But in between those mighty treatises came Dugger and Dodd's 1936 "A History of the True Religion". These two blokes were leaders in the pre-Armstrong Church of God movement, and drawing inspiration from the indefatigable Mrs White, they produced their own imaginative account of how to trace the 'true church' through the inconvenient murkiness of Christian history. I first stumbled on a copy - lovingly photocopied from an original and specially bound - while visiting at the home of a Dunedin member of the WCG in the late 1970s. This book, I was told, made it all clear. Why, even "Saint Patrick" was a Sabbath-keeper!
Okay, so I was sceptical even then. But a few years later a redaction of the original opus (third edition), published by a Jerusalem-based Duggerite offshoot, came my way, and I've never had the heart to toss it.
It's a romp from Pella to "Dr. Arius" ("the most talented, intellectual, and spiritual power of the fourth century"), from the Vaudois and Paulicians to Peter Waldo and on and on to the Seventh Day Baptists, and you can probably guess the rest. Dugger and Dodd were also fans of the "seven church eras" of Revelation.
"The history of the early days of the church in America, from about 1620 to 1789 is covered by the latter part of the Sardis period... The Philadelphia period evidently had for its beginning about the year 1789..."What is interesting about this is that the Church of God (Seventh Day) has just published a new history of their movement, authored by prominent minister (and past president) Robert Coulter. The latest issue of Dixon Cartwright's Journal includes a review by Horst Obermeit.
Coulter, to his great credit, debunks the entire fiction of a connection with the various individuals and groups Dugger and Dodd cherry-picked from history. It's worth downloading this Journal issue just to read the review, which contains some interesting quotes.
One can only imagine the wailing and gibbering in some of the loopier COG sects as one of their favourite sacred cows heads off to the butcher's slab.
(See also Gary Leonard's take on the new book.)