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.

BB

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.

Calendar

The Church of God Seventh Day is right! Herbert Armstrong got it wrong!

Herbert Armstrong declared many times:

The Sabbath stands or falls with the Feasts.

It’s strange, because the Church of God Seventh Day just doesn’t seem to think so. Here is what they say:

The Church of God (Seventh Day) teaches that Christians are not obligated to observe the feast days, the annual Hebrew holy days ofLeviticus 23. Here are seven reasons for this position:

  • The annual holy days were part of the Levitical law of the old covenant and were intimately linked to its system of animal sacrifices.
    The annual holy days were neither Creation ordinances nor included among the Ten Commandments, but they belong to a portion of law that may be called ceremonial.
  • The annual holy days were commanded to the nation of Israel when it departed from Egypt and were to be observed where the Lord placed His name: Jerusalem.
  • The annual holy days have an agricultural framework, inextricably tied to the land, crops, and climate of ancient Palestine.
  • The annual holy days were observed according to an ancient (Hebrew) calendar that is impossible to decipher from Scripture.
  • The purpose of the annual holy days was for the Hebrew nation to celebrate its own history and to anticipate the greater salvation that would come through Messiah.
  • Observance of the annual holy days often casts a shadow on the final work of redemption and grace that was accomplished by Christ on the cross.

Apparently, keeping the Feasts is a point of view.

Some of you know Alan Knight, either personally, through his interview in The Journal or from his book, Primitive Christianity in Crisis. The last time we had lunch, we discussed the current controversy surrounding Robert Thiel, since Mr. Knight had several exchanges with him and after lunch, I asked him the question of what he thought of the Feasts, given that he is something of a scholar on early Christianity. His response was that “Scriptural support for keeping the Feasts is weak”.

One’s skepticism is certainly piqued with Chapter 17, “The Most Important Holy Day” in Showdown At Big Sandy: Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia at an Unconventional Bible College in East Texas by Greg Doudna, now available at Barnes and Noble on Nook (apparently, Dr. Doudna took my advice to put it in an ebook). While the WCG nattered on about the other Feasts, the Wave Sheaf Offering, picturing the acceptance of Jesus Christ by God the Father, would, one would think, be the most relevant to Christians, if we were to keep the Feasts, but sadly, no, no there is no observance. Just keep the Lord’s Supper on the wrong day, keep the “Passover” as the Night to Be Much Observed and totally miss that the Days of Unleavened Bread start on the evening of the Passover.

Now one would suppose that keeping the Feasts could be a blessing… but certainly not to hear sermons about Doomsday and the lie of British Israelism.

But perhaps the biggest problem of all is that Armstrongists don’t actually know when to keep the Feasts. If you are going to keep them when they don’t need to be kept at all, you should, by all means, get the dates right. But with the nine variants that the Armstrongist churches of God use now are every one of them wrong — objectively, observably, technically wrong. It is time for them to admit that the Church of God Seventh Day is right and the calendar is impossible to decipher from Scripture.

Having failed to understand the Hebrew Calendar at all, Herbert Armstrong did the really stupid thing and went to the Jews as THE “authority” on the topic. This is a totally wrong move. Think about it: The Apostles went to the Pharisees in the First Century to ask them to tell them when the Feasts were? There’s nothing like stupidly making yourself a martyr. Besides, who would they ask after 70 A.D., do pray tell? The Old Covenant (if people believe the Bible) ended at the Death of Jesus: The veil to the Holy of Holies was ripped apart — there was no more authority of the Sanhedrin. The Christians just don’t go to the Jews for spiritual knowledge, because in the view of the New Testament, they don’t have any. Nevertheless, Herbert Armstrong went to the Jews for their calendar because he made the very wrong assumption that they were the keepers of the oracles and were the experts in such things in perpetuity.

Just how wrong this is has been exposed scientifically: The calculated calendar by Hillel II, the last of the Sanhedrin, declared that the solar year is 365 days and 6 hours, based on the stellar advice of an astonomer friend. Unfortunately, the Universe is unforgiving in such things, and he had the year off by a surplus of 11 minutes and 14.4 seconds. That may not sound like much, but given the past 1,650 years+, the Hillel II calendar is 12 days, 21 hours 7 minutes and 12 seconds off, putting the calculated Spring Equinox around March 6th or March 7th (depending upon leap year). If this were to be continued about 21,000 more years or so, the Feast of Tabernacles would coincide with Christmas Vacation Week in December between December 25th and January 1st. This would mean that people would not have to ask for time off for their children to keep the Feast and Boeing Employees could go because they get the week off every year. So, in the scheme of things, it’s very convenient… maybe… some day.

