Friday 31 August 2007

Genesis Genetics

Bob Thiel breathlessly announces: "AW Questions Historical Validity of Genesis" following the previous post.

The truth is that I usually give Bob a harder time than he gives me, so I'm not particularly worried - even if he infers (yet again) that I'm an atheist. "Sticks and stones..."

But I'm fascinated to know what Bob, committed as he is to the historical accuracy of Genesis, makes of the genetic modification technique practiced by Jacob in Genesis 30. Jacob has been repeatedly stiffed by Laban, the uncle from hell. He works seven years for the right to marry Rachel, but Laban sneaks in her sister Leah under cover of bridal burka. Next morning, after consummation, Jacob finally thinks to lift the veil and discovers the awful truth. Another seven years are required among the sheep before he can pay Laban off for his dearly intended.

Time passes. Jacob strikes a deal with his father-in-law. He will return home with his wives and children, and all the striped, spotted and speckled livestock from Laban's flocks will be his. Again, Laban tries to pull a swift one, but Jacob has learned some smarts of his own:

Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the rods that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods, and so the flocks produced young that were striped, speckled, and spotted. (Genesis 30: 37-39)

Wow! How simple! Obviously Gregor Mendel, despite being a priest, never read this chapter.

And just in case there's any doubt, here's verses 41-42:

Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob laid the rods in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feeble of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.

Yes brethren, here is God's own inspired agricultural science.

Actually, this is called "sympathetic magic" (HarperCollins Study Bible.)

The point is that, according to Genesis, it worked.

Except that it couldn't and didn't.

And yet here it is, inspired, God-breathed and inerrant from old Moses himself. Remember, this is historically valid stuff.

Note to Bob: please explain.

Thursday 30 August 2007

The Mark of Cain

I want to acknowledge the kindness of Samuel Martin in sending me a copy of his small book What Was the Mark of Cain? These comments follow from reading it.

The first thing to say is that Mark of Cain can be read in a single sitting, and that's a refreshing change from the weighty tomes that afflict most people studying biblical issues. The second is to assure prospective readers that the material is eminently readable. In many ways Mark of Cain is comparable to the style of literature once produced by the church: it doesn't assume a familiarity with theological verbiage or send you off to check a dictionary with every second page.

Martin's proposal is an interesting one. The murder of Abel was a crime committed in the passion of youth. Cain had not yet reached his majority, and Abel was even younger. This explains, according to the author, why the death penalty was not exacted. Cain's exile to the land of Nod is a reference to a state of mourning: Cain became the first Nazarite, letting his hair grow. This was the mark of Cain.

Exactly how Samuel Martin arrives at these conclusions is beyond the scope of this short review, but I enjoyed his line of argument immensely. If your curiosity is aroused, you can discover how to order a copy of What Was the Mark of Cain? from the author's website.

Is Martin's case convincing? I'm not so sure. Mark of Cain makes assumptions about the authorship of the Pentateuch/Torah that I find problematic. Martin writes:

"It is essential (in the view of the author) to believe that Moses was the author, compiler or first editor of almost all sections of the first five books of the Bible."
Here I differ from Martin, though traditional COG brethren will be less skeptical. Even more basic is the assumption that Genesis relates real history. Was there truly a garden called Eden in prehistory, a place which we might find if we had H. G. Wells' Time Machine at our disposal, or are we dealing with another genre altogether? Is the reason why temple symbolism exists in Genesis a wonderful prefiguring of what was yet far in the future, or an indication that the real authors wrote at a time when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and that they retrojected that symbolism back on the mythical past? To suggest that some kind of Nazarite vow was operative in Adam's lifetime seems to me to risk making a case based on an obvious anachronism. That said, Martin's presentation is engaging.

Mark of Cain is the first in a projected series by Samuel Martin called "Studies in Genesis". If future installments are as stimulating as this one, then fans of the late Ernest Martin will be well pleased.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Ten Tribes - Found!

