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A Note on Some Background Material

I have made reference to my rather eclectic religious background as some of my source material for Christian doctrinal discussion. Since the WorldWide Church of God was a fringe sect in the 1980s and 1990s, its teachings were more than a little off the beaten track with respect to mainstream Christianity. Obviously I have long since stopped believing in any of it, mainstream, fringe, or otherwise.

However, I find that the old material I used to devour provides me with some very illuminating analogies that I can draw upon when discussing the Edge of Apocalypse book.

To give you an idea of how “fringe” it used to be, they used to circulate an odd theory of “British Israel“, which was quietly soft-pedalled and removed.

Also:

  • Saturday was deemed to be the Christian Sabbath.
  • The WWCOG rejected the concept of an immortal soul. Instead, immortality would be granted to all who were saved in Christ at the Resurrection – even the dead.
  • As a consequence, or perhaps for doctrinal consistency, the concept of a Hell that burns people forever was denied. People who did not repent of their sins would simply cease to exist, period.
  • They laid heavy emphasis on the idea of the seven-day week mapping onto a total period of seven thousand years. This is why I sometimes make reference to lines like “for six thousand years man was left to go his own way”, because they hammered on this theme so much.
  • Their discussion of the End Times rested on some fairly literal interpretation – such as the idea of the 200 million horsemen being actual armies of 200 million human beings.
  • The rapture was pooh-poohed quite strongly; while this is not the sole province of the WWCOG it is worth noting that they went to some extent to debunk this theory being put forth by other End Times scholars and writers.

If you’d like to see for yourself, check out this archival website.

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13 thoughts on “A Note on Some Background Material

  1. Unlike most of the barking sects on the edge of Christanity, we in the UK have to admit that the British Israelites are home-grown. (I’ve always felt it’s a minor expansion of/variation on the Joseph of Arimathea / Holy Grail / King Arthur legend.)

    Did the WWCOG fit into the dispensationalist framework (e.g. as at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Millennial_views.svg)? Going by what you describe and the Four Horsemen PDF it sounds as though they come closest post-tribulational premillenialism.

    • Pretty much yeah, re: post-trib. They bashed the Rapture idea and insisted that EVERYBODY would have to undergo the Tribulation and at the end of things there’d be a thousand years of peace, then “Satan would be loosed for a little while”, and then that’s the real, honest-to-God, end of things.

  2. The British Israel theory . . . the hell? Especially with regard to the royal family being descended from David. I just don’t know what to do with that much fuckness. I think I’d like to see some evidence. Really, any evidence at all.

    Of course, there’s always that dual piece to crazy like this: on the one hand, I don’t believe it. On the other, does it matter? We’re talking about a group who doesn’t identify as Jewish, and who isn’t identified as Jewish by people who are Jewish, and the farther you go back and the more you expand your definition of “related”, the more likely we all are to be related to someone awesome and/or horrific. It doesn’t mean anything in particular, though.

    I am always a tiny bit perversely comforted when other countries come up with some of the crazy. It seems like the US has such a large share.

    *reads more*
    “The theory was widely promoted in the United States during the 20th century.”

    *sigh*

    • The sheer absurdity of the whole idea is why the WWCOG quietly walked away from it just before I happened upon my first Plain Truth in 1986 or 1987. ISTR the only time they told me I couldn’t get a particular booklet was one I asked about regarding Great Britain, in point of fact.

  3. So is the WWCOG related to the Jehovah’s Witnesses? It all sounds like the “Watchtowers” that used to turn up on my doorstep every now and then.

    Dav: We’re talking about a group who doesn’t identify as Jewish, and who isn’t identified as Jewish by people who are Jewish,
    I don’t know about the WWCOG, but for at least some of the “lost Israel” types, that’s precisely the point. They want to be “Israelites,” the heirs of the new Covenant– but they certainly don’t want to be Jews!

    Firedrake: I’ve always felt it’s a minor expansion of/variation on the Joseph of Arimathea / Holy Grail / King Arthur legend.
    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England’s mountains green?

    • There are some odd correspondences between the two. I used to get the Watch Tower and the other booklet – I forget the name – and I’d notice some stuff lined up between the Plain Truth and the JW publications.

      Of course, knowing what I know now, it’s obvious Armstrong was stitching together his stuff from his own rather eclectic sources of Christianity as well as his own particular Biblical interpretation.

      HAVE you NOTICED he loves to WRITE IN CAPS when he wants to EMPHASIZE a speaking CADENCE? 😛

      • Well, it did start off as the Radio Church of God (which was probably very modern in 1934, and I’m not being snarky, more honestly admiring); it makes sense that there’d be an emphasis on the vocal approach.

  4. A number of years ago I read one of G.T.s screeds, “The Modern Romans”. As I recall it was a warning about how we (The U.S.) were turning into another Roman Empire (we had just pulled out of Viet Nam a few years earlier) and were well on the way to falling like they had. I wasn’t particularly religious then (and I am, if anything, even less so now) and given that we had just *left* one of the “domino state”s whose collapse we had been warned about, I was pretty skeptical/cynical about the accuracy of his prediction. But given the last 9+ years and our entry into — and a seeming inability to get out of — two useless “Nation-building” wars I’m thinking that, while G.T. may not have been much of a religious scholar, he was a frighteningly accurate historical prophet.

  5. FWIW, British Israelism in the USA is well-documented to have evolved into a particularly nasty strain of violent separatist anti-Semitism and white supremacism.

    Perhaps, more than the inherent goofiness, why the WWCOG eventually dropped the argument.

  6. Their discussion of the End Times (click “Download PDF”) rested on some fairly literal interpretation – such as the idea of the 200 million horsemen being actual armies of 200 million human beings.

    200 million men riding horses, I presume? (Although I suppose it could mean 200 million centaurs?). Aside from the horses, though… it’s not any weirder than other prophecies, and a 200 million strong army isn’t *completely* outside the realm of possiblity for an end-of-the-world thing…

  7. Pingback: EoA: Proselytizing with Golf (Part Two) « Apocalypsereview's Blog

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