Saturday, August 31, 2019

UCG: Another Example Of Why It Is Such An Inconsequential Little COG

Below is from the latest COE report of United Church of God. With all the important things they could be focused upon as a church and even as ministers, this is where they place some their focus.  Apparently some ministers are sending in papers that have a negative or off-putting "tone" to them.  And, many of the ministers have an off-putting tone to their voice when they speak. Instead of being agents of grace and mercy they come across far too often as authoritative little jerks that turn off UCG members.

Tone Chart Update and Discussion—Dan Dowd
The discussion of the media department’s tone and voice chart was another follow-up discussion. Dan Dowd led the discussion picking up where Rex Sexton left off in the May meetings.
Darris McNeely had invited Dan Dowd to meet with the media department about this topic at the home office on July 8, which he did. The tone and voice chart goes back to 2008 with a desire to have a consistent approach across all our preaching efforts because we no longer have one personality like Mr. Armstrong.
Tone is the manner the voice is heard and how we present the material. Voice refers to the person using it with everyone having a different personality.
Mr. McNeely was introduced to explain the voice and tone chart. He read the tone and voice chart and mentioned that it describes how we come across to those through the message going out. He explained that content is separate from tone and voice. Voice has many different components from loving and caring to authoritative at times which depends on the topic.
Mr. Dowd mentioned one of the comments from the media department, that our publications are not primarily for our members.
Peter Eddington explained we take a “milk to meat” approach. The Beyond Today (BT) is often the first introduction to the Church and the United News (UN) has additional, deeper doctrinal material. Then, many of our booklets go into greater doctrinal depth, more of the “meat” of the gospel. And this has been our historical approach.
Chairman Ward mentioned the main reason this topic was brought up to the Council level was because some long-standing ministers have had their articles turned down because of their tone but they were not told why. The articles were for the UN where more meaty doctrinal articles are to be sent. Dr. Ward asked who decides whether articles are accepted or not.
Peter Eddington said the UN content team is Vic Kubik, Darris McNeely, Peter Eddington, Justin Palm and the editor of the publication, Ariana Del Signore. There is a variety of reasons certain articles may not be published. We are trying to introduce the gospel message to the world. Every issue of the UN has a content meeting and sometimes judgment calls need to be made regarding what can be included. Sometimes there is simply not enough space in an issue to fit the articles that were submitted.
Mr. McNeely said the articles go through doctrinal review and the doctrinal review team for the UN is David Mills, Rex Sexton, Tony Wasilkoff, Jerold Aust, Gerald Seelig, Darris McNeely, Peter Eddington and Vic Kubik who are seasoned ministers.
Dr. Ward asked for improved communication when articles are not accepted.
Ariana Del Signore, the new associate editor of the UN, said she would communicate who reviewed the article if they are not accepted.
Scott Ashley said some articles sent in have good ideas, but they aren’t written well or are untimely for what is needed for certain issues.
Mario Seiglie mentioned that anyone who writes knows that not everything will be used. He encouraged writers to not take it personally and to keep submitting articles.
Jorge de Campos said that the feedback he has received for our publications is very good. Those producing them are doing an outstanding job. He encouraged anyone who has concerns to apply Matthew 18 instead of raising issues directly to the Council. He complimented the administration for what they are doing.
Dr. Ward reminded everyone the issue is how to communicate back to the ministry when an article is not accepted. If an article is not accepted because of tone then the ministry should have a copy of the tone and voice chart, so they know why.
Mr. Ashley said writer’s guidelines could be given to the ministry and writers. It can be passed along and posted online.
Mr. McNeely recommended also posting a link for writers to a 50-minute writer’s class about tone and voice given by Scott Ashley.
Mr. Dowd concluded by mentioning good communication back and forth will go a long way in helping resolve future situations. He also suggested distributing the tone and voice chart to all writers and this was agreed upon.
Keep it up boys! After 25 years you have this to celeberate on how awsome UCG is above all other COG's!  Woo Hoo! 

"Spiritual But Not Religious":

“I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

"I'm spiritual but not religious" is a concept I hear often and have labeled myself as being. It is more likely a self definition used by those who have come out of a particular organized religious experience either growing up or a specific religion or denomination the participated in in later life and yet found it either terribly unsatisfying.  left over the drama and scandal of its leadership or simply found the teachings to be more burdensome than liberating.  Such was the WCG experience and continues to this day in the splinters for many.  

When I consider myself  "spiritual" , and I don't speak for others, I simply mean I have a tremendous respect, awe and curiosity about the Universe I live in.  Learning about it has left me with a wonderful sense of being a part of and not separate from all that is.  Or as it is said,  "I am in the Universe and the Universe is in me."   I don't mind, in fact am in awe, that every atom in my body came from the core of an exploding star. Every bit of iron in my blood, same. I don't mind being made up of the Universe, conscious and observing itself.  Very poetic and "spiritual" to me. 

