Saturday, 30 April 2016

Discern - "a sort of guide to the ultimate guide"

The latest issue (May-June) of COGWA's virtual mag Discern is now out. Is it any more impressive than the parallel issue of Beyond Today (reviewed here)? In terms of cover art, Discern is the clunkiest. More significantly, the quality of the analysis in Discern may be indicated by editor Clyde Kilough's decision to approvingly quote Joe Kovacs' eminently stupid book Shocked by the Bible in his introductory piece. If this issue has a theme, it's bad-to-the-bone Bible prophecy.

Jeremy Lallier in the lead article assures us that God knows stuff Google doesn't.
"we created this edition of Discern to serve as a sort of guide to the ultimate guide. Because it was written thousands of years ago by a diverse group of authors who lived in a wide range of cultures spanning multiple epochs of human history, the Bible can be an intimidating book — but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered."
Well shucks Jeremy, that sure is good of you.

David Treybig advises us that "For many professing Christians today, religion is just a few-hours-a-week thing. Many are passive, even apathetic." Not the COGWA faithful of course!

Theological titan extraordinaire Jim Franks brings us up to speed with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in just two pages and puts the Seventh-day Adventists in their place at the same time.

Does God Exist? You thought that was a deep question? C'mon, this is COGWA. Rick Avent avoids tough questions like, what do you mean by God and, in what sense do you mean "exist" as opposed to things like toast, freedom and dandelion tea? Nope, Rick goes straight for the real dope (as in dopey), "fulfilled prophecy", ta-da!. Well, as long as you're happy Rick, but it rather begs the question, don't you think?

10 Ways to Protect Your Children from Technology Traps. Sounds a mildly useful article. Becky Sweat does a reasonable job at laying out some commonsense advice, but don't expect anything you haven't thought of already.

Back to the naive nineteenth-century prophecy theme. What's a COG without a pretend expert to make silly prognostications about the near future. COGWA is lucky enough to have Neal Hogberg (Gene's son?) and he's following in the family tradition of palliative prophetic punditry. Neal has written something called "A New Battle for Britain." Yup, Neal is a know-it-all about Brexit.
"Bible prophecy shows an end-time economic and military colossus composed of 10 core nations (Revelation 17:12-15; 18:9-19) that will be of one mind (Revelation 17:13). Other prophecies show this will not include Britain."
Gene would no doubt be proud of him. Bible prophecy, of course, shows no such thing. Have any of these guys bothered to do even the most basic research on the characteristics of ancient apocalyptic literature? (Rhetorical question, we probably know the answer already.)

The popular hymn that begins "Just as I am" gets pushed into a dark alley and beaten up by Erik Jones.

It's downright amazing how these geniuses know so much about the future direction of world news. Brexit has been covered, but what about the European refugee crisis? No worries, Joel Meeker is on the case. Joel "recently drove by The Jungle outside Calais in France." Guess that makes Joel a drive-by expert. Of course, Joel has the one-page answer - how could we doubt it - and it's (surprise!) Bible prophecy.
"Bible prophecy foresees intensifying refugee problems in the years ahead, as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride ever harder. But there is hope. The displacement of harassed populations will finally end with the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Under God’s protection, all people will be safe and flourish in their own homes and nations."
It's an interesting solution, Joel. I guess that means that millions of Caucasians like you will be deported from North America and the land returned to the Native Americans, right? Just following the logic...

Honestly fellas, if this is "a sort of guide to the ultimate guide", I think you just got everybody, including yourselves, horribly lost.

Anyone got Google Maps?

The PDF is available to download.

(Next in this series: Tomorrow's World).


Miller Jones said...

It became clear to many of us several years ago that Herbert Armstrong and his successors have ZERO insight into biblical prophecy. It's not just that they got a few things wrong or missed a couple of predictions - the entire edifice is a house of cards that collapses with even minimal scrutiny.

Near_Earth_Object said...

Those who blog here know or should know that Armstrongism is not about theology. The articles in these various magazines published by Armstrongite groups are nothing more than advertisements. They are marketing a product that is presented as an alternative to now defunct and paganized mainstream Christianity. Hence, the articles are persuasive, alarmist and glib. What they are not is deep. Recall that HWA was involved in advertising and GTA was a self-styled media type. The broadcast and telecast were infomercials. What I find fascinating is how true the various splinter groups have remained to this sales program. It is like a genetic condition that gets passed down through the generations.

