Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Reich Stuff

I've been putting off some promised comments about Dr John Buchner's PhD thesis (University of Western Sydney) for far too long. Some time ago John kindly sent me a copy of The Worldwide Church of God: A study of its transformation in terms of K. Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning. As the title indicates this is a dense dissertation.

John, a former WCG member who later found a spiritual home among the conservative Anglicans of Sydney, attempts to apply the yardstick of cognitive psychology (as fashioned by Reich) to headquarters employees of the Worldwide Church of God. He draws on Reich's classification system to determine how well these insiders deal with that hoary old conundrum, the trinity. Initially willing to co-operate at a corporate level (i.e. Joe Tkach), the response from individual HQ personnel to the questionnaires was apparently less than enthusiastic, which is understandable as the whole project must have seemed both personally threatening and highly judgmental. I'm not well known for my empathy with church officials, but can certainly understand why some quickly became less than co-operative; it's probably a wonder that someone didn't inform Dr Buchner exactly where he could shove his questionnaire.

Is the end product a worthwhile contribution to the arcane field of WCG studies? Well, I guess that depends both on your perspective and your interests. I've had to wade through some pretty impenetrable stuff in my own theological studies, but I can honestly say that for me this thesis came close to setting a new benchmark.

That said, the thesis is carefully, if not clearly, argued. This is an area in which I have zero expertise, so any comments either positive or negative should be taken with a truck-load of salt. Two observations from the cheap seats:

1. Dr Buchner's work seems to make a number of faith-based assumptions, most obviously on the trinity doctrine.

2. Reich himself, whose work under-girds the thesis, seems to be a fringe figure in his own field. The man seems to be a polymath, studying physics and electrical engineering, working as a particle physicist, writing on religious education and cognitive development, and holding an honorary doctorate in theology. But, as Buchner concedes, "Reich’s work to date has been incorporated in few psychology textbooks." (p. 46)

To do justice to John's work would require a lengthy review, not a single blog entry - or even a series. Here however, for those so motivated, are links to PDF copies of the various sections.

Detailed Chapter Contents, Abstract

Ch. 1 Introduction to the WCG and the Cognitive Conversion of Its Leaders

Ch. 2 Literature review of Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning


Ch. 3. Relational and Contextual Reasoning related to Christology and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

Ch. 4 - Method: the qualitative application of Relational and Contextual Reasoning to the case study


Ch. 5 - Results of Study 1: A review of opposing interpretations of the Trinity as a cognitive construct, and transition from rejection to acceptance of the doctrine, in search of an explanation consistent with Relational and Contextual Reasoning


Ch. 6 - Results of Study 2: Analysis of responses to a survey of Worldwide Church of God leaders in regard to their understanding of the Trinity, in terms of Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 7 Discussion and Conclusion

References and Bibliography

Appendices A-E

20 comments:

Minimalist said...

It says the SDAs accepted the Trinity in 1900 but WCG changed on this only after the traumatic doctrinal avalanche caused by the collapse of the Sabbath.

So not only is SDA reform out of order, it's also out of sync: They beat the WCG on the Trinity by 95 years but still cling to their trademark Sabbath. There's no rationality to the religious mind.

"There are only two things that are infinite: the universe and human stupidity - and I'm not sure about the first one"
Albert Einstein

Anonymous said...

One wonders what the paper would have read like if, instead of the Trinity, Joe Sr. had ordered his minions to promote the worship of dog food? (Specifically Alberson’s Store Brand, although Alpo would do in a pinch.) Our happy pinhead is missing the point entirely—it was all about emotional blackmail and financial coercion. The Trinity be damned.

Mark Lax

Tom Mahon said...

>>>As the title indicates this is a dense dissertation.<<<

"Dense" is indeed the appropriate term, for it conveys a degree of spiritual blindness that is quite shocking. There is nothing wrong with opaque writing, for it is often very difficult to explain some subjects without the use of some very obscure language, and the doctrine of the Trinity is one such subject. But opacity should not be a barrier clarity, proper subordination and the correct use of syntax and grammar. And from the extract I have read, the texts transgress all these rules.

>>>John, a former WCG member who later found a spiritual home among the conservative Anglicans of Sydney,<<<

The moment I read or hear that a person was a former member of WCG, who has repudiated much of what he once believed, I immediately begin to "girded up the loins of my mind," to protect it from deception. So whatever John has to say, if anyone has the time to wade through the turgid nonsense of RCR, will be dismissed by me as scholarly madness.

Anonymous said...

St. Tom expresseth: "The moment I read or hear that a person was a former member of WCG, who has repudiated much of what he once believed, I immediately begin to "girded up the loins of my mind," to protect it from deception. So whatever John has to say, if anyone has the time to wade through the turgid nonsense of RCR, will be dismissed by me as scholarly madness."

I expected no less from you Tom.

"When all you hear is the echo of your own thoughts, nothing more will be gained." (I can't remeber who said that, but it certainly applies to the close minded)

Corky said...