 I also find it more incredible, and not disturbing, to define humans as the model of a "Conscious Hairless Ape" that has evolved over millions of years to what we presently are and yet still short of what humans shall become in time. But you knew that.   I would also note that if we were "Conscious Hairless Horses" our God or gods would be some form of supernatural horse. The image we'd have been created in would be that of a horse. That's how we are wired to think it seems. 

My interest in and collection of stone tools, most thousands of years old and several millions , speak to me of those who have come before, lived, laughed and loved out their lives with all its drama and trauma and are no more.  To pick up a stone tool in a field, or from the riverbed that someone dropped or lost thousands of years ago is a spiritual experience to me. It tells me to live now while life is mine to live. 

Grooved  Hammerstone/Axe I dug out of the bottom of the Willamette River one morning last summer before work in a location occupied for the over 11,000 years. 

I have spent many a night outside in the heat of summer or blast of winter (a better time to view) with my telescope reminding myself  of what's "out there" and feeling that spiritual connection with it all.  Believe me, that telescope got me through the Fall of GTA, the Receivership in the late 70's and most of the other BS WCG inflicted on my psyche as a church pastor. 

Perhaps it's just a connection, but in this sense, that is my definition of spirituality.  It is not a religious feeling. I certainly don't need to prove it's there with 10,20 or 30% of my income or driving all over creation to be with the group while others tell me/us how it all is. 

Just the view on the way to work and from the neighborhood was a spiritual experience in deep time.
Mt Hood is 500,000 years old and the dip in the hills is the gap through which the Missoula Ice AgeFlood waters of 15,000 years ago poured through into Portland at 600 feet deep. Now in South Carolina is only get to see Walmart and Target....sigh. 

Sitting on top of Mt Hood over looking Mt St Helens and Adams or time on the Oregon Coast was easily a "spiritual experience" and reflective times for me. It spoke of deep time and the forces and processes that have long gone on to bring us to this present scene. 

Sitting "alone" along the Willamette before work one Sunday, this apparition emerged from the water and rather startled me. . I thought the Willamette River Goddess had come to take me home.  It was a spiritual experience until I spotted the photographer on the beach. :)

Spirituality seems the default position we take when religion has driven us mostly mad. It is the difference, perhaps, between cats and dogs.  In religion, like a dog, one is trained to sit, eat, roll over and come when called.  Cats, not so much are tend towards a good symbol of the spiritually minded person, however that translates for them, who have come out of religion or never had a taste for it to begin with.

Religion and spirituality are two concepts that go hand in hand and are discussed together almost on all occasions. Both are essential aspects of a human being’s life that help them gain a deeper understanding as to what their lives and existence are about, thereby, helping them to cope with the regular ordeals of life.

What is Spiritual ?

Being spiritual can be defined as a process of personal transformation that is in accordance with certain religious ideals. However, since the 19th century, spirituality has been separated from religion and has been more focused upon experience and psychological growth. There is, however, no single widely-agreed upon definition for spirituality and thus, it can be any blissful experience of meaningful activity. However, according to Waaijman, spirituality can be traditionally defined as the effort to recover the original shape of man in the image of God. However, in modern terms, spirituality would denote a process of transformation which is triggered by a meaningful activity and is a very subjective experience.

What is a Religious ?

A religion can be described as a philosophy or method of thought based upon an organized set of cultural beliefs and systems created by man with the intention of bestowing a meaning to the human existence. This is done so by putting communities in communion with a higher power through rituals, stories and beliefs. It is an open community that usually allows freedom of thought to its members, its principles having been established and accepted by large groups of people for a long period. In most cases, one is often born into one’s religion while others choose or convert into a religion of their choice after experiencing, researching and extensive studying out of their own free will. Being religious would mean wholeheartedly believing and placing faith on these beliefs as preached by one’s own religion and arduously following its practices and rituals.

What is the difference between Spiritual and Religious?

