Friday 29 February 2008

And now a message from Yahweh

Dateline Rio: Oh strike! Jesus gets zapped from on high. Here's a link to the Daily Mail.

And while we're dealing with the topic of wrath, why not take a Meredithesque moment to reflect on the godly benefits of spanking. Here in New Zealand the practice was recently made illegal, but the conservative "Christian" types have been whining and moaning, gibbering and wailing ever since about their "right" to "discipline" their kids. It's doubtful even this story in USA Today would convince them otherwise.

On a different tangent, Felix Taylor reveals the existence of a brand of ex-WCG member I'd despaired of ever finding: a liberal Catholic. Conservative Catholic converts aren't uncommon, as witnessed by Jared Olar's occasional informative comments, but Janice is somethin' else, and a breath of fresh incense! Check out Felix's blog.


One of the earliest and best information sites on WCG has been updated. Bill Ferguson's Ekklesia was hugely influential at the time of "the changes", and Bill advises: "I've cleaned up all the broken links (at least the ones I've found so far) and will be reconfiguring the site to be the new home of the ekklesia mailing list."

In the mid-90s Ekklesia was one of the first WCG-related websites I discovered as I got up to speed with Internet technology. Others around at that time were Mark Tabladillo's site, the Painful Truth, and Dee-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's Exit and Support monstrosity. The original Ambassador Watch and Missing Dimension sites (now defunct) owed an awful lot to Bill's inspiration.

Bill is one of the good guys, and there's a lot of value on offer at Ekklesia. Definitely worth bookmarking!

Monday 25 February 2008

In the News

Thanks to those who've emailed through these links.

Uncertainty over Ambassador Campus (Pasadena Star News) - Nuthin' is ever simple!

Basil Wolverton mentioned (NYT Book Review) - The Michelangelo of the Radio Church of God.

Then there's a Daily Kos opinion piece that begins:

The first great prophet of the 20th century was Herbert W. Armstrong, a former advertising copywriter who dispensed his dispensationalism by way of a radio program called World of Tomorrow [sic], a monthly newsletter [sic] entitled Plain Truth, and the occasional booklet, and whose second career as a harbinger of doom spanned more than fifty years. Like most advertising copywriters of that period, Armstrong had nothing but contempt for the written form of the English language. In his popular 1956 pamphlet entitled 1975 in Prophecy!, Armstrong's jihad against subdued English communication begins on the title page and continues without pause; let the reader be warned that this is only the first of many inappropriate exclamation points used therein. More to the point, Armstrong here pioneers the art of modern eschatology and serves as a shining example for those would come later, largely by being wrong.

Sunday 24 February 2008


150 years ago, in the wake of the Great Disappointment, Gilbert Cranmer began what was to become the Church of God (Seventh Day). A group of Adventist Christians, estranged from the charismatic figure of Ellen White (prophetess of Seventh-day Adventism), set out on a resolutely independent path; one that leads - over much stony ground - to every single one of the Churches of God in the Armstrong tradition.

It's worth remembering that the Church of God (Seventh Day) is still out there, and still publishing the Bible Advocate, the periodical that once featured Herbert Armstrong's by-line on the front cover. Looking at the sad record of subsequent schisms, COG7 clearly had something the Armstrong clones didn't: staying power.

Remember the Twentieth Century Church of God, the Biblical Church of God, the Associated Churches of God? How about the Global Church of God or the Church of God - a Christian Fellowship? Our history is littered with failed splinter groups, almost always centered around one man, with soon-to-be-dashed delusions of adequacy. In that, at least, they were true to Herbert Armstrong.

When today's crop of sects are footnotes in history, will COG7 endure? I'd like to think so. Part of the reason lies simply in the collaborative way things are run. No overbearing hierarchy, no defensive hyper-congregationalism, just a practical General Conference system that keeps people together while providing for diversity. The people Armstrong dismissively referred to as the "Sardis Era" have outlasted the upstart ad-man and most of his imitators.

May the next 150 years also be kind to them.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Journal & BAR online

The latest issue of The Journal has hit the presses, and a free download of front and back covers is available.

In a first for The Journal there's a feature on the COG fascination with the Two Witnesses by former WCG pastor Dennis Diehl - a name more than slightly familiar to AW readers ;-)

A report on the Big Sandy schism is extremely brief, but with the promise of more to come in the next issue. The suggestion is that John Warren's expulsion centered on COG-BS's sponsorship of the East Texas Women's Conference. Forget doctrine and scandal, this seems to be all about parish pump prima donnas. The 17 page (!) Connections advertising section features the usual bunch of wackos along with an occasional sane person. COGgism? Gotta love it!

Once you've cruised The Journal, you might like to cast an eye over the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, which has provided free online access to all major content in its March-April Issue.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Everything is Okey Dokey in Edmond

You might imagine that the editors at The Oklahoman might be able to distinguish between real journalism - concerns around a highly controlling local sect for example - and patsy PR pieces.

