Thursday, 5 March 2009

Wicked, wicked Bart!

You must not listen to Bart Ehrman on NPR. For starters he sounds just too darn reasonable. No, stay away. Even better, pull out a copy of The Good News instead, and maybe hum a little tune to help yourself ignore the evil fellow.


Anonymous said...

"What came as a shock to me over time was just how little actual evidence there is..."

Bloody hell, here we go again with all this "evidence" stuff again.

"It turned out the liberals actually had something to say and had evidence to back it up; they weren't simply involved in destructive wishful thinking..."

Ha! There is NO EVIDENCE and those liberals just hate God's Law and are looking for an excuse not to believe.

Paul Ray (Wearing a different hat tonight)

Tkach's $wiss Banker said...

Thanks for link , I meant to catch this broadcast today on FM but missed it.

Byker Bob said...

We've got a splinter group member on one of my other forums who is quite the fan of Bart! Obviously he isn't 100% in philosophical alignment with the man, but apparently he's found some common points.

I guess there's a modicum of truth behind the old saying that one man's scatology is another's eschatology!


Questeruk said...

Normally book extracts are given to give you a ‘flavour’ of the book. What a strange flavour chapter four of ‘Jesus, Interrupted’ gives.

Three examples:-

1. The author says:-

“But if Matthew and John were both written by earthly disciples of Jesus, why are they so very different, on all sorts of levels?”

but then goes on to add:-

“Did two of the earthly followers of Jesus really have such radically different understandings of who he was? It is possible.”

He then spends time pointing out that eyewitnesses often give differing accounts. Exactly. So what is the problem? Basically he is arguing in a circle.

2. A little further he has this great point of evidence:-

“Whoever wrote Matthew did not call it "The Gospel according to Matthew." The persons who gave it that title are telling you who, in their opinion, wrote it. Authors never title their books "according to."”

Is he actually serious about this? His suggestion is that if the gospel was titled ‘The gospel according to Mathew’ it cannot be written by Mathew - because Mathew wouldn’t have written it that way.

But the author has already stated that “these titles are later additions to the Gospels”, which in effect contradicts his own point.

3. About John, the author states:-

“With John it is even more clear. At the end of the Gospel the author says of the "Beloved Disciple": "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24).
Note how the author differentiates between his source of information, "the disciple who testifies," and himself: "we know that his testimony is true." He/we: this author is not the disciple. He claims to have gotten some of his information from the disciple.”

Really – now I know that Bart must have read John’s gospel, but you almost wonder with a statement like that.

John regularly uses this style of phrasing.

At the last supper he writes “ Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (i.e. himself John). He then goes on “Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him…..”.

After the arrest of Jesus John writes “But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.”

It may sound a little ‘coy’ to modern ears, but would the passages have read better if they said

- “Now I was leaning on Jesus’s bosom…”
- “Then I was known to the High Priest, so I spoke to her at the door…”
- “I am testifying these things, and have written them”.

You only have to read the gospel to see this was John’s way of downplaying his own role in these events.

If this is the flavour of the book, if the extract is one of the ‘high points’ of the book, then the whole book would seem to be rather underwhelming.

Purple Hymnal said...

"What a strange flavour chapter four of ‘Jesus, Interrupted’ gives."

Not strange at all, when you consider that Ehrman believes (and rightfully so, IMO) that the narrative itself is allegorical.

I forget which sect "Matthew" (or the author of same, at least) was alleged to have belonged to, but "John", or at least the author of John, may have been a Mandaean.

You can read other Mandaean texts in Barnstone and Meyer's The Gnostic Bible. You want your christological character straight up?? The Mandaeans thought John (the baptizer) was the holy guy, and that Jebus fellow was a severely heretical pretender to the throne!

"The persons who gave it that title are telling you who, in their opinion, wrote it."

You may not want to accept Ehrman's opinion on this Q, but the man has several years of NT languages/translation/etcetera under his belt. And I respectfully ask you, why do you need the narrative to be literally, factually true?

You can still derive all the good inherent in the text, whether you "believe" it actually happened, or didn't.

Reality is not a deal-breaker, in Ehrman's books, and some days not in mine, either.

"Really – now I know that Bart must have read John’s gospel, but you almost wonder with a statement like that."

It's not that Ehrman has "read" the gospel, but that he has translated it himself, from the surviving codices.

Hell, for all we know "the holy bible" is equivalent to those omnipresent Harlequin bodice-rippers you can find everywhere these days. Archaelogists might very well be canonizing Fabio, three thousand years from now.

"John regularly uses this style of phrasing."

Not so. The translators of the KJV use this style of phrasing. There's a world of difference between those two polemics.

"If this is the flavour of the book, if the extract is one of the ‘high points’ of the book, then the whole book would seem to be rather underwhelming."

I'm sorry you feel that way, Q, I recommend Ehrman highly.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of another critic who claims that since the gospel accounts are so close and even parallel at places, this is proof that there was one account that the rest plagiarized.

Dammed if you do...

Bill Hohmann

Dan said...

Along a simular line... Anyone watch Glenn Beck on Fox News? Sometimes the things he says sound like he studied WWCG prophecy.

Corky said...

Wikipedia article Bart D. Ehrman:

"Bart D. Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar and textual critic of early Christianity. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written about how the original New Testament texts were frequently altered by scribes for a variety of reasons, and argues that these alterations affect the interpretation of the texts . . .

Ehrman began studying the Bible and its original languages at the Moody Bible Institute and is a 1978graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois. He received his Ph.D and M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary . . ."

Just go ahead and "pooh-pooh" all that if you want to - all ye who want the wholly babble to actually be the word of a god.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Bart Ehrman needs to stop serving Satan and repent.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Reminds me of another critic who claims that since the gospel accounts are so close and even parallel at places, this is proof that there was one account that the rest plagiarized."

Are you talking about the lost "Q" book Bill? ECW has some interesting discussion on the earliest narratives established mid-first-century, under the headings Passion Narrative (30 - 60 CE) and Lost Sayings Gospel Q (40 - 80 CE).

(The Gospel of Thomas (50 - 140 CE) borrows quite heavily from Q at several points.)

I also highly recommend the websites Early Christian Writings and Early Jewish Writings for a historical overview of the texts.

After all, if you believe so strongly that the OT and NT are divinely inerrant, what's the harm in finding out the whys and wherefores of how the text came to be?

Purple Hymnal said...

"Anyone watch Glenn Beck on Fox News?"

He's Mormon. It's the "god as god is god", god family thing.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, NPR is going off the air. What gets me is that so many of the righty radio stations are still hanging in strong in the USA. The left is generally soppy and does not hold much of an audience. NPR has always had a reputation of being a little too much left of center for the common man. So Gavin, do you agree with him or just intrigued by his challenging nature?

Anonymous said...

Bart Ehrman's lifelong quest for Biblical knowledge has led him to his present understanding. He is one of those rare people who let their studies lead them into uncharted territories, and for the time being he finds himself forced into agnosticism. I find this encouraging -- not because I'm an agnostic (I'm not), but because Ehrman is being painfully honest with himself. His research can be trusted within its context.

People like Ehrman are willing to modify their conclusions as new evidence is found. He's not suggesting that his opinions are infallible. Tuning into his thoughts will will acquaint honest researchers with one gifted man's progress in a courageous quest for the historical Jesus.

From the recorded NPR interview and the excerpt from his new book, it appears that a new treasure has found its way onto bookstore shelves -- not the "last word" on Jesus, but an updated presentation of fiercely honest investigation.

Questeruk notes that, "He then spends time pointing out that eyewitnesses often give differing accounts. Exactly. So what is the problem? Basically he is arguing in a circle."

Not really. He is showing that even eye-witnesses remember events differently, but in the case of the Gospels, none of the writers was an eye-witness. "But in fact none of the writers was an eyewitness, and none of them claims to be."

Bart Ehrman came to his present conclusions by means of high erudition and relentless research. He is letting us into his present state of mind and isn't pretending to have the full story. Because of the many and easily demonstrated inconsistencies between ancient Greek texts, the historical Jesus is an extremely elusive individual. Early church agendas, and their scribes, were hard at work long before the printing press and instant communication could standardize texts under the authority of a church monolith.

Bart Ehrman is doing those of us who want to know, no matter what the truth may prove to be, a great favor.

Anonymous said...

NPR is going off the air? It would be interesting to hear where THAT idea came from. NPR boast the 2nd and 3rd most-listened-to radio shows in America. I believe NPR is going to be around for a while.

Oh, wait - perhaps the writer was listening to one of those NPR-station fund-raising drives, where the station would be "going off the air" if "we don't meet our goal". Now, a fellow Ambassador Watch reader wouldn't fall for that, would he? I would think any former WCG member would take THAT threat with a "grain of salt", LOL.

camfinch said...

Anon. 11:32, where do you get the idea that NPR is going off the air? They have, I think, made some cutbacks, but are going strong.

NPR isn't really much left of center, it's really centrist. But the mainstream media in the U.S. is controlled by ultra-conservative corporate interests, and their perspective is much more from the Right than used to be the case. That makes NPR seem to the "left" in comparison. But the mainstream media in America are much more to the right nowadays than has been the case over the past half century or so. I'm glad there are outlets such as NPR to provide a diversity of information and opinion such as that proffered by Bart Ehrman, who gave the Witherspoon Lecture (the annual special guest lecture sponsored by the Dept. of Religious Studies here at UNC-Charlotte) a few years ago, and a fascinating talk it was!

Leonardo said...

Several years ago I took a 24-lecture course via audio cassette taught by Dr. Ehrman - on the subject of New Testament scholarship - and was quite impressed not only with the depth and breadth of his learning, but even more so with his overall genuineness. I never got the impression that he was one of those militant skeptics who typically have as many "axes to grind" as do the fundamentalists.

I highly recommend Ehrman’s work for those who sincerely seek to expand their understanding of the N.T., and not just those who only seek “proof” that it’s the infallible word of God, an unwarranted conclusion the actual evidence just doesn't support.

Aristophanes said...

I have a lot of time for Bart Ehrman, especially since meeting him a year or so ago. Very personable and very knowledgeable; one thing we had in common was abandoning our former Christian faith as a result of scholarly study.

I always find it amusing that in almost every TV documentary about rewriting the Jesus story they have either Ehrman or Jim Tabor, who of course has WCG/AC connections. They hold broadly similar professorships at two different campuses of the same university, North Carolina, the oldest state university in the States (chartered 1789). Ehrman probably has seniority, because he's at the "home" campus at Chapel Hill; Tabor is at Charlotte.