It is a given fact that religious and spiritual are two terms that are often discussed in similar contexts. However, the term “spiritual, but not religious” being in trend these days , it is important to note that while a religious person is most definitely a spiritual person, a spiritual person is not always religious. So that is where the differences commence.
• Religion is a tangible theory where importance is attached to worshiping idols, symbols and fixed ideals. Thereby, being religious involves placing faith upon such tangible aspects. 
The concept of spirituality does not include idols or symbols and as such it has more of an intangible, vague quality.
• Religion has a basic moral code, a set of core values and a story outline.
 Spirituality does not feature such characteristics.
• Religions are based upon rituals that are strictly and ceremoniously followed by those who are part of that religion. 
Spirituality does not feature such rituals and the practices followed in spirituality are subjective. Some may follow methods such as meditation while others may engage in chanting, et c. However, these methods are not customary to be followed.
• Religion and its ideals are based upon the teachings of a religious leader who has thus set up such ideals with the aim of guiding the people towards nirvana, salvation, etc . 
Spirituality is focused upon the inner cultivation of a person. This is done so with the aim of enabling the individual to reach a higher plane of being.
• Religion brings societies together by common beliefs, rituals and customs and thus features entire communities of believers. This also contributes towards lending a helping hand towards members of the community by way of providing alms, engaging in community service, etc. 
Although spirituality believes in good will towards others, it is more of an individual practice. While there may be small communities that hold common spiritual beliefs, it is a rather secluded practice which features communities much smaller than the communities found in religion.
Being spiritually minded, no matter one's definition or experience with the concept, is indeed life and peace.  Organized Religion and the never ending and never quite satisfying search for "the One True Church" complete with the exact right things to believe do and give up….., not so much.  


Friday, August 30, 2019

Does the church really need new knowledge in order to survive?

The one thing the Church of God is missing...

For decades in the Church of God movement knowledge only flowed from above, through the apostle, to the ministry and finally to the sheep.  Knowledge NEVER came from the sheep upwards.  Many tried through the decades and swiftly found themselves blackballed and disfellowshipped.  How presumptuous of them to know more than the apostle!

Preaching the Gospel has this up:
Some of the human leadership of the Church of God has managed to build a culture of hostility to new knowledge at a very time when there is a desperate need for new knowledge in the Church of God.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).

Could this apply to the Church of God today?
I have said there is a desperate need for new knowledge in the Church. What is that need? What do we need God to teach us that we do not already know?
I will mention three examples, though I could probably list many more. All three relate to problems in the Church of God, problems the ministry and membership do not know how to deal with. We need knowledge from God and from His word the Bible in how to remedy these situations, knowledge we apparently do not have. 
The first point he mentions is addiction in the church.  That one certainly is true.  Alcoholism is a huge problem in the Church of God movement and always has been.  Working in Pasadena for three decades exposed me to the rampant alcohol abuse of ministers and members, but particularly with the ministers.  For many years I got assigned to work the ministerial dining room during the Feast.  What an eye-opening experience that was! Watching ministers have to be almost carried out of the room because they were drunk was a shocking thing to see.
One is the problem of addiction in the Church. Some baptized Church of God members struggle with addictions to sins, addictions they have struggled with unsuccessfully for years and have still not overcome. These could be addictions to alcohol, drugs, sexual sin, gambling, over-eating, and many other things. In vain you may search a sermon list of a Church of God fellowship for a sermon series on how to overcome addiction with messages that are truly effective in helping members overcome their addictions. Why do ministers avoid this topic? Is it because they think addiction is not a problem? Unlikely. More likely, they do not have an answer, so they avoid the subject.
They don't talk about it because they themselves are addicts.  Others don't talk because their close friends are and they don't want to expose them.  Decades ago, a local minister in Pasadena knew there was a problem with alcohol in the church and sought to do something about it.  He knew how AA had helped many in the local community to maintain sobriety.  He started working with other churches and AA leaders to start a program.  It even made the news in Pasadena, until some jealous pissant at HQ went running to HWA about it. Considering HWA had an alcohol problem himself, he wasn't about to see this succeed, special when it came to cooperating with other religious organizations.
The Church needs new knowledge from the Bible on the subject of how members can overcome their addictions, knowledge that really gets results and bears good fruit.
What new knowledge from the Bible is going to change people in the church from being alcoholics? Sometimes the best thing they need to is to stop listing to self-appointed church guru's and take advantage of the myriad of groups that deal with this day in and day out. Those resources will do far more to assist church members than any "new knowledge" sought from the Bible that some minister newly discovers!

