David C Pack's Lamentable Sabbath Day Confusion

The Spiritually Naive Continue to be Led Astray...

W ho is David C. Pack? Well, the question might well be asked, although don't tell Mr Pack this, who - from comments appearing on his website - appears to think that he is probably the second most important Bible teacher of the last several hundred years!

Mr Pack heads up one of the more extreme and confused offshoots of armstrongism, commonly known as "The Restored Church of God." I spent some time on his website recently and was astonished at his effective virtual impersonalisation of Herbert W. Armstrong. It is amazing how often his various descriptions of how he 'learned the truth,' directly mirror those of Armstrong. Yet Armstrong lived 1892-1986, whereas Pack is still very much alive and his path to "the truth" must have been vastly different. In fact, he is an ex-WCG minister who learned his armstrongism directly from the Armstrong model as a graduate of the old Ambassador College which taught a partly correct/partly seriously distorted philosophical view of life in which observance of the Old Covenant Sabbath (Friday sunset-Saturday sunset) and the Levitical Holy Days (Leviticus 23) were considered absolutely pivotal to everything in life and certainly to any hope of gaining "spiritual understanding."

End-Time Apostle?

David C. Pack considers himself as directly following in the footsteps of Herbert W. Armstrong as pastor general of his 'Restored Church of God.' This is despite the fact that many other armstrongist ministers have shared, and continue to share, the same exalted view of their ministries as representing the continuation of Herbert W. Armstrong's ministry.

Sadly, such ministries only serve to perpetuate Armstrong's well-documented errors, some of which are of an especially elementary nature.

It is essential to emphasize how armstrongists place the Old Covenant Sabbath, the Levitical Holy Days and the deep veneration of Armstrong himself (always regarded as an 'apostle' in the first century sense, although he was born in 1892) on a doctrinal pedestal as three supreme requirements for any who might aspire to Eternal Life!
Jesus of Nazareth?? Oh, well yes, He is there too, but the Lord Jesus is forced to play a largely subservient role within armstrongism's strangely selective theological world.
Armstrongists used to say that they placed the Ten Commandments at the centre of everything which they believe and practice, but that is just not so (I may say that I am qualified to make this observation having been part of the WCG from 1981-1994). They are pretty much disinterested in most of those commandments, but continually glorify sabbath observance; Indeed, it is now quite well-documented how several leading armstrongists of the 1970s/1980s were especially keen to ignore the command against adultery. Apparently their (self-conceived) "importance" meant that adultery was okay for them. But we must not delay ourselves by digressing into that area.

Pack's Background - and Claims!

According to his own website, after attending Ambassador College, David C. Pack,

"...entered the Worldwide Church of God ministry in 1971 and was personally trained by Herbert W. Armstrong. He has established over 50 congregations, authored more than 20 books, written hundreds of booklets and articles, and appeared on The History Channel. As Editor-in-Chief of The Real Truth magazine and voice of The World to Come program, he has reached millions around the globe with the most powerful truths of the Bible, unknown to almost all."

There is appalling arrogance there. If somebody other than Mr Pack wrote these comments he needs to move quickly to remove the arrogant tone. But if - as one suspects - the comments appear with his approval, one can only gasp at a man who would claim that he alone reaches "millions around the globe" with an authentic Bible message which is "unknown to almost all." To be frank, this is typical of the amazing arrogance of the armstrongists. So, according to the reasoning which the "Restored Church of God" encourages us to accept, forget about Aquinas, forget about Luther, forget about Calvin, forget about John Wesley, CH Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and all the rest - until Herbert Armstrong came along we knew virtually nothing about the Bible, and now - how wonderful! - Mr Pack is devoutly and selflessly continuing in his path. Herbert, of course, was full of an arrogance and (entirely misplaced) confidence just like that so it is perhaps no shock to find his disciples inheriting the very same trait.

In the very same, Who is David C. Pack? article on his website, Mr Pack (or, one presumably writing with his authority), modestly points out that in order to attend Ambassador College, he declined an invitation to attend Dartmouth College, as well as an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, plus numerous other scholarship offers. Hmm. What a very able and clever young man! Continuing in the same line of modesty, the article further tells us that,

"...he has traveled the world, pastored thousands and conducted many public Bible lectures. Mr. Pack has also held a number of leadership positions that have given him a wide range of ministerial and administrative experience."

Yep, while this may all be perfectly accurate, the impression is that this is real 'CV' material of the most embellished kind. Moreover, we are told that Mr Pack's writing is,

"Published on the most extensive biblically based websites in the world, Mr. Pack’s and the Church’s materials address the everyday concerns of the average man and woman..."

Of course, the unpalatable truth (for the armstrongists) is that no "biblically-based website" would allow any material coming from Mr Pack or any armstrongist disciple anywhere near their website unless the purpose should be to critique it, as we are doing right here.

