Tuesday 15 March 2016

The End Times and apple trees

Herbert Armstrong, Ted Armstrong, Raymond McNair, Herman Hoeh, Rod Meredith, Gerry Flurry. Bill Dankenbring, Fred Coulter, Ronnie Weinland, Don Billingsley...

There's blunt irony in the inescapable fact that each of these doomsayers is now either dead or skating toward the precipice. Each proclaimed the nearness of Christ's return "in our time". Each was wrong.

It's an unenviable track record, and yet there's no lack of hopefuls to take on their mantle. You'd think they'd learn.

There is no escaping, though, that the Churches of God are part of the wider Adventist movement, with all that implies about misreading apocalyptic literature. Declaw them of that and they lose their very soul; witness what has happened to Grace Communion International. Adventism is all about the nearness of Christ's return. If you were living in 1844 it was perilously near, not to your grandchildren but to you personally. 1914, the angelic trumpet was about to sound. 1972, and the DC10s bound for Petra had their engines running.

And yet, here we all are, 2016. But wouldn't you know it, prophecy is still marching on. The trouble is, it's marching the other way.

The prophecy pundits don't seem deterred, busily "watching world news" with the help of WND. In fact, they regard this as a religious duty, assuming this is what Jesus meant when he called on his disciples to 'watch'.

Of course, it wasn't. No TV newscasts, no newspapers or magazines in the first century. Such news as you got was usually months old, carried by word of mouth or handwritten letter. Paul wasn't monitoring CNN, much less Fox News.

But, if you're going to bleed tithes from the flock, it helps to keep them expectant and stressed out. The apocalyptic mindset feeds on pessimism. It also discourages people from taking practical action - on climate change for example. Why bother?

There's a nice little quote attributed to Luther.
"If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant an apple tree today."
It's almost certainly apocryphal, but like a lot of apocryphal sayings, there's a good deal of truth to it.


Pam said...

In 2012, with wacko Harold Camping making big headlines with his End of the World scenario (amazing that he was able to get worldwide media attention, but the UCG and the rest of the WCG splinters can't attract any...) I gave a pair of "prophecy" seminars at the FOT. At bottom, you might say they end on the same note as the (possibly) apocryphal Luther quote you shared, Gavin.

I have had an unusual amount of opportunity over the past 20 years, given that I am a female, to share my own perspective on prophetic speculation with a fairly wide audience in COG circles. That perspective has long varied WIDELY from the male COG world's approach.

Perhaps some of the readers of this blog might find something of value in what I had to say that year. Here are the seminar descriptions, and links to the videos. (I'll put the second in the next comment.)


There is a lot of hype in both the religious and secular world about the possibility of great catastrophes coming very soon. Many sermons, websites, and magazine articles speculate that the Great Tribulation might be almost upon us, perhaps beginning as early as 2012. Movies and books and TV specials speculate on why the “Mayan Calendar” ends on December 21, 2012, and whether it might be a “sign” that natural disasters such as earthquakes and tidal waves or asteroids are about to devastate the Earth. Even many Christians are stocking up on “survival supplies” such as freeze-dried foods and water treatment tablets. Some are going so far as to build underground bunkers to prepare for their own family to survive the chaos they are expecting soon. This seminar will explore what may end up being the most unexpected scenario of all for the near future! Are you preparing your family for … the unthinkable?

Prophecy Seminar 1, 2012, Pam Dewey

Pam said...


Asteroids! Earthquakes! TEOTWAWKI--The End of the World as We Know It! Both religious and non-religious people by the millions are all in an uproar about the immediate future. Prophecy sermons about the Great Tribulation are flooding churches. Sensationalistic movies and books and Youtube videos and TV specials with “2012” in the title—like “2012-Doomsday”—are everywhere. You may have paranoid friends and family, who are all in a panic about these things … and maybe you feel a bit paranoid yourself some days! Is the sky really about to fall? Should you start wearing a hardhat or a motorcycle helmet everywhere to be prepared just in case it does? This seminar will help you explore whether you should be worried about 2012 being the Beginning of the End … or excited about 2012 being the Beginning of a Beginning for YOU.

