"Daughter Of Babylon,
The True History of
The Worldwide Church of God"
by Bruce Renehan
For I Neither Received It Of Man, Nor Was I Taught It, But By The Revelation Of Jesus Christ
Chapter 11 This Generation Shall Not Pass Away
After reading the previous chapters, you might now be wondering what the real history of the Worldwide Church of God is. With their fictional view of history exposed, we should again briefly review the progress of western civilization, beginning with its adoption of Christianity. As we search for an honest and objective viewpoint, it is important to realize that the only existing references about early Christianity, by first and second century historians such as Josephus, Philo, Pliny and Irenaeus, are contradictory, brief, and questionable at best. To claim that any one sect of the various first or second century known Christian sects was somehow most authentic and, therefore, most like the "primitive church," is simply not provable. There just isn't enough historical evidence. And with every new discovery of ancient documents there is growing indication of how little modern Christianity does resemble its ancient counterpart. If there were some way to prove what first century Christianity was really like, would Christianity be as divided as we find it is today?
Some Christian writers, like D. A. Carson, have implied that the original subversion of the Christian gospel was done so by Judaizers by placing far too much emphasis on the Temple system and the law of Moses. Others (like the many scholars who have labored over the interpretation of the Dead Sea scrolls) have concluded that Jesus was a student of the Qumran community (Potter, 1969) or that his followers were Jewish revolutionaries (Crossan, 1993). Many erudite figures have claimed that the Bible is full of contradictions and errors, and should be read carefully by reasoning people, if read at all. Soren Kierkegaard questioned the ethics of God testing Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. If a man had been moved by a sermon about Abraham's faithfulness and attempted to recreate the story with his own son, would he not be considered a maniac by his community? And yet, the act would still be the same. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist who decided to write his own version of the Bible. Albert Schweitzer was world renowned in each field that he had received a PhD in; medicine, music, and theology. Yet, from the age of five he saw glaring errors in the gospel stories and went on to write his own historical version of Jesus' life. Freiderich Neitzsche was an existentialist philosopher credited with making the statement "God is dead" (Kaufman, 125) The brilliant mathematician, Sir Bertrand Russell wrote, "You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world" (Russell, 21) Clarence Darrow was victorious in the famous Scopes trial of the 1920's. He challenged William Jennings Bryan to explain why God would have inspired scribes to indicate that the sun revolved around the earth in the story of Joshua's longest day, if the Bible were indeed infallible. Bryan was speechless (Sprague de Camp, 385-390). Joseph Campbell included Christianity among the world's religions as a set of metaphors drawn from ancient mythology and not to be taken seriously at all (Campbell).
What has happened to Christianity over the centuries?
There is mounting evidence that what has been called Christianity, from the fourth century conversion of Constantine until modern times, is not similar to what would have been called Christianity in the first century. Even the Bible supports the fact that the title "Christian" appears much later in Antioch for the followers of the apostles, supporting the idea that it took many years for the movement to take root as if it could have sprung out of something that it was not originally intended to be. The confirmations provided by archeologists and scholars is that the original followers of Jesus probably resembled the community of zealots who died at Masada more than anything else we might imagine today. And that would be our most probable discovery if we were to unearth the long fabled "primitive church."
In the fourth century, Christianity as we now know it, emerged from the early ecumenical councils (the one at Nicea being the first), from the resulting creeds, and from one other important development--the canonization of what we now call the Holy Bible. Many have been led to believe that the Bible as we now have it was preserved intact by early Christians and that the Catholic Church was determined to destroy it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The second-oldest complete Bible manuscript in existence (complete in the sense that along with the Old Testament it contains all of the New Testament) is the Codex Vaticanus, which, as the name implies, has long been preserved by the Vatican. And the very oldest complete Bible manuscript in existence is the Codex Sinaiticus, which was preserved for centuries in a Catholic monastery. According to Dr. Bruce Metzger, "some scholars believe that the two manuscripts were originally among the fifty copies of scriptures which the Emperor Constantine commissioned Eusebius to have written..." (Metzger, 47). Scholars have demonstrated that both manuscripts were composed in the fourth century and both are considerably older than the Textus Receptus upon which the King James version was based. Metzger mentions in the beginning of his highly regarded book, The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration:
The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another.
