Tuesday, 31 July 2007

July 31

Yes brethren, it's the last day of July and no more sleeps to go. After weeks of anticipation we can all finally yell out...


The apostle was born in Old Des Moines today in 1892. Fireworks and revelry began at midnight as millions poured out of cities like New Auckland and Lomaville (formerly Sydney) to pay homage to God's Right Hand Man, who has just returned from his 33rd Universe-wide junket visiting alien government heads in Andromeda on behalf of the Government of God. The biggest celebrations have yet to commence when the first rays of the sun strike the New Temple in Armstrong City (formerly Jerusalem) in a few hours time. Since He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named returned in glory in 1975 the world has been transformed into a true Garden of Eden, and we are all very, very grateful. Just yesterday the resurrected Richard "Dick" Armstrong placed the final shovel full of soil - removed in 1982 from the summit of Mount Everest - into what had been the Atlantic Ocean. Prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes!

Not even the rebellion of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named can dampen the thrill of this year's Herbalmass; after all, we're all aware of other sons who went wrong. Exactly where HWMNBN will establish his new rebel headquarters is as yet unknown, but Herbert W. Armstrong, now promoted to fill his executive role, has ruled out a possible location in the Sides of the North. Roderick C. Meredith, now number 3 following the defection of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is quoted in The Happier, Bestest Ever News as saying: "let him camp out in the Dog Star."

Meanwhile "Kscribe" has released his annual birthday bash tribute to the Mighty One at www.herbertwarmstrongvideo.net, please report any family members who fail to view it to the local enforcement office in your area.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Prophet of the Seventies

Few individuals were as influential in the 1974 exodus as former AC professor of theology Ernest Martin. His booklets were read surreptitiously by ministers and lay members alike. I even remember a sermonette given by the very proper Karl Karlov, regarded by some (poor, deluded souls) as the intellectual grunt in the New Zealand WCG, attempting to deconstruct Martin's arguments on tithing.

But please, don't get me started on Karlov, or I'll tell you the umbrella story, and we'll all regret that! I'm not sure whether even Karl understood his own anemic sermons. I gather he apostatized to UCG in Australia after relentlessly gushing about the changes in the Good News Grapevine. No, I really shouldn't have mentioned his name. Quick Gertrude, slap me quick before I carry on any fur...


As I was saying: Ernest Martin and tithing. His booklet was a huge influence in stemming the tide of tithe dollars to Pasadena. In my files is a copy of the 1979 edition entitled The Tithing Fallacy. I frankly wasn't impressed by some things he wrote, but when it came to blowing apart the abusive nonsense WCG taught on tithing, the man was a steamroller! It was the most potent counterblast on that subject I'd seen, and it's still one of the best.

But I'm wandering... it comes with the advancing years, just ask "Kscribe". Irritating I know, but just imagine what Karl Karlov must sound like now! Keep your distance with that rolling pin Gertrude!

So, Martin produced an expanded edition of that superb little 38 page booklet and relaunched it in 14 (!) chapters as The Tithing Dilemma. I haven't read it, but if it's as good as its predecessor then it's very good indeed. WARNING: the intended audience is Christian folk who take the Bible seriously, so all you Godless reprobates are sure to complain about the assumptions he brings to the task: tough bikkies (I wonder if that translates in American slang?) The reality is that the people who will most benefit from a publication like this are good Christian folk who take the Bible extremely seriously, so quit your mithering.

The good news is that this expanded version is available in full online here: check it out. Fourteen chapters is a bit intimidating, but promises a comprehensive debunking. I'm glad it's still out there, and it'd be great to think that it might continue to assist in the righteous task of draining the cash flow of the manipulative sects that claim the Herbal mantle.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

The REAL Baptists

We all know the story. John the Baptist is Jesus' cousin. John baptises Jesus. John declares he's unworthy to do the deed. John is executed by Herod Antipas. John's followers come over to Jesus.

Except, not all of them did. The community of John the Baptist initially paralleled that of the early church, each eventually going its own way.

Today the Baptist's disciples still exist, and we're not talking Billy Graham, Franklin or any of those other Johnny-come-lately Protestant Baptists.

Take seven minutes out of your busy web surfing schedule to find out about the Mandaeans. Witness a baptism, meet a high priest. And be aware that these people, spiritual kin to both Jews and Christians, having survived for two thousand years are now fighting a desperate battle to keep the flame alive as we enter the twenty-first century.

The Rebellious Son

This is part 4 of a series by Samuel Martin. This posting is taken from an appendix to the book Thy Rod and thy Staff. The website for further information is www.biblechild.com.

Misunderstanding the harshness in Biblical Teachings

One of the recurring themes found in many articles and books written by psychologists or those in the children's rights/human rights community against smacking concerns some statements that are found in the Bible which seem very harsh on the surface. The fact is, there are some statements that are in the Bible, when looked at on the surface, one would come away with a very harsh, cold and unfeeling approach to life advocated by the writers of the Bible.

I could give many examples, but in this regard, I am going to focus just on one. The example is from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 21:18-21. It concerns the so-called "stubborn and rebellious" son. The text reads: "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of the city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."

This text seems so clear and easy to understand. It is the death penalty without exception. Speaking about the above-mentioned text from the book of Deuteronomy, Dr. Philip Greven whose excellent work I have previously quoted in this volume, interpreted this text in the following way. "Other Old Testament texts lend additional support to the punishment and violence against children advocated in the name of King Solomon. … Thus, the price for filial disobedience is death." This is a common interpretation about the harshness of the legislation outlined in the book of Deuteronomy, but does it represent an accurate historical understanding of the application of the text itself?

Looking on the surface, this interpretation is exactly that related by the text itself. Moses comes across as a harsh, legalistic and brutal writer. But is this the truth? What is required of this text is some accurate interpretation. In this regard, I wish now to refer to the work of Rabbi Abraham Chill, whose excellent book has been quoted in other sections of this work. Rabbi Chill provides a thorough historical context for interpreting this text. This text cannot be interpreted without the assistance of outside authorized authorities. Rabbi Chill, who is himself a recognized authority of Jewish law, points to almost 20 different historical sources to assist him in understanding this passage. It is by referring to the intellectual giants of past scholarship that we can see the depth and breadth of opinion regarding this or any Biblical text. Rabbi Chill, a giant of Biblical scholarship, would not think for one moment of referring to this text in a historical vacuum and offer a face value estimation of its meaning.

