Monday 25 July 2011

Passionate Uncertainty

International Investment Banker Robert Lawrence Kuhn is one smart pilgrim.  The host of Closer to Truth who is sometimes described as a "public intellectual", goes looking for 'elusive answers' to 'timeless truths' about cosmos, consciousness and God.  In a recent episode ("Does God Make Sense?") he quizzes a range of thinkers: Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, Daniel Dennett, Huston Smith, Michael Shermer and representatives of Hindu and Islamic perspectives (Varadaraja Raman and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.)  It's quite a cast (though somebody should really tell him about Don Cupitt...)

Who'd have thought that this one-time protégé of windbag Bible preacher Herbert W. Armstrong, and assistant to his jet-setting son Garner Ted Armstrong, would end up with a sophisticated personal credo of "passionate uncertainty"?  This is the man who co-wrote the 1970s 'brain/mind' articles in the Plain Truth, and went on to then run the PT newsstand programme! It just goes to show that we can all outgrow our youthful follies, I guess.

My only question now though is, all considered, how come he left Mike Feazell's name off his list of latter-day luminaries?


  1. Bob is one of the most intelligent and intellectually curious people I have ever met. I always enjoyed talking and working with him.

    Glenn Parker

  2. I've caught a couple of episodes of this on the local PBS, from time to time; very nice. I didn't even clue in he had a background in the Church, though it nagged at the back of my mind, that I knew the name from somewhere.

    Say what you will about a "windbag Bible preacher" (that is an appellation which can easily be applied to more than one individual, IMO), the one thing that I found most (fruitful) members of the Church to be, was intellectually curious. Thinking outside the box was pretty much a prerequisite, given that the approach was to actually question and understand where the dogmas and the rituals of the Catholics and the Protestants, came from. That is something that some adherents of those faiths sometimes still don't do!

  3. My only question now though is, all considered, how come he left Mike Feazell's name off his list of latter-day luminaries?

    Dr. Robert Kuhn is too smart and too honest for that.

  4. Always respected Bob for the same reasons given by others here. I remember as a student knowing him and thinking, "A guy like this would not be a part of the Church if it was not legit, intellectually honest and more accurate than most." He had to know Ted very well as I think Ted really liked him as well.

    He is a seeker no doubt and WCG attracted those types until it didn't.

  5. Mikey's got issues.

    I wonder if Feazell did end up getting "drowned," as he puts it? (Whatta way to refer to your resurrection to life in and through Christ, Mikey-boy. *shakes head*) How was he ordained, before the changes, if he was never baptized?

  6. I often wondered what it must have been like being either a German or a Jew in the Pasadena headquarters area during the 1960s and '70s. As an organization, the WCG had an institutionalized preoccupation with both! Gushing was not uncommon.

    As a fellow student in first year Bible, and Physical Education classes, Dr. Kuhn caught my attention by virtue of the fact that he was a few years older than most of us and happened to drive a Porsche. Seemed as if he only made a couple of the PE classes and then disappeared, apparently having been excused.

    It was surprising how quickly he rose to prominence a few years later collaborating with HWA on his "Spirit in Man" theory and articles.

    I suspect, in retrospect that he would have risen to prominence in just about any organization in which he chose to participate.


  7. "As an organization, the WCG had an institutionalized preoccupation with both! Gushing was not uncommon."

    The one German preaching elder we had (who was with UCG, I dunno if he got caught up in the middle of the mess with CGWA or not), was actually not a bad sort. A bit conservative (But, then, so were most of us in the Victoria congregation!) and sometimes had a tendency to put pressure on those who were acting in an ungodly manner (in most cases well-deserved, and he was kept in careful check by never being ordained any higher in rank).

    He recommended reading Mein Kampf, only to get a sense of what the Tribulation would be like...this was back in the days when it was the Germans the Church was stumping to be the two hundred million horsemen / armies of the Beast. I believe I have seen it mentioned, here and on other ex-member sites, it was recommended reading at AC, as well....

    After the changes, the fellow drank the Evangelical Kool-Aid completely, giving epic sermonettes about how "happy" he was to be a Protestant again Meantime the rest of us were thinking, "So go and be one, if you think it's that great! From where we're sitting, it ain't pretty!"

    In that (Evangelical) vein, the gentleman did once suggest, if my memory does not fail me, that the Jews "deserved" WWII, because they rejected the Evangelicals' Jesus.

