Does your Church of God have a Secret Doctrine?

The phrase “Secret Doctrine” appears to be a bit of an oxymoron. The word Doctrine refers to established teaching, creed or belief system. So how can you have an established belief, that has been or is being taught, that is at the same time secret? How can you have a Church organization with hundreds or perhaps a few thousand members, keep a doctrine secret? And if the leadership of my Church of God group does have a secret doctrine, why do I care? Our Christian walk, to a large degree, isn’t about what the “other guy” is doing or isn’t doing. Christianity is about us individually following Christ. Conquering the self. And bringing the self into subjection to God’s will. Christianity is not about making sure our neighbor is brought into subjection. And so in general, as Christians, we shouldn’t be overly concerned about what the “other guy” believes or doesn’t believe. However, many times those in a position of leadership can very easily adversely or favorably affect many people, very quickly! For instance if your local Pastor was secretly a racist, eventually a pattern would become apparent and he could very easily split a congregation apart. So if we do value our local congregation, and want a healthy and growing church, we need to be very concerned about the performance and beliefs of our pastor. We can’t just assume that because Christ is head of the church that every poor decision made will instantly become successful because it is the will of God. And so if your Pastor or Church of God organization has secret or undisclosed beliefs- you should know about it! Believe it or not there is a practiced and widely held belief by many in the Church of God leadership that is untaught, unpublished, and in many situations spoken out against! This belief is rarely admitted to even in private but is routinely practiced and the effects can be devastating to congregation. In rare instances when this doctrine is preached, if a listener is not paying close attention it may be missed. This doctrine has to do with Binding and Loosening spoken about in Mat 18:18. Mat 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The word “bind” comes from the Greek word deō which means according to Thayer’s Concordance to fasten or put under obligation, of the law, duty. Whereas “loose” comes from the Green word luō which means to undo, dissolve, anything bound, tied. These are both judicial terms. The Elders of Israel at the time of Christ were well aware of these terms. It was their responsibility as an elder when they were sitting in the gates of a city to make binding and loosening decisions, according to the law- Torah. There were lots of times where a situation didn’t fit precisely within the description of Torah. Ex 18:26 refers to hard cases that would come up. In these situations a minimum of 3 elders would come together who were experts in Torah, and would make a decision based on the testimonies of witnesses, the statues, judgments and the statements made by the parties involved. However, according to Deut 17: 8 if the judgment was too difficult for the local elders at the gate to make, they would take it to the Priests or Levites to decide. This would be like taking it to an upper court. Deu 17:9-11 (9) And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment (10) And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: (11) According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. Notice that when the decision was made it was to be made according to the Law (Torah) and they were to teach Torah at while they were making the decision. These instructions mirror the practice of Moses shown in Ex 18:16 Exo 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. While Moses was making judgments he also made known the statues of God. He was teaching Torah! Notice how the Elders were to be instructed to make decisions. Exo 18:20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Their authority did not come from their ordained position, it came from Torah. The bottom line here is although the Elders, Levites and Priests had the authority to make decisions and judgments, these judgments had to be made according to God’s Law! The Elders did not have the authority to make decisions contrary to Torah or disregard Torah if they didn’t know what to do. In those situations they took the case to someone who had the wisdom on how to apply Torah. They had the power to bind and loosen only within the confines of God’s law. Notice how Josephus explained this system of government. Keep in mind that Josephus lived very closely to the time of Christ. “Our legislator [Moses] had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a theocracy [theokratia],by ascribing the authority and power to God, and by persuading all the people to have a regard to him, as the author of all good things” (Josephus 1737) Notice that only one who had the authority to legislate laws was God through Moses. No one after him could legislate laws. The Priests, Levites and Elders were only judges of an existing law that they could not “add to” or “take away” from ( Deut 4:2). Once again this power of binding and loosening did not give them the ability to legislate laws or make decisions contrary to Torah. This practice of Binding and Loosening is much different than the interpretation of the Catholic Church. Notice this quote from the Catholic Encylopaedia under the section Power of the Keys: (3) Hence there were not wanting theologians who narrowly restricted the scope of the gift, and asserted that it denoted the special prerogatives appertaining to St. Peter and his successors, and these alone. Thus Cardinal Cajetan (Opusc., I, tract. iii, De Rom. Pont., c. v) held that while the power of binding and loosing belonged to all priests, the power of the keys — authority to open and shut — was proper to the supreme pontiff; and that this expression signified his authority to rule the Church, to define dogma, to legislate, and to dispense from laws. Notice here that the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope) exercised the authority to define dogma (doctrine), to legislate and to distribute new laws. Rev. John Laux, M.A was well published Catholic Apologetics and instructor who very well encapsulate the authority that the Roman Catholic Church has taken in the following statement: "Some theologians have held that God likewise directly determined the Sunday as the day of worship in the New Law, that He Himself has explicitly substituted the Sunday for the Sabbath. But this theory is now entirely abandoned. It is now commonly held that God simply gave His Church the power to set aside whatever day or days she would deem suitable as Holy Days. The Church chose Sunday, the first day of the week, and in the course of time added other days as holy days." There are numerous other examples and statement made by Catholic clergy that confirm that fact that the Roman Catholic Church believes they have the authority to legislate laws and make doctrinal changes outside scripture. There were many Catholic debates on the subject of “sola scriptura” –only the scriptures -in the Council of Trent held between 1545 and 1563. At the conclusion