Eric Cline (From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible) approaches the lost tribes theme from three angles, the biblical account, the Neo-Assyrian inscriptions and the archaeological remains.

"[W]e know that between the efforts of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II, more than 40,000 people were carried off from 733 to 720 BC... Archaeologists say that at least five times and perhaps nearly ten times that many people were living in the region during that time... Either way, 80 to 90 percent of the Ten Tribes of Israel would have been left to either stay on the land or flee to Judah... [E]xcavations... provide evidence for a tremendous explosion of growth not only in the city of Jerusalem but in all of Judah... just after the fall of Israel's northern kingdom"

Referring to the much used apocryphal passage in 2 Edras and comments by Josephus (both first century) Cline notes: "Clearly, by the first century AD (if not long before), the myth of the Ten Lost Tribes had already begun."

The mysterious land of Arzareth (2 Edras) is not a placename but "a corruption of two Hebrew words, Eretz Aheret, and simply means "another land.""

"This deportation and repopulation, known in politically correct terms as "population exchange" was a standard and very deliberate practice of the Neo-Assyrians."

"So what happened to the so-called Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? The answer is simple: They are not lost and never were. Yes, the northern kingdom of Israel itself officially ended by 720 BC, when it was incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian Empire. And yes, inhabitants of Samaria and Israel were indeed deported... However, only 20 percent... at most, were sent into exile."

"Even if 40,000 people were taken into exile and 80,000 fled south to Judah, at least 100,000 more - and perhaps as many as 230,000 people - would have remained in what was once Israel's northern kingdom... the fate that befell [Israel]... mirrors exactly the fate that would befall the people of Jerusalem and Judah a little more than a century later..."

"[E]ven if 40,000 people were carried off... this number pales in comparison with the number of people reportedly deported from Judah... Sennacherib says that he deported 200,150 people from its cities and villages..."

The detail can best be appreciated by reading the book, but hopefully there's enough here to whet the appetite of some readers for a discussion of this subject that has much greater credibility than anything churned out from those that still promote the racist ideologies of Herbert W Armstrong and his jingoistic predecessors.

Friday 24 August 2007

Nuking the nutcases

Every so often a book comes along that brings a fresh breath of air to a stale subject. Eric Cline's From Eden to Exilepublished by National Geographic, is such a book.

Every lunatic and his mutt have an opinion about Noah's Ark (it's up there on a Turkish mountain still waiting to be found by John Warwick Montgomery), or the Ark of the Covenant (still humming with occult energies despite Indiana Jones). In the COG tradition there are numberless enthusiasts running around promoting mind-numbing versions of British-Israelism (the English are Ephraim), based on the tale of those hopelessly directionally-challenged Ten Tribes.

Time to shed some light, and Cline obliges. Sorting out the fact from the fiction, any Armstrong admirer past or present, or any other victim of fundagelicism, will find this an enlightening book. While Cline is a serious scholar, he knows how to write for the rest of us. He covers the location of Eden, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, Joshua and Jericho, the Ark of the Covenant and, of particular interest to former WCG members, his final chapter covers those pesky tribes. These words from a review express it nicely:

"By Exile's end, Cline almost manages to state a definitive conclusion: The Ten Lost Tribes aren't lost at all, because most of them never left Palestine. But along the way, he's had his greatest successes deflating the wild claims of excitable documentary filmmakers like Simcha Jacobovici, evangelical nutcases like Ron Wyatt, and self-appointed pseudo-scholars like Tom Crotser." (source)

In fact, I haven't seen a single review by anyone with active brain cells that finds fault with From Eden to Exile. A great book to give as a gift to someone in the family who is attracted by the siren call of unrestrained biblicist speculation.


Thursday 23 August 2007

Culture krieg - bring on Sinéad!

I'm a passionate aficionado of classical music. It's got me through some tough times. The affair began with an obscure recording of Handel's Messiah and I never looked back. I don't read music and I don't play, but Lord knows I can lose myself in a Tchaikovsky symphony.