There are two points about this text and about the death penalty in general, as it was understood in the Biblical and post-Biblical period. First, the death penalty was imposed only when the Temple in Jerusalem was in existence.

"Under Jewish Law capital punishment was imposed only when the Temple was still in existence, when the offerings were still brought to the altar, and when the Sanhedrin still sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stones (in the Temple). This means that no matter what this text says, following the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans, this text has never even once been applied to anyone.

"Second, death sentences were not every day occurrences. We need not to rely on the images of colorful Hollywood films that perpetuate historical inaccuracies. We need to examine the historical documents to teach us what was indeed taking place based upon eyewitness testimony. Note the following: "the death sentence was imposed only after much investigation and deliberation on the part of the court of justice. The judges made every effort to avoid imposing capital punishment. Circumstantial evidence was not accepted in trials for a capital offence and once the defendant in the such a case had been acquitted, he could not be brought to trial again for the same offence, even if direct evidence had turned up in the meantime to prove his guilt."

It must be pointed out here that we are speaking about a Jewish cultural background. This quote refers to "judges," the Court of Justice," "defendants," and a "case." These terms must be understood as referring to courts that were in existence to adjudicate matters of law and in this case we are talking about matters of Jewish religious law. In addition, on reading this quote, some may be reminded of the concept of "double jeopardy" which is a component of our modern Western judicial systems. Jewish legal scholars have known about "double jeopardy" for over 2000 years and it was applied in ancient times.

We find other sources making even stronger cases against the death penalty. Note the following:

"Should the court find that the homicide was deliberate, sentence of death was passed; but there was great reluctance to resort to capital punishment and every endeavor was made to avoid it. Indeed, it was remarked: 'A Sanhedrin which executed a person once in seven years was called destructive. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said, 'Once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarphon and Rabbi Akiba said, If we were members of a Sanhedrin, never would a person be put to death.'" So, we see that the death penalty itself had very strict rules and regulations associated with it.

The Stubborn and Rebellious Son

Next, what constituted a "stubborn and rebellious son?" There is no age mentioned in the text, so who decides? Rabbi Chill shows that "who is considered a 'stubborn and rebellious son'? Any young man three months past bar mitzvah age…" This means that this punishment was never inflicted on anyone below the age of 13 years three months. So the concept of "son" required interpretation.

This all may sound interesting, but many may say that this is still a harsh punishment even for a child who just turned thirteen? This may be but consider this. Rabbi Chill points out that the death penalty was not the first solution to a family choosing to apply this law to their child. "The first offence reported by the parents made the boy subject to flogging; if he repeated the offence and was again brought to the court by his parents he received the death penalty – execution by stoning." So, we can see that ancient Israelites were not taking their children out and stoning them to death every time a boy ate too much or drank some wine. There was strict due process involved and those accused of these crimes had legal rights before the law. When you look at it, early Jews were quite familiar with the modern concepts of human and children's rights. Much of what makes up our modern body of law today in this regard was known and practiced in ancient times.

Some might say that here we begin to see the harsh nature of this law after all. Not so fast! Rabbi Chill further adds that: "At least 23 members of the Sanhedrin had to be present when such an offender was tried. Not only that, if one of his parents was lame, blind or deaf, or if one of his parents was unwilling to have him brought to court, the offender was exempt from the death penalty. This meant, in effect, that the death penalty for a 'stubborn and rebellious son' was very rarely carried out."
An addition, regarding this point of the 23 judges, a majority was not sufficient to convict a person in a death penalty case. The judges had to have a majority with a minimum of two votes. This shows that such a case required a great deal of deliberation to judge the defendant guilty. We also find that the junior judges in such a case had to cast their votes first on the basis of their respective ages. The older judges voted last so their votes would not influence the opinion of the younger judges. By digging deeper into the history surrounding this text, we dispel the false notion that the ancient Hebrews were a brutal, violent, lawless society that stoned their children for the most minor of infractions. [This information should be a wake up call to those in the human rights community whose attacks on the Bible often focus on this and similar verses for their criticisms leveled at the Holy Scriptures.]

We also find that the child himself was not the only one on trial. The great medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides placed some of the blame for "stubborn and rebellious sons" squarely on the parents. "How does a son become 'stubborn and rebellious'? Through the fault of the parents who are too permissive and permit him to lead a life of irresponsibility." Parents who did not guide their children were a part of the problem and contributed to their children becoming "stubborn and rebellious." Two giants of Jewish scholarship further echo this idea. Rabbi Moses Al Sheikh said: "He explains why the Torah insists that parents personally bring their 'stubborn and rebellious son' to the court of justice. In this manner, he says, the parents acknowledge that they are to blame for the way in which their son has turned out. No child becomes intractable from one day to the next. The process begins when the child is at a very early age when many parents, unfortunately, tend to view such behavior as 'just a phase.' This is a mistaken notion, and the parents are now asked to face the fact that they failed their child when he was in the greatest need of their guidance."
Rabbi Ibn Ezra puts it a little bit stronger placing some of the blame on the parents: "He is not prepared to place the burden of responsibility entirely on the child. The son can be justifiably tried and punished for his behaviour only if the conduct of his parents themselves has been beyond reproach. If they did not provide a good example for him to emulate, they have no right to bring him to court for 'stubborn and rebellious' conduct." So what we find is that not only the son is on trial, the parents as well have to demonstrate that they did the right things. If not, no death penalty will ever be inflicted.

