Sunday, 3 January 2010

From the original AW: "Difficult Scriptures" reviewed

It isn't quite on the same scale as recovering the Great Library of Alexandria, but just before Christmas I stumbled on the long lost flash drive that held the original AW (oAW) archives. Now they're backed up on the desk-top computer, it may be timely to reinject a few bits and pieces back into cyberspace...

To begin with, here's a review that appeared on oAW of Dave Albert's book "Difficult Scriptures." It's a straight copy and paste, and hasn't been revised or updated.

A belated review of Difficult Scriptures: Coming to Grips with the Law of Moses in the Worldwide Church of God by David Albert, Tyler House, 1996
Dave Albert was best known to the public as one the presenters for The World Tomorrow in its last years. That such a high profile minister would come out in favor of the changes within the Worldwide Church of God must have been a huge asset for the church's leadership. That he would set his hand to writing a book about it was surely a much-needed gift for the beleaguered sect.
And yet, Albert's book seems to have quickly disappeared without trace. Published under a largely unknown imprint (Tyler House), it “did the rounds” for a time, going through at least three print runs, before sliding into oblivion. It didn't even rank a mention in Michael Feazell's later Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God.1 Today, the only way you're likely to get a copy is through a second-hand book service like Alibris.
Yet this book is the only one targeted at church members, the people most affected by the WCG's about face. Joe Tkach wrote Transformed by Truth for the larger evangelical market, and is seen by many as another part of the church's PR campaign to gain wider acceptance. Mike Feazell's Liberation also explains the church's journey (or, more accurately, the leadership's journey) to those on the outside. Albert however, took on the more difficult (and urgent) task of convincing those within the community he served. More than that, he was prepared to vigorously confront the proof texts and arguments that were being used to counter the new teachings.
Albert summarizes his case in three steps (p.188):
  1. The law of Moses is no longer required of Christians.
  2. The food laws and sacred day laws are part of the law of Moses.
  3. Therefore, the food and day laws are now matters of conscience and are no longer binding on Christians as matters of obligation.
WCG members will know that both the literature and sermons of the Armstrong era had a certain style and delivery which set them apart from most other Christian traditions. Even in a closely related sect or denomination (the Church of God (Seventh Day) or Seventh-day Adventists, for example) the difference was easily noticeable. Albert's strength is in knowing – and using – the familiar approach. In some ways the book is an extended sermon crafted to resonate with members.
How successful was David Albert? In doing research for this review2 I found that for a number of people it had been an important step in moving beyond the old teachings. In fact, several found it more helpful than anything the church itself produced. In contrast, one correspondent3 provided a copy of comments he had written that critiqued Albert's thesis from a pro-law perspective.
Albert's key thesis, that the Ten Commandments, Sabbaths and food regulations were an integral part of the Old Covenant, and that any distinction between the “spiritual law” and the “law of Moses” is illusory, is argued with relentless logic and passion. It is to the author's advantage that he already knows the likely objections, and his treatment of these is often devastating. It's hard to imagine anyone holding the assumptions most members have about the Bible, coming away from this book with any ideas about the timeless value of Old Testament observances unshaken.
Albert is at his best when addressing the weaknesses in Herbert Armstrong 's theology. Chapter 3 tackles the inconsistencies in the church's former position on clean and unclean foods, with Albert taking the reader through the article “Is All Animal Flesh Good for Food.” He is clear in his rejection of the old teaching:
Unfortunately, the logic used by Herbert Armstrong is without Biblical basis. He declared the food laws not part of the laws of Moses simply on his own authority. He then indicated that we ought to keep them because they're good for our bodies, and that's that! ... What begins not as spiritual sin, but merely as “physical sin,” proves in the end to be real sin after all because lusting after something wrong. (p.49)
It becomes obvious that Herbert Armstrong 's reasoning is not a sound Biblical treatment of the subject of the food laws. It wins support by inventing an extra-Biblical law, language, and logic. Worst of all, it contradicts the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. (p.50)
Does the book have weaknesses? I believe so. Albert seems, for example, unfamiliar with recent Biblical scholarship (though he does cite a few credible sources), and still holds firmly to a hierarchical paradigm.4 Chapter 15, an excursus into eschatology (why the Sabbaths seem to reappear during the Millennium) is particularly dodgy. None of these factors, however, detracts from the force of his overall presentation, which makes the failure of the WCG's leadership to use this resource to their best advantage stunning.
David Albert expresses his confidence in the way reforms are proceeding in the church (remembering that he wrote in 1996):
To its credit, the Worldwide Church of God has adopted the Biblical teaching and policy [referring to Romans 14:5] that no longer finds it warring with itself and others on matters of conscience. It is a policy that promotes peace and preserves unity, a policy we can live with.
Such rose-colored optimism seems a little unjustified in hindsight. He concludes with a plea to those who have left to “come home”.
May I say that I think your place is here – here in the same fellowship of which you have always been a part. Your place is is with us, your brethren, your spiritual family. We are not the same without you. Please come back to that part of the body into which you were called.
However, the most telling factor among those who have expressed a warm appreciation for David Albert's book to me is this: the overwhelming majority5, who were members at the time they first read those words, were, eight years later, no longer associated with WCG.
Perhaps he did a better job than he realized.
GR
Notes
1. Feazell also failed to mention Earl Williams. See the AW review of his book.
2. I asked for impressions on Mark Tabladillo's JLF group, and Douglas Becker's Missing Dimension group, as well as receiving further unsolicited comments from several readers who had seen the book review mentioned as a pending item on the Ambassador Watch website.
3. Available at http://www.webspawner.com/users/wmstorey/index.html
4. In chapter 6 Albert describes Peter as “pre-eminent church elder”, and is at pains to relegate James to a lower status, although it's unclear why he sees this as significant. The concept of the priesthood of all believers is notable by its absence from the book. He states “the living Christ has mandated change for the Worldwide Church of God” (p.187), but seems to have little concept of what the term mandate involves.
5. One gentleman, WCG elder Oleh Kubik, constitutes the main exception. Mr. Kubik's congregations, however, seem to have failed to "catch the vision". Once with more than 450 attending in two locations, the faithful have been reduced to a mere handful which meets once a month.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was one that was greatly helped by this book. It was clearly and logically written.

