Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Daniel Layne

Man-made churches of God?

John Winebrenner was a minister of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania who was severed from that denomination in 1828 for being too evangelical, i.e.: not Calvinistic, in his preaching. He continued preaching wherever people would hear him and in 1830 he and his followers organized the denomination now known as the Church of God, General Conference. This new Church of God had no written creed, taking the Bible as the sole guide to faith and stated that their objective was to unite all true Christians in one body.

Daniel Warner became a minister of this body in 1867. In 1877 he claimed to have an experience of entire sanctification. The Winebrenner church rejected this doctrine of perfectionism and Daniel Warner was expelled in January of 1878. He continued preaching this doctrine and found many in agreement.

In studying the 7th chapter of the book of Daniel, he calculated the time of the supremacy of the Roman Catholic church as beginning 270 A.D. and lasting 1260 years (counting a year for a day) bringing him to 1530. He was on pretty solid ground thus far, but then turning to Revelation 11:11 he came to a period of three and a half days when the witnesses of God appeared to be dead. Now reading 100 years for a day he discovered that the true witness was scheduled to revive in 1880 A.D.

Thus he organized a new Church of God in 1880 with full confidence that this was the fulfilling of Bible prophecy. I would not call Daniel Warner a charlatan, but it would appear that he was susceptible to mistaking his own wishes and imagination for the leading of the Holy Spirit. He believed that his new movement, with a twin emphasis om the restoration of the Church of God which had long been absent from the earth and on the full and entire sanctification of believers by a second work of grace after conversion.

The new church had many talented and prolific song writers, including Warner himself. Others were Andrew L. Byers, Charles W. Naylor, Benjamin H. Warrren Clara M. Brooks and many more. Most of their hymns were sound evangelistic hymns, but a few point to their distinctive doctrines. Much mention is made of the “evening light,” Warner having interpreted Zechariah 14:7 to be a prophecy that the gospel light would once again shine at the end of the age. Warner died in 1895. The church is now known as the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

There have been a number of schisms in that body over the past 75 years. One was the Church of God (Restoration) which was led by Daniel Layne until his death in 2011. There were many who felt the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana had drifted from its original fervency into worldliness. Layne took his inspiration from Revelation 8:1 which speaks of silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. Now taking each minute for a year, Layne concluded that the former church had become apostate in 1950 and the silence in heaven ended when he began his restoration movement in 1980.

The Church of God (Restoration) has about 20 congregations. Some in Canada are made up largely of German-speaking people who were formerly part of Mennonite denominations. These German language congregations are known as Gemeinde Gottes.

All these churches began with considerable sincerity and a fervent desire to unite the people of God. Looking back over their history it seems they have done more to divide the children of God.

Echoes of invention

The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) gradually began to downplay some of the distinctive teachings of Daniel Warner, leading some of those who believed strongly in those teachings to leave the church. In 1980, Daniel Layne left the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) and assumed the leadership of those who had separated from that group.

Layne accepted Warner’s prophetic revelations, adding a little more from Revelations chapter 8. The space of about  a half hour was interpreted as half a century and the starting date as 1930 when they believed the mother church had fallen into apostsy. Counting 50 years from then brings one to 1980 and Daniel Layne, when the seventh trumpet is said to have sounded.

This group calls itself the Church of God (Restoration). It may be better known to many as the Gemeinde Gottes as it has had a special appeal to German-speaking Mennonites in Canada and Bolivia.

A friend recounted observating a conversation between a minister of this group and a minister of another denomination. The Gemeinde Gottes minister stated that he had given his heart to the Lord the first time he was called and that as far as he was aware he had never sinned.  Another man, who had been silent up to that point, said: “That thought itself is sin!” That brought the conversation to an abrupt end.

The prophetic interpretations of Warner and Layne are examples of eisegisis, of reading into the Bible what you want to find there. The year for a day interpretation of Daniel’s 1260 days is generally accepted as the inteded meaning. The dates of 270 and 1530, however, have no significance in history and appear to have been picked to make things work out to the desired end. The century for a day interpretation has no support in the Scriptures, or elsewhere. It appers that Warner began with the 1880 date and worked backwards. The 50 years for half an hour interpretation of Layne is equally meaningless, simply an attempt to explain his 1980 defection.

I’m not meaning to imply that Warner and Layne were scoundrels, intentionally deceiving their followers. I think they were as gullible as their followers. Unfortuneately, gullibility is nowhere listed as a Christian virtue. It would have been much better if they and their followers had been like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11). That is called exegisis, when we search the Scriptures to see what they say, rather than seeking a verse or two that we can use to support our cause.

Herbert W Armstrong was a master at eisegisis, and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that he was a scoundrel. The church he founded has renounced his teachings and changed its name. Nevertheless, there are ten or twelve denominations carrying on his message. It seems that when one has the persuasive skills to make a teaching based on twisted Scriptures seem credible, it takes a long time for the echoes to die awy.

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