Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reading PCG's Booklet, Ezra and Nehemiah (Part 1)

Let us now read Gerald Flurry and Dennis Leap's booklet, Ezra and Nehemiah: Building God's Temple. This booklet was first published in 1997. It was later revised in 2005. You can read the current version of this booklet on their website. That is the same version I am reading for this post.

I have been noticing lately that several of Flurry's booklets are devoted to arguing that only PCG is the legitimate continuation of HWA's WCG. He claims to have God's exclusive favor, being the only true church, as opposed to the numerous other COG splinter group formed in the aftermath of the Tkach changes. Will he and Dennis Leap say that here?
Ezra and Nehemiah discuss these events [concerning the history of the Jews' return from exile] in great detail. But few people realize that these ancient events are actually prophecies for our time. ... This booklet reveals the heavy prophetic flavor contained within the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
In many of Flurry's booklets he insists that (insert name of Biblical book here) is all about the Tkach changes, the rise of PCG in opposition to that, PCG members get to go to the place of safety and all others are doomed to endure the Great Tribulation. Will Flurry and Leap say the same thing in this booklet?

Chapter 1

This chapter opens with Flurry discussing Hezekiah. He is portrayed as a righteous man who later fell because of his pride that the King of Babylon sent messengers to him to inquire of his health. This has already been discussed in the post concerning Flurry's booklet, Isaiah's End Time Vision (Chapter 12).

He ends that section with condemning "the Laodiceans" for not acknowledging HWA as the end time Elijah.
What is the main problem with the Laodiceans today? They do not want to face the really hard questions like—why all of these doctrinal changes? They don’t want to face the really hard question—was Herbert W. Armstrong God’s end-time Elijah? Why? Because they want to
be a part of Babylon. (p. 4.)
In fact many COGs have this teaching. As has been documented elsewhere on this blog, Flurry continuously claims that all of the Laodiceans do not teach that HWA is the end time Elijah. This is complete nonsense but that is what he says repeatedly.

Also I will add that Chapter 12 of Isaiah's End Time Vision is not present in the 2004 version of that booklet, so that section, originally appearing here in Ezra and Nehemiah, was added into Isaiah's End Time Vision after this booklet came out.

He then talks about how the Jews returned from exile and that there were prophets among them. He insists that they were talking about the Tkach changes, the rise of PCG, PCG members go to the place of safety and all others are doomed.
Most religious scholars and even Laodicean ministers teach that the minor prophets primarily contain history. They believe that the minor prophets have no great value for us today. This is radically different from what Herbert Armstrong taught. Mr. Armstrong knew—and taught—that the minor prophets contained vital prophecies for today.

The minor prophets are end-time books. “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:23). This verse shows that Haggai is an end-time book. Remember, the phrase “in that day” always refers to the end time. (pp. 5-6.)
Or maybe he was talking about Zerubbabel.

Or maybe Flurry is using these words to get peoples' money.

Then (big surprise!) Flurry says the Book of Haggai is all about HWA.
The events discussed in the book of Haggai have great meaning and significance for our time now. This book in particular shows the special relationship between the second temple and Zerubbabel. It shows that there was to be an end-time Zerubbabel commissioned by God to build a glorious temple. Mr. Armstrong knew and taught the Church that he fulfilled this role in the end time. Any Laodicean minister or member who knew Mr. Armstrong and willfully denies this fact is not only deceived, but has become very corrupt—spiritually. (p. 6.)
Flurry also uses this thought to claim many of the other COG groups deny that HWA was the end time Zerubbabel.

On pages 6-7 Flurry quotes from HWA's January 20, 1964 co-worker letter. This is the same letter that Flurry quotes in his booklet Haggai: Proof of God's Work Today as discussed previously on this blog.

Flurry then goes on to say that (PCG's) God is always faithful to his promises. So you had better join PCG and pay Flurry and Co. lots of money or you will die in the Great Tribulation.
God has also made a covenant with His end-time spiritual nation—the Church. God expects us to wholeheartedly obey His commandments, statutes and judgments. God’s end-time Laodiceans have become lukewarm in their law-keeping. Terrible punishment is coming. God is using the PCG to warn them. ... Let’s now look more closely at these fascinating books of the Bible! (p. 9.)
Flurry then says it is necessary for the church's ministers to be purified.
We also see in Ezra that the true success of the temple construction project depended upon the purification of the ministry. God’s ministers, or priests, are the temple guardians. “... For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. ..." (Ezra 6:19‑22). A corrupt king and priesthood led to the destruction of Solomon’s temple. A purified priesthood was necessary for the temple to be rebuilt.

