But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men,
which are made after the similitude of God.
When presenting his defense of God's people seeking out unbelievers on holy time and purchasing their Sabbath labor, Mr. Ritenbaugh decided to take the moral low ground. Numerous times, he openly denigrated the authors of A Sabbath Test, specifically mentioning them by name. We seriously doubt that he would ever speak in such a tone to their face, but he must have felt emboldened by their absence.
As we listened to this COG leader explain why Messrs. Braidic and Fischer shouldn't be taken seriously in their defense of God's Sabbath law, we got the distinct impression that he actually felt disdain for them. At every turn, he saw the worst in these Christians—and he was committed to making sure everyone listening had the same opinion. In a very real sense, John Ritenbaugh was sewing his own brand of discord among the brethren.
This COG leader began by belittling A Sabbath Test, explaining that he was "immediately unimpressed" by it. These words are ironic because when reading some of his arguments one gets the feeling that he isn't very impressed with certain scriptures either.
Mr. Ritenbaugh then related that A Sabbath Test has had virtually no impact on his particular group and that only one member has left his fellowship over it. We at Blow the Trumpet find it odd that he would invest so much time and effort to speak about something he claims to be so ineffective. But that is exactly what he did. Personally, we think A Sabbath Test has had a far greater impact than he is willing to let on.
Insults and Accusations
At one point, Mr. Ritenbaugh referred to Fischer and Braidic as men who used to be "very liberal" in the past. However, he offered no evidence to support this claim. He then speculated that at some point they "must have gotten religion" because of their conservative views today. He characterized them as men with "spotty records" in the church and stated that they lacked "an apostle's sheen." He asserted that neither Fischer nor Braidic possessed the spiritual gifts to present their message to God's people. He offered this assessment despite the fact that he has had virtually no contact with these men in 15 years or more.
Additionally, he went so far as to imply guilt by association because Mr. Fischer attended Ambassador College at the same time as Joe Tkach, Jr., Michael Feazell and others who had taken over the church after the death of Mr. Armstrong. He even intimated that demons may be the force behind A Sabbath Test.
He initially characterized the issue of dining out on the Sabbath as just another "fad," much the same as the use of white sugar and make up. Here is how he put it.
"Let us briefly compare some qualifications of the writers of this article in question. Who are they, and what are their credentials? What gives them the authority to teach the church of God?
"I have been in the church now for 48 years, and I have seen a number of fads blow through the church. It is almost like they are on a cycle. Things like speaking in tongues, the sacred names issue, white sugar as a dietary issue, makeup, the calendar several times, and now here we are with the 'eating out on the Sabbath' issue."
Mr. Ritenbaugh's attempt to trivialize this issue is a tactic often employed by debaters when arguing a point. The goal is quite simple: Persuade the audience that the issue has no value to them. This is accomplished by associating it with other issues they already hold in low regard. It doesn't matter if there is any real connection between his examples and the issue at hand, he only needs to offer them for it to be true.
However, Mr. Ritenbaugh has a serious problem applying this strategy with respect to dining out on the Sabbath. Why? Because this issue is about God's law and there is nothing trivial about it. It is actually addressed in the Decalogue. How's that for significant? Furthermore, Jesus issued a serious warning to those who think they can break a commandment and teach others to do so (Mt. 5:18-19). As much as this COG leader wants to define Sabbath dining as irrelevant, he can't. Tragically, he still attempts to do just that.
What He Doesn't Want You to Know
The issue of acquiring and preparing food on the Sabbath is addressed with GREAT FORCE in the scriptures. Not only did God Almighty prohibit His people from engaging in this practice (Ex. 16), but His faithful servant Nehemiah BOLDY indicted the nobles of Judah for thinking they could hire others to do it for them. Clearly Nehemiah didn't see this issue as a "fad." Notice his words.
Nehemiah 13: 15-21
In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the Day wherein they sold victuals.