They agree on some points, but disagree on many. I personally think Ehrman is by far the more sound scholar of the two; he doesn't engage in speculation.

Anonymous said...


Would that be one of Dr Ehrman's courses with TTC? I've listened to a few of those courses, and agree with your comments. Of course, following course guidelines, there is a lot of his own research that could have have been added, but it would be outside the scope of the lectures. He did come across as knowing his stuff.

Anonymous said...

"But the mainstream media in the U.S. is controlled by ultra-conservative corporate interests..."

Yes, that is why during the Bush administration the media fawned over Bush and rarely criticized him or the war. And now, they constantly criticize Obama (not to mention trying to bury him in the election while giving Palin a free ride); you can't turn on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, or MSNBC without seeing slander and partisan attacks on the good man.

Do you really see the mainstream media as coming from the "right?" I'm sorry, I have to disagree.

Paul Ray

Ex-android said...

It's interesting to read of an educated man who was committed to Christ and then did the research. He's now an agnostic. Just one more step to go...

Anonymous said...

to camfinch: "But the mainstream media in America are much more to the right nowadays than has been the case over the past half century or so"

Not sure where you get that idea, they actually create news and even leave the truth out of the news when it is important. Evidenced since the Rodney King mess when the edited the video and took out the part where he reached for the gun of one of the officers and the officer turns around to keep that from happening and the drugged up King does a face plant on the pavement.

From the photos on the news and in the papers, they made it seem that his face was beaten like that.

Network news, like the papers tends to be left of center. Extreme left in some cases. Then they even have softer news, so they do not have to report on anything substantial.

Purple Hymnal said...

....because Ehrman is being painfully honest with himself. His research can be trusted within its context."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Purple Hymnal said...

Just need to chime in about the "he's agnostic" comments, in re: Ehrman. If I don't miss my guess, he has never outrightly declared (to my knowledge) his current leanings, but I would have to say he's more gnostic than a-, at least based on what I've heard and read, both by Ehrman, and about him.

But then, gnostics can be atheists too, which is even more fun. :-)

camfinch said...

For those who question my statements that mainstream media in the U.S. tend to be "right" of center: "left" and "right" are getting to be ambiguous terms anymore. But certainly during the Bush years, if we use pro-Bush as "right", then the MSM were "right", as they seldom questioned Bush on his policies, especially foreign policies, until around 2006. They still are hesitant at best at pushing for investigation and future prosecution of those in high places in the Bush regime who possibly commited felonies. Paul Ray, I have some considerable support for your libertarian perspective, although these days I call myself (political labelling nowadays is almost hopeless) a left-libertarian. Sorry to diverge from the topic at hand, Bart Ehrman.

Mel said...

Thanks for leaving a link, I'll listen to the whole thing this weekend.
I actually happened to hear it when it was on NPR, listening to the radio while driving the other day, but I didn't catch the whole interview then.
I was impressed- not only by the content, but the attitude.
SO much better than the hate, fear, and ridicule you'd hear from HWA, GTA, and their ministers.

I find it interesting to watch and listen to various people who talk about religion. Just watching how they conduct themselves and HOW they say things(regardless of WHAT they say)can be informative.

For instance, I watched the con-woman "Prophetess Juanita Bynum" preach for a bit on Daystar TV earlier.
It was entertaining to some extent, but man, after watching her perform for a couple of minutes, it was SO OBVIOUS that she's a con artist that's preying on people.

Jethro said...

Gimme a break. Ehrman discounts the whole idea of a harmony of the gospels, and he does so for one simple reason: he lacks faith that God could and would inspire four different accounts which could be put together to create the whole story. There is simply no way to "prove" in a scientific sense that God inspired the gospels and intended them to be harmonized. One either believes that or one doesn't. Those who believe it "prove" it primarily by their own subjective relationship wth God. Ehrman is a non-believer. He choses not to have the relationship with God that is required to have the faith that God inspired the gospels to be harmonized.

Ms Jane said...

Jethro dear boy,

I didn't check Dr Ehrman's life details, so I don't know when he became an agnostic, or what his thesis covered. But can I imagine a time when he began treating the Bible as literature, and treated it as a scholar would when researching, say, Shakespeare. It's not a matter of faith, lacking or otherwise, it's just using scholarly research methods.

Now, just because I offered an explanation doesn't mean I endorse Dr Ehrman's conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Jethro says "There is simply no way to "prove" in a scientific sense that God inspired the gospels and intended them to be harmonized. One either believes that or one doesn't. Those who believe it "prove" it primarily by their own subjective relationship wth God."

This is dangerous thinking because the world and universe in which we live can most certainly be explored scientifically. If the Bible is a product of the same Creator that gave us the universe, then it should stand up to scrutiny equal to that applied by Science to Nature.

In terms of New Testament studies, one might begin with the genealogies that exist to prove the Davidic descent of Jesus, which is absolutely necessary to establish his eligibility for the messianic throne of David. That, of course, requires an uninterupted patrilineal line from David through Solomon to Jesus -- which is missing in both Matthew and Luke. Yet we see a vast multitude hailing Jesus as king (messiah) when he rides into Jerusalem, after the custom of King David, on a donkey.

If Jesus had no human father, as the genealogies seem to insist, then there is no possibility of his qualification for the Davidic throne. Why then did so vast a number of the Jewish populace accept him as king (messiah)? Were they, whose lives depended upon Jewish law and the promises of God to David's family, simply accepting Jesus on faith? They had no such authority from God. God had given them the Torah, and nothing contrary to Torah was acceptable to the Jewish people. Who then was Jesus' father?

If these questions cannot be answered by the gospel accounts, then why should anyone be required to accept them "on faith"? Surely Jesus' qualifications for messiahship are central to every gospel; and if we don't have reliable genealogies, then there is reason for seekers of truth to doubt the consistent genuineness of the gospels. There is, in fact, every reason to believe that the texts have been seriously compromised.

Thank God that there are people like Ehrman willing to dig beneath the surface of the documents we have, in quest of the historical reality that we all hope must lie somewhere between the lines.

Anonymous said...

"Ha! There is NO EVIDENCE and those liberals just hate God's Law and are looking for an excuse not to believe."

This is exactly what I thought and said for many years. I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Ehrman is a non-believer. He choses not to have the relationship with God that is required to have the faith that God inspired the gospels to be harmonized."

How do you spell tautology?

Anonymous said...

"You must not listen to Bart Ehrman on NPR. For starters he sounds just too darn reasonable. No, stay away. Even better, pull out a copy of The Good News instead, and maybe hum a little tune to help yourself ignore the evil fellow."

Silly Brer Rabbit.

Ex-android said...

Thanks, Jethro, for your honest comment:

"There is no way to 'prove' in a scientific sense that God inspired the gospels and intended them to be harmonized."

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 12:30, the lecture series by Dr. Ehrman I heard was called "Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication" which I bought from The Teaching Company ( Many libraries have it as well.

And Jethro, your comment above hit it right on the head: one needs absolute (blind?) FAITH and an extremely SUBJECTIVE relationship with God (i.e., a very fertile imagination) in order to come to the conclusions fundamentalist Christianity arrives at. The available evidence just doesn't support such fantastical conclusions, and I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge such.

Who says a believer can't be honest with himself?! Jethro appears to be one who is.

The problem then becomes one of figuring out the next logical issue that will arise (which most Christians avoid confronting like the plague): if truth is whatever we subjectively WANT it to be, then how do we know it's actually true (i.e., in accord with objective reality), and not just the self-delusion of wishful thinking?

Remember, there is a massive difference between KNOWING and BELIEVING - and most folks do not draw the vital distinction between the two concepts.

Ex-android said...

Leonardo wrote:

"Remember, there is a massive difference between KNOWING and BELIEVING-and most folks do not draw the vital distinction between the two concepts."

Frankly, Leo, many can't remember, as you asked them to, because they've never considered that there IS a difference between knowing and believing.

This morning I was reading some comments on a blog about these very concepts.

Years back, in my more ignorant state, having just exited Armstrongism, where one is praised for ignorance, I was faced with letters about my resignation from the WCG. (I had some respect in my local area.)

I recall suddenly realizing the difference of believing and knowing while reading a letter from a troubled ex-member of the WCG. She had written,

"This I do know: Jesus is coming back because He said so."


No, she didn't KNOW, she BELIEVED. It was as simple as that. She couldn't KNOW until Jesus actually did return. Before that all she had was belief-a pretty thin cover wnen facing reality.

(Gee. This is pretty basic philosophy 101. Unfortunately, that wasn't a course in the WCG
school of misology. And in the gospels [or in the WCG] no one was praised for being intelligent.)

Ex-android said...


Have you been reading Ayn Rand?

Don't let BB catch you. He hates that stuff. Boy! Do I know.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Remember, there is a massive difference between KNOWING and BELIEVING - and most folks do not draw the vital distinction between the two concepts."


Byker Bob said...

Actually, I enjoyed reading "The Fountainhead".


Ex-android said...

Re: Ayn Rand

My introduction to Rand was by way of an old friend, Lin Stuhlman who dropped out of sight years ago.

She recommended "Anthem" as a slim book picturing the kind of world Herb and his goons wanted to build.
From there I went to Rand's biography by Barbara Branden, "The Passion of Ayn Rand." In these pages I met an amazing personality and intellect.

After that experience I started reading Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. It clicked. It also helped me to grasp the logic of atheism. It's no wonder the theists loathe Objectivism.

Rand's paper, "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" was another eye opener.
Rand delivered it to the 1974 West Point graduating class.
After 30 years of the pablum and lies of the WCG I felt I was finally learning about the world and my place in it.

Unfortunately, I've yet to meet anyone from the old WCG days that knows anything substantive about Objectivism.

Some have read "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" and that's it.
I saw the film version of the former novel and have a copy of the latter novel that I cannot get through. (I cannot stand fiction after having spent so much of my life reading the fiction portrayed in the Bible.)

Anyone here read any of Rand's philosophy? It helped me greatly in my recovery from Armstrongism.

Leonardo said...

Ex Android, I read "The Fountainhead" while I was a student at AC, in the summer of 1978 - but didn't read "Atlas Shrugged" until 1991, when I was working for the Publishing Department.

So yes, I indeed have read these Ayn Rand novels, as well as most of her works of non-fiction as well – though many years ago now.

(By the way, my understanding is that Atlas Shrugged is being made into a movie, with Angela Jolie playing Dagny Taggart, and Brad Pitt rumored to portray John Galt. This could be an interesting film, though I must confess I can't possibly imagine how such an epic story could be told in just a three hour film.)