After reading it, and re-reading the bible passages it became quite clear that the sabbath, holy days, food laws, etc. were no longer binding to Christians under the new covenant. I owe much thanks to Dave Albert.

Corky said...

Not only do Sabbaths and holy days reappear in the millennium but the animal sacrifices do too.

So, when Jesus returns, the Mosaic law will be reinstituted?

Nope, says me. It means those OT prophecies were intended for the return from the Babylonian exile.

It's not my fault that they never did happen and Egypt did not go up to Jerusalem year after year to keep the feast of tabernacles, so don't blame me.

The Jews have their unfulfilled prophecies of future greatness the same as Christians have their unfulfilled prophecy of the return of Jesus and their future greatness.

God, gods, spirits, devils, demons, hobgoblins and angels, witches, vampires and werewolves...

How long before people realize that all that crap is just stupid, superstitious nonsense.

Just the word "God" should be a clue to any intelligent mind that it is supernatural malarkey.

Why was a tribal "god" invented by the shaman of a savage tribe in ancient times? To preserve the unity of the tribe, of course.

Why is that so hard for modern people to understand? Maybe they think that Israel started out as a nation instead of a savage, barbaric, desert nomadic tribe of cutthroats - I dunno, imagination I guess.

MaryAnn said...

Corky, I want to blame you for it all anyway. Just for the heck of it.

Interesting post. I never knew such a booklet existed. I suppose it doesn't anymore, however.

Dennis Diehl said...

Dave Albert and I were particulary good friends in the college setting and more so as ministers even though we did not see each other much. We resonated for some reason. I have the same relationship with Frank Brown who I wish lived closer as we resonate now in our perspectives and growth it seems.