The problem is that in the ex-WCG world such interests are viewed with suspicion given Herbert W. Armstrong's predilection for the arts. The guy was a major suck-up. His strategy: throw money at some European orchestra or pianist and grab the cultural kudos. The Ambassador Auditorium and the late, unlamented AICF were his ticket to credibility with the penguin-suited set, while the "grunts" in the pews tithed themselves into near poverty.

The only splinter sect that seems to share HWA's expensive tastes in generating faux-self esteem of this sort is the Edmond, OK Flurry cult, the curiously named Philadelphia Church of God. Like his idol, Papa Gerry enjoys playing the philanthropist (pronounced philan as in philanderer and pist as in, well, pissed.)

Which is my way of introducing a particularly cretinous bit of video PR from the Flurry camp (accessible from a menu on this page.) Obviously Gerry doesn't embarrass easily. If, like me, you appreciate the kind of music the six-pack prophet appropriates, why not send an email to the scheduled performers explaining why you're genuinely disappointed they're doing the Edmond gig. No need to give your life story, just a general indication that in your experience this is a high-demand sect with a dubious reputation.

While on matters musical, James Tabor is waxing lyrical on his blog about Sinéad O'Connor's recent album Theology. Yes, that's right, the Irish artist who has been excommunicated by Rome and has a reputation for colorful language. As I said, my poison is more Rachmaninov than whatever category Sinéad O'Connor comes under, but, after giving it a listen, hey, I can see his point. Now if Gerry was to bring O'Connor to Edmond, now that'd really be something special! Just imagine the follow-up sermons explaining that PCG will not be using her version of "Rivers of Babylon" and that it is not OK to refer to God as Jah in sermonettes!

Meantime I think I'll put some Mendelssohn on and pretend the cheap and cheeky little Aussie Merlot is actually Harveys Bristol Cream...

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Links to check out

Stan has a new entry up on the Gerry Flurry cult, sufficient to (with apologies to Seamus) "keep our disgust fresh."

Whatever you thought of Ambassador College, it was a beautifully maintained campus and a tribute to the grounds staff who kept it that way. Here's a link to some nostalgic photographs of the world that was.

And finally, wouldn't you know it... LCG has laid the blame for its LU software problems with the guy in red tights. Yes brethren, the Devil did it! Douglas Winnail wails: "We need to remember that this is Satan’s world (II Corinthians 4:4) and that he will do all he can to create difficulties and confusion in this effort to make God’s Truth available to people around the world. Your prayers and patience are appreciated…"

A much more plausible reason, I think you'll agree, than stupidity and incompetence.

Trading in the Lada

When I was a young chap, barely out of short pants, I thought I knew it all when it came to religion. There was no doubt in my mind that I knew more about the Bible than any of the good folk who attended the church I was raised in. In fact, I was convinced that I knew a lot more than even the pastor, who looked uncomfortable when I posed any of the questions that were bothering me. He may have learned Hebrew and Greek (and German too, the lingua franca of Lutheran scholarship) but he sure as heck wasn't drinking from the deep spiritual wells of Tomorrow's World and the Ambassador College Correspondence Course.

Garner Ted Armstrong was never backward in making claims for the edifying effect of WCG literature. "Read this booklet and you'll know more about what the Bible says than your minister, blah, blah." This from a man who didn't even know how to keep his fly zipped!

Nothing cures post-adolescent arrogance like age. Pity the man or woman in their mature years who still clings to that kind of ego-infused conceit.

I thought I'd bought a Lamborghini, but I was mistaken. It was definitely a Lada.

Worrying about which church is most correct is like arguing about who makes the best pizza. We all know it isn't Pizza Hut, but that doesn't stop anyone from dropping by every now and then when there's a special on. I know some poor deluded souls who think there's nothing nicer than Hell's offerings (and you know who you are!) but they obviously haven't scored a cheese burst crust with meatballs from Domino's.

