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!:
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:
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.
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.
If you have anything you would like to submit to this