Friday 26 January 2007

All the way back

Charles Bryce is forging ahead with his niche COGlet, the Enduring Church of God. A recent letter to the holding-fast, old-timers is available on the AW Extra Google board. The new website,, is not yet online, but expected to launch very soon.

"I want to re-emphasize what our focus must be. We are relentless in our determination to get back to the faith once delivered - all the way back. This must include getting back on the track laid down by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong as they were guided to do by Jesus Christ - all the way back.

"All of us need to restudy the whole body of work done by Mr. Armstrong - over many decades... We cannot let our focus be blurred by those who are twisting and spinning Mr. Armstrong's teachings and even the scriptures themselves."

Same old song.

Across on Greg Doudna's site there's a new contribution from "Neotherm" on the treatment of 1-Ws (conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War) at AC Big Sandy. Greg notes that it is "an eye-opening, in some ways unsettling, article showing a sort of invisible parallel universe to the privileged student experience."

UCG's Darris McNeely has taken potshots at a new book which explodes an awful lot of nonsense surrounding the Book of Revelation and its use by prophecy nuts. Avoiding the substantive issues that Jonathan Kirsch raises in A History of the End of the World, McNeely, understandably in defensive mode, quickly dives off into reassuring platitudes. Don't be fooled, in reality this book is a powerful - and readable - counterstrike against the apocalyptic teachings of groups like UCG, and is sure to make any honest reader rethink the significance of Revelation. I thought I already had a reasonably good grip on the issues, but learned a lot anyway. The Kirsch book is mercifully jargon-free and written for the general reader - but is also informed by excellent scholarship. Like McNeely I've recently read "End of the World" ... but unlike him can highly recommend it!


Anonymous said...

Once again, someone wants to use the "armstrong yardstick" for measuring their christianity. Why don't they just call it "armstronginity".
No wonder there are so many splits. It has to do with Armstrong instead of the scriptures.
Amazing! Wonder if and when some of those sheep smarten up.
rod 2

brave anonymous poster said...

you know....these guys would have a lot more credibility with me if they stopped using the Armstrong name to validate their work.

I have never been an Armstrong follower, and never will be....and I shy away from organizations that use HWA to prop themselves up.

The man is dead, leave him be. Base your work on Jesus Christ

Anonymous said...

Amen Dennis! Amen.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dennis, the bible is the outline the only problem is our cardinal nature will not let us use it. I can understand why Paul hated the cardinal nature that is in us.

As usually you are right on target and like many of us, we do agree with you on this matter.

Anonymous said...

End time prophecy is a marketing vehicle for the COGs. It is a means of bringing more anxiety into the lives of people who are already anxiety inundated. The hope is that they will be frightened into joining a COG and becoming a part of the tithe base.

Evangelicals are little better. (I am not an evangelical.) They look into such books as Revelation to find support for the agenda of the Republican Party. It is almost as if morality for them is not defined by the Bible but by Republican dogma.

They harp on God's promise to Abraham to support the Iraq War. They cite that "those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed." At the same time they ignore the unrelenting warfare between the Arabs and the descendants of Israel. They conceal that fact that Biblical prophecy describes the Middle East as a seething cauldron right up to Armageddon. John Hagee, whom I have only watched a little on television, strongly supports the President's War in Iraq based on basis of the Abrahamic "blessing scripture" but says nothing about the rest. So the evangelicals proof-text support for the War in Iraq.

If we wanted to bless Israel, it would make sense for us to use our 150,000 troops to secure Israel's borders. Instead, we are trying to turn Iraq into a democratic republic. History demonstrates from the Crusasdes onward, that Iraq will never become the 51st State of the Union.

I was amazed to hear a kid from Wheaton College a few weeks back say on ABC Evening News that God's creation is something that we should respect and take care of. He knew this was an unpopular statement with evangelicals. Evangelicals believe in environmental policies that favor corporations because that is the Republican agenda.

Somehow evangelicals can become almost witheringly angry over abortion (I am firmly against abortion), but have no problem with sending young men and women to their deaths in the Iraq War. Both involve expending human life for no reasonable purpose. Evangelicals adopt this paradoxical position not because it is Biblical but because it is a part of the Republican agenda.

Throughout, I should have said neo-conservative Republicans because there are some centrist Replublicans that I respect.

This is one reason why I am a mainstream Christian rather than an evangelical.

-- Neo

brave anonymous poster said...

