We at The Painful Truth want to thank The Journal for doing our job for us!

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We’re delighted with the support the latest The Journal has given our cause! It starts innocently enough on page 3 with the article, The old class system’s roots run deep by David Havir. For those who do not know, David Havir is described at the top of the article as The writer is a church pastor and a regular columnist for THE JOURNAL. Of course he is: He is the church pastor for the Church of God Big Sandy which is the church where the editor, Dixon Cartwright, attends. They are good friends and David Havir’s columns seem to make it into nearly every The Journal there is, without all that mucking about with paying advertising costs. The article he wrote is about “Servant Leadership”. What he wrote about Herbert Armstrong in the article, we think you’ll agree, is significant:

Coercive hierarchy

Many people claim that the major problem with Mr. Armstrong’s approach to government was that he became an advocate for a hierarchy headed by one man.
square8 I don’t believe that the worst problem was that he chose to head up a hierarchy. (For the record, I presently participate in a congregational form of government, and I do not recommend a one-mangoverned hierarchy.)
I believe the greater problem was that he administered a coercive hierarchy. In other words, there was much psychological pressure to accept the supposed spiritual authority of the hierarchy. (A coercive hierarchy can also be administered by a group of rulers. If you look around, you will see coercive hierarchies being administered by one-man leadership and by group leadership.)
I believe the greater problem was that he viewed himself as (1) the leader of God’s government on earth, (2) the leader of the main part of the Body of Christ, (3) spiritually outranking every other human being and (4) the leader of the ruling class.

His last book
Let me refresh your memory with excerpts from Mr. Armstrong’s book Mystery of the Ages (published in 1985). All the emphasis is his.
Reading these quotes helps me understand why some people reject the principles of servant leadership.
Mr. Armstrong taught that Peter was the chief apostle. (The primacy of Peter is one of the foundational principles of the hierarchy fostered by the Roman Catholic Church and the WCG.)
He wrote on page 221: “The surname Peter had for centuries been a surname or TITLE, designating a religious LEADER, HEAD or HEADQUARTERS. Peter was the first and chief apostle.”
Mr. Armstrong taught the need for loyalty to the government of God. (Remember, his faulty premise was that loyalty to God meant being loyal to the one true church, over which he presided.)
He wrote on page 227: “Bear in mind further: In order for Christ to RESTORE God’s government over the earth, he would need with and under him a qualified and organized personnel of GOD BEINGS—all having rejected Satan’s false way and having
proved their loyalty to the government and righteous ways of God!”
Mr. Armstrong taught that there was only one church, and those who splintered off from it were no longer in the one true church. (Remember, his faulty premise was that to leave the church, over which he presided, was to leave the one true church.)
He wrote on page 243: “Notice especially, there is only the ONE CHURCH. Not MANY churches. The CHURCH is not divided. There is only one Church. Not a parent church and many little daughter churches that have split off in disagreement. Divisions splintering off are NOT STILL IN THE CHURCH. It is the CHURCH that is to marry Christ in the resurrection at his coming—not disagreeing churches—not groups who have broken off! Not a parent church and apostate daughters.”
Mr. Armstrong taught the military model of government with ranks of authority.
He wrote on page 256: “The CHURCH, as initially called in this life, is NOT YET capable of RULING the earth [and] . . . of administering THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD. And THAT IS WHY God has placed HIS GOVERNMENT in his Church. That is WHY God’s Church government is theocratic instead of democratic. That is why God has set ranks of government in his Church, apostles, evangelists, pastors, elders, both preaching and non-preaching.”

