Friday, April 13, 2018

Professing Polytheism

If you are in one of the Church of God splinters that came out of Herbert W Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, then I have some unpleasant news for you - you are a polytheist!

Don't tell me that surprises you. (It sure was a surprise to me when I first found out.)

This whole post got started while we were reviewing the COGWA's "Origin of Easter" article and we noticed the author belittling the idea of polytheism and associating it with paganism. We chuckled at first until we realized that he was serious. But ...then the COGWA was really belittling itself. So here we are today to demonstrate that Armstrongism is indeed polytheistic and so COGWA shouldn't be pretending like that's not a fact, and most certainly should not be pointing fingers at others and insinuating others are pagans for their polytheism.

SEMI-ARIAN

I love history, and this is my blog post, so we're starting with some history. I promise to keep it simple.

Back in the early 200s AD there started an idea that says there is only one God, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just three different ways that this one God presents Himself to us; "modes" if you will. This idea is called by many names today, among which are Sabellianism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Patripassionism, and etc. One of the main teachers of this view was Sabellius. If you are new to Christianity or maybe you are really trying to get away from the Trinity doctrine, this view of God might even make logical sense to you. Good thing is most people eventually give this up. Maybe some day we will go into detail on why this view of God cannot work. If you really want something right away, read Tertullian's "Against Praxaes" and Hippolytus' "Against Noetus" (and keep clearly in mind that these were written in the early 200s). But for the purposes of this blog post, let's just say that the early church was very much opposed to this view.

In the early 300's, along comes a guy named Arius. Arius was one of many Christian leaders around the world who were passionately opposed to Sabellius and his Modalism. So Arius came up with his own view to oppose Sabellius. He went too far in the other direction. According to Arius, Jesus is a created being and is completely separate being from the Father. This view of God started to attract attention and eventually Christianity was split over the nature of God between those who agreed with Arius and those who had a more Trinitarian position. Both halves were opposed to Sabellius. It was this division that motivated Constantine to call the Council of Nicea to settle the issue and reunite Christians. Arius actually accused Niceans of Sabellianism. The decision came down against Arius.

After Nicea, Arianism changed and blended with Trinitarianism. Since all were required to abide by the decision at Nicea, people who still held to Arianism (including Arius) had to try and force their views to make peace with the decision of the Council - at least on the surface. This new view has the Father and the Son as separate beings, but they share a similar substance. The Son is like the Father. They are two separate Gods who consist of the same kind of stuff. This new view is given the name Semi-Arianism. The West held to Nicea but there were so many people in the East holding to this new Semi-Arian view in violation of Nicea that another Council was called, this time at Constantinople.
And the view was indeed new to the fourth century. It was not old or original by any means, as some COG writers might have us believe. Such a claim is simply not true.

In summary, anyone who believes that the Father and the Son are two separate God beings but consist of the same sort of stuff fall into the Semi-Arian category. This is the official view of Armstrongism. The COGs teach the Father and the Son are two completely separate beings and the same stuff that the Father and the Son consist of is called the Holy Spirit. I want to point out that there are two Holy Spirits here - the Father's and the Son's.

Armstrongism is Semi-Arian.

BASIC MATH

The Jews truly believe in one God. They are monotheists. Islam, which seems to be a combination of Ebionite Christianity and Gnosticism, believe in one God. They are also monotheists.

When Jesus arrived and demonstrated that He is both God and distinct from the Father, using language like "the Father and I are one" and "My God! Why have You forsaken Me?" the issue became complicated. How can Christianity be monotheistic, like Judaism, but still recognize the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit)? The answer that the early church offered is Trinitarianism. There is only one God being of one substance, but three personalities or minds. One God in three persons. Trinitarian Christianity is monotheistic. One God.

Semi-Arianism has two Gods, the Father and the Son, who are truly separate from one another. "God" is a family.
This can be seen in the way Armstrongism teaches how Jesus took on human flesh. According to Armstrongism, God the Son completely divested Himself of Godhood and became 100% man in every way. (This is called Monophysitism.) Yet, the Father was utterly unaffected by this because He is a separate God being. So, how many Gods do we have here? Two! Is that monotheism? No. Is is Binitarianism? No. Despite how some COGs writers try to use the phrases Binity and Semi-Arian as synonyms, they most certainly are not synonymous at all. A Binity is monotheistic; one God in two persons. We don't have that here. We have Semi-Arianism. Two distinct Gods. Armstrongism would condemn Binitarianism. Armstrongism does not have one God; it has two.

Two Gods = Polytheism.

IS THAT SO?

Yes.

Back in August 2010 we wrote a piece called "Primer to the Trinity Doctrine." In this article we tried to explain the Trinity. Please don't be afraid of that article! We made it pretty clear that we weren't trying to push the idea, just show our readers what the Trinity Doctrine really says. The post came from us recognizing that we had a great deal of misinformation fed to us over the years about what the Trinity doctrine actually is. So we tried to clear it up a little. Very basic stuff.

We thought we would compare and contrast views. To represent the Armstrong view we figured what could possibly be a better comparison than the "Is God A Trinity?" booklet. This was the premier booklet on the subject. Everyone was referred to it back in those days. Much of the current COG material comes from it. But as we read through it again, something really stuck out at us that none of us had ever noticed before. The COGs were polytheistic, and they admitted as much!
"The ancient idea of monotheism was shattered by the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ on the earth. Here was someone who claimed He was the Son of God. But how could He be? The Jewish people believed for centuries that there was only one God. If the claims of "this Jesus" were accepted, then in their minds their belief would be no different from that of the polytheistic pagans around them. If He were the Son of God, their whole system of monotheism would disintegrate. 
When Jesus plainly told certain Jews of His day that He was the Son of God, some were ready to stone Him for blasphemy (John 10:33). To get around the problem of a plurality in the God head, the Jewish community simply rejected Jesus."
-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.15 
If monotheism disintegrates we are left with what? That's right. Polytheism.

But who is George L. Johnson? It's not like Herbert W Armstrong came out and said this kind of thing, right?
"Only ONE God - More Than One Person!"
"One Family. God IS a Family. That Family is ONE GOD."
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Incredible Human Potential", 1978, p.62
I just want to point out that Armstrong is trying to have it both ways here. But he just can't quite seem to make a plural singular. That polytheism shines right through.
"Likewise, there is but ONE God - but GOD is the family name, and there is more than one person in the ONE Family."
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Incredible Human Potential", 1978, p.64
Oh yes. Herbert Armstrong did come out and say this kind of thing. When he says "person" he is not using accepted theological language. He really does mean there are two Gods - two minds and two substances and two beings - in one family. Even when he says there is "but ONE God", he still says there is more than one God, because "ONE God" is in reference to the family not the beings. This is doublespeak. The Father and the Son are no more one God in his view than you are one human with your parents.

Notice that these quotes aren't from the "Is God A Trinity" booklet. No, they are from THE book - "The Incredible Human Potential." This book was Armstrongism's magnum opus. It was said to be the last book of the Bible. If Herbert Armstrong will talk polytheism here, then absolutely nowhere can be more official.

Herbert Armstrong once was required to describe himself under oath in court. Here is what he said about himself:
"I am the founder, Pastor General, and spiritual and temporal leader of defendant Worldwide Church of God, Inc. (" Worldwide") . In addition, I am chief executive officer, chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the board of trustees ... I am the appointed Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and, as such, have been both the spiritual and temporal leader of the Church from its inception."-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, pp. 28-29, Jan. 8, 1979
The prime leader in the prime material. Cannot be topped. If this guy, the founder, Pastor General, appointed Apostle, Chairman and CEO, and spiritual and temporal leader of the Church of God on earth says the COGs have more than one God being, within the pages of his most important publications with one of them being the last book of the Bible, then the COGs have more than one God.

Polytheism confirmed. Yes, it's so.