The competing COGs are like fast food franchises, each trying to carve out a niche by trumping the opposition with whiz-bang gimmicks and special offers: Christianity meets the consumer. "We're the Philadelphians," "we're republishing Mister Armstrong's books," "we've got the restored truths," "we've got an apostle," "we've got stuffed crust." Okay, so everybody else seems to be doing it from Joyce Meyer to Franklin Graham, but that doesn't make it any prettier to watch. It'd be nice to say it was just an American problem but (1) McChristianity is globalised and (2) even New Zealand has Bishop Brian Tamaki.

Surely there's got to be something more meaningful out there than that. Wherever it might be, you can be pretty sure it won't be found on Sunday morning TV.

Saturday 18 August 2007


The Simpsons Movie is out, and a new cultural high water mark has been reached that far surpasses Dovstoyesky's modest pot-boilers. To celebrate the movie's release, Pastor Generalissimo Joe Tkach, unelected "president-for life" of the WCG, has produced what is obviously a tribute to Homer Simpson. Read the following (source) in a Bart or Homer voice and you'll see what I mean.

* * * *

SPECIAL LEGAL NOTICE to all U.S. and International Pastors, Mission Directors and National Directors

As most of you know, the Worldwide Church of God, USA ("WCG") and Plain Truth Ministries Worldwide ("PTM") became totally separate and distinct legal entities, effective January 1, 2006, in a friendly disassociation approved by, among others, the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council of Elders. Subsequently, on August 4, 2006, the WCG transferred to PTM all its right, title, and interest to the United States Trademark "The Plain Truth" (the "Trademark").

WCG has no rights to the Trademark (subject to an exception that WCG may mention the magazine in reciting the WCG history, but no one should rely upon this exception without first discussing it with the Legal Department).

So as to be clear, in the present case the Trademark is a title – i.e. the words "The Plain Truth." When I refer to "the Trademark," I mean this title or its legal equivalent, the title "Plain Truth."

Since WCG no longer owns the United States Trademark, WCG is directing that all entities under the legal control of WCG (defined below) discontinue all present mentions of the Trademark in any U.S. media and refrain from any future use or mention of the Trademark in the United States. Precisely what this means is explained more below.

Entities under the legal control of the WCG include, for example, but are not limited to, all American churches and any international National Church or any local congregation of a National Church which operates in its country (a) under the registration of the WCG, California Corp. or the WCG D.C. Corp., or (b) where the legal link to the WCG is such that the international National Church or its congregations are subordinate to the WCG in that it must obey the operational directives of the WCG.

The WCG requests, and strongly advises, any entity related ecclesiastically to the WCG, even though it not be legally controlled by WCG (defined below), to also discontinue any present mention of the Trademark in the United States and refrain from future mention. Although the WCG would not incur liability for any infringement by an entity not legally controlled by it, the entity in question may still incur liability for itself if it infringes on the Trademark.

Entities affiliated ecclesiastically but not controlled legally by the WCG would be those that are recognized by the WCG as part of the denomination, but which would not be legally bound under the terms of its own charter, statutes, articles, bylaws, or the laws of its country, to obey directives of the WCG in this matter.

Discontinuation of present use and refraining from future use means to not mention or display the Trademark in any media, including, without limitation, print, radio, television, and the internet which circulates in the United States, or which originates on a web site that is hosted in the United States. This means, for example, that we are directing that no newsletter, magazine, broadcast, and no web pages of WCG or local web pages of any of its American local congregations, and no web pages hosted by the WCG directly or indirectly (even though the web page may be that of a non-controlled affiliate) may mention the Trademark (unless, of course, you have the written permission of Plain Truth Ministries Worldwide, which it may or may not grant). For example, a controlled entity may not in the United States advertise a magazine which carries the Trademark, may not show its picture, and may not link to the Plain Truth Ministries Worldwide website without its written permission.