"End time prophecy is a marketing vehicle for the COGs."

and many others as well.....Jack van Impe (and his lovely wife Rexella), Hal Lindsey, and John Hagee all come to mind...along with untold numbers of others with a book or something to sell....

it seems to me that the people who respond to "end times shows" never become truly converted, they are simply looking for "fire insurance"....and of course, that gives ammunition to the anti-Church crowd.

(but that's ok....if it wasn't that, they'd find something else to use to discredit the Church)

it will all come out in the wash :-)

Jim Butler said...

A few questions, for Dennis and Gavin.

Dennis. I understand your skepticism about many things the Bible says. Also, I agree that many people say the Bible says things it does not say.

My question, in light of this particular post. Do you have any belief system about the ultimate destiny of man? Is there a plan behind all this, or is it just people are born, they live, they die and that's all there is?

A related question; what is your belief concerning what happens after death. Clearly people die. That is, there comes a time when all people cease from walking around, talking, engaging in life, etc. here on earth. Is that the end-period-or what do you believe?

These might sound like the same question. However, the first asks about an ultimate plan for mankind, where the second focuses on what happens immediately after someone dies, or whatever you think happens when they stop breathing.

Gavin. I have not read the book although I plan to. I have read McNeely's very short article. Would you specifically point out what point or points McNeely made that you disagree with?


Anonymous said...

"All the way back" to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong?

I became Catholic because I looked beyond the 1930s and into the 200s and 100s and before.

Gavin said...

Jim, re. what to challenge in McNeely's comments? The problem is where to begin. Easier to discuss that once you've read the book.

As you say, human destiny and life after death are two different if related issues. What do I believe?

I agree with Den's "I dunno", but I DO know that these are side issues, and that how we deal with life in the here and now is really important - as contrasted to the old WCG putting everything off till Christ's return.

The obsession evangelical Christians have with their own individual health, wealth, eternal life etc. is a travesty. With Jesus the focus is hardly on these things.

In response to someone else's question a few days ago, I suggested that Marcus Borg's work might be helpful. He's written "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith" and "Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally." He's a fellow pilgrim on the trail away from fundamentalism - in his case Missouri Synod Lutheranism - so, despite some obvious differences, he knows what it's like to walk a mile in Biblicist moccasins.

brave anonymous poster said...

"I became Catholic because I looked beyond the 1930s and into the 200s and 100s and before. "

well Darren, (and please don't take this the wrong way), if you really looked into the 200's, 100's, and before, I am even more puzzled as to why you became Catholic.

jorgheinz said...

The end of the world.Or should one say "The end of the Age".Does that sound familiar?

Hey, my great-grandpa was trumpeting this very subject in Michigan,Missouri,Kansas when Herb was wearing pilchers.It was probably fire and brimstone as he was a Baptist.His other occupation was that of, guess it, carpenter.

A world consortium of 13000 scientists about 12 to 15 months ago didn't give this world centuries of survival.Their guestimate was about 100 years if I recollect.They were concerned with the ability of this planet to survive.

Science, of course is divided on this issue,like that of greenhouse gases or climate change.But hey,we have not centuries of survival left if we keep consuming materials like there is no tomorrow.

Power blocs on this planet will eventually go to war to protect or vie for their raw materials.Nations today want nuclear materials for power generation. Cough, cough!!
Why not make it compulsory for every nation to have nuclear power.
We could make the Apocalypse a reality.

Whilst not agreeing with the modus operandi of the COGlets,they do have a point.

We are now a global society and Europe is starting to tell certain folk they have to conform a bit more or go back home.At least John Howard and Tony Blair are now saying it like it is which should have happened years ago.IF,AND I EMPHASISE,IF there is a backlash we could have fun and games and there will be no keeping the lid on the pot.Cold steel,hot lead and plastic explosives are the only language some people now understand.We will need to feed it to them in ever-increasing amounts, in an effort to dampen their enthusiasm for world-wide conquest.

Gentlemen,just don't summarily dismiss what these COGlets say.Your future just may depend on it.So send in those tithes.


Anonymous said...

Jorgheinz, I'll gladly send my tithes in as soon as (1) I sight an authorisation fron God nominating the particular coglet as duly accredited to receive such monies and (b) see the receipts you've got for the last 12 months ;-)

As for those warnings from scientists - irrelevant. They have the responsibility to act as an early warning system for a reason: to CHANGE policies so those potential scenarios can be AVOIDED. The Armstrong cultists just quote them so they can stir up fear and manipulate the pocketbooks of the credulous members. They don't want the situation SOLVED - oh goodness me no, that'd really put the squeeze on their tithe garnering.

Douglas Becker said...

