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TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES
Many of the teachings and practices of
traditional Christian churches are incompatible with biblically based doctrine. While the
sincerity or motives of those who hold these beliefs is not questioned, it is essential
that this systematic theology state the teachings on these subjects juxtaposed with what
the Intercontinental Church of God teaches as biblical truth.
The basic approach of this work has been to present the beliefs and
doctrines of the Intercontinental Church of God in a positive, non-polemical manner. We
realize and acknowledge that our biblical teachings are substantially different from those
of other churches and religious groups. We therefore view it as our responsibility to
clearly point out where our doctrinal position differs from traditional religious beliefs,
customs and practices.
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit
and truth" (John 4:24). The emphasis on biblical truth has always been a hallmark of
Intercontinental Church of God theology. Sincerity, though necessary, is not sufficient
for complete fidelity to the teachings and directives of Jesus Christ and the entire New
Testament. Truth, the doctrinal truth of the Bible, is absolutely essential for those who
will follow Jesus Christ. This is not to claim that doctrinal perfection is necessary for
either God's collective Church or for the individual Christian. Indeed, this is
unrealistic to demand, considering the fact that God works through fallible human beings;
such doctrinal perfection can be achieved when Jesus Christ returns as King of kings and
Lord of lords. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of God's Church to grow spiritually
upwards with each generation to the unfolding reality of biblical truth through the
guidance of God's Spirit, intelligent study and committed scholarship. Surely all
commandments and traditions of men, as Jesus Christ Himself taught (Mark 7:7-8), must be
rejected and replaced by the commandments and teachings of God.
This Church maintains that God's Word, the Bible, is God's written
instruction book of worship, and that it is the foundational authority on doctrine.
Without maligning or casting aspersions on other Christian groups who sincerely and
honestly believe the doctrines to be true, we feel that some traditional beliefs are
incompatible with biblical teaching and certain traditional practices are not those which
show the greatest respect to the Creator God who gave us life. Common sense dictates that
one who wants to properly worship God must worship Him as He Himself wants to be
The beliefs of the Intercontinental Church of God have been outlined
already. It is thus clear that there are significant variations from those of other
churches. There is no need to repeat what has already been discussed except to summarize
where we differ from certain "traditional" Christian beliefs. Some doctrinal
beliefs are rejected as being directly contrary to the stated biblical truth. Certain
observances, on the other hand, are rejected because they do not contribute to a better
understanding of God's plan or, in certain cases, tend to lead away from it. For example,
various Christian festivals are widely known to the transformed non Christian celebrations
which heathen tribes brought en masse with them when they "converted."
Today, these celebrations have lost their overt pagan connotations and are often even
secularized to the point of losing practically all religious connotation whatsoever. On
the other hand, there are celebrations within the Bible which have generally been
abandoned by Christianity. We deem it far more scriptural to continue the biblical
festivals than to take up the more recent traditional holidays rooted in non-Christian
Many are surprised to learn that commonly held Christian doctrines are
in fact not "Christian" at allthat is, they are not the teachings of the
New Testament. Some of these doctrines have been generated by sincere misunderstandings
about what the scriptures teach on a given topic. At other times, however, the tradition
or doctrine of some churches will exist solely on the authority of that church., which
indeed may openly acknowledge that the doctrine is not supported by scripture. Many such
beliefs are based upon church traditions that evolved in the earlier years of the
respective histories of their churches, and have consequently taken on the aura of
authority. While the Intercontinental Church of God does not negate the importance of
proper church authority and tradition, it does maintain that such authority or
tradition must in no way conflict with or negate the scriptures. For support of this
premise, we cite Jesus' words of strong disapproval of those in His time who allowed men's
commands to supersede God's. "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the
precepts of men" (Mark 7:7).
The main danger in observing or believing certain "harmless"
doctrines or customs is that these tend to lead people away from the true plan of God.
Thus while one can think in his mind that he is obeying God, he is actually far from
knowing, understanding and doing what God would have him to do. A man may be totally
sincere but may be just as totally misled by teachings of men which are not derived from
the teachings of the Bible. As such he may be unknowingly worshipping God "in
vain." The consequences of non-biblical doctrine are thus quite severeeven
affecting one's eternal life!