of the discussions the Council, at the leadership of Archbishop of Reggio, it was determined that doctrine was determined by the Scriptures, tradition and the authority of the Church to bind and loosen -NOT by the scriptures alone. This Catholic practice of binding and loosening is much different that the Hebrew interpretation. The Hebrews only made judgments according to scripture whereas the Catholics exercised the authority to legislate laws outside of the scriptures. So the question is does your Church leadership follow the Hebrew or Catholic interpretation? When your pastor has to make a decision about a matter of controversy is it made according to God’s Law or is it made outside of Torah? Is authority established through God’s Law or through their position as “God’s ministers”? Even those who claim to follow God’s Law many times want the ability to make decisions outside the scriptures when it suits them. Notice a statement made in the The Good News article July 1955: Therefore, God has placed GOVERNMENT in His Church to RULE in such matters, and to PUT OUT all such contentions and causes for divisions from His Church! In all such matters, and even many decisions effecting private conduct, God RULES in His Church, thru Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church, and in turn thru the apostles and elders whom HE has called and trained thru experience and education for the office. Does this sound more like the Catholic or Hebrew interpretation? Although the leadership of the church do have the responsibility to settle matters of controversy that comes up, does their authority come from their position or from the scriptures? You can’t claim “sola scriptura” and at the same time make decisions outside of the scriptures. A good example of this is with the Church of God a World Wide Association (COGWA). Although they as an organization claim that the Word of God is the supreme guide for our lives, claim adherence to God's law, claim "sola scriptura", they at the same time want the latitude to make decisions outside God’s law when it is convenient. And this is what makes it a secret doctrine! David Register is a Regional Pastor of COGWA. Notice a statement made he made in a sermon on Doctrine about the controversy of circumcision that first century church dealt with in Acts 15. The church leadership, those ordained, have the right to change church doctrine. That's what this tells us-based upon righteous judgment. Doctrine is established by God. It is then authoritatively taught by Christ. It is then authoritatively taught by the Apostles. The Apostles here make a decision about doctrine in the church. That's where the buck stops is with the authority of the church. Recently someone called me about a doctrinal issue that they had. And I said “Well that was decided a long time ago by the church. Thirty years ago that was decided.” And I said you know what Christ taught in Matthew Chapter sixteen verse eighteen? Where he said whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven? She says, “Well that's a Catholic doctrine.” I said “excuse me”. I said “Christ taught that three hundred fifty years before the Catholic Church was established.” Maybe one thing the Catholics have right. I said “there is such a thing as Church authority in establishing doctrine”, and we see the perfect example of it here in Acts Chapter fifteen where it is clearly done. A decision is made. A new doctrine is established. It is a teaching of the church. It is doctrine. [punctuation and emphasis is mine] Keep in mind that the way that the controversy of circumcision of Gentiles was settled was extremely unique. Not only did the miracle of Cornelius show that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit without circumcision, but the vision of Peter from Christ confirmed this(Acts 10). Divine revelation from God settled this controversy, not the arbitrary decision of a pontiff. According to 2Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”. When Jesus Christ gives a vision to an apostle and author of the New Testament, this vision can easily be equated with “inspiration of God”. Once again the authority did not lie in the position but with the word of God. I was in a closed door meeting about a couple of years ago with Clyde Kilough, pastor and media operation manager of COGWA (Church of God a Worldwide Association). When I questioned him about a decision our local pastor made to kick out a member of our congregation and he couldn’t come up with a reason why, this is what he said. “According to the example of the Apostle Paul in first Corinthians, the Ministry has the ability to make arbitrary decisions.” As you may recall the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians chapter 5 told the Church in Corinth to remove a man from their fellowship for sexual immorality. The argument that Clyde Kilough is referring is to a Catholic argument as well. That supposedly Paul didn’t make the decision to kick out the man in Corith based upon procedures or the law. He just made this decision arbitrarily. Paul was out of the area on a missionary trip. He didn’t hear any witnesses. This wasn’t done before 2 or 3 elders. The local Church congregation wasn’t present when the decision was made. The Apostle Paul because of his authority was able to shoot from hip, make a snap decision and gave the edict to excommunicate the man. However there are a lot of problems with this theory. First - there are several indications that Paul had multiple reports about this situation. 1Cor 1:11 shows that Paul received a letter about problems from the house of Chloe. 1Cor 7:1 shows that the church as a whole wrote a letter to Paul. Paul states in 1Cor 5:1 : It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you. This word commonly according to Strong’s Concordance can also be translated as “everywhere”. The Living Letters Paraphrase states it as “ Everyone is talking about [it]”. Clearly there is plenty of room in the scriptures for Paul to have received the two witnesses necessary to make a judgment. Also when you read first Corinthians, nowhere do we get the indication that any one is contesting the charge of fornication. Chapter 5 is not about Paul trying to make the case that the sin is actually taking place. Everyone knew about it and were proud about their tolerance- v2 and 6. He is simply making it clear what to do about it this type of sin(v11). Also Paul wasn’t your run of the mill church Pastor. He was an Apostle. He wrote the majority of the New Testament. He spent 3 ½ years in Arabia with Christ. He performed and saw multiple miracles. He had divine revelation in words and visions from Heaven. To say that every 1975 seminary graduate can take the same latitudes as the Apostle Paul is pretty ridiculous. So how do I know if my Pastor who claims to follow Torah and “sola scriptura” at the same time secretly believes in the Catholic interpretation of Mat 18:18? How do I protect my congregation from a Pastor who believes he can make decisions arbitrarily? The answer is very simple- require that he follows Mat 18:17 as well. Require that when these decisions are made that they are done transparently and that they Tell it to the Church!