ISSUES ARISE

While Armstrongism is quite comfortable with its polytheistic view of God, there are issues with Semi-Arianism. To be completely forthcoming, there are issues with every attempt mankind has ever made to explain God. All views have issues, even monotheism, because God is far beyond our understanding. But let's explore a few problems with Armstrongism's Semi-Arianist doctrine.

>>It's polytheistic.

This is the main topic of this post. Polytheism is a dirty word in the COGs. It's too pagan. The obvious link with paganism is precisely why the author of "Origin of Easter" article was using the word. He wanted to cast aspersions. But mote meet beam!

>>The Son cannot fully know the Father.

Because they are two separate beings, and the Son is lesser than the Father (to a great degree), the Jesus of Armstrongism cannot truly, fully know the Father. The Son may know the Father a lot better than anyone else besides the Father, but He cannot fully know the Father. The Son would be on a journey of discovery just like everyone else. This would also make Him less than omniscient. If we say the Son is omniscient and omnipotent, then we must abandon the idea of Him being less than the Father.

>>Jesus had an end.

We just pointed out that Jesus is without beginning or end. But that is wrong too. Armstrongism teaches soul sleep. In the Armstrongist view, He had an end. God the Son completely emptied Himself of Godhood. Therefore, the God was gone. Then there was a three day period where even Jesus did not exist except for a dead corpse and a memory in the Father's mind. So He cannot be without end in the Armstrongist system.

>>God the Father and Son are still a closed system.

One of the main objections that Armstrongists have voiced over the years against the Trinity is that it makes God a closed system. "How can God add to His family if He is a Trinity? You can't add to a Trinity." But I want to point out that Armstrongism does not teach that mankind will become the Father or the Son. They aren't adding to the Father or the Son either. So this point is moot.

Bear in mind that Trinitarianism does not in any way exclude being part of God's family. The Orthodox church has had this idea for several hundred years. The word for this is Theosis. Even though the Catholic church doesn't make such a prominent case about Theosis, they too believe we all have an opportunity to "partake in the Divine nature."
My point is, the Semi-Arian view isn't really coming to the rescue here. In all reality it's just fighting a straw man.

>>Many Holy Spirits.

In all my years as a member of the COGs, I never gave a second's thought to the fact that if the Father and Son are separate then by necessity there had to be more than one Holy Spirit. In Armstrongism, the Holy Spirit is a force, a power, without a mind of its own. The Holy Spirit is not itself a God, but it is what God is made of. We as humans aren't told how God works, probably because we couldn't grasp it anyway, but if the Holy Spirit is what the Father and the Son are made of then this demands there must be multiple Holy Spirits. This is a real issue because throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit is singular.

>>Monophysite Holy Spirit??

Remember how Armstrongism teaches Monophysitism - where Jesus has only one nature of either God or man but not both at the same time? OK. So, when the Son completely divested Himself of divinity and became 100% the man Jesus, what did He do with the Holy Spirit? Did He put it in a box and save it for later? Was it destroyed? Was it absorbed into the Father? If the Son's mind left His substance, did the Holy Spirit die?

I am not going to go into any more issues today because we already have an article on the biggest issue, "Jesus' Death Under Trinitarianism." I think we've brought up enough issues for now. I only wanted to point out that there are issues - real issues - and the puzzle is not neatly arranged in the COG doctrine with all answers found and all loose ends tied. Many people join Armstrongism because they are looking for some answer or the other, but they just don't like the answers in mainstream Christianity as they understand them. Armstrongism claims to have an answer for most everything. But as always, when we truly dig, we find that things just do not work as well as advertised. A spray-on theology just doesn't cover that unsightly bald spot.

I know a lot of people are opposed to the Trinity because it doesn't make sense to them. It's fine that things don't always make sense. God invites us to investigate but He didn't hand us the answer in a tidy box, so not making sense is going to be part of this. But I don't see how Semi-Arianism makes any more sense once we start critically investigating it. I suspect that not making sense is more of an excuse to avoid the issue. It was for me! Mea culpa!

CONCLUSION

Polytheism. Just like the pagan Babylonians, you have it.

All we are doing in this article is pointing out what has been forgotten. Really, we are asking the same question George Johnson asked:
"Is God one, or are there two separate Gods and is Christianity, therefore, polytheistic?"-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.41  
In the COG's Semi-Arian view of God the answer is polytheistic. As Johnson said, "no different from that of the polytheistic pagans around them."

Perhaps someone will say they believe in only one God Family, therefore they are monotheistic.
No. It doesn't work that way. There is no way around this. Armstrongism is inescapably polytheistic.

I am going to assume that many of our readers are still questioning and could use a little more assistance. I would like to recommend to you Martha's article "Rainbows and Earthworms, Or Making Sense of God's Nature." God doesn't always make sense. We don't need to force Him to.

If for any reason you are a member at a Church of God splinter group and you do not agree that you are a polytheist, then we would be glad to welcome you into mainstream Christianity ...because you aren't an Armstrongist anymore at this point anyway.

But if you are comfortable with being just like the pagans and don't mind polytheism, please tell the COGWA leadership that they ought to stop talking down to polytheists.






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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review Of COGWA Origin of Easter

Today we are going to do another article review. Few things are so reassuring and entertaining to write than an article review.

I just happened to stumble across an article from the Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA). The article is "Origin of Easter" by John Foster. From the Life, Hope, and Truth website of the COGWA. Accessed 3/31/2018. This seems to be something that their other articles link to, so I figured I would take a look. What I found troubled me.

The article is the standard claim about Easter being pagan. The problem with such a claim - a claim that history played out in a certain way - is that one needs evidence from history. Other COGWA articles point to this one as their proof, so we know that this article is going to really be something. We are really going to pull out all the stops.
Or not. One theme that runs throughout the article is a series of the worst possible source material I've come across yet. It gets progressively worse and worse as it goes along. Keep an eye out for this.

One would think that if we want to prove history, we would go to the oldest, most reliable sources. The author doesn't do that. The author pulls from one scholarly source. The rest are just websites that seem to be chosen because they say what the author wants to hear. But how is that researching? How is that investigating? Would you buy medicine by going into dark alleys and handing money to whomever happens to tell you it works? If you wouldn't treat your physical health that way, why would you treat your spiritual health that way?

Before I say another word I want to point out that today's review is about a publication, not a person. This review deals with ideas, not the author. The author is a beloved child of God. It's the author's claims that I have an issue with. That said, let's just get on with it, shall we?

It begins thus:
Where did Easter and its customs come from? The Bible doesn’t mention rabbits or eggs or sunrise services. So what is the origin of Easter?
A standard claim, all in all. But a claim of truth; historical truth. There should be some historical evidence to go with that claim. There is. But first, a doctrinal statement. The Armstrongist tradition says that if the Bible doesn't specifically say it then it's not to be done. The Bible doesn't say Easter so it's not not something to be done.

That is the standard he sets. So, does Armstrongism meet its own standard? No. Let's observe.

The Bible doesn’t mention a separate Night to be Much Observed from Passover. Passover is the night. They aren't separate. They are the same. But Armstrongism treats it as separate. Go ahead and ask yourself, how does the Bible specify the rules for observing the Night to be Much Observed? It doesn't. Most Armstrongists will just say, "We have to do something." Ah! But that's exactly the point. If the Bible doesn't say it then you're not supposed to do it. That's the standard.

Exodus 12 is all about Passover. To somehow separate a night before Passover is to invent an entirely made up observance. The COGs can't even decide on the name. It used to be called Night to be Much Remembered. Read Exodus 12: 42 in the New King James. It reads, "night of solemn observance." There is no proper noun in there. Passover is the night of solemn observance. Not the night before Passover. What happened on the night before the Angel of Death came through Egypt? Nothing much.

The Bible doesn’t mention the Last Great Day apart from Tabernacles either. The Last Great Day is now being called The Eighth Day because the COGs are starting to wake up to the fact that they invented a holy day. That makes two made up holidays. So when I say Armstrongism doesn't meet its own standard, I wasn't just taking that from a website that says what I want to hear.