Reports coming out of Pack's "Restored Church" now suggest that Pack has formally told his people that he should now be considered as an 'apostle.' The Exit Support Network has stated the following about this gentleman:

"David Pack (along with certain other leaders from the WCG splinter groups) long for their members to think they are "humble." But is it humble to brag about all "you" have done and then give yourself different titles, causing your members to look to you more than to the Lord Jesus Christ? No man--or church--should ever come between an individual and God, especially if it causes them to depend on that person to the extent that they fear to leave fellowship of that group, or to even question the authority, feeling they will forfeit their eternal life." (source:http://www.exitsupportnetwork.com/artcls/pack.htm).

Herbert W. Armstrong himself was a keen user of the tactic of warning his members that to leave his fellowship was to forfeit any chance of Eternal Life. The tactic is remarkably successful in holding control over sincere but unstudied people who might be having doubts.

Sabbath Confusion

But the main purpose of this article is to critique Mr Pack's claims in his 'Saturday or Sunday - Which is the Sabbath?' article which appears on his website (source: http://www.thercg.org/books/tsosw.html). The article is critiqued as it appears/appeared in March, 2010.

The article is just like most armstrongist articles on the Sabbath, that is, it is deeply flawed right the way through with an entirely misleading impression of being scholarly. But it seemed helpful to preface the critique with our opening references to Mr Pack's grandiose view of himself and of his 'unique ministry,' in order to tell us just a little more, well perhaps a whole lot more, about the man.

Following the approach of Herbert Armstrong himself, the very article name of 'Saturday or Sunday - Which Day is the Sabbath?' shows a great naivety. He commences, in other words, with an unestablished assumption. That assumption is that Christians should be keeping a Sabbath day whereas, in fact, thousands would believe that the observance of a Sabbath only concerned those of Israelite stock and Christians only took the principle of a Sabbath, or 'day of rest' in their observance of the Lord's Day, or Sunday. Mr Pack complains of a lack of understanding or interest among Protestants, not realising that thousands have perhaps just a little more understanding than he is able to comprehend or maybe prepared to acknowledge.
Even in his Introduction he states that,

"...the Christian Sabbath is one of the longest running debates about any Bible teaching. Theologians and ministers of every background and theology have offered their opinion about the 'Saturday or Sunday' question."

This, of course, is already incorrect, indeed it is well wide of the mark. There are indeed a few long running debates within theology, but not about the Sabbath. No Christian theologian of any worth has ever spent much time debating this point. The point is well-established that the Sabbath, as given to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, referred to the period of time from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset - end of story. No need of debating - the issue is clear. But - like just about every armstrongist writer who addresses this subject, some confusion is quickly and willingly introduced into the mix by Mr Pack. He wants the uncommited reader to believe that the subject is far from settled within Christian theology. That is simply not so. His first chapter immediately mirrors Armstrong's original approach on this matter, telling of how he was raised in a Protestant denomination and how he became "challenged" over the question of the Sabbath day. For a while, I thought I was reading Herbert Armstrong himself! He states,

"Two billion people keep Sunday without knowing why—or where this practice originated. Most suppose it is found in the Bible because they see so many professing Christians observing it. Surely billions cannot be wrong. Or can they?"

Again, an assumption is being made, that is, that Christians should be 'keeping' a Sabbath day. This is the highly naive approach which the armstrongist writers have always employed on this topic. The writer is quickly arguing about something he has not yet even explained nor established!

In the remainder of his first chapter, Pack launches into a lengthy consideration of his belief that the Roman Catholic Church 'changed the Sabbath day to Sunday,' and how Protestantism meekly followed. This is his main thesis, indeed, having looked through the rest of his chapters there is no doubt that his argument stands or falls in this very section, a section which is therefore pivotal to his polemic.

Mr Pack immediately throws around thirty quotes at the reader from such sources as James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore (an oft-quoted source for Pack, although Gibbon's orthodoxy has been questioned), Stephen Keenan, the Toronto Daily Star, Martin J. Scott, Peter R. Kraemer, Pope John Paul II, Henry Tuberville, Bishop Seymour and Isaac Williams. The quotes are all exceeding short, never taking up the general theme or themes in the various letters, chapters or writings which they are wrested from, and with several of the quotes certainly misleading. Even Dugger and Dodd ('Church of God, Seventh Day') get quoted ('A History of the True Religion'), but unfortunately this particular quote brings out one of Dugger and Dodd's errors, which is their belief that Martin Luther kept the seventh day Sabbath which, of course, he did not. The inclusion of this plain error from Dugger and Dodd reveals the amazing naivety in Pack's use of quotes. Some of the quotes (not all), come from those who favoured the teaching that First Day Sabbatarianism replaced the Old Covenant Sabbath for followers of Jesus. So these particular writers accepted the principle of Sunday being a new 'Sabbath' - Pack, of course, immediately pounces upon this as meat and drink to his argument. But, in the opinion of many, these writers were sometimes in error on this point and they are not typical. Because of its 'covenant theology,' the reformed (Calvinist) movement has been especially keen to explain the Sabbath/Lord's Day question in that manner but that has not been the general, or typical Protestant approach.