Hillel II was also off on what the moon transit time was by 6 millionths of a day every month being about .5184 seconds. This might not mean much month to month, but over the centuries until now, the Jewish Calendar is about 2.94 hours later in its expectation of the New Moon. This, under some circumstances can amount to one day.

It gets worse, though.

Hillel II set about to make sure that certain things didn’t happen in the Calendar, such as having the Day of Atonement on a Friday. However, documents from Jewish History show very clearly that the Day of Atonement did occasionally fall on a Friday during Christ’s time First Century A.D. and there were instructions on how to deal with it. This is important because no one can arbitrarily set the Passover in the First Century AD by a Calendar issued later in 359 A.D. by Hillel II. It is for this reason that the Armstrongists insist that Christ died in 31 A.D. to make their Festival timeline fit, when, in fact, they have it wrong and according to the self-correcting Hebrew Calendar at the time, would have made 30 A.D. the year that Jesus Christ would have been sacrificed to be put in the tomb in the evening of the Passover.

Things really get dicey from here. For one thing, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is impacted. For another, the Armstrongists don’t keep all the Feasts any year, even though, sometimes they keep a few of them on the day set forth by correct calendar computations, meaning that they can’t claim to be keeping God’s Law of the Old Covenant Correctly, and since, according to Herbert Armstrong, the Sabbath stands or falls on the Holydays, they are technically breaking the 4th Commandment, and hence, cannot have salvation.

Does your head hurt yet?

It’s no wonder that Armstrongist leaders doesn’t want to open this particular bag of snakes and convinces their membership it’s too complicated to understand and we all have to leave it to the “Authority” of the Jews: They couldn’t get the people together to keep the Feasts, which would reduce the effectiveness of the control Armstrongism has over the people and most of all, they would lose out on the money. That is a lot of powerful incentive to keep the people in confusion and delusion.

In actual fact, it isn’t that hard. After all, the ancient Israelites seem to have been able to calculate the Feasts, didn’t they?

I first learned about postponements in 2003, when the beautiful full moon was out on Thursday and the Feast of Tabernacles started on Saturday and a member called the minister and asked why and the minister said he didn’t know. At the Feast in Redmond, Oregon, I asked a minister about postponements and he lied to me and brushed me off saying, “I studied that once but I don’t remember”. He knew. He just didn’t want the answer. It would foul up Armstrongism and threaten his job.

In 2005 and 2006, my wife and I kept the “Passover” with Wayne Bedwell and his wife Carol in his home, along with the Edwards. Shirley Edwards was a delight and quite a woman. In the 1950s, when women weren’t supposed to do such things, she learned to fly, got her pilot’s license and flew to Cuba! My wife still has the picture of Shirley on the wall where she receives the silver prize in the Arizona Senior Olympics 50 yard swim at the age of 83 years old! Wayne Bedwell and I had an opportunity to discuss many things during our stay in the Tucson area, particularly his booklet, The Original Calendar for Our Day. He was an Engineer who once worked for NASA. I guess this calendar thing really is rocket science. He told me that he had travelled to New York to study in the very extensive Jewish section of the New York Public Library to learn how to calculate the calendar. He mentioned the fact that the First Century Jews did not use postponements and that the Day of Atonement could indeed fall on a Friday. He also noted that 30 A.D. was the only year where the Passover occurred on Wednesday night within years on either side: It could not be 31 A.D., 33 A.D., 29 A.D. or any other of the dates picked by others. It is also convenient, he explained, that from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D. there was a 40 year trial period for the Jews.

Plagiarism is a long, well-established practice with Armstrongists and the calendar presented by Wayne Bedwell was no exception. It is true that Ted Phillips of the Church of God Modesto used his calendar for the Feasts with full attribution. However, James Russell over at the Church of God In Truth did not acknowledge the source, particularly when he changed the assessment for the occurrence of the new moon: To wit, to change the beginning of a new moon from the time that the earth,  moon and sun were in conjunction, all nicely lined up, to the very first moment Jerusalem time, when the moon went down before the sun did. Another cult leader set the time differently by insisting that the Sabbath didn’t begin at sunset, but at nautical twilight. The differences could mean a full day’s difference. Nevertheless, this wasn’t anywhere near as bad as when the official Jewish Calendar was one full month off from the non postponed one. One should note that there are those who insist that the new moon really begins with the crescent of the moon, usually two days later than the real true lunar new moon. While it is completely silly in practice, there is a rationale to it because of yet another problem.