The Bible never mentions Tabernacles in a hotel. Doesn’t mention Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, or Tabernacles being observed outside of Jerusalem. It never mentions a removal of the law that bans Gentiles from observing Passover.

I could have listed more but didn't see the need. So if one is going to hold up "it's not in the Bible" as litmus test, then mote meet beam.

Now let's look at what the Bible does say. The Old Covenant never condemns adding holidays. It just condemns joining into pagan ones. Don't believe me? Ask the Jews. Or, read our article "Established and Imposed" and learn about Hanukkah and Purim. Martha goes over it again in "What the Days of Unleavened Bread Don't Tell You." Better still, open your Bibles and read it for yourself. It's right there. (EST. 9: 18-32) and (JON. 10: 22-28). Made up by the Jews, recorded in the Bible, not condemned. The main difference is that these days commemorate something God did - and that is never discouraged.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear that the Bible never tells us to honor the resurrection of Christ, which is the absolute proof that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the greatest miracle in the history of mankind. The New Testament never directly tells us to honor any day. It also never tells us not to.
Since Easter is one of the most renowned holidays in the Christian world, why should we be concerned about the origin of Easter?
For centuries, questions have arisen as to the relationship between bunnies and painted eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is that Easter has its roots in ancient paganism and polytheism.
We should be concerned about the origins of Easter. We really should! But we should be equally concerned about where we get that information. A lie that we like to hear is still a lie. If Easter is a lie it shouldn't take lies to prove it.

What does genuine history show us? The roots of Easter are not in ancient paganism. If it was, there would be some ancient document providing the evidence. If John Foster, or any of the multitude of other COG authors before and since, had any hard evidence we would see it. The oft repeated claim is that the name of Easter is from Eostre and that's the damnable proof. But that's not what the evidence actually says. Do you want to know what the evidence actually says? I'll tell you.

There was a man named Bede. He was an English monk in the early 700's. He wrote a book about calendars and the passing of time as part of his greater interest in the history of the English. In this book he mentions that Easter takes its name from the month Eosturmonath, in which the Easter season began. That's what the document says. Not that the name Easter comes from a pagan goddess, not that it came from ancient Babylon, but that it comes from a month. People who say that Easter comes from the name of a goddess haven't even bothered themselves to read the history.
Bede does a little etymology and speculates that the month took its name from a goddess. He speculates an English name - Eostre. Because Eosturmonath. The problem is that no other evidence exists for this Eostre. None. None at all. There is plenty of evidence for other gods and goddesses, but not this one.
In the 1800's along comes Jacob Grimm (of Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales). He takes Bede's Eostre, admits there isn't anything like that in any other document, and speculates that in German (English is a Germanic language) the name probably was more like Ostara. Because in German the month was Ostarmonath rather than Eosturmonath. He did the exact same thing that Bede did. Only in German.
Same problem here. There is no Ostara. There is no evidence for Ostara. None. Many people say that Eostra and Ostara come from Ishtar and Astarte. That's a baseless lie. Eostre comes from Bede's imagination and Ostara from Grimm's. They couldn't come from Ishtar because neither of them ever existed.

Ishtar was an ancient Mesopotamian goddess. Akkadian and German are not related languages at all. Babylonian was a Semitic language. German is an Indo-European language. They are completely separate, unrelated languages. The very notion of German inheriting words from Babylon is ridiculous. Don't just take my word for it. Look it up yourself! Look up any language tree and see how German and Semitic have nothing to do with each other.

And that's the sum total of the evidence. Everything else is made up. The reason I point this out is to emphasize the layers of uneducated claims that have to be invented just to get to the starting point of the Easter is pagan claim.

“Truth of the matter” he says. Would we not expect the truth to actually be, you know, demonstrably true? And if it isn’t true, then what is it? Not truth, that's for sure! But if it's not true, then ...

Hey! Wait a minute! I almost missed this. Does John Foster use the word "polytheism" here in a derogatory manner? Yes. Yes he did. And he'll do it again later. Doesn't he know that Armstrongism is polytheistic?? In our article "Primer to the Trinity Doctrine" we discuss this with quotes from the Worldwide Church of God premier booklet "Is God A Trinity?" I don't say "premier booklet" lightly. This was one of the WCG's top of the top booklets. Let me give you just one quote here, for convenience' sake:
"If the claims of 'this Jesus' were accepted, then in their [the Jews] minds their belief would be no different than that of the polytheistic pagans around them. If He were the Son of God, their whole system of monotheism would disintegrate."
-George L. Johnson, "Is God A Trinity?", 1973, p.15 [underline mine]
If monotheism disintegrates then you are left with what? That's right. Polytheism. How can you be a polytheist and talk down about polytheists?
The origin of Easter
According to William E. Vine, “The term 'Easter' is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast. … From this Pasch the pagan festival of ‘Easter’ was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1997, “Easter”).
John Foster accurately quotes Vine’s Expository. I commend that much at least. This is his one and only scholarly source. He's going to prove the origins of Easter, and this is his one and only scholarly source.

The Expository is not wholly unreliable but I take issue with this claim that there was a pagan festival of 'Easter.' Vine has no more evidence for this claim that I gave you earlier. We also take issue that Easter comes from Astarte. This claim was popular before 1950, but has since been proven false. Vine clearly pulls from 19th century German Protestant scholars whose ideas have been abandoned. The etymology of the English word Easter does not come from the Mesopotamian word Astarte. We are all human and we do the best we have with what we are given. Originally written by William E. Vine, (1873-1947) in 1940, the book relies on what it had at the time. But in nearly a century we’ve learned quite a few things that make this particular section obsolete. Sadly, it's too late for Vine to do anything about it.

But it's not too late for John Foster to do something. One wonders why he hasn't.

In our article “A Pattern of Dishonest Documentation” we showed how the COGs prefer to cite outdated source material from the turn of the 20th century. For example they love to cite the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 Edition. And why is that? Because there is an article in that specific edition which makes a claim they prefer to hear. As we point out, the article so beloved by the COGs is contradicted by another article in the same encyclopedia. That encyclopedia is over 100 years old. Are there no other sources available? Of course there are. The problem is the new scholarly sources don’t tend to say what the COGs want to hear. So they are forced to keep going back to this one. They will only quote those sources that say what they want to hear. Hence why the LCG quotes The Golden Bough by James Frazier, who believed Jesus never existed, because it says a couple things they want to hear. We go into detail on this in our article “The Quotes Before Christmas.”

Before anyone gets after me about disagreeing with Vine’s, I just want to point out that this isn’t my selection, I’m just rebutting, and Vine’s in many places doesn’t agree with John Foster either. Vine was a Trinitarian after all and if you look up the word Spirit you’re going to see starkly clear Trinitarian verbiage there. I disagree with Vine's in one place and the COGWA disagrees with him in another place. So, it’s not as if either side of today's debate really hold Vine’s Expository as being infallible. We at ABD disagree with what we can demonstrate is incorrect. The COGWA disagree with whatever they don't quite like.
Another source states: “The history of Easter reveals ancient pagan roots; this holiday was not always a Christian-based holiday. It is believed that the term Easter& is literally derived from the term Eostre, the name of a Teutonic feminine deity. The latter goddess is a fertility goddess, a goddess of the spring, and the hare is sacred to her. … “The association of Easter practices with the pagan goddess Eostre makes clear some of the traditions that are carried out today. The goddess Eostre was honored toward the end of the month of March, right around the time of Spring Equinox” (HistoryofEaster.net).
This quote has a source cited. Way to go! But the link is dead. We didn’t let that stop us. We searched until we found it. And it’s a Sapercom site. What is Sapercom, you say? Here is how they describe themselves:

We believe that small websites which focus on relevant information about a single topic is helpful to people who don't want to spend a lot of time searching for that information. So, our websites are focused on a single topic. See, it's simple. We focus on content that is relevant to the topic of the website. Even the domain names of our websites reflect the specific focus of each website.