As far as drawing the important distinction between faith and knowledge - yes, I find an appalling lack of this elementary understanding in talking with COG folks. It's amazing, in conversations with otherwise very intelligent members, how so few have ever even actually considered this crucial distinction. And then when I point it out to them, it just seems to go “in one ear and out the other.” Churchill remarked once that when most folks bump into truth, they just pick themselves up off the ground, quickly brush away the dirt, and continue on their merry way as if nothing had happened!

And yet the New Testament talks about receiving a “love of the truth” – does it not? Imagine how improved people’s lives would be if they would cherish factual TRUTH as much as they do their unproven religious assumptions!

How tragic when such mental atrophy occurs to so many otherwise decent folks when they carelessly give over their precious minds to self-proclaimed peddlers of “truth.”

And you’re right, it is indeed an extremely basic concept - but it's because we overlook such fundamental "common sense" concepts that we make some incredibly far-reaching philosophical errors in our thinking, and thus fall prey to all kinds of philosophical, political and religious gurus who claim to have “the truth.” Fundamentalist religion is probably THE classic example of this dynamic in action. It certainly should be to most of us here on this blogsite who in times past were sucked into the vortex of HWA’s very often bizarre view of reality.

Personally, I think this is at least one reason why HWA was anti-intellectual in nature and often quite hostile against the findings of legitimate scholarship. He wasn't stupid, and realized the very real threat such basic concepts and knowledge posed to his theology – and by extension the psychological stranglehold he had on member’s minds – if people ever began actually thinking through the foundations and implications of some of his more ridiculous assertions. And thus his perpetual ad nauseam attacks against “the leaven of intellectualism.”

But it seemed I was more intellectually influenced by some of the more free-thinking and thought-provoking instructors who taught at the time there at AC, men of sound minds who were not afraid to think “outside the box” of standard WCG nonsense – professors like Charles Dorothy, Dr. Stavrinedes, George Geiss, etc.

And you're also correct in stating that ignorance was raised to the level of a virtue - although at the time we preferred to delude ourselves into seeing such ignorance as "submissive open-mindedness to revealed knowledge, and to God's Apostle" - didn't we?

Everybody falls prey to ignorance - but it seems so few are those who eventually recognize it, humbly acknowledge it, and then take the steps required to raise themselves up out of it. Though many on this blogsite have had to engage in that very exhausting struggle, and I congratulate them for their courage.

camfinch said...

I "got into" Ayn Rand's ideas and novels back in the mid-1970s. I can definitely say that that was one of the major contributors to my eventual exit, and for that, I give Rand credit. I have departed substantially from much of her philosophy over the years, though I value Rand's insistence on the responsibility of each individual to think for him/herself in all areas of life.

It is ironic that Rand's commanding personality led to a rather opposite effect among the sycophantic circle of younger admirers that collected around her in the fifties and sixties. Rand was in some ways an atheistic version of HWA: a compelling and dynamic personal presence, with a convincing and authoritative way of speaking and writing, and an insistence that others look to her as the arbiter of their own lives. Rand was quite Manichean--if even rather trivial things were not to her liking, she could find ways to make those things seem inferior, wrong, even evil. This judgmental aspect of her personality carried over into arts and literature. Her admirers would mimic her taste in literature, music, art, etc. If someone grew close to Rand but began to assert their own independent thinking, she, or her young circle of admirers, would often create a distance from such a person, often to the point of "excommunication", sometimes de facto, sometime "de jure", with actual "trials" being conducted. Barbara Branden's "The Passion of Ayn Rand" is a great portrait of the novelist/philosopher. Nathaniel Branden's memoir, "Judgment Day" as it was known originally--I think it was updated and re-published with another title--is another detailed picture of Rand.

Ironically, the year before I discovered Ayn Rand, I read a book with a very different perspective about life from Rand's; and that book has actually had a greater overall impact on how I think than Rand's ideas. That book was "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. I was never the same after reading that! And that certainly opened up the slow pathway (or the road, I guess I should say) out of, not only Armstrongism, but any system that demands giving up my own independent thinking.

Leonardo said...

Ex-android, it's funny you mentioning Barbara Branden's book "The Passion of Ayn Rand" because I'm almost done reading it, just another 50 pages or so to go. I saw the film version years ago when it first came out, but the book is MUCH better. I just recently completed Barbara’s audio tape lecture series called “The Principles of Efficient Thinking” – which she originally made back in the early ‘60’s – and certain sections of it especially are superb.

I hope it doesn't sound arrogant to make the claim that perhaps I know more about Objectivism (both the intellectual content of the philosophy itself as well as the movement) than any other ex-COG member, at least that I know of.

About a year ago I even had the chance to meet and chat with Leonard Peikoff, Rand's intellectual heir, as well as the current President of the Ayn Rand Institute, Dr. Yaron Brooks. And many years ago as an AC student I met Nathaniel Branden once in person as well.

(By the way, Nathaniel Branden’s book "Judgment Day" - later re-published under the title "My Years with Ayn Rand" - is very good, about as insightful as Barbara's book with regard to those early "glory years" of the Objectivist movement.)

Although I have long ago stopped philosophically or religiously labeling myself, I think there is much to admire in Rand's work. A remarkable intellect indeed – one very much underrated in her own time, and still underappreciated to a large extent even today, though her work is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged as time goes by.

This may sound strange too, but probably two of the most powerfully influential people in my life (besides my parents) were Herbert Armstrong (for obvious reasons) and Ayn Rand. Now there's a seeming contradiction, huh?

(Once I approached Dr. Stav about doing a graduate-thesis kind of project comparing the ethics of Objectivism with those of the WCG – but he kindly rejected being my sponsor because he felt I had not done enough of the requisite academic class work in philosophy, etc. Too bad, because I think it would have been a fruitful endeavor for both of us had we proceeded with my proposal. Who knows where it could have lead?)

Actually, I see many parallels between HWA and Rand - though they were light-years apart in their epistemology and metaphysics. They both, in their own unique ways, had some very insightful observations about the human condition, although near the end of their lives it appears both of them lost touch, in certain respects, with objective reality, perhaps even seeing themselves as somehow above reality.

But I guess that’s a discussion for another blog comment!

Byker Bob said...

My problem with ACOG atheists and agnostics (quite a different breed from mainstream atheists and agnostics), is that often they view all theists in terms of lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, this means worst exaggeration of a "dumb sheep" WCG member, even though the theist may have nothing in common with either old or new WCG.

Such an atheist has simply outgrown one method of black and white stereotyping, and transitioned to another, without realizing it.

When I read a book, whether it is biblically orientated or secular, I never see it as the whole package, or total solution to the human condition. I did read some things which Ayn Rand had written, and was able to borrow them, and use them in a meaningful way in my life. I have also read L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics", and was able to borrow some nuggets there. But, I'm not prepared to accept either author's basic blueprint for life as the total package.

Sorry, no more gurus. Not Rush, not Barack, not Ayn, or for that matter anybody else. My profound desire is to be led independently by the Holy Spirit, and for my nature to be transformed into Godly nature, love, and character. That is something you simply can't get from another human being, no matter how intelligent they happen to be.


Jethro said...

The mode of inquiry we call science can take one only so far. It has its limits. It is responsible for many wonderful things (and some not so wonderful), including the medium by which we conduct these conversations. But science doesn't say anything ultimately meaningful about the existence of God. All scientific "proof" of God's existence is circumstantial and subject to quick rebuttal by a skeptic. The believer may say that the very existence of the universe demands a creator. The skeptic will say not necessarily, we just don't know yet what happened before the Big Bang --- in time science will figure it out and make God unnecessary for creation. The believer may say that the universe is finely tuned in a way that permits life to exist, and if just a few variables were a little different we would not exist at all; therefore, God must exist. The skeptic says not necessarily: this may be just one of billions of possible universes. The same principle applies to Earth itself: it seems to be perfectly designed to support myriad forms of life, including us, while the other planets and moons in our solar system are wastelands which at best might support microbes; therefore, the very existence of Earth as it is demands a creator. The skeptic will say no, we are products of this environment and therefore biased towards it and we just don't know enough about all those extrasolar planets which are just now being discovered. Perhaps there are other Earths, or planets where intelligent beings live in conditions that would be fatal to human beings. The believer says life is incredibly complex, so God must have made it. The skeptic says not necessarily: evolution has had billions of years to work its magic. In each case both the believer and the skeptic are right. Yes, the universe IS finely tuned to exist as it does, and Earth IS beautifully designed to support life, and life IS incredibly complex, and all of this points to a creator, but at best it is only circumstantial evidence, and the skeptic can always say that given enough time science will tear away the curtain and dispose of the need for God's hand in any of these things. That is why the debate about God's existence never ends. No one can come to a knowledge of God purely by studying or even appreciating the creation. If that were so then Carl Sagan would not have been an agnostic. Real belief in God is based on a relationship with God and trust in Him and the knowledge of what He has done in one's life. In the final analysis it is a matter of faith.

Corky said...

Hah! Christianity is just God's way of telling you he doesn't exist.

Agent Double O Soul said...


Science is either flawed or as yet a not fully developed discipline, in that it is currently unable to detect God. String Theory does demonstrate potential in that direction, but perhaps faith will still be required for the durations of our lives.


Ex-android said...

Jethro said:

"In the final analysis it is a matter of faith."

Gee. You could have saved time with that long paragraph by simply parroting that one sentence up front.

Faith: "The alleged short-cut to knowledge is only a short-circuit destroying the mind."

-John Galt

Corky said...

Science is either flawed or as yet a not fully developed discipline, in that it is currently unable to detect God.

There is, of course, another possible reason science is unable to detect God - or souls, or demons or fairies.

It just might be because they don't exist.

Leonardo said...

Camfinch, I wholeheartedly agree with your extremely well-articulated comparison between HWA and Ayn Rand. I’ve had similar thoughts for years now, and yet couldn’t verbally express it as well as you did in your thoughtful comments above.

Your observation that “Rand was in some ways an atheistic version of HWA: a compelling and dynamic personal presence, with a convincing and authoritative way of speaking and writing, and an insistence that others look to her as the arbiter of their own lives” is so true and insightful.

But not only can we observe parallels between HWA and Rand on the level of personal temperament and personality, we can also note definite similarities (and subsequent trajectories) in the respective movements they started as well. Anyone familiar with the Objectivist movement, as well as “the Work” of the old WCG, cannot help but noticing the obvious similarities. I sometimes wonder how many others have given much reflection to this?