In closing this appendix, it has been my goal to broaden the understanding of this particular verse. I hope that this discussion has brought new perspectives to this particular verse. I hope that we will all look underneath the surface of what these texts say and get some other opinions into their meanings. By doing this, we follow the Biblical suggestion to get several witnesses in establishing a Biblical fact. This is the least we can do for the next generations ahead of us.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Milking the Canuck Cash Cow

Canadians are a generous lot, and it's very kind of them to subsidize struggling Third World ministries south of their border. Ministries like Packatollah Dave's Restored Church of God, headquartered in the malaria infested swamps of Wadsworth, Ohio. Kudos go to Stan for laying out the information in an excellent piece of journalism on the AR blog. If you're Canadian, read it and weep.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Tears in Proverbs

This is Part 3 in Samuel Martin's series on corporal punishment and the Bible, and is reproduced from chapter 8 of his book. Samuel writes, "in this chapter, I show a major misunderstanding that many who rely on antiquated Bible versions have developed about spanking children."

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

In the last chapter, we discussed the subject of the use of the word "sh'ol" in Proverbs 23:13-14 and the problems associated with the interpretation that is applied to this verse by many religious teachers who are advocating smacking. This verse in Proverbs 23:13-14 is not the only verse relating to smacking, however, that poses some serious problems when we look at the actual meaning in the original languages. Another key verse along this same line is found in Proverbs 19:18 and is the title for this chapter. Let us look at it. It says: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."

On the basis of this verse cited above, numerous advocates of smacking have developed complex doctrines concerning the need for children to cry during and after being spanked. For example, one pastor in his book on child rearing points out that: "The smacking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child's will is broken. It should last until the child is crying, not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. Another author follows the same line of thinking: "After correction, a parent needs to allow a child to cry for a reasonably short amount of time. Then a child should be told to stop crying and be brought under control." Probably one of the most prominent religious advocates of smacking children puts the same thought this way. He says: "Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less, but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining, and the change can be recognized in the tone and intensity of his voice. I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of what caused the original tears."

There is one theme that is common throughout the last three quotes that I have given above. It is the word "crying." These advocates of smacking, by using this word, are specifically referring to this passage in the book of Proverbs as their justification for this suggestion. There can be no doubt that this is the case. They are not alone in suggesting this idea. Thousands of pastors and Bible teachers suggest exactly the same thing on the basis of using this single verse as their Biblical authority. There is, however, a problem with this whole idea. Let us look at this verse in Proverbs 19 in greater detail. Before we do that, however, let us place the question of "crying" as it is laid out in the book of Proverbs as a whole in context.

The use of the word "crying" in the book of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs mentions the concept of "crying" on 10 different occasions. Let us look at these individually. First, we find the three usages of the Hebrew word "rah-nan." These are as follows and the corresponding English word is italicised in these texts: "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets." Next, note the next usage: "She crieth at the gates…" Finally, the last usage of this word in Proverbs: "In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice."

What we find these contexts and the others featuring this word Hebrew "rah-nan," is that this word is most often translated into English by the words "sing," "shout," "sang," "cry out," rejoice," "shout aloud for joy," "triumph," and "shouteth." At no time in any text, neither in Proverbs, nor any other Biblical book where this word is used, does this word ever refer to crying in the sense of tears, either of joy or pain.

Next, we find four instances where the concept of "crying" is again mentioned in Proverbs. This concerns the use of the Hebrew word "hah-mah." Let us look at them now. First, we have the following: "She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates:" Next, we have two texts speaking of impious women: "She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house." We also have the following: "A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knoweth nothing." Finally, note this text: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging…" Now what is interesting about these four texts is that while the original word in Hebrew "hah-mah" is translated by four different words in English that are italicised in the texts above (crieth, loud, clamorous and raging), none of these words or texts relate to the idea of "crying" which brings tears.

We also have two other examples of "crying" found in Proverbs. They are found in the following text. "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." The first word translated "cry" is in Hebrew "z-gah-kah." This word does occasionally refer to crying, even of children. The second word translated "cry" is the Hebrew word "gah-nah." This word is translated numerous ways in the Hebrew Bible, but never in the sense of "crying" with tears.

So we are left with one final verse that refers to "crying" and it is the verse that this chapter is named after. It is Proverbs 19:18. Let us look at it once again. "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." Once again, I have italicised the word "crying" in the King James Version and it is this verse that, as I said previously, provides the justification for smacking proponents to strongly recommend that children who are spanked be brought to the state of crying with tears.

There is only one problem with this interpretation. It doesn't hold up to even the most simple of examinations of the meaning of the Hebrew words. The word translated "crying" in Proverbs 19:18 is the Hebrew word "mooth." This word is used well over 500 times in the Hebrew Bible and is translated by about 40 different cognate words that all refer and are translated by words relating, without ambiguity or exception (except for this single verse we are here discussing) to the concept of death! Only in this verse did the King James Version translators render this word by the English word "crying." This word has nothing even remotely related to crying that brings tears at all. What we have here is a very bad mistranslation. Modern Bible scholars recognize this fact almost universally. First, the Revised Standard Version, in reference to this verse says: "do not set your heart on his destruction. J. B. Rotherman's excellent translation renders it as follows: "Correct thy son, because there is hope, Yet not so as to slay him …" Finally, in the Interlinear Bible, we have the following: "Chasten your son while there is hope; and do not set your soul on making him die." By correcting the translation, a whole different meaning to the verse arises. The feeling shifts away from harsh, legalistic judgment to one of moderation. It shows that there are actions that parents can and should take to correct behaviour of a wayward child. [within the environment of the Law of Moses as pointed out before.] However, these actions should not be taken to extremes. This is clearly implied by the meaning of this verse. This verse could be argued to be against aggressive forms of punishment. When we look at this verse, the use of the word "hope" is most important. We get a strong indication that the latter portion of the verse points to a situation where hope is now lost. This is certainly in evidence if an uncorrected life leads one down the path of crime, which in the Mosiac system could lead to the death penalty. This seems a much more clear interpretation based upon the context and it is this idea that most Christian authorities assign to this verse. Certainly, no parent would lose hope in a child due to his crying, but one certainly would find oneself in a hopeless situation if his or her child were moving down the path towards death.

Additionally, we find that while there are over 20 Hebrew words that relate to "crying out," "crying aloud," "to cry", etc. not one of these words is found in the whole book of Proverbs.

