Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Heterodox Racial Soteriology of Herbert W. Armstrong

Facial reconstruction of a Galilean (BBC) 

The traditional Western view of Jesus. 

“Jesus Christ was born of the tribe of Judah, 
and it was necessary that he be of the original pure racial strain, 
even as Noah was.”
 Herbert W. Armstrong, “Mystery of the Ages”, 1985, p. 173. 

Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) departed from orthodox Christianity when he wrote, without scriptural support, that the attribute of racial purity was an essential part of Christ’s nature as a valid sacrifice for humanity. To understand the foundation of this idea in heterodoxy it is necessary to unpack HWA’s statement quoted above.

The Chimera of Racial Purity

Most races that we define today stem from a historical confluence of peoples. For example, Western Europeans, including the British, are known to consist of three quite diverse groups: early Hunters and Gathers, later Agriculturalists and recent Steppe Pastoralists. Each of these groups is represented by a different haplogroup. A technical measure called “genetic distance” may be used to create racial categories but then how distant do two groups of people need to be? And genetic distance does not always correspond to appearance, the measure that most people understand and use. 

Was, then, Christ of a pure racial background? Christ was a member of the Haplogroup J people who lived in the Middle East. Haplogroup J people have identifiable Neanderthal ancestry in their genomes. Neanderthals are beyond being another race – they are a different hominid species. Genetic studies of Arabs (“Indigenous Arabs are Descendants of the Earliest Split from Ancient Eurasian Populations,” Genome Research, 2016 Feb; 26(2): 151–162), a typical Haplogroup J people, indicate that they are less Neanderthal than Europeans and Asians but more Neanderthal than Africans. The haplogroup J people of the Middle East were mixed with Neanderthal ancestry long before Christ was born. Genetics tells the truth. We cannot look at the Biblical genealogies and assert that Jesus was racially pure on that basis. Just as you cannot look at your own personal genealogy and claim racial purity. If you doubt the veracity of this, then have yourself tested using a genetic service that identifies Neanderthal ancestry. 

The Theology of Race in Armstrongism

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote of the importance of race in his beliefs in his book entitled “The Mystery of the Ages (MOA).” He explains that one of the credentials of Israel as the Chosen People was racial purity, whatever the term “race” meant to him. He states the very choosing of Israel by god was likely because they were “of the White racial strain, unchanged since creation” (MOA, P. 166). And racial intermarriage was forbidden to them by god. They were not to intermarry among “the dark Canaanites” then in the land. In a previous Op Ed, I discussed the incontrovertible evidence that Canaanites were not Blacks but were of the same haplogroup as Jews and would be indistinguishable in appearance from Jews. To make it clear, Jews and Canaanites are of the same race and all the scriptures HWA quotes to support the prohibition of racial intermarriage were really scriptures about marrying outside of religion. Black people within Armstrongism have been done a great and harmful disservice by this false theology. 

With this background, it is not difficult to see why HWA would stipulate racial purity for Jesus. It is understood that Christ was supposed to be a Lamb without blemish. And Jesus was without physical defect. HWA’s extension to include racial purity in the concept of being “without blemish” is not based on scripture but likely derived from the viewpoints prevalent in right-leaning American society at the time. 

New Testament Theology

HWA’s views on Jesus’ racial purity are in contradiction to Pauline theology. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:4–8:

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews … But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ … and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ …”
Here Paul does not classify his own indisputable racial purity (a Hebrew of Hebrews) as an important attribute in his imitation of Christ. Christians are to pattern themselves after Jesus, yet Paul is willing to discard his own fleshly racial purity and count it as a loss in pursuit of that spiritual pattern. If racial purity were essential to Christ and, hence, Christians as followers of Christ, would Paul dare class it as “rubbish”? Paul’s view is rather that his own racial purity is a personal attribute that could stand between him and Christ. Racial purity in Pauline theology is clearly not a special kind of spiritual credential for godliness and righteousness or a condition that would validate Christ as a sacrifice. 

