to build.

It therefore makes no sense to continue observing these laws today. The religious symbol no longer matches the reality. As foretold to the patriarchs, the Church does not make a distinction between Jew and Gentile; rather, all are equally “in Christ.”

It's safe to say it was God himself who generously saw fit to add Gentile bacon to the Church's cheeseburger, making it an ever more glorious burger.

Ken's Pizza

It wasn't until I was completely convinced by the Christian understanding of clean and unclean laws that I told my friend one weekend, “Let's go out for a pizza.”

We went to Ken's Pizza on Broadway Avenue in Tyler. I was in my upper 20s, and for the first time ever I enjoyed multiple slices of pepperoni pizza.

Since I was still employed by a church that taught against eating unclean meats, I looked over my shoulder as I ate, but I saw no one I needed to worry about.

There was only one former fellow church employee a few tables over, but she was eating the same things I was.


I realize that in telling how I arrived at this point, I have not addressed the objections often raised by those who abstain from “unclean” animals (e.g., Isaiah's reference to mice, Noah's knowledge of clean and unclean animals, etc.), but that's not the point of this post. It's not a polemic. It's me sharing a slice of my story.

I do find it tragic and even humorous these days looking back on people's reactions when they learned I had left the religion of my youth. It was not uncommon to hear them ask with incredulity, “You mean, you eat pork now?” As if that is the surest sign of going off the rails into apostasy.

It's sobering to consider that there are Bible readers — good people (I was one of them!) — who think that Christianity is centered around worshiping on the correct day of the week, or is based on a particular fanciful prophetic scenario, or is fortified in the Faith by checking the label on a can of beans to make sure it doesn't contain pork — even checking a bag of marshmallows or a box of gelatin to make sure it doesn't contain “animal shortening,” lest it include any pork byproducts (yes, that is a thing).

Obedience to God in all things is necessary, but not misdirected obedience.

When I read the lives and writings of the holy Christian saints of old, their concern was not food and drink — that which comes into the mouth. Their concern was with what comes out of the mouth (cf. Matthew 15:11) — that is, what's in the heart.

Eating animals without cloven hooves or that don't chew the cud isn't what defiles us or makes us unclean. It's our own sinfulness.

In the words of Jesus,

What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man. (Mark 7:20-23)

Our job is to let God graciously cleanse our spiritual wounds (we all have them) and shape us perfectly into his image.

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


This post is for current “Church of God” members preparing to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, a religious festival I observed for close to 30 years before I became Catholic.

Every COG sermon I’ve heard about how to have the best-ever Feast of Tabernacles offers the same advice: commit to serving others.

  • Be an usher!
  • Be a parking lot attendant (wave those orange cones)!
  • Help organize and decorate the meeting hall!
  • Work with the audio-video crew!
  • Join the choir!
  • Serve at the information booth!
  • Find new ways to serve!

But even if every attendant were to sign up for a volunteer position (cutting back on their COG’s expenses), at some point you will still hear a sermon or sermonette about how to combat “post-feast letdown.”

Post-feast letdown

After a week of joining others in celebrating the future thousand-year earthly reign of God’s Kingdom—the “World Tomorrow”—the mere thought of going “back into the world” is a downer.

Recently, an active COG member also confided to me that he always looks forward to the feast, enjoys it, but then leaves on an “empty tank,” feeling as if he had just squandered another opportunity for spiritual growth.

This is not unusual.

The problem

Despite what you’re led to believe, usually it’s not that the feast is so spiritual that the contrast of going back into the world is a letdown. The truth is that, in many cases, “the feast” is indistinguishable from a feel-good convention, with its lineup of speakers, its organizational rah-rah cheerleading, its seminars (on all manner of topics), its entertainment, its stage bands, its fine foods, and its social activities.

What you actually experience is a natural letdown from a manufactured high.

A “good feast,” you believe, is one in which you make a ton of new friends and enjoy a full activity schedule. It might include skating, a family dance, pizza parties, go-karts, cookouts, singles dinners, couples dinners, ministers dinners, youth day, a movie night, raffles, site-seeing tours, beach volleyball parties, and other opportunities for fun and fellowship.