Mr. Armstrong taught that he had the rank of apostle. (In other writings and sermons he taught that the main purpose of a saint was to support him.)
He wrote on page 266: “What part does the individual local member have in taking the gospel message to ALL THE WORLD? This is done primarily and directly by the APOSTLE.”
Mr. Armstrong taught that saints could not grow without his help (as a perceived apostle) and the help of others in the rank system.
He wrote on pages 267-268: “The author, Christ’s apostle, can say emphatically that the apostles, evangelists, pastors and elders could not carry on the work of God without the loyal backing and continual encouragement of the lay members. Neither can the individual lay member develop and build within him God’s holy, righteous and perfect CHARACTER without the operations of the apostle, evangelists, pastors and elders.”
Mr. Armstrong taught that there was only one way to be trained. (Remember, his faulty premise was that the only way to be trained was in the one true church, over which he presided.)
He wrote on page 270: “The ‘loner’ —the ‘individual Christian,’ who wants to climb up into the kingdom some other way than by CHRIST and HIS WAY through his CHURCH—is not being trained in CHRIST’S MANNER OF TRAINING, to rule and reign with Christ in his kingdom! . . . The person who says ‘I will get my salvation alone, outside of the Church’ is totally deceived.”
Mr. Armstrong taught that church leaders could put people out of the Body of Christ. (Stopping someone from attending a particular congregation is different from claiming to remove him from the spiritual organism.) He taught that a main reason for
people to be “put out” was “opposition to church government.” (Since that ethereal reason can be subjective and political, it has led to much unjust treatment of saints.)
He wrote on pages 271-272: “What about one who has been IN Christ’s ‘spiritual BODY’—the Church—and is PUT OUT for cause (causing division or rebellion or opposition to Church government)? The CHURCH is like a human mother who is pregnant. If there is an abortion, the HUMAN LIFE departs totally from the fetus. There is, however, perhaps one difference in
this analogy. A human who goes out, or is put out of God’s Church, could, on repentance and renewed belief, be admitted back into the body again.”
Mr. Armstrong taught that God would raise up a human leader in the spirit and power of Elijah to restore truth. (In other writings and sermons he emphasized that the end-time Elijah would restore the truth about the government of God.)
He wrote on pages 290-291: “Although it is plainly revealed that John the Baptist had come in the power and spirit of Elijah, he did not restore anything. The human leader to be raised up somewhat shortly prior to Christ’s Second Coming was to prepare
the way—prepare the Church—for Christ’s coming, and restore the truth that had been lost through the preceding eras of the Church.”
Mr. Armstrong taught that he fulfilled Matthew 24:14.

He wrote on page 291: “These prophecies have now definitely been fulfilled. The true gospel has been restored and has now gone in power into every nation on the face of the earth.”

Mr. Havir goes on to show how wrong this all is and ends with a section entitled “No Easy Fix”. There is no easy fix because every Church of God that has come from Herbert Armstrong is tainted by his arrogant controlling hierarchy, even the Church of God Big Sandy (that also includes the Grace Communion International). If it weren’t for Herbert Armstrong, neither the CoGBS would exist, nor would any other of the 700+ club. He started it all and without him there would be absolutely nothing. There is no way to hide from his influence. The only way to fix anything is to abandon it all and go where someone else has established a social group for those refugees from the Radio / Worldwide Church of God.

Here is what Neotherm had to say about the article at Otagosh:

Black Ops made a reference to Havir and his writing about HWA. So I went back and read the article and was blown away. I cannot believe that Havir would write this and Cartwright would publish it. It is the best article I have seen on this topic to come out of the Armstrongite offshoots.

Havir has it exactly right. Armstrongites do not understand leadership. Most of the “great leaders” in the WCG that I encountered personally were boorish snobs. They thrived inside a system that mistook insensitivity for courage, oppression for teaching, arrogance for dignity and stolidity for perseverance. They were taught and believed that they controlled the salvation of individual adherents. They believed that they were of such importance that they could run interference between God and people. Pretty breathtaking. All these sins were forgiven by their unwavering devotion to HWA. The fact that Havir would strike directly at the black heart of this system is amazing and no doubt will compromise his ability to be an influence on other Armstrongites who hold the traditional HWA-centric views. But I am glad he did it.