So, historyofeaster.com was not a history site, it was a site about history. Not necessarily by historians, but by anyone. Not necessarily historiographical, but just topically relevant. Not necessarily scholarly at all, just convenient. I would take info from that site only with an extreme caution.

So I checked the selection and I want to assure you that this quote is ... partially correct!

What? That surprises you? No, it’s true! The word Easter is English of German origin (English is a Germanic language) and Ostermonath gets its name from the something pre-Christian. So the quote is partially correct.

But if it's of German origin, then it can't be of Babylonian origin.

The rest of the quote is bunk. There is no record of Eostre so there is no record of when Eostre was honored or how or by whom. Just because the name of Easter comes from a German month doesn't mean the day of Easter is pagan. It just means the Germans gave it a new name. What was Easter called before Christians came to Germany? The holiday was called Pascha. Even Bede called it the "Paschal Month." And the record of Pascha goes back to the cross. It wasn't called anything at all like Easter until the German Christians changed the name of Pascha. The point I'm driving at here is there is no possible way that Easter came from Germany if it predates Christianity coming to Germany.

The German pagans weren't time travelers. John Foster is preaching an anachronism.
Another source describes a possible ancient link to Good Friday: “In ancient Roman history, the 24th of March (VIII Kal Apriles) was the Dies sanguinis ‘day of blood,’ possibly a precursor of Good Friday. On the 22 of March, the arbor intrat, a procession of palms or a pine tree was brought to the shrine of Cybele. Two days later, at the Day of the Blood, the priests of Cybele slashed themselves and spun around to sprinkle her statue with blood” (AncientHistory.About.com).
Another dead link. Beginning to get frustrating. This isn’t the article’s fault, it’s the Internet’s fault. Links in old articles sometimes go away. So I dug and found the site anyway. And oh, shame on this quote! This is clear and unambiguous Confirmation Bias on display here. I will direct you to our reliable friend and historian Roger Pearse, who has an entire article on this very quote: “Dies Sanguinis – what do we know about this?" The historical record annihilates John Foster's quote.

I want to point out two things.
First, Roger Pearse wrote this article in 2011. For several years this information has been available to the COGs. Second, Roger finds no support in history for the claim that Good Friday came from any pagan source. No support! None.

Why are claims being made about so many things with zero evidence? Notice that Roger Pearse pulls his information from ncient primary source documents. He went to the source. The truth about Deis Sanguinis was actually available to us all for thousands of years. But there COGWA is, ignoring it to this very day. There are no primary source references in the Origin of Easter article. Nor either can there be else the article would prove itself wrong.

Life, Hope, and what?
The following is from another source: “Rabbits, of course, are a potent symbol of fertility due to their prodigious output of young. Eggs, likewise, have always been considered representative of new life, fertility, and reincarnation. Painted eggs, thought to imitate the bright sunlight and gaily colored flowers of spring, have been used in rituals since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. …“The pagan celebrations most associated with modern Christian practices derive from Mediterranean cultures. The Phrygians celebrated a spring festival honoring Cybele, a fertility goddess. Cybele had a consort god named Attis, who was born of a virgin, and who died and was resurrected after three days, an occurrence commemorated sometime around the vernal equinox. Worshippers of Attis mourned the god’s death on Black Friday, then celebrated his rebirth on the following Sunday.“Attis was simply the latest manifestation of earlier resurrection myths like those of Osiris, Orpheus, Tammuz and Dionysus, who were likewise said to have been born of virgins and resurrected three days after their deaths. In areas where Christian beliefs later took hold, these already existing tales were grafted onto the story of Jesus Christ, and continue to be retold to this day.”
This is a standard quote, unfortunately. I want to get your attention here and point something out.

I am so glad Mr. Foster put this information here. I believe it's the strongest evidence against his claim. How so? Because - not only is most of this selection inexcusably false, it betrays the lack of solid evidence for his original claim. If there really was an Eostre, he wouldn't be attempting to shotgun information about Cybele.

Two years before Origin of Easter was written we already had articles on all of this. History of Easter Part I and Part II. See for yourself.

And where did he get this stuff in the first place? There's that "another source" phrase again. (I would love to see what his bibliography looked like.) Who is this unnamed expert and why does this article keep citing unnamed sources? What terrible luck. Yet another dead link. Back to digging. But persistence has paid off once more. The link points to Suite101.com. That was a forum website where anyone could contribute. The quote could have been from anyone …anyone at all. But you are here at AsBereansDid, dear reader. We don’t settle for that. We dig! And what did we find? The author’s name is most likely Jenny Ashford.

Who is Jenny Ashford? Probably a nice enough person. Creative. Maybe even educated. We wouldn't know. We don’t know her. But she describes herself as “a writer and graphic artist from central Florida.” I would't mind doing that myself.

Except we're talking about history here and she's not a historian or a specialist (she never claimed to be). By this point I no longer think it odd that John Foster cites as an authority someone who isn't really an authority. He isn't quoting her because she wrote a thesis; he's quoting her because she says what he wants to hear.

What else can we find about her? She has a website! What is that like?

. . . .
. . . . . . . o_O

Is the COGWA aware of this?

I can see why he kept her a secret. Moving on.
There are hundreds of other websites that discuss the pagan origin of Easter.
No doubt there are several hundreds of other websites out there that will affirm the author's position. Goodness knows I've been to my share of them. But it doesn't matter how many websites there are out there. Do you have any idea how many Muslim websites there are out there and they all say Jesus isn't God. So, is it true that Jesus isn't God because there are hundreds of Muslim websites? No.

This is not only an illogical appeal to popularity, but it's a horrid, awful way to do "research." No, scratch that. I will come right out and say it's not research at all! It's Confirmation Bias plain and simple. It's irresponsible. They have every opportunity that I have to get the right information but they refuse! To the point where they actually hide who the sources are.

Life, Hope, and what was that again?
Should Christians celebrate Easter?
So, what is a Christian to do with the knowledge of the pagan origin of Easter?
Throw it out! It's garbage knowledge. What do you do with the knowledge that the moon is made of cheese? Certainly do not base your faith and doctrines on it!
According to the Bible, God does not want His people to follow or seek after pagan customs.When ancient Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned them not to seek after the teachings and traditions of the nations that once inhabited the land. He said, “Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30-32).Later, Christ told His disciples: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8).Therefore, anything that has pagan origins must be avoided by Christ’s disciples, no matter what the intent or long-standing tradition.
Let's stop right here. What has the author done? He's scoured the very bottom of the Internet to get the most useless and unreliable support for his claims against Easter - claims that were already set in stone before he even joined the team to write the article in the first place - and with that terribly irresponsible source material supporting his pre-conclusion he has joined the fray to label Easter as pagan. So now, with Easter seemingly pagan, he pulls out some comfortable and familiar Bible verses against paganism.

What's the big deal with this? He has still not proven his main point! He has yet to demonstrate the origins of Easter! He's just begging the question is all. To start quoting verses now is just more and more of the same.
What the Bible tells us to celebrate
It is also important to note that the Bible nowhere tells us to honor the day of Christ’s resurrection. Instead, God established a command that the Passover should be observed annually to honor Christ’s death. Today, Christians are not to participate in the Easter holiday, but rather in the New Testament Passover, which is the memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
It is even more important to note that the Bible nowhere tells Gentiles to honor Old Covenant holy days. (Remember the standard from earlier - if the Bible doesn't tell you to do it then you shouldn't do it.) I know! I know. That's too big a bite for you to chew on right there. But give me just a minute here and I'll show you why I say this. First, I want the author to have a chance to speak.
In great solemnity, once a year on the 14th day of the first month on the Hebrew calendar (Leviticus 23:4-5), we are to observe the Lord’s Passover.
The COGs say don't keep Easter, keep the Old Covenant Passover. Because the law! But is that so? Not according to the law. According to the law, anyone who is not a member of the nation of Israel is forbidden from participating in Passover.