There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.
And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the Sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? If ye do so again I will lay hands on you. From that time forth they came no more on the Sabbath. (Neh. 13:15-21)
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
"The original article was written by Dennis Fischer and Art Braidic. I know both of these men. One of them I knew personally for many years, and their track record in the church is not sparkling with an 'apostle's sheen.' I notice now that Dennis Fischer has been replaced by another man as the co-author of this article, and I do not know why."
Note from Blow the Trumpet
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
"So the matter was brought up before the apostles, not those on the level of Art Braidic and Dennis Fischer—two men who have spiritually spotty records and different jobs to perform than those within the body."
Mr. Ritenbaugh's observation that Fischer and Braidic's track record in the church is "not sparkling with an apostle's sheen," is the contrivance of a man that doesn't have a clue what these men are about. Furthermore, we are stunned that he would offer any disparaging comments about Mr. Fischer. We say this because Mr. Fischer holds him and the Church of the Great God in such high regard. To illustrate this point, consider the following: When Mr. Ritenbaugh left the Worldwide Church of God, many of his former congregants expressed disappointment that he would "leave the church." Some even suggested that he was never converted, which by the way, is the standard observation people make regarding those who have taken another course.
However, Mr. Fischer saw Mr. Ritenbaugh's departure much differently. Furthermore, he openly defended him as a man of principle who had "drawn a line in the sand." Fischer repeatedly said, "We can all learn from him." This is a fact that Mr. Ritenbaugh could have confirmed very easily. A few months later, Fischer left the WCG, too. But there is more.
In December, 2004, Mr. Fischer wrote an open letter to the church in which he offered some insights concerning the current state of the body of Christ. In his letter, which appears on our web site, he made the following observation about John Ritenbaugh.
"John Ritenbaugh may be the most thoughtful speaker in the Church today. His messages possess extraordinary depth and maturity and are among the most circulated in the Churches of God. I don’t think he can imagine the mileage each of his sermon tapes gets as they are passed from member to member.'
'However, Mr. Ritenbaugh’s greatest contribution to the Kingdom may be in something that is harder to see
— his followers. Few communities of the faith are more committed to the truth espoused by the apostles than members of CGG. This fact alone speaks volumes about its leadership. I would openly encourage all of God’s people to consider the depth of wisdom in Mr. Ritenbaugh’s messages as well as the example of those who call him their pastor." (A House Divided, Dennis Fischer)
Then in December, 2005, Mr. Fischer directed Blow the Trumpet to send the following message to the Church of the Great God, upon hearing that Mr. Ritenbaugh had suffered a mild heart attack.
Dear CGG Friends,
We just heard that Mr. John Ritenbaugh suffered a heart attack Sunday. We are profoundly sorry for this and wanted you to know that we are lifting him up to God in prayer. Mr. Ritenbaugh is an extraordinary teacher and advocate for the Kingdom. His labor is a marvelous gift to all of God’s people. Please extend to him and his family our sincerest best wishes.
Blow the Trumpet
In addition to his words acknowledging Mr. Ritenbaugh's contribution to God's work and His people, Mr. Fischer has also directed Blow the Trumpet to post several links to CGG's web site. Additionally, He has referred scores of God's people to support Mr. Ritenbaugh's ministry.
At this point, it is important to understand the we are very aware that Mr. Ritenbaugh and Mr. Fischer have had some disagreements in the past, but Mr. Ritenbaugh's assessment of Fischer is light years from reality. This might be hard for him to grasp, but Dennis Fischer has NEVER uttered a pejorative word about him in his life. It is simply not how he works. Some have even characterized this fact as a flaw in him. On more than one occasion he has been criticized for giving the benefit of the doubt to those who don't deserve it. Even after hearing Mr. Ritenbaugh's message, Fischer offered the following comment:
"Sometimes people say things in the heat of passion that they don't really mean. It just comes out. [Minister's name deleted] did that. I think the same is true of Mr. Ritenbaugh. I suspect that if he could have it to do over, he wouldn't say it at all."