Not only that, there are six different Hebrew words that refer to the concept of "weeping" which involves tears on numerous occasions. In actual fact, a careful examination of these words will show that they rarely refer to children. One example where one of them does refer to a child concerns the discovery of the baby Moses by Pharaoh's daughter. The text says: "And when she had opened it (the box in which Moses lay), she saw the child: and, behold, a weeping boy." More often though you find these words describing weeping having to do with people weeping over the deaths of loved ones, over deaths in battle, over deaths of holy men or kings and similar situations. The important thing to point out in this context, however, is that these words are conspicuous in the book of Proverbs: conspicuous for their absence! These six Hebrew words translated by "weeping," "wept" and 'weep" are not found once in Proverbs.

Finally, there is only one word in the Bible that is translated and means exactly without exception "tears." This is the Hebrew word "dim-gah." This word means "tears" (as a result from crying or weeping) exactly and this word also does not appear in the whole book of Proverbs even one time.

In summary, looking at the evidence as a whole, the concepts of "crying," "weeping" and "tears" are not discussed within the pages of the book of Proverbs. Based on this evidence, the idea that the Biblical book of Proverbs advises parents or any other person to spank children to induce crying and bring forth tears is without any foundation or basis according to the data found in the Biblical texts.

Part 4 is entitled "Misunderstanding the harshness in Biblical Teachings", and appears later this week.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Brilliant New Truth!

Yes brethren, God has revealed startling new truth.

You've NEVER heard this from Fred Coulter! WHY?

This makes the truth plain, inspiring never-before revealed detail on the birth of the Church of God! Bible prophecy comes alive as yet another jigsaw piece is placed in the tapestry of mixed metaphors.

CLICK and be amazed.

Mark Armstrong on Ratzinger

On a related theme, Bob Thiel quotes Mark Armstrong thusly:

Can you believe what an absolutely brash, insulting, ridiculous statement came out of the Vatican late last week? And yet hardly a peep out of anyone about it. No salvation without acceptance of papal authority? Well, that’s preposterous!

Well, actually that's not what the statement said. Yes, Papa Ratzinger slapped non-Catholic churches around, patronized the Orthodox and launched spitballs at the Protestants, but there was nothing about no salvation without papal authority. The current Bishop of Rome may not be subtle, but the Vatican statement was a lot more nuanced than Mark Armstrong indicates.

Not a peep? Hardly. I followed reaction from Reformed, Orthodox, Lutheran and Coptic Christians in the wake of the statement's release. Not a bunch of happy campers to say the least! The thing is, the reactions were controlled and - for the most part - well thought out. Mark apparently expects these various Christian leaders to stand up on soap boxes and yell invective. Maybe Proverbs 15:1 ("a soft answer turneth away wrath") hasn't been highlighted in his King James Bible.

The really hilarious thing is that Ratzinger's display of foot in mouth is nothing compared to the intolerant, belligerent, uncharitable, self righteous, arrogant wall of rhetoric spewed out by Mark's Grandpa and Dad against other Christians. Talk about a double standard.

Mark goes on:

Similar claims are being made by some self-styled Church of God leaders. Have they no shame at all? And what of those who buy into their megalomaniacal rants? Have they taken leave of reason? The whole thing is sickening, particularly where it concerns the name and the memory of HWA... Pity the poor, abused, intimidated people who’ve been ensnared by the abuse of people’s love and respect for name of HWA. Lucky for his “successors” he’s not here to witness their false claims or their tyranny.

What can one say? Herb was the quintessential megalomaniac. Flurry and co. are only being true to his example. Mark wants to reclaim Herb as a symbol of Christian freedom?! Gimme a break!

The Bible and Spanking

This is Part 2 of Samuel Martin's series on corporal punishment.

There are few Biblical subjects where more misunderstanding exists among Christians and Child Rights advocates today than that of spanking children. This book seeks to increase the level of understanding about this issue. It shows that:

Fact: The Bible does not teach that spanking a child will save him from Hell.

Fact: The Bible does not teach that spanking a child should bring tears.

Fact: In Bible times, the texts concerning spanking children found in Proverbs were not applied to young children under the age of about 10 years!

Fact: Many respected Christian theologians including Dr. Karl Barth and Rev. Dwight Moody rejected spanking children.

Fact: Many Biblically conservative Jewish Rabbis, who have the Old Testament as their Holy Scripture, reject spanking children today.

Fact: The main Christian advocates for spanking children now are not usually trained Christian theologians teaching in universities, but most often are conservative fundamentalist Christian pastors, Christian politicians, Christian psychologists, lay church members and Christian school leaders.

Fact: Well meaning Christian advocates of spanking children have developed doctrines surrounding what they believe the Bible teaches about spanking children which are not found in the Bible at all.

Fact: Well-meaning Children's Rights activists, who are not trained Bible scholars, have entered this debate attacking the Bible with disastrous results.

Features of this Volume

353 Separate Biblical Texts Referenced
82 Separate References from Hebrew and Christian Scholars
39 Authoritative Biblical Reference Works Utilized
Key new information revealed from an early Egyptian text which is also found today in the Biblical book of Proverbs concerning spanking

ISBN Number 13 digit 978-0-9785339-08
ISBN Number 10 digit 0-9785339-09

To see the scholars who have reviewed my book, please go to my website.

Part 3 will be an excerpt from the book.

Deathly Hallows

In case you've just emerged from a hermit's cave somewhere, the news is that the final Harry Potter book has just been released. I was in the local Warehouse branch (the NZ equivalent of Wal-Mart) when, at one minute past eleven yesterday morning, the checkouts were mobbed by eager readers of all ages. It was a sight to gladden the heart of any teacher.

I'm a big fan of kid's literature. With the current discussion on child rearing, my modest contribution is to encourage any and all adults to enrich their children's lives with a love of the printed word. Neither computer games nor movies will do it half as well (no, not even blogs!) Books light the fuse of imagination and get kids (and adults!) thinking, predicting, evaluating and forming their own opinions. Fiction is a safe way to look out on the world through someone else's eyes, confront scary situations, discover and explore values.