(EXO. 12: 43, 45, 48-49) 43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.
45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it.
48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. 49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.

So, for all of this talk about God gave us holy days the reality is quite different. No, God gave the Jews holy days. He indeed forbade them from us, except if we literally join the physical nation of Israel. That is the law. Don't believe me, believe your Bible. I didn't put those verses in there.

Knowing that the Gentiles were forbidden from participating in the law, and claiming that the law will never change, Armstrongism has gotten itself into a hole. How can they get themselves attached to the law that forbids them? Thus they invent things like British Israelism, and they claim that we are all Spiritual Israel now the law that prohibited us is bound on us. But this point was flatly rejected in Acts 15. The Holy Spirit declared that we do not need to be Jews to be Christians.
On that special evening, the apostle Paul instructed the members of the Church to partake of the bread, which symbolizes Christ’s body broken (beaten) for us, and to drink of the wine, which symbolizes the New Covenant in His blood (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Does Paul instruct anyone to observe the Passover in this selection? Let's look. In verses 23-25, Paul re-tells the story of the night Jesus ate the Last Supper with the Apostles. In verses 27-29, Paul tells us to take special care to treat the bread and wine with the respect it deserves. So far, no instruction to observe Passover. If you notice, I skipped verse 26:

(I COR. 11: 26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

As often.

If in this selection there was any hope of Paul teaching Passover, it would be this verse. Yet there is no command to observe the Passover. In fact, the word Passover isn't in this chapter at all. To take that even farther, the word Passover isn't in either First or Second Corinthians, except in one verse - I COR. 5: 7, where it says "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." And that's it.

How do we get Paul instructing everyone to observe the Old Covenant Passover from this selection? We cannot. Ask them to demonstrate why they think Paul is instructing Christians to observe Passover and they'll go to the Old Testament. The COGs believe Paul is instructing Christians to observe Passover because Moses gave Passover to the Jews. But that's not getting Passover from Corinthians, that's getting Passover from Exodus.

I'm not going to belabor this point. I'll direct you to our article "Must Christians Observe the Old Covenant Passover" for more details.

And that's exactly why "Origin of Easter" is a textbook example of a COG article. It is straight down the line in every way a prime example of how the COGs treat truth. They go into things assuming they are right to begin with, then they run roughshod over the facts from there.
As to Christ’s resurrection, this occurred exactly three days and three nights after His burial (Matthew 12:39-40; Luke 24:46-47). Christ was crucified on a Wednesday afternoon, buried just before sunset, as Thursday was an annual holy day. He was resurrected three days later on Saturday afternoon (the weekly Sabbath) just before sunset. It must also be noted that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb while it was still dark. Christ had already risen—long before sunrise (John 20:1-2).
Amazing. Almost everything in that paragraph is wrong. How many Easter articles do we have to address this? Many! I'll give you just three:

Three Days and Three Nights
Two Sabbaths of Matthew 28
Wednesday Crucifixion? Not Likely.

If you can't find a good answer in there, then write to us.
So, the story of Christ’s resurrection occurring on Easter Sunday morning (as well as rabbits laying eggs) is a polytheistic myth. Instead of observing Easter or any of its customs, Christians are instructed to observe the biblically authorized holy days of God.You can learn more in the section “Holy Days vs. Holidays.”
Tsk tsk. If you live in a polytheistic home, better not throw polytheistic stones.
The polytheistic myth is that there was ever a pagan Easter.

CONCLUSION

So, we have reached the end of the article.

Did you pay attention to the source material? Was it not as I said? Did you notice the decreasing quality of the sources? They scraped the bottom of the Internet. The pattern of dishonest documentation continues. Some of the claims in this article are so false that it's almost a comfort for me to know that he got it all from someone else. It's as if John Foster is challenging us to choose who we are we going to believe, the woman with the human heart in her hands or our lyin' eyes?

We were promised the origins of Easter, but we didn't see any actual historical documentation whatsoever. Nothing ancient. Nothing older then the 1940s. This was their big chance to make their case but there was nothing. No gotcha! No show stopper. He had this one chance and he did nothing with it. In fact, it was so empty that he shot himself in the foot by blaming it all on Cybele. This was COGWA's best attempt!

It's not as if the article even tried to prove anything. It started by assuming the idea was correct to begin with. There was no reason for the author to challenge himself. Or, perhaps the author did challenge himself but was too afraid of what he found, so this was the more convenient approach.

We were told that the Old Covenant Passover is the proper holiday for us all. But Armstrongism never explains how that can be. Supposedly God gave this holiday to us by forbidding us to participate unless we become Jews. So when did He give it to us? In the New Covenant? Where, precisely, I Corinthians 5? What happened to the law being unchanged? But if it changes not then the Gentiles are still left out. It can't be both changed and unchanged.

But think about this. If there is any symbol in the Bible that pointed to Jesus, it is the Passover symbol. If there is any shadow that was fulfilled by His substance, it's this shadow. All of that pointed to Him and what He would do. All of it. The greatest miracle, the greatest triumph, the very pinnacle of God's strategy is Jesus' death and resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death is no more hopeful than any other death. Each of us will accomplish that much. But with the resurrection it becomes unspeakably great. It is with the resurrection that our tears of  sadness become tears of joy. God died for us, and we will live with Him. How do we know He is who He said He is, because the tomb is empty and no human had a thing to do with it. Now we know He is who He said He is, and we know He will do what He said He will do for us. All season long it's, "Three days and three nights! 72 hours!" Well, 72 hours to what? To the resurrection! But in this article it's "Pay no attention to that resurrection. Have a matzo!" It's precisely as Martha said, none of this is in the Days of Unleavened Bread. It makes no sense whatsoever that Jesus would greatly desire the Gentiles to observe the shadow but ignore the fulfillment, the very point of the shadow in the first place.

You know, I am beginning to wonder if today's blog post is even about Easter or is it really about the way the articles that the COGs rely on are really baseless tangents constructed on assumptions.

In the end, I don't see anything in this Origin of Easter article that is any different than all of the articles that came before it. I honestly would have expected that if these claims were genuine, someone would have produced solid evidence for them by now. They've had multiple people working on it for 80 years.

Some of you may remember back when Herbert Armstrong would say, "Don't believe me, believe your Bibles!" What does the Bible say about bearing false witness? What does it say about being upright and above reproach? All members of the COGs, especially the COGWA, don't you realize that the quality of the source material in your publications reflects on each and every one of you? Demand better!




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Saturday, March 31, 2018

What the Days of Unleavened Bread Don't Tell You

Today, members of the Churches of God are meeting to celebrate the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Tomorrow, members of my church will be gathering to celebrate Easter.

We've been through this before, so why not get the preliminaries out of the way quickly?

The Armstrongist COGs tell you that Easter is named for the goddess Ishtar and originated in worship of the ancient Babylonian god Tammuz. The History Channel and a variety of other sources will tell you that, too. The problem is, most of those claims go back to a handful of sources from the 1800s that later archaeological discoveries, artifacts and cultural studies have since refuted. Unfortunately, those who continue to put forth these claims – such as cults trying to draw people away from traditional Christianity and anti-religion members of the media – have little incentive to check their homework.

The COGs point to New Testament discussions about false gospels and destructive heresies and insert things like Easter. If they read the scriptures in context, they'd see that the main two heretical movements were the Gnostics and the Judaizers. They are pretty good at finding the gnosticism, but have a poor track record at spotting the Judaizers. Probably because it's largely what they preach, minus a sacrifice here and a foreskin there.

I think it's safe to say that things haven't changed much since I left the COGs. I recently read the March-April edition of the United Church of God's “Beyond Today” magazine and, predictably, saw these regurgitated claims and more in Darris McNeely's article, “What Easter Doesn't Tell You.”