In this context, much stress is placed by God in the New Testament upon
striving for, and maintaining purity of biblically accurate belief. Purity of belief may
be defined as that belief which is in accordance and consistent with the teachings of
Christ and the apostles (Gal. 1:8-9). We are also instructed to earnestly "contend
for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The thrust of this
verse is that we should strive for the same body of beliefs that Christ gave His
early disciples and apostles as well as the same attitude.
The doctrines explained in the following section are listed under the
heading of "Traditional Christian Doctrines," because they represent commonly
held teachings. We have a God-given responsibility to state clearly and honestly the
biblical truth on these topics. The format is to first state the traditional Christian
doctrine, which will be immediately followed by the contradicting and/or corresponding
doctrine of the Church of God.
Doctrinal Statement on THE FALL OF MAN
Adam and Eve did not fall from any state of moral or spiritual
perfection. Neither has the sin they committed been inherited by all mankind from birth
(the so-called "original sin"). Adam and Eve were rather created morally and
spiritually neutral, having not yet developed character but also having not yet done evil.
Using this free moral agency upon being tempted by Satan, they subsequently chose to
follow their own judgment rather than the revelation of God. It was actually Satan who had
fallen from his position of glory and had committed the "original sin." It was
Satan who then influenced Eve, Adam, and thereafter all mankind to follow the same path.
Doctrinal Statement on THE IMMORTAL SOUL
Man neither is nor has an immortal soul. The traditional concept of
an immortal soul, a spiritual entity or substance with fully independent existence and
consciousness, which is so fundamental to various religious systems, is a myth. Man is a
totally mortal, living breathing creature who has no consciousness, no awareness and no
existence after death. In this regard humans and animals are alikethe same death
befalls them both. The one element which sets man apart from animals is not an
"immortal soul" but a spiritual essencea
"spirit-in-man"which transforms the human brain into the human mind. Man
indeed has the potential for immortality, but this will occur only at the yet
future resurrection from the dead when immortal life will be given as a free gift from God
through the Holy Spirit.
Doctrinal. Statement on HEAVEN
The reward of the saved is not to go to heaven at death. No
conscious human beings have ever ascended into the heavens after death (except Jesus
Christ). Man's destiny is to enter God's Family as His son and to rule in His Kingdom
which will be set up on earth. The dead in Christ now only "rest" in their
graves until the resurrection when God will bring them into His Family. Eventually, when
the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 come into being and new Jerusalem comes down
from God out of heaven, God's dwelling and throne will be forever with man. In this light,
the question of "going to heaven" becomes meaningless, for heaven will then be
on this earth, which will be the final headquarters of both God the Father and Christ the
Doctrinal Statement on HELL
The belief in an ever-burning hell in which sinners are tormented
for eternity is nowhere substantiated by the Bible. Such relentless anguish and eternal
suffering is diametrically contrary to the character of a merciful, loving God. The
punishment for rebellion against God will be a final destruction in the lake of
fire, but this will produce death and nonexistence, not eternal torment. The Greek and
Hebrew words translated "hell" in English versions of the Bible mean either the
"grave" in which corpses are buried, a place of restraint for fallen angels or a
temporary fire which burned rubbish near Jerusalem. Christ used the last as an analogy of
the lake of fire which will ultimately consume the wicked.
Doctrinal Statement on the TRINITY
The concept of a closed or restricted godhead composed of three
personsthe Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is non-biblical. The godhead is a
Family, presently revealed as composed of only the Father and the Son, which will
eventually include all those who have been given salvation through Christ. The Holy Spirit
is not a distinct person or individual entity but the power, mind and essence of God.
Doctrinal Statement on the GOSPEL
The gospel is more than a message about Jesus Christ. The
true gospel involves an understanding of the person of Christ, but its main thrust is the
"good news" that Jesus Christ brought. This includes the witness and warning
announcement that mankind is about to destroy itself and that God will save mankind from
this certain self-destruction by setting up His Kingdom on earth through Jesus Christ's
return as King of kings. Also fundamental to the gospel that Jesus brought is the
revelation of the way by which human beings may qualify to be part of that Kingdom and
rule with Him. This is the process of salvation through Christ's death and resurrection,
and begins with obedience to Jesus' command, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at
Doctrinal Statement . on the KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God is not simple heaven, nor is it the Church on
earth today, nor is it a spiritual kingdom within men's hearts. The Kingdom of God is a
world-ruling government (with laws, a king and rulers, territory and subjects) to be set
up on earth at Christ's return and to continue thereafter. The Kingdom of God is also the
Family of God into which man can be born again. The Family of God constitutes that
Doctrinal Statement on BORN AGAIN
The term "born again" is not synonymous with the
immediate spiritual, mental or emotional change (sometimes called
"regeneration") one undergoes by accepting Christ or being baptized. Although
partially a matter of semantics, the term "born again" in its full sense refers
to the actual change from a physical body and being to a spiritual body and being; this
occurs at the resurrection to eternal life and not before.