It does seem evident that mutilation of the original Christian movement continued from the first century onward among various groups labeled as heretics by the church fathers. Early heretics not only included Judaizers, such as the Ebionites, but also groups such as the Gnostics (Pagels). This has presented another dilemma for modern day converts: Just what is heresy, anyway? Through much of western history, heresy has been defined as going against the orthodox view. In the Middle Ages, of course, this view was dictated by the Roman bishops. But even the Roman belief system has been rather unstable requiring its many ecumenical councils to revise its doctrines too. In modern times, 'orthodoxy' has created more complications because Protestant writers wanted to append their dissertations about heresy into mainstream belief systems as well. In the final analysis, what was once called heresy has now generally been more accepted as cultism. And this is where our history of the Worldwide Church of God must begin.
One can indeed find an ancient parallel for the Worldwide Church of God in the first century, if one seeks to draw weak analogies. But that simply does not produce any validity for a Worldwide Church of God branch grafted into an authentic genealogy; nor could it create in them, or any other group, a relationship to the mythologized "primitive church." Because so many diverse types of followers of Jesus were systematically anathematized by the orthodox church in the two centuries that led up to Nicea and during the Middle Ages, there is a great shadow of doubt cast upon the culture and practices of the original small band of Jews who began to proclaim allegiance to a Messiah prior to the destruction of Judaism in 70 AD.
Because so many throughout history have been passionately drawn to become part of Jesus' "little flock," so many have become the victims of the hungry wolves of organized Christianity as it moved through the Middle Ages. These wolves, feeding on the flock and on their own lust for power, eventually developed systems of tyranny--as William Jones claimed, changing the Kingdom of God into the Kingdom of the clergy. History has witnessed religious wars, Crusades, burning of heretics, Inquisitions, the relentless persecution of Jews, the slaughter of Native Americans, slavery, holocausts, and genocide all performed dutifully by dedicated Christians. Paradoxical acts of Christian inhumanity led many to desire an escape from church authority at the dawning of the Age of Reason, of which Thilly wrote:
Slowly but surely the authority of the Church is weakened in the field of the mind, and the individual begins to assert his intellectual independence...The individual throws off the fetters of the Church and appeals to the Bible and conscience as his standards. He refuses to accept a human intermediary between himself and his God, and longs for a personal communion with the object of his faith (Thilly, 227-228).
Protestantism rose up, during this period of enlightenment, as an antithesis to the domineering Universal Church of the Middle Ages and, for a while, Protestants participated in celebrating the new concept of freedom of the will in western culture. Yet the concept of individualism created new fertile ground for misguided interpretations of the Bible. At the same time Europe began redefining Christianity, a new continent was being colonized by English Protestants and Spanish Catholics on behalf of their kings.
Religious fanaticism soon revived in the early American colonies. There are many surviving records describing the Puritans in Massachusetts who grew from a community of authoritarian law keepers to fanatical lynch mobs executing each other as witches. Almost from its inception, America has had a problem with religious fanaticism.
During the mid-eighteenth century a time of revivalism was inspired in the Americas by preachers like Jonathan Edwards. This period was known as the Great Awakening. The writings of philosophers like Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and John Locke had challenged theologians to search for a new relationship between the creation and the creator. Although Christianity had been moving into intellectual arenas in Europe, the Great Awakening actually began to inspire emotionalism as a reaction to rationalism. This is made evident in the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon of Edwards:
How dismal will it be, when you are under those racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them; to have no hope: when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice, if you might but have any relief, after you have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it; when after you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without any rest day or night, or one minute's ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered...and that your souls which have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, yet will still exist to bear more wrath; your bodies, which shall have been burning and roasting all this while in these glowing flames, yet shall not have been consumed, but will remain to roast through an eternity yet, which will not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past (qtd. in Smith 29-30).
