Idolatry in the Church of God? How can that be?
Well, it exists, my friends. It isn’t all that hard to find, either. Sooner or later, you trip up on someone’s sacred cow, and that is when it all goes downhill.
It’s actually not that hard to tell when it occurs, either. Ask for a Scripture. If you don’t agree with their interpretation, then you’ll get attacked as “brain-washed”, “arrogant” or the favorite “Laodicean” instead of pointing out from the Bible where you are wrong.
What is odd is that paganism is probably one of the least of the problems within the COG organizations.
Anything can be an idol. In addition, something may be an idol to one but not another. Therefore, I speak in generalities. However, from what I’ve observed, these are the top idolatries that need to be repented of within the claimed Churches of God:
1. Government. This is a biggie. I’ll admit that I used to wonder why David Havir wrote so often about this in The Journal News of the Churches of God, but I have since learned just how big of an idol this one is to some people. Instead of worshipping the Governor, an idol is made out of a form of government. This may be anything from bylaws on stone tablets from Mt Indianapolis to the more traditional one-man rule.
2. Herbert W Armstrong. This one is actually government’s younger, craftier brother and involves a real slight of hand. Once you are worshipping a man, it becomes very easy to claim the “mantle” or the “baton” has been passed to your particular leader, so now you must follow him. The emphasis becomes upon the leader instead of Christ. He must continually update his resume with biblical-sounding titles like “apostle”, “Elijah”, etc., in order to continually press the point.
3. Calendar. This is an odd one that pops up from time to time. Did God really intend for people to spend a lot of money on jet fuel to go look at barley in Israel? Did God not foresee a time such as ours where calendars would be printed years ahead of time? The main problem with this one is that it undermines the real intent of the holy days because people are assembling at different times.
4. Date Setting. Even odder is the penchant for a few to still set dates for Christ’s return. I sometimes think we haven’t learned anything at all. When will Christ return? Three and one-half years after the armies surround Jerusalem and stop physical sacrifices. When will that be? I don’t know, you don’t know, and Ronald Weinland certainly doesn’t know.
5. Legalism. I debated what to call this one, but legalism is probably most appropriate. The Pharisees were guilty of legalism. The problem wasn’t that they were keeping God’s Law in such a severe degree. The problem was that they added their own restrictions to the Law and ended up breaking the intent of God’s Law by doing so. This almost always involves making a mountain out of molehill (or, straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel). Ask someone to point out a particular item in Scripture, and you’ll often get some vague verses and hand waving but nothing really satisfying as an answer. By the same token, ask why something else isn’t being done, and you’ll get some vague reasoning trying to explain it away. It really does work both ways.
Each of us can add more, I’m sure. Each of us has our own particular struggles as well. The question is whether or not each of us will examine ourselves now and repent before Passover.