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Testimony about the Worldwide Church of God

Former Worldwide Church of God folks, discussing their beliefs after the cult. Includes a brief discussion on evolution vs. creationism.

Testimony about the Worldwide Church of God
by former Member/Co-Worker David Lee Mooney

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/errancy/issues/iss170.htm
Excerpt from Dennis McKinsey's Biblical Errancy Issue #170 (February 1997)

This was originally a letter to the editor of Biblical Errancy in the February 1997 issue. This is a revised and updated article. (October 26, 2003). This was originally letter #707 from DM of Supply, North Carolina.

I was born and raised in a Southern Baptist family and went to church as a good Southern Baptist should until Saturday, April 13, 1974 when my family switched from Southern Baptist to the Worldwide Church of God. Earlier, in the fall of 1973, my dad had began to listen to the radio and television broadcasts of Garner Ted Armstrong and to order the booklets and reprint articles that was commonplace in the homes of WCG members. Moreover, he ordered a free subscription to the ~Plain Truth~ and ~Good News~ magazines. I read these magazines with interest and devoured the booklets as well. The ones that most caught my interest were the ones that dealt with eschatological matters, especially the booklet that taught that an ever-burning hell fire was a myth and not a reality. The concept of "soul sleep" did not disturb me at all. It was rather nice to know that although death did not end all there would be no one tortured for all eternity by a wrathful God. I was 16 years old and in the tenth grade when my family made the switch.

The 12-lesson Ambassador College Correspondence Course was also extremely interesting and thought provoking. Its description of a resurrected Holy Roman Empire headed by a revived Germany affected my outlook on current events tremendously. Instead of worrying about the U.S.S.R or China, I began to watch the news more closely and look for events dealing with the European Union in general and Germany in particular. The description of the tremendous prophetic accuracy of Daniel 11 impacted my worldview as well. It seemed to fit so well and cement into my mind that the Bible was indeed the very word of God. Little did I realize that HWA had used selective interpretation of certain historical events to "fit" his worldview. Much later, after I left the WCG, did I realize that there were other churches that interpreted the fullfillments of Daniel 11 quite differently than the one HWA gave. I realized then that historical facts could be eclecticly chosen to give Daniel 11 the appearance of being fullfilled. One classic example of this is the interpretation the Jehovah Witnesses give to Daniel 11. One can receive, gratis, a book on Daniel from the Watchtower Society and read their spin on Daniel 11. They will see at once how easily Daniel 11 can be spun. The Seventh Day Adventist's Ellen G. White had her own twirl on Daniel 11 as well. As does Hal Lindsey, the guru of all modern day prophets.

My dad was the spiritual leader in dispensing these booklets and articles to the rest of the family. My dad went through a very intense period of study and introspection from the fall of 1973 up to the switch to the WCG and even after. I would often see him outside, sitting down and mulling things over in his mind. He would spend his evenings sitting in his chair studying the bible, following along with the evening broadcast coming all the way from New Orleans' AM station. He would dutifully take notes from the broadcast and then he would open a booklet and begin to study that. It was only a matter of time before I too, began to read and to study. It was the first time in my life I actually studied the Bible seriously.

Although I and some of my siblings followed his advice and read the articles that were laying about the home, it was still a surprise when my mother announced to me on Thursday, April 11 that the family would no longer attend the small southern Baptist church that we had attended since moving to South Carolina the previous fall. I had not been prepared because I hadn't studied the issue of the Sabbath well enough to be prepared for such a shift. Nevertheless, not having a choice in the matter and already intrigued by the changes the other literature had wrought in my thinking, I acquiesced and began to study the booklet on the sabbath controversy.

There were so many changes in my thinking that first year. The "truths" of the sabbath, holydays, the myth of the Trinity, the Wednesday Crucifixion replacing the Friday view, the incredible human potential and the idenity of the American and British people were all intriguing. These unique teachings set my family apart from those in the community and the always enjoyable broadcasts from the sharp and witty Garner Ted Armstrong contributed mightily to this wonderful feeling of being "called and chosen of God". We were "set apart" for a holy purpose and I am sure that many ex-WCG members can attest to this fact.