We are directing that the Trademark not be infringed here in the United States because it is a registered United States Trademark. At least two other international magazines, one from England and one from Malaysia, each use the same words as the Trademark in their title, and, presumably own the words they use as their own trademark in their own country, and perhaps in other places outside their country also (although not in the United States). These entities may continue to use their own trademark in their own areas. They may wish to check with their own legal counsel for further clarification.

Nonetheless, no controlled entity of the WCG may show pictures of, advertise, nor mention the magazine with the American trademark, nor mention or advertise the two other international magazines with the same words of the Trademark, in any media it produces and originates or circulates in the United States. For example, the WCG publication Together may not advertise either of the other two magazines (published in England and Malaysia) which use the same words as the Trademark, even though the other two magazines own their own trademarks in their own countries.

The WCG wishes to stress that this directive is to ensure that the WCG, nor any of its controlled entities, inadvertently infringe upon the Trademark. This directive does not indicate any ill-will between the WCG and PTM. No such ill will exists. The dictates of the United States trademark laws require the foregoing restrictions on use. Now that PTM owns the Trademark, it is a fact that it may lose its rights in the Trademark if it allows others to use the Trademark improperly. If the circumstances were reversed, PTM would be required to issue the same directive, and would do so.

I want to stress that our policy here is slightly more restrictive than the law requires, and that the WCG is not, by adopting this strict policy, agreeing to abide by a stricter standard than the law requires, nor is it waiving any rights of any kind it may have in the matter. Although it is possible that, under some very special circumstances, a mention of the Trademark may be allowable because such mention fits within a legally recognizable permitted fair or informational use with or without a disclaimer, or because such a mention is historic, such mentions would be rare and to avoid inadvertent infringements our internal policy is that no mentions of any kind may be made without advance permission from the Legal Department.

Finally, we understand that this issue is complex and the requirements of the law sometimes appear counterintuitive and contrary even to the Trademark owner's own interests. Therefore, we invite anyone who needs clarification of any kind to contact the Legal Department by email at We prefer the questions be in writing so that we may clearly understand the situation and reply in writing as well.

* * * *

So could this have something to do with the bizarre anti-church gospel being preached by Joe's former best-buddy and Plain Truth "owner-operator" Greg ("religion is bad") Albrecht? Is Joe embarrassed over Greg? Is Greg embarrassed over Joe? Do they still exchange Xmas cards? Is Joe still on the PTM board? Does anyone with living brain cells find this directive convincing? Is Greg still a minister of WCG, or even a member? If he isn't, how come he gets away with calling himself "pastor"? Will either Greg or Joe have a hernia if AW links to PTM?

And most importantly, is there a donut in the house?

God smites LU

The champagne corks were meant to be popping this week as the Meredith Church launched its own niche Bible College, Living University (LU). Instead there were red faces, dark mumblings from church staffers and frustrated students all in a panic judging from what AW has heard.

"Living University was supposed to have gone online either Wednesday or Thursday, but apparently the $30,000 software package purchased to run the whole shebang failed. A number of their first batch of students were calling in, all worried that they wouldn't get credit for what they were taking if they couldn't get online to listen to the sermons, er, college lectures. Great start! So I think some in-house I.T. people were working well into the night Wednesday night and last night to try to write their own program to get things kicked off.

"Don't know if they'll get the $30K back or not... Maybe they finally kicked off today."

Or maybe they just got kicked in the keister by a dissatisfied Deity. I mean, how could this happen to God's remnant Work? Oh wait, silly me, obviously the LCG brethren haven't been praying hard enough. Maybe Rod should call another fast.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Rescuing Dave

Dear David C. Pack

Congratulations in being the early leader in the AW leadership poll.

As you may - or may not - know, we're asking which of six self anointed Church of God bosses will most rapidly disappear into the mists of obscurity over the next 50 years.

It seems, Apostle Pack, that you're top of the pops when it comes to "the forgettability factor." Despite your hugely significant role as God's Number One bloke, singled out by the Big Guy Himself, most AW readers think you're dog tucker.