Armstrongism never produced a systematic theology so it is hard to nail them down on anything. The STP Project was regarded with extreme suspicion and died a cruel death. To my knowledge it was the only serious look at themselves that Armstrongites ever took. Any theological issue that arose was handled by the Apostle speaking Ex Cathedra and providing an inspired answer.

As a result, for instance, Armstrongites have never considered systematically the attributes of God - usually the first chapter in any systematic theology. Your point on this is well taken. My guess is that if you asked an Armstrongite about God, he would tell you that they worship the same God as mainstream Christianity but they have just expurgated all the pagan tradition. In fact, they do not worship the same god at all if we are to take seriously what has been written in various Armstrongite magazines and tracts. Their god is as different from the Christian god as the Mormon god is different from the Christian god. In their belief about who god is, Armstrongites are wholly other. So when Kyriacos Stavrinides presented the view of God from Christian orthodoxy in Pasadena, it created an uproar and no doubt hastened the splintering of the WCG.

Byker Bob said...

I agree with much of what NEO stated. I would add that if most church members were to be honest in describing their God, the picture which would emerge would be HWA on steroids.

One thing for which COGWA deserves kudos would be their originality in naming their magazine. The articles may be the standard "same ol", but at least that title is not a derivative of one of the Armstrongian shibboleths.


Anonymous said...

NEO writes, "Their god is as different from the Christian god as the Mormon god is different from the Christian god." Really? Mormons believe God was once a man. Armstrongites believe God is eternal. Mormons believe God, angels, and men are all different forms of the same kind. Armstrongites believe God is uncreated, that He is wholly other than all creation, material or spiritual, and that men and angels are created beings. Mormons believe the Word (the preincarnate Christ) came into existence at some point in time, as did all his spirit brothers--Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, NEO, etc. Armstrongites believe the Word was uncreated and is truly God. Lay aside all emotion and answer the question honestly: Is the Armstrongite concept of God as different from the conservative Baptist concept of God as the Mormon concept of God is? No! --- TC

Byker Bob said...

TC, in disagreeing with NEO, you narrowly restricted your discussion to the concepts of the origins of God and Jesus. There is much more that must be taken into account when considering the teachings of the groups which were mentioned, such as God's character, what He expects from us, and how to conduct a relationship with Him. And there are undoubtedly even more relevant points to consider. Armstrongism theorized and taught that Jesus was not just one of the members of the deity, but actually the God of the Old Testament. That alone dramatically differs from the Baptist model.


Byker Bob said...

Also, Baptists are not a monolithic group. Different Baptist churches vary with one another.


Stephen said...

"Armstrongism never produced a systematic theology so it is hard to nail them down on anything. The STP Project was regarded with extreme suspicion and died a cruel death...Armstrongites have never considered systematically the attributes of God - usually the first chapter in any systematic theology. Your point on this is well taken. My guess is that if you asked an Armstrongite about God, he would tell you that they worship the same God as mainstream Christianity but they have just expurgated all the pagan tradition. In fact, they do not worship the same god at all if we are to take seriously what has been written in various Armstrongite magazines and tracts. Their god is as different from the Christian god as the Mormon god is different from the Christian god. In their belief about who god is, Armstrongites are wholly other. So when Kyriacos Stavrinides presented the view of God from Christian orthodoxy in Pasadena, it created an uproar and no doubt hastened the splintering of the WCG."

Hard to deny.

However, since the catholic church lost control over christianity, in much that same way as there is no official universal body to systematically interpret the qur'an or create a single orthodoxy for islam, there is no longer any systematic christian theology in christianity either. If you're a splitter, you might say there are 42,000 different species of the christian god, one for each independent christian sect. But if you're a lumper, I'm still not sure you could say there was just a single "mainstream" species of the christian god either. But then again, any attempt to systematically consider the attributes of anything mythical, whether it's fairies, elves, extraterrestrial visitors—or gods—is inevitably going to lead to chaos, not consensus.