The Ethnocentric View of Christ as the Source of this Error

HWA is dead and cannot be asked about his motivations behind his heterodox belief about Jesus’ racial purity. A speculative answer is that HWA’s views have to do with the protection of the status of White people as pre-eminent above other people in Armstrongist beliefs. Armstrongists believe that god is racially White and that Adam was a White man who reflected the physical, bodily image of god. There is, perhaps, a fear that if Jesus is not White in his exemplary qualities, White privilege will be jeopardized. Jesus, in fact, was a Jew. He was not an Ashkenazi Jew. Ashkenazi Jews did not exist in Jesus’ day. Ashkenazi Jews are from 30% to 60% European and this shows in their appearance. Jesus was a first century Palestinian Jew. He was short, olive-skinned, brown eyed and had very curly hair. With this blatantly “Gentile” appearance, he probably would not have been admitted to Ambassador College and he probably would not have been appointed Spokesman Club President or Vice President. He might have even been compelled to attend the Spanish Fun Night at the Feast of Tabernacles.


I do not advocate racial intermarriage but it is clearly not a sin. I think that marriage, the challenging union of two disparate human wills, is difficult enough without the burdens that interracial marriage brings. For further reading on genetics try Dr. David Reich’s (geneticist at the Harvard School of Medicine) book entitled “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past”. I have heard HWA lauded from the pulpit in Big Sandy for being racially pure like Noah. HWA was from 1% to 3% Neanderthal based on studies of Western Europeans. The momentum behind this is so great that those who deny it hold a highly exceptional and idiosyncratic view and must shoulder the burden of proof that it is not so. If HWA has enough living descendants and other relatives, a genetic test that measures Neanderthal ancestry might be used to deduce this with the help of a genetic consultant.

Ways Being a Prophet Don't Count

It is with some amusement that we are forced to observe Bob Thiel's absolute craving to be considered a Biblical Prophet.  Amusing stuff to most of us but a dead serious need on Bob's part evidently.
Recently in his article: 
Bob states:  
"But it should be noted that starting with a telephone call from its late top leader on October 3, 2008, LCG’s highest leadership had repeatedly stated that God may consider Bob Thiel to be a prophet (see How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).
Consider also:
  • On August 26, 2012, LCG Evangelist Dr. D. Winnail told Bob Thiel, “We all think that you might be a prophet.” In order to determine who “We all” was, on September 7, 2012, I asked if this was a reference to all three of the LCG Charlotte-based evangelists and Dr. Winnail concurred.
  • On January 7, 2013, Dr. Douglas Winnail sent me an email, which included the statement, “we made comments to you that “you may be a prophet.””
But since LCG had integrity problems, I left on December 28, 2018 (see Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God).
Recall that Dexter Wakefield wrote, ““Prophets” in the sense of Elijah are rare.”
As far as rarity goes, I would ask, “How many people were told by an actual top evangelist in the Church of God that God may consider him to be a prophet?  And on multiple occasions?” In the 20th and 21st centuries, there is only one who comes to mind (I find this hilarious. I wonder who Bob has in mind?)   (details are in the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God). 

So, while prophets are “rare,” and being told one is a prophet by an ordained evangelist is also rare, rarity does not mean that there are none." 

Now personally, and I could be wrong, I find this silly, but I believe Bob has missed the point completely that LCG was making to him. I see more an obnoxious member, making every effort impress for whatever personal reasons or convictions, who he considers to be "reputed pillars" in LCG with his prophetic leanings.  Over time, they tolerate but begin to tire of his presence and need to be taken seriously.  Somewhere along the line, and out of frustration, Dr Winnail says "We all think you might be a prophet."  This is not to say you are one as noted in the second email that stated "we made comments to you that "you MAY be a prophet." I suspect this email was intended as more like correction than confirmation.  That sounds more like Dr. W, growing tired of Bob's need to be recognized, trying to settle him down and telling him in effect "We ONLY made comments to you that you MAY be a prophet, not that we think you are one."  etc.

Bob took BOTH comments as a positive affirmation by LCG of his Prophetic abilities and credential, but I don't believe they were said in the spirit of that at all.  More of an eyeroll or face palm than an admission of reality. 

I have used the same language in the past with members who were obsessed with a particular idea about themselves, how the church needs to do or not do something or some role they believe they have found for themselves that no one seems to recognize. These kinds of members were annoying as hell and could easily mess up a generally peaceful congregation.  They were never satisfied I was doing enough or taking them as seriously as I should and  I grew tired of the topic and simple said something to the effect of "perhaps you are right," not to agree but to shut them up and make them feel better.  (And me too).  If I adopted every hairbrained idea members thought I MUST preach, my church would have resembled Barnes and Bailey Circus complete with clowns and dancing bears. 