Heck Dave, I voted for you myself!

Y'know Dave, I think you deserve a PR makeover among the godless skeptics that frequent sites like AW, and I'd like to offer my services. If you need a quality reference, I'll forward Bob Thiel's email address.

AW could really put together a truly unique marketing package to upscale your X-factor. Need I remind you that it was AW that launched the massively influential makeover for Roderick C. Meredith that forever associated him with the affectionately respectful pet-name "Spanky"? And you know where the reverent honorific "Packatollah" came from, right? Consider it a free sample.

Dave, my heart is bleeding to see you so embarrassingly under-rated. I may even be able to persuade Dennis and Doug to sub-contract on the project.

Give me a call, we'll do lunch (no ham and you're paying) and I'll run some rather large figures by you.

My charges are totally unreasonable.

Meantime, as a gesture of goodwill, I'm encouraging all AW readers (think of them as prospective RCG tithers) to launch an in-depth study of your God-given status by clicking over to Gary Scott's excellent XCG blog and listening to your authentic, spirit-inspired words via audio clip.

But don't sign up with Gary before talking with me. Whatever he charges - I'll double!

And that's a promise.

Monday 13 August 2007

Run, Spot, Run

Bob Thiel helpfully reminds us that Living University opens this week with a raft of unaccredited qualifications on offer. Not that Bob uses the "u"-word, and you'll certainly have problems finding any admission that it's an unaccredited operation on the LU website.

But, what-me-worry. Check out the "university" "bookstore" (use of two sets of quote marks is intentional) and you'll get a good idea of the quality of papers on offer. Teaching "Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus" from a Harmony of the Gospels? How unique! The other three key texts are all published by fundamentalist Baker Books.

One text you won't find at LU, I suspect, will be Lester Grabbe's Ancient Israel, the latest offering from a highly respected biblical scholar who just happens to have started out at Ambassador College. Grabbe perhaps uses too many big words to meet the reading age requirements of LU's teaching staff, let alone the students, but the truth is that the guy has real grunt in the academic world. Ancient Israel will be released later this year, but is already available for preorder.

Prospective LU enrollees might better be served by brushing up on their "Janet and John" readers.

Sunday 12 August 2007

STP rises again

The first time I asked someone what STP stood for I was told - with a straight face - "Stop Teenage Pregnancy." I was about 15, and the inquiry was about a motor oil sticker.

STP, as in the ill-fated Systematic Theology Project, was yet to rise - and fall. It might have been an uninspiring document, but had the potential to lead the WCG out of the cultic wilderness where doctrine was set by an old man's whim and a host of hooey was blathered from a thousand pulpits each Sabbath by Rod Meredith clones "winging it."

And now it's back again - or something very much like it. Toddle over to and check the PDF document out for yourself.

The name is different, and Bob Kuhn has been replaced by Larry, Curly and Moe (a.k.a. the two Mikes and Joe Jr.), but Thirty Five Doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God is - all 174 tedious pages of it - the 2007 equivalent of 1978's unloved loose-leaf compendium.

Exactly who 35D is written for is unclear, the church is stressing that there's "nothing new." Maybe the intended audience is the wider evangelical community, another arrow in their PR quiver. Unlike the 1978 original, there's nothing here to move the church forward, and the section on church leadership ("our episcopal structure") is pathetically deficient.

If history was to repeat itself, 35D would be in circulation only briefly before the effluent hit the fan and the church tottered on the brink of disaster, drowning in scandal.

Ah, the good old days. We can but hope...

Thursday 9 August 2007

From thy precepts I learn

I apologise for this link.

I won't do it again.

I'm really, really sorry if it causes nausea, headaches, angina or depression.

The Devil made me do it.

It's really Shadows' fault.

You probably shouldn't click on it.

I will now go and sit in a dark corner till teatime.


Tuesday 7 August 2007

On Safari

Are you a Windows user who wants to give Bill Gates a symbolic heave-ho?