This appeal to emotion flourished during this period of time and many new doctrinal ideologies spring up loosely connected to the Bible.
There were other earlier misguided inventions that had universally infiltrated Christian thinking and would continue to do so on into the twentieth century.
The British isles had been part of the Roman Empire before its collapse. Many relics and monuments still stand in England that were built by Roman soldiers over a thousand years ago. Christianity had replaced paganism very early in Britain. Catholicism in Ireland dates back to the fourth century. In the early seventeenth century, with the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the introduction of the King James Bible, Britain began to gain the ascendancy in political, as well as Protestant matters. It was now only a matter of time before a well-meaning British subject would claim that the British were literally one of the glorious lost tribes of ancient Israel. This theory soon grew into popularity among some British people, who sought divine sanction to expand their empire while proselytizing the world.British-Israelism, also known variously as Anglo-Israelism and the Anglo-Saxon Federation, is an ideology that has as its central theme the identification of the Anglo-Saxon peoples as the true Israel and therefore heirs to all the promises in the Bible made by God to Israel. A man named Richard Brothers who lived in England between 1757 and 1854 is credited with the origination of the system. Brothers was an eccentric who was eventually committed to an asylum.
It was John Wilson's Our Israelitish Origin (1840) that first clearly stated the theory as held today by British-Israel enthusiasts (Chambers, 19).
Besides British-Israelism finding its way into the repertoire of early American circuit preachers, another popular teaching that had originated in the 17th century with an Irish archbishop by the name James Ussher. Ussher used Bible genealogy to calculate that Adam had been created in the year 4004 BC and he published his discovery in Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti.
In the early nineteenth century, John Darby (1800-1882, founder of the Plymouth Brethren) developed the doctrine of dispensationalism, in which he determined that God had been working out a dispensation of eras upon the earth. This not only breathed life back into the now 1,500 year old Christian church, it also served to place Christians back into Bible times. Dispensationalists imagined that the present Christian era was just prior to the Millennium. Undoubtedly, the ideas of Ussher and Darby were setting the stage for revivalism, the second Great Awakening, and the Millenarian groups that would soon begin to predict the "end of the world."
It was in the backdrop of the early 1800's that we find circuit preachers spreading their version of the gospel as they rode on horseback from farm to farm in rural America. These unskilled preachers thumped on their Bibles and passed the collection plates and found that donations increased if their messages threatened that "the end is near, flee from the wrath to come."
In the year 1818 an American by the name of William Miller claimed to have calculated the date for the return of Christ. This calculation, he said, was the result of an intensive 2 year study of the Bible. His source for the calculation was in Daniel 8:12--the 2300 day prophecy. By assigning a year for every day he believed the 2300 days to literally be 2300 years from the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in 457 BC. This meant that Christ would return and set up the Kingdom of God on earth in the year 1843.
Miller managed to keep his discovery to himself for several years. Miller's first prophecy sermon was in his brother-in-law's home in August of 1831. The lecture was well received and resulted in him being invited to preach it at local congregations. In the year 1832 Miller published his first paper concerning the prophecy. Miller was only mildly successful until he met a man by the name of Joshua V. Himes in 1839. Himes became a public relations man for Miller and arranged for him to deliver his predictions in "great tent" meetings. After pressure to give an exact date for the advent of Christ, Miller reluctantly based his date on the Jewish New Year, March 21, 1843.
Himes helped Miller to organize his movement and publish a newspaper, Signs of the Times. In the final year before the "end of the world", a large following was built. Miller had also developed extensive opposition and persecution but the movement continued to snowball. His followers began to sell all of their earthly goods and anticipated the coming day. Boston became the headquarters of Miller's Adventist movement where annual General Conferences were held. This final three year time limit was felt to bear significance also and was called "the midnight cry." Finally, no hall could be found large enough to house the Adventists so, in early 1843, a tabernacle was dedicated in Boston before an audience of 3500 people. Of course many enthusiastic followers--ignoring the scoffing press and public--showed their loyalty to Miller and Himes and prepared to meet their maker. When March 21, 1843 came without incident, Miller and Himes acknowledged only that they had somehow made an error in calculation.