The next source of needed new knowledge is on how to get the gospel of Herbert Armstrong out into the world like he did. Not one single group today is even approaching the number of things HWA did in promoting his beliefs.  No world leaders are being contacted, no interesting TV programs are being produced that draw in members, nothing like this is being done by ANY COG leader today, no matter how much they squawk that they are.
Another problem is the lack of a wide-open door for preaching the gospel. Yes, the door is still open, but only a crack. We have had plenty of time since the breakup of Worldwide for faithful remnants of the Church to grow and become strong. But God has not given us a wide-open door as He gave Mr. Armstrong. Magazine circulation in the old days was about 7,000,000 or more, and growth in members and income for a time was about 30% a year. Now, typically for one of the larger organizations, magazine circulation is only about 250,000 or 300,000. Growth in membership and income is small, maybe less than 5% a year. Why? Why is the work not growing faster? At this rate, we will never get the work done in time.
Since the Worldwide Church of God imploded, the COG movement has been overwhelmed with so many splinter groups that are lead by narcissistic men who refuse to release control or cooperate with other COG's. None of them have even tried to find a "wide open door" to get their message through. Their TV programs are boring as hell.  Their magazines keep recycling articles from the mother church or something their guru wrote 20 - 40 years ago.  None of them have ever effectively imitated HWA and the WCG no matter how hard they try.  And...never will.
The Church needs new knowledge from the Bible on what changes the leadership and membership need to make in order for God to bless us with a wide-open door for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and the world. We have about 500 million people or more just in the nations of Israel to reach with that message, and we have barely scratched the surface. Blood guilt is on our heads - we become murderers in God's sight - if we fail to get that message out (Ezekiel 3:18). We talk endlessly about the sins of the nation - how 60 million or more unborn children have been murdered - but we do not consider that God may put the deaths of 500 million people on our heads if we don't warn them in time.
Since the church has spent 80 some years ignoring Jesus and anything he accomplished, how can we expect them to start now?  500 million people in Israelite nations do not need to hear more Armstrongite nonsense.  What good has it ever wrought?  Look at the mess it is today. It is like a harlot laying in a drunken stupor in the gutter, totally helpless and lost. 500 million people do NOT need the message that supposedly is lost by the present COG movement.

The third area he sees is the need for the church to have more "healings" in it.
A third area is healing. We have far fewer cases of miraculous healing than we had in Mr. Armstrong's day, especially in the early days of the work God did through him. Why? God is the same (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). What are we doing wrong? We need to know. We don't know now, but we need to learn, and we need to learn the answer from God's word, the Bible, just as we learn all our doctrinal knowledge from the Bible.
The countless splinter groups out there today are filled with vain narcissistic men who are not about to give up their little empires to cooperate with other COG's.  It just irritates the hell out of all of them when too much Jesus enters the picture. God forbid if any member asked about grace, justification, and the things of the new covenant because living under the heavy thumb of the law has left them broken and wanting.
Yet, at the very time when the Church needs to learn new knowledge from God and His word, the Bible, many in the Church of God are busy building a culture that is against learning anything new. Members who come to the ministry to learn more of the truth of God and who want to learn something they did not know before and not just be reminded of old knowledge are rebuked instead of instructed. Those who want to learn something new are belittled. Those ministers or members who have ideas they want to share with the ministry - ideas for new knowledge they feel they have discovered in the Bible - are warned not to focus on new ideas. Their ideas are rejected outright, sometimes without any real examination, not because they are wrong, but only because they are different from the present traditions of the Church. 
This applies to Bob Thiel, James Malm, Dave Pack, Vic Kubik, Gerald Flurry, and all the other legalistic self-appointed leaders who have set themselves up as God's most important men.  Until the members kick these sorry men to the curb, they will NEVER be free.

The writer then makes this comment:
There is a myth in the Church that goes around that says that correction only comes from the top down. This is true if the correction means discipline or punishment or taking authoritative action. In God's way of life, correction in that sense only comes from the top down. But there is another kind of correction that comes in the form of respectful suggestions and advice given in private (whether asked for or not), and that does not always come from the top down.
When has church members voices EVER been heard in the Church of God?  From Herbert Armstrong on down to every single splinter group leader out there today, there has never been a single one of them that ever considered any suggestions or advice from the membership.

The writer then goes on to mock the Church of God Seventh Day for their so-called empty works because they refused some of Herbert Armstrong's demands to change their beliefs.:
Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. When he first came into the Church of God Seventh Day, he came as a lay member, not an apostle. He had not been ordained as a minister. Yet he offered doctrinal suggestions, suggestions that Church of God Seventh Day leadership did not accept and teach. One was the identity of the lost tribes of Israel. The other was a matter Mr. Armstrong did not identify in his autobiography, except that it was a correction to an error in Church of God Seventh Day teachings. My guess is that it was about our need to observe God's annual holy days and festivals.

But that Church rejected the new knowledge God was revealing through Mr. Armstrong, a lay member.

And God rejected that Church from doing a powerful work.


The person or group to do a powerful work, the person or group to whom God would reveal lost knowledge, had to say to the public, "Don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible". Why? Because the people who would hear the message were raised in false traditions. They had to reject their traditions and believe the Bible.

