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The God of all comfort

There is an old proverb that has been stated in many different ways over the years, but it goes something like this: "Everybody has at...

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Those Pointy-headed Intellectuals!

Over the last fifty years, thousands of people have rejected Armstrongism and moved on to other things. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of them have retained their disdain for education, intellectual pursuits and science in general. Herbert Armstrong sought to undermine and/or destroy confidence in any authority other than himself. Sure, he professed to exalt the Bible as the final authority, but (like many before and after him) it was the Bible as HE understood it.

In reading through his writings now, one can see the tenacity and diligence Armstrong employed in discrediting the brilliant people of the world. Moreover, his motivation for doing so is quite obvious in hindsight. He couldn't have anyone competing for the hearts and minds of his followers. Intellectuals were a direct threat to the empire that this man of very limited education had created. These pointy-headed intellectuals might be stuffed with "worldly knowledge," but they were obviously IGNORANT of the stuff that really mattered.

Need some proof? Just take a few moments to peruse a few quotations from one of his greatest works - Mystery of the Ages:
"You live in a world seemingly far advanced in science, technology, higher education and diffusion of knowledge. People think it's a world of GREAT PROGRESS. We send men to cavort about on the moon and return them safely back to earth. Unmanned spacecraft land on Mars and send back to earth close-up photographs of the Martian surface. Other unmanned spacecraft fly close to Jupiter and send back astonishing pictures of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Surgeons transplant human hearts and other organs.
It's a magic, entrancing push-button world where work is done largely by machines. It's the glamour dream world of the three "Ls" -- leisure, luxury and license.
But paradoxically, it s also a world of Ignorance! Even the educated know not how to solve their problems and the world's evils. They know not the way of PEACE or the TRUE VALUES of life!" --Mystery of the Ages (Introduction)

Evolutionists, educators, scientists, religionists have striven in vain to solve the mystery of the ages -- the origin of matter, the universe, and of man -- the mystery of humanity -- of awesome human accomplishment paradoxically paralleling human evils -- of great minds accomplishing the unbelievable while unable to solve human problems. --Mystery of the Ages (Introduction)

And now what of the scholarly of our Western world today? One would think, the most highly educated ought to know WHO and WHAT God is! Suppose you ask at random 100 university deans, "Do you believe in God?" Perhaps three or four would answer, "Oh, I believe in the existence of God -- as a 'first cause.'" But they cannot tell you WHO or WHAT God is! They cannot tell you what God is like! God is not real to them. In other words, he is a mystery. Perhaps another six or eight of the hundred will admit they are agnostics -- they do not know "for sure" whether God exists.
I have said that education has become a matter of memory instillation. From elementary grades to higher graduate levels of study, our educational systems inject ready-made concepts, ideologies and a mixture of facts and fables into the unsuspecting minds of children, youths and young adults. Students in our school systems are graded according to how well they accept, memorize and can recite or write in tests what has been taught -- whether true or false.
Modern education has given universal acceptance to the fable of evolution. --Mystery of the Ages (Chapter 1)

IT SEEMS incredible indeed! Higher education teaches technical courses in human physiology, anatomy, anthropology and psychology. The universities take man apart and study him minutely inch by inch. They study every facet and phase of man. They take the human brain apart and study it, yet the human mind remains a total mystery to even the most advanced psychologists. They do not know WHAT man is or WHY he came to be! That is the great Mystery Number 3 that has never been understood by humanity. --Mystery of the Ages (Chapter 3)

