Monday, 12 May 2008

Bungles, Blunderbusses and Butchery

Nobody butchers Christian history, in my view, quite like Bob Thiel. Marcion, Gnosticism, Calvin, Luther, Melito of Sardis... you name it, you can bet Bob has an opinion. In his latest assault, Bob parrots Bacchiocchi about the supposed similarities between Gnosticism and Calvinism (!) before smugly delivering his personal imprimatur: "And on the above he is correct."

Yeah, yeah. Then Bob picks up a wide pasting brush: "It was Gnostic heretics like the second century Marcion that essentially set the stage of Calvinism, Lutheranism, and certain other forms of Protestantism."


Then there's, of all things, an altar call: "If you are Protestant, this may be a good time to wake up and realize that the God of love really does have a plan to offer salvation to everyone who ever lived. And that it was from heretics that “once saved always saved” originated."

But does Bob know what he's talking about? That is a question I'll leave to the discerning reader. Bob considers Marcion a Gnostic for example, which is highly debatable. Even a cursory check of Wikipedia would have prevented Bob from making that bungle: "Marcion is sometimes referred to as one of the gnostics, but from what assessment of his lost writings can be gleaned from his mainstream opponents, his teachings were quite different in nature." His contemporary in Rome, Valentinus, now he was a Gnostic!

Then there's that label - heretic. Careful there Bob, you might shoot yourself in the foot with that particular blunderbuss.

However, unless someone does a little background reading of their own, how would they know which orifice self-anointed experts are speaking out of? One solution, if you're interested in a readable but credible one-volume history of Christianity at a decent price, is Paul Johnson's History of Christianity. First published in 1976, this is a brilliant survey that will clue you in on any number of significant developments over the last two millennia.

If Bob wants to slap around the big names in Christian history I'm all for it... providing he at least gets it right! But fair's fair: on the principle of beams and splinters, why not tackle the super-jerks in our own tradition first? Herbert Armstrong for example. And when you're done there Bob, why not deliver a word or two of caution about Roderick C. "three-to-five years" Meredith?

And speaking of three-to-five-years, here's Bob himself in another posting just a day or two ago: "As regular readers of the COGwriter news page are aware, I do not believe that the Great Tribulation can begin until at least 2012–and that it will most likely start in 2013-2017."

Most likely not.


Lussenheide said...

Will Bob promise to close his website down if Jesus does not return by Jan. 1,2018?

Ive reached the stage of my life where I demand warranties, "Double My Money Back", and spiritual "Pre-Nuptial agreements".

Will say no more if Bob agrees.

Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, CA USA

Tired Skeptic said...

The Great Tribulation began the day each one of us began attending the Radio / Worldwide Church of God.

Anonymous said...

He, then, joins hands with the Roman Catholic church and their rejection of Sole Fide. Rome has already damned all protestants for that belief at the Council of Trent.

Works-based religions just make me tired. You work, work, work, and in the end you can never measure up to the perfect righteousness of God. As Paul said, all our righteousness is dung in the eyes of God.

Anonymous said...

"And that it was from heretics that “once saved always saved” originated..."

I think the concept actually disgusts Bob, or at least offends his core sensibilities. Or maybe, if it were true, it would render all the requirements of Armstrongism useless. I bet Bob and other Armstrongites have a secret thought, a thought that they will share with no one else, the thought that rises first when they encounter the doctrine of once-saved-always-saved and grace;

"If that's true, then all this work and sacrifice isn't necessary at all. That would mean that I have wasted decades- and am no different in the eyes of God than a common Baptist."

And the knowledge of the pain and anger and loss of identity that would follow is too much to bear- so they strangle that thought and shut the door on the possibility that they maybe wrong and jump right back in bed, covering their heads with the tattered quilt of legalism.

The Apostate Paul

Ripley said...

Well, at least Bob isn't asking for anybody's money, so I'll give him that much. It's when folks are required to pledge their allegiance with their wallets that the real trouble starts.

Anonymous said...

