Saturday, December 21, 2019

Philadelphia Church of God Creates a New Holy Day for its Gullible Followers

COG News has this little tidbit about the ongoing idolatry that makes up the Philadelphia Church of God.  

They have created several special days for historical moments in the history of the PCG cult.

One of the those special days is the one that draws the faithful to gather at Robbers Cave, OK. It is in this place where Lil'Stevie supposedly read his dad's essay called Malachi's Message and had the realization that he would eventually inherit the mantle of his dad and the empire he had created and therefore agreed thatMalachi's Messages was the greatest thing he had ever read.

Now the cult has created another idolatrous day:

The 7th of December was High Mountain Cake Day in the PCG.Members in congregations around the world also celebrated the day with special displays and cakes of their own, many of which were decorated with a theme of a “high mountain,” a reference to Mr. Flurry’s November sermon regarding the Church’s work in Jerusalem.

Friday, December 20, 2019

UCG Doesn't Want To Let Its Light Shine During Its Annual Winter Family Christmas Weekend

Its that time of year again and all through the Church of God the creatures are stirring as they ready themselves to go to decked out resorts and hotels to celebrate Christmas weekend together, because after all. it is sooooo convenient to meet together over Christmas.

The hotels and resorts will be decked out interior finest holiday decorations. Wonderful Christmas carols fill the air and wonderful scents from Christmas cakes and foods delight them all. Yet through all of that, Living Church of God, United Church of God and COGWA foolishly claim their members never listen to the Christmas carols and never notice all the Christmas decorations.

This year, United Church of God has laid down the law.  No more bringing friends to enjoy the weekend, NOPE! God forbid if you let your light shine for the dirty, filthy, unconverted so-called Christians.
Winter Family Weekend (WFW) is a United Church of God (UCG) sponsored event. Its primary objective is to serve our UCG members and those members of other groups with similar standards and beliefs by allowing these members to take full advantage of everything WFW has to offer. A new participation policy is being implemented for this coming year. All performers and sports participants must be regularly attending members of UCG or a Sabbath Keeping Church of God organization or be a spouse or minor child living at home of someone who is such a member. 
Apparently UCG members and other COG members automatically close their ears and minds and NEVER listen to carols, but Never hum along silently and sing the words as they go from one boring

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Adult Sabbath School: There was no time in history where ignorance was better than knowledge

Waiting for Sunset...
Last evening was the first time in 45 years I was once again out in the yard with a telescope for an cold night of just observing what cannot be seen with out it and what was never seen before it.  It is a time machine and with it I can relax into a calm recognition that life is short and the Universe is oh so very large.  Back in the 70's, while going through my first round of church scandal and chaos, I often simply sat with my 5" Celestron on Summer and Winter nights keeping my own perspectives in difficult times. Winter or Summer I knew the sky well and I have not lost that need to see it all even better now at the other end of life. 

 Our parents were taught the Universe was simply the entire Milky Way Galaxy. That as it. We now know it is but one of perhaps 10 to 20 trillion each with hundreds of billions of suns and many more planets.  

I choose to first find our closest galactic neighbor which I had not seen for decades in a telescope. The Andromeda Galaxy, visible to naked eye if you know where and how to look, was directly overhead. With a bit of star hopping memories I was able to find it in the new 10 inch Reflector.  There it was. Two and half million light years away. Twice the size of our Galaxy and containing perhaps one trillion stars and trillions of more planets.  It's companion galaxy just barely visible, being much smaller off to the side in the field of view. 

From there a brief look at the Pleiades which are mentioned in Job 38:31 along with the stars in Orion's Belt which also lead to the Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery that is amazing in a 10 inch scope. 
These two constellations have fascinated humans for a couple hundred thousand years and they are the stuff of many myths and star lore.  

Job 38:31
"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion's belt?

So nothing controversial here as the year winds to a close on our sharing of church experiences, lessons learned and snark.  

Just a reminder that when it is all said and done. And it will be done in time, we are left with the fact that we live in an amazing place in an amazing time discovering and appreciating amazing things which should give us pause and perspective .