But the reality for many is that the feast is a very un-spiritual time, despite all their self-congratulatory talk about how blessed they are to be “called” to understand and keep “God’s feasts.” It’s a fun convention that allows people who were directly or indirectly affected by the Armstrongs to catch up with each other.

In short, you believe a good feast is a fun feast, a full feast—which makes for a fast, fatiguing feast.

The solution

Be honest: How many of you pray at the feast? I don’t mean just bowing your head after announcements while a deacon asks God through a microphone to “inspire the speaking and the hearing.” I mean deep, silent, personal, meditative prayer to get in tune with God’s will for your life.

I hope your experience is different, but when I attended COG FOTs, it never occurred to me to pray with any depth. Instead, after a full day of fun and noisy activity, I’d offer up a late check-in prayer at night as I drifted to sleep.

Years after my separation from COG culture, however, I began making “silent retreats.” They usually take place over a long weekend (maybe three days) with other men who come for the same purpose.

At the peaceful, scenic retreat house, we are all provided our own simple living quarters (no TVs, no telephones, no Blutetooth speakers, no wet bars).

We wake up early and spend each day not bombarded with sound system checks or engaged in chit-chat, but in complete silence. (Sometimes we all forget what that sounds like.) Usually there are a few scheduled spiritual talks given by the retreat master, offering reflections on Christian teaching. Attendance at the talks is not compulsory, but is usually helpful. If tired, naps are encouraged. The rest of the day is reserved for private prayer and meditation in solitude.

This can take the form of praying during an outdoor walk by oneself. It could be going to the library to prayerfully read the Scriptures, or to read books about the lives of heroic Christians who lived before us. It could seeing Jesus eye to eye in prayer, examining our own life in light of the gospel.

We’re called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect — how do we measure up? Where have we made the most progress, and where have we made the least? What’s our game plan?

We must honestly assess where we stand, realizing full well that God is never angry with our failures, but is always calling us deeper into the life of Christ, wooing us to come closer to him. While he is not indifferent to sin, he is patient with us. He is doing a work in us, and we have to let him. We remember the love with which he searches for and embraces his prodigal children.

The difference

It took no time at all to see how my annual silent retreats compared to the annual Feast of Tabernacles I grew up with.

With FOTs, time flew because I was having fun, and I hated going home because that was not as fun. I’d have to wait another year to hang out with my new friends at the pool party or arcade. It was a downer. Back to the daily grind, back to the salt mine.

But my silent retreats—I hardly mind when they’re over, because I’m rejuvenated. Having put aside for a time the daily cares of the world in order to refocus my spiritual life, I actually look forward to going home and living a rededicated Christian life. Refreshed rather than run down, I’m up for the challenge. I feel better equipped to live out my calling in Jesus.

My advice to feastgoers

My purpose here is not to dissuade you from observing the holy days of Leviticus. That can wait for another post. Instead, for now I encourage you to observe the fall feast with spiritual intensity, and not as if it were “God’s Vacation Plan.”

Decide your priority ahead of time. Refuse the pizza parties, the volleyball games, the socials, the family fun shows, the singalongs—all the noisy distractions. “Just say no.”

In a word, you must get away and pray. Be still in your soul. Listen to the still, small voice of God in your heart, because prayer is never a one-way conversation.

You already took more than a week off from work and school, so use that time wisely. Take walks on the beach by yourself, accompanied only by the seagulls. As massive and powerful as the ocean is, teeming with life, see it as a metaphor for God’s power and might. As one created out of nothing, meditate on your life’s direction and purpose. Slow down to read and ponder the Scriptures—not just Leviticus 23, but also the Gospels, which reveal how Jesus fulfills all that the Scriptures foretold through its historical shadows and figures. He should be at the heart of every prayer.

It’s not going on a fall vacation that God honors, but a humble and contrite heart.

If you commit to seeking God’s face and his will for your life, taking time to silence the noise of distraction that surrounds you, and being persistent in prayer, then who am I to judge you? I have complete faith that he will lead your next steps.

But it will be up to you to follow.

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


This is a quick reply to Jeff, who commented on my guest post entitled “Bill Watson's Doctrine of 'Changing Life Forms'” at the Banned by HWA blog.

I had taken issue with Bill (a Church of God International minister and proponent of “soul sleep”), who claims that people who believe in the immortality of the human soul don't really believe people die, but instead merely “change life forms.” (If you're interested in this reply, read the original post and his comments first.)