On August 14, 1844, a Millerite by the name of Samuel S. Snow announced, during a camp meeting, that Miller had simply miscalculated the date by a year and a half. Christ was to return October 22 that year. The movement began to grow with great fervor. October 22, 1844 became known as the "Great Disappointment."
After the "Great Disappointment" many Millerites, sometimes called Adventists, were discouraged and went their separate ways. But some hung on to the movement, feeling that it had some great significance. It seemed undeniable that 1844 had a significant meaning in prophecy. But what was that meaning? On the morning of October 23, 1844 Hiram Edson and a fellow Millerite were walking through a corn field in Port Gibson, New York. They were in a quandary over Christ's failure to return the evening before. It was then that Edson claimed that he was given a vision with the answer. The meaning of the 2300 day prophecy was not that Christ was to return to earth, but that he had entered into the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary of heaven. This signaled the beginning of "the investigative judgment." It is reported that when William Miller heard of the vision of Hiram Edson, he rejected it. But Millerites, who needed an easy answer for their gullible appearance in the community, embraced this new doctrine.
Shortly after this, Edson's home became the headquarters for doctrinal discussions of the reformed Adventists. It was there that Joseph Bates introduced the observance of the Saturday Sabbath. Bates had been convinced of the Saturday Sabbath after he had read an article by Thomas M. Preble. Their adoption of the Saturday Sabbath was like a child's adoption of a puppy. As we have seen in Part One of this book, doctrines come in packages. The Sabbath is incomplete without Moses, and the covenant of Moses is not the covenant of Christ.
Bates later published his own tract on the subject. This tract was read by two people who would later become the most well-known figures in the Seventh-Day Adventist movement: James and Ellen G. White.
Because Ellen G. White claimed that she had been given the "gift of prophecy" by God around the year 1844, at the age of 15, she quickly rose to become the highest authority of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It was her visions and prophecies that strengthened the factional Millerites.
Many followers of the early Seventh-Day Adventist Church had difficulty accepting Ellen G. White as an authentic prophetess. It was only her acceptance of the Sabbath doctrine that caused Bates to accept her as genuine.
One of these Millerites was a man by the name of Gilbert Cranmer.It was in 1843, while living at Augusta [Michigan] that Cranmer studied and accepted the theory of William Miller on the second advent of Jesus Christ. On October 22, 1844, he experienced the "great disappointment" with thousands of others. But unlike many who gave up their faith, Cranmer reviewed the matter of the advent and remained convinced that Jesus' second coming was imminent and sure. He continued to preach the second advent of Jesus Christ the remainder of his life (Coulter, 10).
Cranmer recalls in his biography that the seventh-day Sabbath was first brought to his attention in an Advent publication called The Midnight Cry, in 1843. He did not begin to observe the Sabbath, however, until he was once again confronted with the teaching of Joseph Bates, a prominent Sabbathkeeping adventist (Coulter, 11).
It is important to note here that Gilbert Cranmer played an important part in the Church of God movement, yet he is never mentioned in any Worldwide Church of God histories. He is never called an early "apostle" in the lineage of the apostles like Peter Waldo was. Yet he is the very founder of the Church of God movement.It was through his acquaintance with Joseph Bates that Cranmer was introduced to the work of James and Ellen G. White. Following the great disappointment in 1844, the Whites had become convinced of the Sabbath. It was through a series of conferences in which they rallied adventists to the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath that they became the dominant leaders of the Sabbathkeeping adventists. After accepting the Sabbath, they organized a series of short conferences which were held in Connecticut, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts, in the spring, summer and fall of 1848. Their leadership also was aided immensely by the fact that they published a series of papers which heralded the Sabbath and second advent message. Finally, the leadership of James and Ellen G. White was solidified for the Sabbathkeeping adventists through the visions of Mrs. White. Her visions appear to have been the means by which policy was established and doctrinal differences were settled.
