Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why Does a Church Leader Not Teach his own Religion?

(Please note: The link goes to an Armstrongite blog run by one James Malm.)

Another grievance Steven Andrews presented to David Hulme in his letter (which has been discussed on this blog here and here) is Hulme's tendency to not teach Armstrongism in the publications of COG-AIC, the religion it is supposed to preach. Andrews discusses this at great length.
Surely you remember Mr. Armstrong’s public repentance with respect to Human Potential and Quest?  He labeled that initiative as a misdirection and a misuse of God’s tithes because they exalted human achievement and humanist efforts.  They did nothing to advance the gospel and Mr. Armstrong ceased to publish them.  On one occasion, you told me that you had been advised to abandon “your crusade.  Is this your crusade, to recreate in some way Human Potential and Quest?  Is that why “Vision” approaches the “gospel” in the manner that it does?  If so, then appreciate that the Father will not, indeed cannot, bless our efforts if those efforts represent your initiatives. And he has not blessed those efforts.
The second question is: So what? In other words, what is its impact of the message we have been sending out?  I have spoken to you before about Isaiah 55:5-11 and Romans 9:6-7; 10:14-20; 11:1-5?  Both sections of scripture speak to the Father’s will to call people.   No one is being called.  Isaiah says that when the word of the Lord goes forth, it does not come back empty, yet Vision only comes back empty.  Paul says if we preach it they will come.  We say we are preaching it, but no one comes.  Our standard answer for this phenomenon is that the Father is not calling at this time.  Is that the case or is it the case that we have not, and are not, sending his message to the world?  This is not about numbers, it is about a message that goes out in the earth and because of its special qualities of content is, through the power of Holy Spirit, blessed by the Father so that it provides an increase in righteousness (Acts 2:47).  Why do you refuse to consider that the words that go out in Vision are more yours than the Father’s?  Is it appropriate to blame our Father in heaven when we fall short?  Another discussion that has not taken place is one concerning whether we are “seeding” the right field.  We have all heard your explanations about the gatekeeper concept – fine –but what about Matthew 13?  Do we really believe that gatekeepers – leaders in this world – are going to carry the message we have been tasked to take to the world (Acts 26 suggests the opposite).

Two examples (hundreds could be referenced) suffice to illustrate the problem:  In your article (May 2001 the Vision version not the CGN version), “The Violent Heart,” you concluded this:
How, then, do we begin to come to terms with the violence that seems so naturally a part of us? There is no question that understanding what we are up against in the spirit world is central. A strong sense of personal moral identity is also a key. Knowing who we are morally – cannot be underestimated. This speaks to the early and continuous formation of character: knowing what is right and exercising the will to do it Glover writes: “The sense of moral identity is one relevant aspect of character Those who have a strong sense of who they are and of the kind of person they want to be have an extra defence against conditioning in cruelty, obedience or ideology.”
This passage begs a number of questions:

  • Why are we speaking of conditioning against violence when the good news is that our Father through his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit is going to give all mankind a new heart. (Isaiah 9; Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 20). ...
  • Why isn’t Paul’s experience in Romans 7 referenced here?  Indeed, why does anyone care what Jonathan Glover thinks?  Certainly our Father does not. 
  • And why are we preaching Jonathan Glover’s message instead of Jesus’ message?
  • Why aren’t we talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in giving mankind the power to come to terms with his moral identity (Jeremiah 17:9)?
When one reads about people like the Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Bashar al Assad the problem is not the absence of a sense of identity, who they think they are or what they want to be. All of these people have an outrageously over stimulated sense of who they are and what they want to be. Their psychopathy of narcissism is so fully developed that they became megalomaniacal and then sociopathic. Their inflated sense of self, like Satan’s, reflects an absence of a moral connection to anyone or anything but self. What do self-styled messiah’s like Glover tell us about changing these people?  Is it your belief that somehow all men and women will, of themselves, simply decide to be “moral” people? And if so, moral according to whose standard? ...
Andrews then discusses another article by Hulme in which Hulme promotes neuroplasticity as a way of improving one's mental health. It is Andrews' contention that neuroplasticity is being used to replace Armstrongism. Andrews wonders why is it that a leading COG minister is promoting neuroplasticity instead of the religion he is supposed to preach.

In your recent publication Big Questions — Straight Answers beginning on page 110 in the article entitled, “A Change of Mind,” you write this: “The role of the will in change of heart and mind is part and parcel of the conceptual framework we use to explain how our decision making is affected by our own independent thought processes.” “…We are not irreversibly programmed by our genes nor by our early environment; we can make changes in our existence by conscious, willed thought (emphasis added) leading to action.” “… In other words we can change our own patterns of thought and behavior by our self-directed will.” (Emphasis added). Neuroplasticity is the solution for certain disorders and behavioral problems and because it has benefit in certain limited situations it “goes without saying” that neuroplasticity is the answer in other “mental and behavioral impasses.” (See page 111, last paragraph, first sentence. It does not “go without saying” according to the apostle Paul).