The Church of God Seventh Day could not be used by God to preach that message because they weren't living it. They did not reject their traditions to believe the Bible. They rejected new knowledge - new knowledge God offered them through a lay member, Mr. Armstrong - in order to keep the traditions of their organization. In this they were like the Pharisees
The Church of God Seventh Day is doing a far better job of spreading the gospel than any COG is doing today. At least they focus upon Jesus, which the COG does not.
Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. When he first came into the Church of God Seventh Day, he came as a lay member, not an apostle. He had not been ordained as a minister. Yet he offered doctrinal suggestions, suggestions that Church of God Seventh Day leadership did not accept and teach. One was the identity of the lost tribes of Israel. The other was a matter Mr. Armstrong did not identify in his autobiography, except that it was a correction to an error in Church of God Seventh Day teachings. My guess is that it was about our need to observe God's annual holy days and festivals.
But that Church rejected the new knowledge God was revealing through Mr. Armstrong, a lay member.
And God rejected that Church from doing a powerful work.
Herbert Armstrong, even back then, was a loudmouth who demanded that his "new " understanding be accepted because he said so.  He never really sat down with any of them to explain things in detail and have a decent conversation.  His bloviating narcissism did not allow him to ever back down, even when they exposed his demands as wrong.

British Israelism has been so thoroughly debunked that no New Covenant Christian ever needs to concern themselves with the topic.  COG groups cannot stop teaching it because of they do then their entire belief system falls apart and they would lose control of their members.

Besides, COG7 has never been rejected.  They do fa ar better "work" with their members than ANY Church of God group does today.
The person or group to do a powerful work, the person or group to whom God would reveal lost knowledge, had to say to the public, "Don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible". Why? Because the people who would hear the message were raised in false traditions. They had to reject their traditions and believe the Bible.
This has proven to be a load of crap in the church.  The "don't believe me, believe your Bible" was never taken seriously in the COG.  The top-down leadership considered the members too stupid to understand the Bible and therefore had to  interpret it for them with hundreds of letters, articles, booklets, books, etc., specifically spelled out how members were to beleive as all the material proof-texted the Bible to fit the narrative the church needed to promote in order to be "called out". as special in the eyes of the members.
The Church of God Seventh Day could not be used by God to preach that message because they weren't living it. They did not reject their traditions to believe the Bible. They rejected new knowledge - new knowledge God offered them through a lay member, Mr. Armstrong - in order to keep the traditions of their organization. In this they were like the Pharisees who favored their traditions over the word of God (Matthew 15:1-9).
What absolute nonsense! 
The Church of God desperately needs new knowledge from God and His word, the Bible. And God can reveal that new knowledge through any ministers or members He chooses, just as He revealed new knowledge from the Bible to Mr. Armstrong before Mr. Armstrong started a new work or was ordained as a minister. God can do this by opening our minds to see what has been in the Bible all along, but we have not noticed it.
God does this through His Holy Spirit and through His word, the Bible. God speaks to us directly in the Bible, and through His Holy Spirit He helps us understand the Bible, one part at a time. And as we believe and try to obey what God reveals to us, He reveals more. But if we disbelieve, the help to understand stops, or is diminished.
This is how a Church of God fellowship can spiritually die. To be alive means to grow, in knowledge, in numbers, in power to do God's work. But if that organization builds an atmosphere of hostility and antagonism towards new knowledge, that is the exact opposite of an atmosphere of faith that believes what God says in the Bible when God teaches us something new.
There is not one single member of the COG that needs new knowledge through some minister.  We have an 80 some year history of the church destroying members lives by the ministery and leadership.  Why continue this farce? 
God gave Church of God Seventh Day time to repent. Mr. Armstrong fellowshipped with them for about seven years before he separated to do a Philadelphia work. But they did not use that time to repent and accept new knowledge from the Bible.
This is the same crap that Bob Thiel spews out today.  He claims he gave rod Meredith and LCG plenty fo time to correct their mistakes that he claimed they had in order to believe what he believes.  Meredith knew Thiel was a blithering idiot at times and refused to bow down to him. Meredith had to publicly rebuke Thiel for his utter nonsense.

In fact, God may already not be pleased and may be withholding from us the power to bring more people in for that very reason. He sees our hypocrisy, and He sees that we offend new people by our double-standard, and so He is not bringing them into the Church of God in any great numbers right now.
It has been quite obvious for 24-years now that God is not pleased with the Church of God.  Never in the entire history of the church has the COG movement been so disjointed and filled with so many self-serving men whoa re deliberately lying to their members. 

The Armstrong version of the Church of God will NEVER be a great work again.  It thankfully is impossible.  No COG leader will ever do this.