In 2008, when I met Paul Woods at the Feast of Tabernacles in Fruitland, Washington, hosted by his church, the Seventh Day Church of God of Caldwell, Idaho, I discussed the calendar also, since he publishes the Hebrew Calendar through The Herald of Truth, of which he is editor and publisher. The Seventh Church of God is quite independent from Herbert Armstrong, and their particular group came from Gilbert G. Rupert and has been keeping the Feasts since 1919. In our discussion, he showed me from Exodus, that the Passover, beginning on the evening of the 14th day of the First Month is also the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread and that the Armstrongists have that all wrong as well — so at the very least, the Armstrongists always begin the Days of Unleavened Bread at least one day late. Paul Woods solves the inherent problem with the Feast of Tabernacles with one simple assumption: That, as he puts it, the moon rules the day. What that means that on the day of the new moon, the moon must have arisen either at sunrise or shortly before sunrise before that evening can be declared the beginning of the new moon. This means that there will be a very slight sliver of the moon visible, but not as great as those who, say, follow William Dankenbring’s assessment of the timing. This solves the very great problem that there is a full moon on the 15th of the month each time and every time, meaning that the Israelites would have had a full moon on the Night to Be Much Observed when they left Egypt and also the Feast of Tabernacles always, always, always begins in the light of the glorious full moon in the fall, with either the Harvest Moon or sometimes more rarely, the Hunter’s Moon.

So just exactly how does one find the First Month in all this? Go out and look for sprigs of springing up barley in the hills in Israel like Carl O’Beirn does? In all of this, you have to remember that the ancient Israelites were not carrying iPods, having reflecting telescopes and certainly didn’t have orbiting satellites they could use for JavaScript programs to calculate new moon conjunctions at midnight, when they couldn’t even see the moon. It is a “keep it simple, stupid” scenario which could be understood by those not in tune with calculus and geometry: Remember, observations, pen and papyrus only. They did know when the Spring Equinox was (before it was fouled up by Hillel II in 358 A.D.). Here is a simple formula from Paul Woods for figuring the Holy days:

1) Find the spring equinox;

2) Find the new moon nearest the spring equinox (either before or after);

3) Use Jerusalem time (The moon is new to the whole earth at one time);

4) The first night the moon has completely ruled (had authority) over the is counted as number one (1). This day is the Biblical new Year Day;

5) Count to the fourteenth (14th) day of that moon and you have the Passover Day. The Lord’s Supper Service is to be held the evening of the preceding day.

Say what!!??!!!

Yes, it’s true: If you are going to do it right, you need to read the New Testament (along with the Old) very, very carefully — the Lord’s Supper Service is to be held on the evening of the 13th Day of the First month and the Passover begins the Days of Unleavened Bread on the next evening.

Here’s how it works in 30 A.D.:

Tuesday evening, Jesus has his last supper with his disciples;

Wednesday, during the day, Jesus is crucified, dies and at sunset is in the tomb and sealed in just as the evening of the 14th begins the Passover;

Thursday, Christ is in the tomb;

Friday, Christ in the tomb;

Saturday, Christ is in the tomb, but at sunset, after three days in the tomb, he is resurrected and leaves the tomb; 50 days later he ascends into the heavens on Pentecost;

Sunday morning, Jesus ascends as the Wave Sheaf Offering.

From there, you are on your own.

That’s as close as I think we can get: You may have different ideas, but they probably don’t work. One thing is clear: Herbert Armstrong was wrong about the calendar and most of the 700+ spit-offs are wrong as well. There are all sorts of excuses, the main one being, “We need to keep the brethren together”. It’s a little late for that, don’t you think? Wrong in the first place and wrong ever since. If the Jews didn’t get it right, what chance do you think Armstrongists had, when they went to the Jews for faulty advice?

Perhaps, and likely, this is all wasted effort: The question remains as to whether or not there is a requirement for Christians to keep the Feasts. The best evidence is that support for keeping the Feasts in the Bible is rather weak, if it exists at all. The Feasts, were, after all, a shadow of things to come, about half of which already have. As for keeping the Feast forever, it’s not going to happen, since, according to Revelation 22 there will be no sun or moon. So much for forever.

Get Your Fill of the Spirit
Get Your Fill of the Spirit

Moreover, there is no good Christian way to fund the Feasts given in the Bible, even if there might be a blessing in keeping them. There is no such thing as second tithe to keep the Feast. In Greg Doudna’s book, he points out that in 1975, the WCG very nearly cancelled the Feast to have everyone stay home so the church could get the money. You don’t really believe that the Armstrongist leaders are in sincerity and truth when they claim that the way to salvation is to keep the Feasts, do you, when they can propose cancelling them altogether? Besides, how much of a blessing is it to listen to sermons filled with false prophecies from false prophets about doomsday scenarios based on the ridiculous fully disproven British Israelism scrap? It’s no wonder the Church of God Seventh Day doesn’t keep them, even if we could figure out when they really are.