    So. Yeah. I am very happy the Church has moved away from the Evangelical blood libel, these days. They once again recommend reading the Hebrew Bible in English, they make full use of the oracles preserved by Rabbinical Judaism, the Jews were even referred to, once again, by a recent sermon as "our brothers in faith to the Eternal God."

    The NAE overlords would have kittens, if they realized how much the Church is moving back towards the truth. I am frankly surprised that their "denominational overseers" have been so lax, and haven't broken out the witch-hunt manuals and heresy-detectors, as they did once before.

    There may be something in the wind, though, as recent sermons (from different pastors) have been urging Church members to "be strong in the face of persecution" and to "stand up for what may be labelled an unpopular faith."

    On the ground, in the actual congregations, faithful commandment-keepers are fully tolerated, and are no longer "evangelized" out the door. No more Bible-banging, no more "Be 'transformed by the truth' -- OR ELSE!" no more regurgitating nothing but the words of men, they speak of our "rich heritage" and our "deep understanding" of the Old Testament, they encourage Bible-reading once again, they speak positively about the World Tomorrow and the Plain Truth, and even Mr. Armstrong! (Realistically, but positively, I add. They have not completely "whited" that particular sepulchre, but they no longer demonize him, nor us, as much as they did a decade ago, either.)

  8. Velvet Delorey
    (aka "Purple Hymnal", "Aggie", and "singsongsofpraisetohim"),

    First off, please excuse me if I'm going off the track of the
    blog post's subject, but I've noticed you mentioning that
    Herbert Armstrong never set dates.
    It seems to me that he has set dates, in spite of his belated
    proclamation that, "We do not set dates!"

    So, I'll ask so you can clarify-
    Are you defining "setting dates" as only setting a specific DAY of a month for prophetic events?
    Or, are you only speaking only of setting a specific DAY of a month for Christ's return?
    Do not date-ranges(such as "...most certainly during the decade of the 90s.[HWA, 1980]",
    and "...the total collapse of our country inside of 20 years.[HWA, 1956]", and
    "It's prophesied for 15 to 20 years or less. [HWA, 1956]", or, as in the June/July 1934 issue of the
    Plain Truth, at-
    which Armstrong's handwritten chart clearly shows 1936 as the end of the Tribulation.

    I could go on and on with many more examples, but have included only a few here, for brevity's sake.

    What say ye, Velvet?(I've noticed that you have changed your mind on different things but haven't seen you retract
    your assertion that "Herbert Armstrong never set dates", so I thought I'd ask.)

  9. Norm,

    Since Velvet was born to hippies, (in other words, her parents are our contemporaries), perhaps she has no idea what it was like to grow up in Armstrongism during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970's. It was not until the church failed to flee to Petra in 1972 that HWA and his myrmidons began indulging in some corrective lying, categorically stating that they had never set dates, and, worse, began voicing wonderment that the brethren had actually believed that the end was coming in 1975. They literally reprogrammed those in the church who allowed it, withdrawing or revising their paper trail as much as possible at this point.

    I grew up in terror of the Germans.
    I honestly did not expect to live to be more than 26 or 27 years of age. I blew off my education, and entered into my first marriage figuring I could get along with anyone for 5 or 6 years.

    Have I adjusted to these ill advised missteps? Yes, but life was certainly unnecessarily complicated by the need to correct the damage. Delayed education and a bad marriage turned out to be the least of the damage. I wish we'd been allowed to continue being the kinds of Christians my New Covenant grandmother had attempted to raise her family as. We would still have strong relationships throughout our family because we never would have cut ourselves off from those who were not Armstrongites. Family is the primary unit from which Christianity operates, but the WCG treated blood related family as if it were nothing, readily disposable for the sake of their "gospel".


  10. Norman,

    The kindest thing that I can possibly say is that you are extrapolating things from my words, almost as badly as those who want to say the "1975 in Prophecy" of the eponymous article is not the "pushbutton world of progress" mentioned in the first two paragraphs of said article.

    The only thing I am saying is exactly what I have seen and am seeing, with my own two eyes, and my own experience. Am I speculating? Yes. Am I doing anything else? NO.

    Don't assign the role of Prophet for the Ages to ME, Norman; I'm just a member in the cheap seats, just like I always have been, and always will be!

  11. "the WCG treated blood related family as if it were nothing, readily disposable for the sake of their "gospel"

    As Bob says, this may have been the case in the 1950s, 1960s, and (maybe) the early 1970s, but all of the brethren I knew growing up, had contact with their extended families. Mine did not, but that had nothing do with the Church, nor with the teachings of the Church, and everything to do with internal family issues.