I have not seen any commentary on the 1-W program, but can reaffirm Neotherm's assessment.

My friend, Jim, was a 1-W at Big Sandy. He worked maintaining the fleet program. One day, a 280z came zipping up as he filled gas tanks. He continued to fill the gas tanks in the order they were qued up. Later, his boss, David Robinson, told him in no uncertain terms to service Mrs. Leslie McCullough first!

As they all did, Jim lived under the radar and under the shadow of being sent to prison at the whim of some arrogant bastard within the AC royalty.

And that's what the Churches of God are all about: Royalty. The "Apostle" establishes himself as King, creates his inner court of Knights, Earls, Dukes and Dutchesses with the peerage followed by the commoners and peasants.

It's never a religion: It's a bloody Church Corporate Fiefdom of Hell.

The Implacable Berean said...

Greetings all,
Once again, Dennis offers up thought provoking comments, which many in the COG's would rather not contemplate.
And I see Mr. Becker has weighed in, and raises some good points.
I wonder, wouldn't it be nice to have a "church", that is, a group of believers, not an organization/building/empire, where there wasn't so much concern for "statistics" and "pecking order"?
Human/carnal nature just keeps rearing it's rather ugly head.

This is a good post Gavin, please keep these coming.

Dennis, I see the Latin I have been sending you is finally sinking in. I thought that was a rather appropriate saying for you.
Perhaps you could write a post sometime on the development of Latin theology?
I'm thinking if you covered the first through third centuries and how it has affected all of Christianity, including what the COG's teach, even to the present date.
Let's say three pages of parchment, published on e-zine?

An excellent book, if one can find it, is Alvin Boyd Kuhn's "Shadow of the Third Century".
It is not a light read, but I think, magnum opus (a great work).

Dei gratia, cogito ergo sum.

Douglas Becker said...

More Latin appropriate to the venue:

e pecunium unum: From one, money.

Douglas Becker said...

I wonder, wouldn't it be nice to have a "church", that is, a group of believers, not an organization/building/empire, where there wasn't so much concern for "statistics" and "Packing order"?

Human/carnal nature just keeps rearing it's rather ugly head.

Probably not possible -- at least not based on my experience. Once you get above around 50 people, you begin to have interpersonal problems, in my experience. I'm not certain I know why and I'm not the only one to have noticed this phenomenon.

The whole topic reminded me of the late Sixties. Some few of you, who were around back then, may remember Carl O'Bern (sp?). He was stationed in the Portland, Oregon area along with another winner, Carlton Smith. Our regular minister had gone somewhere for the weekend, and Carl gave the Bible Study, Sabbath Services and Spokesman Club.

I clearly remember the Bible Study. After all the questions of the audience were answered, there was another question he claimed was from the audience: The question about using literal palm fronds to make a Succoth during the Feast. I know now that this was his idea and his question, which he pretended to field as someone's from the congregation. He claimed that we were supposed to use literal palm fronds from the Feast to build a Succoth and that "we would be hearing more from Pasadena".

The sermon was unmemorable, but Spokesman's Club wasn't. I gave a speech on what it meant to be a contentious objector. It was well received by the men. I found later that the men had actually voted [opinion poll] mine as "Most Effective Speech". Carl O'Bern, however, had other ideas. He said nothing about my speech and the only feedback I got was on my evaluation form "Lower your voice". That's it.

And, as always, in my innocent naivite, I took it with "a good attitude". It has been a lingering problem that I am a member of the "swing" generation between the old guard authoritarians and the boomers to try and reconcile the two points of view. I end up compromising and trying to get everybody to get along and the only thing that happens is that both sides take advantage of me to manipulate the situation. Realization of this has put me in a "bad attitude" toward narcissists and psychopaths to the point that I refuse to attempt any silly reconciliation with nonsense at this point.

In retrospect, I realize now, I had stuck my hand into a hornets' nest inadvertently. I'm certain he harbored dark thoughts about contentious objectors just as most others in the Radio Church of God did. To me, this was the epitome of hypocrisy.

Not to worry.

Carl O'Bern received an inheritance and became more vocal about his nutty idea about everybody using palm fronds at the Feast to make their own Succoth. The Radio Church of God kicked him out.

Stepping back from this, there should be a lesson of the royal realm in this. Royalty presumes that others are less than themselves. Royalty trivializes people. Royalty does not value the voice, opinions or even needs of others. That is why royalty has such poor judgment -- in this case, none at all. The only thing that matters is self-aggrandizement. Anyone on the other end of this either has to endure bad treatment or call upon substantially superior forces. Since the royalty in this case has the forces of God -- at least in their own eyes -- no one can trump them. They don't listen. They don't care: They don't have to.