Defending John Ritenbaugh's Dignity
Even Art Braidic felt compelled to protect Mr. Ritenbaugh from the potential embarrassment stemming from our rebuttal to his sermon. To illustrate this point, consider the following. Prior to the release of our response to Mr. Ritenbaugh's message, both Fischer and Braidic were invited to preview what we had written.
After carefully reviewing Mr. Ritenbaugh's many arguments, Mr. Braidic became convinced that he (Ritenbaugh) never actually read A Sabbath Test. He drew this conclusion based on the numerous unsubstantiated points Ritenbaugh presented in his message, as well as the fact that he (Ritenbaugh) referred to A Sabbath Test as a "paper" instead of a book. Mr. Ritenbaugh also mentioned that Fischer's name had been removed from the "paper" and replaced with the name of someone else. This was also not true. All of this made Mr. Braidic conclude that Mr. Ritenbaugh may have been referring to something written by someone else altogether.
Furthermore, Mr. Braidic became genuinely concerned that if members of Ritenbaugh's fellowship read our rebuttal, it could seriously undermine their trust in him as a COG leader. Braidic could easily see that our rebuttal thoroughly destroyed Ritenbaugh's argument. As a result, he was clearly concerned about how this would impact a man he regarded as a mentor and friend.
At this point, Mr. Braidic requested that Blow the Trumpet delay publishing its rebuttal until he (Braidic) was convinced that Mr. Ritenbaugh, had in fact, read the book and that his message was not the result of speculation on what he thought Fischer and Braidic had written. On Tuesday, January 22, Mr. Braidic personally spoke to John Ritenbaugh regarding this matter. Mr. Ritenbaugh assured him that he had read A Sabbath Test and that he did not agree with it. Later that day, Mr. Braidic reluctantly informed Blow the Trumpet that Mr. Ritenbaugh had read the book and that his message accurately reflected his stand on this issue.
The point to all of this is that neither Fischer nor Braidic bear any hard feelings toward a man who publicly showed such utter contempt for them. Their intent from the very beginning was simply to stand up and speak out in defense of God's Sabbath law—not speak out against John Ritenbaugh or any other leader who holds his view. Mr. Ritenbaugh, on the other hand, thought insulting these men was consistent with Christian charity and an appropriate way to prove his point.
An Apostle's Sheen
With respect to Mr. Ritenbaugh's reference to Fischer and Braidic's track record lacking "an apostle's sheen," we have a few questions for him. What does he think about people like Peter, who forsook the Messiah during the last hours of his life? Did he have an "apostle's sheen"? Or King David, who stole the wife of a loyal soldier, then orchestrated his death in one of the most cynical orders ever given by a leader? How does he stack up against Mr. Ritenbaugh's standard? What about Samson, who brought shame on his country? Or the prodigal son, who brought shame on his family? What does Mr. Ritenbaugh think of these people? What about the disciples who turned and ran when Jesus was being arrested in Gethsemane? Or Jonah, who ran when his God chose him to be the instrument of His mercy? What kind of "sheen" did they have?
What does John Ritenbaugh think about men like Abraham, who twice lied about his wife in order to protect his own skin, or Moses, who struck a stone in anger? How about Jacob, who resorted to stealth and guile to gain his birthright? What about the Pharisee and the publican? Which one of them possessed an "apostle's sheen"?
What about Paul, who not only
consented to the death of Stephen, but "made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committing them to prison" (Acts 8:3)? And what about the fact that Paul acknowledged that he was in a constant struggle with an undisclosed sin (Ro. 7:15-25)? Why would God choose him to be an apostle? Was it his "sheen"?