Those are life skills beyond price.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Bible and Corporal Punishment

This is Part 1 in a series by Samuel Martin. His website is www.biblechild.com.

It is my pleasure to write about this subject because it was the first real serious subject that I researched and presented my findings in book form under the title "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking [or Smacking] Controversy." (For more details on my book, please see my website.)

When I first began to do the research for the book in 1996, it was at a time in my life when I was first beginning to exercise my theological muscles and venture out and formulate some of my own ideas. As I have always had a penchant for pastoral ministry (much more so than my father did), I wanted to write something and research a subject which allowed me to deal with serious social and theological questions, but to do so in a way according to how I was trained to present ideas; which was to look at the original texts with a view to help making those texts and their original meanings clearer. I pray that this is what I have done in my book.

My experience with this subject of Corporal Punishment

Like almost all children who grew up in the WWCG environment, corporal punishment was the normal way to "correct" children. Not only were children spanked at home, but they were also spanked in the WWCG school system.

I will talk about this more in a moment, but before that I want to recall one of my earliest memories because it relates to corporal punishment. I remember that I was with my family traveling in Switzerland in the mountains at Interlachen, a very high-elevated place something like 10,000 feet (3,250 Meters or so) above sea level. I remember in fact somehow being temporarily separated from my family and venturing quite close to the edge of the guardrail to look down the slope of the mountain. At that moment, I remember being grabbed from behind by a woman who I did not know. I can remember seeing the cliffs and seeing how far down it was. I could not have been more than four at the time.

The next thing I remember was seeing my parents. My mom was crying and I can't remember exactly what my father looked like. He was not one to cry really, but I do remember the spanking I received.

For me, I was not spanked much because I was pretty well behaved, but as many will I am sure remember growing up in the WWCG circles, little children were spanked and some were beaten badly. I can remember people commenting about how well behaved the children were, but I found that we grew up in an environment of fear. The slightest infraction, like making too much noise when you drank your milk, could merit a swat or swats. Really the environment was oppressive and dominative working to keep constant control of the children.

Even through all of this, I saw some amazing things when I was small. I had a friend who was about my age, maybe a year older. He and I were friends in England before I moved to the USA. He was so well behaved when he was in front of his parents, who beat the living day lights out of him if he transgressed even the most minor of infractions, but when he, who could not have been more than seven at the time, was not in front of mom and dad, I distinctively remember that he had a little toy gun that he played with far out in the garden where his mom and dad could not see it because toy guns in the WWCG were forbidden. Had his parents known that he had that toy gun, you can forget the forty lashes that the Bible mentions (St. Paul calls it Forty minus one); that kid would have been beaten to a pulp!

This example showed me early on that spanking does not engender righteous behavior. (I have a whole chapter in my book on this issue from a theological perspective.) It is a broken repented spirit that seeks to do right, not a broken backside!

I have one final small anecdote that I wish to share about my experience in the WWCG school system. The WWCG was a very hierarchical structure from the Pastor General down to his inner circle, to the regional leaders, to the local church down to the home. Men dominated the whole culture of the church.

My father was one who eventually got into a position where he was at levels in the Church where he was dealing with the Pastor General and his inner circle and this gave him lots of power in the organization. Dad never used that power in a wrong way because in the early days especially, he believed that he was serving God in His True Church on earth. Both of my parents were dedicated loyal members of the Church before I was born. Only in the seven years after I was born did my parents start to have their doubts based upon what happened to them.

Now, with dealing with these inner circle people, my father obtained a status within the denomination that he did not have heretofore. He was writing, speaking and teaching and was recognized as being an excellent authoritative teacher. Some of this status that my father held also came into my life even though I was only six years old at the time. I am the only son of three children and I am the youngest in my family. My father had every intention that I would become a theologian, a minister and a church leader like he was.

Because of this power, people handled me quite carefully. They did so out of fear of my father and the power he had and the influence he had with the decision-makers in the Church.

To understand how much corporal punishment was a part of the fabric of the Church and its education system, I can remember my mother telling me the interesting story about my first day at Imperial School. When I came home from the first day, I informed my mom: "Mom, see I came home from school today and I didn't even get a swat." My mother misunderstood me for a moment, thinking that someone had actually hit her little boy that first day of school (and had anyone done that – my mother would not have reacted too favorably to that event). My sisters were hit regularly at school. Some students were hit even though they had boils on their buttocks as one story I was told. I cannot remember ever being hit once at Imperial and I attribute it to the fear that people had not only against what my father could have done to them (as I said, my dad was not that type of vindictive person who sought revenge for things), but I think also those people knew that maybe one day they might have to deal with this now young boy who would one day be a leader in the church. For these reasons, I think I got some special treatment. I might also say though that I did get spanked at home, but not much because I was pretty well behaved in general. The fact is though corporal punishment at the WWCG school was so frequent and regular that for many students it was a part of their every day curriculum.

My findings

The first thing I would like to say about my findings is that if you would have presented the ideas that are in this book to me some 15-20 years ago, I probably would have rolled my eyes over and said something like: "Are you kidding me? This person is saying that our understanding of the Biblical passages on corporal punishment is not clear and plain? Who ever is suggesting such a thing is absolutely crazy!" I am here to tell you that I have altered my views on corporal punishment of children 180 degrees and my views of the holiness of Scripture have not changed one iota. I have been studying this issue now since 1996 and I have 40,000 words in defense of my arguments. I respectfully ask that if you are considering this issue, have a look at my arguments in full. I think you will be glad you did. I say this with all the humility I can possibly muster and I praise the Lord and His Messiah for the opportunity to have researched and written that book. Should any good come out of it, it is to them that I give the full credit and glory.

Now that you know a little bit about my background, I think you'll see how I have approached this issue. I have tried to do so focusing on bringing out what I believe is the Biblical teaching on this subject as well as having a desire to bring out something which is distinctively my own pastoral style. I hope that I have been able to achieve that through my publishing of the book.