Bob seems to have taken both statements as affirmations that everyone, or at least the important people believed he was.  I think he is kidding himself just as he did when hearing in a rather mundane anointing for illness that God was being asked to give Bob a "double portion of his spirit."  Those were evidently words or near ordination and affirmation that Bob was indeed special.  (I've been double blessed with the spirit requested a few times along the way by my peers when actually ordained, but I didn't even get the first portion right I'm pretty sure :)

Predicting that brain injuries happen playing football or that future storms will get worse and worse as proof he knows the future simply don't count.  Reading trends in this or that topic on the Internet doesn't count as prophecy either. 

So some of you might enjoy Bob's article begging once again to be recognized as a Prophet and why. I don't personally believe in prophecy for many reasons, the least of which is that, plainly stated, no one knows the future.  If it was all planned out and all we had to do was discover it, we'd simply be actors in something else's show and that does not bode well for free will and such.  Add to that, many Biblical prophecies fail miserably and as mentioned below, stories are back written with known history in mind to appear to be the fulfillment of it.  Jesus Birth Narratives were written in that style as was the death of Jesus. All cobbled from Old Testament scriptures that already existed.  All written, and contradicting each other, because the authors knew neither the details of Jesus birth or the real circumstances of his death.  The Gospels are not eyewitness accounts of anything but that's another topic. 

Anyway, here is a list of ways that don't count towards points in whether one is a prophet or not and presented just for the fun of it. :)

  • Verified, specific prophecies that couldn’t have been contrived.
    If the Bible, for example, said, “On the first day of the first month in the year two thousand and ten, the pillars of the earth will shake and a great part of the New World will be lost to the sea,” and then January 1, 2010 comes and a tremendous earthquake sends California to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, I would become a believer.
  •  No points are awarded under any of the following conditions:

  • If the prophecy is vague, unclear or garbled (like Nostradamus’ ramblings, for example). It must be detailed, specific and unambiguous in its prediction and wording.
  • If the prophecy is trivial. Anyone could predict that it will be cold next winter, or that this drought/plague/flood will eventually subside. The prophecy must predict something surprising, unlikely or unique.
  • If the prophecy is obviously contrived for other reasons. No official seer or court astrologer ever predicted that the king he worked for would be a brutal, evil tyrant who would ruin the country.
  • If the prophecy is self-fulfilling; i.e., if the mere fact of the prophecy’s existence could cause people to make it come true. The Jewish people returned to their homeland in Israel just as the Bible said they would, but this isn’t a genuine prediction – they did it because the Bible said they would. The predicted event can’t be one that people could stage.
  • If the prophecy predicts an event that already happened and the writing of the prophecy itself can’t be shown to have preceded the event.
  • If the prophecy predicts an event that already happened and the happening of that event can’t be verified by independent evidence. For example, Christian apologists claim that Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, but the authors of the New Testament obviously had access to those prophecies also; what would have prevented them from writing their story to conform to them? The extra-biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus is so scanty that it is impossible to disprove such a proposal.
  • And finally, if the prophecy is the lone success among a thousand failures. Anyone can throw prophecies against the wall until one sticks. The book or other source from which it comes must have at least a decently good record on other predictions. 

These conditions, I think, are eminently reasonable, and are only what would be expected of a true prophet with a genuine gift."
But personally, one's belief that they are gifted in prophecy is the more obvious slippery slope of human ego at play and the need to be special above their fellows. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Jesus Christ on Religious Leaders

Jesus Christ on Religious Leaders

In the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Jesus Christ made absolutely no attempt to spare the feelings of the religious leaders of his day in terms of what he had to say about them. In fact, he was quite blunt in his assessment of them. Of course, he knew that he wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings anyway! He knew that instead of eliciting sorrow or remorse, that his comments would engender anger and bitterness in them. "How dare this common, uneducated upstart challenge us?"

This is of particular interest when we consider just how prickly some of our modern Christian ministers/pastors are about any criticism of them or their ministries. Some of these folks absolutely flip when anyone dares to challenge one of God's servants (meaning them). Like the scribes/Pharisees/Sadducees before them, they believe that their critics are deserving of the severest censure/scorn and/or the Lake of Fire!

