Profile on and Christian response to the group known as the "Philadelphia Church of God"
Founder: Gerald Flurry, a follower of Herbert W. Armstrong, founded the Philadelphia Church of God (PCOG) in 1989.
Headquarters: Edmond, Oklahoma
Origins: Gerald Flurry served in the "Worldwide Church of God" under Herbert W. Armstrong. He broke off after Armstrong's death when the new leadership rejected Armstrong's teachings and began to reform the "Worldwide Church of God" to bring it more in line with Christianity. Flurry founded the Philadelphia Church of God to continue in the teachings of Armstrong.1
Practices: They practice a Saturday Sabbath as a day of worship and are strictly forbidden to work on that day. They believe that one must celebrate the Old Testament feast days. They also forbid Military service. They do not believe in proselytizing directly to individuals, but they do promote their teaching through television programs, magazines, and other forms of media.2
- God - Like Armstrong before them, the PCOG teach that "God" is not one individual being, but is rather a corporate title for the family of all divine beings. They believe that there are presently two beings in this "God-family." The Father and the Son. Both are eternal deities that have always existed together as the "God Kingdom" or "Elohim," but they did not become a "Family" until after the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus. The PCOG thus claims that the terms "Father" and "Son" do not properly apply until the New Testament era. Both of these divine beings, though made of an invisible, spiritual substance, are each still bound by a finite, human-shaped form and merely project themselves to various distant places and act on objects throughout the universe remotely through the impersonal power or force called the "holy spirit." The PCOG teaches that the goal of the God family is reproduction. "God" is presently a family consisting of only two separate beings. It will, however, one day consists of at least thousands and plausibly billions of divine beings as those who believe the PCOG "gospel" will be reborn as deities and be literal children of God the Father in a heavenly family and thus become part of "God."3
- Jesus - According to the PCOG, Jesus is one of two eternal beings, both of whom were involved in creation. In eternity past, he was known as the "logos." He later took on human flesh and became the man Jesus. It was through his incarnation and resurrection that he became "the Son" and the other eternal being became his Father. Together, these two divine beings share the title of "God" as a family name though they are completely separate beings. Jesus died so that men could be reborn as divine beings themselves in the resurrection and thus join the "God" family.4
- Holy Spirit: The PCOG teaches that the Holy Spirit is not a person nor an actual being. Rather, the Holy Spirit is a power or force by which the Father and Son project themselves to various distant places and act on remote objects throughout the universe.5
- Man: Man, according to PCOG teaching, is not merely a special creation made in God's image, but is actually an attempt by God to reproduce after his "kind" just as he made the birds and beasts to do.6 Man is already, in a sense, a pre-born deity. The purpose of man is to ultimately be reborn through the resurrection as a fully divine being, a literal child of the heavenly Father and a part of his family as "God." Stephen Flurry, a prominent PGOC leader, writes that "Man’s ultimate potential is to inherit 'all things'— the ENTIRE UNIVERSE! We will inherit all things when we are actually born as members of the God Family.7
- Salvation: Adam, the first man, was given the opportunity to qualify himself to join the God family as a literal Son through perfect obedience to the divine law and through overcoming the devil.8 Jesus Himself became the first Son in the God Family by fulfilling these requirements, and humans after him must fulfill them as well.9 Because of Christ's death, forgiveness of past sins is given to those who repent and surrender to full obedience to the law of God. The necessary gift of the holy spirit is given upon submitting to baptism, after which one is empowered to fulfill the law and produce righteousness, thus qualifying to be reborn as a child of God upon one's future resurrection and become an immortal, divine being and a member of God (which is a family).
- Hell: The PCOG rejects the idea of an eternal hell. They believe that all humans who never heard their gospel will be given a second chance during a literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth. After that, everyone will have heard the gospel either in their first life or in the Millennium and will have had a chance to accept or reject. Those who reject will die a second time and simply cease to exist.10
Christian Analysis: The Philadelphia Church of God is a non-Christian cult which, like many such cults, perverts the Bible and common Christian vocabulary to its own ends. It teaches a "gospel" of works, ritual, and legalism toward an end of self-glorification. It diminishes God and deifies man. It is the age-old lie of the devil, basically asserting "do this and you can be like God." They are polytheistic, asserting multiple eternal divine beings to which we owe our allegiance, and they side-step all the passages that clearly assert that there is only one God by claiming that "God" really means a family of deities, thus twisting the phrase "one God' to actually mean "multiple gods." They depend on the ignorance of their readers and hearers to Hebrew grammar and the context of individual verses to cobble together their nonsensical case for this teaching.
When the LORD says:
"I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other," (Isaiah 45:5-6).
He does not say, "we are the god family." He says "I [singular] am the LORD [Yahweh/Jehovah, singular, personal name.]" One, singular, personal deity defines Himself as alone being the only God. There is no one else. He declares again:
"Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me," (Isaiah 45:21).
No "we." No coalition of separate eternal entities. Yahweh alone, "a righteous God" ("el," singular. One divine being) and "a savior." Not two saviors, not two divine beings, but one. And He also Clearly states:
"'You are My witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.'"
There will be no god (no "el," no single divine being) formed after Yahweh. The LORD has no interest in reproducing more deities in some heavenly God family. You cannot and will not become God. Yahweh is and ever will be God alone, and you are and ever will be His human creation. The gospel is not about our glorious, self-aggrandizing potential to become divine and be a part of God. The gospel is God's gracious gift of forgiveness for our egregious sins against our maker for which we deserve eternal death and hell. It is the blessing of eternal life as perfected humans who remain humans but enter into perfect fellowship with God as our grand, eternal superior who has yet chosen to love us as an adoptive Father. This is accomplished entirely in the perfect death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through our faith in Him rather than in our own obedience and effort:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God," (John 3:14-18).
"'Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.' Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent,'” (John 6:27-29).
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,'" (Jon 11:25).
One being who is God, Yahweh. One way of Salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. One goal of salvation, humble union with the one eternal God, not self-exaltation to become a part of God. This is how we come into God's kingdom. This is eternal life. This is the gospel.
- 1. https://www.pcog.org/about/gerald-flurry (accessed 9/26/17)
- 2. https://www.pcog.org/about/pcg-doctrines (accessed 9/26/17)
- 3. This teaching is laid out thoroughly in Chapter 1 of Herbert W. Armstrong's 1985 book "Mystery of the Ages" and Stephen Flurry's 2013 pamphlet "God is a Family."
- 4. ibid
- 5. ibid
- 6. Stephen Flurry. God Is a Family (Philadelphia Church of God, 2013) Kindle Locations 186-191
- 7. ibid, Kindle Locations 207-208
- 8. Herbert W Armstrong, The Incredible Human Potential (Philadelphia Church of God, 1557-1564) Kindle Location
- 9. ibid, Kindle Locations 1653-1655
- 10. ibid, Kindle Location 1710-1717