"Well, at least Bob isn't asking for anybody's money, so I'll give him that much."

But he serves as RCM's (and Armstrongism in general) Minister of Propaganda and Disinformation, reinforcing the need to obey and to do what the hell they tell you to do.

The Apostate Paul

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the Living Church of
God will shut down after nothing happens. It is amazing to me these people never learn the lessons of William Miller in end times date setting.

Anonymous said...

"Hopefully the Living Church of
God will shut down after nothing happens."

With LCG, there never is a "nothing happened" because they continually change time frames and the members never question it. It's one thing to say Christ will come back on May 27th, 2009 and another to say "in the next five to ten years." The latter you can ride on out into infinity, brushing off criticism like dandruff.

The Apostate Paul

Bamboo_bends said...

I've backed way off on criticizing one form of Christianity above another. All of them really come out of Pauline teachings more than those of Jesus.

Who's a heretic and who's not is really a matter of viewpoint, and that is hardly objective ground to begin with.

When you add to that volatile mix, literal readings of scriptural text sifted with binary logic (and its law of the excluded middle), everything is either a hammer or a nail. Lots of noise and pain.

I am more convinced of someone's "Jesus-like-ness" if they feed the poor, comfort the discouraged, and make the world a better place. I wish people would define cults on those parameters - if they don't improve the world - they are cults and heretics to everything Jesus stood for.

Jared Olar said...

It apparently hasn't occurred to Bob Thiel that one can object to Marcionism and Calvinism without identifying the former as the ancestor of the latter. Ideas aren't true or false just because they seem to resemble some other idea, nor does resemblance or partial agreement prove a genealogical lineage of ideas.

And yes, as you say, Marcion was not a Gnostic. Like the Gnostics, he denied that the God of the Old Testament was the true God, but instead was a lesser, malevolent demiurge (a belief that he reportedly got from a Gnostic teacher named Cerdon). But the complex and wild Gnostic mythical cosmologies of emanations and aeons were not a part of Marcion's religion. In Marcionism, the Old Testament and all things that were even remotely Jewish (for example, Christianity) were completely rejected, and the New Testament was massively rewritten and truncated to keep people from finding out that Jesus and St. Paul were Jewish. Gnostics, on the other hand, tended to believe that, although error-ridden in on their literal level, still there is a lot of secret gnosis allegorically squirreled away in the Old and New Testaments despite the demiurge Yahveh's attempts to deceive everyone -- so a Gnostic would not have any compulsion to "purify" the Bible like Marcion did.

Ah, but how could Bob Thiel remain an Armstrongist if he were to start taking Christian history seriously?

Anonymous said...

Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Armstrong, which?

Laughable as it is, there are probably more denominations of Armstrongism than there is in Protestant/Evangelical Christianity. Bob may not be incorrect when it comes to a Gnostic type belief system in protestantism.

There is a book written by a 'Primative Christian' entitled "Primative Christianity in Crisis" (PCIC) written in 2000 by Alan Knight. Like Bob, the author believes that the protestant churches are much like the Gnostics of old. PCIC states that the Gnostics were not called Gnostics in their day, they were Christian sects who had Antinomian beliefs.

According to PCIC there were three Christianities at the time, 1. Helenistic - which was eventually Roman; 2. Gnostic - which lost out to Helenism with many thoughts reflected in protestant ideology. Among their teachers was Nicholas (the Nicoliatans); and, 3. Primitive Christianity. He does not mention much about the history of those he calls primitive Christians after the first few centuries after Jesus.

His premise seems to be that the Antinomian Christians of the early centuries believed in addressing the spiritual and that the physical was dirty and evil.

The Helenists were legalists adding beyond law many a regulation. Where the Gnostics were focused on the things of the spirit, the Helenists were focused on the outside.

PCIC states that Primitive Christianity addressed both, with the law and Jesus' teachings to looking at the things of the spirit and the flesh.

His view on Luther being a great man but having flaws like hatred for Jews is an example of someone who is not bridled by law on the outside.