If Dave reads this, I wonder if he remembers he and I walking the campus talking about the mess the church had gotten itself into etc. He was the main presenter for the World Tomorrow Program at the time.

A person approached us pointing at ME and said, I know you! You're the guy on TV. It was a hoot. I said, "no, that would be this gentleman..." The guys looked at Dave and said..."I don't know him.' Great moment!

Dave Albert, transformed himself and grew through. I also found that when I talked with him about even the next steps in understanding the NT politics, midrash, and things not being quite as clean and neat as presented, he always showed great interest.

Dave, if you are reading this, I have lost touch with you and would love to talk again.

Concerning the footnote on the loss of 450+ members to the "new truth" I had just left those 450 people when sent to SC. That makes 900 gone as the SC group imploded with the "Good News" and I had no interest in overseeing the drama. Religion and I had to come to other terms after WCG.

People did not come to WCG to change back to where they came from or to reinvent the wheel as Joe Tkach did thinking he was so amazingly insiteful. I will go to my grave saying that the Tkaches and the ministers they kept through the changes, SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE ORGANIZATION AND HAD NO RIGHT TO CONTINUE IN IT AS 'LEADERS' BENT ON CHANGING ALL THAT HAS SINCE COME ALONG. The had the obligation to leave it and let the church and people be the kind of church it had come to be based on it's own view of God, Jesus, Kingdom, Sabbaths, paganism, resurrections and hope that they saw fairly plainly outlined throughout the Bible.

It's a lot easier to find old WCG teaching in the Bible than the blather and doubletalk one sees now in WCGracie and put on the web by Ted Johnston. There is no basis for the Trinity save in paganism and la la land as presented by WCGracie. (IMHO) But once that can of worms is opened, you will spend the rest of time trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and it will be endless doubletalk.

Dennis said...

To be honest, the old WCG still makes more sense to me than what I grew up with and to what WCGracie has turned.

If Fred Coulter was more attunded, He would have put Paul's writings and the more Cosmic nature of Christ first in the NT instead of the Gospels which give the impression of a Jesus on earth first when it was Paul's Cosmic, I heard and see him in my head, Christ that came first. The inner truths of Paul's gnostic bent came before "Away in the manger"

The first book of the NT should probably be Galatians, the Paul, then Paul's mimickers, the other stuff, the Gospels and throw out Revelation as a failed prophecy and save all the turmoil and misery that book has caused.

Then go get a copy of The Book of Thomas, which never made the cut and learn perhaps more of what a Jesus would have had you to know.

Dennis said...

"Why was a tribal "god" invented by the shaman of a savage tribe in ancient times? To preserve the unity of the tribe, of course."

Or too, he may have gotten a good slug of ayahuasca and could never quite look at his merely five sensed filtered world the same again. We can hope!

Dennis said...

Clarification: I grew to see the problem with the NT and seeing church beliefs as we used to in WCG or as WCGracie sees them now, or even as Dr. Albert pointed out, is the mistake of thinking that the characters of Peter, James and John had a common view with Paul and Luke. This is simply not so. A reason for all the confusion between "Law" and "Grace" is the false belief that Paul was a converted Pharisee and put himself under the authority of the Apostles of Jesus.

Paul never knew a compliant day in his life with the Jerusalem church. Paul was his own Gospel machine and it was HIS gospel or no one's. Paul is the founder of the gentile version of the Jewish Jesus and thinking they are one and the same story with James etc, is a big mistake.

You have to take Paul out of the NT to get the Jewish view of Jesus or James, Peter, John and the Gospels out to get the Pauline one.

In my opionion, all the conflict of what to believe, what is the truth, what is the way, what is the practice or what is the goal depends on whether one identifies more with Paul or the Gospels. They simply don't match anymore than the Jesus of the Gospels matches the Jesus of Revelation.

Anonymous said...

well corky, i sure hope that when your eyes open in the resurrection, your mind will be opened as well.

Dennis said...

"One gentleman, WCG elder Oleh Kubik, constitutes the main exception. Mr. Kubik's congregations, however, seem to have failed to "catch the vision". Once with more than 450 attending in two locations, the faithful have been reduced to a mere handful which meets once a month."