Both began very small, with a relatively tiny handful of ardent adherents, that then became the nucleus around which the scope and influence of the organization gradually expanded over time, literally influencing and providing a much-needed sense of hope and purpose to people from around the world from many different cultures and backgrounds.

The leaders of the movements became virtual idols of worship in terms of the unquestioned influence they wielded in many different facets of the lives of their followers – both ideologies literally becoming exhaustive, systematic “ways of life” that excluded virtually nothing, being initially inspiring yet ultimately stifling, and occasionally even destructive, to the human spirit.

In time, both movements ultimately lead to various splinter groups claiming to have a more correct understanding and practical application of the original ideas.

And another very clear parallel they both demonstrated time and again: the shallow, volatile and often explosive nature of the human relationships shared between adherents within each group. Any ex-member of the WCG has had to have noticed how suddenly and quickly intimate friendships of long duration, perhaps even decades, could suddenly explode apart upon “doctrinal disagreements” or perceived disloyalty toward the supreme unquestioned leader – in one group Armstrong, in the other, Rand.

Followers of the various splinter groups in general look down upon those in groups not their own, and often refuse to have anything to do with them for fear of having their mind contaminated by those who are seen as having veered from the “faith once delivered,” if I can use that expression loosely for Objectivism.

But I must say that I have learned many useful, insightful and illuminating perspectives from BOTH movements – and have had to learn how to separate “the wheat from the chaff” since both original movements (as well as their subsequent spin-off groups) have gone off into quite unreasonable directions in certain ways.

One difference among many between them, of course, is the fact that Rand felt her philosophical influence would probably not be significant until long after she was dead, whereas HWA saw his work ultimately leading into the “very near” return of Christ to usher in the World Tomorrow.

The actual results are now beyond argument: here we are in the early part of the 21st century, we observe the force of Rand’s influence gradually spreading in literary, political, philosophical and even academic worlds, whereas HWA’s (and all such spin-off groups claiming to be the “true” successors to the classic WCG) are quickly fading away in reach, scope, influence, and even memory - probably destined to be little more than footnotes in future histories of short-lived and obscure fundamentalist movements of the 20th century, if that.

I find all this quite interesting – this being the very first time I’ve articulated these thoughts by writing some of them out, although they've been in my mind now for decades, since the late ‘70’s when I first became familiar with the work of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism as an AC student.

I would very much like to hear other comments of those familiar with, and who have been influenced by, BOTH the WCG and Objectivism – assuming there are others here on this blogsite beside Ex-android, Camfinch and Biker Bob, who are knowledgeable of both.

SmilinJackSprat said...

Concerning the knowledge or possible knowledge of God's existence, both Moses and Jeremiah required the heart factor.

Everyone, including scientists and theologians, is promised access to God through seeking Him with a whole heart. Does it work? I believe so, but I can only speak for myself. Moses and Jeremiah have long since spoken for themselves. It's an intimately personal quest that no one can complete for another.

Deut. 4:29, Jer. 29:13.

Leonardo said...

Biker Bob, I can appreciate your view that both ardent believers and militant atheists tend to stereotype "the other" – and that certain of them (especially ex-WCGer’s who’ve now gone to the other extreme) have done little more than exchange one set of philosophical chains for another. I know of a fellow who attended AC at the same time I did, eventually becoming a pastor for many years, yet now who has come to see the tragic shortcomings of WCG-type religious ideology. He is presently just as passionate, and in my view, sometimes just as unbalanced, in evangelizing his secular perspectives now as he was when we both were extremely pro-HWA students together back in the late ‘70’s at AC.

May I be so bold as to put you in the same category I presently consider myself to be in: that of being a philosophical pluralist, which is someone who understands that no one single "blueprint for life" ideology, be it religious or secular, has all the absolute answers, or can adequately explain all the phenomenon that we can presently detect in objective reality? The ancient Indian Jain religion certainly had this world view, which they termed non-absolutism, and it requires a vast amount of intellectual honesty and humility.

I agree that we ought not to look to gurus (or any one single source exclusively) of any flavor for all the answers, as many people do (especially the more religiously inclined folks), and like you and I once did in times past within the stifling confines of the WCG. But we came to that understanding over a period of time, after having made many philosophical mistakes in our journey toward factual realities rather than subjective fantasies - hopefully a journey we can humbly continue on for the rest of our physical lives here on earth.

Also, I very much like your eclectic approach – which is one I most certainly share with you – that truth-finding is more analogous to walking along the seashore picking up valuable yet tiny gemstones one by one, a little at a time, throughout the whole of our lives, rather than unquestioningly accepting, once and for all time, a heavy boxful of sand and seaweeds from a guru who vigorously proclaims that what is within that box is everything we will ever need to know.

I really don't think it unfair to characterize HWA and the WCG (and subsequent spin-offs) as very much like the latter analogy - a sort of one-size-fits-all conglomeration of God-inspired “truth formulas” guaranteed to solve any and all problems you may ever confront.

Too bad the human life experience just isn't that simple.

Ex-android said...

This has been quite a discussion gathered around one fellow who applied scholarly research to find the Bible quite uninspired. He wasn't afraid of the truth although it pretty much ran counter to everything he formally believed and taught. Bart Ehrman is a study in courage.

Then we moved to one of the great thinkers of the 20th century who developed an objective view of the human condition. Ayn Rand was suspicious of anything smelling of subjective, mystical thought, the likes of which we see displayed on blogs of this sort dealing with life after the WCG.

Then after years of searching I found on this site two fellows, Leonardo and camfinch, who actually have studied Objectivism a bit and could speak of it intelligently. Amazing good fortune for me! I don't feel quite so alone now.

The two books written by Nathaniel Branden are "Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand"(1989) and "My Years with Ayn Rand" (1999). The life of this fellow alone is worthy of study. He has an interesting website.

Leo, I was amazed to read of your time with the taped lectures of Barbara Branden's "Principles of Efficient Thinking." I acquired these in the format of LPs in a flea market one time when I was just learning of the Objectivist history. I also obtained the LPs of Nathaniel's lectures on Objectivism. Wonderful stuff! I had found something understandable and practical that didn't require me to live in the land of make believe where I had been for 25 years in Armstrongism.

I enjoyed the discussion of the human conditions of HWA and Ayn Rand. They were light years apart in philosophy.

The Objectivist philosphy was encapsulated by Nathaniel Branden in his "Judgment Day" on page 235.

1. Reality is what it is, that things are what they are, independent of anyone's beliefs, feelings, wishes, judgments or opinions--A is A.

2. Reason, the rules of logic applied to the evidence of the senses, is fully competent, in priniciple, to understand the facts of reality and to assess all claims to truth.

3. Any form of irrationalism, supernaturalism, revelation or mysticism, any claim to a nonsensory, nonrational form of knowledge, is to be rejected.

4. A rational code of ethics is possible and is derivable from an appropriate identification of the nature of human beings as well as the nature of reality.

5. The standard of good is not God or the alleged needs of society but rather "Man's Life," that which is objectively required for man's/woman's life, survival and well-being.

6. A human being is an end in him or herself, not a mean to the ends of others--that each one of us has the right to exist for our own sake, neither sacrificing others to self nor self to others.

7. The priniciples of justice and respect for individuality, autonomy, and personal rights must replace the principle of sacrifice in human relationships.

8. Productive achievement is our noblest activity, and happiness our highest purpose.

9. No individual--and no group--has the moral right to initiate the use of force against others.

10. Force is permissable only in retaliation, and only against those who have initiated its use.

11. The organizing principle of a moral society is respect for individual rights, and that, the sole appropriate function of government is to act as guardian and protector of individual rights.

Obviously, there is much to study here and it is being studied as we speak.

I found that one of the most interesting papers Rand wrote--she wrote many--was her "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" written in 1960. This study has to do with the impact of mysticism/faith on our Western culture.

I look forward to further comments and enlightenment.

Byker Bob said...

Basically, Leonardo, what I am "into" today is having an honest and genuine relationship with God. And, yes, that is often eclectic.

There is a lot of weirdness, Phariseeism, and mumbo jumbo about religion. People often assume certain "fundamentals" and teach them as absolute law, but I believe that there is a lot of freedom in Christianity, and the fruit in our lives is grown not so much by our own willpower, rituals, and determination, but by the power of God working in our lives. The glory all goes to Him.

We have our debates and arguments on our blogs and forums amongst ourselves, but frankly many of our questions are not going to be able to be definitively resolved until the kingdom. I recently spent hours pouring over a series of debates over observance of the seventh day sabbath. Both sides of the argument were strong and made complete sense, neither side being able to totally rise above the other. You might as well flip a coin and pick one.

Did you ever see the movie "Joshua"? It presented a rather remarkable scenario involving Jesus walking amongst us in our own modern times. Joshua interacted with a number of different groups and individual Christians, all of whom were pursuing their relationships with God in their own tailored ways. He looked more to these people's basic sincerity than Phariseeism. I believe that portrayal was probably pretty accurate, considering the ways in which the scriptural Jesus interacted with people during His human life.

Religion kind of sucks. But, a relationship with God can be very real, very rewarding, and 100% sincere. And, you can get nourishment from a variety of different sources. There are more and better resources available to the Christian today than there have been throughout most history. That is much superior to single sourcing from one allegedly "true" church, because the sheer variety elliminates the possibility of some man or organization placing themselves in between us and our Creator. It opens up the possibility of God speaking to us and providing what each of us specifically needs, yet He's not limited to one mouthpiece. You can have a direct connection, as was true amongst the early primitive Christians. All it takes is a little faith.


Leonardo said...

Ex-android, have you ever heard Nathaniel Branden's lecture he gave in 1982 (the year Ayn Rand died) entitled "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand"? - it is outstanding. I must have listening to that audio cassette at least a dozen times since I bought it back in the early '90's, and profit from it with every single hearing.

You know, believe it or not, once I had a discussion with Joe Tkach Jr. after he gave a sermon once in Pasadena, and he seemed remarkably articulate with regard to Rand's philosophy when I mentioned her views with respect to ethics, somehow tying it in with a point he had made in the sermon. Certainly more than any other minister I've ever known. I'm not necessarily a fan of Joe Jr., but I have to give credit where credit is due.

With respect to Branden's two book titles directly about his years with Ayn Rand, aren't they basically the same book, perhaps with a few editorial changes (being published about a decade apart from each other), but essentially the same work? This is my understanding anyway.

I spent $80 (USD) buying the CD version of Barbara's course on efficient thinking via Amazon just a few months ago, and you found it at a flea market?! - and probably for pennies on the dollar, huh? Amazing. Another one of those injustices of life our parent used to warn us about!