Puritanism started to insist that the First Day became a new Sabbath to help solve poor church attendance and moral discipline and this approach spread quite widely, yet both Calvin and Luther had roundly rejected this concept. The reader may wish to look up How First Day Sabbatarianism Entered the Church. With the decline of Puritanism this approach has also declined, perhaps only surviving - to a degree - among Calvinist writers and theologians. But probably most of Protestantism would always have said that the Sabbath was given to Israel alone and Scriptures such as Acts 15 seem to reject the concept that Gentiles need to be concerned about "Sabbath observance," however, since our Lord was raised from the dead on a First Day of the week (Sunday), and since assemblies on the First Day even start to be noted in the New Testament (John 20:19-22,26; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; possibly Revelation 1:10) and were certainly noted by the 'church fathers' (including Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Eusebius etc. Sources here), that would seem to be the ideal day on which to assemble for worship.

But, of course, Pack is correct to say that Sunday never was the Sabbath. All Christians should agree with him on that point! Believing he is exposing some fearful conspiracy, Pack can triumphantly quote the following words of James Cardinal Gibbons:

“Is Saturday the seventh day according to the Bible and the Ten Commandments? I answer yes. Is Sunday the first day of the week and did the Church change the seventh day—Saturday—for Sunday, the first day? I answer yes. Did Christ change the day? I answer no!”

Every Protestant should agree with that quote and there is no doubt that the early church started to meet on a Sunday (for a short while Jewish Christians also observed the Sabbath), there is also no doubt that Christ never specifically 'changed the day.' However, the change occurred because the early church quickly came to understand that they no longer stood under the Old Covenant and that - in any case - that Covenant was only applicable to the people of Israel. Sometimes a fundamental lack of understanding can cause one to sense a conspiracy where none exists, but it is depressing that the seventh day adherents never seem to learn but continue perpetuating the same old errors in understanding.

One might point out that Pack's very selective use of very short quotes from books, or works which, after all, will have normally contained several sections and possibly countless thousands, or even millions, of words also brought home to me how anything can be "proven" by such a loose, and frankly irresponsible use of quotes. For instance, while it is true that the Roman Catholic Church claim to have altered the Sabbath day, this is based upon their belief that they are the same body as the church of the first few centuries - a point that many thousands would very seriously question! Indeed, in a point already alluded to, both the New Testament itself - yes, the New Testament - and such early 'fathers' of the church as Justin Martyr (time-wise, very very close to the Apostle John) show support for assembling on Sundays, but not as a new Sabbath day (for more information please read my article Why Worship on a Sunday?)

So Pack's extensive and misleading use of quotes establishes nothing for his argument at all, and the bottom line is that virtually none of the writers (save perhaps one or two) which he quotes so selectively would share his view that Christians today should assemble for worship on the seventh day! Rather than serving to illuminate the reader, Pack's quotes seem calculated to confuse, if not actually deceive. Again, a lot of the time the quoted writers are perhaps not truly representative of their denominations and some of his quotes (from Dugger and Dodd and D. L. Moody, for example), make statements which are plainly erroneous. Others cite a purely personal opinion, no more.

So I submit that Mr Pack's use of quotes in this article is defective and misleading, perhaps only serving to underline that his knowledge of the Sabbath/Lord's Day question is not as advanced as he believes.

In chapter three of 'Saturday or Sunday - Which Day is the Sabbath?' Pack falls back on the now well-disproven argument about the Sabbath having been instituted at Creation in the very form in which it was delivered to Israel at Mount Sinai. This, again, is plainly an error. As all dilligent Bible students are aware, Creation's day of rest was just that - no regulations or requirements anywhere, we are only told that God rested. Moreover, the Old Testament never advocates a Sabbath observance for thousands of years until just before the establishment of the Old Covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, and then it is only applicable to Israel. No serious Bible scholar doubts this for one second but armstrongists always challenge it. But I have covered this very topic at length in Was the Mosaic Sabbath Eternal and Unchangeable? and would point the reader in that direction for a deeper consideration of this particular point.