Have you tried dumping Internet Explorer but never entered a committed relationship with Firefox?

Did you mourn the passing of Netscape?

When someone suggested SeaMonkey did you just laugh?

Will you admit, confess and repent of downloading Opera, the European browser of the Beast?

Yet, in all this time, you've never been able to evaluate the browser most beloved of the Apple heretics: Safari.

Now you can. Safari 3 for Windows beta.

It's free, it's different and it's (choke, choke) quite good.

Bob's Bible Blender

Bob Thiel is in attack mode, and his latest target is the hapless Ken Westby and ACD.

I've never met Westby, and I'm pretty far removed from his weltanschau, but he seems a decent bloke with a track record of acting on principle. I personally don't share his unitarian enthusiasm, but that's largely because I think he's asking the wrong questions. But does that mean it's okay to label the guy a "heretic"?

Heresy is in the eye of the beholder. There's something incongruous about Bob pasting the label on Ken when Bob is an apologist for the Living Church of God, a sect widely regarded as heretical itself.

Bob writes: I believe that what A.C.D. does and stands for is dangerous and at least two of its teachings need to be denounced as heresy–the first being the denial of Jesus being God and the second being the denial of portions of the New Testament being scripture... A.C.D. is promoting heresy by teaching that Jesus is not God. Yet Jesus is God and that is what the Bible clearly teaches.

Hold your horses Bob, just what do you mean "the Bible clearly teaches"?

The Bible is a collection of documents written over centuries, composed in various genres and grounded in changing cultures. What Leviticus teaches needn't be what Galatians teaches. Mark's understanding of Jesus is different in many ways from John's. To use the jargon, Mark's earlier Christology is low, John's is high. Putting all the books of the Old and New Testaments into the LCG blender and whizzing them around till they come out as homogeneous pulp is just plain stupid. Each biblical writer needs to be heard individually before making sweeping generalizations (or Fred Coulter-type harmonizations) based on cut 'n paste proof texts severed in bloody chunks from the living documents.

But then, Armstrongism Ancient & Modern knows no other way to approach the Bible. Chuck it in the blender and pick out the bits you like that float to the top. This then can be defended as "the Bible interpreting itself." Why is Rod Meredith allowed to see some things differently in 2007 to Herbert Armstrong back in 1967, while Mark in 50 CE must be squished into the same identical mold as John in 95 CE or thereabouts? This is a woeful understanding of inspiration.

A.C.D. denies the diety [sic] of Christ and questions the Gospel that the Holy Spirit inspired John to write and apparently other passages of scripture. A.C.D. is thus promoting dangerous heresies and should be denounced by those who believe that they are in the true Church of God.

Bob fails to mention that non-unitarians engaged F. Paul Haney and other speakers at the conference in Albany. They seem to have done so with a spirit of generosity and openness, with no indication of name calling and anathemas. I'm also guessing that David Sielaff (who spoke against the unitarian position) at least knows how to spell deity.

As for Bob objecting to the idea of "the denial of portions of the New Testament being scripture," well, maybe he would like to tell us all whether he regards the "Johannine coda" (1 John 5:7-8 in ye olde King James Version) as scriptural.

Westby et al invite us to think about our binatarian assumptions. Why is that a problem? Either they can make a convincing case or they can't. Bob's latest outburst of outrage - what Brian Knowles calls heresy hunting - offers nothing constructive to that debate.

Monday 6 August 2007

The latest Journal

The latest issue of The Journal (June-July) is in the post, and there's a range of interesting material on offer from editor Dixon Cartwright.

* Samuele Bacchiocchi, an Adventist scholar well known in COG circles, is battling claims that he inflated his qualifications from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. It seems incredible that his record could be questioned all these years after he was awarded a doctorate, and wrote openly about the process.