That would be my fault..ha. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, I was totally into Jewish/Christian roots which made more sense to me than the Presbyterian jumble I came from. The minister after me succeeded in a specatacular way to reduce those hundreds to a fireside chat.

Here in SC it was different. I had the same view point, was resistant to the goofiness I was seeing at conferences etc and the 400 here just scattered into the splinters or dropped it completely as I did. While here, and when I saw WCG asking every question it ever thought it had, I thought, "then so will I."

Thus, I came to the conclusion that neither was appropriate for me and that like the rest of the world, the Bible is not what we had been taught to believe. Frankly, I could not keep up with the becoming better or perfect or overcoming which was led me to accepting that being born right the first time, as a concept was the best I could do personally and was not going to expect more from others I was incapable of myself.

what a trip

Dennis said...

PS Sorry..don't mean to write so much. I get to using AW like talking with a group of friends in a room . This past year has been extremely tough emotionally and have learned first hand what some, over the years have told me about how lonely etc can feel like and where it can lead if not careful.

I used to say, as did many, experience is the best teacher butt the tuition is high and then go on to think that if we just read the examples of Bible guys, we'd know what to do and how to be. I always had a problem saying that we should not want what Solomon had etc because look at what a fool he was. However, there was always a voice in my head that said, "well try me and maybe I won't be so stupid as Solomon" ha. I'd put it in the bank!

nuff said...you're turns

Now I feel that experience is the ONLY real teacher and the rest is just hearsay.

Nonetheless...it is painful

Jim Butler said...

First, I agree with a member of UCG that thanked you, Gavin, for posting the letter from the CoE in that post. I hope you keep posting about events and issues in the churches of God. Four or five years ago I sensed that Ambassador Watch was, at a certain level, the most influential presence on the web when it came to the Church of God world. It was clear, at that time, ministers in the CoG were keeping tabs on what was being posted. I think that is still true but perhaps not to the same extent. Probably depends on the subject of the post. News travels faster now than ever. Perhaps Satan and God save a lot of time using the Internet. (grin)

Concerning Dave Albert’s book. I read the book about a year after it came out. Albert was always a very articulate speaker in the WCG.
Of course, speaking and writing are two different skills. His writing skills are not as impressive. Let’s just take the excerpt used in the post:

Unfortunately, the logic used by Herbert Armstrong is without Biblical basis. He declared the food laws not part of the laws of Moses simply on his own authority. He then indicated that we ought to keep them because they're good for our bodies, and that's that! ... What begins not as spiritual sin, but merely as “physical sin,” proves in the end to be real sin after all because lusting after something wrong. (p.49)
It becomes obvious that Herbert Armstrong 's reasoning is not a sound Biblical treatment of the subject of the food laws. It wins support by inventing an extra-Biblical law, language, and logic. Worst of all, it contradicts the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. (p.50)

Most of the content of the two paragraphs simply use the logic, Armstrong is wrong. This type of logic carries no weight for a thinking person. The three points he makes that do contain some reasoning misrepresent what Armstrong wrote.

1. He declared the food laws not part of the laws of Moses simply on his own authority.

First, Albert is implying here that WCG believed the laws of Moses were done away. Not true. It was the ceremonial laws that were done away. Second the idea he did it on his own authority is content essentially saying he was wrong.

2. He then indicated that we ought to keep them because they're good for our bodies, and that's that!

This comment completely ignores the scriptures that speak about the dietary laws, which Armstrong used. God said certain things were not created to be eaten. Simple. I understand the reasoning some use to deny that but it is really very “cut and dry.” Not my reasoning---God’s. For those here that don’t believe in a God, I understand my points are meaningless. The idea that God changed this reality about some things should not be eaten makes no sense to me.

3.... What begins not as spiritual sin, but merely as “physical sin,” proves in the end to be real sin after all because lusting after something wrong. (p.49)
Spiritual, physical, real sin??? I know Armstrong made a distinction and understand his reasoning but it was never needed. It is “physical sin” because violating the law affects your body. So do a lot (actually all) of “spiritual sins.” We’re all aware of the many sexually transmitted diseases. We all know what wrong living can do to our emotional state and consequently our physical bodies.