Through the years I’ve heard several of Nathaniel's original lectures on Objectivism made in the early ‘60’s, but never the entire series. In 1978 I remember buying an audio tape version of his lecture "The Concept of God" when I was at AC - and obviously didn't share it with any of my fellow students! I still have that tape, although it runs a bit slow through the cassette player these days - over three decades later!

I recently cited Rand's article "Faith and Force" just a few months ago in a comment I made here on this blogsite regarding some topic or another. Her article is indeed insightful.

But I must say, in all honesty, Rand's view of faith is a rather overly-simplistic one – much like fundamentalist creationism’s caricature of biological evolution, somewhat of an easily knocked down strawman. As Branden has mentioned numerous times, Rand really didn't study that much about what she termed “mysticism” - a topic she vigorously denounced, yet apparently knew very little about.

In Branden's 1997 book "The Art of Consciousness" the entire final chapter is devoted to the subject. I heard him mention once that life experience had taught him, since his time with Ayn Rand, to definitely NOT consider everyone who subscribes to certain elements of what Rand would derisively call “mysticism” to be a total crackpot. Rand had a habit of quickly dismissing anyone she considered a mystic, and I think she often did this a bit prematurely.

How would you have liked to have been part of “the collective” – that early group of initial followers that gathered around her in New York in the ‘50’s when she was writing Atlas Shrugged - having the chance to have discussed various philosophical points with her into the wee hours of the morning? I know I would have, although I probably would have eventually been “excommunicated” somewhere along the line because I can’t agree with all of Rand’s views, seeing certain of them to have been completely irrational.

To cite but one simple, obvious and blatant example – at least from the perspective of 2009: here was someone who brilliantly championed the rational facing of the objective facts of reality, and adjusting one’s life and decisions accordingly, not “whim-worshipping” by following one’s subjective fantasies, etc. – and yet who smoked at least two packs of Tareyton cigarettes per day like a chimney for decades, ultimately dying of lung cancer. Was this a rational habit to acquire? She actually defended the smoking of cigarettes!

I know smoking was considerably more widespread and sociably acceptable back in those days, but still, it would seem to me that any mind that could remotely claim to be a rational one would immediately recognize the complete irrationality of repeatedly sucking addictive, poisonous smoke into one’s lungs, which are the only organs the human organism has for drawing and processing the vital element of oxygen into our bodies, and a process upon which all our biological functions are completely dependent upon.

Remember, man’s LIFE and it’s requirements, in Objectivism, is the sole criteria for judging whether something is ultimately good or bad, life-promoting or life-destroying, rational or irrational.

This is just one example. There are many others I could cite from Rand’s life. This is similar to the dogmatic claim that male masturbation is a terrible evil coming from someone who had sex with his own teenage daughter for over a decade, all the while claiming to represent God. Sound familiar?

But none of us are perfectly rational, that’s for sure!

Anonymous said...

Ex Android, you opened your comment with, "This has been quite a discussion gathered around one fellow who applied scholarly research to find the Bible quite uninspired. He wasn't afraid of the truth although it pretty much ran counter to everything he formally believed and taught. Bart Ehrman is a study in courage."

I must agree that Bart Ehrman's present agnosticism is an example of scholarly courage, but it cannot be accurate to extrapolate from that that the Bible is "quite uninspired." Respectfully, one does not logically follow the other.

First off, there are several differing collections, each of which is referred to, by its constituency, as "the Bible." Most notable among these groups are Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Each has its own Bible, and each collection is significantly different from the others. Bart Ehrman came into this discussion around the publication of his new book, "Jesus, Interrupted." It would not be logical to dismiss the entire collection upon discovery that the Greek scriptures are inconsistent with the Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures.

The Prophets and Writings of the Hebrew
Scriptures are included because of their continuity with the Torah of Moses. This is the benchmark of the Hebrew scriptures that fails to comport with our Greek gospels and epistles -- not that our gospels fairly represent the originals.

The Jewish Bible excludes the Jewish books we call the Apocrypha, but the Catholic Bible includes them, perhaps in a lesser role, but they are included nonetheless. The Protestant Bible excludes the Apocrypha but includes the Greek New Testament. All three include the Hebrew-Aramaic scriptures in translation.

In the Hebrew Torah there is virtually no disagreement between modern Science and the Genesis creation account, but that cannot be gleaned from any of the standard Bible translations, including Jewish translations. The Hebrew Torah is written in a brilliantly inspired shorthand that is virtually inaccessible in translation. The commentary of RAMBAN (Nachmanides) uncovers some of these gems.

I mention these things respectfully, to try to ward off concluding that Bart Ehrman's relentlessly honest studies of the Jesus phenomenon have proved that "the Bible" is uninspired. I would counter that there is significant truth buried in the NT writings, but it has suffered such serious damage at the hands of scribes with an agenda that its truth has been horribly obscured. It never was inspired in the sense that the Hebrew Torah of Moses was, but at one point in ancient time, something happened around the man, or possibly even men, to whom we now refer as Jesus of Nazareth.

For a dazzlingly brilliant counter-opinion I would recommend Genesis, perhaps from Aryeh Kaplan's Chumash, with RAMBAN's (Nachmanides') commentary written long before modern scientific discovery. RAMBAN is not RAMBAM (Maimonides). The early provenance of RAMBAN's views is important for learning what the Hebrew Torah contains per se, without influence from modern scientific discovery.

Honest people feel forced to dismiss "the Bible" because even the best of popular translations cannot convey the scientific genius hidden within the inspired shorthand of the Hebrew Torah. For those who sincerely want a viable pathway to the Creator, it exists in the original Hebrew Torah where one may dig, as for gold and fine gems, and find welcome entre into the glorious realms of G-d, our Father and King.

Anonymous said...

With reference to the RAMBAN commentary, there are 2 I know of in English: Shilo and ArtScroll. ArtScroll is beautifully bound, but fails to include significant tests in English. One has access to the complete ArtScroll commentary only in Hebrew. For this reason I would recommend the Shilo publication, unless one has fluent access to early Hebrew, centuries earlier than modern Israel. The Aryeh Kaplan English translation of the Pentateuch (Chumash) includes the Hebrew text and hundreds of important footnotes.

Ex-android said...


That paper of 1982 By Branden is posted on his website. I remember how much I enjoyed marking it up for further study. I've got to dig that out again and see if I have intellectually gained anything since.

I do recall a sense of having matured a bit from my childish Armstrongist phase of life. I happily agreed with some of Natahiel's observations against several of Rand's views. I was no longer a one-person lapdog.

My comment about Tkach Jr is that he's a good businessman applying the principles of rapacious Capitalism in religion. No doubt he is familiar with Rand's thoughts on the matter of capitalism.

As to Branden's two books: The second one of 1999 carries the statement that the latter version
"represents a newly edited and significantly revised edition."

The first one of '89 was a must read following as it did on the heels of Barbara's memoir of Rand.
The '99 book by Nathaniel was absolutely stunning in revelations concerning his history of the Objectivist movement. (I was always a little miffed that Nathaniel wasn't able to continue the work of shaping and bettering the whole Objectivist cause.)

Yes, the "Principles" were quite a find--twenty LPs. It appeared to be part of a self-study program the Objectivists were distributing.
I remember that the period was the time I was getting ready to commit intellectual suicide by entering the Armstrong cult. Talk about taking a wrong turn!

I also transferred some of Nathaniel's lectures to cassette. I could make a CD now for you of "The Concept of God" if you could somehow make contact with me.

As to mysticism, I guess we would have to admit it isn't a subject discussed in these exWCG blogs--even among the mystics. :)

Rand defined it in her "Faith And Force":

"...the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses or one's reason. Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation," or any form of "just knowing."

Of course, this is expanded in her brilliant paper as well in her "For The New Intellectual."

It's my opinion only but I think she well understood what we would more likely call "faith" today. The people I've met who live by their "faith" often express themselves as the mystics Rand identified. Hell, I was a mystic!

BTW-Have you a copy of "The Ayn Rand Lexicon"? It is just the handiest thing to have when discussing facets of Objectivism.

My one observation in considering Rand was that she didn't seems to want to deal with the problem of human nature. Had you noticed that in your readings?

Thanks for the lead to Branden's book "The Art of Consciousness." I'll look that up.

Ah, "the collective." Yes, it must have been an amazing experience for the participants at that time considering their host and her project. I understand "Atlas" has been in print since it's release.

I don't think I would have done very well in her circle. I was into science fiction at the time. I could barely spell philosophy much less know anything about it.

Smoking: Yeah, a dumb pursuit, no doubt. But I prefer to look at it as exercising the freedom one has.
Hell, I'm not an inhaler but I enjoy a couple of cigars a day. Remember, Herb taught that smoking was a sin. What a fantastic church we would have had if that was all we did! If it was ALL HE did!

I just remembered--wasn't the smoking ban considered majoring in the minors? Boy, we were masters at that foolishness! Makeup! Dress lengths! Facial hair! Pig fat!

Byker Bob said...

To the anonymous poster who brings to our attention the knowledge of the ancient Hebrew Torah:

While what you say is consistent with my own understanding of the creation and science issue, there would seem to be accessability issues. Here, once again, we have
"secret" or unknowable information. You say yourself that unless we can understand ancient Hebrew, we cannot comprehend the primary source of the creation narrative. This is, of course, where faith comes in for myself and probably many other believers, but I can just hear the questions being conjured up in the minds of skeptics and atheists. Not that it's our job to convince them, but I'm afraid we will find that your contentions are very easily dismissed by them.

Do you have any way of strengthening these materials? As a Christian, and with the teachings of Jesus being very accessable, I have to wonder where your contentions might take us in that regard, as well. As compared with mainstream Christianity, Armstrongism generally diminished the role and meaning of Jesus Christ in all of our lives. I notice that at least one scholar influenced by the Armstrong movement, Dr. James Tabor, also does this. In fact, there is actually a growing movement of people who have reached the same conclusions, and even take that line of thinking further. In so doing, they lose their Messiah and savior.


Leonardo said...

Anonymous 12:07 wrote:
"I mention these things respectfully, to try to ward off concluding that Bart Ehrman's relentlessly honest studies of the Jesus phenomenon have proved that "the Bible" is uninspired. I would counter that there is significant truth buried in the NT writings..."

Well, Anonymous 12:07, I think you would agree that within the works of Shakespeare (or many other great writings of classic literature) lie many “significant truths” that we could wholeheartedly agree with, and would be wise to live our lives by - though we wouldn’t necessarily claim therefore that such works thus comprise the “infallible word of God” would we?