Jeff is also a minister with CGI, employed as their “Creative Director.”

Greetings, Jeff.

Thanks for sharing your comments.

I'll intersperse my thoughts amongst yours:

Traditional Christians believe that the soul is immortal, so there must be a source for this belief. We do not think it is the Bible because of many scriptures.

To start off, the Bible does not have to be the plain, explicit source of all knowledge for all things. Otherwise it would teach that it is (and it doesn't).

You know Scripture itself says that “For what can be known about God is plain to them [pagan gentiles who haven't received the Law or divine public revelation], because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

If we can have true knowledge about the Creator based on his creation, then we can surely have true knowledge about creation itself. That would include the human soul.

Just like the law of gravity, the speed of light, the Pythagorean theorem, and so many other things that don't find their “source” in the Bible, we can know certain things about the spiritual soul (based on reason and observation) that are absolutely, reliably true.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20

I think we both agree, due to its plain context, that this use of the word soul refers to a person rather than his spiritual dimension (“spirit in man”), as distinct from his physical body.

“Soul” here means something different than what it means, for example, in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Since “soul” can mean different things in different contexts, we have to be sure always to define our terms and not fall into the trap of equivocating.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

”...that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Perish and everlasting life are opposites. Eternal life is presented throughout the Bible as the reward of the saved.

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 26:6)

“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6)

“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Romans 6:22

God's gift of eternal life is a theme that runs through the Bible. I know that you know these scriptures. I am genuinely interested in the Catholic response.

“Eternal life” is not 100 percent synonymous with “everlasting existence.” Satan and the demons are given everlasting existence, but we would never say they have “eternal life,” which is based on eternal friendship with Jesus: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Bill's conclusion is that the idea of the immortal soul originating outside Christianity is accepted by many scholars outside the Church of God. There is actual legitimate evidence to be considered.

We don't want to commit the genetic fallacy — a logical fallacy that says the truthfulness of something depends on the source of that information.

Just because some pagans are guilty of damnable errors, it doesn't follow that every conclusion any pagan reaches is automatically wrong. With their God-given reasoning faculties, they can also deduce things that are true.

Pagans also came to a belief in deity, not just materialism. They saw fit that dedicated temples should be built (even before Solomon's Temple). Many believed in morality (remember Abimelech, king of Gerar, knowing that taking another man's wife was a “sin”; he didn't get this from Moses and the Law — Genesis 20).

There is truth in these things, though mixed with error. Likewise, it's true that man has a spiritual, immaterial dimension (a soul) that does not disintegrate with the body, but survives it; they are mistaken, however, to believe in any kind of reincarnation, or the idea that the soul must be “freed” from the shackles of the body in order to reach its full potential.

You wrote, “Christians believe explicitly in “the resurrection of the body,” which, for those who are saved, will be glorified and supernaturalized. It will “put on immortality.” And it will be reunited with the soul.”

“Either way, it is the COG position that most resemble paganism, presenting the “spirit in man” as something meant to escape the fleshly body, to be placed inside a “spirit body,” and to go on living apart from the physical body.

Which is to say, COGs believe the reward of the saved is to change life forms (with a nap in between).”

1 Corinthians 15

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

The Scriptures align with the traditional Christian view. What is it exactly that is “raised imperishable” according to 1 Corinthians 15:42? It is the perishable body that was sown.

Just this week during a road trip, my wife and I listened to a selection from an audio Bible and heard Romans 8. It makes the same point:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (verse 11).

It's these same mortal, dead bodies in the grave that will be given new life. Just like Jesus' body “also.” We're not talking about a transference of our spirits from one container into another.

I need to see how we differ from what you are saying when we say we will be transformed into immortal spiritual beings. That is a different “life form,” in a sense, though. The difference is we believe in what you call soul sleep. I like your analogy of a nap.

I recently received an email from Vance Stinson on the subject and I like the way he described the resurrected Christ:

“When He rose again, His human body—that same body that had been placed in the tomb—was revived and transformed into an immortal human body. His divine attributes and powers were fully restored, but He was now a glorified, deified Man... So He is still, today, the immortal God-Man. He is as human as He ever was, but He exercises His divine attributes and powers as fully as He ever did. This is why He is, not was, the New Adam, which means He is the New Humanity—a glorified, perfected, deified Humanity. And when we are joined to Him, we become a part of the New Humanity, and we look forward to the time when we will experience this new, deified Humanity in its fullness. “We will be made like Him, for we will see Him as He is.”