Any successful temple building must begin with a pure ministry! All the priests and Levites were “purified together.” Notice that the priests were cleansed first and then the people (verse 20). God expects the ministers to keep themselves pure of heathen filthiness. And He also expects the people to keep themselves pure. When God’s people corrupt themselves, God begins their cleansing by purifying the ministry first.

When God’s ministry purifies itself, then we can be sure that we have all the power of God behind us. Anciently, when the priests and people purified themselves, God performed great miracles for them. (pp. 9-10.)
This is a bad analogy. The purification spoken of in Ezra refers to ritual purification in order for the priests to be able to approach the Temple, not purifying indoctrinating themselves to believe what HWA and Flurry taught them.

While describing the return of the Jews to Judaea Flurry and Leap condemn the frequently made assertion that many from the Kingdom of Israel that fell to Assyria in 721 B.C. also returned at that time.
Some scholars want to say that the people from the house of Israel also returned to Jerusalem at this time. This is just not true. The people who returned to Jerusalem were “children of Israel,” but they were not from the tribes of the “house of Israel.” (p. 11.)
Then why was Anna, who was mentioned in Luke, of the tribe of Asher?

Considering that scripture it is clear that many from the Kingdom of Israel probably also returned at this time. However it would appear that those people became culturally absorbed into the Jews, hence they all, collectively, became known as Jews.

Also it needs to be stated that the idea that the British and the Americans are decended from Biblical Israelites, which is called British Israelism, is completely false British Israelism, is completely false. It is total nonsense.

Also see DNArefutesBI on this topic. There is no ancestral link between White Europeans and the Jewish people. It is nonsense.

The chapter ends with these words "warning" the people in the other COG groups that they must join PCG or die.
Because of the great spiritual wealth God gave the Laodiceans, their coming captivity will end in the loss of their physical lives—for one half of them, their spiritual lives will be lost as well! There is still time to repent—but the window of opportunity is closing rapidly! (p. 12.)
Once again we see PCG's leaders crudely threatening COG members that they must join PCG or die in the Great Tribulation.

My word! That chapter was boring. Much of this I had already read in a version of Isaiah's End Time Vision and Haggai: Proof of God's Work Today. To be fair I will state that the section regarding Hezekiah's supposed fall was added in a later edition of Isaiah's End Time Vision so that was perhaps original for this booklet. I hope the rest of this booklet is not like this.

Chapter 2

Now the authors say that PCG must be united as one man by rallying around God.
God’s Philadelphia work cannot be truly successful unless there is unity—unity among the ministers—unity among the brethren—all unified together! The way we attain this level of unity is by rallying around God.

How much evil is there in division? How much rebellion is there in division? Disunity and division are harmful to all individuals involved and negatively affect the entire work. ... Being in subjection to each other requires true humility. Each member should strive to be in subjection to God’s faithful ministers. And God’s Philadelphia ministers must tirelessly serve the needs of God’s Philadelphia Church above their own. That is being in subjection one to another! (p. 13.)
So shut up and do what the PCG minister tells you to do.

But elsewhere it is taught that God only works through one man at a time, and that this one man is Gerald Flurry according to PCG, and also PCG has one man rule, the rule of Gerald Flurry. PCG's leaders say it is the rule of God, but actually it is the rule of Gerald Flurry.

 Then the authors talks about how the Jews built the altar first.
This fact may appear to be somewhat strange to us at first look. (p. 14.)
Is "first look" grammatical? I have never heard of this expression before.
The Philadelphia Church of God ministry is committed to fully support all of the doctrines established in the Church by Mr. Armstrong. This does not mean we will not come to understand new truth. A thorough study of our literature reveals that the PCG is growing significantly in its understanding of prophecies concerning the Laodicean era. (p. 15.)
The authors have just made two contradictory statements. On the one hand they claim "to fully support all of the doctrines established in the Church by Mr. Armstrong."

Then in the next breath the authors say that PCG may "come to understand new truth."