Doctrinal Statement on SUNDAY
No biblical justification exists for observing the first day of the
week; Sunday is nowhere sanctified in the Bible, nor is any special honor or significance
ascribed to it. The seventh-day Sabbath was God's holy day from Creation, was so kept by
the early apostolic Church, and is kept by God's Church today.
Doctrinal Statement on CHRISTMAS
Christmas is neither Christ's birthday nor a celebration Christians
should observe. It is not mentioned in the Bible and in no way is a truly Christian
practice. Christmas is rather an ancient pagan celebration which predated Christianity,
but was renamed and given new meaning when it was adopted into the professing Christian
Doctrinal Statement on EASTER
Easter is an adaptation of an ancient, pagan, pre-Christian
festival for celebration which was adopted by traditional Christianity in place of the
biblical Passover. Easter is nowhere mentioned in the Bible as a Christian holiday.
Instead, the Passover should be properly observed on the correct date in accordance with
Christ's example and Paul's instructions.
Doctrinal Statement on THE RAPTURE
The doctrine of a secret rapture during which Christ will
clandestinely return to catch away the saints from the earth, protecting them from the
great tribulation, is not biblical. It is neither taught nor mentioned in the New
Testament. Christ will indeed come back to this earth, but it will be only once, with
power and full glory, and will be totally visible to all human beings. This will occur at
the final trumpet blast, concomitant with the first resurrection, which is after the great
tribulation, and just after the seventh and last plague.
Doctrinal Statement on "THE LORDS PRAYER"
Repetitious recitations of' the Lord's prayer are not practiced as
a Christian custom. Jesus admonished His disciples not to repeat ritualistic prayers over
and over again to God, but rather to pray from the fully active mind and heart. His sample
prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 was given as an outline for prayer, showing His disciples how
to pray and what to pray for and about.
Doctrinal Statement on PREDESTINATION
God has not predetermined, nor can He even know in advance,
whether or not a person will yield himself to God, strive for perfection, and succeed in
entering into His Kingdom. God has predestined that He will give human beings the
opportunity to conform to the image of His Son if they decide to do so. God has
also predestined that He would choose a certain group in this end time to fulfill His
commission and to qualify for His Kingdom now. Thus predestination refers solely to the time
of one's calling, when God decides to open a person's mind to His truth, thereby
giving him an opportunity for salvation.
Doctrinal Statement on SPEAKING IN TONGUES
The biblical occurrences of "speaking in tongues" are not a
phenomenon often seen in charismatic circles, nor the sign by which one judges whether a
person has been begotten by God's Holy Spirit. In complete contradistinction to the
unintelligible verbal utterances of certain groups, for one to biblically "speak in
tongues" means that God has supernaturally given the gift of speaking in an actual
foreign language to that person as a sign.
Doctrinal on LAW AND GRACE
To be "under grace" does not mean that a person may
disregard or disobey God's law by assuming that Christ has "fulfilled" the law
for him or that Christ must always forgive him. Grace is "favor" from God,
unmerited pardon for sins that are past, granted because of His mercy and forgiveness.
Grace in no way gives one license to disobey God. Man must keep God's commandments to be a
true Christian. Salvation cannot be earned. It is a free gift but requires law (which
defines sin) and grace (which is the forgiveness of sin), faith (in God) and works
(a consequence of that living faith which produces spiritual fruit).
Doctrinal Statement on INFANT BAPTISM
The practice of infant baptism is not supported by biblical
principle. Since persons are not born with "original sin" there is no need for
them to be baptized in childhood. For one to be truly ready for the baptism described in
the New Testament, he must be sufficiently mature to understand the Bible, to believe in
Jesus Christ and to be capable of real repentance.