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." – Maya Angelou

NASA Megapixel Images of the Heart of Andromeda
View only if you want to make your brain hurt

A beautiful overview of Andromeda for those with a bit more time

The lesson staring us all in the face
Carl Sagan

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Kieren Underwood: Was Armstrongism Just a Misreading of Higher Biblical Criticism?

Was Armstrongism Just a Misreading 
of Higher Biblical Criticism?  
Kieren Underwood

Note: This post isn't dogmatic. I'm just throwing these ideas around. Feel free to send me some comments telling me how you think I’m right or wrong.

There's a dominant narrative which circles anti-COG blogs like these about the origins of Armstrongism. I believe it goes something like this:
Armstrong was a charismatic, narcissistic businessman whose projects all failed around the time of the Great Depression. Loma stumbled onto the 7th-Day Adventist/Church of God community and Herbert followed a little later. In this peculiar religion Armstrong found a new “product” to sell. Unorthodox doctrines, “we are the One True Church,” and “the End-Times are Coming” all made for profitable and dedicated believers. Whether Armstrong even believed these ideas himself is up for debate. In any case, he took them and created an expanding cult—whose rules and doctrines he could essentially change at a whim.
This narrative obviously has some truth to it. I’m sure most readers would add a few things here and there. Perhaps the fact that the World Wars and the ever-looming Cold War/nuclear winter gave Americans much to be worried about. Perhaps the fact that society changed some of its norms rather quickly throughout the 1950s-70s and conservative religion was a popular reactionary movement. Armstrong could use these to his advantage.

But I’m skeptical that this can be all there is to it, because it partially violates Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

I want to add another narrative to these set of ideas. I actually have two in mind, but the first one—about Armstrong’s reaction to his Quaker upbringing, a religion whose slogan is essentially “do whatever your inner light tells you”—will have to wait for a different post.

The second is this:

Could it be that many of the doctrines that Armstrongism had were just misreadings of legitimate problems brought up by Higher Biblical Criticism?Or, in other words:
Armstrong’s doctrines (and thus some of those associated with 7th-Day Adventists/Jehovah’s Witnesses/any of the other groups Armstrong stole from) weren’t just wacky, clearly wrong religious ideas that happened to bring in a lot of cash. They were an uneducated (thus the misreading) response to the legitimate theological problems that German and Dutch theologians had brought up in the 18th and 19th centuries.

First, what is Higher Biblical Criticism? Anyone reading this site is probably already familiar with some of the main concepts behind this movement which started in the 17th century. Dennis Diehl posts quite often about them, just without the movement’s name attached. Criticism of New Testament inconsistencies (e.g., why are the birth or resurrection stories not consistent?), analysis of the real authors of Gospels/Epistles (e.g., Paul only wrote seven of the 13/14 usually attributed to him), discussion of the historical Jesus (e.g, was he a sage, a messianic prophet, a miracle-worker, an exorcist? etc.), analysis of the different theological stances in the New Testament (e.g., did Paul and Jesus have different messages?)—these are all things that Higher Biblical Criticism started talking about.

In fact, if you know, because Armstrong told you, that I John 5:7-8 (“there are three that bear witness...”) is a late 4thcentury addition, you know a bit about the methods of Higher Criticism.


So why did I begin thinking about this? I was reading V.A. Harvey’s book The Historian and the Believer and I came across this passage:
“Jesus cast his own message in terms of the future coming of the kingdom of God, whereas the proclamation of the church had to do with a past event, the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus' message was not primarily about himself, whereas the kerygma of the church is explicitly Christological, that is, the proclamation of a heavenly being who came to earth, was crucified, and taken to heaven as the exalted Lord. This obvious difference, which Biblical criticism had made clear, has always been appealed to by liberal Protestants and others in support of an alleged sharp discontinuity between the so-called religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus."
I’ve crudely bolded and italicized the portions I want to draw your attention to. Harvey says that scholars have known for a long time about the different/contradictory messages we receive from Jesus and his followers. When we read the Gospels, Jesus is not at all concerned with himself as the “exalted Lord.” He tells people to “repent and believe the gospel,” gives them some moral teachings and parables, and talks about the coming Kingdom. Then after he is crucified, his followers start going around saying “you just need to have faith in Christ and you’ll be saved.” Wait a minute... if Jesus knew that was going to be the case, why didn’t he just say that in the first place? Why is the message of Jesus different from the message his followers tell about him?