We ought to want to know! This is a mystery that has baffled higher education. Higher education during the twentieth century has come, with virtual unanimity, to accept the evolutionary theory. It no longer even considers the possibility of a designed and planned creation by a God of supreme mind, perfect intelligence, and limitless power. But the evolutionary theory cannot in any degree explain a paradoxical world of awesome accomplishment that is at the same time utterly helpless to solve its problems of mounting and continually escalating evils. It can give no purpose for human existence. Higher education contemptuously ignores, without any consideration whatsoever, the biblical truths revealing man's presence on the earth and the causes of the present state of civilization. Education in the civilized world today has become entirely materialistic. Education has become a combination of the agnosticism of evolution, the politics and economics of Karl Marx and the morals and social patterns of Sigmund Freud. Higher education remains in utter ignorance of the mystery of mankind and of human civilization.
But higher education does not know. And it doesn't want to know! When we invade the questions of WHAT and WHY, the intellectuals -- the custodians of KNOWLEDGE -- shy away or stand up and fight. Of the questions WHAT and WHY is man, they are willingly ignorant!
So, education shuts its mind, and its mouth in tight silence. Science doesn't know. Religion does not reveal for it also doesn't know! Yes, incredible -- but TRUE!" --Mystery of the Ages (Chapter 3)

And the hook - you can know what those "great" minds don't! It was an appeal to vanity. I can know more than these people who have devoted their whole lives to research and study, and all I have to do is take the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course and read a few books/booklets! Those poor, stupid, pointy-headed intellectuals will be taking orders from me in the Kingdom!

Hmmm, maybe it's time to acknowledge that they call them experts for a reason? Maybe there is some merit in consulting the views of someone who has a degree from a "worldly" college/university? Is it possible that an Anglican Doctor of Divinity might know more about the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than you do? You don't have to surrender your right to reach your own conclusions about things to acknowledge that there may be a few folks in the world who might be a tad smarter than you are! And I think that's called wisdom and humility!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

God, the Environmentalist

In reviewing some of the comments regarding climate change here and over at Banned by HWA, it is apparent to me that many Christians do not believe that man has made a significant contribution to the problem. From my perspective, this is consistent with a tendency on the part of many Christians to align themselves with the views of ultra-conservative, right-leaning Republicans. Moreover, the roots of this affinity seem to be traced to a shared belief that God created everything for the benefit and enjoyment of mankind and placed man in charge of nature and ordered him to subdue it. And, when they bother to attempt to justify these notions, it seems that the vast majority of these folks hearken back to the first two chapters of the book of Genesis.

Nevertheless, this blogger (along with many other Christians) wishes to make clear that he does not subscribe to such an interpretation of Scripture or share these views of human responsibility toward our natural environment. From my perspective, a Divine pronouncement of satisfaction with the finished product - that everything that had been created was "very good" - suggests little or no room for improvement by anyone else! Moreover, in the second chapter of Genesis, we are told that "God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it" - not to uproot and destroy it!

And, when we look at the history of mankind's impact on his environment, we have to wonder how anyone could conclude that we haven't had a significant impact on every part of that environment. We know, for instance, that humans in the Western Hemisphere are directly responsible for the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon (formerly the most numerous species of bird in North America), the American Chestnut, the American Elm and most recently several of our native species of Ash trees (admittedly, a few sick/dying specimens of these once dominant tree species remain). We have wiped out over ninety percent of our virgin/old-growth forests and came close to wiping out the American Buffalo and Bald Eagle. The former range of bears, wolves and panthers has been greatly reduced. And what about the current state of our ground water, rivers, lakes and oceans (the amount of pollutants in all of these waters is truly staggering). Hence, is it even within the realm of credibility to suggest that all of the gases and fumes that we have released into our atmosphere have not had any impact?

It is ironic that many of these so-called Christians look forward to Judgment Day or the Second Coming (different folks frame those events in different ways), but ignore some of the warnings implicit in the scriptures which talk about them. In one of those instances, we read: "The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”  (Revelation 11:18) Yes, I'm fairly confident that God is an environmentalist!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Is God ready to punish the Globalists?

CGI Pastor Bill Watson can't seem to stay away from politics. Like the proverbial moth that is drawn to the flame, Bill can't seem to resist denigrating the left and extolling the virtues of Trump nationalists!