The second paragraph is simply using, “Armstrong is wrong” reasoning.

Jim

Coco Joe said...

Question: I wonder if Joe Tkach Sr. had never initiated any changes, but held steadfastly to Herbert Armstrongs teachings, if Dave Albert would ever had come out with his book "Difficult Scriptures".

Hmmmm.

And to Corky: It wasn't long ago that, if I read your comment, I would have disagreed. Not anymore.

In fact, the way I'm looking at it all now, I'm thinking that Moses was probably the original "Herbert".

GL said...

I too found this book to be greatly helpful when all around me in Pasadena the diehards were screaming and spitting about the changes. While I was never a fan of Albert, I greatly appreciated his book and still have it on my bookshelf today along with over 40 0ther books written about the cult of Armstrongism.

Corky said...

Anonymous said...
well corky, i sure hope that when your eyes open in the resurrection, your mind will be opened as well.

Nothing tickles me more than when a closed-minded fundie wants an open-minded person like me to have an open mind, hehehehehehe :)

I try to not to be so open-minded as to let my brain fall out though.

At the entrance of any church there should be three racks labeled: coats - hats - brains.

Seeker Of Truth said...

This is a pretty good book. I've read it twice. It was given to me by my Mother after she had discovered grace... only to discover Ronald Weinland and return to imprisonment.
Don't ask me how you do that, I don't know.

I don't agree with everything in David's book, (a few things), but it's worth reading and also contains behind the scenes information about how the so-called "difficult" scriptures were dealt with, (or should I say avoided?

This book is available on Amazon. I bought one for my brother, who is also in RW's church.

Thanks Gavin.

The Sabbaths and holy days reappear in the millennium for the survivors of those who attack Jerusalem. Stubborn people need hash lessons I guess.

Dr Zoidberg said...

Dennis said...

"Why was a tribal "god" invented by the shaman of a savage tribe in ancient times? To preserve the unity of the tribe, of course."

Or too, he may have gotten a good slug of ayahuasca and could never quite look at his merely five sensed filtered world the same again. We can hope!


LOL!!!

In the movie Gross Pointe Blank the following conversation takes place:

Minnie Driver: You know what you need?

John Cusack: What?

Minnie Driver: Shakabuku.

John Cusack: You wanna tell me what that means?

Minnie Driver: It's a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.

John Cusack: Oh, that'd be good. I think.

---

Its better if people can come to that without "Better living thru Chemistry". There are better means to travel than a rocket sled.

It seems most things in life you eventually touch up against the filtered walls of our consensual reality.

Some people find it in religion, some people in music, some people in nature, some people on a surfboard, some people in sex - they don't say "oh God!" for nothing! But they are never ever the same again.

Dr Zoidberg said...

Maybe its just because of the Avatar movie but I've been getting some interesting emails of late. A friend wrote this interesting assessment of the human condition and why many of us joined the WCG.

I have edited the post for brevity and to preserve anonymity.
---

I have said for a long time, to you and to others, that I think it will take a "First Contact" type experience to break humanity out of it's old paradigms.

First Contact is one of the Star Trek movies. It is the story of how humans on earth, having developed the first warp drive spacecraft, attract the attention of a exploration team of Vulcans passing through the solar system, who then initiate our first contact with non-Earth humanoids. A great story and one of my favorite Star Trek movies!

When you look at those music, song, and dance videos on [YouTube] especially those with people from all over the globe contributing, you can see the true essence of the human spirit. That we are more than our differences and deep down we desire peace, harmony, good-will, and to live in a state of cooperation with ourselves and and our planetary home.

Yet we are dogged by this incredible fear. The fear that we are mortal, that we have to get and acquire more at all costs. The fear we are, in truth, "alone" in this universe. A fear which arises from and perpetuates the grand illusion that we are separate, separate from each other, separate from our planet, and most of all separate from "God" (however we understand "God").