At this time, anyone who would like to get a copy of my book, please let me know. I am currently raising funds for a new organization that I am in the process of forming and any person who would like to make a donation to that effort, I would be happy to give them a copy of my book in gratitude for their support. Please write to me in the USA at:

Samuel Martin
P O Box 30755
Las Vegas NV 89173 USA

For all donations from outside the USA not in US Dollars, please write me at:

Samuel Martin
P O Box 21543
New Bet Hanina
Jerusalem 91214 Israel

I will happily send out a copy of my book to any party who would like one. Feel free to send any amount you wish.

Part 2 will provide a synopsis of "Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me."

Friday, 20 July 2007

Suffer little children

"Suffer the little children to come unto me," said the Stranger from Galilee - or the King James version thereof - and suffer they did. Church kids had a hard row to hoe with pressure on parents to keep their children in submission. Corporal punishment in the form of a solid whack was hardly unknown, and for some spanking was an art form. Garner Ted Armstrong's booklet "The Plain Truth About Child Rearing" set the tone, and the tone wasn't pretty.

Starting this weekend you'll find the first in a guest series on child discipline and the Bible by Samuel Martin on this blog. Samuel is the son of the late Ernest Martin, a major figure in WCG history who left in the mid-70s. He continued to exert a huge influence through his Foundation for Biblical Research and a variety of publications. Somewhere I still have a copy of his booklet that soundly debunks tithing.

Samuel Martin is author of Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy. It would be interesting to get feedback and anecdotes from people who grew up in the church as the series progresses.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


Back in the Seventies and Eighties there was a good deal of speculation in the WCG diaspora about “universal reconciliation.” My memory is hazy, but some prominence was given at the time to publications from Concordant Publishing Concern, a non-COG ministry that, apart from producing an unreadable literal translation of the New Testament, championed a conservative Protestant view of universal salvation. Someone may remember whether this was a particular interest of Ernest Martin's... it was a long time ago.

These days the diaspora has ballooned out to tens of thousands, and the interest on unitarian-universalist matters has shifted to the unitarian end with Ken Westby and others pushing a “One God” teaching. The universalist strand remains however, even if it has gathered dust for a while. Back in the pre-reformation WCG a version of universalism was popular, based on the idea of three resurrections (Wayne Cole, for example, expressed the view that the number of those who would eventually wind up in the Lake of Fire would be the merest handful.) Many members found this one of the most attractive elements in Armstrong theology. The genocidal Calvinist god, like “predestination”, is a monster concocted from well down the reptilian brain-stem. Calvin, however, was simply standing on the shoulders of one of the truly dark influences in the history of Christendom, Augustine of Hippo, author of the Confessions and the man who put the book of Revelation in the Western canon, laid the groundwork for persecution of heretics, invented the “just war” theory, and cooked up the dismal dogma of predestination in his spare time. The Protestant tradition owes much to Augustine (Luther started out as an Augustinian monk), which may explain why apocatastasis now seems a novel idea. Augustine was also a relentless self-promoter and personal myth-maker, which has long protected his reputation (the biography by James O'Donnell goes a long way to correcting this.)

So I feel a bit of an idiot to have only recently stumbled over this thing called apocatastasis, courtesy of a reference by - of all people - Bob Thiel. This is an admittedly obscure term, but it describes a view, or speculation, that is perfectly acceptable both in Roman Catholicism (despite Augustine) and the Eastern Orthodox churches. In simple terms it means universal salvation.

Some of the great luminaries of early Christianity taught that all people would ultimately be saved: notably Origen (who took the position that even Satan would ultimately be reconciled to God) and Gregory of Nyssa. That much I already knew, but assumed it had been declared heretical long ago. Not so; and I was completely ignorant of the fact that one of the most significant Catholic theologians of modern times, Hans Urs von Balthasar, also advocates a version of universalism. While apocatastasis is not a sanctioned teaching, neither is it a heresy in the Catholic and Orthodox communities.

So Herb Armstrong wasn't all that unique after all. Mike Feazell – who seems to lean toward a similar reconciliation position – isn't a heretic.

As they say, “live and learn.”

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Inspired Forgeries?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but did imitation take a step too far into outright fraud and forgery in the New Testament?

There certainly were forgers out there. Two documents claiming to come from the Apostle Paul are obvious examples: Third Corinthians and an alleged exchange of letters between Paul and the philosopher Seneca.

These guys could be tricky. A text emerged in the fourth century claiming to be written by the original apostles. Called the Apostolic Constitutions, it brazenly advises its readers to avoid reading books that make false claims to apostolic authorship. Talk about chutzpah!

But what about the documents that made the final cut for the New Testament? There are at least six books claiming to be written by Paul that display the tell-tale marks of being pseudonymous (a scholarly way of saying forgeries.) The suspect letters fall into two groups: the Deutero-Pauline epistles (2 Thessalonians, Colossians and Ephesians), and the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.)

That means, of the 13 letters attributed to Paul, nearly half are thought to be fabrications. That just leaves us with Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon and 1 Thessalonians as genuine.

What about Hebrews? It's not by Paul either, but then it doesn't claim to be. Although it was included in the canon on the false assumption that Paul wrote it, it can't be considered a forgery as it makes no pretense to be from Paul (or any other apostle). Church father Origen wrote about the identity of the author: "God only knows." James was a common name at the time, and the letter bearing that name nowhere claims to be by the brother of Jesus; hence not pseudonymous. Revelation is in a similar category: John the apostle? Not likely. The Gospel of John is famously unconcerned with the end of the age, quite unlike the Apocalypse. While it's true that these books made it into the canon largely on wishful thinking about authorship, there's nothing in the way of such extravagent claims within these documents.

But there certainly do seem to be flagrant forgeries in the Pauline corpus. Unfortunately there's more. Chalk up 2 Peter as pseudonymous, along with Jude. Questions need to be asked about 1 Peter as well. The letters of John are also dubious affairs, most scholars optimistically attributing them to a later disciple of John.

Despite the special pleading of latter-day apologists, "forgery was almost universally condemned by ancient authors." The exception was in schools of philosophy where it was considered a bit of an art form to place your thoughts in the mouth of a great teacher of the past.

Bart Ehrman comments: "Many scholars are loath to talk about New Testament "forgeries" because the term seems so loaded and suggestive of ill intent. But... [it] is striking that few scholars object to using the word "forgery" for books, even Christian books, that occur outside the New Testament."