But just hold those thoughts in your mind for a moment. Add some ALL CAPS, some more excessive italics, about five or six exclamation marks, and a quote about “never before has traditional Christianity understood this Truth!” Doesn’t it now sound like Armstrong, explaining to us all that Christianity has replaced the “Gospel Of Christ” with the “Gospel About Christ”?

The unfortunate thing, of course, is that “traditional Christianity” had noticed the disparity between what Christ talked about and what the people who wrote the New Testament talked about. Scholars had been talking about it for two centuries years before Armstrong was even born.

Armstrong liked to retell his conversion story where he decided to hit the libraries for six months straight, studying the commentaries and dictionaries. Knowing Armstrong, we are probably justified in doubting the depth of this study, but I don’t think we can deny that Armstrong had an, albeit shallow, understanding of many such issues in the Bible—issues brought up by the Higher Critics.

The problem is that, instead of reading the texts as the more thorough scholars did, weighing each side, trying to work out the different theological influences in the texts, devising explanations for the differences in emphasis, Armstrong just said: “Look! I’ve found it! The truth that everyone has missed for thousands of years, and that Satan has blinded Christians from seeing! The Gospel should be Of Christ not About Christ!”

And then people, seeing that he was partially correct, believed him. Never mind the fact that Protestant and Catholic scholars had good explanations, better scriptural analysis, and more accurate historical backgrounds to situate this problem in.

Here’s the general formula Armstrong seemed to follow:

1. Find a biblical problem/discrepancy/debate that Higher Criticism has unearthed.
2. Fail to see that there are legitimate forms of evidence on either side of the issue, and that one can read the problem in many ways.
3. Pick the culty/7th-Day Adventist/Jehovah’s Witness side of the issue.
4. Proclaim that the problem he has solved is a New Truth—that Satan/God has held this knowledge back from Christianity for millennia.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you become an Apostle.
Think about the way that Armstrong dealt with the Sabbath problem.
Now, I’m an atheist so I have no investment in whether Christians should keep Saturday or Sunday. But it seems to me that there are good arguments on both sides. If the Catholics are right—since the Church created the Bible, they really do have the authority to change the Sabbath to a Sunday in order to differentiate themselves from Jews—then it’s a Sunday. But if the Protestants are right—the Bible is the final authority, sola scriptura—then it’s a Saturday. Armstrong seems, after that six-month study of his, never to have stumbled upon the actual Catholic argument for Sunday-worship! At least, you never get a look at it in any of his literature.

Once again, a problem with two sides. Once again, a complete misreading, or ignorance of, the evidence. Once again, a proclamation of New Truth.

So, how much of this is intentional? Do we know? How much of it is just a misreading of the problems that Higher Criticism dug up for us

Now, here’s the part where I drag out a few more examples and try to convince you that this is what Armstrong did over and over again.

But first, a comment on Higher Criticism.

One of the big problems with Christianity and scholarship is that almost none of it gets filtered down to the average “believer” in sermons. In fact, the scholarship of German and Dutch theologians in the 1800s would seem so radical to the average Christian now that they would scarcely believe those scholars called themselves Christian. How many average Christians could tell you the arguments of Albert Schweitzer about the historical Jesus? What about Bultmann’s idea that faith is almost completely independent of the historical evidence of the resurrection? I was amazed, years ago, to find out that there were Archbishops of Canterbury in the early 1900s who didn’t even believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus. Does the average Christian know that almost no Christian scholars believe II Peter was written by Peter; that there is virtually unanimous agreement that half of the Pauline epistles were written by people pretending to be Paul?