Here are the downright absurd things McNeely claims Easter fails to teach:

1. “Only God coming in the flesh could open the door of salvation for the human creation.”
2. “What's missing is understanding the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”
3. “Jesus Christ tasted death for every man so that God might give eternal life to those who call on His name.”
4. “You are missing out on the wonderful meaning of Passover and the death and reconciliation of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered, died and was resurrected once for all time so that men might have the opportunity to enter into eternal life. Easter obscures the truth about that.”

If you have (as I had been) raised in the COGs and never been to an Easter service, you might actually believe these claims. I didn't know what to expect at my first Easter service. The main thing I remember was that I cried through the whole service. Not because I felt awkward and guilty, like my first Christmas Eve. It was because of the joy that Easter inspired in my heart, and because of the sadness I felt for the rest of my family, eating matzos and focusing on futile task of putting out their own sin. Anyway, the Easter service – and most weekly church services, actually – revolve around those four points.

In turn, I'd like to share some important spiritual points that the Days of Unleavened Bread don't tell you:

1. Jesus was resurrected.

I know that you guys realize this, but I also want you to realize that the Days of Unleavened Bread in no way address this point. Jesus' resurrection was kind of a big deal. It was, technically speaking, probably the most important event in human history. Not because – as the COGs say – Jesus showed others the way to salvation – leading a righteous life, following Hebraic customs, then hoping you are “good enough” to be resurrected into the God family later. No, it was a big deal because it proved that Jesus was who He said He was, and that the claims and promises He made were true – promises of forgiveness of sins, of salvation, of a New Covenant and faith in HIM as the way to salvation. If they weren't true, and if Jesus had been a madman or false Messiah, then that tomb would have remained occupied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be most pitied.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

But God doesn't TELL us to observe the resurrection, you say. True. Must we formally celebrate Jesus' resurrection to be a Christian? Of course not. But the resurrection is, as I said, a big deal. It's the reason why we can have hope – the hope for which we are always to be ready to give an answer. It's supposed to be a topic near and dear to our hearts, an active part of our faith. I found it encouraging that McNeely's article made mention of the resurrection several times. It was, however, ironic that he insisted Easter misses the truth about the resurrection when his own church does nothing to mark the resurrection. Claim the mainstream Christian world has the timeline wrong, claim it wasn't an observation, ignore the symbolism of the wave sheaf offering, whatever. But stop foolishly insisting that a holiday specifically established to commemorate Christ's resurrection misses the truth about His resurrection oh, don't forget that according to Israel's track record, it's perfectly fine to create holidays to commemorate miracles. It's difficult to claim to be a Christian organization, yet ignore the very historical event that established Christianity, as people younger and cooler than me would say, “a legit thing.” The Days of Unleavened Bread obscure that, and it's exactly why I believe that its observation keeps us focused on the physical, to our spiritual detriment.


2. Physical acts don't factor into your salvation.

Try as the modern COGs might, it's hard to get around the fact that the Days of Unleavened Bread focus on the physical. For days, weeks, and sometimes months, you focus on getting physical leaven out of your home. You pause to celebrate the Passover, and then the Night to be Much Observed – a lavish celebration not observed by Jesus' disciplines and AT LEAST as extra-biblical as Easter – then continue avoid leavening for the next seven days. Do you do it because you WANT to, because it's time to clean out the house, or because you want to try a low-carb diet? NO!!! You do it because you believe that not doing can keep you out of God's Kingdom. Yes, it was commanded – for Israel – and we have record of a few New Testament congregations like Corinth keeping it. It's likely that Christians like Peter and Paul observed it, although they certainly knew that doing so neither secured nor disqualified them. I get the distinct feeling that's not the impression members of UCG, COGWA, LCG or PCG get.

In contrast, Easter, and especially Good Friday, remind us that the filthy rags of our own efforts mean nothing when it comes to salvation. We are saved FOR good works, not BY good works. And even that's iffy, in the case of those who die shortly after conversion. Consider the thief on the cross – he had no opportunity to do anything for the Kingdom. He couldn't feed the needy. He couldn't care for orphans and widows. He couldn't be baptized. He couldn't even move. Yet Jesus told the thief that he had done all he needed to do. You can argue that the thief isn't in heaven, you can argue that he's “asleep” in the ground awaiting resurrection, but you can't argue that Jesus told him he'd done enough by expressing his faith. The message of the Days of Unleavened Bread gives the polar opposite of that message, which leads me to my next point.


3. You will never be good enough – and that isn't the point, anyway.

You must put leavening out of your house, your minister tells you, because it symbolizes sin. In fact, those that don't put out leaven are sinning. But don't go overboard, because it's not possible and your focus should be primarily spiritual anyway. Also, laugh it off when you find a sandwich crust wedged in the bowels of your recliner next week, because God knows how hard you tried and will give you a pass. That one wasn't really sin because, you didn't know it was there. Or you forgot. Or whatever.

Huh? NOW who doesn't understand the gravity of sin?

I personally believe this ritual was intended to teach us one thing – the ingrained, pervasive depth of our sin. This isn't, as Paul wrote, an excuse to live for the flesh, but instead to teach us to recognize our total dependence upon God – for our justification, for our sanctification and our salvation. Once we grasp that, we don't rehearse it year after year. We do something about it. We move out of the shadows and step into the light of Christ. we place our faith in Jesus for salvation instead of our own efforts. It's not 80/20. It's not 90/10. It's not even 99.9/0.01. When we realize we are fully dependent upon Him, we can move past our self-righteousness, drop our checklist and fully appreciate what He's done for us. We are justified, or made right with God, by faith in His promise, and Christ's righteousness is credited to us, as it was to Abraham. Our hearts are changed, and we begin the lifelong process of transformation - with God as the potter and us as the clay.


4. Examination isn't a once-a-year thing.

Now, if you listen to your minister, you might believe that those who leave the COGs live immoral, amoral existences. Some may, but that's not a given. Most who exit to some other form of Christianity did so because they studied their Bibles and found the COG explanations lacking. They still believe in obedience, they just believe in obedience to a different covenant, and for different reasons.

One thing that has struck me in my recent study is the idea of self-examination. The COGs apply scriptures regarding self-examination mainly to the Passover season. He who eats the bread and drinks the wine without self-examination drinks judgment to himself. The messages traditionally start about 6 weeks out, with catchy titles like, "Five Steps for Better Self-Examination," some discussing topics found in the Beautitudes, but many discussing faithful tithing practices (I'm looking at you, LCG) and making better use of the Sabbath day.

It's not a traditional Passover passage, but when I think of self-examination, I think of James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perserveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
- James 2:22-25

While it's not true of all, the annual Days of Unleavened Bread ritual tends to turn us into that man James criticizes - one who looks into the mirror at his natural face - be it for an afternoon, a day, a week or a month - then forgets what he looks like the rest of the year. I literally had a COG member get in touch with me almost two years after she tore me down for my beliefs and kicked me out of her house. It was - you guessed it - right before Passover. Was she not "cleansed" by the previous Passover? Had she thought about her behavior at all during the previous 20 months? I'll never know, but by then, the damage was done. The relationship was strained, and we haven't talked since. This is why I, personally, believe the frequent Lord's Supper model is what the Bible intended. It encourages us to root out sin, mend relationships and consider our behavior frequently, not waiting a whole year to make changes and amends.