The only two commands that Christians need to heed.  Not one thing more.  Sadly, neither of these two simple commands are evident in any of the COG's today.  They cannot love each other so how can they love God?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Armstrongism’s Assyrian Problem

Armstrongism’s Assyrian Problem

Herbert W. Armstrong proclaimed that the key to prophecy was the identity of the British people as the principal, modern descendants, along with the Jews, of the Biblical patriarch Israel.  An important arc in this scenario is the identification of the German people, the agent used by God to punish Israel, as Assyria.  These two propositions make it possible for proponents to project Biblical prophecy dealing with ancient Israel and Assyria into the arena of modern nation-states and attaches meaning and relevance to World Wars 1 and 2.  The problem, for Armstrongists, is that the Germans are not Assyrians. 

An Exercise in Inconclusion

In the second volume of the Compendium of World History, which can be accessed via internet, Herman Hoeh makes his argument for Assyria as Germany.  An example of Hoeh’s model of historical interpretation is a reference to the writing of St. Jerome.  Hoeh claims that Jerome witnessed the Assyrians invading Europe as a collection of Germanic tribes.  But if you examine the source written by Jerome, this is not unequivocally the saint’s assertion.  Jerome cites some Germanic tribes that were causing trouble and quotes Ps 83:8: “Assur also joined with them.”  But does Jerome mean this Biblical reference figuratively or literally?  We can’t know.   The term “Assur” can be an epithet like the term “barbarian hordes.”
Moreover, Jerome lived circa 347 – 420 B.C.  We know from archaeology and genetics that Western Europe was invaded by the early forerunners of the Germans around 5,000 ya (q.v., David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past) and are called Steppe Pastoralists and identified with the Corded Ware people.  Consequently, we must classify Hoeh’s argument here, and his similar arguments elsewhere, as inconclusive. 
Hoeh also mentions the physical appearance of the Assyrians – they are Caucasians.  But he omitted an important issue – they depict themselves uniformly as brunette with curly hair, like most Middle Easterners and unlike modern Germans.  But there is uncertainty here as well.  Modern studies of pigments on Neo-Assyrian wall paintings in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II indicate that the Assyrians used just three colors: red, white and black (Li Sou, Digital Recolourisation and the Effects of Light on Neo-Assyrian Reliefs).  All hair and beards were depicted as black.  Proponents of the Hoeh viewpoint could easily posit that even blonde or red hair was depicted as black because of this limited palette.   This seems unlikely.  It is more credible that other hair colorations were not needed to reflect reality.  But here again, the debate does not converge on a conclusion.

A Genetic Deduction

Arguments about Assyrian identity based on ancient historical writings, Hoeh’s mainstay, are unverifiable and may be essentially hearsay from sources contemporary with the ancient authors.  An approach using Biblical exegesis that relies on the science of genetics can be more informative.  
The line of reasoning begins with recognizing that Y chromosome haplogroups (“haplogroup” means Y chromosome haplogroup throughout this text) are inherited in the masculine line and the approximate times of their emergence can be determined from mutational rates of change and the haplogroups are related to each other hierarchically.  Using this approach, Dr. Spencer Wells, a Harvard trained geneticist, determined that Abraham was haplogroup J.  This is because both the Jews and the Adnani Arabs claim descent from Abraham and both are haplogroup J.   This can be extended backward through earlier generations to Noah.  Noah, in Abraham’s masculine line, was haplogroup J.  The same would be true of Shem and Ashur (progenitor of the Assyrians according to the Clans of the Sons of Noah genealogy in Genesis 10) – both are haplogroup J.  From this, we may conclude that whoever the Biblical Assyrians are, they will be haplogroup J.  But the modern Germans are haplogroup R primarily.   They are descended from the Steppe Pastoralists that invaded Western Europe from northern Russia about 5000 ya.  Therefore, the Assyrians cannot possibly be identified with the modern-day German nation.  There are haplogroup J people among the Germans and in small numbers across Western Europe but they are not numerous enough to form the basis of the German nation.
The archaeogenetic data supporting the analysis of this problem could be much better and I expect that it will be in the future.  There is no large inventory of ancient Assyrian genetic data. A few excavations from Turkish sites are useful (de Barros, et al).  It is unfortunate that this data comes from the far northern frontier of the Assyrian Empire and may not represent the main ancient Assyrian demographic.   In these small samples, both haplogroup J and haplogroup G are present.  Haplogroup J is what our exegetical approach above would predict for the Assyrians and that haplogroup is present and more numerous but the sample is very small.  Haplogroup G represents the early Farmers that originated in Anatolia and spread through much of Europe prior to the invasion by haplogroup R.  (Otzi, the mummy from about 5,000 ya and found in the Swiss Alps, was haplogroup G.)  One could argue that the Assyrians were an outlier group of haplogroup G people from Anatolia until further corroborative information for haplogroup J comes in, but that would also not support Hoeh’s construction of the Assyrian identity.  A finding of haplogroup J also supports the prevailing historical/cultural understanding that ancient Assyrians were Semites who spoke a dialect of Aramaic.  It is uncertain if the modern Assyrians, with a mix of haplogroups, are actually connected to the ancient Assyrians.