If Armstrong got away with misreading the problems that Higher Criticism uncovered, it is the fault of Christians pastors, who upon going to seminary and being taught about all this, went on to discuss precisely none of these issues with their flocks. Instead, they get apologetics, Jesus Loves You, apologetics, and more Jesus Loves You.

Anyway. Back to the examples.

a.  The Faith vs. Works Debate
The Faith vs. Works debate has usually been framed in terms of The Protestants vs. The Catholics. But it also makes sense to frame it in terms of Paul vs. James, or Christian vs. Jewish-Christian. Once you step away from the dogma that the New Testament is a completely unified set of texts all aiming at a unified theology, this becomes very obvious. Clearly, Paul had some different ideas than James on the emphasis given to faith and works. You can try to get out of this by saying "Paul and James just needed to give different lessons to different congregations,” or some similar evasion, but trust me, smarter people than you and I have tried that explanation and found it wanting. Now this is okay. It doesn’t mean have to pick one or the other. You just recognize there are different streams of thought within the New Testament.

This was one of the major issues Higher Criticism explored, and it was F.C. Baur in the 1800s who established that there was somewhat of a major theological battle between the Jewish-leaning Christians (Peter/James) and those who wanted to differentiate themselves from Jewish theology (Paul/Luke). Cue a discussion about the circumcision debate in Acts 15 and Galatians 2. Please note that this is not controversial—it is the accepted view of almost every Christian scholar since Baur pointed it out.

But once again, what does Armstrong do? Ignoring the nuance, Armstrong almost immediately sides with James, decides works are very, very important, and tries to bend everything Paul says to make it sound like he agrees as well. Once again, traditional Christians are just Deceived By The Devil on this issue, and Armstrong has revealed The Truth.

b. The Trinity Debate
The same thing happens for the Trinity debate. The Higher Critics began to publish books on Marcion, Mani, Arian, and the various Gnostics, all who had non-traditional views on what Jesus was, and how he was related to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The problem of the nature of Christ (and thus the Trinity) was obviously a hard one, because it took Christians nearly four centuries to get anything which looked like a consensus on the issue—and even then, it took a Roman Emperor (Constantine) to essentially make it all happen.

I’m not going to act like the non-trinitarian tradition didn’t exist all the way throughout Christian history. Obviously, it did. John Calvin killed Michael Servetus in the middle of the Reformation just for preaching about it. The Higher Critics just gave us a lot more information about the atmosphere and arguments of the New Testament period. And Armstrong, like always, took that history, selectively ignored everything that went against his interpretation, and proclaimed The Truth had been discovered.
c.      c.  The Crucifixion/Resurrection Debate

It may seem surprising to us now, but Christians, left with some obviously troublesome timelines and descriptions of the crucifixion/resurrection managed to simply ignore them for nearly 1800 years. Let us face the truth that the Higher Critics discovered and published: there are some very significant and unresolvable problems with the crucifixion/resurrection narratives. Most biblical scholars chalk this up to there being multiple oral traditions of the crucifixion/resurrection which necessarily went through some pulling and stretching in the intervening 30-60 years before they were published in the Gospels. This is the reason why Armstrong was able to argue, so convincingly to many, that the traditional Catholic 1 day-2 nights was a Satanic Lie and it needed to be substituted with a 3 day-3 night alternative.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe Armstrong was right. I just believe he was not-wrong-enough-such-that-it-was-plausible, because of the very fact that the New Testament sources either don’t give us enough information, or give us contradictory information, in order to get at The Real Truth of the crucifixion/resurrection timeline.

Once again, the Higher Critics had discovered some problems with the biblical text. Armstrong saw this, picked a side, ignored the Higher Critics explanations, and unveiled it as New Truth.
d. The End-Times Debate
Albert Schweitzer, my favourite theologian of all time, closed the search for what was called “The Quest for the Historical Jesus” in the early 1900s with the proclamation that Jesus’ ministry was essentially eschatologically focused—that is, the Jesus who lived on earth (not the heavenly being Jesus) was very concerned with the end-times, the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God.