Vance's view, as stated, is absolutely correct and absolutely traditional. To the extent that you agree with what he wrote here, I agree with you. But most COGers would not say this, including CGI ministers and presenters, because it's not what you get from reading the Ambassador College Correspondence Course or hearing World Tomorrow broadcasts.

When we're talking about different “life forms,” as always we need to define our terms. Bill regularly defines what he means. He means we will no longer be human beings, but “spirit beings,” and that the “spirit in man” will be transferred to a body “composed of spirit.” That's clearly a different life form.

When Saint Paul says our bodies will be “spiritual,” he is not saying they will be composed of another kind of material called “spirit.”

Gifts and blessings can be spiritual, the law is spiritual, truths are spiritual, there is spiritual meat and drink — but that doesn't mean they are “made out of” spirit.

Even in the same letter, Saint Paul writes of human beings, then and there, being “spiritual” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:15, 3:1, 14:37), using the same word.

The “spiritual” body is one that the spirit fully enlivens and governs, imbuing it with immortality.

Our “life form” will be “different” in the sense that it will be improved, but not “different” in the sense of becoming a different kind or species of being. We will still be human, as Jesus is still human.

Catholics traditionally describe the glorified resurrection body with these four qualities:

  • Impassibility (We will no longer experience pain or death or physical evils.)

  • Brightness (We will literally radiate with glory as shiny, happy people.)

  • Agility (We will be able to go anywhere in the universe at the speed of thought, moving with sheer ease and swiftness.)

  • Subtility (Our souls will rule our bodies absolutely. Nothing — including walls, gravity, or any other force — will hinder us.)

I read the article you wrote about your change to Catholicism. I find your story intriguing. And although we have never met, I have had friends who knew you when you worked in Tyler and still say great things about you. My wife grew up Catholic and then converted to Church of God.

Thank you.

I like hearing the stories of Catholics who defected to become Protestants (but especially the other way around!). And who more interesting than those who left to join a COG, since that is my background?

When I talk with Lutherans or “nondenominational” friends of mine who were formerly Catholic, I find they generally don't want to face any pushback against their move because their mind is resolved and locked shut. To force a conversation with them feels like a personal attack. But I do like to hear their stories. It makes it easier for me to see how they went off track, and it helps me tailor my prayers for them personally.

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


Wild-eyed Christian enthusiasts are quick to blast others who disagree with them as not being Christian.

A word of advice: If Christians have differing views on...

  • how predestination and God's omniscience works with our free will, or
  • whether God created the world in seven literal 24-hour days, or
  • what precisely the two goats of Leviticus 16 foreshadow,

it's generally not wise to accuse them of being anti-Christ.

But neither should we make the mistake of thinking beliefs don't matter. Some make a world of difference.

What about COGs?

Can we apply the label “Christian” to the various COGs in the Armstrong tradition, such as the United Church of God (UCG); Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA); Church of God International (CGI); Intercontinental Church of God (ICG); and all the rest?

We surely agree that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (think Mormons) and The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (think Jehovah's Witnesses) are not Christian. We don't say that to insult any adherents of their respective religions. It's just an honest assessment of their theology, of how they view God — especially in the Person of Jesus Christ.

We have to judge honestly the theology of Armstrong COGs in the same way. While many of their believers may be sincere and decent people, here are five commonly held COG beliefs that lead me — a former COG believer — to objectively conclude these organizations cannot be properly called “Christian”:

  1. There are two Gods.
  2. Jesus was no longer God when he became man.
  3. Jesus could have sinned.
  4. The Creator ceased to exist.
  5. Jesus' body was not resurrected.

1. There are two Gods

This is a big one. Most COGs are quite comfortable saying outright that there are “two God Beings.” And many will say that one day, everyone who is eventually “born again” into God's family will also become a God Being. That means one day there may be millions of God Beings, even if they're always under the Father and Jesus Christ in “rank.”