When I think about some of the pastors that I've known during my lifetime, Christ's criticisms of the religious leaders of his day are more meaningful to me. Christ said that they didn't practice what they preached. He said that they loved the honor and respect that were shown to them more than the joy of serving others. Christ called them hypocrites and said that they were an impediment to people entering God's Kingdom. He went on to say that they loved to win a convert and then often proceeded to make them even more reprehensible than they were themselves! Christ questioned their judgment and enjoined them to focus on the things that were really important (justice, mercy, faithfulness). In short, he wanted them to be less concerned about appearances and more concerned with the reality of their own greed and self-interest. Any of that sound familiar?

by Lonnie Hendrix

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Vacation Story

I am currently on vacation through the Southwest and spent a couple days in Monument Valley.  I booked a half-day tour several months ago through one of the local guides.  Today when I arrived for the tour it was just two of us and we set off.

He shared stories of life as a Navajo Indian.  Then things got interesting  He said his grandmother got hooked into the Seventh Day Adventist Church decades ago and it basically destroyed her relationship with other family members.  Relationships in the family are central to the Navajo.  people.  The arrogant minter demanded that she ignore everything she had grown up with as a Navajo and devote her life ito sabbath keeping, vegatarianism and preparing for the end times.

The guide said that the Navajo do not focus upon the end times and find it insulting to the Creator that they have to worry about it.

I mentioned to him that I grew up in a splinter group of Aventistism called Armstrongism.  He had heard of it.  He said it was equally offensives to them as a people. There were some ensnared in it for a while.

It is interesting to see how far the tentacles of Armstrongism reached and how in 2019 it has virtually disappeared.

Adult Sabbath School: A Point of Agreement and That Which Should Alarm Armstrongists

NEO noted in a recent post:  A Darkness in the Armstrongist Heart: Blackwellian White Supremacy

"Error in Translation

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.”

"This was interpreted by Blackwell to mean that God organized the nations in order to allocate them to the oversight of the “sons of Israel.” This was not just a transient, temporal plan but would extend into eternity.

The problem is, this scripture does not say that. It instead refers not to the “sons of Israel” but to the “sons of god.” The full passage speaks of “El” and “Yahweh” and the “sons of god.” The nations were to be parceled out by El to the “sons of god” and Yahweh was to receive Jacob’s descendants from El as his portion in this process. The Masoretic translators altered this to read “the sons of Israel” to expunge anything that would seem to even hint at polytheism (see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God” and also Peter Enns’ interview with Mark Smith entitled “Who is Yahweh and Where Did Yahweh Come From?” both available on the web.) Heiser concludes:

“In light of the evidence there exists no textual or theological justification for preferring the Masoretic reading of verse 8. That verse should read "sons of God," not "sons of Israel."

This reference to other divine beings as “sons of god” should not alarm Armstrongists. Ron Dart preached a sermon that included this topic back in the Seventies."

In April of 2011 this same enigmatic scripture came to my attention with all its implications.  Biblical scholars have always wondered how this scripture ever made the cut and was included in the Book of Deuteronomy.   I would think the implications of other divine beings as the "sons of god"  or as others translate it, "to the number of the gods" which is that classic "uni-plural" Elohim HWA always got wrong.