And for Schweitzer, that was a big problem, since that meant Jesus was wrong—the end-time didn’t come within a generation like the disciples thought it would. Diarmaid MacCulloch, in his A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, describes Schweitzer in tragic terms: a theologian who believed Jesus’ career “had been built on a mistake.”

A new quest for the historical Jesus was picked up again in the 1960s, and many theologians pushed back against the idea that Jesus was obsessed with the end-times. But the time in between was characterized by the majority of scholars siding with Schweitzer’s idea that Jesus had been an eschatological prophet (“end-times prophet”). This is exactly the period Armstrong developed his theology in.

Like many of the problems the Higher Critics discovered, it called out for an inventive answer. If Jesus was an eschatological prophet, did that just mean he was completely wrong? The Critics had their own answers. The fundamentalists, and Armstrong, had their own: Jesus was right! The end-times were coming, of course, but in our time instead. You know the rest of the history: Jesus was going to return in 1936, then in World War II, then sometime in the 1960s, then in 1975, then whenever the Gospel had been preached to the world.

Now, I’m not saying that this idea of a misreading of the Higher Critics completely explains Armstrongs obsession and use of the end-times. The brunt of it is explained by the traditional explanation—that it was a convenient tool to get people to give their money to Armstrong, and keep them in a constant state of fear. I just wonder if this other model can explain part of it as well.


Here’s the part where I tell you all of the above could be wrong.

It just so happens that there are whole other large movements of Christianity that have the same doctrines and emphasis on the end-times as Armstrongism have. Could we not just explain Armstrongism as a movement managed by a man who stole all of his doctrines from these groups, and wasn’t thinking about the problems the Higher Critics brought to light at all? I’m not sure...

That certainly could be the case, and if you think so, I’d like to hear the reasons why. But there certainly were people who took the problems of the Higher Critics, ignored all the nuanced and historically informed explanations, and just skipped to the whole We Are the One True Church spiel right away. Whether Armstrong was one of those people is something I’m not dogmatically confident about. Whether we can even know if Armstrong was sincere in his belief is another question I’m not even sure is possible to answer. But if the ex-COG community is going to know anything about historical questions, it’s going to be that things are not always as simple as they seem.

Seasonal Musings on COGWRITER

The Non-Existent Demon of Christmas, or Easter or Halloween

Bob Thiel is out with his reasons real Christians should not keep Christmas.
Christmas is mainly for Wiccans and Witches, Pagans of all sorts and those who worship and follow Demons. 

...and no, I don't mind sending you to Cogwriter. It's good to see how some reason and Grinch up the works majoring in the minors and speaking for the gods as if they knew.  

First of all, Robert also seems to be writing off the top of his head as he can't seem to come up with exactly how many reasons he's given or is about to give. Shades of Dave Pack?  Robert should also consider the pagan roots of Judaism and the Hebrew spin on a Sumerian creation story for the origin of the Sabbath. 

followed by...

"Here is a list of 25 items people who keep Christmas seem not to fully consider:"

….and then goes on to give 24

The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are not in agreement with each other by any means and made up to both give Jesus a miraculous birth and fight the charge that he was born of fornication whose father was unknown. Matthew cobbles his tale together based on OT scriptures he takes completely out of context as well. 

Next we have  an scripturally  out of context article about "children shall be their oppressors and WOMEN shall rule over them" and his ideas of the truth will set you free. As we know, this scripture was and is used to condemn any woman ruling over us present day and a sure sign of the end if it happens. Golda Meier and Margaret Thatcher didn't seem too wimpy  back in the day as I recall.  

Spoiler:  In the culture of the day, children were viewed as troublesome with no say and women even worse. In that context, the male leadership of Israel was in fact leading the country AS women and children. There were no real women ruling over them at the time. That wasn't going to happen. It was an insult by Isaiah pointed towards the men of the day. In reality, there is no real issue with a woman being a President or Prime Minister.  New Zealand, Iceland and Finland , come to mind and all of chosen Israelite stock!  Just kidding.   Perhaps Isaiah lamenting, as did Ezekiel, that the men of Israel were not up to snuff compared to Egyptian men....  

"whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."
Ezekiel 23:20

(Never heard that one quoted in a sermon!)

 We probably would be much better off actually with the heart of a woman running the country for a change.  Matriarchy is not a bad thing and has fueled some of the most successful nations on the planet throughout history.

Part of the problem is, like most Church of God proof texters, Bob still repeats and practices  "Line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" as the formula for how to study your Bible and come to how one should be based on the search,  which is another breach of context he won't admit to. Making scripture mean what it never meant is a hallmark of an untrained ministry.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas and Sex: For Many in the COG This Is All They Can Talk About This Time Of Year

It is that time of year again in Church of God land and some of the leadership and members are working overtime in trying to expose Christmas as pagan. God forbid if anyone found some joy in this time of year.  Everyone needs to be a Debbie-downer like many in the church. Because they are miserable, everyone else should be too.

The sad fact is that more people around the world are exposed to who Jesus is and his story at this time of year than you will ever hear in a Church of God.  Considering the COG claims to be the "true church" that is pretty sad. Just take a look at a typical yearly list of preached sermons, articles in magazines, and their list of booklets.  Jesus is hardly ever mentioned and is certainly NEVER the main focus of their gospel message. The law trumps every thing, including Jesus. Grace, mercy, justice, and freedom are anathema in the church, while rules, regulations, doctrines that border on demonic, and idolatry are the main focus.  Apparently, the more miserable they can make themselves the more holy and righteous they think they are.

And more craziness that some COG members post:

Christmas Trees symbolize Nimrod sprouting from the grave:
Nimrod the mighty hunter against God!!! Nimrod married his Mother. Nimrod was killed. The evergrowing tree sprouted from his grave. The first Christmas tree.
Have some angels on your tree?  If you do, you are hanging dead babies on your tree in honor of Nimrod

Nimrod was shown as a baby. With the pine tree representing Nimrod. Babies were burnt alive as gifts to Nimrod. Angels on trees represent dead babies -  MURDERED Babies.

Have some tinsel on that tree?  You are decorating it with Satan's snake.  I won't even venture to think what they mean by "snake".  :-)  Knowing the preoccupation of so many Armstrongites with sex, it could mean a couple of things.

        The strings of tensile on the tree symbolize the snake/satan.

Did you know that hanging ball ornaments on trees symbolizes testicles?

The balls on the tree are Nimrods Testicles.
I do not recall how the founder of all of this worlds religions died. I remember that he was cut up and they could not find his balls which is why they put balls on the trees, An evergreen tree was supposed to have sprouted from his grave which is why an evergreen tree is used.
Did you have a picture of your child on Santa's lap?

To celebrate Nimrods birthday they used to feed babies to the fire. All those angels on the tree represent dead babies that were murdered for Nimrod. Why he wears a red suit- it represents fire so any one putting a baby on a fat mans lap wearing a red suit is making their baby pass threw the fire!!!!
And my favorite:

Santa is an anagram for Satan

 The ironic thing is when these Armstrongites start spitting this stupidity it brings no one to the god they claim to follow.  It turns people off.  They are not performing a witness, they are not drawing anyone to Jesus Christ.  They are doing nothing other than making themselves look stupid.  But, maybe that is the current COG normal.....?

Adult Sabbath School: Why Don't You Just Go Home

The Fundamentalist craving for "The End" to come, a hallmark of the Churches of God, poisons the life one actually has and replaces it with a wasted life that lives for just around the corner, soon, 3-5 years, 10 at the most and 25 at the most.  

It has proven to be an insane and wasteful emotional way to live one's life under the mistaken views of Herbert Armstrong and is continued to this day by his shadow people who imagine themselves in high places and not infrequently spoken of in the scriptures, which is delusional to the harm of all who follow blindly and uncritically. 

This is theological and moral insanity

Cocky question. Truthful answer