There is a lot that the Armstrongists don’t volunteer. It isn’t just that Herbert Armstrong had a cup of coffee and a donut on the Day of Atonement “to keep his strength up” before he gave the sermon; there is the matter of special dispensations that many members did not know: For example, those with health problems could skip fasting on the Day of Atonement — at first under doctor’s orders and approved by headquarters, and then later, anyone with diabetes had an automatic dispensation. There are all sorts of different various exceptions to the Sabbath and Feast Days, hidden away from the rank-and-file members, with special exceptions given, especially to those of the ministry (we are not forgetting that the ministers did not have to keep “second tithe” and “third tithe” because they were “spiritual Levites”. There’s nothing like corrupting a corrupt system adapted arbitrarily for whatever purpose someone wants and have it enforced by God and the Bible. It’s no wonder that the Prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 1:14-15,

Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

But then the record of Old Testament Scripture was that the Israelites didn’t keep the Feasts for centuries at a time and God didn’t seem to mind — it was the idolatry that got to Him: The same kind of idolatry the followers of Herbert Armstrong commit today. Some of those Armstrongist church history theorists insist that at least one era of the church had so many problems that they did not need to keep the Feasts — that God just looked the other way as yet another entitlement. The problem is that there is no such thing as church eras and what was that about Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever? Is that forever, as in thou shall keep the Feasts forever in your generations? If so, it never happened. Armstrongists paint God the Father as being so fickle, double minded and inconsistent that it’s hard to take anything they say seriously: There are explanations everywhere as to why they don’t do what is commanded in the Bible in the Old Covenant that after awhile, it becomes little more than confused mental mush. It’s no wonder they don’t understand the Calendar… not that it makes any difference, since they don’t really keep the Feasts anyway: Hey! It’s a church corporation type convention — HP, IBM, LINUX Expo, Promise Keepers. Go for it. If you can afford it. If not, don’t worry, since it apparently isn’t required anyway. And don’t forget to booze it up: Just remember that the word Symposium comes from the Greek word for “drinking party”. Maybe the Armstrongists should rename it to the Symposium of Tabernacles and be done with it.

If you do attend the Feast of Tabernacles, do insure that you go someplace with good reception so you can be connected to the world through the Internet and your cell phone: You wouldn’t want to miss out on anything that is going on — after all, the world could come to an end and you wouldn’t know it.

The Calendar is always an interesting exercise.

Let it not be an exercise in futility.

Ezekiel 37

Herbert Likes Ezekiel 37
Herbert Likes Ezekiel 37

I was sitting in the foyer of the hotel where the Feast was being kept last year, just before the “Last Great Day” Sermon was to be preached the next day, when the minister for the site came by on his way up to his room.

We exchanged pleasantries and I queried about the sermon he was planning to preach.

“Oh,” he said, “I like Ezekiel 37”.

“I like Revelation 20,” I said, knowing a few things he did not know at the time.

He replied, “I like Ezekiel 37”.

“I like Revelation 20,” I said.

His final word as he headed upstairs: “I like Ezekiel 37”.

The next day he preached on what a big deal The Last Great day is using Ezekiel 37 (I’ve heard it; it’s rubbish).

I reflected on how set people become in their belief system without ever questioning it, but it’s even worse than that: Herbert Armstrong has so fouled up Scripture with his distorted perceptions that he has ruined Biblical eschatology for believers pretty much for the rest of their lives. The problem is that he managed to make a link to totally disparate verses to make the Bible say what it does not say. At the same time, even though those who leave the Armstrongist community never manage to figure out what is screwed up and never seem to come up with cogent reasons why even believers should not retain the heresies taught by Herbert Armstrong.

Now some who left and are not believers may not think it makes any difference to them personally any more, but within the deep dark shadows of the back alleys of the mind, there are cobwebs with inconvenient lies lurking.

Besides, we owe believers an explanation why they should not believe this stuff from a Scriptural point of view, out of respect.

Herbert Armstrong managed to link Ezekiel 37 to Revelation 20 to prove — by reason that the Word is to be established in the mouths of two or three witnesses — that the passage is talking about the Second Resurrection at the end of the Millennium. This linkage is fraught with so many wrong assumptions that it is difficult to untangle them and, not having sufficient incentive nor drive to disprove the madness of the false prophet, they meekly let the irrational belief system stand.

The first thing we need to do, if we believe either passage in Scripture (a broad leap for some), is to separate the two passages completely and accept the possibility that they not just aren’t related to each other in any way, but don’t mean the same thing at all.