IMHO FWIW, any honest attempt to systematically consider the attributes of a supernatural being ought to lead one to throw up one's hands and confess that the endeavor to consider them has produced only the realization that no reliable attestation or knowledge exists for them, and therefore reaching any conclusion at all is impossible. However, instead of doing this, theologians and philosophers of religion simply become sophisticated™.

Redfox712 said...

COGWA's recruitment magazine sounds utterly uninspired and bland. And saying the refugee crisis will be resolved after Christ returns is not a useful answer. It needs to be resolved now.

Near_Earth_Object said...

TC: The Armstrongite God (AG)is quite different from the Christian God in a number of ways. The AG has a body. He lives in spacetime. He did not create spacetime. The AG does not know the future. He is as much bound by the present as human beings are (On this narrow point, have a look at Neotheism as formulated by Clark Pinnock.) The AG has a racial identity. He is a white man. Armstrongites understand the Imago Dei to be nothing more than the physical form of God. Since they believe God has a body and Adam was made in his image, then Adam was physically identical to God. This makes the first man to be a white man(All the Armstrongites know that Adam was white because Adam is in the genealogy of Jesus). And then Christ was in god's express image so this means that God, Adam and Christ were all physically identical. (Too bad for all the brown and black people who are, then, not in the image of god like white people. (This is a fundamental point of racism that is prior to BI.)

And this is the big one that puts Armstrongism entirely beyond the pale. AG is two separate personal beings and the holy spirit is an impersonal energy. Hence, Armstrongism, like so many forms of paganism, is a polytheistic religion. The old saw that God is a family, therefore, one just doesn't wash in spite of what Ron Kelly said.

The AG is utterly different from the God of Christian orthodoxy both essentially and empirically.

Stephen: We could say that every person has a different experience of god and hence there is a god per person. But the fact is the two broad categories of Christianity, Calvinism and Arminianism, identify the traits of god in a very similar way. There is a consensus within the Christian movement on the principal attributes of god. There are also differences. The fact is, what we for now know about god, both individually and collectively, is only what god wants us to know about himself. On the nature of god seen through a glass darkly, I side with the Christian movement.

Stephen said...

Not wishing to pick a fight (truly) but I though we were talking about the theological attributes of the christian god, hence your reference to Stavrinides and now also the Armstrongist binitarian doctrines. To switch the discussion from ontology to soteriology is to switch to analyzing the attributes of different believers "christian walks" more than the attributes of different versions of the christian gods, although, of course it's impossible to separate these cleanly. Also, there are three broad categories of soteriology: you forgot universalism.

Confused by your response to TC in saying the COG god is different from the orthodox christian god "empirically." There's no empiricism connected to any version of the christian god, or AFAIK, any other god that's ever been thought to exist either. Any god for which there is any empiricism is by definition directly open to scientific inquiry, no? Also, during my decades in Armstrongism, my beliefs, and the doctrines I heard preached in Pasadena during that time, did not conform in many ways to the ontological summary you just presented. Not sure where you served your time. Possibly somewhere else? Just curious.

Near_Earth_Object said...


Soteriology? I do not understand your reference. Calvinism and Arminianism contain quite similar soteriologies but are very different interpretations of reality. And that is what they are: Biblically based interpretations of reality.

Empirically? I paused at the use of this. Let me say it this way, God is different both in his essence and in the application of his energy. (what he is and what he does.)

Source of these beliefs: These were collected from sitting in WCG services over a period of 30 years. The theologians: Armstrong, Hoeh, Blackwell, Waterhouse. Back to my original point. WCG has no systematic theology. So it is entirely possible that your exposure is different than mine. We cannot pull a bound volume of Armstrongite systematic theology off the shelf and settle the issue.

An example is that I heard a minister (AC trained, preaching elder, on the payroll, in good standing, before an audience of several hundred at Sabbath services) preach that introverts would not receive salvation. My guess is that you never heard that preached in Pasadena either.

Anonymous said...

NEO, I'm not suggesting that Armstrong's concept of God does not differ from the concept of God as understood in traditional trinitarianism. I am directly taking issue with your comparison with Mormonism. You're simply wrong. Besides, it has been said within Armstrongism that God created time, that he "inhabits eternity," or exists outside time. Greg Boyd is a Baptist, but he's well known for his open theism. Clark Pinnock was an evangelical theologian and highly respected in some evangelical circles. Yet, he was an open theist and even suggested considering the concept of God as, in some sense, embodied. There is a VAST difference between all these, including Armstrong's views, and the views of Joseph Smith and the Mormons. -- TC

Anonymous said...

