When I was involved with LCG I always understood that physical circumcision is not required of Christians. Acts 15 was cited to support this position.
Recently I have been reading some of the writings of the early Christians. They were vehemently opposed to any self proclaimed Christian insisting that circumcision is required for the Christian faith, or who wished to add the customs and observances of Judaism upon Gentile converts to Christianity. This train of thought can be found even in Acts 15 and Galatians.
Read Acts 15 in which a council is held in Jerusalem and it is decided that Gentile converts do not need to be circumcised.
Galatians is actually a polemic against those who said it was necessary to be circumcised and to observe the Old Testament law to be a Christian. That is why Paul talks about circumcision so much in that letter and he explains it is unnecessary for Gentile Christians. This is obvious once you start reading it without the Armstrongite indoctrination. It was never explained to me in that way by any Armstrongite. They try very hard to make COG followers not see this obvious fact.
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth ... ? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3.)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Galatians 5: 1-6.)
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. (Galatians 6:13.)Galatians was not a condemnation of anti-law Gnostics as some in the COGs, like Meredith, pretended it to be, but was actually a condemnation of those seeking to make non-Jewish Christians to observe the customs and practices of Judaism such as circumcision.
Also let us see what some of the early Christian writers had to say about circumcision.
(Now let me be clear. Unfortunately these early Christian authors tend to speak harshly regarding some practices and customs of Judaism. I mean no disrepect to the adherents of Judaism. No Jew ever tried to deceive me, or manipulate me into paying three tithes to them, or claim that God could only be reached through them, or tried to convert me. However HWA and his imitators have taught that the true church was suppressed shortly after the Apostles died by anti-law, Sunday observing, grace preaching heretics, inspired by Simon Magus, who later became the Roman Catholic Church. I present what these early Christians said to examine this dogma of HWA's. I am talking about the COGs, not Judaism.)
Observe what Ignatius of Antioch had to say about those who wished to "live according to the Jewish law" in his letter to the Magnesians.
Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace.(Magnesians, Chapter 8.)The COG followers are indoctrinated to believe that Ignatius was part of a great apostasy from the truth that occurred immediately after the time of the Apostles. But in fact Ignatius is continuing Paul's line of thought as expressed in Galatians. This is very similar to what Paul said in Galatians.
Paul argued that if a Christian is under the law, which is signified by circumcision, then grace is useless and worthless. Ignatius is imitating Paul in this matter. There was no dark century in which the true, Apostolic church was suppressed by Gnostic, proto-Catholics inspired by Simon Magus, as HWA and Meredith falsely teach. Ignatius is clearly continuing what Paul taught in regards to grace and the law.
He also said this in his letter.
It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. (Chapter 10.)Ignatius talked about this issue again in his letter to the Philadelphians.
But if any one preach the Jewish law unto you, listen not to him. For it is better to hearken to Christian doctrine from a man who has been circumcised, than to Judaism from one uncircumcised. (Chapter 6.)Also observe what the Letter to Diognetus, an example of early Christian writing, had to say about circumcision while explaining how Christianity is different from Judaism.
But again their scruples concerning meats, and their superstition relating to the sabbath and the vanity of their circumcision and the dissimulation of their fasting and new moons, I do [not] suppose you need to learn from me, are ridiculous and unworthy of any consideration. ...This author speaks quite harshly regarding Judaism. Let me again state it is not my intention to criticize Judaism but to analyze the teachings of COG leaders like James Malm.
Again, to vaunt the mutilation of the flesh as a token of election as though for this reason they were particularly beloved by God, is not this ridiculous? ...
That the Christians are right therefore in holding aloof from the common silliness and error of the Jews and from their excessive fussiness and pride, I consider that thou hast been sufficiently instructed (4: 1, 4, 6.)
Those early Christian authors, including the Apostle Paul, would have been disgusted and horrified that James Malm is teaching circumcision while claiming to be a Christian. It is quite likely they would say James Malm is not a Christian.
The COG leaders leaders love to use Galatians 1:6-7 to claim a great apostasy suppressed "the truth" immediately after the death of the Apostles. These COG leaders are so ignorant that they do not know that Paul was talking about those who wished to impose the Old Testament law, which is signified by the act of circumcision, upon Gentile converts to Christianity. Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults, was quite perceptive when he called HWA's teachings the new Galatianism.
Also I have no doubt that the vast majority of Jews would be disgusted at James Malm for confusing these things so badly. They would be annoyed that they are unintentionally brought up in this debate started up the ignorant James Malm.
It is wrong for James Malm to insist his followers circumcise. He has no biblical right to impose this requirement upon his followers who wish to be Christians, but pursue this goal in erroneous ways.