Many eastern religious texts such as Buddhism’s Dhammapada, or various scriptures of Hinduism, or even Islam’s Quran contain such insights, as do the works of Charles Dickens, for instance, but Jews or Christians would not consider these facts evidence of the “inspiration” of such writings.

Part of the problem here, as you pointed out earlier in your posted comment, is what exactly do people MEAN when they make the claim "The Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God." For this assertion to be intelligible, we have to agree on clear definitions, such as what is "The Bible," and what specifically do we mean when we assert that it is "inerrant and inspired."

The crucial topic of biblical inspiration and the history of it’s canonization is virtually unknown to fundamentalist Christianity. I know it was quickly glossed over in the WCG, and also at AC, at least when I attended. HWA’s embarrassing booklet “Proof of the Bible” was pulled several years after it was published as a result of all the incredibly ignorant historical claims and statements made in it, which Armstrong essentially plagiarized without question from previous Seventh Day Adventist literature.

To me this seems a very important and foundational issue in order to proceed with any reasonably and meaningful analysis of whether we can conclude one way or the other if the Bible is the truly inspired word of God on one hand, or on the other, a remarkable collection of ancient writings that no doubt contain accurate insights about life and the human condition, though not necessarily inerrant in everything it makes claim to.

Yesterday I finished reading John Morgan’s book “Flying Free” (mentioned on this blogsite) – a memoir of his experiences being raised in the WCG, holding it’s worldview well into his adult life, and his eventual abandonment of it, along with the current views he now holds with respect to the Bible – and though he presently claims to have a relationship with Jesus, he does not hold to the view that all sections of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant and without significant errors.

Please believe me when I say that I have been, and currently still am, extremely open-minded to various proposed arguments made in favor of the inspiration of the Bible, and am familiar with many of them. But thus far the FACTS have always been that ultimately they simply cannot stand up to the rigorous scrutiny of even the most rudimentary of rational analysis.

For centuries now Bible-believers have made many attempts to “prove” the Bible’s inspiration, but ultimately they have ALWAYS – if we are bone HONEST with the historical record - been forced to fall back on wholly subjective statements, such as the “Well, you’ve just got to have faith” rationale, or “I know the Bible is inspired because God has worked in my life and through experience has shown me it’s truth,” or even your “even the best of popular translations cannot convey the scientific genius hidden within the inspired shorthand of the Hebrew Torah” - which to me are no arguments whatsoever, but rather a blatant confession that the Bible’s inspiration cannot be plainly demonstrated.

I say this because, after wholeheartedly devoting over 30 years of my adult life to living by the teachings of the WCG, after having gone through 4 years of AC, after having worked out at Pasadena Headquarters for almost 13 years, I desperately WANTED the Bible to be proven as God’s inerrant book, I DESIRED that the WCG’s view of reality be true and absolute.

Reinforcing (rather than contradicting) these comforting conclusions would have been so much easier for me, I assure you.

But I would have had to delude myself, and I simply wasn’t willing to do that anymore, and decided to go with the demonstrable FACTS that can be clearly known and grasped in combination with intellectual HONESTY instead.

As a veteran of many Spokesman Clubs, this is my "heart-to-heart" speech to you, and to all reading these words.

I do have one question of you, Anonymous 12:07: can you give me (and the rest of us following this particular blog) a specific and intelligible example of “the scientific genius hidden within the inspired shorthand of the Hebrew Torah.” I ask sincerely, and am open to considering what you would have to say.

Leonardo said...

Ex-Android, you might find this Ayn Rand link of interest:

Ex-android said...

As an atheist, that is one who does not believe in any of the gods, the whole subject of "inspired" scripture is a waste of time. It is only of a secondary importance.

Primarily, the ones making such a claim have to prove there is one or more of the gods who does, indeed, do the inspiring. The Judeo-Christian Bible fails miserably on this point which brings us back to heroic Bart Ehrman, the original subject of this very interesting thread.

The Christian jury is still out on this troublesome matter of proof.

Yeah, I know, ya gotta have faith.

Leonardo said...

Ex-android, I just read your 4:27 comment, in which you referred to your “childish Armstrongist phase of life.”

You know, I can’t speak for anyone but myself here – but my intense involvement with HWA and the WCG can be directly traced to the general ignorance and naïveté of my teen years – which, though I would have never acknowledged it at the time, was indeed a childish phase of my life, especially when it came to ultimate philosophical issues such as metaphysics and epistemology (I first came in contact with the WCG when I was 18 years old back in 1974).

I agree with your observation that Tkach Jr. is an effective business man, though I’m not sure I would use the word “good” – as in my view he "earns" a very lucrative living milking a lot of genuine though very gullible folks who still are connected up with the new WCG. Just my opinion.

Back in 1992 I recall reading “Judgment Day” a little at a time as I was working on the stage-lighting crew (part-time at nights) for performances at the Auditorium. I very much enjoyed reading it, though I never did read the subsequently revised version of it that was published about a decade later. I understand the second one is a toned-down version of the initial publication.

Thank you for your kind offer to make a CD of Branden’s “The Concept of God” lecture for me, but the old cassette version I have still suffices. I just heard it again about a year ago. It is good, though I would love to ask him certain questions about it, now that both he and I hopefully are more mature now than when he first recorded the lecture almost 50 years ago, and I first heard it about 30 years ago.

Rand’s definition of mysticism that you provided, at least to me, strikes at the very core of all things: epistemology, the nature of knowledge, most simply expressed as “How do you KNOW your assertion is true?” This is the most foundational facet of reality in my view, because HOW, the methods by which, we claim to actually KNOW something is where it all begins. And yet how many people ever even remotely consider this bedrock issue?

Yes, I agree with you that “The Ayn Rand Lexicon” is a wonderful resource, and it’s on-line at

Being a self-confessed “hero worshipper” Rand would tend to shy away from issues of human nature. But as Branden pointed out in his lecture on “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand” what is considered “the rational” often changes from one historical era to another, or from one culture to another within the same general era. As a simple example from an earlier comment I made, Rand considered smoking rational, I would not – and we were immersed in essentially the same general culture and era of time, although she was about 50 years older than me.

I must correct myself in citing Branden’s book: it was published in 1999, and the actual title is “The Art of Living Consciously: The Power of Awareness to Transform Everyday Life.” It is quite good.

The mention of your cigar-smoking reminded me of a time back in 1979 when me and another fellow AC student were driving to the Feast from Pasadena to Tucson in a beat-up old Volkswagen beetle, and I picked up a cigar at a restaurant. The guy and I passed the cigar back and forth, enjoying it immensely, but I’m afraid we shocked the sweet young AC coeds we were traveling with at the time, and I later apologized profusely for succumbing to my craving for a cigar after the good meal we all had enjoyed. That was the last time I ever indulged, but I'm afraid those AC coeds never quite saw me in the same positive light I had previously enjoyed with them!

Anonymous said...

Byker Bob & Leonardo, I'll do my best to get back to you Sunday. I'll give you my best insights, which obviously will not include anything even remotely approaching dogma.

For the record, I'm certain that the inerrancy of the Bible cannot be proved; it's not inerrant. The Mosaic books achieve that level of perfection, but proving that can absorb a lifetime. The rest of the Hebrew canon supports Moses, with problems, and the Greek writings are dangerously flawed -- or so it appears to me, and I would presume Bart Ehrman.

Isaiah 8:20, at least in the KJV and its derivatives, quotes God saying that anything contrary to Torah and "the testimony," whatever that is, is darkness. Deuteronomy 13 corroborates.

Did AC ever offer in depth courses in Torah to give its students a foundation for judging the rest of "the Bible"?

During Jesus' lifetime, all observant Jews went through the entire written Torah every three years, with fearless discussions of the texts every week of their lives. We look into some of those heated arguments in the gospels, mainly on application of oral law, and they still rage in Orthodox synagogues. It's normal. Any Jew who saw in Jesus the messiah of that generation would have reached that conclusion by means of Torah benchmarks and others established later through David and Solomon.

Did AC's Theology classes give you anything approaching even the layman's background of Jesus' generation? Mind you, the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin were men of great intellect. They often knew the Torah of Moses by heart long before the accountable age of 13, and the oral law, also by heart, by their mid teens -- all in Hebrew and Aramaic, no slanted translations, several layers removed from their pristine sources.

At any rate, I'll get back to you Sunday, God willing. Thanks for caring, and for having the guts to think.

Anon. 12:07

Byker Bob said...

Anon 12:07,

I'm looking forward to Sunday!

As for AC theology courses, I only completed first, second, and third year Bible. Obviously, there was quite a bit of denominational bias. However, at the time, to a young person who had grown up in WCG, they certainly seemed to expand upon what we learned as church members from weekly sabbath services. But, in retrospect, at that young age, I really had no idea what true scholarship even was.

I attended high school in a predominantly Jewish area. It was awesome, because as a young WCG boy, this meant that I was no longer a pariah. It was from one of my Jewish buddies that I even learned the word "Torah". Jews are just so cool! I guess I became a Judeophile my last two years in high school. My friends thought I was "Orthodox", which was very peculiar. I mean, a blue eyed Anglo-Saxon gentile white boy being mistaken for an Orthodox Jew!

Anyhoo, since you obviously keep the sabbath, make it a good one!
See ya Sunday!


Leonardo said...

Anonymous 12:07, you asked "Did AC ever offer in depth courses in Torah to give its students a foundation for judging the rest of "the Bible"?...and also "Did AC's Theology classes give you anything approaching even the layman's background of Jesus' generation?

I can only answer from the time frame I was a student out there in Pasadena from 1976-80...NO, certainly nothing exhaustive by any means, just extremely general overviews.

The aspects you mention - an in-depth study of the Torah, and thorough study of the cultural/religious background to the upbringing and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth - was basically glossed over, and never in any kind of useful detail.

The classes I refer to were "Survey of the Old Testament" (a two semester overview course sweeping over the entire OT) and "Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ" (a one-semester course, followed by another one-semester course entitled "Early Christian History"), but all of them essentially glossed over such historical background materal very quickly, and the classes most definately had a WCG-bias.

Other higher-level classes did go into certain areas of both the OT and NT in greater detail, but as I mentioned above, never really covering a lot of the cultural background exhaustively: Minor Prophets, Epistles of Paul, General Epistles, etc.

I've never been an academician, but I would think such technical and highly-detailed material would probably be considered more appropriate for post-graduate studies. All I know is that we never even remotely got close to being taught the kind of material you refered to - although I personally think it would have been quite interesting, but probably not by most young adults in their late teens or early 20's.