Despite this, they recoil at being labeled “polytheists” (a term we apply to pagans), but what's a more accurate term to describe a belief in two or more God Beings?

Their teachers quickly respond by explaining there is only “one God Family.” That's the only sense in which they describe the “oneness” of God. To them it just means these multiple God Beings are united in purpose and plan, of the same mind, on the same team. These two separate God Beings are “one” in spirit.

But this does not answer for their more-than-one-God teaching. It is their sleight-of-hand way to make polytheism appear monotheistic.

Don't lose sight that there cannot be two or more “God Beings.” That's impossible.

Now it is helpful to clarify what we mean by the words Being and Person in a theological and philosophical context, because they can be synonymous in an everyday, conversational context. In short, “being” is a reference to something that exists, and “person” is a reference to who an existing something is.

So a rocking chair, for example, is a “being,” because it exists, but that rocking chair is not a person.

You, the reader, are also a “being” because you exist, but you're also a person, because in addition to being a something, you're a someone.

The Christian view of God is that he is one in Being, but more than one in Person.

This idea is beyond our limited imagination, because every day we see and interact with beings that are zero persons, and beings that are one person; but we never see beings that are more than one person. While we can't picture it in our minds, a being comprised of more than one person does not contradict logic, just as it is not illogical that some beings are persons and some beings are not.

COG teachers, on the other hand, clearly mean to express that there are two God Beings.

God is almighty. But if the Father is an almighty Being, and if the Son in his divinity is an almighty Being, then neither is almighty. There can't be more than one almighty Being. Almightiness is a superlative term; it doesn't allow for two or more. If one is almightier than the other, then the other is not almighty. And so the one who is not almighty is, by definition, not God.

Trinitarians, using nuanced terms to affirm both monotheism and the divinity of Christ, don't face this difficulty. They understand and explain that God is only one “What” (Being) and more than one “Who” (Person).

Any COG that says there are two or more Gods is not Christian.

What did the Early Church say?

Tertullian (A.D. 155-200), Adversus Praxeam – Against Praxeas, chapter 3

They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshippers of the One God; just as if the Unity itself with irrational deductions did not produce heresy, and the Trinity rationally considered constitute the truth.

2. Jesus was no longer God when he became man

COGs give the strong impression they believe

  • that Jesus was God in his preincarnate state;
  • that Jesus was no longer God when he became man; and
  • that Jesus was God again when he conquered death.

If Jesus was only a man (and not God) when he walked the earth, then we have to ask: How did his Roman execution benefit any of us? At most, we could consider him a martyr, not Savior of the world.

On the other hand, the historic Christian Church rightly understands that Jesus is at once fully God and fully man (a concept COGs often explicitly reject). He was, and remains, a divine Person with two natures: human and divine.

God cannot stop being God. As his existence is necessary for all else to exist (and continue to exist), the great “I AM” cannot become “I am not” even for a little while. He cannot go in and out of existence. That contradicts what it means to be eternal.

We have to realize the Word never stopped being God. If God can stop being God, then he was never God to begin with.

It is a contradiction of terms for the Self-Existent One to stop existing. It's as nonsensical as suggesting the all-powerful God can create a boulder so heavy that he can't move it. (While that proposal might be a stumper for children, we understand it is nonsensical — and God does not exist in a make-believe world of nonsense. He is not a God of self-contradiction.)

Any COG that says Jesus was no longer God when he became man is not Christian. We could not be saved by a mere man. We had to be saved by the God-Man.

What did the Early Church say?

Origen (A.D. 185-232), De Principiis, preface:

He in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was; that He assumed a body like to our own, differing in this respect only, that it was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit...

3. Jesus could have sinned

I remember how my CGI pastor reacted when the mid-1990s WCG started saying Jesus could not have sinned. He would say if Jesus couldn't have sinned, then you have no Savior.

But the truth is just the opposite: You have no Savior if he could have sinned.

If we believe that Jesus was walking around as God in the flesh, as a divine Person who assumed a human nature, then we can't believe Jesus (as God) was able to sin. Just as God can't not exist, because he is necessary existence, so it is that he can't sin, because he is all-holy.

Sin is committed only by a person, through an act of the will, not by the body alone. It involves choice. Jesus is (and was) a divine Person with a divine will, and we know God cannot sin.