Some of these new truths have contradicted what HWA taught. For instance HWA taught that Prophet under the New Testament dispensation have no administrative authority. This is what HWA taught from 1953 till the day he died. But in 1999 Gerald Flurry proclaimed himself to be That Prophet. PCG has even altered Mystery of the Ages in order to obscure the facts surrounding what HWA really taught.

This claim that PCG is able to reveal "new truth" essentially allows PCG's leaders to alter HWA's teachings (and even his writings) at will.
We must build the PCG ministry and God’s Church on a foundation that was previously laid. We must reset the altar upon its bases. Where do we find the correct foundation? This foundation was laid by Herbert Armstrong! (p. 15.)
But as previously stated, if new truth should come along and be accepted by PCG's leaders the teachings can be changed at will.

As always the Laodiceans are threatened with the Great Tribulation unless they join PCG, pay then three tithes, attend services every Saturday, attend the Feast of Tabernacles as ordered, do whatever the PCG minister says, shun any Laodicean (even close family members), etc, etc.
The Laodiceans today are not offering according to God’s law. God is growing increasingly fed up with their religion (Malachi 2:1-3). Unless they repent, they are going to suffer Judah’s fate. (p. 16.) 
What did they do wrong?
Since Mr. Armstrong’s death, all of the Laodicean groups have rejected the restored knowledge about the government of God. They no longer believe in government from the top down. They no longer accept the fact that God leads through one man at a time. They have set up their own forms of a “committee” type of government. They no longer have God’s government. (p. 16.)
This is nonsense. Many other COG groups have one man rule, just as PCG has. (As established elsewhere "government of God" means "one-man rule".) Some of the more extreme COGs even boast that one can only be a true Christian by being in their group and no other. Why does Flurry say untrue things?
All of the Laodicean groups have rejected Mr. Armstrong as God’s end-time Elijah. (p. 17.)
Many COG groups teach that HWA was the end time Elijah. Why does Flurry say untrue things?
The Worldwide Church of God (WCG), the Global Church of God, and the United Church of God have all turned away from this revealed form of government—but they act like they still have God’s government! (p. 18.)
I find it odd that Flurry and Leap are still talking about the Global Church of God in this booklet, which was revised in 2005. One would have thought they would have updated this statement.

The authors then gave advice about how to set up PCG as a prosperous church.
The only way we can do this is through prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. We must carefully counsel and teach the men, women and children what God has entrusted to our care. Counseling and speaking are our first lines of contact with God’s people. These are the two main tools we have to build with. A solid temple is built through Bible-based counseling and basic sermons. Counseling and sermon preparation are the toughest parts of our jobs. (p. 20.)
That's the hardest part?

Also non-COG readers will not be aware that in the world of the COGs "counseling" is when a minister gives advice which is expected to be followed. Alas, very often this has been used to treat people in an exploitative and distressing manner.

Then the authors talk about what PCG members need to do to produce a great church.
You as a PCG member must strive to be the best member you can be, just as each of our ministers must strive to be the best minister he can be. Your approach to your spiritual life determines whether you are a cedar tree or a pine. A craftsman is only as good as the quality of the material he works with. Inferior building materials produce weak structures. PCG members must dedicate themselves to becoming the very best spiritual material. (p. 21.)
And how is that done?
The way we ensure that we are of the highest quality spiritual material is through obedience to God’s law and government. (p. 21.)
In other words, do as you are told. Do not ask questions. Do not let conscience be your guide. Leave your brains at the door.

Chapter 3

In this chapter the authors begin by stating that PCG's ministers must use God's government and create a haven of holiness for PCG members.

Then the authors say this.
God’s ministers must also learn to detect enemies of the work. ... The true but sad history of God’s Church has always been that some people in our midst are actually enemies, feigning a cloak of fellowship, with the sole intent of destroying the work. As builders of God’s temple, we must grasp this reality. ... we must be ever watchful of “adversaries.” God does not expect us to seek fellowship with all people that profess to be “seeking God.” (pp. 24-5.)
PCG's ministers are scared that "enemies" will arise within PCG?

What paranoid madness!
God uses men to do His work on this Earth. So does Satan the devil. He will plant people within our congregations to disrupt, harm and destroy the work of God. It generally does not take long to determine who should fellowship with us and who should not. Eventually, some people’s true motives come to light. (p. 25.)
My word! Flurry and Leap are paranoid. Or at least that is how they portray themselves.