And while we're on the subject of James, let's look at the topics the book of James, and heck, 1 Corinthians 5, the COG-celebrated New Testament DUB passage, are concerned with regarding Christian behavior:

  • Quarreling
  • Following men/factions
  • Jealous and strife
  • Tolerating sexual immorality
  • Idolatry
  • Homosexuality
  • Doubting/faithlessness
  • Entertaining sinful desires
  • Filthy ideas and speech
  • Controlling your speech
  • Visiting widows and orphans
  • Showing partiality to the rich
  • Mercy
  • Helping brethren in need

I find two things striking about this list: 1 - very few of these concepts overlap with "the law," and 2 - none of these can be effectively changed in a period of days, weeks or months. even months. James is not talking about annual examination, he's talking about a day-by-day, committed, year-long (really, life-long) commitment. Anything less, and you're the man who's forgotten after looking into the mirror for a short time.

_______________________________

It's no secret that I believe keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread create serious problems for Christians. I believe the practice of mixing the wineskins can spiritually blind us with the veil Paul discusses in 2 Corinthians 3:13-15. Keeping it can puff us up with pride - the achieving the opposite of what the COGs each is intended. Remember, I did not leave "the church" as a rebellious teen after I moved out of my parent's house. I was not dragged to church with a well-meaning grandparent, nor I did not join half-heartedly when I got married. I was as committed as you. I had annual traditions with my family, Pinterest-worthy (ok, Pinterest-fail-worthy) unleavened treats and dutifully started my children on the same path; teaching them to dutifully clean out their toybox at age three. But I came to see that the DUB created more spiritual questions, confusion and emptiness that could only be answered in Jesus. I can fully relate with Paul when he wrote that "whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:7-8a).


Go ahead and eat your matzo if you must. In fact, eat an extra one with peanut butter for me. Those were my favorite. Anyway, keeping the DUB didn't disqualify the brethren in Corinth; so it stands to reason that it won't disqualify you either, done with proper faith in Christ. But take a moment - not on Sunday, if that's too much for you - to read the accounts of Jesus' resurrection, to read how it's regarded in the New Testament, and to contemplate what it means for you.




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The History Channel Flubs Easter

I came across something today that burns me up. I am livid! And I'm only going to share it here today because it needs to be pointed out for the garbage it is.

I do not personally care for alien conspiracy theories, so I don't watch the History Channel very often. Apparently they have one-minute video shorts online. Somebody brought one to my attention called "Easter in 60." Well, I watched it, and I haven't been so shocked and aghast in quite a long time. People look at me funny when I tell them that the History Channel is wrong or that certain things in certain encyclopedias is wrong. Well, don't give me that look, I'm telling you how it is.

Anyone who reads this blog will already know every one of the claims of this video. I will relate them to you here:
Nimrod married his mother Semiramis, as enemy killed him and chopped him up, all parts were found except his genitals, Nimrod became Baal, Semiramis became Ishtar, she descended from the moon in a giant egg called "Ishtar's Egg," their son Tammuz was killed by a wild boar, Ishtar ordered no meat to be eaten for 40 days called Lent, and rabbits were celebrated as Temmuz loved rabbits.
The irresponsibility of this! The infantile claims! The utter lack of responsible research! The complete disregard for accuracy! How insulting that this would be associated with the word "history!"

POINT BY POINT

I was unable to find a single thing in that video that was correct. Not one thing! Let's subject this to the patented AsBereansDid fact-checker, shall we?

  • Nimrod married his mother Semiramis - FALSE! 
There no record whatsoever for Nimrod in any historical record known to man, besides the Bible. That doesn't make the Bible wrong, it just makes Nimrod the Hebrew-ized name of this person. This should come as no surprise to anyone. But the real name of this person is sadly unknown. If we can't even find the real name then there is no way on earth we know so much exacting detail about him. Neither Nimrod's mother nor his wife were ever mentioned in the Bible. Yet we can be confident that it was not Semiramis. How? Because there are some possible candidates for a Semiramis in history, except they lived after the time of David and Solomon. This makes them all more than 1,000 years too late. Hard to be born by a woman who lived over 1,000 years after you died.

  • An enemy killed him and chopped him up - INCONCLUSIVE.
Again, there is simply no clear record of Nimrod outside of the Bible. The Bible doesn't say how he died. Therefore we cannot know. Herman Hoeh, historian to the Worldwide Church of God, a man about whom Herbert W Armstrong once wrote, "It is my personal opinion that he is today the most accurately informed historian in the world" (Plain Truth magazine, Aug. 1956, p.4), even disagrees with this. Herman Hoeh said Nimrod was killed in Italy by Shem. Yes, that Shem, Noah's son. Now, don't take our mention of Hoeh as some endorsement of his work. We think most of it was just as useless as the video we now review. I just bring it up to point out that this claim contradicts the official teaching of the Worldwide Church of God.

  • All parts were found except his genitals - FALSE!
Since we can't know how he died, we can't know if he was chopped up. But this one point here, the losing of his genitals, is a dead giveaway for something else entirely. The author of this video is so historically uneducated that they confused an invented story of Nimrod with the legitimate myth of the Egyptian God Osiris. They are trying to take Egyptian images and apply them to Babylon. The reason Osiris was chopped up is because Osiris pictured the Nile river, which split up at its Delta. The story isn't even Babylonian! Granted, this is something the Worldwide Church of God did all the time. They got it from the Seventh Day Adventists who got it from Alexander Hislop. Yes, there's the man. Alexander Hislop - the most notorious purveyor of rubbish we know. We have plenty of articles on Hislop, dear reader, and we recommend you to them. I will forego my usual rant about the lack of source material in these claims, since it's a video and all. But if it were a written work, and if it was one of the few with sources cited, I guarantee you the source material would trace straight back to this man Alexander Hislop.

  • Nimrod became Baal the sun god - FALSE!
Baal wasn't the sun god in Babylon, Shamash was. Baal is a generic name, that means something roughly the same as "lord." Baal wasn't even specifically a Babylonian god, Baal was a Canaanite god. And there were many Baals.

  • Semiramis became Ishtar - FALSE!
Ishtar (also called Inana) predates Semiramis by thousands of years! There is no way possible that Semiramis became Ishtar.

  • She descended from the moon in a giant egg called "Ishtar's Egg" - FALSE!
Oh my! Where do I begin with this one? Ishtar was associated with the planet Venus, not the moon. In some myths she is the daughter of the moon goddess, but she is not the moon goddess. She did not descend to the earth in an egg. Neither eggs nor rabbits were part of her symbolism. And it is strange that they are not, since Ishtar was a fertility goddess and you would think they would be associated with her. Yet they are not. Ishtar’s main symbols were an eight-pointed star (probably representing the planet Venus), a pair of lions, and snakes.

  • Their son Tammuz was killed by a wild boar - FALSE!
In the myth of Tammuz, he was killed by demons from the netherworld, not a boar. This was the focus of an annual festival. There is no ambiguity here. He was not the son of Ishtar at all. In some later myths, Ishtar was Tammuz's sister. And in others, Ishtar married Tammuz. Nor either was he a hunter as the video claimed. Tammuz was a shepherd and a gardener. Tammuz is associated with the crop cycle, and thus he had the usual myths about an annual descent into the netherworld and eventual release again.

  • Ishtar ordered no meat to be eaten for 40 days called Lent - FALSE!
Not only is this false because it is completely made up whole cloth, but Lent is a Latin word. The Babylonians wouldn't know what a Lent is. Let's be clear here, this claim is 100% made up for the purposes of smearing Lent. However, Lent comes from the Jewish tradition of the Fast of the Firstborn, and it took three centuries to become a 40-day thing. At first there were a variety of lengths of the fast. One part of the Quartodecimen Controversy was a debate about when to end the fast. Point being, the beginning and ending of Lent was not set for quite a number of years. It did eventually become 40 days. However, to claim that it originated from a pagan 40-day fast is sheer and utter nonsense. As for the no meat thing, that's a ridiculous claim. And another thing, the Lenten fast was not just about having no meat. This is obvious since there can be no eggs eaten either - and hence the colored eggs which they just got done smearing two points ago. This video seems to be unable to keep its own false accusations straight.