One thing he does not talk about is Greek or Eastern Orthodoxy. Much of their teaching is one of both living by the law and the spirit of the law. According to them Sola Scriptura is one of the main reasons that there are so many denominations in Protestantism, everyone can choose for himself what the Bible says.

Much like Armstrong believers, each has what they feel he said and then come up with a twist and add their view of scripture to it.

Law, no law, scripture alone or faith alone? Human reasoning has given us all of these in many forms with many choices.

Bob seems too simplistic in his Gnostic accusation of the Protestants. PCIC has too vague a comparison as well. I would imagine it would take an encyclopedia to list the commonalities and differences between these forms of belief. Not a short book and definately not a bob blog.

Anonymous said...

2012 seems to be the year that even the new agers are talking about. If you go to Amazon and type in '2012' there is book after book of 2012 prophecies.

The Mayan calendar restarts in 2012 with the return of Quezequotal (don't care to look up the spelling.)

I guess the Q man is the beast, so there you have it. Thanks Bob for the 2012 and then the 3 to six years beyond that. Maybe that will give Dr. 3 to 5 more time to ferret out the finks like he did in the time of the manpower papers.

Times of the Gentiles said...

Seems Twitness Weinland would have better off if he had proclaimed himself Witness to the "Gentiles"

They seem to be taking quite a beating at this time of tribulation, trumpets and thunders.
(Cyclones, Earthquakes, disease,)

The Twelve Tribes Scattered abroad seem to pretty much be avoiding the wrath of the gods at this time.

This proves the true people are the Indians and Chinese...who knew!

$chnippert's Mercedes Dealer said...

To think that the evolution of Yahwism in the 1st/2nd centuries was so volatile that the radicalism of Marcion could be entertained ! Based on the supposed appearance of a phantom godman that neither these cultists or the world can pinpoint as much as a birth date for.

"Christianity is the greatest disaster in human history"
Ken Humphries

Ekimks (Mike) said...

2012 seems to be the year that even the new agers are talking about.

"2012" is also a search term on Google that returns a sponsored link for False Prophet Weinland's web site "".

Try it and see.

OriginalSunofGod said...

"...a phantom godman that neither these cultists or the world can pinpoint as much as a birth date for."

The Sun of God went into the grave 3 days, for the Winter Solstice, on December 22nd-24th and was born on the 25th. Even brought forth by a Virgo. :)

FatherEnricoSarducci said...

This just in:

The Vatican has announced that it is "ok to believe in aliens."

Holy Space Invaders!

It wasn't all that long ago the Vatican said it was ok to believe in evolution and it was ok to believe in a helio-centric solar system too! It's even ok to not believe in limbus infantium iff'in you don't want to.

Knowing that the Church has a list of things that it's ok to believe is just

Byker Bob said...

Thiel's problem is the same problem faced by anyone in any of the ACOGs who seeks to do honest research. Their research simply cannot conflict in any major way with Armstrongite dogma. This is why people who aspire to be legitimate scholars all end up leaving Armstrongism eventually. This would include such people as Sir Anthony Buzzard, Lester Grabbe, Dr. James Tabor, and in the distant past, Dr. Ernest Martin.

In my opinion, Bob Thiel is a very brave man. He makes himself a lightning rod by constantly coming up with the research and materials to support the teachings of Roderick C. Meredith. In so many cases, this makes Dr. Bob appear to be downright foolish, deliberately and wilfully ignorant of certain facts, or caught with his fingers in the proof-texting cookie jar.

Did he mention Simon Magus in his dissertation? Simon was a gnostic "heretic", but nonetheless, Herbert Armstrong had credited him with starting the Roman Catholic Church. I wonder if this is still part of the teachings of the ACOGs.


Weinland Watch said...

I seem to recall Weinland mentioning Magus in one of the sermons (one of the endless parts of "The Mystery of God" I think). In the context that Magus started the RCC of course.

As for the topic, I may be a little late to the party but:

"It was Gnostic heretics like the second century Marcion"