Just another quick comment: often the very same classes would be very differently taught by differing teachers. For instance, Dr. George Geiss was an excellent instructor, his "General Epistles" class (a junior-year, 300 level course) probably being the most insightful and thought-provoking class I ever took at AC. I remember getting an "A" in that class, and boy did I have to earn it! Dr. Geiss really made you think, his exams were hard, but you finished the course feeling like you had really learned a LOT of deep, relevant and practical material. To this day, over 32 years later, I STILL am mining the things Dr. Geiss taught me in that outstanding class. He was truly a first-class educator. But obviously the same class would have had a very different slant had it been taught, for example, by Rod Meredith.

So the actual quality of the course content, the text books used, and how it was presented, had a great deal to do with WHO specifically taught a given course. I suppose the same thing can be said about virtually any course taught in any college or university around the world.

Purple Hymnal said...

A brief note, for the "Read it in the original language!" anonymous evangelical (!!) Jewish believer (Smilin' Jack Sprat, is that you?) in our midst:

Funny, I was under the impression the Muslims say the same thing about the Koran.......Religious Gnostics say the same of the Coptic Bible.....

Are you sensing a pattern here anon?

Purple Hymnal said...

"Primarily, the ones making such a claim have to prove there is one or more of the gods who does, indeed, do the inspiring."

"Men create gods. That is the way it is in the world. Men create gods, and worship their creations. It would be better for the gods to worship men!" Gospel of Philip

Purple Hymnal said...

Pursuant to the "my bible is more inerrant than your bible n00bs" discussion that is ongoing, might I recommend the excellent (and recently-resurrected) websites Early Christian Writings and Early Jewish Writings.

Neither site is (by any definition of the word) exhaustive, but they both try and provide an unbiased overview of the debates surrounding the provenance, authorship, and contents, of the religious texts of the Jewish and Christian which have survived down to the present day.

Leonardo said...

Anon, I'm still waiting for you to fulfill your stated intention to the effect that "I'll give you my best insights, which obviously will not include anything even remotely approaching dogma."

And remember to include a specific and intelligible example of “the scientific genius hidden within the inspired shorthand of the Hebrew Torah” you claimed in one of your comments.

I always keep hearing these and similar assertions, but nothing specific or intelligible ever seems to be forthcoming. You're not going to dissappoint me with yet another version of that old standard "You've just got to have faith" argument, are you?

Ex-android said...


Thank you for the Rand website. I have to admit that I rarely seek out such things. I've read enough to satisfy myself as far as my recovery is concerned and I have no one with whom I may discuss my thoughts. So I have moved on to other things.

(Did you note that the website said that Rand died of a heart problem, not lung cancer?)

I particularly found interesting Rand's comments about our illegal drug culture. I have to acquire now a copy of "The New Left" in order to catch up on some understanding. I've often wondered about the madness of destroying one's life with drugs.

I've also wondered about our Christian culture. Gee, why do we in America have a high rate of believers along side such high murder rates? Could it be that Christianity isn't good for a society?

I've wondered about crime among our youth in America. Are children really helped by drumming into their helpless little minds all the claptrap about the gods? Then they grow up to learn that the world works as if there are no gods and parents are frequently liars.

BTW--Branden's latter book is quite good in the sense of "The Rest Of The Story," to borrow a phrase.

Leonardo said...


Yes, I did notice that Rand's official cause of death was actually congestive heart failure.

Nonetheless, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974, and stopped smoking at that time.

I have a number of video interviews she conducted (with Phil Donahue, Tom Snyder, Mike Wallace, and others) and if you notice she always seemed rather short of breath - so smoking did take a toll on her respiratory health, no doubt.

You wrote "I've also wondered about our Christian culture. Gee, why do we in America have a high rate of believers along side such high murder rates? Could it be that Christianity isn't good for a society?"

For a very insightful yet brief analysis of that general topic, read Sam Harris' wondeful little book "Letter to a Christian Nation." For example, it seems evangelical Christians, for all their talk of family values, actually have a HIGHER divorce rate than do atheists. Imagine that!

OK, you talked me into it - I'm going to have to buy a used copy on Amazon of Branden's "My Years with Ayn Rand"!

I still occasionally go through seasons of my life where I read or listen to the most recent Objectivist material because, in spite of some of its shortcomings, on the whole I find many of their views very illuminating.

Hey, what happened to Anonymous 12:07's promise to give us his "best insights" with respect to the "scientific genius" hidden within the original Hebrew scriptures? I sincerely would like to know what they are.

I sure hope he will fulfil his written intentions, and not be like the many others on this site who chest-puff a great deal, but when the time comes for them to actually give us their specific proofs, just seem to somehow vanish away into another blog topic.

SmilinJackSprat said...

Byker Bob, Leonardo,

CONCERNING "CODES" CONCEALED IN TORAH: No part of the following is so arcane that it can’t be found in libraries.

The Big Bang was known from the Torah alone centuries ago, shared with non-Jews, and generally treated as a Jewish curiosity until science found evidence that made it the central theory of cosmic origins. Only recently have we begun to realize that understanding Genesis requires Relativity. And where do you suppose Einstein got the concept of a unified field theory, if not from the Sh’ma that tells Israel that G-d – and all G-d has made – is or is aimed toward Unity? Mark says that Jesus considered the Sh’ma to be the ultimate core value. These are not just nice commandments, but core principles, the DNA and blueprints of Creation itself. G-d gave Moses a Torah whose Creation story was predicated upon Relativity almost 3,500 years before Einstein discovered it.

A Torah scroll (Sefer Torah) is written with biodegradable ink on high quality animal skin. Everything about it is meaningful. Therefore the loss of a letter, or even a crown on a letter, makes it unfit for synagogue use. Thousands of laws and the better part of a year are required for a scribe to make one kosher Torah scroll. The rules governing its production make errors virtually impossible, and the tropes (melodies) by which it is read (sung) in synagogues have indicated syntax and grammar for millennia. Words are occasionally spelled with extra or deleted letters. All these supports and details are “codes” for understanding Torah, including decorative marks on letters. Learning it all is more that most of us can accomplish in a lifetime – but all of it is open to Torah students. Like Math, Torah students begin with fundamentals and continue as far as time and intellect allow, always building on preceding levels, including practice in daily life. Popular translations skim awkwardly along the bottom level of literal meaning, so error is unavoidable. Torah is too rich and deep for literal translation. Nonsense like the “gap theory” can be crafted logically only by working from bad premises, the erroneous products of “literal” translation.

King James has, “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of G-d moved upon the face of the waters.” But G-d is a generic term, and each Hebrew term for G-d has its own emphasis.

A better translation, still not exhaustive, would say, “The beginning was created by the G-dly spirit of law and order; it was a fiery-liquid mass (gaseous vapor) to be formed into stellar bodies and an earth. And the part potentially to become the earth was primal matter, all earthly raw within it; the deep all around the mass was darkness, and a forceful wind fronting the volume of the liquid stuff on all its faces was carrying and revolving it very swiftly.”

With a minimum of Kabalistic interpretation, which is profound logic, not mysticism, one finds that B’reshit (In beginning) also means “with wisdom,” a reference to Torah, which is Israel’s wisdom – and it also indicates that G-d has given the universe a wisdom of its own, a capacity to function wisely. In a sense the universe lives; it responds to humanity. The earth is empowered to bring forth life. This can be found in commentaries dealing with deeper levels of Torah interpretation, including RAMBAN.

Genesis opens with "B’reshit bara Elohim et hashamayim v’et haaretz." Bara is used only of G-d and refers to creating from nothing, something only G-d can do. The fourth word, et, isn’t translated because it is a grammatical device to indicate that the next word, hashamayim, “the heavens,” is bara’s direct object. But Kabalistically it indicates that before the heavens, G-d created wisdom – Torah. It is spelled with the first and last letters of the Hebrew alefbet, which is the raw material of the Torah, and of Creation itself. This tells us that Torah/Wisdom was brought into existence before the heavens and the earth, and is corroborated, probably by interpreting this verse, in Proverbs 8. One might say, from all of this, that our mysterious universe is animated by, composed of and endowed with wisdom.

There is nothing to fear in kabbalistic writings per se. Kabala simply means “receiving.” The Friday night service is called Kabalat Shabbat, or Receiving Sabbath. But Kabala does not belong at the core of one’s studies. It should be studied as a Torah supplement. Otherwise it can be dangerous; it is not a spiritual plaything. People have become disoriented, some have gone mad and even died while attempting heavenly ascents apart from a perfected Torah lifestyle – which for non-Jews is based on the Rainbow covenant and Noahide laws, not the Sinai covenant.

Kabbalistic practice should be undertaken only with competent guidance from a well-balanced, observant Rabbinical authority on both Torah AND Kabala. Trendy “New Age” Kabala studies should be left to themselves. When a student is ready the teacher will appear.

Christians should know that Jesus was no stranger to Kabala. He talked in Kabalistic terms when he spoke of someone coming to a wedding feast without a wedding garment. This refers, if obliquely here, to attending weekly Sabbath meals, and all that they symbolize, with shoddy preparation. In Judaism each day is viewed as preparation for receiving the Sabbath as a bride. Each such feast is a wedding feast; each begins with consecration over wine and bread; the food is eaten with salt. The table is reminiscent of the altar in the Temple, and each Jew is one member of the Israelite Kingdom of Priests. Non-Jewish guests are more than welcome. But when a Jew ignores the first, second, third, etc. days of the Sabbath, known on Roman calendars as Sunday, Moonday, Tuesday, etc., by shirking Torah study, daily prayer, hard work and wholesome living, he or she is said to lack a wedding garment. One is ill prepared to receive the Sabbath bride, and does not experience the neshama sheni or second soul – the extra spiritual infusion or “wedding garment” that Sabbath keepers should enjoy every Sabbath day.

So there you have a miniscule introduction to some of the “codes” and devices available to Torah scholars, including the ancient language itself, its rich vocabulary and subtle spelling variations, the vowels and tropes, the genuine translations using the full potential of ancient Hebrew and Kabalistic insights, and brilliant commentary. Gematria is valid, but bypassed here. Main reference works here have included the “ArtScroll Siddur: Ashkenaz,” the RAMBAN by Shilo commentary on Genesis, a University of Judaism class in Mysticism taught by Rabbi Steve Robbins, conversations with the noted Israeli author and physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, and an amazing Torah primer called, “In the Beginning: The Bible, Unauthorized,” by H. Moose, available from

Purple Hymnal said...

"People have become disoriented, some have gone mad and even died while attempting heavenly ascents apart from a perfected Torah lifestyle...."