    If anything, the teachings of the Church made my family life better and more stable than it was, after we left! (Trust me, it was WAY more unstable, after we left!)

  12. Velvet,

    I thought I'd noticed you writing that Herbert Armstrong never set dates, and I inquired about your reasoning.

    You responded by saying, "The kindest thing that I can possibly say is that you are extrapolating things from my words"

    Based on some things you've written, I assumed you meant that Herbert Armstrong never set dates- such as this quote of yours:

    "The key thing to notice, about the literature of the WCG, is that nowhere, in any of the original documents that have managed to be salvaged, will you ever find one specific date." (emphasis yours)

    Perhaps it was unfair for me to inquire, since you have displayed some rather abrupt and dramatic changes in your viewpoints, such as you writing about a month ago, "Grace Communion International. Would you trust a Church whose leadership deceives you at every turn?", and then just a few days ago you writing, "I am now attending services with Grace Communion International."

  13. Norm,

    I'm thinking Vel is a work in progress. It's a wonder that any of us could ever walk into a church group again, considering the quality and consistency of our past spiritual guides. I would not select the path she has chosen, but I am interested in where this may lead to for her, and what she might be sharing with us in six months or a year from now. There is no doubt, based on her past few years' posts, that she is a thinker.

    It's understandable that there could be some rapid changes. While I was going through some of mine, I did find it helpful for people to challenge me, and to help me keep it all real. As Cinderella sang a couple years back, "We All Need a Little Shelter". Sometimes people of opposing views can be part of our shelter network!


  14. No, Norman, I am not "setting dates." Nor am I a prophet, profit, or any other kind of prognosticator.

    Clear and inoffensive enough for
    you, Gavin?

    Going to have to give this place up, methinks.

  15. Velvet,

    You wrote-
    No, Norman, I am not "setting dates." Nor am I a prophet, profit, or any other kind of prognosticator.

    If you think I was asking if you were doing so, or if you thought I was asking if you are those things, then you misunderstood the '30 July 2011 8:13 PM' question I asked of you.

    You seem to have just answered a question that I never even came close to asking. And, I suppose that is your prerogative, although I do find it a bit odd and obfuscating.
    Therefore, I shan't belabor the point.

  16. Sorry, Norman, we appear to be talking at cross-purposes; I have, indeed said, and maintain, that there is no evidence the Church ever set firm and fast dates.

    What I meant by saying you were extrapolating, was your asking me if I was "setting dates."

  17. "It's a wonder that any of us could ever walk into a church group again, considering the quality and consistency of our past spiritual guides."

    Whereas I would say that the quality, and consistency of my past spiritual guides, has been what has keep me on "the narrow path" -- even as an atheist.

    I will say this, though: As it has always been, the Canadian Church is a far, far, different organization, than the American one. Which is likely why neither I, nor either of the other two biographies I've read, from those who grew up in the Canadian Church, have any real "horror stories" to tell, about our days in the Church.

    This seems to be the case, with a lot of folks who grew up in the Church here, whether they stayed with the Church, went with a splinter group, or fell away.

    Were there troublesome individuals in the Church, even here? Absolutely! Was that the fault of the teachings of the Church? Absolutely not!

    In fact, the ones who gave the most trouble, about being so self-righteous (yet conversely, who were the most hypocritical) about keeping God's commands, were just as a self-righteous (if not more so) after they drank the Evangelical Kool-Aid. So, I ask you this: How can their attitude problems be attributed to the teachings of the Church, when said problems did not disappear, in fact got worse, once the teachings allegedly responsible for those attitude problems, were changed?

    Too, the present Canadian Church appears to be giving all the right signs, of moving away from the evangelical fundamentalism that has swept the "denominational headquarters" in the US. Said "denominational headquarters" might not like it, but on the ground, I very much get the impression the Americans are persona non grata, as far as the daily life of the Church in Canada, is concerned.

  18. OpenID singsongsofpraisetohim said...

    I have, indeed said, and maintain, that there is no evidence the Church ever set firm and fast dates.

    No, they followed the example of Jesus, who said the end would be within "this generation". The WCG said, within "five or ten years" every few years from 1934 until 1975.

  19. Wasn't Jesse Ancoma once a Canadian WCG member? She seemed to have much to share, and it does not paint WCG or its doctrines and their effects in a very positive light.

    I don't believe we could consider Felix to be a trouble maker, and he's certainly had a lot to share about his experiences in the WCG in Canada.