You go on to state this: “The new findings have profound implications for improvement in the most difficult and sensitive human problems from depression to addictions of all kinds and even protracted national and international deadlocks.” You then reference a Four Steps program in which people learn to recognize what is happening inside their brains and “take appropriate self-directed or willed actions.” The apostle James (chapter 4) is under the impression that war (international deadlocks) is the result of the exercise of man’s self-will.  Who is correct in your view?  Schwartz or the apostle James?  One presumes, given the context, that the purpose of self-directed or willed action is to solve man’s thinking problem.  How does neuroplasticity compare to Jeremiah 31:33?  Is there a new moral code that is a substitute for an ancient moral code that needs to be imbedded in man’s heart (mind) for man to change?

You then reference a “spiritual” parallel. You speak of the Hebrew term “shub” and the Greek term “metanoeo.” You equate Schwartz’s four steps program with Biblical repentance and then state: “Another way of saying it is that sin can be overcome through change at the conscious level of the mind when the will is engaged (emphasis added).” This, you later describe as “the only way forward, the way to health both physically and spiritually (emphasis added).” Continuing on, you conclude that: “What we have not understood until recently is the role of the physical brain in this process. Once the will to change is engaged and specific actions are taken, new neural pathways are created and new attitudes and new behaviors result.  The more we take the new action, the more lasting the behavior becomes (emphasis added).”  “…The way out of human problems as diverse as obsessive-compulsive disorder, bad habits, racial prejudice, hate crimes, depression, brutality, and exploitation of others remains a fundamental change of mind (emphasis added).”
Again, a number of questions come to mind:

You reference sin but sin is the transgression of the Father’s law (I John 3:4).  It is also anything done that is not done from faith in the Father and the Son (Romans 14:28).  What is it that Jeffrey Schwartz can tell us or mankind in general about those things?  Aren’t we the ones who have to tell people those things?  And if we don’t, how will they know?

When you speak of lasting changes are you talking about change for as long as one lives or for all eternity. The question needs to be asked because the good news is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit mankind can have lasting change for all eternity.  Can Jeffrey Schwartz promise that or is that something that can come only through the name “Jesus Christ” (Acts 4:12)?  Seems like this is something we should have said in this article.

I thought the way out of human problems was Jesus Christ living his life in us (Romans 6).  The good news is that he will if we are willing.  However, can we be willing without the Holy Spirit? (Romans 8:7).  True Biblical repentance is a gift from the Father (Romans 3 and Ephesians 2).

How can what you discuss in this article be said to be the Father’s words when so many fundamental truths are omitted?
Also in this article, you reference, but do not quote the Judeo-Christian scriptures — why?  And technically, they are not the Judeo-Christian scriptures they are the words of Elohim, the Most High, YHWH, El Olam, El Shaddai – see II Timothy 3:16-17.  This kind of obfuscation cannot be pleasing to the Father.  You speak of what they say as “tradition” but they are much more than that — they are TRUTH – the words of LIFE. 
You then say as part of an ongoing, and frankly convoluted, conclusion, this: “As we have seen.” As we have seen? You referenced a Hebrew word and a Greek word and quoted absolutely no scriptures and provided no context in which those words are used to define repentance scripturally. We have seen exactly nothing of what the scriptures say. Don’t you think such a statement is deceitful and insincere and cuts against even what Jeffrey Schwarz recommends we do to practice his notion of “repentance”? (See your last paragraph and in particular the last two sentences of that paragraph on page 113).

In fact, your idea of the Biblical definition of repentance – “introspecting and changing our way of doing so that change is lasting,” while acceptable to Jeffrey Schwartz, falls far short of statements by John the Baptist, Jesus, the Apostles and in particular, II Corinthians 7.
Near the end of his letter Andrews reveals some of the tension within the COG-AIC leadership arising from Hulme's promotion of neuroplasticity.
Your [David Hulme's] attempts in two separate board meetings and in the pages of Vision, to construct from the psychology of neuroplasticity, “our new way forward,” is nothing more than a corruption of I Corinthians 2 and the gospel.  It denies the power of the Holy Spirit.  You have no cause to be angry with me for whatever it is you think I did to prevent such a perversion of the truth. So that you know, the last sermon I gave, entitled “Curing the Defect” was not per se a response to your attempt to substitute neuroplasticity for the work of the Holy Spirit, it was the same sermon I gave on Pentecost in 1999 and one you sent to be played in all churches. The purpose of the sermon was to help us all prepare for the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Your angry reaction and that of John Anderson, to that sermon begs the question: What happened between Pentecost of 1999 and January of 2013 to make that sermon unacceptable?
This is a very intriguing question that Andrews has put out into the open. Why will a church leader not teach the religion he is paid to promote and teach?

No wonder there seems to be so much dissatisfaction within Hulme's church at the moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment