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My most recent posts have hit Evangelical Christianity pretty hard. While I certainly believe that my observations were warranted by the fac...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why is it so hard for an Armstrongite to return to the fold?

An interesting discussion was launched by a post over at Banned by HWA! The post was entitled "Are the problems in the COG the result of bad leaders or its theology?" It was, of course, no surprise that many of the commentators laid the blame for the problems within the Armstrong Churches of God at the feet of their former/current leadership. For many current and former Armstrongites, it has to be about the flawed individuals who were/are in charge (it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the theology/teachings). As one would expect with such a post, prominent among the commentators was Ian Boyne of the Church of God International.

Mr. Boyne maintains that most of the critics of Armstrongism have focused their attention on the failed leadership within the various groups (he acknowledges that failure) and have ignored what he sees as the fact that Armstrongism provides "the best Christian option" available to believers. In fact, he goes on to say:  "I think after Armstrongism, my philosophical destination is likely to be agnosticism or some form of generic theistic existentialism." In other words, if someone were able to discredit Armstrongism, Ian sees himself as abandoning Christianity.

In fairness to Mr. Boyne, such a conclusion does not appear to be rare among former and current Armstrongites (Dennis Diehl, Gerald Bronkar and others have professed their rejection of Christianity). Moreover, one only has to look at the history of the Worldwide Church of God to see that this type of reasoning is not uncommon among Armstrongites. When faced with a return to the more traditional form of Christianity offered by Joseph Tkach Jr, many of the folks within the WCOG jumped ship. Some went to another Armstrong Church of God, but many decided to abandon religion altogether. In other words, for so many of these folks, it was either Armstrongism or NOTHING!

Why? Why is it that many of these folks will not even entertain the possibility of adopting some other form of Christianity?

The answer lies in the way that they were originally indoctrinated into Armstrongism. It wasn't simply a matter of learning a set of doctrines. A large part of Herbert's and Garner Ted's appeal was their focus on discrediting "traditional" Christianity. They talked at great length about the pagan influences on that religion, and the deleterious effect which that had on Christian theology (things like the immortality of the soul, trinity, Sunday observance, holiday observance and idol worship). They focused on just how unfair and unreasonable the teachings on heaven and hell really were, and only introduced their alternative after they had thoroughly discredited the old model.

The reasoning went something like this:  If we can discredit everything else and demonstrate that we have discovered the only legitimate way to put all of the pieces together, then we have to be the one and only possibility! Hence, for many of these folks, when the Worldwide Church of God crumbled, there were only two alternatives:  find another Armstrong Church of God or abandon Christianity entirely. After all, if Armstrongism was ever truly discredited, why would you return to the other forms which you had previously discredited?

Does this begin to sound a little like circular reasoning? Since we have already concluded that traditional Christianity is a worthless pile of $#&!, why would we ever revisit that conclusion?

HWA was also fond of the all or nothing approach. Believe it all, or you have to reject it all. There was no room for discernment or nuance in his theology. Everything was a package deal. It was all truth or all error. Catholics and Methodists were wrong - period. They couldn't possibly be right about some things. We disproved that system - time to move on! We certainly don't want to be like the dog that returns to its vomit!

Armstongism is a mental straitjacket. It was designed by its founder to be a self-reinforcing/self-perpetuating system. It is, therefore, no wonder that so many of its victims find it almost impossible to find their way back to the fold.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

God, Christians and the Jewish Bible

In numerous posts, this blog has explored the question of whether or not the Christian Bible has any value in our quest to understand the Divine. Longtime readers of this blog know that the author has commented on the authorship, writing processes, editing, inspiration, reliability and internal consistency of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
In that tradition, I found a Roman Catholic study of the relationship between Jewish Scripture (the Old Testament to Christians) and the New Testament (writings of the early Christian era) to be very interesting. Hence, I am including a quote from the preface to the results of that study which was written by the man who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI:

"From this viewpoint, the Fathers of the Church created nothing new when they gave a Christological interpretation to the Old Testament; they only developed and systematised what they themselves had already discovered in the New Testament. This fundamental synthesis for the Christian faith would become problematic when historical consciousness developed rules of interpretation that made Patristic exegesis appear non-historical and so objectively indefensible. In the context of humanism, with its new-found historical awareness, but especially in the context of his doctrine of justification, Luther invented a new formula relating the two parts of the Christian Bible, one no longer based on the internal harmony of the Old and New Testaments, but on their essential dialectic linkage within an existential history of salvation, the antithesis between Law and Gospel. Bultmann modernised this approach when he said that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ by foundering. More radical is the proposition of Harnack mentioned above; as far as I can see, it was not generally accepted, but it was completely logical for an exegesis for which texts from the past could have no meaning other than that intended by the authors in their historical context. That the biblical authors in the centuries before Christ, writing in the Old Testament, intended to refer in advance to Christ and New Testament faith, looks to the modern historical consciousness as highly unlikely.
As a result, the triumph of historical-critical exegesis seemed to sound the death-knell for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament initiated by the New Testament itself. It is not a question here of historical details, as we have seen, it is the very foundations of Christianity that are being questioned. It is understandable then that nobody has since embraced Harnack's position and made the definitive break with the Old Testament that Marcion prematurely wished to accomplish. What would have remained, our New Testament, would itself be devoid of meaning. The Document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission introduced by this Preface declares: “Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be an unintelligible book, a plant deprived of its roots and destined to dry up and wither” (no. 84)."

-- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 2001, from the preface to The Pontifical Biblical Commision's The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html#INTRODUCTION

What do you think? Did the Jews introduce God to the rest of the world? Can Christianity's appropriation and interpretation(s) of their Scriptures be justified?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Is God responsible for this shit?

Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (NKJV)

Isaiah 45:7 - " I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." (KJV), "I make peace and create calamity" (NKJV), "I bring prosperity and create disaster" (NIV), "I send good times and bad times" (NLT)
The English word "evil" was translated from the Hebrew "ra" meaning bad, evil, wickedness, misery, calamity, adversity, etc. (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H7451&t=KJV)

Proverbs 16:4 - "The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." (KJV)

John 1:3 - "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (KJV), "God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him." (NLT)

I Corinthians 8:6 - "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." (KJV), "But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live." (NLT)

Ephesians 3:9 - "God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (KJV)

Colossians 1:16 - " For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible..." (KJV)

Revelation 4:11 - "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (KJV)

In the light of this impressive list of scriptures, a few questions come to mind:

Does all things/everything really mean all things/everything?

How did bacteria and viruses originate?

How do genetic mutations arise?

How did cancer and disease originate?

Did God create hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Did God design humans, lions, bears, alligators and sharks to eat other animals?

Is God the author of war?

Is God the author of death?

How do birth defects arise?

What is the origin of neuroses, psychoses, other pathological behaviors and insanity?

And, if we allow that humans and angels have the ability/potential to pervert or corrupt that which is good and whole, who gave them that ability/potential?

And, if we answer that question in the affirmative, does that have any implications for how we define evil?

Is it possible that many of the things which we consider to be evil might not be characterized as such by Almighty God?

In other words, is it possible that we cannot discern the ultimate purpose of some things?

And, if we are living in a hologram (as some cosmologists, philosophers and theologians have suggested), doesn't that imply that someone/something has placed/programmed the "bad/evil" stuff into the equation/system/projector?

In other words, if God truly is the First Cause/Creator/Master Programmer, doesn't everything that is exist at "His" pleasure?

In the light of these questions, we have to ask:  Did God really create all things/everything?

And, if we answer that question in the negative, what does that imply about the reliability of the scriptures quoted above?

What do you think?