  • Rabbits were celebrated as Tammuz loved rabbits - FALSE!
Rabbits were not a symbol associated with Tammuz. This claim is infuriatingly false. It has all the sophistication of a drive-by shooting. You can practically hear the author trying to figure out what to say about rabbits. No, the Easter Bunny is a European invention not a Babylonian one. The first known mention comes from Georg Franck von Frankenau in his writing “De Ovis Paschalibus” [“On Easter Eggs”] in 1682, some 4,000 years after the video's claim!! He said:
“In Alsace and the neighboring regions those eggs are called hare-eggs because of the myth that is told to make the simple-minded and children believe that the Easter Hare was laying and hiding them in the grass of the gardens, so the children search them even more eagerly, for the delectation of the smiling adults.”
Don't you think it's odd that the Easter Bunny supposedly comes from ancient Mesopotamia but the first known mention is 4,000 years later in Germany? And I just want to point out that if the Easter Bunny comes from Tammuz, then it can't come from Eostre/Ostara. Just sayin.

And that will about do it.

CONCLUSION

Strangely, I don't feel much better having gotten this all off my chest. I think the reason is because I know beyond any doubt that these lies will outlive me and for all the research and the writing we at ABD have done I will never have made a dent in the zeal of the people who will stop at nothing to bash Easter. All the while telling us how very much they love truth and history.

Shame SHAME on the History Channel for allowing this filth to be put out on their outlets. I notice several people jumping on them about it already. They deserve all of the negativity they will get over this. Stick to what you do best - stories on Bigfoot.

Even so, I pray that the truth is clear to you, dear reader, even if the lies are legion. And I pray now that you are armed with the truth you can go out and spread it confidently and effectively.

I would like to leave you with a link to help you find other material on this subject. Because we have so much material, I have started using the Easter FAQ article as my place holder for links. Please do read it, share it, and come back again to us soon.




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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Opinion Is God's Truth

I recently had the pleasure of having a friend of mine tell me and everyone else how wrong we are and how right they are. I just want to pause and reflect on something that came up in the ongoing conversation.

It all started when Stephen Hawking, an atheist, died, and I mentioned a quick RIP and then in brief passing said that now Mr. Hawking knows the answer to the great question. I certainly wasn't intending to enter into a theological dissertation, nor was I intending to advocate one particular view of the afterlife over the other. I just wanted to make a brief statement that I personally believe God is. Very general. Moving on.

Alas. Not to be.

A friend of mine (let's call him friend #1) appeared and started off by telling me that I and most everyone else was wrong on a particular view of the afterlife. The clam was that the Bible didn't support such and such a position. A second friend (let's call him friend #2) proof-texted a verse which clearly contradicted friend #1, and in all honesty did serious damage to friend #1's claim. If the Bible didn't support such and such a thing, then there would be no support, yet there it was. Friend #1, now ego-bruised, resorted to rhetorical statements like "I'm not going down to your level" and "I stand approved before God" and unto us didst provide quotations as II TIM. 2: 15 from the King James Version, forsooth.

So, in summary, friend #1 comes in to enlighten us all with their superiority and clearly itching for a hot debate, but when one was swiftly provided friend #1 took on the mantle of the victim here. Guy with a knife started a gun fight, and then cried about how unfairly he was treated. I just have to relate that here because so help me if I had a nickle for every time I've witnessed in my life someone who pulled this same stunt I would not ever want for nickels again in all my days.

But it's not rushing in unprepared that I am on about. It's the attitude of "my opinion is God's truth."

Does God have a truth? Let's all agree, at least for the sake of argument, that a being who IS truth does indeed have a truth on any number of subjects.

But is it true that our personal interpretation is what determines God's truth? No. Not at all.

Yet I run into people all the time who have the attitude of "you aren't disagreeing with me, you're disagreeing with God."

Here's a quote from friend #1:
"If you aren't in agreement with the scriptures, that's your right. I have not put forth anything that contradicts God's word. If you disagree, take it up with him, I didn't write the book. As the scripture says, I do not have to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many of you have experienced or even made a statement just like that one. It comes up all the time in Armstrongism but to be fair it isn't unique to Armstrongism. It creeps up among any number of very strong opinions. But I want you to notice something - he can't or won't make his case so now he is the guardian of the deposit of faith on earth, and any disagreement with him is a frontal assault on the Lord Almighty Himself.

What is this? It's posturing. It's a bluff. It's a retreat. It's rhetoric.

I will come right out and tell you all here that this person IS NOT an Armstrongist. Friend #1 doesn't keep the Sabbath at all. So, do you believe that his claim is God's truth and that disagreeing with him is tantamount to an assault on God? Of course not. What he's saying is a bluff, and oddly enough I feel we all agree on that. Some of you reading this feel that YOU have God's truth and disagreeing with YOU is an assault on God, so friend #1 here can't be right. If there's one buzz-word that keeps coming up over, and over, and over again in Armstrongism, it's "truth." Doesn't matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, it's God's truth! Yet the splinter groups can't even agree with each other, let alone more mainstream denominations. Today's Armstrong splinter groups claim the truth but they don't even agree with Herbert Armstrong who founded their church in the first place and claimed to be the only person to have the truth in 1,900 years. Which one is right? The founder or the ones who disagree with him? How can you all be the "one true"? Can't be both.

And that's just what I'm on about. There's no humility in this. There's no love. Please excuse me for this quote, but I feel I must -

(I COR. 13: 8-12) 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

Sometimes we really think we know something but we are mistaken. Sometimes the innocent are condemned. Sometimes the diagnosis is incorrect. Sometimes the best intentions pave the road to hell. Sometimes there is a thing that seems right to a man, the ends of which are death (PRO. 14: 12). Guess what - we are flawed. Me too. We "see in a mirror, dimly" so to speak. Do you want to know what is an affront on the throne of God? The affront is for any of us to puff ourselves up with pride as if we have no flaws. I have witnessed so very many people saying something like, "You're not arguing with me, you're arguing with the Bible."

Another quote from friend #1:
"If you have a problem with what the word declares us to be, don't get upset with me, I didn't write the book. You took this to the level it got to by disagreeing with God's word, not me. It's okay to disagree with everything I posted, you have that right. ... I am approved, ... take it up with him if you don't agree."
People, just because we sincerely believe a thing doesn't make it true. There is indeed a right way to interpret the word, and there are many wrong ways. There are people who deeply hold to each position. How do we tell the difference? Do we tell the difference by a contest of who can make the most boastful fiat declarations of their approval before God? Definitely no. By quoting II Timothy about how rightly we divide? Certainly not. Then why be a person like what we see in this quote? Has this person stated their case, and given a reason for their interpretation, and considered other positions and other evidence? No. They never defended their position at all. Friend #1 rushed right in, made a baseless assertion, met resistance, and finally all but declared himself God's own personal spokesperson. Is that reasonable? Is that wise?

No human being besides Jesus alone has the right to claim My opinion is God's truth (because Jesus is God). God resists the proud, but gives mercy to the humble. Nothing is ever so hard and inflexible as pride. You know what happens to things this hard? They shatter! When a person so filled with themselves finds out they aren't the be all and end all, do you know what happens? They break to pieces. So we need to all be humble, and loving. Even to those we deeply disagree with.

(MAT. 5: 43-47) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

I get it. I do. We all have something we believe in deeply and we want others to believe it too. None of us believe something we know is a lie. There's a good reason someone coined the phrase, "Genuine, but genuinely wrong." But I urge you, whomever you are, never to resort to the prideful and self-defeating attitude of "my opinion is God's truth" that we see on display above. If there is anything we here at AsBereansDid have learned it's that we, each and every one of us, really do need to ask, "What if I am the one who's wrong here?"

If you're not wrong, then you're not wrong. Behave with grace. The truth can take care of itself. Have a strong opinion; nothing wrong about that. Temper it with love. But! if you are wrong, how could you know it and correct yourself if you think the Lord God decides the truth based on what you believe at any given time?







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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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