I used to work with David Havir at Big Sandy at times. Students were assigned to me and others like me for various work details. Havir was atypical for an AC student. He was friendly and egalitarian. He seemed to not be easily deluded. I was at the lower end of the servant-class at AC and he had no trouble treating me as if I were a person – something I found to be rare in that environment. So I am not surprised that he would write such an article. On the other hand, Don Ward, with his degree in Educational Psychology and considered by many to be the authority on leadership, could not have written such an article unless he has undergone a sea change. (One must be careful with semantics. Armstrongites will maintain that what their ministers do is “service.” This demonstrates how removed they are from a correct understanding of the pastoral function.)

— Neotherm

Probably not. People will read this in The Journal, along with other articles in other issues which will undermine everything Herbert Armstrong stood for, and they will pass right over them without being struck by the obvious cognitive dissonance. It’s all part of the chaotic landscape that’s been created there with absolutely crazy daft advertising mixed with a few sensible observations. It’s easy to get caught up in the noise.

Now some people will applaud the approach of David Havir, and by extension, Dixon Cartwright, many of the staff of The Journal, many of those at the top and near the top of the Church of God Big Sandy hierarchy and quite a number of those associated with the ideas and ideals within the United Church of God an International Association. Behind the scenes, they have abandoned British Israelism. Heresies and false prophets are irrelevant. Many of them seem to have found the research of the Christian Theologians that indicate that most of the books of the Bible were forged, few of the books could have been written by those with their names on them, that there are 40 gospels floating around of which only 4 were part of the New Testament (and were written 30 to 60 years after the events described in them by people who weren’t there to observe the events), II Peter, James, Jude and John are forgeries along with at least half of the epistles of Paul, that Revelation barely made it into the Bible and was suspect from the beginning, that the epistles of Paul were written before any of the other books of the New Testament and the rest of the books are “back fill”. The folks at The Journal and the others associated with it are just fine with that.

David Havir has thrown down the gauntlet, not that anyone is much going to react one way or another, because what is important is keeping the social group together. It certainly mitigates the pain of going “cold turkey” alone without social support.

The main problem with all of that is that the people in the social group do not know. They have the assumption that they are faithfully following Herbert Armstrong and his original ideas. The leadership knows that Herbert Armstrong was crap and his plagiarized ideas from G. G. Rupert are just plain stupid and wrong. They are manipulating the group for both their own agendas and to keep the group together. Clearly, building a new social structure of people who were in a cult of lies and delusions is not the best approach. There is still a class system at work here and it isn’t going to solve the underlying problem. There’s no reason to believe that someone inside a system can objectively observe that system nor assess it. Reinvention in place won’t solve the problem, particularly when members of the social group don’t actually believe the same things (especially considering they don’t believe the same things as the leadership) and this fact is hidden from them. This is similar to the machinations of the Grace Communion International, except that no one is trying to get anyone to change their ideas: They just let people keep their beliefs (which may be wildly divergent from the ideas of those around them), while they happily go forth and perform the physical rituals and pretend that it’s a religion that keeps them all together with Sabbath Services, socials, potlucks and Feasts. It could be any sort of social group, it’s just that it began as a cult.

The leadership can never fully admit to any of this because it would threaten the stability of the group, so a certain amount of deception is required to hold it all together. Not to worry, because as the decades roll on, people in the group will intermarry and become codependent, original ideals will be forgotten and lost and the cult becomes more mainstream even if it does contain some odd and unworkable practices. If it’s going to be like that, then eventually, keeping the Feasts will have to be voluntary and the concept of second tithe will have to disappear: We’re letting people follow the course of least resistance, providing “inspiration” supposedly based on “Biblical principles”. We’ve all seen this sort of thing before. While it may not end badly, it can’t end well either, with people in a society based on cult devised by a nut.

So David Havir and The Journal have sort of done our job for us. It’s nice that Herbert Armstrong was resoundingly criticized openly and cut to shreds by people who have automatic credibility with the Armstrongists. Still, the underlying direction has become rather disingenuous.

While we’re grateful for the help, we’ll take it from here.

Poof of the Bible

The Proof of the Bible

Herbert Armstrong wrote The Proof of the Bible in 1958 (no one can be quite sure if he plagiarized the material or who he might have plagiarized it from). Unfortunately, the so-called “proofs” are all based on Old Testament Prophecies — touted by him to be absolute proof because they were fulfilled, thus “proving” the Bible. Now those of us who have our own copy and have studied Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker’s Toolkit by Johathan C. Smith can spot the problems with The Proof of the Bible almost instantly. We won’t bore you with the disproved theory that Tyre was actually not destroyed — it still exists. No, we ask you to skip forward to page 22 and read the section Why Egypt is a Weak Nation. Herbert Armstrong quotes Ezekiel 29:15-16 where he makes a point that Egypt will be the basest of kingdoms! How did he do? How did the Bible do on this one?

It’s hard to get our arms around this because, really, the statement is pretty vague. Nevertheless, let’s use a commonly agreed upon measure of a country’s viability and ranking by selecting the List of Countries by GDP (PPP). Data from the World Bank ranking Gross Domestic Product for the years 2005-2013 rank Egypt #25 out of 179 countries with a GDP of $910 Billion. That’s fairly respectable. Of course, the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Brazil, France, United Kingdom are ranked at the top above Egypt as you might have suspected. What’s interesting though, is the nations ranked below Egypt: Countries such as Netherlands, South Africa, Columbia, Venezuela, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland (who knew?), Iraq (Iraq?), Sweden and Switzerland. The most interesting one, though is… wait for it… Israel! Israel was ranked at #54 with a GDP of $264 Billion.

So if Egypt is the basest of nations, are we to assume that Israel, the specially selected country chosen by God, is even more base? If you use the objective measurement of Gross Domestic Product, the answer is obviously, yes. So much for Herbert Armstrong’s Bible Prophecy (not that he wasn’t a huge failure in this department anyway). The Proof of the Bible is no such thing. And not to put to fine a point on it, The Proof of the Bible doesn’t even begin to address the New Testament, it’s provenance and the questions about such books as II Peter, the gospels and Revelation being forged: The Proof is more than a little thin — it’s only about a small part of the Old Testament and a few prophecies given there — it does not address the Big Picture at all.

Some of the ministers in the Armstrongist churches seem to have realized that no one can actually prove the Bible is true and may believe the information from Theologians, such as David Fitzgerald at Skepticon 3 “Examining the Existence of a Historical Jesus”:

Byker Bob wrote, over at Banned!:

Many groups over the millennia have taught the sabbath, the holy days, clean meats, the ten commandments, and either a tithe or voluntary giving of a generally recommended percentage of 10% as God’s basic standard.

People have been happy, they’ve lived exemplary lives, and they have raised fine families in peace and tranquility under those customs. Whether they are New or Old Covenant, whether certain facts are known or unknown that would make it possible or impossible to still observe those tenets, and whether the act of teaching them is the way of identifying “God’s True Church” rather than love, faith, and other Christian fruits, has been the subject of ongoing unresolvable debate for many years. Still, a once a week “special date with God” would certainly not harm self, or others, in and of itself.

What elevated Herbert W. Armstrong’s church and his heirs into cultic status was the addition of an extrabiblical theory (which can actually be disproven using the Bible, let alone archaeology, history, linguistics, and genetics) based on British Israelism and German Assyrianism. This was compounded by Armstrong’s pretentiousness in claiming to know something that Jesus said could not be known, I.e, when the end would come. Now, that is all cultic “gnosticism”, but it doesn’t yet rise to the label “toxic”.