Fortunately, we have the help of the K & D commentary:

The calling to life of the thoroughly dried dead bones shown to the prophet in the vision, is a figure or visible representation of that which the Lord announces to him in Ezekiel_37:11-14, namely, that He will bring Israel out of its graves, give it life with His breath, and bring it into its own land; and consequently a figure of the raising of Israel to life from its existing state of death.

Darby comments:

It is the resurrection of the nation, which was really dead and buried. But God opens their graves, and places them again in their land restored to life as a nation.

JFB brings the issue into sharp focus:

out of your graves

— out of your politically dead state, primarily in Babylon, finally hereafter in all lands (compare Ezekiel_6:8; Hosea_13:14). The Jews regarded the lands of their captivity and dispersion as their “graves”; their restoration was to be as “life from the dead” (Romans_11:15). Before, the bones were in the open plain (Ezekiel_37:1-2); now, in the graves, that is, some of the Jews were in the graves of actual captivity, others at large but dispersed. Both alike were nationally dead.

The situation was this: The people of Israel were in captivity and some of them were dispersed among the nations. The people in captivity considered that the land of Israel itself was “dead” full of dried bones. Ezekiel offers them hope that life would be restored to the Land of Israel.

Thus the passage in its context is not talking about a general resurrection of the dead, but a prophesy that the nation in the Land of Israel would be restored — it had nothing to do with people of the earth being resurrected at the end of the millennium. In fact, since most of Israel was in captivity, the restoration of Israel as a nation is what would have made sense to them in context. Ezekiel was attempting to encourage the people that they would return to Palestine and Israel would be “resurrected”. Given their state in Babylon, the proposition that all of humanity was being resurrected to the time of the Second Resurrection would neither be relevant, nor would it make any sense to them in context. Why would they care?

But Herbert Armstrong had an agenda: He had to set up a scenario that would coincide with the Feast Days in order to keep his followers enslaved to a tithing system based on the Old Covenant — while being seriously warped in concept — for his own benefit.

The prophecy in Ezekiel 37, such as it was, was actually fulfilled under the Reign of Darius around 538 B.C. when the Israelites began returning to their homeland.

Herbert Armstrong needed this passage in order to hold together various non fitting parts of his religion. There is no such thing as three tithes — in fact, the words “second tithe” and “third tithe” do not appear in Scripture. He had to justify the keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day of the Feast. He put together a scenario to “prove” his position in order to keep people enslaved to his ideas which don’t really have Scriptural support nor are they particularly relevant to the broad spectrum of modern Christians. At best, keeping the Feast may be a blessing, but certainly would not be if it were a vehicle for doomsday sermons based on British Israelism. It depends entirely upon whether a person is seeking “spiritual” content or is focused on the physical and social aspects of a Church Corporate Symposium (Symposium — from the Greek word meaning “drinking party”, which, from all accounts, is truly relevant to the Armstrongist Churches of God). It’s a church convention that precludes the possibility of a true family vacation, since, for the wage earner, there is neither vacation time, nor money, to do both. For retired people on pensions on which tithes (remembering that tithes are payed on produce, not wages) have already been paid, keeping the Feast is doubly problematic. Nevertheless, your current End Time Apostle must be kept in the lifestyle of an Oriental Potentate: It is a moral imperative (one wonders at the personal moral imperatives ignored by such a proposition — namely, one who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel).

Now it is the case that by analogy, in the spirit of things, Armstrongists would like to see their own private version of Ezekiel 37 come to pass: Herbert Armstrong’s dried bones having sinews and flesh restored to them, having him set on his feet in very ample flesh in the midst of Ambassador College — to stand again and take control as the End Time Apostle and false prophet of the Worldwide Church of God and the A.C. Campus, yelling and shouting obstreperously about the restoration of all his things, shaking his jowels and declaring a restitution of his power, money and ego to their former glory and prominence. They want to see “The Plain Truth” once again, in glorious color in their newsstands and see Armstrong making “The World Tomorrow” yet again. That isn’t going to happen, but it would be glorious: The war between him and his former evangelists still standing would not be so much as terribly entertaining. If you think he had issues with Roderick Meredith before — this would be World War III. Of some, such as Ronald Weinland and Gerald Flurry, he would say, “I never knew you” and their kingdoms would collapse… I think. Even if it were to happen, we’re pretty sure it wouldn’t be from God.

So you have a lot to think about.

The minister liked Ezekiel 37.

I like Revelation 20.

Especially the part about Satan being released to be present during the Second Resurrection to tempt the people of the earth.

That’s the part that’s easy to miss if you try to make Ezekiel 37 mean something it never said.