Pictures or it didn't happen.

"Christians should know that Jesus was no stranger to Kabala."

Yes, the Infancy gospel mentions how he one-ups the teacher he's sent to by telling the elder all about the aleph-beta.

"He talked in Kabalistic terms when he spoke of someone coming to a wedding feast without a wedding garment. This refers, if obliquely here, to attending weekly Sabbath meals, and all that they symbolize, with shoddy preparation."

Incorrect. This was a reference to the gnostic (Valentinian if I don't miss my guess) concept of the bridal chamber, wherein the syzygy of Wisdom (Sophia) and the Christos (christ-mind) join together. It is not a legalistically-binding requirement, nor does it have anything to do with the sunset-to-sunset worship of the Judaic religion.

The Kabbalah was much later than the Torah, anyway, and the Torah was only canonized around the same time as the loose canon for the Christian texts were coming together.

SmilinJackSprat said...

Byker Bob, Leonardo, I wrote as Anon 12:07 the other day. Just didn't take time to drag up the other handle. I hope the above material at least raises the possibility that Torah is a work of genius.

It is said that everyone has his or her portion in the Torah. Is the quest worth the time and effort? I wish you great success, whatever you choose to do, and loads of fun in the process.

Leonardo said...

SmilinJackSprat, thanks for your typical esoteric non-answer.

I really don't need to point out that the "introduction" you've provided HARDLY constitutes intelligible evidence or even BEGINS to make the case for your assertion that the Torah is a work of genius.

And, as is also typical, it requires a lifetime to fully understand the depths of this nonsense.

And then folks like you wonder why what you promote isn't taken seriously by the level-headed.

Many mythologies of cosmic origins from antiquity begin in much the same way the Genesis account does - with darkness and chaos. How come these - along with some extremely creative interpretations of the original languages they were written in - aren't considered by you to be early versions anticipating the more modern Big Bang cosmologies, and thus evidence that they too are inspired by a god?

Your SJSV (Smilin Jack Sprat Version) translation of Genesis 1:1 is, well, creative, I guess, to say the least, but I know of no serious Hebrew scholar who would translate the original words of Genesis 1 in that way. I think you’ll have to admit, it’s quite a linguistic stretch, don’t you think?

I suppose it comes down to that old saying "The Bible can be made to say ANYTHING people WANT it to say."

And I notice, just like in the days of the old WCG, the absolute requirement for a religious guru is still a must, as you wrote "Kabbalistic practice should be undertaken only with competent guidance from a well-balanced, observant Rabbinical authority on both Torah AND Kabala."

You also wrote "People have become disoriented, some have gone mad..." apparently while attempting to gain this kind of mystic understanding. Are you speaking from personal experience here? It seems to me you are.

Once again, like a broken record, I must repeat my observation that religion and mental illness appear to make wonderfully compatible dance partners.

SmilinJackSprat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smilinjacksprat said...

Leonardo, my personal introduction to Genesis 1 in terms of Big Bang theory, was given to me by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, a very bright MIT trained Israeli nuclear physicist and oceanographer. His Torah cosmogony is developed from Hebrew Genesis and writings of great Jewish Torah scholars who lived not later than the 13th century, to ensure that their understanding came from the Bible, long before modern scientific discovery might have colored interpretation. Schroeder’s chief sources are Maimonides, Nachmanides and the Talmud. Nachmanides' commentary corroborates, in meticulous detail, the Genesis translation I provided. I quoted it verbatim from "In the Beginning," by H. Moose. Nachmanides (Ramban) died in 1270.

As for ancient creation myths beginning in darkness and chaos, why wouldn’t they? People were closer to ancient knowledge when those myths were imbedded in human memory. We all come from a common source, and would logically retain stories of creation told by patriarchs and poets.

You commented on my assertion that Torah studies can easily occupy a lifetime: “And, as is also typical, it requires a lifetime to fully understand the depths of this nonsense. And then folks like you wonder why what you promote isn't taken seriously by the level-headed.” I can’t agree with you, Leonardo.

What respectable discipline doesn’t require a lifetime of study and application? History? Mathematics? Physics? Philosophy? Astronomy? Music? Architecture? Literature? Economics? Medicine? Political Science? War? I can’t think of any. Torah is at least as worthy as these. I would not seriously undertake any discipline that could not promise a lifetime of challenge.

My warnings about Kabala derive primarily from a famous experience of Rabbi Akiva, the celebrated 2nd century sage and Torah scholar, with three other Rabbis. Only Akiva returned from the experience unscathed. One died, one lost his mind, one became apostate. Paul mentions heavenly ascent – but this kind of knowledge is either lost or perhaps shared by invitation only. Serious problems can develop when people immerse themselves in mystical practices without adequate preparation and guidance. Like learning to fly, it’s good to have competent instruction; how else does one learn to manage safe ascent, descent and landings?

Concerning Torah study in general, I think, “Try it, you’ll like it,” may apply here.

Leonardo said...

OK, smilinjacksprat, fair is fair: since you've taken the time to respond in some degree of detail, I'll go out on the Internet and do some study into Gerald Schroeder's work.

I don't have a problem whatsoever with those attempting to integrate what you would call spirituality with science. Recently I've been following some of the writings of former Apollo astronaut and moonwalker Edgar Mitchel, who also has a doctorate from M.I.T. as well, and he is very much interested in integrating spiritual experiences with science. I just recently ordered a copy of his book "The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut's Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds" - yet haven't received it yet.

But, though open-minded, I do have my doubts about this endeavor. Yet I think it only fair and wise to always remain open to concepts and ideas that may ultimately prove true - yet which may not initially fit in with our current (and obviously incomplete) views of reality.

Science has limitations - acknowledged - but thus far I know of no other legitimate method of knowing that has as tangibly demonstrated such real-world results as science. Plus, it has shown itself willing, with few exceptions, to revise it's views as new evidence presents itself, something religion tends to resist, and often to embarrasing lengths, in order to stay true to "the faith once delivered."

But taking the large, wide-angle view that I do, I also know that modern science itself is still in a relatively early stage, even though it's been around now for about 400 years.

I appreciate your providing this information about Gerald Schroeder.

SmilinJackSprat said...

I goofed. Gerald Schroeder's main commentary sources are Rashi, Ramban (Nachmanides) and the Talmud. I mistakenly substituted Maimonides (Rambam) for Rashi.

Byker Bob said...

Torah? Well, I may check this material out, or not. Having spent my entire life investigating all of the dead ends to our communal maze, I've learned to be very skeptical when anyone professes to have transcendent knowledge. And, it usually starts out just like this, with someone hinting, or outright claiming that they have the answers sought by those of us who are seeker types.

A part of me is curious about this Torah thing. But another says, why would we even need to bother, since it was all fulfilled and done away 2,000 years ago, and we're now under a New Covenant. Still, I know that the Old Testament is often used as a fulcrum by non-believers. The thinking is that if you can somehow invalidate it, the New falls right along with it. To me, the Torah is simply a history lesson, documenting all of the reasons why a Messiah was necessary. You have to know where we, the human race, have been in order to know where we are presently, and more importantly where we are going in the future. If I do any further investigation, it will be from that perspective. I already spent enough years as a Pseudo-Jewish person as a member of WCG.


Leonardo said...

Byker Bob, I know what you mean - and so a healthy skepticism is really the only way to go.

Many are those who make bold claims and assertions, but few are they who can actually rigorously present their case with verifiable and legitimate evidence - no matter how many academic degrees follow their names.

A lot of the religiously inclined, as well as conspiracy buffs in general, have made an obsessive fetish out of possessing "special inside information" that the rest of us don't have - and this appears to be that perennial human motivation that groups like the old WCG appeal to.

It seems to me that so many folks desperately make fantastical claims regarding whatever holy books (or assertions) they hold as inspired by a god. Muslims do the same thing with the Quran. And thus far all of the claims I've looked into are rarely more than that: mere assertions that people WANT to be true. I call this the "if-I-WANT-it-to-be-true-then-it-IS-true" method of nonthinking.

I've had a lot of experience with conspiracy folks (claims that the Apollo moon landings were hoaxes, JFK conspiracies, etc.). But having studied into the Kennedy assassination pretty thoroughly - and being very familiar with all the various claims that are made about that particular historical event, it seems that all conspiracists go to the same school to learn about conspiracies, and hence keep making the same nonsensical claims repeatedly, because that's what they've been taught. The specific subjects of conspiracy claims change, but the same methods, assertions and muddled reasoning which are then overlaid on top of the ever-changing subjects virtually all remain the same.

I think the same thing is true with regard to the "claims to fantastical transcendent knowledge" school as well. In essence, once you’ve seen and seriously looked into a few, you’ve basically seen them all.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Concerning Torah study in general, I think, “Try it, you’ll like it,” may apply here."

I read comparison passages from the NKJV and an "authorized" English Torah once, and I read all the books that didn't make the cut for the Brits in the 1600s.

I have to admit, other than the Jewish version being a lot more liberal than the British-Israelite version, it didn't give me any great insights, personally.

(Though I did find the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon to share a lot of themes with gnosticism and the main Gnostic allegories of a feminized Wisdom goddess.)

The one thing I did take away from glancing through it, is that a lot more New Testament Christians ought to try reading an "authorized" modern English Torah. Maybe then they wouldn't be so systematically and individually anti-Semitic.

(And pigs might fly, but I ain't holding my breath on that one, either.)

SmilinJackSprat said...

Byker, you say, "A part of me is curious about this Torah thing." A healthy curiosity, in my opinion.

David said, "The Torah is perfect, converting the soul." And Jesus more than corroborated with, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law (Torah), till all be fulfilled."

"Till all be fulfilled" refers to a time in the distant future when everything will have been united through Torah. For Jesus to have fulfilled the Torah is good, but should be understood in terms of his Jewishness. It is the goal of every Jew to fulfill the Torah -- to become a walking, talking, living Torah. Very few, especially in terms of Israel's mass-defection from Torah in the time of Jeroboam, have embraced Torah as completely as we promised at Sinai. This still remains the untimate goal of all Israel, and, according to the writer of Hebrews 8, quoting Jeremiah 31, Torah will be the heart of the New Covenant, which in fact is a renewal of the only covenant between G-d and Israel. (Greek substitutes Law for Torah, from the LXX, nomos.)

Rabbis have always insisted, arguing from the Torah (certain heretical movements excluded), that non-Jews are not obligated to embrace the Israelite culture. This is essentially corroborated in Acts 15 and throughout Paul's writings. Judaism contains nothing that would make a righteous Jew better than a righteous Gentile.