NEO, another point is that Armstrong left his theism largely undeveloped. He taught there was one God but two persons in the Godhead. While he used the "family" concept (as many social trinitarians do), he did not fully define exactly how the two persons are one. Some within CoG circles have said that the one God is one essence (holy Spirit), and that the two persons exist within the one essence. As Hoeh said back in the '90s (in a sermon entitled "Unfinished Business"), Armstrong always taught that the Father and Son were in some sense one. It's just that he did not finish the job of defining his theism. But then, that's exactly what trinitarians claim. They say that trinitarian dogma is not an attempt to fully define the Deity; it's simply a dogmatic statement on what can and cannot be said about God or the persons of the Godhead. From what I've seen and heard, it appears that some within the CoGs hold a truly binitarian view, while others are more ditheistic. But no CoG teacher has ever claimed that God has a body composed of flesh and bones. Never have any of the Armstrong-associated CoGs taught that the preincarnate Christ was "born" in heaven at some point in time. Mormons have taught these things (and still do, but not as overtly as they did at one time). So just as the author of the Holy Spriit article in the COGWA publication is wrong about suggesting that trinitarianism teaches three gods in one God, so you are wrong in saying that Armstrongism's concept of God is as far away from orthodoxy as Mormonism's concept is. It's unique, but your comparison is wrong. Of course, I realize you will not back off. -- TC

Anonymous said...

Mormons also believe (or have believed) that matter is eternal. In fact, they believe matter and spirit are two forms of the same thing, so God the Father is "composed" of the same stuff the rest of the universe is composed of. You will not find anything resembling that in Armstrongism. For HWA, God was wholly other than the material creation, was the First Cause who brought matter/energy into existence. His views on foreknowledge seem somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, he implied that God had foreknowledge of every individual who would be "called" in this age; on the other hand, he said that God knew that Lucifer could rebel but did not know that he would. The problem seems to be that he did not develop these ideas into either an exhaustive foreknowledge direction or an openness direction. -- TC

Anonymous said...


It seemed hwa was struggling with the "Armstrong Scottish Calvinistic" predestination foreknowledge and the Hoehian, Buddhist "all is energy."

But of course struggling is the wrong word since he "by revelation" mixed up major tenets of some 12 existing religions. Going into the extreme in pledging one million 1978 dollars to the Allah/God/Jaweh building in the Sinai, while dropping major dollars in the major centers of Buddhism, like Nepal and Buthan.

I used to liken to that 1980's Highlander movie. There were some seven or eight preexisting "Gods" or wariors. Throughout the movie one sentence is repeated continually. "There can be only one."

It is all just an echo of earlier times when thousands of manifestations of God merged into the final and one God. Echoing the human experience. To the outsider there might seem to be hundreds of Gods in Hinduism, but when you study it There is only one, the rest are manifestations. The Catholics solved the problem with all the saints. COG solved it with the American concept of "All being "individual" rulers of Separate Companies (planets), as and under One God (family).

Thus we were dreaming of our role in the World Tomorrow as final training ground as a magnified persona of our current ideal role. So I heard sailors dream of being in charge of all shipping in the World Tomorrow, or small farmers of being in charge of All Agriculture, etc etc being a better self as currently/ or perhaps a saint, a god unto oneself.


Near_Earth_Object said...

TC: Please go back and read my original post. I am not saying that HWA's concept of God equates to the Mormon concept of god. I stated that HWA's concept of God was just as far removed (though different) as the Mormon god from the God of mainstream Christianity.

In a sermon given by Ron Kelly after the "transformation" that resulted in what we now call GCI, he stated that WCG never believed in polytheism. (He was appalled when a minster's wife at dinner one evening said she thought WCG had always been polytheistic.) Kelly asserted that God was One. But how? WCG has always taught, he stated, that God was One Family. I am sorry. That is nevertheless polytheism.