One of the interesting phenomena is the artifact of the United Church of God, International Association. In its first incarnation, it actually started out listening to people and attempting to find consensus. The ugly fact is that when the UCG encountered near bankruptcy because of the narcissism of David Hulme, it frightened them and they moved to a closed Church Corporate where they held everything close to the vest. The early Good News magazines were an indication of this: They started out with some of the best articles ever -- positive, uplifting. A year later, they began the spiral downward until they reached the bottom with a gunman holding a gun on the front cover and had months of magazines describing high school shootings. I doubt they ever really analyzed their dark path. Now it is the case that no one can tell them much of anything.

An interesting event was that it was discovered at the Feast of Tabernacles in Redding for the UCG that his majesty, Leslie McCullough was actually looking for a house in Cincinnati several months before United "voted" him into office as president at the home office. Rank -- both in Big Sandy and Cincinnati -- has its privileges. Truly it does.

I've had discussions with some of the young men in United about being contentious objectors. The response I get is that they will look into it later. It's not a priority. The ministers don't make it an issue and while there might be official documents about the topic, the search for "contentious objectors" on the website yielded exactly nothing. It's a legacy that no one wants to talk about. In fact, it's not unlike being a Jew in Germany just before World War II.

Consider the irony: Herbert Armstrong was of Quaker stock.

Most of the hoi polloi from the Greek meaning "the common people", have no inkling the caste system in the churches of God more strict than the Hindus. The people are often "untouchable". As a corporate manager, I was well aware of the distinction between management and the common man in the corporation [and it personally disgusted me]. People are objectified to be little more than widgets and cogs in the bigger machine whose leaders were the "gold standard". God help us all if you were a technical "wires and pliers" guy.

This is all very curious because the Bible teaches the exact opposite of this.

The final word on the matter is that it is "The Golden Calf" syndrome. God has gone away on some kind of vacation to leave the church of gods leadership on their own to fend for themselves. They don't use the Scripture to make decisions; they use books on Corporate Management [in the case of the UCG] and the rest pretty much rely on good old fashioned nuttiness of distorted perception to put the leader between themselves and God to commit a curious kind of idolatry.

This idolatry has a point: The bottom line is that you become a god to finally have some sort of enablement through the empowerment of superior force to get vengeance for yourself and finally validate that you are worth something. All you have to do is pick the right leader to put you in the driver's seat -- pick the right prophecy that sounds best to you to become a godlett.

People miss the Scriptural: To be greatest, you serve the most. Consider others before yourself. Esteem others better than yourself. Pure religion and undefiled is to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction. Seek mercy in judgment for the stranger in your midst. Protect the weak. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. That sort of thing.

The Gentile leaders lord it over others.

And we can only conclude that those leaders in the church of gods who trivialize others are spiritual Gentiles.

If the church of gods leadership really wanted to do the right thing [which they do not], they would all get together and seek answers in the Bible to mitigate differences between them to eventually come "to speak the same thing". They would give up their nutty ideas and humbly seek to find God's Will and stop leaning to their own understanding. They would unite and resolve every difference leading to the divisions of the 1,000 splinters [don't blame me, a woman from the Church of God, Seventh Day came up with "1,000 splinters" in The Journal]. If they were spirit led, it might take awhile, but every spot and wrinkle would be worked out.

As it is, the church of gods can't even agree about whether or not it is breaking the Fourth Commandment to eat out on the Sabbath. And just why would that be? If you really keep the Covenants, isn't it obvious? [I don't actually care, but they should.] [Side note to Mr. Dennis Fischer: It's been 30 days, it's time to put your material back on because it's time to make them put up or shut up!] And as for when the new moon occurs, forget Lunar Phase Pro 3! Their own ideas about God surpasses physics! To the leaders of the church of gods I say, "Get real: Fix the problems". To which I will now add, "Or else!". Ignore God and you will be OK. If He doesn't exist. Which, I doubt you believe in based on your behavior [stalking, fondling...]. Hey folks, it's us and them.

That getting together and resolving the differences won't happen is a testimony to who they really are of.

Anonymous said...

I DO know that these are side issues, and that how we deal with life in the here and now is really important - as contrasted to the old WCG putting everything off till Christ's return.

That is an interesting observation.

The "putting everything off till Christ's return" I presume is all about justice, judgment and equity for the commoner in the WCG, while getting gold, silver, paintings, crystal and other such baubles for the leadership along with money and retirement was a "now" sort of thing.