What about Joshua the priest, who the scriptures say was clothed in "filthy garments" (Zech. 3:3)? This man is actually a type of one of the two witnesses. What does Mr. Ritenbaugh think of his record and its "spots"? Does he think God is not interested in using men who have blemished pasts? Or is the Almighty just looking for people with a certain "GLOW" about them?
The idea that any minister of Jesus Christ could advance poison against men with whom he has not spoken a word in over 15 years is shameful. In truth, it reveals more about the accuser than it does about the accused.
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
"I knew of [Mr. Fischer] as a student at Ambassador College where he was a fellow-student along with Joe, Jr., Mike Feazell, and others of that age bracket. I do not mean that they were good friends. They certainly knew one another. They had class experiences together with one another, and then with that group that took over the church when Mr. Armstrong died. After graduating he kind of disappeared from the church, at least from my radar screen, and then he showed up again in my life about ten years later."
Here Mr. Ritenbaugh implies guilt by association. After all, Mr. Fischer attended Ambassador College with Joe, Jr. and Michael Feazell, and we all know what they did. This approach is deceitful to the core. Mr. Ritenbaugh's words imply something sinister without coming out and saying it. We at Blow the Trumpet believe this is a very cynical way to speak to adults. It is manipulative and reflects a great disrespect for God's people. At no time did he directly state why this accusation was germane to his message. Instead, he left it up to his audience to draw their own conclusion.
At this point, it is interesting to note that at no time did Mr. Ritenbaugh mention that he actually worked for Mr. Tkach, Jr., or that Mr. Tkach's position on this issue is far closer to his than it is to Fischer's
— not that we think there is an ounce of relevance to that either.
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
"From the limited amount of contact I had with [Dennis Fischer], I would not judge that he was anything but very liberal in his views. However, this paper is anything but liberal and it causes me to wonder what happened to cause this attitudinal turn-around. I am saying that I do not see evidence that either of these men was gifted, appointed, and qualified by God to teach us this sort of thing in the church of God. But somewhere along the line, it seems to me that these two men 'got religion,' as we might say, and their behavior and attitude pendulum swung all the way from a fairly liberal position to the other extreme of an almost radical conservatism that touches on the Pharisaism of Jesus' day."
Mr. Ritenbaugh's assertion that Fischer and Braidic were once "very liberal" in their views is patently false. These men have never been regarded as liberal by anyone, let alone by someone in God's service. Mr. Ritenbaugh could not honestly identify one belief ever held by Fischer or Braidic that comes remotely close to his accusation, although we are confident he could fabricate one. It is interesting that Mr. Braidic once served on John Ritenbaugh's Council of Elders. Our question is: Why would Mr. Ritenbaugh select a "very liberal" man to hold such a position?
Dennis Fischer's Confession
This is not to suggest that these men don't have their flaws, for indeed they do. Mr. Fischer actually wrote of his shortcomings when responding to a similar accusation from another minister, who also attempted to discredit him for his views regarding dining out on the Sabbath. In it, he confessed his shame over leaving God's church as well as other mistakes. He also made an observation about his co-author.
Mr. Ritenbaugh continued:
"During a ministerial conference in Pasadena I once heard a lecture from Raymond McNair who was one of the first men ordained by Herbert Armstrong. He spent more time with Herbert Armstrong than any of us could imagine. He remarked that Herbert Armstrong said that demons always influence people toward extreme positions rather than biblically balanced ones. Now this 'not eating out on the Sabbath' position shown in these papers is not biblically balanced."
There is an old saying in political circles that goes, "If you can't win on the merits of the argument, then define your opponent as an extremist." Today we see that adage playing out in presidential politics every day. Sadly, Mr. Ritenbaugh employs the same strategy. However, when doing so, he offers NO proof, only his word. Never once does he quote an example of "lack of balance" from A Sabbath Test. Furthermore, he doesn't want his members to get close to this book because he knows all too well how balanced it is. It is also interesting that Mr. Ritenbaugh had no trouble mentioning Messrs. Braidic and Fischer by name when vilifying them, but would never mention the title of their book.