Toxicity entered through Herbert using the apocalypse of Revelation, bolstered by the prophecies of Daniel, asserting that these would occur during our lifetime, applying it all to civilizations initiated by Anglo-Saxon gentiles, and leaving anyone from his primary broadcast audience who wanted to be spared and protected from these with the sole alternatives of joining his church movement, or suffering the brunt of the tribulation. It was a black and white ultimatum. He then introduced another bit of speculation, that the churches enumerated in Revelation were actually eras, thus branding anyone more liberal or conservative than himself who actually taught the same doctrines as “Sardis” or “Laodicean”. Some over the years have considered all of this intimidation to be special, privileged truth, while in the face of continued failure of the root prophecies, and witnessing horrible fruits, others have seen it as blatant, deliberate, false entrapment.

The final and worst toxicity came from Herbert’s doctrine of “government from the top down” (rather than the power of Jesus Christ converting and transforming one Christian heart at a time from the bottom-up), thus opening the door for all of the cruel, arbitrary, “our way or the highway” enforcement practiced in original WCG and the ACOG splinters. Basically, this is the “we OWN you” doctrine, making the leaders of these groups the gatekeepers to the so-called “place of safety” and supposedly to the kingdom itself. Members in good standing do not question their gatekeepers’ authority!

I have no problem with the people who think that the New Covenant is simply the Infusion of Jesus into the Old Covenant. But, I have a huge problem with the people who would contaminate all of that with the various ingredients that Herbert W. Armstrong added as his own modifiers to that. The use of a special set of Armstrong gnosticism, combined with totalitarian enforcement, is what makes the ACOGs toxic. That is in no way spiritual guidance.


Unfortunately, most of the Armstrongist churches have resorted to tactics which make them look more like George Orwell’s 1984 than a church.

Now no one needs to give up the Bible. It can still be used for inspiration. In fact, in some segments of the Armstrongist community, there are those who actually seem to be fine with the fact that the Bible might not be the inspired Word of God, absolute, with Authority. It is a growing community and there are some prominent leaders out there directing the charge. One such group is the Church of God Big Sandy, led by David Havir who is, in turn, supported by Dixon Cartwright and The Journal. Dixon Cartwright has declared that he does not believe in British Israelism: He responded to the PT Article, The Journal is Cursed! by saying:

Yes, the aspects of Armstrongism that I judge to be silly I try to be above it all, as you put it. You can say false prophet all you like, I don’t care. But I don’t think terms like that are appropriate for a journalist to use (except in quoting other people) because those are terms for Bible scholars and farmer theologians and church members. I don’t think Herbert Armstrong was a prophet, therefore I don’t think he could have been a true or false prophet. Just as I tried to remove myself from the Bible fray when I wrote my canon articles (because one cannot prove or disprove the validity of the Bible in the usual conservative-Christian sense by arguing from within the Bible), I think it’s advisable for a newspaper not to report from inside the Bible. Interesting you guys are always talking about British Israelism. I am not a British Israelist, but I don’t think BI is any weirder than certain important doctrines of mainstream Christianity.

It seems likely that David Havir and others at the CoGBS hold the same disbelief. Since the staff of The Journal has ties to the United Church of God an International Association, it is also likely that many of the ministers in the UC Gaia also tacitly realize that British Israelism is a dead issue, although, behind the scenes they still have a United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, they have backpedaled the issue and don’t promote the booklet actively. Certainly, Dennis Luker was moving United in another direction away from Armstrong during his tenure as President. In addition, “False Prophet” and “Heresy” are irrelevant terms, as Dixon Cartwrite wrote over at Otagosh:

To Black Ops: You do not understand where I’m coming from. I pick up from Gavin and his little comments now and then that he pretty much does. “False prophet”? Interesting that you still are tuned in to the concept of false prophet. That strikes me as a religious and conservative-theological way of thinking that I try not to do anymore. It’s like saying someone’s a heretic. For a person trying to stay above the fray, some of those concepts make little sense. People obviously have strong religious convictions, and I think that can be an objective statement. But lamentations about false prophets and heretics and interpretations of Scripture and doctrine are not. –Dixon C.