Flurry and Leap then mock the other COG groups and accuse them of relaxing.
The word weakened in Hebrew means “to relax” or “to lose courage” ... . That is exactly what Satan wants all of God’s people to do—relax! Look at what Satan has done to the Laodiceans. They are doing a great job of relaxing. They have also lost courage in guarding true doctrine. (p. 25-6.)
In fact many of the other COG groups continue to believe most of HWA's doctrines. It is inaccurate for Flurry and Leap to accuse them of relaxing. It is impossible to believe all of his doctrines because he made many false predictions and he even went back and forth on several issues so no one believes everything he taught. Why do Flurry and Leap say untrue things?
God’s ministers must make sure that all members of the local congregations are striving to live by Church doctrine and obey God’s laws. God’s true Church has always had its enemies. History shows that our adversaries have always tried to work from within our own ranks. We must maintain a careful, spiritual watch over our flocks. (p. 26.)
Wow. Flurry and Leap must really want PCG members to keep paying their three tithes and extra offerings.

After that he then appeals to the example of HWA to further justify this behavior to take care and "enemies" and "adversaries".

As Flurry and Leap are fear mongering about coming crises to hit PCG. To support this alarmist fear mongering the authors quote a newspaper ad from 1994. 
The Milwaukee Journal published the following ad for a powerful religious organization in its Parade magazine on April 17, 1994: (p. 26.)
The ad is then quoted at length ending with these words.
“You might like to read something about Bible interpretation. Write for our free pamphlet Some Bible Beliefs Have to be Wrong” (emphasis mine).
This ad is a sign of things to come. It probably shows that our message is being heard by these people. Could the officials of this religious organization be watching our Key of David broadcast closely? If they are, they’re very unhappy with our message.
What are Flurry and Leap talking about? Well, turns out that Some Bible Beliefs Have to be Wrong is actually a Catholic pamphlet criticizing some of the heresies of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It was produced by the Knights of Columbus in 1963.

So it seems more likely that these Catholics are trying to warn people about the errors of the Jehovah's Witnesses. At least that is what they are advertizing.

Also running a newspaper advertizement is not persecution and it is not that much a crisis. Unless you are worried that a lot of people may stop paying you money. It is quite likely a large share of income is from non-PCG members. That was certainly the case in HWA's WCG before the receivership crisis. That is one reason why the receivership occurred, the initiators of the lawsuit wanted to reach out to non-WCG member co-workers and reveal that there were severe problems regarding how finances were managed.
We may not be the high and mighty of this world. We may not be the well-known of the WCG. We may not be evangelists—but we do have credentials. We are God’s servants. We have God’s backing. We get our authority from Almighty God! (pp. 29-30.)
Flurry often feels the need to explain away why no prominent WCG leader chose to join PCG. When PCG started up the prominent leaders of WCG chose not to follow him. As far as I know aside from Gerald Flurry and John Amos no other WCG minister joined PCG. Those who had personally worked with HWA himself were not impressed with PCG and did not join. This should have been obvious to Flurry because he was just another WCG minister.

Instead quite a few ministers left WCG and started up or joined rival COG groups. Flurry must have hated that his claim to be the only legitimate successor to HWA should be weakened in this way. He would have hated seeing all those potential converts join other COG groups and thus not paying PCG any money.

Alas, in 2000 he, through M. Nash, ordered PCG members to shun the members of rival COG groups. Instead of being satisfied that he created one of the major COG splinter groups he jealously wanted it all and instructed PCG members to shun the members of other COG groups.
When the PCG made its humble entrance on the scene in 1989, many said we would not last five months. We were not intimidated! After completing our first year, someone said we were a peanut shell on a big ocean going nowhere. We continued working for God! Now, with more than 15 years in operation—now, after broadcasting on over 80 television stations—now, after growing to over 300,000 in our Philadelphia Trumpet subscription—we don’t hear many comments like those listed above. (p. 31.)
Who are the many who said PCG would not last five months? Who said they were like a peanut shell? Was it Meredith?