The beginning of wisdom in tackling the scriptures, whether the Old Testament or the New, is honesty. These ancient books are many things, but inflating their value by misrepresentation can serve no useful purpose.

Friday, 13 July 2007

8 Tribes

This is especially for the Kiwi readers of this blog - all 3 of you ;-)

Which tribe do you belong to? No, that doesn't mean Ngai Tahu or Tuhoe. We're talking North Shore (achievers), Grey Lynn (intellectuals), Balclutha (staunch rural), Remuera (entitled), Otara (community), Raglan (free spirits), Papatoetoe (unpretentious) and Cuba Street (avant-garde).

Harry Potter needed a sorting hat, but all you need do is answer a few searching questions with a modicum of honesty.

My results indicate that I should never try to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge again!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Ekklesia and Linux Theology

Bill Ferguson points out that his Ekklesia site is still online, though inactive. BUT...

"Quango.net is about to be completely revamped with an Ambassador Report WIKI, a web board with RSS feeds and chat site. "
Good news. Check out what's available right now at www.quango.net. The pseudonym Qua Ngo shouldn't put you off! Among the site's drawcards are the writings of Bob Brinsmead, an ex-Adventist who put the proverbial cat among the Sabbatarian pigeons twenty five years ago. Try accessing the 1981 essay Sabbatarianism Re-examined. If you find that stimulating, Jesus and the Sabbath will be helpful too. I've yet to meet any Sabbath observer who can adequately deal to Brinsmead's arguments.

From Brinsmead to Don Cupitt, the British radical theologian who wrote the passage in the last post: one further quote.

"[There is] a distinction between 'Microsoft theology' and 'Linux theology'. In Microsoft theology the operating system - the set of beliefs and practices - that you live by and work with is 'proprietary': that is, it is tied to a particular institution and its power structure. Somebody owns the rights, and demands his or her cut from you. But the newer Linux theology is 'open source' ... Nobody has been granted the franchise for it."
It's an interesting metaphor.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Changing of the guard?

Stan Gardner is another talented blogger who richly deserves a mention and a link. His blog is called Ambassador Reports, and I'm not sure why I hadn't much noticed it before. Stan has some fascinating material, including data on PTM finances. Another must-have URL for your favorites list.

Every few years there's a changeover in what's available in the ex-WCG online world. In ancient times (i.e. more than 7 years ago) the shakers and movers were Mark Tabladillo's site (inactive), Bill Ferguson's Ekklesia (gone) and The Painful Truth (which is still with us.) In recent history there was (ahem) the late AW site, a rambling love-it-or-hate-it affair (I started off loving it but ended up hating it.) These days the center of gravity is changing yet again, and I notice that Gary Scott of XCG and the Most Reverend "Kscribe" are both making noises about winding their sites back. Stan, "J", Felix and others are going to be busy.

Recently I was encouraged to put the old AW (passed away December 2005) back online in archive form, hosted in the US. I thought about it for a day or so, and even got as far as copying the files onto a CD and slipping it in a mailing envelope before sanity reasserted itself. The site would need extensive editing, and, well, there are other fish to fry at the moment. Some material may start to reappear - selectively - later in the year, but then again, maybe not. I find it hard to even look at some of that stuff now, like re-reading those ghastly yellowed school reports your mother turns over to you on your eighteenth birthday: "could try harder."

Unrelated: here's a quote that struck me between the eyes today. Next time I'll provide the source and some comments, but for the moment, considering "the Church" here refers to Christianity in general, what do you think? Agree or disagree?

"... the Church is not and perhaps never was chiefly for people who have a deep and serious intellectual interest in religion. On the contrary, the Church is for people who want to keep up comfortable old habits and associations, who want a feeling of reassurance and self-righteousness, and are happy to live by a ready-made Truth. They are content to go on slumbering peacefully. They want to be delivered from the extreme terrors and joys of real religious thought, and nothing is so effective a protection against religious terrors as conforming church membership."

Monday, 9 July 2007

Something Wiki This Way Comes

Russell Miller and the "J Source" have teamed up, and the Herbolatrous remnant should be quaking in their boots: it's a team to compare with the Two Witnesses.

Okay, so that may be taking poetic license a step too far, but this latest project by two talented and articulate ex-members documenting the Armstrong enterprise shows great promise. You can read about it here. Russell is a man of forthright opinions (he contributed several items to the old AW), and "J" (whoever he or she might be) operates a blog that has my nomination for best new COG commentary site.

We all have a stake in making sure that the facts don't conveniently go away, and this Wiki project may play a big part in that. One thing is for sure, Stephen Flurry and his ilk can't be allowed to get a free ride in whitewashing the history of the WCG.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Give generously

The Good Lord takes care of His own, and He's certainly taking care of Greg Albrecht.

Brother Greg is being blessed to the tune of $160,000 clams every year. Hallelujah!

That information comes from The Journal online, you can check out the details yourself.

I have no idea how that stacks up against the average ministerial salary in the US. How much does your average Seventh-day Adventist pastor get for example? Or what about a mainline minister with a degree (a real one)? You know, the sort of minister who visits the sick, volunteers on community committees, supports the parishoners in time of need. Does Greg do any of that stuff?

Y'know, it must take a lot of donations from little old ladies to cover Greg's generous stipend. The kind of people who give to ministries like Greg's aren't usually among the wealthy. For every dollar sent to PTM how many cents go straight into his paycheck? And that's before we factor in Monte Wolverton's $98,000.

These seem to be 2005 figures. You've got to wonder how much of an increase the lads have garnered since then. Not that I begrudge Monte his 98k, all artists - and especially cartoonists - deserve to be paid so well. Dear old Ron Dart only gets 92k: truly a paragon of self-control (and remember, he has his NRA subscription to keep up!)