Perhaps the greatest indication of Mr. Ritenbaugh's desperation in assailing the message of A Sabbath Test is his implication that demons are behind it. He is not the first to employ this strategy. The Pharisees did it with the Messiah as well. These self- righteous church leaders bristled when Jesus suggested they might be wrong. Their response was to challenge His legitimacy as a healer, a prophet, and a savior. They even accused him of colluding with the demon world (Mt. 12:24).
Just Who is Balanced?
Here is what Mr. Ritenbaugh claims is the unbalanced, demon-inspired beliefs espoused by Fischer and Braidic. As you read them, ask yourself if his accusation rings true.
Messrs. Fischer and Braidic believe that the fourth commandment prohibits God's people from issuing an order to work on the Sabbath, even if it is given to unbelievers (Ex. 20:8-11). Mr. Ritenbaugh believes he can give such orders if it is done in balance.
Messrs. Fischer and Braidic believe that God's people are not to acquire or prepare their meals on the Sabbath (Ex. 16) and that this command is a test of their obedience (verses 4,5). Mr. Ritenbaugh believes he can do both, in balance.
Messrs. Fischer and Braidic believe that God's people should not actively seek out unbelievers and pay for their goods or labor on the Sabbath and holy days (Neh. 10:31, 13:15-21). Mr. Ritenbaugh believes he can do just that because he does so in balance.
We apologize for not providing any scriptures in defense of Mr. Ritenbaugh's "balanced" approach to God's Sabbath law. We looked hard, but just couldn't find any.
A Godly Perspective on Balance
The argument of “balance” advanced by Mr. Ritenbaugh may sound plausible, but in truth it is nothing more than an attempt to compromise God’s law. The fact of the matter is that God forbids moderation and balance in many areas. Consider just a few: He prohibits lying in moderation, stealing in moderation, coveting in moderation, killing in moderation, cursing in moderation, or building an occasional graven image. Such “balance” is abhorrent to Him. When it comes to the Sabbath, God prohibits working in moderation, doing your own pleasure in moderation, and compelling others, including unbelievers, to work on your behalf in moderation. He also prohibits buying in moderation as well as selling in moderation.
Mr. Ritenbaugh may feel comfortable dressing up sin in a tuxedo and calling it beautiful, but the Lord of the Sabbath had different words for Israel when they went out to acquire their food on the Sabbath.
And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. (Ex. 16:27-29)
The fact that unbelievers trample on God's holy day by preparing and selling their "victuals" is no reason for believers to purchase the fruit of their sacrilege. For John Ritenbaugh to suggest otherwise is shameful. Furthermore, for any COG leader to claim that "balance" will carry the day when it comes to their Sabbath practices, we offer this warning from A Sabbath Test.
A Sabbath Test
The Sabbath pictures God’s great millennial Kingdom. It is a day filled with hope and rich in meaning. God’s people should see it as nothing less. The Sabbath is a day that provides a glimpse into a Kingdom that will be absent of suffering. That Kingdom will be a time of great peace, great prosperity, great health, and great hope. It will be a time when ignorance and superstition will be replaced with the knowledge of a loving God and Father. Honoring the Sabbath that pictures that Kingdom is nothing less than a tremendous privilege and blessing. It should fill all of God’s people with a sense of purpose and hope, and most of all, it should fill them with THANKSGIVING.
King David once wrote a psalm dedicated to the Sabbath (Psa. 92). It contains some of the most inspiring words ever recorded in scripture. The day will come when those words will be fulfilled. For now, God’s people can act out that great Kingdom every week. And to do so, they do not need an occasional visit to an amusement park, an occasional movie, or an occasional meal at a restaurant. Such practices do not reflect that Kingdom in the slightest, even if done in “moderation and balance.” (A Sabbath Test, p. 98)
Mr. Armstrong Has Spoken
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