So The Philadelphia Trumpet has 300,000 subscribers he reveals. Is it still like that?
Today, people often ask, “Where does Mr. Flurry get his authority? Where does Mr. Flurry and the PCG get the authority to rebuild a temple? [He actually means a church here.] ” ... The documents authorizing the PCG and our work are the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. The PCG is the only church that holds onto all of what Christ established in the Church through Mr. Armstrong. No other church associating itself with the name of Herbert Armstrong can truthfully make that claim! (p. 30.)
PCG cannot truthfully make that claim. They have changed numerous doctrines of HWA and even altered his writings for their convenience. Herbert W. Armstrong said New Testament prophets had no administrative authority, even writing this in Mystery of the Ages. That is what HWA taught from 1953 till the day of his death. Gerald Flurry says he is That Prophet and uses this title to justify his rule over PCG. To keep Flurry happy PCG's leaders simply altered HWA's writings. They have made at least two other alterations to his writings as well.
The facts surrounding the beginning of the Philadelphia Church of God are not only exciting, they are unique to modern-day, true Church history. No minister had ever been fired, prior to December 7, 1989, for fully supporting Mr. Armstrong! (p. 30.)
How can anyone "fully support... Mr. Armstrong"? HWA went back and forth on several issues and he made many false prophesies. How can these be supported?

HWA predicted Christ would return in 1936, then the end of World War II, then 1975, then he predicted Christ would return by 2005 in his last book, Mystery of the Ages. These false prophesies have all failed. How can HWA be fully supported on these issues? Is it right in God's eyes to support error?

HWA said (1) makeup was fine and proper, then (2) he said it was sinful, then (3) HWA allowed it again, then (4) HWA pretended to never know about it being allowed again in order to get his second wife to divorce him and banned it again. You must decide he was wrong at some point and right at another point. How can HWA be fully supported? Is it right in God's eyes to support error? (Flurry has decided HWA was right to ban makeup and has continued to impose this makeup ban.)

Also notice how Flurry and Leap give no acknowledgement whatsoever to Jules Dervaes. It needs to be stated that many of the ideas within Malachi's Message were plagiarized from The Letter to Laodicea by Jules Dervaes, written December 1986-January 1988. It was sent to 237 WCG ministers including Gerald Flurry and John Amos. In fact on September 26, 1990 Jules Dervaes sent a letter to Gerald Flurry in which he denounces Malachi's Message as "a direct and clear plagiarism" of his work. Flurry has been able to do so many things because of what he took from Dervaes' writings and Dervaes is treated as though he does not exist. His (unintended) vital contribution to establishing PCG is simply ignored.

I am impressed with how cult-like this statement is. This statement is perfectly designed to discredit every other COG group and to "prove" that one must obey Gerald Flurry and do what he says, even if it means shunning family and friends or paying three tithes and extra offerings. All the ministers who were fired by HWA under his watch are simply discredited for defying HWA. Even if HWA later did as the disfellowshipped minister wanted he got no credit for his foresight but was cruelly treated as a non-person not worth mentioning and Gerald Flurry continues with ignoring such people. 

Also did any of the other ministers who were fired from WCG alter HWA's writings?

And so chapter 3 comes to an end.

This was always going to take awhile so I shall end this post here and continue with Chapter 4 and onwards in a future post.

To be continued...

(Update: June 24, 2014: The rest of this booklet is discussed in Part 2 and Part 3 of this discussion.)

1 comment:

  1. If Herbert Armstrong was the "End Time" anything, the end time has come and gone. Herbert Armstrong was a kook!

    As for the crap about eras, well... Robert Coulter debunks all that in his just released book, "The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day)". In Chapter 23, "Herbert W. Armstrong's Relationship to the Church of God," Robert Coulter really lets Herbert Armstrong have it: "lapse of integrity" -- translation, "Herbert Armstrong lied" and "he deceived his followers" quote leaves no doubt. Here's a nifty chapter subtitle: "Breaking a pledge". The following subtitles are: "Play on the names Sardis and Philadelphia," and "Demise of Armstrong's church empire". Robert Coulter quotes the Bible Advocate and Herbert Armstrong. The result? Herbert Armstrong's title should have been, "End Time Liar".

    Which now Gerald Flurry can have, as the mantle has passed to him: The filthy coat covered with offal (we are not forgetting that Herbert Armstrong committed incest with his youngest daughter for 10 years, supposedly as he started his "independent ministry" -- another lie, since the CoG7 was still paying his salary).

    Doesn't Gerald Flurry have somewhere to be?

    You know, like the Lake of Fire?