Prophecy Seminar 2, 2012 Pam Dewey

Anonymous said...

And if we had each planted an apple tree in 1972, all things being equal, we'd have had 40 years of apples.


By their fruit ye shall know them.

How do you like them apples?

Pam said...

By the way, Gavin.... LOVE your new Sect Trek: Next Generation blog subtitle!

Unknown said...

Just $1000 dollars added each year, since 1972, into an index fund of the stock market and just bought and held , (11% per year return was achieved), would be worth $1 Million dollar today.

A lot could have been accomplished since 1972 by anyone, or any group. Look forward, never backwards, take small steps to invest in the future, and reap a harvest.

Byker Bob said...

The real problem kicks in with the knowledge that the end times isn't just treated as a raw fact. It is used as a pretense for the total co-opting of members' lives. In the case of false prophecies, members become co-dependants!


Pam said...

And the biggest tragedy is in the stolen lives of the CHILDREN of the first generation cultists. They didn't even have a "choice" to buy into the toxic belief system and prophetic speculations. Just like the children in polygamist cults, it's all they've ever known. And choices were made for THEM ... such as not getting dental work because "God will heal all dental problems in Petra", not getting school shoes so money could be sent for the Final Push/ Gun Lap, not encouraging them to go to college since the End would be soon, and on and on... based on the nonsense.

No wonder a large majority of them have abandoned the "Faith of their Fathers" once the system all began to crumble. While their parents may go on, trying over and over to find the One True Prophet with Herbert's mantle, the kids are now grown and can get on with their lives. But often with a huge handicap in many areas.

Retired Prof said...

When I feel the need for eschatology, I peer ahead to what cosmologists describe as the heat death of the universe, when all physical lumps will evanesce and all glows will fade into a single featureless empty field like an energy field, except absolutely free of matter and energy. Total tranquility.

However, that perfect peace is forecast not to come about for what is virtually an infinite amount of time. Remember that "virtually" means "in effect, but not in actuality." We can rest assured that it will actually happen--just so far into the future that we can safely put off all preparations for it indefinitely.

So when I need a dose of eschatology that will give me an adrenaline rush, I meditate on the fate of our sun, which will in time use up its hydrogen fuel and expand into a red giant so large that it will envelop the earth. Now that prospect is terrifying, and it is set to happen in only five billion years! The urgency is palpable. The hard part is, preparations have to be timed just right. If we wrap ourselves in asbestos too soon, we risk lung cancer. If we wait too long, the searing heat will char us before we can finish our cocoons.

What to do, what to do?

Anonymous said...

Retired Prof, not to worry.

Cosmologists estimate that a neutron star will happen upon us close enough to bombard us with xray and cosmic radiation so powerful that it will instantly destroy all life on earth and it will be a mere ten million years, give or take.

It's time to move on to other real estate in the universe before we get fried and ten million years should be just enough time to pack up into a generation ship and head out to the stars... hopefully picking the ones that will give us hundreds of millions of years before the next rent is due and not a mere 10 million years.

So much for eschatology.

Byker Bob said...

In 1975, the WCG debunked itself. Leading up to that date, they told us we had to believe their prophecies because God only revealed what he was going to do in advance to the people who taught and practiced the right doctrines. When 1975 went bust, they realized what they had done, so they lied and spun. Many of us realized at that time that HWA's teachings were 90% hocum, and GTA proved by his behavior that it had all been just a ticket to an extravagant lifestyle for him. Incredibly, in this case, he ended up leading by example!

The bad news is that so many accepted reprogramming so that they could endure 4 more decades under false prophecy! I feel sorry for them, but we're all responsible for the decisions we make. And, so long as we are alive, there is always hope!


Anonymous said...

Retired Prof:

Isaac Asimov offered hope in a classic story from 1956: The Last Question