Armstrongites were also fond of preaching (I have heard it and so did Dr. Stavrinides) that if Christ had sinned, he would have died. This is based on the Armstrongite view that Christ was a totally separate being from God the Father who could die without affecting the existential basis of the Father.

The idea that God "inhabits eternity" is based on an OT locution that is taken to be something more than what it is. Eternity is "endless time" in the OT so it is time-related as we understand time in the physical universe. It is simply a way of saying god is eternal without further detail. A better concept is Tillich's ideas of the Eternal Now but I doubt Armstrongites would resonate with that.

The implication of this Armstrongite view is that eternity is uncreated and something separate from the essence of God that he then inhabits. The fact is that God is not constrained by time (whether the time we know or some special time related property called eternity)in his essence. This is the origin of OT references to eternity. How he is organized without time is a mystery.

Other characteristics of the Armstrongite god:

1. He is not omnipresent. He in fact has a body and because of this is confined to a location. That location was commonly taught to be the "sides of the north" where he sits on a throne.

2. He is immanent in creation but not transcendent.

3. He did not create time but exists within time. Now we understand from physics that time is a physical property of the universe and is affected by gravity.

The Armstrongite god is really kind of like the comic book Superman with regard to mode of existence.

This could go on.

Anonymous said...

NEO, you wrote, "Please go back and read my original post. I am not saying that HWA's concept of God equates to the Mormon concept of god. I stated that HWA's concept of God was just as far removed (though different) as the Mormon god from the God of mainstream Christianity."

Yes, exactly. And that's precisely what I'm disagreeing with. HWA's concept of God (and, by the way, I do not agree with it) is NOT as far removed from the God of mainstream Christianity as the Mormon concept of God is.

-- TC

Anonymous said...

NEO, even orthodox Christians allow for different interpretations of how God relates to time. Some believe concepts such as "foreknowledge" are merely our way of speaking of God's eternal knowledge. (It is "before" only to us, but not to God.) If the "eternal now" concept is true, then God does not have foreknowledge; he simply has knowledge. Many within mainstream Christianity believe God actually experiences time, though not the same way we experience it. And, as some of the open theists have explained, open theism does not understand the nature of the Creator differently; it understands the nature of creation differently. God, they explain, was able, and actually did, create a world with a partly open and partly settled future. This is consistent with what I've heard WCG ministers teach. As I mentioned before -- and you referred to it in your comments on a lack of systematic theology -- these concepts were never fully developed. That's why you can have one person saying God has all knowledge while another says God doesn't know all your future free choices. You can have HWA saying (or implying) that God has predestined all who are to be called in this age, while elsewhere saying that God didn't know what Lucifer or Adam would do. But, in spite of all this, the God of Armstrongism is much more like the God of traditional Christianity than the God of Mormonism is. All within the COGs believe God is eternal and the universe is not. That alone puts the COG view much closer to the mainstream than the Mormon view of a god composed of matter and begotten by a previous god who was begotten by a god before him.... -- TC

Anonymous said...

In the "Behind the Work movie" in which hwa meets Mubarak and hands him the 100.000 euro check hwa refers to Allah in the end. Allah is one and indivisible.

HWA also risked losing Quest magazine by upsetting the editors by pushing an article on the AICF 1 million endownment for the Islam, Christian, Jewish Center beneath Mt Sinai.

Therefore implying that he believed God is one and indivisible like the Jews and Islam teach.
According to GTA/Kuhn's The Real Jesus" Christ was a rugged Texan guy who could bleed, scare his siblings by healing instantly and smack the moneylenders from the temple with his bare fists like a saloonfight.


Near_Earth_Object said...

TC: No doubt there are many theories as to how god relates to time. One theory that I reject is the Armstrongite idea that was held when I was in affiliated with the WCG. That is that god exists within time just as humans do. I also reject the notion that god lives in space. As GTA said on a broadcast once, if you had a rocket ship, you could fly to where god lives.

Armstrongites say that god is like a human in many respects. Mormons say the same thing although they go further. You can miss the target by 9 miles instead of 10 but it makes little difference in the last analysis. You have still missed the target.

Retired Prof said...