The Upshot

Herman Hoeh’s teleological approach to history was to create an alloy of traditional belief, myth and historical fact to produce an account that supports the past domination of the world by British-Israel.  But this alloy has proved to be brittle in light of modern genetic findings.  The present evidence, which should further solidify in the future, is that the Assyrians of the Biblical account were haplogroup J whereas modern Germans are haplogroup R in the main.  I would expect Armstrongists to readily accept the validity of Biblical genealogy but balk at the science of genetics.  But, then, the challenge to the proponents of Hoeh’s view is to demonstrate the invalidity of the science of genetics in a credible way.  This will never happen.  We may reasonably conclude that the identity of Assyria as Germany is a chimera and cannot provide a key to understanding Biblical prophecy. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On Miracles and Miraculous Interventions

When something happens you just can't explain, and it is attributed to divine intervention, that is considered a miracle. 

When something happens you just can't explain, and it is attributed to a demon, that is considered a problem. 

When something happens you just can't explain, and you are an atheist, that is considered a scientific unknown. 

Miracles and interventions have been reported for eons and for generations. The story above is an example of what many consider could be an actual miracle. Skeptics would easily dismiss it, perhaps stating the cardinal shown was trained, or loose, or was raised with humans. The interpretation of what is or is not considered a miracle almost certainly varies from person to person. What one person knows in his heart is a miracle, another person could easily dismiss. Which leads me to believe miracles are usually deeply personal and proven personally. 

Then there are the reported miracles that you find in scripture - some of them seemingly impossible. From Elijah's chariot to Balaam's Donkey to Noah's ark, the stories of extremely public - and powerful - miraculous events are all over the Old Testament. Stories of the Exodus, the Plagues seem unbelievable, especially since no one in our generation has seen anything even remotely like the stories tell. 

Interestingly enough, the miracles in the New Testament are more personal. Water converted to wine. Fish and bread multiplied. Healings of the blind and the lame, and the epileptic, sanity restored to the insane, and of course, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. And of course, the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the foundation of hope in all who profess the Christian Faith. 

Focusing on the story above, here we have what could be considered a legitimate miracle. Yet for those who adhere to Armstrongism, this was not supposed to happen, because the person who passed is supposed to have been placed in soul-sleep. A typical Armstrong follower would assume that a demon transformed itself into a cardinal with the intent to deceive. However, on the other side, if this was an actual miracle, it would confirm that what we thought was the case isn't how any of it works. Then again, if you show this to an atheist, you could think of 200 reasons why this is a naturally occurring event. (It liked her perfume?)

How is it that you view the story above? How do you view miracles and miraculous events? Have you ever experienced one? Do you believe miracles and miraculous events are actual occurrences or complete coincidence of random fortunate events? How do you believe? Have your beliefs changed in any way since or because of Armstrongism? 

Please provide your insight in the comments below if you feel so inclined.

submitted by SHT

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Uncomfortable Religious Realities: Daring to Notice What Most Keep To Themselves

The most funny humor tends to be that which is unmentionable but  strikes us as true nonetheless

"I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God - I really tried. I really really tried. I tried to believe that there is a god who created each one of us in his own image and likeness, loves us very much and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize...something is F--KED UP. Something is WRONG here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is NOT good work. If this is the best god can do, I am NOT impressed. Results like these do not belong on the resume of a supreme being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently run universe, this guy would have been out on his all-powerful-ass a long time ago."
George Carlin

….But He loves You!

If the open observations of those who say what many only think about the way religion seems to actually work in real time or the beliefs that seem incoherent and insane, then I suppose, as believers, you'll just have to forgive them.

Or perhaps a more measured response to religion is in order.

Rod McNair: Put On Your Happy Face!

Is Living Church of God currently having an issue with unhappy and depressed people in its midst? How can anyone be unhappy when the law is crammed down your throat by this narcissistic man? How could anyone be unhappy when they are told their elderly parents and grandparents, who might be in a nursing home, are demon-possessed?  How can anyone working in a retirement/care facility be unhappy to be told that they are working around demons and that they need to quit their job? Seriously, why would that make anyone in LCG unhappy?