Just because Jesus was born with a human body, it does not follow that his divine Person could be overwhelmed with, and succumb to, temptation. His human and divine will were perfectly united. Keeping in mind that only persons (not mere bodies) can sin, if the divine Person of Jesus could have sinned 2000 years go, then he could sin now. But we know he can't sin now, because he's God — a divine Person. And there was never a time when he wasn't a divine Person.

COG leaders have even floated the idea that the Father and the Son took a huge cosmic risk in letting one of them become man. Had he failed through sin, there would have been only one of them left. The implications of this are absurd. For one, it would have cut the “God population” in half, and in such a predicament I would ask whether God the Father, as backup, could have stepped in where the Son failed in order to save the world. And what if he, too, failed through sin? Eternity would end (another contradiction of terms).

Any COG that says Jesus could have sinned is not Christian.

What did the Early Church say?

James the brother of the Lord (circa A.D. 49), Letter of James (chapter 1, verse 13):

...for God cannot be tempted with evil...

4. God (or a “God Being”) died

By now you should know where I'm going with this.

Yes, since Jesus was crucified, and since Jesus is God, it's not wrong to say God died. In fact, it's necessary to believe that God died.

But Garner Ted Armstrong made his view (the prevailing COG view) very clear within the first 10 to 12 minutes of his appearance on the John Ankerberg Show. He forcefully insisted that Jesus was dead in every sense.

But in what way did Jesus die? The only way possible: in his human nature — as a man. God cannot die in his divine nature. In Jesus' case, he could only have experienced death through the humanity he assumed from Mary.

Any COG that says the divine nature can die is not Christian.

What did the Early Church say?

Hippolytus (A.D. 170-235), Exegetical Fragments from Commentaries, On Luke, Chapter 23:

For His body lay in the tomb, not emptied of divinity; but as, while in Hades, He was in essential being with His Father, so was He also in the body and in Hades. For the Son is not contained in space, just as the Father; and He comprehends all things in Himself.

5. Jesus' body was not resurrected

COG believers seem unable to comprehend my charge that they deny the Resurrection of Jesus. They won't admit to or agree with it, but it's plainly their belief nonetheless.

Remember that COG leaders love talking about how the “churches of this world” teach that the souls of people, at death, “waft off” into heaven and play harps and eat angel food cake forever (or other such nonsense — a gross misrepresentation of Christian theology).

They say the biblical view is that we experience a resurrection, in which the mortal puts on immortality. As stated, this view is correct. We are absolutely awaiting a resurrection at the Second Coming.

Yet, with few exceptions, I often encounter COG teachers who deny this fundamental Christian truth about Jesus' resurrection: that the same body that went into the tomb is the same body that came out.

When pressed, they typically explain that the physical body of Jesus was discarded and replaced with something entirely different — a “spirit body” just as he had before the Incarnation, completely unrelated to and disconnected from the body that had hung upon the Cross.

This is not, however, what “resurrection” means. Resurrection refers to something that dies and then comes back to life again, not a transference of consciousness from one body to another. That would be more akin to the pagan belief of reincarnation or a kind of transmigration of souls.

Jesus made clear that he — body and soul — came out of the tomb. He appeared to many people, he showed his wounds to his disciples, he ate with them.

His body, however, was glorified and made perfect. It was no longer subject to death or even to the laws of physics. It was the same human body but renewed in a glorified resurrected state. That's what Christians believe happened to Jesus, and it's what Christians believe is our final reward.

Any COG that believes Jesus abandoned the very flesh that saved us and replaced it with something wholly, entirely different is not a Christian. Their preaching is in vain and their faith is in vain.

What did the Early Church say?

Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans (A.D. 110), chapter 3:

For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now.


How many times over the years have we heard various COG leaders complain they can't get air time on certain Christian media outlets?

Often, the reason for their rejection boils down to one big issue: the doctrine of the trinity.

I would argue that the biggest problem with rejecting the trinity doctrine is not just denying the Personhood of the Holy Spirit — calling him a power or a force, or metaphorizing him as merely the presence and power of the Father and Son acting in the natural world. The biggest problem is that it opens wide the door to the kinds of tragic errors enumerated above.