"An interesting and surprisingly blunt admission of this multiplicity of gods is found in Deut. 32:8-9
“When the Most High (Elyon) apportioned the nations, when he divided human kind, he fixed the boundaries of his peoples according TO THE NUMBER OF THE GODS. (Elohim). The Lord’s (YHVH a lesser god than Elyon) own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.”
Here we have a rare and somewhat embarrassing admission that there was a god even higher than YHVH. The Most High was Elyon who had the authority to divvy up the nations between the other lesser gods.  In this account YHVH is a lesser god who was placed over the limited geographical area inhabited by Jacob.  This is why it was always well understood that the power of the god diminished the further away from its allotted land.  If they strayed too far, they qualified as “foreign gods,” which we all know were powerless in the new areas and definitely false.  You know, “My God is the true god, and …well…your’s is the Satan, or lesser and powerless god around here. “
So we learn that  YHVH and YHVH Elohim may have several implications.  This can mean that YHVH is the god over a band of lesser gods or that YHVH is a god that comes from a class of gods known as Elohim."  
The implications of this scripture when correctly translated are:
1. Polytheism and the belief in many other real gods was a common view held by the people of Israel as well as the surrounding nations.
2. El, who was originally the supreme Canaanite God was co-opted by the Israelites as their own Supreme God with all the associated traits. "El" was a common suffix in the language.  Isra-el, Dani-el, Beth-el, Immanu-el, etc)
3. In time, El, evolved into YHVH with all the previous associated traits of El. This is how the Priests of Israel and writers of the Pentateuch work such transformations in print. YHVH also took on the powers of Baal. (The Original Weather God Bob)
Exodus 6:3 may be translated:
"I revealed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as Ēl Shaddāi, but was not known to them by my name, YHVH."
4. In time, YHVH was more commonly understood in the English world as "The Lord"
5. In a bit more time, "The Lord" evolved into Jesus of the New Testament.
The literary evolution of God from the Canaanite EL and his Counsel of the gods, or the "US" of "Let us make man in our image..." etc, where YHVH was a lesser god  just appointed over Israel (Chemosh over the Moabites and "The Satan" or Lucifer as a lesser god, with YHVH,  in the Council as well becoming the bad boy,  should be disturbing enough to the COG membership and ministry. Add to this YHVH usurping EL as now supreme, becoming "The Lord" of their Bibles and ultimately Jesus should give them pause for thought on just how this all evolved from the common polytheism of Israel where the other gods were very real to monotheism and Jesus. 
How Trinitarian Christianity is monotheistic is another muddle the explanations for which also evolved over the past 2000 years to accommodate the problems caused by the concept.
When "the Lord thy God", already as YHVH replacing El said, "You shall have no other gods before me, for I the Lord YOUR God am a jealous God," He wasn't kidding.
It is better rendered "You shall not bring any other gods (and there were plenty considered real and powerful in their own appointed territory) into my presence, for (BECAUSE) I, the Lord YOUR God am a jealous God."  Understood as such makes much more sense as to why the other gods were not welcome and eventually had to be ousted in the minds of the people, to this day. YHVH had a jealous streak.
I believe this reality of scripture and the actual beliefs of "the Chosen People" should indeed bother Armstrongists as well as a whole lot of other folk.
A more complete discussion of this enigmatic scripture and the realities of this evolution and  transformation of the gods in the scriptures can be found here:
A History of Polytheism in Israel

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bahama's Was Destroyed By A Hurricane Because They Do Not Recognize A COG Prophet

Church of God leaders have a great track record of never letting a disaster go to waste.  No one is better at this than Bwana Bob Thiel.  You remember him, he is that self appointed little upstart that had to start his own personality cult because his spiritual Daddy (Rod Meredith) rebuked him and ignore him.

And just like clock work, our resident wanna-be prophet made another illogical utterance that shows the extreme narcissism that occupies his mind.

In his self-righteous glory, he claims that the Bahama's was destroyed because they do not recognize him as a true prophet of God.

Just over two weeks ago, the Category 5 hurricane Dorian devastated the northern islands of the Bahamas. “Dorian was the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas… with wind gusts topping 320 kph (200 mph)” (Deutsche Welle, September 7, 2019). ...  
Storms like Hurricane Dorian should motivate us to think about and pray for those who are suffering. These disasters can also provide us a glimpse into far more widespread devastation that is prophesied to impact the world in the years just before Christ’s second coming—a time when “disaster will come upon disaster” (Ezekiel 7:26).
I reported about Hurricane Dorian last week (see Hurricane Dorian damages and kills in the Bahamas as it heads towards Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) and have been praying for those in the Bahamas.
As far as Ezekiel 7:26 goes, it will affect many of Christians in the end-times. Here is the entire verse:
26 Disaster will come upon disaster,
And rumor will be upon rumor.
Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; (Ezekiel 7:26)
The people in the Bahamas have had disaster, but have not sought out any true prophet.
Sadly, since Ezekiel 7:26 is directed towards God's people, based on Jesus' word in Revelation 3, most Christians will wait until it is too late to flee from the Great Tribulation (cf. Zephaniah 2:1-3; 
The people of the Bahama's were NOT punished because they do not listen to liars like Bob Thiel. That is a fact.  Bob Thiel is a snake out to poison and destroy anyone who follows him.

Dave Pack: How to Identify a Cult