Mr. Watson's latest offering "Is the USA on the Brink?" https://www.cgi.org/new-blog-2/2019/8/13/is-the-usa-on-the-brink is a continuation of the themes he addressed in his MAGA presentation. The program opens with headlines like: "Biden Lays Out His Globalist Vision," "FBI Opens Investigation of Clinton Foundation," and "Leftists Demand: More Gun Control" (Can we discern a pattern or theme here?).

Mr. Watson goes on to state that "we're living in a very interesting world - especially in the area of politics." He talks about the "rancor," "disgust," and "hate" evident in so much of the public discourse about politics these days. According to the pastor, we find ourselves in these distasteful circumstances because there are two ideologies vying for supremacy within the U.S. Government - what he characterizes as a "socialist-globalist group" and a "nationalist group." And Mr. Watson makes it very clear which one of these groups he favors.

The pastor clearly sees the nationalists in the ascendancy. This, according to him, has engendered desperation within the ranks of the socialist-globalists. As proof, he offers the "Green New Deal" of freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He goes on to ridicule her statement that the world as we know it could come to an end in twelve years (which seems mild when one considers the preaching of Armstrongite ministers over the last sixty years).

Mr. Watson clearly doesn't believe that climate change is a real problem. For him, the Green New Deal is a diversionary tactic - meant to divert folks attention away from the real problems at hand. The pastor quotes an article from the conservative Aspen Institute about the cost of the program and concludes that it is not affordable or achievable. Moreover, he presents AOC's Green New Deal as the policy prescription of ALL of the socialist-globalists (all Democrats are NOT on the Ocasio-Cortez bandwagon).

Pastor Watson goes on to share his suspicion that "there's something that these globalists don't want you to know about." He speculates that this might involve further revelations from the Epstein story, or the government's use of tissue from aborted fetuses. In other words, these lefties are busy obscuring the things that everyone should really be focused on (pedophilia, abortion and Clinton's e-mails are more important than global warming).

After quoting from the prophets Jeremiah and Amos, Mr. Watson concludes his message by appealing to the peoples of North America and the British Commowealth to heed their messages for ancient Israel. Mr. Watson says that the way to "Make America Great" is for us to become morally right and good. Unfortunately, Mr. Watson does not seem to appreciate the irony of making such a statement when our nation is currently led by someone who is as morally bankrupt as Donald J. Trump!

Mr. Watson tells us that "there are people that hate this country." For him, these are the socialist-globalist Democrats. Mr. Watson sees these folks as the enemies of Manasseh and the rest of the House of Joseph. For Mr. Watson, Trump is our good King Josiah trying to turn the hearts of the people to their God and stave off destruction. Unfortunately, this is the same old crap that Herbert Armstrong peddled for years and employed in garnering thousands of supporters. Let's hope that Mr. Watson is not as successful as he was in deceiving people!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

CGI Pastor Bill Watson's MAGA

In an Armor of God webcast that sounded more like a campaign advertisement for Donald Trump, Pastor Bill Watson has demonstrated once again that the Church of God International has not retreated from the errors intrinsic to the doctrine of Anglo-Israelism. Those who are familiar with that church’s teachings and political biases will not be surprised that Mr. Watson’s latest offering was titled “Make America Great.”

The program opens with the pastor praising what he characterizes as an unprecedented economic resurgence within the United States under Trump (no mention is made of the fact that the current economic recovery began under the administration of his predecessor). Mr. Watson even references the Trump campaign slogan “Promises made, promises kept” in his remarks! In short, the pastor makes clear his belief that Donald Trump has restored America’s economic and military might.

Mr. Watson then proceeds to decry all of the ways that folks on the left have obstructed Mr. Trump’s efforts. According to him, these folks have never believed in America’s greatness. And, although the pastor admits many of the moral failings that are part of America’s past (genocide, slavery, economic exploitation, violence, etc.), he goes on to point out that the country has amassed great wealth – the likes of which the world has never seen before. Remember, for those who adhere to the doctrine of Anglo-Israelism, this material wealth is the all-important evidence of America’s “true identity.”