We're not privileged to know how much Rod Meredith pays himself, let alone Gerry Flurry or Big Dave Pack, but I'm guessing it's over the existing Albrecht high-water mark in each case. Such talented servants of the Lord indubitably deserve a double portion, don't you think? Dig deep brethren, the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Same old Spanky

From Roderick C. Meredith to his client sheep:

Many of our ministers and leading brethren have sensed a spiritual "malaise" coming over quite a number of our brethren. Since nothing shocking seems to be happening on the surface—though much is happening just underneath the surface in world affairs!—some are letting down spiritually! Fervent prayer and real Bible study are lacking. And no doubt partly because of this, some brethren are losing their spiritual focus and are beginning to feel that God is "far off," that nothing much is happening in world affairs and that it is not really important that we are all truly committed to being part of the Work which Christ is using us to do.
Translation: Income is down.

They don't realize that we are being used in a unique manner to truly "warn" our peoples of the Great Tribulation and also to genuinely "feed" God's people with the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). Many "little groups"—here and there—have part of the Truth and are doing a "little" part of the Work. But where is Christ primarily working and where are His eyes focused today on the Church He is using to prepare for the coming Kingdom of God? Most of you understand.
Translation: Members are slipping away to competing tithe-croppers.
But some of our people are confused and weak, and some are also discouraged that several of our brethren are becoming seriously ill with various forms of cancer, heart disease, etc.
Translation: I'm not feeling all that well myself.

So our Headquarters team unanimously agreed that we should call a Church-wide fast for the Sabbath of August the 4th!
Translation: All my Yes Men nodded when I told them.

Read the whole thing here - minus the helpful but speculative attempt at translation - if you dare.

Poor old Rod. Every time something goes wrong, guess whose fault it is? Yes, you brethren have been getting Laodicean! Notice that the Grand High Poobah doesn't include himself in the backsliding. My question would be whether the saintly Presiding Evangelist will himself be fasting on the 4th. Obviously he doesn't seem to think he needs to, and longtime observers will remember Herbert Armstrong's reputation for drinking coffee on the Day of Atonement, which he shrugged off with a "well, I always said there was no nutritional value in cup of coffee!"

July 4th is Independence Day in the US (have a good one y'all!); maybe August 4th should be Spiritual Independence Day for those of us with a background in Armstrongism, a day to feast heartily in celebration of the freedom from abuse members of Meredith's sect have yet to embrace.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Mad Dogs and Englishmen...

Here I am complaining about a spot of winter drizzle while the British Isles have been receiving a pummeling from the weather gods. English weather has long been the subject of general hilarity in the rest of the world, but there's nothing even faintly funny about people losing their homes and even lives.

We all know what Spanky and Six-pack Gerry will say about such calamities: God is teaching the godless a well-deserved lesson. The Big Bloke in the Great Beyond has a short fuse, and every now and then the temperamental old sod lets fly with a hissy-fit. Flood, famine, tsunami, itchy boils... the god of Big Dave and the Herbal pretenders is anything but subtle.

Surprising then that a bishop in ye olde Church of England is prattling about the same thing. Under the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, reputed to be a hyper-conservative Evangelical, the bishoprics of the land were filled with card-carrying members of the so-called "evangelical" wing of the C of E., which is a large part of the reason the current archbishop, looking thoroughly frazzled, made the cover of Time a week or so back. Perhaps the former incumbent thought a theologically stiff upper lip might arrest the decline in attendance. If so, he was dead wrong.

In any case "the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle," (the frocked fellow in the photo) has entered the fray with a word of divine consolation for the sodden citizenry worthy of Monty Python, as reported by the Telegraph.

"This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way," he said. "We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused."

How Meredithesque!

"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

The Telegraph reporter notes that the bishop is "a leading evangelical." Well, whatayaknow! Dow even goes on to compare the wicked world of today to the Roman Empire: "people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality."

Well, shucks, where did I put that Ambassador College booklet The Modern Romans?

But here's my constructive suggestion. If the troglodyte bishops of Britain are going to steal COGdoms finest ideas, it's only fair if Rod, Gerry, Dave and the boys steal the Anglican regalia. Can't you just see Rod in a dress holding his staff with manly firmness? Or Gerry with a Roman collar and silly hat?

We might have to modify those religious titles though, "Right Reverend" just won't cut it in our tradition. How about "Right Rabid" instead?

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Winter's blast

Alright, so you Northern Hemisphere types can smile, but in the great Down Under it's winter, the days are short and the audible pitter-patter of rain is persisting on the roof as I sit here at my tidy desk - despite having Beethoven's Choral Symphony turned up several notches above normal. Well, I mean, what else is there to do on a Sunday like today other than wander around looking for jobs to do indoors while listening to music?

And might I add that the news out of Valencia isn't helping things either. Half a world away New Zealand is engaging the Swiss in the Americas Cup. Staying awake till ungodly hours to watch the coverage is demanding enough, but those balmy Spanish temperatures and sunshine are cruel and unusual punishment at 2AM. To rub salt into the wound, the Swiss - or rather the rebel Kiwi sailors who went over to the Swiss - are doing far better than they deserve. By the time this goes online it may be all over, but for the moment the quislings still have to win one more.

Biased? Who, me?

Then, the cruelest blow of all, the All Blacks went down to Australia last night. Do I need to explain that the ABs are the national Rugby team, that Rugby is the national game, and that Australia is the ancient foe?

The yachting provides an analogy for this blog: which is just as well seeing it isn't providing much good news otherwise. Since AW reappeared in this form a bit over a year ago, both it and I have been "tacking away" from a tight WCG/splinter focus to something a bit broader. The current "series" of the long-running COG "soap" is, after all, but a pale imitation of seasons past.

Today's highlight (apart from the pleasure of discovering a desktop under piles of paper and coffee mugs) was getting notification of passes in the two theology papers I took last semester. No rest for the wicked, however, and tomorrow night the first audio-conference is scheduled for semester two's Dead Sea Scrolls paper. Among the set readings is one from someone called James Tabor titled "Patterns of the End: Textual Weavings from Qumran to Waco." I just bet it'll be heavier going than his blog entries...

On an unrelated note, New Zealand WCG member Dennis Gordon has an excellent article on Genesis and Creation in the latest issue of WCG's Odyssey magazine, well worth checking out!