This would make absolutely no sense at all in the highly conservative pragmatic Biblical based world of Herbert Armstrong and the Radio Church of God. But if it is rooted in venue of high concept religious abstract fuzzy thinking of modern Christian Theology, it makes perfect sense. The Bible is not absolute — it’s just used for inspiration to pad out sermons and written material. No, what’s really important is the social group. Dixon Cartwright has validated this.

Now if you take a look at the Church of God Big Sandy, you can clearly grasp the concept. Youth Day includes the activities of the Boy Scouts of America chapter at Big Sandy during Sabbath services. The Journal reports on all the personal items of interest (as well as doing the Boomer thing of allowing everyone to have their say and go their way). People can believe whatever they want to and even have discussions about it as long as they don’t get too loud or pushy. As long as it doesn’t threaten the group in any way, it’s allowed — this gives people the Byker Bob standard, acknowledging that as long as the environment isn’t toxic and works for the group, it’s (mostly) OK. In this case, the Bible is just a prop and has no real relevance and neither does doctrine, heresy, false prophets, prophecy. In fact, the ministers could all be humanist atheists (and they may well be) and it would make no difference: The social group is together and everybody’s OK. Of course, some of the more retentive types soaked and locked into the ultra conservative arcane religious beliefs espoused by Herbert Armstrong haven’t got the memo (clueless, deliberately excluded from being able to understand what’s going on) but that’s OK too — there’s a safe place for them to hold their superstitious delusions.

Now it is the case that for the sake of the social group, there are still some unique Armstrongist things. The biggest of these is the so-called Feast of Tabernacles. There is no such thing, of course, because there is no Temple, no Levite priests (no matter how Herbert Armstrong tried to make his hirelings into them), no altar, no animal sacrifices… well, OK, sometimes they do have a barbeque at the “Feast” but you know what we mean. The “Feast of Tabernacles” allows people to get together for social activities, meet friends, make new friends, eat, drink and be merry, have a generally fun time. People can have the best of everything (up to a point) more than they can have any other time of the year. The physical rituals help bind the community together, and that’s all good. There are also all those Christmas / New Year socials for various social activities. With this approach, there’s absolutely no conflict with “Feasts of the Lord” because if it benefits the social group, there’s nothing wrong with it. They do it because they can. [Note: United recently published in The Good News that it is OK for the elderly and those with medical problems to eat and drink on the Day of Atonement, meaning that those “Festivals” aren’t as much an obstacle any more for those who don’t really want to keep them fully and it also means that it was just fine for Herbert Armstrong to have a cup of coffee and a donut on the Day of Atonement to “keep up his strength”. Nothing’s all that sacred any more.]

This is real freedom!

So now, people can whine about false prophets. Irrelevant. People can whine about heresy. Irrelevant. People can get all bent out of shape about doctrine and a million things associated with it, particularly the calendar. Irrelevant. British Israelism. Irrelevant. The Bible can go poof! No problem. Gee, about now, Joe Tkach probably wishes he had the idea back in the day with the Worldwide Church of God: Just allow people to have their local church buildings and build a local social community and people would be happy and it would all be good. None of this mucking about trying to change absolutely everything Herbert Armstrong stood for as a vendetta. Just let the people do what they want to do anyway, and sit back and collect the dough. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier? This is a successful business model that really works! It’s all good as long as the music’s good! After all, it’s just a social club.

Well, live and learn.

Or don’t.

And yet… it’s hard to know what to call these fun folks — Unarmstrongists, perhaps?

We do believe that those who have rejected British Israelism should be praised, it’s just that we would have hoped they would have been more obvious and public about it.

These days there are accounts of atheists yearning for a social group. They’d like to have something like a church, just without the religious nonsense that goes along with it. They’d like to socialize with get togethers, pot lucks, conventions, all without having to argue that the Bible is so much superstition. They need to take a page out of the book of these former Armstrongists. They could learn a thing or two.

Make no mistake: Most of those such as Roderick Meredith, David Pack, Gerald Flurry, Ronald Weinland claim to obey God and believe the Bible but prove by their behavior that they don’t.