    WCG doctrines can probably be practiced without too many ill effects if done by a separatist individual in the privacy of his own home. However, the moment they become a group activity, one notices the many ill effects, the elitism, hyperauthority, and placing the law as a god above God's love and our natural manifestations of human compassion.

    As with the tenets of Communism, these doctrines and so-called restored truths create and cause a certain mindset, a mindset which seems to bear very little resemblance to the fruits of God the Holy Spirit. They do not bring out the best in, or help the human spirit to soar as intended. Instead, they corrupt and subvert, even as those who believe them claim that they are of God. Original, old school WCG was and is a toxic cult. It is possible that modifying them with evangelical sensibilities and truths may yield less bad results, but who amongst us is willing to settle for "less bad"?


  20. Corky,

    I will spare you the "a day is as a thousand years to God" apologetic, but I will say this; only Roderick Meredith (and "Thielogical Bob," as Mike from "Don't Drink the Flavo(u)r-Aid" monikered him) definitively say five to ten to fifteen years.

    I read Church literature, and I see "maybe" and "possibly" and "almost certainly" -- hardly the firm-and-fast "IN five to ten years, brethren!" of Meredith's crowd. (Well, plus, they've got other issues, like believing in corporal punishment, which the Church had outlawed, in writing, by 1983.)

    It's all in your perspective on things. Was the Church perfect, unassailable, absolutely in the right? No. Neither was it sent of the Devil, evil, absolutely wrong.

    There are many shades of grey in this world; black-and-white thinking really is cultic; and it is my contention that neither I, nor most of the brethren I knew personally, ever thought, acted, or lived our lives, in such a fundamentalist mindset.

    Some few members were like that, but, when the Church turned to Evangelicalism, they did not change their fundamentalist ways one single little bit; no matter that the tune they were singing, was now completely off-key. So. I ask, yet again, was it the teachings? Or the personalities of those few brethren and ministers who abused the teachings, and did not pay attention to them? I contend it was the latter, obviously. We can agree to disagree, I hope?

    Now. That said. I, personally, was more self-righteous than I should have been. But that was part of my growth into maturity, and continues to be.

    People are complicated. True religion is simple, but complicated people tend to complicate religion, needlessly. It is, in my opinion, a side-effect of the spirit in man.

  21. Bob,

    Neither Jesse Ancona nor Felix Taylor have had positive things to say about the Church, that is true; however, nowhere in either of their personal accounts, will you find examples, intimations, or details, of the same kinds of abuses you will find detailed in the pages of Ambassador Report or The Painful Truth. Beyond referencing some rather authoritarian ministers who, it must be said, were nowhere near as unbearable as, for instance, Roderick Meredith....And even then, it was not the teachings of the Church that made those individuals that way (mostly it was the ordained deacons and elders that tended to be more troublesome, than the actual pastors, most of whom are still with the Church, today), it was their own authoritarian personalities, that abused the teachings.

    In point of fact, both Jesse Ancona, and Felix Taylor, make their strongest feelings against the Church quite clear, and that is that they disagree with the Church's teachings / theology. Not with any outright abusiveness, to the same level as was experienced in the States, or in earlier decades of the Church's existence.

    I maintain that the Church in Canada was a very different creature, indeed, from that represented by the anecdotes of the Church in the US, as painted by The Painful Truth, and Ambassador Report. I say this, having been born and raised in the Church in Canada, and having never seen anything like what is described, in those "exposes."

    I would also recommend reading the biographies of two other people who grew up in the Canadian Church, Jennifer Armstrong's Dreaming in Arabic, and Rand Zacharias' The God-Followers, both of which (though both have departed from the Church, and believe the Church's teachings to have been wrong) represent a quite accurate view of life in the Church, in Canada, between the mid-70s and the 1980s. Example, Armstrong mentions listening to pop music as a teenager; I remember many a YOU party in BC where pop music was played, and current movies were shown.

    Zacharias also mentions having his appendix taken out, at I believe, the recommendation of either the minister or the elder who anointed him. Note that this would have occurred (as did the anecdote I recount, of a friend of mine who had their appendix out in either 1986 or 1987), before the Americans' false claim, "Joseph Tkach Sr changed the healing doctrine in 1988."

    So, all four of those sources, both the two you refer to, and the two I refer to, no longer agree with the Church's teachings or doctrines...but none of them contain the same stories of the sheer abusiveness and outrageous behaviour recounted of the American Church, as to be found in AR or PT.