Though I see evolution and progress in some areas, to me it often seems that the grip of this illusion over our collective psyches is so strong it could take centuries for it be replaced with a new paradigm.

HWA was fond of using that quote that humanity needs a "strong hand from someplace" to help save us from ourselves. The old PT and GN literature often quoted MacArthur I think ... [someone] used it recently... that we need a "recrudescence of the human spirit". I saw that way back when I joined the old church. In fact, that was a key reason I joined in the late 1970's. We [humans] seemed to have created this horrible mess and were powerless to find our way out of it.

30 years later (I started attending services in March 1979) it is still as true. The cold war might be over and some progress has been made in some areas, but in key things nothing has changed. The powerful elite have become more powerful and elite.

I believe the human spirit is beautiful but our way of thinking holds us in a collective insanity, a kind of bad dream. Even if you are "awake" (whatever that means), it seems that our individual ability to facilitate global change is limited.

I'm not saying that global change is impossible, one person at a time, but that it could take a long, long time due to the sheer power of the illusion we labor under.

This is why the idea of a "First Contact" experience intrigues me ... if we discovered clearly and irrefutably that we are not alone ... that there is a galatic community out there waiting for us to put aside childish thinking and become mature enough to join them ... it would change everything.

Anonymous said...

" i sure hope that when your eyes open in the resurrection, your mind will be opened as well."

2/10 needs more cowbell

Anonymous said...

"Stubborn people need hash lessons I guess."

You smoking too much hash "seeker"

Anonymous said...

"God said certain things were not created to be eaten. Simple. I understand the reasoning some use to deny that but it is really very “cut and dry.” "

Can you provide the scriptures to back this claim?



The Apostate Paul

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

Dennis said, "People did not come to WCG to change back to where they came from or to reinvent the wheel as Joe Tkach did thinking he was so amazingly insiteful. I will go to my grave saying that the Tkaches and the ministers they kept through the changes, SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE ORGANIZATION AND HAD NO RIGHT TO CONTINUE IN IT AS 'LEADERS' BENT ON CHANGING ALL THAT HAS SINCE COME ALONG. The had the obligation to leave it and let the church and people be the kind of church it had come to be based on it's own view of God, Jesus, Kingdom, Sabbaths, paganism, resurrections and hope that they saw fairly plainly outlined throughout the Bible."

MY COMMENT - This is what I believe as well.

Richard

Anonymous said...

"The had the obligation to leave it and let the church and people be the kind of church it had come to be based on..."

Are they any different from any other money-sucking religious organization? I don't understand how people who recognize the mental, physical, and economic gang-bang rape that Armstrong perpetrated on the sheep can equate that with Joe Jr.

Does the GCI send ministers to conduct inspections in the home? Do they forbid members from seeking medical aid? Do they demand that marriages be broken on the whim of the minister? Ect. Ect.

Look, Joe is a crook, and he is flossing and fleecing the dumb sheep....but to say that this is in any way comparable to the Herbert Holocaust, or that the dumb sheep would be just as better off following Sharia, um, the Armstrong Way, is to misunderstand the magnitude of the evil perpetrated by the Olde WWCG.

The Apostate Paul

Anonymous said...

To: Anonymous "Apostate Paul"

"Ect. Ect" are electric shock treatments. "ECT" is the Abbreviation for Electroconvulsive therapy

"Etc." is et cetera, which was what you meant to write.

In our WCG days, we all could have greatly benefited from a couple of rounds of ECT electric shock treatments to bring us to our senses.

Anonymous said...

Anon said: "God said certain things were not created to be eaten. Simple. I understand the reasoning some use to deny that but it is really very “cut and dry.”


--> Have you read Gen 9:3?

Anonymous said...

Ect? Etc? Oh God how embarrassing!


The Apostate Paul

Anonymous said...

Dennis,

I have always been interested in your view that Paul hijacked Judaism and turned it into the Christianity that we all know and love today. How did you come to this view?


The Apostate Paul