McNair writes:
God wants us to be happy. Jesus Christ emphasized that in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” He wants us to inherit eternal life, but He also wants us to find joy in the process of getting there! When Jesus said this, He was echoing what He had inspired Solomon to write almost a thousand years earlier: “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12–13).
If one truly is a follower of Jesus and understands what was accomplished, that person knows that the "process of getting there" has already been accomplished.  That is why the burden has been lifted and people can rest.

How can every man (and woman) "eat, drink and enjoy the good of one's labor" when 30-40% or more of one's fruit of that labor is required of the church to keep its leadership in their comfortable lifestyles? Its certainly not going to some massive gospel outreach to the world. Is it?
If we are chronically unhappy, we may need to meditate on and tap more deeply into what God is doing in our lives and submit ourselves to Him in every possible way. We must decide that we want to think differently. As former American President Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Chronically unhappy people really need to seek proper help from trained and licensed therapists or a doctor for a potential chemical imbalance in their body and not sit around gazing at their navel for something magical to happen.  Going directly to a minister who has had ZERO training in proper counseling techniques may further exacerbate the problem.

A person can be richly blessed with all kinds of wonderful things and experiences in life and still be unhappy or depressed.  When one hears sermon after sermon on how they are never are measuring up to the high standards that the church claims its god has set, what happens to a person when they don't meet those standards?  Many of the expectations that LCG demands of their members are soul-destroying.
It is God’s desire for us to enjoy life. It is His will that we see life as a gift, an adventure, and a challenge we can brave with His help. With His help, we can optimistically choose to face life as an opportunity for learning and growth, even in the midst of troubles.
While this may sound wonderful and a point one strives for, it also sets up a false expectation for members.  They have to put on a "happy face" all the time when they are around other church members.  God forbid if anyone was ever depressed in front of others.  Setting those lofty standards, and I am not saying they are bad, sets the expectation that people are doing something wrong anytime they are not happy.

McNair then goes on to give an example of how to be happy...end consumerism.
Frankly, our whole modern economy is built to encourage us to consume. And our consumption—buying new items and discarding the old—keeps the economy going. So, in a very literal sense, we have come to the point where many leaders of industry, business, and government only see ordinary citizens as cogs in the wheel that keep the cycle of production and consumption going. Why else would we be widely encouraged by the “system” around us to spend rather than save?
If we are not careful, we can begin to view our lives largely in terms of being a consumer, because consumption is what we spend so much of our time and focus on! But life is so much more than just becoming an expert at comparing products and relishing a good purchase.
While this is all well and good, in the Church of God movement this concept carries a LOT of baggage attached to it.

How many sermons, member letters, emergency appeal letters, and magazine articles have we read about lowering our standard of living because the end times were here?  The church needed more money for that final Gospel push or, as it usually went down, Satan was attacking the church and income had dropped. Then, we find out later, church apostles and leaders were doubling down on the money they were spending to fund their lifestyles, remodel their homes, buy fine art, or remodel their offices at HQ?
Let’s make sure consumption does not become an obsession in our lives. Instead, let’s use the blessings that God has given us to serve Him and serve each other. Otherwise, our work will be nothing more than a futile “grasping after wind.”
How many have ever seen Rod McNair financially help others?  When has he ever served the regular members of the congregation?  Has he ever mowed a widows lawn? Taken the child of a single parent to school? Driven a demon-possessed elderly person to the doctor chiropractor? Don't count on it.  He is waited on, hand and foot, by subservient staff at HQ who do his every whim. After all, he needs all of those servants so he can have time to write his amazing sermons!
Life wasn’t created to be meaningless. We weren’t made to be unhappy. We weren’t made for the sum total of our life to be merely 70 years of consumption. God created us to relate to Him, walk with Him, talk with Him, and—at the end of physical life—to step into an eternal relationship with Him upon our resurrection and glorification.
Yes, this life is temporary. The flesh truly is vanity, meaning “here today and gone tomorrow.” But there is a big purpose for each day we draw breath. Let’s view every day as a gift to be cherished and valued. Let’s impart that mindset to our children, so they know how important they are to God. He loves them and wants them to be happy. And let’s make sure we are using this temporary life to prepare for our awesome, eternal future with God.
I can truthfully say that I have seen more vain men in leadership positions in "God's church" than I have ever seen in a  people out here in Satan's world. The Church of God was a breeding ground for vainglorious men who are narcissistic and caustic in their leadership roles.  They have weighed down the brethren with so many idiotic rules and regulations that members are bound to be unhappy and miserable. And they are!  Only until they leave these spiritual abusers will they ever find happiness.

See: All Is Vanity...Or Is It?