The moment I read or hear that a person was a former member of WCG, who has repudiated much of what he once believed, I immediately begin to "girded up the loins of my mind," to protect it from deception.

Thank you Tom, for admitting to a closed mind. Do you also close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears and yell "Herbie, Herbie, Herbie" until you lapse back into your coma?

I notice that you can spell syntax and grammar but you don't use either very well. English is not your first language, is it?

Byker Bob said...

Tomasso,

The human mind is very similar to the parachute. Each will only function while open.

BB

Jared Olar said...

It says the SDAs accepted the Trinity in 1900 but WCG changed on this only after the traumatic doctrinal avalanche caused by the collapse of the Sabbath.

No, the WCG adopted the Trinity by 1992-1993. The introduction of the "New Covenant" changes that eliminated the Sabbath obligation came with Joseph Tkach, Sr.'s sermon on Dec. 24, 1994. I've been told that most of the WCG ministers who left in 1995 had previously not really accepted the "Nature of God" changes of 1992-1993.

Anonymous said...

Along with this, thesis...

"The Worldwide Church of God: A study of its transformation in terms of K. Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning."

Might I suggest the companion thesis...

"The Emperor's New Clothes" which can readily be found in any Children's books section, and is a might easier to read.

Anonymous said...

Understanding does not come from wading through impenetrable theological dissertations, and hacking away obscure constructs on which rest many words, each a mosquito carrying malaria. Rather, understanding comes from hearing the voice of Christ Jesus, with His voice inscribed in Scripture as they are imbedded in the things that have been made when He spoke the world into existence.

Stan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan said...

By the way, this thesis is not exactly dry reading for Worldwiders -it is chock full of COG figures such as Herman Hoeh (who telephoned Dr. Buchner for the survey). Splinters and spin off luminaries are given coverage, too with interesting details to ponder.

After going through a lengthy approval process, thirteen members of the WCG ministry or administration responded in writing to fifteen survey questions probing their level of relational and contextual reasoning in regard to the Trinity.

Joe Tkach Jr. and Mike Feazell are two of the thirteen who participated with written responses on the Trinity, but which two? WCG survey participants have had their identities cloaked, with their names replaced by thirteen phonetic monikers: ALPHA, BRAVO, CHARLIE, DELTA, through...MIKE - you get the picture.

Respondents to the survey are described as including: a very senior early stage administrator, retired senior WCG minister, senior WCG administrator, senior editor and retired pastor, longtime WCG writer, active senior WCG minister, editorial writer, retired senior administrator, and so on.

My guess is that Joe Tkach Jr. is identified as respondent LIMA in Chapter 6.

LIMA is described as exercising a prominent position in the WCG hierarchy. He received his early education in the WCG which helped form his thinking, and had an opportunity for secular work and study. This could be veiled language for Tkach Jr's work experience at Arizona Boys Ranch or Microsoft, followed by his secular masters degree in business. Exposure to mainstream evangelical theology could mean attendance at Azusa after returning to Pasadena from Arizona.

Scholarly Insights

Which one of the thirteen survey respondents do you think might be Joe Tkach Jr.?


Stan Gardner

Stan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bamboo_bends said...

Tom Mahon said....

The moment I read or hear that a person was a former member of WCG, who has repudiated much of what he once believed, I immediately begin to "girded up the loins of my mind," to protect it from deception.


That is indeed unfortunate. I'd roundly bash you about the ears for such a stupid statement, except for I too had that mentality for 34 years.

Eventually, like me, you'll repent of having a lobster trapped mind....just because the bait smells good, doesn't mean its easy to leave Armstrongism. Its a rather one way door.

Then you'll awaken to an awareness of awe that comes when you realize you don't know anything at all about God, but you finally started the journey....

Anonymous said...

Orthodoxy won in the third and forth centuries, creating theologies and political organization that suppressed and then destroyed its opponents.

Orthodoxy continues to suppress and dominate all other theologies.

One has to wonder how they have been able to pull this off for almost 1800 years?

What creates such zeal, genuine fanaticism, for Orthodox theology?

It doesn't make sense... but it is the reality of history and our times.

Jared Olar said...

One has to wonder how they have been able to pull this off for almost 1800 years?

Yeah, really. It's especially puzzling considering that for quite some time orthodox Christianity hasn't had any political organisation that it can use to suppress and destroy the thousands of other claimants to the title of Orthodoxy. Even more, orthodox Christianity proved victories in the 300s A.D. and afterwards even though the political authorities usually were hostile to it. For example, throughout the 300s A.D. the political authorities tried to establish Arianism or semi-Arianism, or even tried to revive paganism, and yet, despite the political organisation favoring the opponents of orthodox Christianity, it was Orthodoxy that won out. Something similar happened in the 500s A.D., when Justinian and Theodora tried to impose Monothelitism, and yet orthodox Christianity again prevailed in the face of violent opposition from the government. Despite all the attempts of the politicial organisation to suppress or destroy Orthodoxy, it was always Orthodoxy that emerged victorious. One has to wonder how orthodox Christianity has managed to pull that off time and time again over the centuries.