How about the theory that god exists neither in time nor space as we ordinarily construe them, but exclusively in the imaginations of believers? Sort of like the warning sentimental adults use to guilt-trip innocent children into pretending to believe in fairies: every time a child stops believing in them, a fairy dies. This theory neatly explains why Odin and Athena (as two examples) are effectively dead. Nobody believes in them any more.

Near_Earth_Object said...

Retired Prof: How about the theory that nothing exists except in our minds, including you.

Retired Prof said...

N.E.O--Yeah, everybody who has toyed with philosophy has played around with solipsism.

Then there's the idea that turns my previous speculation on its head: we exist only in the mind of god. This idea is very similar in principle to recent speculation on the part of a few secular cosmologists (including Neil DeGrasse Tyson) that the universe could be a holographic simulation, created by some undefined, perhaps undefinable intelligence. I have read that, mathematically, it is impossible to distinguish a holographic virtual universe from a physical actual one.

Cosmology is such an engaging sport, isn't it?

Near_Earth_Object said...

Retired Prof:

I have thought about these ideas. That everything we believe we perceive as real and material is just a data feed - a sensory illusion. But it is impossible to know.

I have also considered that there is no such thing as Nothing in the existential realm. There is the concept of nothing as in the contents of the set of all positive numbers less than zero. This is in pure, mathematical logic. But does it have an correlative concept in the world of cosmology? The universe must be bounded. It seems to me that the world of dimensions and objects cannot be infinite. So what is there at the end of the universe? I think that our universe is contained within god and that when you get to the end of it, on the other side of the boundary you find the existence and presence of god. Others would say that when you get to end of the universe, Nothing is on the other side. My guess is that Nothing is a mathematical concept that we have tried to map into our physical reality and cannot do so.

Anonymous said...

Okay, NEO, just tell me straight up: Are you agreeing with me when I tell you that your original statement---the God of Armstrongism is JUST AS FAR from the God of orthodoxy as the God of Mormonism is---is inaccurate? Just a simple yes or no will do -- no need for missing by 9 or 10 miles, etc.
-- TC

joogabah said...

God is the super ego. The devil is the id. Mythology is not a scientific hypothesis, it is allegorical commentary on the human condition. Armstrongism is Christianity dealing with the contradictions of capitalism, and the coming socialist revolution.

Mr. Armstrong was not just an advertiser. He was a successful capitalist disillusioned by the crash of 1920 and later the Great Depression. He attended meetings of the Communist Party and completed their "home study course".

If you doubted the inevitability of capitalism's collapse in the 90s, it's gotten a lot clearer in recent years. Read about the Labor Theory of Value (the theory of classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo who Marx studied and built upon) to understand why capitalism rapidly advances technology, and why as it does this, it undermines its own basis for existence (by eliminating the source of exchange value - human labor power).

Anyone who understands this mathematical certainty can confidently prophesy. Who knows what his motivations were or who he was working for. Does it matter? The ironic conclusion is that in the main (conflict and war to come, followed by a world government, super abundance and peace) he was correct. Pie in the sky when you die is not. So Mr. Armstrong was basically right, even if he was "speaking in tongues" by dressing communist conclusions in Christian language. The reality of Marx's insight gave Armstrongism a relevance mainstream Christianity could never have.

"Forty years ago I began to study and research into Communism. I wanted to UNDERSTAND what it is. At about that time United States Communists were offering a "home study course" about Communism. I read it. In the early years of The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast, beginning 1934, I had an arrangement with a secret investigator, working in connection with a major city police department, to receive regular weekly bulletins, containing inside information in regard to Communist activities in this country. I always suspected -- though he did not say so -- that this secret agent was in reality connected with the F.B.I.

I knew the Communist purpose and goal. I knew the Communist methods and tactics. I knew their philosophies and teachings. I knew how actual Party members are yielded completely to Communist Party discipline, obedient at any cost -- willing to make any sacrifice for it."


There is, indeed, an astonishing parallel in the progress of atheistic Communism, and THE WORK OF GOD -- a contrasting parallel in OPPOSITES! They are doomed to ultimate failure -- but we by the grace and power of the living GOD are destined to glorious SUCCESS bringing eternal life to the MILLIONS!

THAT is my explanation. That tells you, in frank and straightforward manner, WHO we are, WHAT are our purposes and goals, and WHO is back of this great WORK OF GOD!"