Doctrinal Statement on BAPTISM
The traditional Christian practices of baptism by any method other
than immersionsuch as sprinkling, pouring, etc.is not in accord with the
teachings of the New Testament, indeed the symbolism likening baptism to the death of the
"old" man, being buried with Christ, can be fully expressed only by total
immersion in water.
Doctrinal Statement on PENANCE
God, does not require penance, an imposed system of physical works,
undertaken as a punishment in token of penitence for sin. God totally forgives the sinner
upon true repentance and acceptance of Christ's sacrifice as full payment for the penalty
of sin. True repentance is toward God alone, and He demands no external manifestation
Doctrinal Statement on ETERNAL SECURITY
The belief that once a person. has been converted he is
"saved" and can in no way lose out on salvation is biblically unfounded. God
wants us to grow in grace, knowledge and character, and gives us the free moral agency
necessary. Christians are thereby not saved in the ultimate sense until they have been
finally born into God's Kingdom at the resurrection. While still living, Christians are in
the process of being saved and can lose out on salvation by willfully rejecting
God's way. Only at the resurrection or at death (whichever comes first), is the true
Christian eternally secure.
Doctrinal Statement on UNIVERSALISM
It is possible for human beings to reject God's truth, salvation,
and thus be denied entry into God's Kingdom. The ultimate, reconciliation of all humans
and creatures to God is not taught in the Bible. If it were impossible to cast aside and
renounce God, this would destroy the free moral agency crucially essential to build the
character of God. God's will is that all men come to the knowledge of the truth and be
saved. However, all will not choose to follow God and be granted salvation, though
biblical indications are that the vast majority will joyously do so. Those who remain
unrepentant will be consumed in the lake of fire.
Doctrinal Statement on THE CHURCH
A church is not, except in extended usage, a building or an
edifice. It is rather the people who comprise the congregation, the collective "body
of Christ," the group of called out believing Christians in whom God's Holy Spirit
dwells. It can be applied to Christians as a whole or to an individual congregation.
Doctrinal Statement on THE CROSS
The use of crosses, crucifixes or the "sign of the cross"
in prayer or worship is non-biblical and non-efficacious in a Christian's relationship
with God and Christ. The image of a cross has no intrinsic spiritual value and apparently
originated in non-Christian religions; for these reasons it is avoided. God instructs His
people to worship Him without such external devices.
Doctrinal Statement on PICTURES OF JESUS
We do not know what Jesus looked like, and we should not make
worshipful use of His pictures if we did. The pictures most often purporting to represent
His face are mythical, inaccurate and unbiblical, and are the product of mere human
imagination. The use of any picture as a religious crutch breaks the spirit of the second
Doctrinal Statement on RELIGIOUS MEDALS/STATUES
For man to make, venerate or use as reminders in worship such
things as medals, statues or images of "God" is forbidden by the second
commandment. Man has direct access to God through Christ and needs no other intercessor or
aidno "holy" object or "holy" personin personal worship.
Doctrinal Statement on MINISTERIAL/RELIGIOUS TITLES
The use of religious titles which rightfully belong only to God,
such as "Reverend" or "Father" are avoided for ministers. Respect for
a person's office does not depend upon what title he uses. The Bible says that "Holy
and Reverend is His [God's] name," not the name of any man.
Doctrinal Statement on FAITH HEALING
The attempt to promote faith healing as a public spectacle in a
carnival-like atmosphere is contrary to both the example and intent of scripture. Christ
and the apostles healed as a witness to their preaching of the gospel, and whenever God
heals today, it has heretofore been in a private and personal way.
Doctrinal Statement on ABSTINENCE/ASCETICISM
The ascetic way of life is not taught as the biblical ideal. The
total avoidance of certain physical pleasures such as drinking alcoholic beverages or
having sexual relations within marriage, is not biblically commanded. (Drinking alcohol in
excess or participating in sexual behavior outside of marriage is strictly and
forcibly condemned.) The Bible does allow, and even encourages, the proper moderate use of
the many physical pleasures of life which God created for man's enjoyment.
This publication is intended to be
used as a personal study tool. Please know it is not wise to take any man's word
for anything, so prove all things for yourself from the pages of your own Bible.
The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 747
Flint, TX 75762
Phone: (903) 561-7070 • Fax: (903) 561-4141
More FREE literature is available at our Internet Web Site:
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