Tired Skeptic said...

Pope Honorius I (died October 12, 638) was pope from 625 to 638.

Honorius, according to the Liber Pontificalis, came from Campania and was the son of the consul Petronius. He became pope on October 27, 625, two days after the death of his predecessor, Boniface V. The festival of the Elevation of the Cross is said to have been instituted during the pontificate of Honorius, which was marked also by considerable missionary enterprise. Much of this was centered on England, especially Wessex. He also succeeded in bringing the Irish Easter celebrations in line with the rest of the Catholic Church.

Honorius favoured Monothelitism; a formula proposed by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, with the design of bringing about a reconciliation between the Monophysites and the Catholics. Monothelitism bore that Christ had accomplished His work of redemption by one manifestation of his will as the God-man. To this end, Honorius "sent his deacon Gaios" to a synod in Cyprus, hosted by archbishop Arkadios II and with additional representatives from Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople. The anti-Monothelite side in Jerusalem, championed by Maximus the Confessor and Sophronius, sent to this synod Anastasius pupil of Maximus, George of Reshaina pupil of Sophronius and two of George's own pupils, and also eight bishops from Palestine. When the two sides were presented to the emperor, the emperor persisted with Monothelitism and so with Honorius.

More than forty years after his death, Honorius was anathematized by name along with the Monothelites by the Third Council of Constantinople (First Trullan) in 680. The anathema read, after mentioning the chief Monothelites, "and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things".

Pope Honorius I (died October 12, 638) was pope from 625 to 638.

All sounds pretty pagan to me. Good thing Pope Honorius never spoke Ex-Cathedra in support of Monothelitism.

Or did he?

There's so much revisionist history around these days, most of it used by the liars and thieves to elevate personal opinions to doctrine with the force of authority not at all supported by the processes of the Universe, but holding sway through the threat of personal extinction for those who oppose the silly ideas.

The rule is, whoever gets there first with their lies becomes the expert and no one else has any credibility: Get in the first strike and you win.

This works as well in cults as it does in corporations.

Reality said...

"The rule is, whoever gets there first with their lies becomes the expert and no one else has any credibility: Get in the first strike and you win."

All so true!

Goes hand-in-hand with:

He who has the most gold, makes the rules.

Anonymous said...

"There's so much revisionist history around these days, most of it used by the liars and thieves to elevate personal opinions to doctrine with the force of authority not at all supported by the processes of the Universe, but holding sway through the threat of personal extinction for those who oppose the silly ideas."

The first crusades in Europe were against the Cathars. Hundreds of thousands were killed to destory their ideas and their influence.

It worked. The significant Cathar culture and their non-Orthodox theology were destroyed by Orthodox Christianity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathars

"The crusader army came under the command, both spiritual and military, of the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Cîteaux. In the first significant engagement of the war, the town of Béziers was besieged on 22 July 1209. The Roman Catholic inhabitants of the city were granted the freedom to leave unharmed, but most refused and opted to fight alongside the Cathars.

The Cathars attempted a sortie but were quickly defeated, and the pursuing knights chased them back through the open gates of the city. Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander, is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathar from Roman Catholic. His famous reply, recalled by a fellow Cistercian, was "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." — “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own.”[2] The doors of the church of St Mary Magdalene were broken down and the refugees dragged out and slaughtered. Reportedly, 7,000 people died there including many women and children. Elsewhere in the town many more thousands were mutilated and killed. Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice. What remained of the city was razed by fire. Arnaud wrote to Pope Innocent III, "Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex."[3] The permanent population of Béziers at that time was then probably no more than 15,000, but local refugees seeking shelter within the city walls could conceivably have increased the number to 20,000."

Anonymous said...

There were never twelve tribes descended from twelve brothers; there were only three sisters. The nation of Judah and the Northern Kingdom sprang from three sisters.

o Judah
o Samariah
o Sodom

The sister's father was an Amorite and their mother was a Hittite. The Amorites were Semitic, but the Hitties could well have been Arian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorite
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites

(Ezek 16:45-51 NASB) "You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and children. You are also the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.

(46) "Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.

(47) "Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they.

(48) "As I live," declares the Lord GOD, "Sodom, your sister, and her daughters, have not done as you and your daughters have done.

(49) "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.

(50) "Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.

(51) "Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed.

Truth fur Alles said...

Tom, it is clear that you like us.
A bit too much, maybe.

Yet, when you are girding your loins and adjusting the straps, don't expect folks here to be willing to bend their head toward your loins, even while you grasp and try to force their heads toward your loins.

But let's be clear, Tommy.
You are not gonna get much of that action from the posters and readers here.

I suggest you join the Miracle of Love cult or the Family cult, or even Landmark cult.