But in the latter part of his chapter three, Pack makes the amazing - and fully unscriptural - claim that Adam, Eve, Abel, Enoch, Noah and Noah's children all kept the Sabbath! As we have just pointed out, Scripture is completely silent on any required Sabbath or Sabbath observance by men and women until the time of Moses, but apparently, Mr Pack knows differently! He then goes on to claim that Abraham was also a Sabbath keeper making the following unscriptural statement,

"Abraham, often called “the father of the faithful,” kept God’s Sabbath. Notice: “Because that Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Gen. 26:5). This verse is most plain. Abraham kept God’s Sabbath! It is the Fourth commandment."

What Pack apparently seems unaware of is that Abraham lived well before the time of Moses and the Mount Sinai covenant! So when Scripture says that Abraham kept God's "commandments, statutes and laws," it refers only to those laws which God had made known to Abraham at that time. Presumably this refers to the laws of the Noahic covenant, containing prohibitions against such things as sexual immorality, eating meat with the blood still in it, murder, robbery and idolatry. The laws are touched upon in Genesis 8-9 and may be found in Jubilees 7:20-28. The Jews have kept a record of these laws in Talmud Sanh.56a. They contain no Sabbath command. I repeat: the laws of Noah contained no Sabbath command. These are the laws which Abraham obeyed. These laws pointed out the way that God would have all peoples obey, but the later Old Covenant, including the Sabbath command, was only given to Israel.

Galatians confirms that Abraham had no knowledge of the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Old Covenant package, which was given to Israel alone. Galatians 3:17 clearly establishes that the Old Covenant regulations came along 430 years after Abraham. So Pack's plain assertion that Abraham would have kept the Sabbath since "it is the fourth commandment," is an anachronism.

Pack then launches into a long section considering whether Israel kept the Sabbath culminating in his obviously correct claim that Jesus kept the Sabbath. Of course, He did for He was a Jew living under the Old Covenant.

In his chapter four Pack repeats the now very tired old armstrongist argument that Christ rose from the dead on a Sabbath. That, of course, is entirely unscriptural, Christ plainly rose on the First Day of the week, a fact never questioned in the first few hundred years of early church history, a fact which tells us all we need to know. He then attacks the Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition on the - once again - now discredited argument that one cannot get 72 hours (three full days and nights) into Good Friday afternoon-Easter Sunday morning. This too is now considered a very poor argument to employ since the Jews always reckoned time inclusively. Since Good Friday until Easter Sunday contained parts of three days then - for the Jews - it was indeed three days! As Peter Ditzel has written,

"Three days and three nights" is a Hebrew idiom that the Greek of Matthew 12:40 follows. Concerning this idiom, a near contemporary of Jesus, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (circa A.D. 100), said, "A day and a night make an ’onah [a twenty-four hour period], and the portion of an ’onah is reckoned as a complete ’onah." In Hebrew, then, a portion of a day could be counted as a complete day. As R. T. France writes, "Three days and three nights was a Jewish idiom appropriate to a period covering only two nights." Numerous commentators support this position. Although written in Greek, Matthew 12:40 expresses the Hebrew idiom—"three days and three nights"—that was understood by the Jews listening to Jesus to mean one full day and portions of two others with the intervening nights." (This whole article is here: http://www.wordofhisgrace.org/3days.htm).

David C. Pack then goes into the 'perpetual Sabbath for all mankind' idea (debunked by the article we have already quoted here.) We may be quite sure that this argument has no substance for several reasons including the consideration of Acts 15 where, at the Jerusalem Conference of 50AD, the specific matter of which laws the Gentiles who were coming to Christ should be made aware of, was addressed and the Sabbath is mentioned nowhere.

I have only considered about half of David Pack's horrendously long and meandering article about the need for seventh day sabbath observance by Christians but I think we can already see that his argument has failed. For the remainder, he continues to hammer away at the need for Sabbath observance without stopping even once to take any serious look at well-considered theological objections to his under-researched assumptions. Like Herbert W. Armstrong's original article on this subject, he refuses to move away from an emotional approach in order to honestly consider serious and non-emotional objections to his argument based upon solid reason, careful study and analysis. One may therefore safely conclude that armstrongist minister Mr David C. Pack uses a blinkered approach in attempting to justify armstrongist doctrines, including his belief that Christians who do not observe the seventh day Sabbath will not be saved.
Robin A. Brace. March 7th 2010.

The Exit Support Network has this to say about Mr Pack: David C. Pack Declares Himself an Apostle in the Restored Church of God.

(I have critiqued Mr Pack's article precisely as I found it and read it on the date quoted above. Sometimes writers react to a critique and quickly change things. Obviously I would have no control over such a thing).

Not everything on the Lord's Day/Sabbath question could be taken into account in this article. For more information please consult:

Why Worship on a Sunday?

The Early Church Fathers and the Sabbath

Was the Mosaic Sabbath Eternal and Unchangeable?

How First Day Sabbatarianism Entered the Church

Confessions of a Sabbath Keeper