* On other matters pontifical, Bob Thiel gives unsolicited ecumenical advice to the Eastern Orthodox Church (no, really, would I make that up?) Doubtless the bearded Patriarchs of Moscow and Athens will be urgently meeting to carefully and prayerfully consider his cogent counsel.

* The remarkable Ian Boyne is once again strutting and preening about the accomplishments of his Jamaican CGI sub-sect. Thus saith Ian: "The Jamaican CGI is the largest and fastest-growing group derived from the Worldwide Church of God group in the English, Spanish, French and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and perhaps the fastest-growing Church of God (COG) group in the world." Ian's passionate advocacy is doubtless both admirable and unimpeachable, but it's not altogether clear whether those accomplishments include any internal system of checks and balances and elected offices in the cause of accountability. "The model we follow is what I have called “participatory hierarchy.”" - Say what?!

* One God Seminar speakers have again been chewing the unitarian fat, this time in Albany, NY.

* Brian Knowles has contributed a one-off column to put Bob Thiel right – and pass some remarks about an item I wrote on the blog a while ago.

The Journal website is and you don't need to be a subscriber to view the front and back pages in PDF format.

Saturday 4 August 2007

The last words of Shirley Pack

We are all, like it or not, creatures of the dust, mortal and locked in time. The passing of any one individual is a cause for reflection, and empathy for family and friends whose lives were intertwined with a unique presence now lost. As much as we may wish to ignore the uncomfortable reality, this too will be our fate. Life is like that.

So, while I don't wish to be insensitive, the passing of Shirley Pack, wife of self-anointed apostle David C. Pack, is hardly a surprise. She may well have been a fine human being, dutiful wife and loving mother. Perhaps, in her own way, she had moments of insight and clarity which redeemed her perception of the hateful fundamentalism espoused by her husband. I hope so.

But the desecration of anyone's life by postmortem apologetic rape is a vile thing. The manufacturing of "last words" is not uncommon, but is usually intended to bring compassion and comfort those confronting loss. But to do so in order to manipulate is simply despicable.

Is this the case with Shirley Pack? Read Gary Scott's commentary and you be the judge.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

UCG HO ho ho

The United Church of God, an International Acronym [UCGia], is moving its Home Office [HO] to Denton, Texas [TX]. The story goes that they picked up a very nice property at a bargain price, so what's not to like?

Word is out on the grapevine that the fabulous new facility has been sold to the membership minus a few choice bits of information. The remainder of this posting is edited and excerpted from one of the Yahoo newsgroups (reposted in full here).


Two or three miles from the property...

Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc., Denton, TX (TXD077603371): Safety-Kleen is a recycling center that specializes in the recovery and recycling of spent solvents and associated wastes. A Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Permit No. HW-50163 was issued for the facility on August 9, 1994. The permit authorizes the facility to accept and process a wide array of hazardous wastes with no disposal on-site. On September 22, October 1, and October 6, 1998, 6EN-HT staff concluded a Compliance Evaluation Inspection (CEI) at Safety-Kleen. On November 12, 1999, EPA conducted a follow-up CEI and noted the following violations: (1) Treatment and/or storage of hazardous waste without a permit in the day tanks,the debris sorting table, and the fluid recycling service unit, and (2) Failure to control air emissions for containers under subpart CC. On March 28, 2000, EPA issued an Administrative Order assessing a civil penalty of $1,617,908.00 plus injunctive relief.

When some of the COE members had been there to visit they were taken in the front way so they did not see these things [the waste center, and a nearby trailer park that houses registered sex offenders] they just saw the pretty parts. So these folks feel they have discovered why the property was so cheap, and are concerned about the location being much less than the desirable one that was presented in the videos and the United News. Most in the GCE do not yet even know about this...

Among the nasties said to be emitted from the factory: toluene and ethyl benzene. Sounds an idyllic locale.


So, if all this is true, it's obviously very relevant to the purchase decision. Has UCG gone past the point of no return with the property? Maybe it's time for the members whose tithes are bankrolling the move to phone, fax or email the HO with a few pertinent questions.