About two thirds of the way through the program, Mr. Watson finally turns to Scripture. To his credit, the pastor reads from the second chapter of the book of James to demonstrate that real greatness is not derived from riches but from engaging in moral behavior. Likewise, he references the twelfth chapter of the gospel of Luke to underscore the futility of amassing great wealth while ignoring moral behavior. Pastor Watson, however, appears not to see any irony in making these distinctions about true greatness relative to his preferred president, Donald J. Trump.

During the program, two additional messages by Mr. Watson are offered to the public: “Amos: An Ancient Message for North America” and “Modern Day Parallels of Israel’s Sins.” If the titles are suggestive of their content, it is easy to imagine more of the same.

For those who might be unfamiliar with these topics, the book of Amos opens with this statement: “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” (Amos 1:1) The prophet then proceeds to make statements about Damascus, Syria, Gaza, Tyre, Edom and Moab before he discusses ancient Judah and Israel. Nevertheless, the title of Mr. Watson’s message would lead us to believe that this message was intended for modern America.

And, although I’m sure that we could all find many parallels between our sinful behaviors and those of Bronze Age Israelites, that does not mean that we are modern day Israelites. If we choose to interpret Biblical events and prophecies through the false lens of Anglo-Israelism, we are certain to arrive at many erroneous conclusions with regard to our understanding of prophecy and how we process our political views.

As I’ve said before, Mr. Watson would do well to reconsider his views with regard to Anglo-Israelism. If he did that, I’m confident that his own perspective, as well as what he preaches to others, would improve. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Speaking the truth to power

Timothy Dalrymple's "On Court Prophets and Wilderness Prophets" over at Christianity Today  is the right message for modern preachers and prophets within the church. In the article, Dalrymple focuses on Nathan's role as a court prophet and John the Baptist's role as a wilderness prophet. The court prophet was close to the center of power, and the wilderness prophet was far removed from it. Nevertheless, as Dalrymple reminds us, both prophets took their Divine appointments seriously and were unafraid to point out sin/moral failure in the king.

He wrote: "As for me, I wonder if we have too many court prophets in an era when wilderness prophets are needed. I also wonder if our court prophets are willing to call out sin when they see it. Whether you view Trump as a David or an Antipas, whether you serve at the court of the resplendent king or stand over against the court from the wilderness, one thing Nathan and John the Baptist held in common was that both were willing to condemn unrighteousness in their rulers—even if it cost them everything."

In this instance, Dalrymple is particulary concerned with Trump's relentless attacks on people of color. As he sees it, the President's remarks present a real problem for Christians. He wrote: "The racial inflection of our political drama adds deeper significance to the moment. White Christians have a long and lamentable history of silence (or worse) when people of color are under attack. On the one hand, I sense today an authentic desire among white Christians to build bridges of relationship and reconciliation with their friends and neighbors of other ethnicities."

He goes on to point out, however, that this desire on the part of white Christians is met with real skepticism among Christians of color. Dalrymple wrote: "On the other hand, I sense a profound frustration among non- white Christian friends that their white brethren keep silent as the president aims ugly and demeaning statements at people of color. These friends don’t like what the silence of the white church is saying, and neither do we."

His conclusion is a clarion call to Caucasian Christians in the United States: "So let us not be silent. We are not captive to political party. We are accountable to a higher authority. We expect better of our leaders, and we stand in the foxholes with our brothers and sisters when they are taking fire. We hope court prophets and wilderness prophets alike, and Christians of all political persuasions, will speak the truth and stand with those who suffer unjustly." And I say, A-men!

Monday, July 29, 2019

God is NOT a racist, but you might be!

Like the society that produced them, some Christians are blind to the racial prejudice that exists among them. I am reminded of a devout aunt who once proudly proclaimed that she was "not prejudiced against n-----s" as long as they "stayed in their place."

These folks fool themselves by supporting their prejudices with various distortions of the Bible's portrayal of God's racial attitudes. I'm thinking of things like pointing to the "Table of Nations" in Genesis and concluding that since God created the races that "He" must have intended for them to remain separated from each other. Others point out that God favored the Jews - that "He" blessed "His" chosen people over all of the other nations which surrounded them (even helping them to defeat, despoil and oppress them). And, once they have settled on an interpretation that favors their group and its beliefs, they conclude that they can't be considered racists because God isn't a racist. Talk about circular reasoning!

The delusion that they are immune to charges of racism also stems from the way in which they perceive themselves. Many of these folks point to interracial situations within their own families, their own love and kindness toward others or the fact that they don't use racially derogatory terms as evidence that they are not racists. In other words, racists are bad people - they can't be kind and good. As a consequence of these "facts," they reason that no one could ever fairly paint them with that brush. Satan truly has deceived the whole world!

Unfortunately, our darkest sins are often hidden from our eyes by the stubbornness of our own ego and vanity. I'm reminded here of the old Jeff Foxworthy line "You might be a redneck if..." The truth is that if you tend to make generalizations about whole groups of people (e.g. those folks are dirty, lazy, violent, etc.) there is a good chance that you're a racist. If you believe that your tribe is spiritually, physically or intellectually superior to other groups, there is a high probability that you are a racist. Likewise, if you truly believe that God has favored your tribe above all others, it is very likely that you are a racist. If you believe that other folks are responsible for what's wrong in your life or society (e.g. it's the Jews, it's those illegal immigrants, etc.), then you might be a racist!

The good news is that we all have the ability to learn new things, repent and adopt different viewpoints. As with all sins, however, the first step is being willing to acknowledge that we have a problem. Like Satan before us, if we can't do that, then we will continue to believe that we are in the right and others have wronged us with false accusations of racism. And, finally, if this post makes you angry, that might indicate that you need to take another look at yourself vis-a-vis this issue! 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Would My Life Have Been Better Without My Worldwide Church of God Experience?

Like many of the folks who have left the Armstrong Church of God movement, I have had many years to contemplate that experience. Yes, I have thought about the what ifs - What if I had never heard the World Tomorrow? read The Plain Truth magazine or taken the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course? What if I had never allowed the Sabbath, Holy Days or other church teachings to interfere with my career choices? What if I had had the full use of my entire income? What could I have done with that other 20-30% of my financial resources over the years? What would my friendships and familial relationships have looked like without Armstrongism?

The problem with that kind of thinking becomes obvious when we realize that our list of what ifs could go on and on, and that such thinking often leads to feelings of bitterness - the sense that one has been cheated out of better things. Martin Luther King Jr. warned his followers to "never succumb to the temptation of bitterness." Maya Angelou compared bitterness to a cancer that consumes its host. Robert Menzies observed that "It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth that the greatest enemy to present joy and high hopes is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness."

In thinking about writing this post, I was drawn to an old post on philosiblog entitled "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." (12 Nov 2012 - taken from a quote attributed to Auguste Rodin) And I have found that it is exactly this kind of thinking that has proven to be the most useful to me in evaluating my experiences in Armstrongism. What did I learn from those experiences? How have I used those experiences to forge a better life for myself in the present? In short, would I be the person that I am today without those experiences?

I have always liked Garth Brooks' The Dance. The lyrics are about a romance that ended, but they could just as easily be applied to life in more general terms. I hear those words, and I think about the things I experienced directly and indirectly as a consequence of my affiliation with the Worldwide Church of God.
"And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance" --The Dance
Yes, I could have skipped the pain, but I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be where I'm at today without every bit of it.

Was it an expensive lesson? Sure. Aren't most of the things in life that are worthwhile expensive? (and I'm not just thinking about money - I'm also thinking about investments of time, effort and emotion)

But I guess that's part of it too, isn't it? You have to believe that you are better off today for having escaped the cult and having been forced to reexamine what you believe and reorder your life priorities (and I do believe that I'm better off today). As for me, one thing is certain: this blog would not have been possible without my experiences in Armstrongism. What do you think?