Apparently not.


I think it's in everyone's best interests I turn off the comments option on this one...

Jordan Maxwell asks an interesting question. Scroll down to question 10 on the link.

Yes, well, ummmmmm....

Maybe church spires weren't so bad after all...

Sunday 17 February 2008

BS Lemming Drive

Big Sandy is without doubt entitled to be regarded as the Lake Wobegon of COGism. The recently departed splinter group there (see earlier item) are apparently calling themselves Texas Fellowship (not to be confused with this Texas Fellowship.) Attracted as moths to the flame have been a number of big to middlin' speakers from days of yore: Wayne Cole, David Antion, Jim Ussery.

No Board will be elected to reign over these independently-minded Texans. Anyone want to give them more than 12 months before the first big stampede?

Men In Black

Bob Thiel, bless him, reveals exciting new details about the Two Witnesses.

"Did you know that the Bible teaches that the two witnesses will wear at least some black?"

Gasp! No Bob, I'd always read straight past that. And no wonder! Here's the Thielien logic:

Rev.11:13 says the Twosome will eschew suits for sackcloth - quite a fashion statement in 2008.

Next Bob flips over it Isaiah 50:3 where the blackness of heaven is compared to - wait for it - sackcloth!

The clincher for Bob comes in Rev.6:12 where the sun becomes black as... well, you'll be way ahead of me.

Exegesis of this quality is remarkable enough, but Bob is not a man to rest when there's yet more light and truth to break forth. Stirred into this potent brew is a quotation from someone named Ellen G. Wh... no, hang on, correction... Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th century Augustinian nun, stigmatic, mystic, visionary and ecstatic, who speaks of "the little black man in Rome" and "the new black church."

Being less perspicacious about such things than Bob, I have no idea how he connects Emmerich's racist fantasies with his own fantastic COG scenarios, but alas, this is surely just density and blindness on my part.

But I do have a suggestion of my own about the identity to the Men In Black. Indeed, it's possible to go one better than Bob's helpful visual aid (reproduced above.) Bear in mind that Bob's previous post flailed against Martin Luther for using dynamic equivalence when translating the Bible. Now, remember how Satan mimics truth, then note the cover of the latest Australian Lutheran showing a religious professional garbed in black and astride a beast. Coincidence? I think not. Yes brethren, the Two Witnesses will be bikers in leathers!

And not even Ronnie Weinland knows that.

Friday 15 February 2008

How to Read the Bible

Every so often along comes a book that resets the agenda and signals a weather change in the way people view their world. James Kugel's How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now may be just such a book.

Kugel is an effective writer, and his book is mercifully approachable by the non-specialist. But more than this, he is an intelligent and informed writer, not out to score cheap apologetic points. Kugel writes out of his own struggle with the Bible, as both an Orthodox Jew and a scholar. This is a book that will both challenge and appeal to people of faith and those who have moved away from biblical faith... and those in between.

How to Read the Bible begins with a potted history of the way people down through history have viewed the scriptures - with particular focus on the Old Testament. On the cusp of change we meet a remarkable American Presbyterian called Charles Briggs, convicted of heresy a hundred years ago.

From there Kugel begins a kind of survey of the Hebrew Bible viewed with the twin lenses of received wisdom and dogma on one hand (the "ancient interpreters"), and the fruit of modern biblical scholarship on the other. From the first section on the Creation, Adam and Eve, it's clear this is a journey of discovery even for those old hands who thought they already knew it all. Expect to find a few overturned apple-carts along the way.

For anyone fascinated or conflicted by the Bible (the two reactions aren't mutually exclusive!) this is a brilliant and utterly riveting read.

Sunday 10 February 2008

The Last Daze: 1335 sleeps to go

Big news brethren: "the 1335 days before the actual day Jesus Christ returns began on February 2, 2008."

Woo hoo!

These are the words of Ronnie Weinland, God's little helper. Ronnie stands at the head of a church that now boasts two "presiding evangelists", Wayne Matthews in Australia/New Zealand and Johnny Harrell in the US and Canada. My guess is that they've both sent in some generous checks to fund the final push.

And so The End, dear brethren, is indeed at hand. But not perhaps in the way Ronnie thinks. After 1335 days of fear mongering and spiritual manipulation of sincere, naive, credulous victims, Ronnie's fantasies are bound to come tumbling down on his own head. I suspect he's already arranged for a hard hat.

But spare a thought for the folk he's suckering in. Take this guy for example:

He [Weinland] has written two very good books... I have read both numerous times and find them an excellent fountain of truth about religion and the lies that have been spread/done in Gods name. I had no interest in religion of any sort up until this point but once reading his books; it was like the truth was undeniable and plain to see for those with ears to listen and eyes to see.