By late 1855, the Review and Herald, the publication of James White, had been moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. It was in December, 1857, that Cranmer first met the Whites while attending a meeting at Otsego, Michigan. It appears that he fellowshipped freely with his Sabbathkeeping adventist brethren. Cranmer and the Whites had many acquaintances in the faith in common. Of the period from 1852, when he began to observe the Sabbath, until 1857, when he first became acquainted with the Whites, Cranmer said, "I now began to do more in the ministry. Several little bands of believers were raised up...The 'shut-door' doctrine formed a part of the doctrine of the church; that is, Mrs. White had seen in a vision that the day of salvation for sinners was past, and those that fully believed in her visions as coming from God, also accepted that doctrine. I did not believe the doctrine nor teach it. Up to this time no lines had been drawn in the church and the visions had not been made a test [of fellowship]. But they were fast becoming popular and some began to press them quite strongly; but matters ran quite smoothly as far as I was concerned until...I was preaching at Otsego.
"Among other things, I stated that I had no evidence that the door of the Holy Place had been closed. This did not meet the mind [approval] of some present. One of the brethren called my attention to the visions. I said, 'This may be evidence to you, but it is not to me.' A general discussion followed and the meeting broke up.
"It was reported to the officers of the church at Battle Creek. I then requested that a meeting be called to investigate, which was done, and an effort was made to bring me in subjection to the visions. I saw no way of reconciling matters. Then it was that I concluded to walk no farther with them and told them so."
While no formal church organization was functioning in the 1850's, Sabbathkeeping adventist ministers who preached the doctrine including the visions of Ellen G. White, were issued a "recommendation to the fellowship." This in essence was a license to preach. It was signed by one of the leading elders. Following his first meeting with the Whites in December 1857, Gilbert Cranmer saw James White again in January 1858, and requested a license. White's refusal of the license led Cranmer to make the decision to launch an independent effort apart from what was to become the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This decision was made in the winter of 1858. That spring, Cranmer started out on his own...In a little more than two years, Cranmer was able to identify ten congregations and eight ministers who were associated with his efforts. He recalled that by 1860 organization was discussed and effected. This is a reference to the organization of a conference of the churches located in Michigan. Gilbert Cranmer was elected the first president of this conference. By 1863, the Michigan churches had adopted and were using the name, "Church of Christ."(Coulter, 12-14)
Why is this "Church of Christ" important to the story? Well, because of the aforementioned criteria for the one true church. It has to bear the name mentioned 12 times in the Bible. Twelve remember, according to Hoeh, is God's complete number. God's church could only bear the name "Church of God". If that were the case, then, why would God have left the Seventh-Day Baptist Church in 1802 when they supposedly stopped calling themselves the "Church of God," only to make these Millerites his true church? They did not take on the "True Name" until between 1875 and 1884!The Michigan Conference of the Church of Christ convened at Irvington, Michigan, on October 3, 1884. Its president, Lemuel J. Branch, called the meeting to order.
The first order of business was a proposal to change the name of the church from Church of Christ to Church of God. The vote to make the change was unanimous. This was the first time in the development of the church that all its segments were to use the name, Church of God. Since its organization in 1860, the Michigan church had used the name Church of Christ. The Iowa church had originally adopted the name Church of Jesus Christ when it was organized in 1860. The Missouri Conference first adopted the name Sabbatarian Adventist in 1874. It changed its name to Church of God in 1875. (Coulter, 34)
And so here is where the name "Church of God" seems to have its real origin. It was not handed down from any apostles. It was voted on by men who had all become ministers in the Seventh-Day Adventist group under James and Ellen G. White. One by one, as they began to see Ellen G. White as a false prophetess, they were defrocked from her church and regrouped in one of the other two splinter churches, the Church of Christ or the Church of Jesus Christ. Later those groups united in Stanberry, Missouri and voted on the name Church of God (later to become the Church of God, (Seventh Day)).
This was the same church that Herbert Armstrong came into contact with in 1927.
Go to the "Painful Truth" page.