Douglas Becker said...

The churches of God represent the very worst in human nature, devoid of compassion and humanity, willing to do what it takes to get the job done, even though the job is totally unnecessary.

The venue is derived from several of the worst premises in the Corporate World: The end justifies the means, perception is reality and proceeding from those two, might makes right. People give their money and power to an amoral money making machine which equips those in the structure opportunity to have power without accountability.

It is not true that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely -- if it were, God would be the most corrupt being in the Universe. What is actually true is that power allows a person to be who they really and absolute power magnifies what a person really is at the core without restrictions. For those with discipline, this may not be a problem and those who have developed compassion will be able to exhibit it to an even greater extent.

Unfortunately, within the church of gods, men of base and low degree without discipline have achieved power without restriction. They have been able to take revenge and act carnally without anyone stopping them. The church of gods has leadership which not only doesn't have to listen and doesn't have to consider "the little guy", they can ply vengeance against the smallest perceived offenses and make miserable slaves out of people paying them for the privilege to do so.

Liars, thieves and whores have a fertile wonderland in which they enjoy power, privilege and prestige. They can spoil themselves. They can say anything they want. They can ruin lives. They can go where they want to. They can violate their own rules. They can say self-contradictory things. They can be hypocrites of the highest magnitude.

And they do.

Best of all, everybody -- or at least nearly everyone -- loves a celebrity. It matters not if it is notoriety, once someone has attained celebrity status, they are unassailable and no one can remove them without having access to extreme excessive force. It builds on itself: The creation might start small, but soon it grows until it is the center of its venue.

As with all those who have achieved status, glory and honor is attributed to the first one who gets there and plants his little flag on the mole hill. People then flock, for no particularly good reason except they have a lust for validation by being with a "winner", to the one who promises them empowerment as a tin horn god. It is at this point that the people have the golden calf to worship in their chosen idolatry to put a man between themselves and God.

The people lock themselves into their idolatry and cries from those who recognize it are not only ignored, but castigated as being fools. It is the idolaters who are the fools. In due time their idol will die, but not before giving them a lifetime of misery. That's what idolatry produces. The idol manages to undermine and destroy the credibility critics may have [which may be explored at a later date from material derived from Creating the Innovative Culture by Frances Horibe]. Thus, victims are effectively chasmed from their would-be rescuers. The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man should suffice.

All of this should be quite obvious by now. There is abundant objective records of the crass base of the worst of human nature, but just to be convincing, here is just one example: Joseph Tkach, Senior had his lover, Ellen Escat, to commit adultery with her in the home provided by the Worldwide Church of God while his wife was right there in the house. Those brilliant followers then permitted his son who had grown up with this abject immorality to become Pastor General -- a divorced and remarried man who has lied and taken money and provided so little in return. How stupid is that? Oh, well, for those who have watched the six episodes of "One Punk Under God" can certainly identify with that with the chronicles of Jay Baker attempting to reconcile with his father, Jimmy Baker. You know. Jimmy Baker. The one who spawned one of the biggest religions ever and made Heritage USA, only to commit adultery? The one who went to prison? The guy who now has been restored to being a televised evangelist again?

While many do see the problem, it never ceases to amaze that there are those who complain that we aren't all happy and positive about the lack of love devoid of anything but lies, deceptions and murders -- that which Scripture says to expose, mark and turn away from. The hew and cry is, "Can't you say something positive?".

So here it comes:

Fix the problems. Now is a good time to repent.

For the others: Stay the course.

Paul said...

"The ministers don't make it an issue and while there might be official documents about the topic, the search for "contentious objectors on the website yielded exactly nothing."

That is simply untrue. It might help though if you searched under "conscientious" instead of "contentious" (freudian slip perhaps)

A search took me to the Fundamental Doctrine booklet,the Voting and Politics study paper, and a June 2004 United News. There has been at least one sermon sent out from Home Office on the subject and I have seen the topic addressed on a few local sites.

Anonymous said...

I thought the two or three person thingy applied in the case of ACOG legalism. Seems like the only way "they" could make that stuff work was with damned near military enforcement.

OTOH, churches dealing with the transformation of the heart seem to have more of a unifying spirit.

Anonymous said...

I will say this. That just as you can trace your roots to Noah at one time Because just those few in the boat were the beginings (again of civilization). You can trace the begining of the restoration of the truth back to just one man. Mr. Armstrong. How can you vary from Truth?? It is simply amazing that there could be so many different opinions as to just who is right. Who is Christ really with?? No wonder the bible instructs us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.