[T]he worst was telling my girlfriend; she was on holiday at the time so I had two weeks to read the books and formulate what I would tell her. The day she came back I sat her down and explained to her what I had found out and the great truths that had been revealed to me; I expected her to flip and call me crazy and dump [m]e for being a nutter; she was amazing and completely understood and stood by me. Again I was in shock but one thing; she does not observe the Sabbath which is a pain...

One thing we have agreed upon is that when events build in magnitude to a degree that cannot be denied she will then start observing the Sabbath with me.

Everything that Ronald states in his books are coming to pass more and more as he predicts i.e. the seven thunders and the previous 5 seals being opened.

To me the world/universe around me has always been proof of higher intelligence; up until about 8 years ago I bought evolution like most peeps but then my friend asked me some questions and pointed out some obvious flaws and that’s when my journey for the truth began.

Until Ronald I believed that perhaps E.T's were responsible for life on earth but now I know better.
Back to "Ronald":

All that we are experiencing right now is a very small taste, just an ice cube on the tip of an iceberg of what is coming, as God begins to call thousands upon tens of thousands of people over the next year. From there it goes into the millions—all in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of God’s Government over all the earth in the fall of 2011.

Will Weinland's ice cube turn into a Titanic sized iceberg, or just melt into a puddle on a page of obscure footnotes about apocalyptic delusions?

And is Ronnie himself a couple of ice cubes short of a scotch on the rocks?

With only 1335 sleeps to go, time - as they say - will most definitely tell!

Friday 8 February 2008

WCG reaches back to its real roots

It should come as no surprise that the ministry of Tkach's WCG is currently having a sweaty, torrid affair with Karl Barth and the Torrance brothers. WCG's roots reach back beyond the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the Seventh Day Baptists. Not to some imaginary unbroken lineage of sabbatarian True Believers anchored in the first century, but to the pestiferous Puritans. Herman Hoeh and Dugger & Dodd had it grievously wrong. Forget Peter Waldo, the WCG's great granddaddy was a highly confused Calvinist in the Church of England.

If that sounds a bit far fetched consider this, almost all Anglo-Protestant denominations and sects have been victims of the Puritan meme: Baptists, Brethren, Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians. You have to retreat to Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran theology to escape the worst of its overpowering influence.

Which is why WCG once had such drawing power. Strict sabbatarianism, for example, only makes sense in the context of deformed Reformed theology.

The Puritans also raised speculation on The End Times to an art form and railed against Christmas. Sound familiar? The godly non-conformists would have loved the Bible Hymnal, preferring to sing only the psalms. (In fact Dwight Armstrong raided the Calvinist cupboard in putting his hymns together.)

Of course, in subsequent centuries the Puritan imperative has gone forth to multiply and mutate, partly thanks to those tenacious Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock. Surface details may differ dramatically among their descendants, but the same Calvinist DNA underlies the astonishing variety.

Even Arminius sprang forth from the Calvinist matrix.

WCG has abandoned only its fictional roots. It's an idea worth exploring, and to set the ball in motion here's a link to From Sunday to Sabbath: The Puritan Origins of Modern Seventh-day Sabbatarianism by Ralph Orr, available at

Sunday 3 February 2008

A Very Hard Question

This is a special posting by Dennis Diehl, who is seeking some AW reader feedback in preparing an upcoming article. The SAB link to the right of the Bible texts takes you to the relevant page of the Skeptic's Annotated Bible.

It is obvious from scripture that Jesus predicted his own resurrection, either by his own efforts...

John 2:19-21 - Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. SAB

Or be raised up by God the Father.

Acts 2:32 - This Jesus hath God raised up.... SAB

Acts 4:10 - Jesus Christ... whom God raised from the dead.... SAB

Acts 13:30 - But God raised him from the dead. SAB

Galatians 1:1 - Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead) SAB

Colossians 2:12 - Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. SAB

1 Thessalonians 1:10 - ... his Son ... whom he raised from the dead. SAB

This, of course, implies that before his death, Jesus knew he would be resurrected over a mere weekend and back better than ever "sitting on the right hand of God."

God as well, knew he could and would raise Jesus back to life after a short weekend (Imagine how much more at ease human fathers would be if they knew that if their children died, they could get them back in a mere three days good as new?) Would take a lot of the fear out of life and having kids.

This being the case,..

Why is the sacrifice of Jesus such a great sacrifice for all humanity? Why is "God giving his only begotten son" so amazing if God knew He would raise him back to life again better than ever. Why is this mere weekend inconvenience for God and Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity. Should a real sacrifice not stay dead to be considered a sacrifice?

This question seems to me to be one of the hardest of all to answer for Christians if they take time to think about it. It was born out of a comment a client made, who had lost her only daughter in a car accident and who was tired of the Church telling her that God gave his only son and understands her pain.

She said " daughter is still dead, and God got Jesus back after a mere weekend. I would be willing to wait a weekend to get her back. God giving Jesus was a weekend inconvenience, and my daughter is still dead. Jesus should still be dead for me to be impressed by a Deity giving His only son for us."

A very hard question indeed.