The person who truly believes in the Christian doctrine of the trinity, and is consistent, will not fall into these serious errors. He will believe there is only one God. He will believe Jesus was God while in the flesh. He will know Jesus could not have sinned or risked his eternal divine life. He will understand that God cannot go out of, and into, existence. He will believe that Jesus' mortal body was raised from the dead.

Anything to the contrary cannot rightly be called “Christian.”

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key:


How often I've heard growing up: “Don't interpret the Bible! Let the Bible interpret the Bible!”

This is not unique to my background. It's a common refrain in Fundamentalist Christian circles. Yet few seem to catch the irony that, amongst all who say this, there are so many different, contradictory beliefs about what Scripture means.

The statement is absurd on its face, of course. The Bible interprets the Bible? That's like saying a book reads itself. But we all know it takes a reader to read a book. Books don't read themselves. Which is another way of saying books don't interpret themselves.

To “interpret” something is to explain its meaning. If something needs to be explained, then it can't do its own explaining, or else it wouldn't need to be explained to begin with.

I don't know how to put it more simply.

Good intentions

But I do understand the intent of “Let the Bible interpret the Bible.” It's supposed to mean we shouldn't insert our own ideas into Sacred Scripture. That is called “interpolation” — when we read something into the text that does not belong or was not intended by the writer. Also, we understand we should consider the meaning of a scriptural passage in light of its immediate context and the wider context of the entire Bible.

A better approach

Better than “Let the Bible interpret the Bible” is the axiom, “A text without a context is a pretext.”

If we take verses here a little, there a little, and string them all together, we can “prove” nearly any doctrine we want. So to make sense of scriptures, we have to understand them in their fullest context.

But we mustn't limit “context” to mean only the context of Scripture. There is also the context of history and the context of the Church's perennial teachings.

The context of “Born Again”

For example, in some circles there is a big hubbub over what Jesus really meant when he told Nicodemus that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Immediate textual context

We can look at the immediate textual context and reasonably conclude he's contrasting being “born of water and the Spirit” (3:5), perhaps indicating the watery birth in which we were born of our uterine mothers versus a different kind of birth in which we can be born as spirit (cf. 3:6).

Broader textual context

Stepping back for a broader view, however, we notice that John the Evangelist wrote the account of John the Baptizer with Jesus just two chapters earlier:

And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (1:32-33).

This might indicate that when the writer mentions being “born of water and the Spirit,” he is linking it to the baptism of Jesus, a scene where water and the Spirit were prominent. Could this mean that to be “born again” is to be baptized?

Moreover, immediately after Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, the Gospel writer records,

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing (3:22).

So what are we to make of the “born again” statement? Do we let the Bible interpret the Bible? If so, how? Or rather, the better question is: Which context best helps us properly understand what it means to be “born again”?

Context of the Church's historical witness

Not all, but many Protestant churches tend to ignore the context of how the Church has always understood something, which conveys her tradition.

With regard to this particular question about “born again,” to my knowledge, there is no disputation in all of the early centuries of the Church about what Jesus meant when he spoke of being “born again.”

Just a few examples...

Justin Martyr, A.D. 151

As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” [John 3:3] (First Apology, 61).

Irenaeus, A.D. 190

“And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan” [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Fragment 34).

Tertullian, A.D. 203

When, however, the prescript is laid down that without baptism, salvation is attainable by none (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless one be born of water, he has not life”)... (On Baptism, 12)

So we see how just looking at what the Church of the first few centuries believed helps us with our understanding of Scripture. When it comes to biblical interpretation, it's not just every man (and his Bible) for himself.

Context is important, but that includes more than the couple verses before and after the one in question. Since Christianity is not just a “religion of the book,” we can look to the Church for guidance.

I hope we can all agree that the solution is not to merely “let the Bible interpret the Bible.”

THANK YOU for reading. To see my “About Me” page, to learn how to subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, and to privately send me questions or comments, click or tap here.

To see a list of all blog post titles from this blog, replace the URL of this site with

PUBLIC COMMENTS: I'm now cross-posting this blog on nostr so you can leave public comments and interact with or without an account. (You can create an account with any nostr client.)

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow me here on the Nostr Network, the censorship-resistant social media protocol. Or, go to any nostr client (e.g., Amethyst on Android, Damus on iOS, on Web, etc.) and search my public key: