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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

They reject evidence that doesn't fit!

The Armstrongite/former Armstrongite reaction to my two most recent posts over at Banned by HWA have underscored for me a truism that I have been aware of for many years now: Armstrongism is a prisoner of its Fundamentalist foundations. Their narrative about the responsibility of Christians to observe the Sabbath(s) and other tenets of the Torah is impermeable to any challenges because of their beliefs about the Torah itself. For them, God gave the law to Moses, and Moses simply wrote it all down.

Thus, the starting point for the Armstrongite/former Armstrongite in the age old debate relative to the proper role of law and grace in the life of the Christian is an unshakeable faith in this belief that God is the ultimate source of all of those laws. As such, it is incomprehensible to them that the Creator of humanity would give Moses a law that wasn't meant to be universal and eternal in its application. In other words, the notion that the Torah was the work of a number of different authors and was cobbled together late in the kingdom period (and the Babylonian captivity) is completely alien to them. The Torah simply cannot be a Hebrew/Jewish invention intended just for them! Finally, the real clincher for them is the fact that Jesus Christ accepted and followed this tradition. In light of this, how can anyone say that this law is no longer binding on Christians?

The problem is that their foundation is built on sand. Although most Armstrongites appear to be oblivious to the fact, most Biblical scholars have understood for many years now that Moses was NOT the author of the Pentateuch. They point out that Moses is NEVER identified as the author of these texts anywhere within them, and that he is ALWAYS referred to in the third person. Likewise, in past posts on this blog, I have pointed out the absurdity of the notion that a humble person would identify himself as the most humble person on the face of the earth, or that he would write an account of his own death and burial! Moreover, the presence of anachronisms, inconsistencies, reprocessing of certain stories and accounts which contradict historical and archaeological findings make very plain that one person couldn't have authored the whole.

As Professor Bart Ehrman wrote in his college textbook The Bible, "The most popular solution <among Biblical scholars> to the problem of the authorship of the Pentateuch is known as the Documentary Hypothesis. In its most widespread form, this is the view that behind the Pentateuch there are actually four different written sources (all of them based on oral traditions), written by different authors, living at different times in the history of ancient Israel, with different points of view and emphases-which have been edited together into one long, five-volume work." Many scholars have associated those four sources with the letters J, E, D and P. Whether these scholars are right or wrong regarding their hypothesis about the authorship of the Torah is really immaterial to the fact which led to the formulation of that hypothesis: Moses cannot be the author of the Torah!

Moreover, Christ's willingness to fulfill the requirements of the Torah on behalf of his brethren, and his unwillingness to challenge the traditional attribution of its contents to Moses, does not constitute an endorsement of all of the notions of those individual authors. According to the New Testament narrative, Christ perfectly fulfilled what the Jews thought that God had required of them (but had never been able to perfectly observe themselves). Hence, although Christ implied that not all of those precepts had originated in the mind of God, his willingness to take them on and "fill them to the full" rendered the question of their origins a mute point. Again, for Christ, the important thing was that God's people believed that those were the things which YHWH expected of them!

In the book by Ehrman referenced above, it is also pointed out that the Sabbath was woven into "the very fabric" of the creation narrative in the book of Genesis. Ehrman went on to point out that there were actually ten acts of creation recorded in this narrative. In other words, whoever authored this account, his obvious intent was to demonstrate that God had created the Sabbath at the beginning - prior to its introduction to the Israelites and inclusion as a provision of God's covenant with them. And, more than any other thing, it is this narrative about the origins of the Sabbath which makes Armstrongites so impervious to the arguments of Sunday-keeping Christians!

This is why they are not persuaded by the obvious intent of the also anonymous author of the book of Hebrews (and NEO) that the Christian religion embraces the notion of the Sabbath principle as a rest from our own works in Jesus Christ. For them, the fact that the Sabbath was made a physical part of creation means that its physical presence can NEVER be erased. In other words, the physical observance of a seventh-day rest is eternal. Likewise, they reason that since the annual Sabbaths depict different aspects of God's plans and Christ's work, the physical observance of them must also be an eternal requirement for God's people (and, in keeping with their penchant for employing prooftexts, they would point out that the text in Leviticus says as much).

Hence, these Armstrongites (along with many of the folks who were formerly affiliated with them) are impervious to anything which suggests that Christians are no longer obligated to participate in the physical observance of the Sabbath(s). Moreover, like other Fundamentalists, anything which undermines, doesn't support or outright contradicts their narrative is to be ignored and/or dismissed. They reason that it simply HAS TO BE the way that they believe it to be (based on what was written in the Torah). Yes, that may sound like circular reasoning to you and me, but their faith in what they perceive to be the "word of God" is unshakeable. 

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