I never became a baptized member but I was a co-worker from 1974-1984. I went through the changes when GTA was removed from his position and the subsequent receivership issue in January 1979. Herbert Armstrong, despite his advanced age, continued tirelessly proclaiming the "Good News" of the World Tommorrow. In December 1984 I stopped attending sabbath services and started an odyssey that took me back and forth across the United States a number of times. My reasons for leaving were not intellectual but of a personal nature. I needed to work out some issues and I carried with me a Scofield Study Bible (KJV) which I studied constantly as I made my journies around the country. Three years passed. After three years removed by WCG indoctrination and reading just the Bible, I did the unthinkable. I stepped foot into a Baptist church in December 1987. It was the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, pastored by Charles F. Stanley, well-known on TBN and other Christian radio and TV stations as an expositor of the Bible. I attended erratically, because I still had a lot of WCG doctrines in my thinking and could not accept everyting Stanley taught. But I had come to the conviction that keeping Sunday would not affect my eternal salvation, so Sunday keeping was an option for me.

After sporadic attendance I became a member of FBA in Spring 1988 and began attending regularly. The Church helped me get a job in the kitchen (we fed about forty workers a weekday and about 400 members on "Family Night" which was Wednesday night). We had occasional luncheons and were especially busy around Christmas time.

During this tine, I balanced my views, sharing some of the beliefs of the members of FBA but still clung to some residual beliefs that I had obtained while in the WCG. I still believed in "soul sleep", for example, and did not think an ever burning hell was a real place.

I even refused to call myself a Baptist but rather called myself a "Christian who worships in a baptist church." I was already a freethinker in the making because I determined that a church would never again dictate for me what was true and what was false without my full informed consent. It is true that my "full informed consent" was insufficient at the time because my idea of full and informed consent was reading apologetic works from different denominations that believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. In other words, I wanted to know what different denominations taught so I could be better qualified to select what was true and what wasn't, but I limited myself to those who believed in the inerrancy of the scriptures. To me, inerrancy couldn't even be debated, so I never thought about reviewing my beliefs on inerrancy, just the different doctrines that denominations disagreed upon.

This criteria didn't last long. When you have spent 10 years of your life in a church believing with all your heart and soul you have the truth and no one else has it, and you are so convinced you have the truth you would even die for it, but later find some of your doctrinal beliefs were in error, it makes it difficult to totally sell out the second time. Yes, I was in a baptist church, but I never sold my soul to them. I began an investigation on Christian doctrines and determined that the FBA would be my home church until I found something better.

I knew then I had been wrong before, terribly wrong, and I didn't want to be wrong again. I could testify how fervently one could believe something, and be absolutely sure of it and later discover it to be false. I would sometimes lie in bed at night and talk to God, imploring him to help me to KNOW the truth. I could see that intelligent people at FBA believed the doctrines they held, so how could they be wrong? But then I remembered that the WCG had their intelligent people too, and they held just as fervently to their beliefs. I didn't imagine myself as intelligent as some of them, so I wondered how could I ever be certain again. I was sure that the intelligent ones prayed just as fervently as I for the truth and yet they arrived at different conclusions from each other. It was becoming obvious to me that intelligence wasn't enough. A person had to totally empty himself of any prior beliefs and start over, even if he had to begin with the basic question of: Is the Christian Bible the word of God? Of course no matter how hard I tried to be impartial, I still was aware that I was prejudiced in my belief that the Bible was the word of God. I had to MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE FAIR.

It was during the summer of 1988 that things really began to change. I first noticed a discrepancy between Matt. 12:40 and the other passages describing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. I also noticed the conflicting genealogies in Matthew and Luke. I read the apologetic works for answers and they all failed to provide satisfying answers. My Christian friends told me to just "trust God", but that didn't help resolve the issue. Once one begins to entertain the very real possibility of mistakes in the Bible, then all kinds of thoughts begin to occur. The implications for a fundamentlist like I was are huge. My whole world view was threatened.

The explanation that HWA used to resolve the "three days and three nights" issue was to me a rather novel one. I read both "The Resurrection was not on Sunday" and "The Crucifixion was not on Friday" in the summer of 1974 and was convinced of the truth of that position. Moreover, the view has grown in popularity amongst evangelical Christians since 1974, including Hal Lindsey, of "The Late Great Planet Earth" fame (who, incidentally, in his 1972 version, proclaimed the return of Christ would occur within 40 years {a biblical "generation"}of the 1948 restoration of the nation of Israel ), and is frequently encountered on newsgroup discussion groups whenever the issue of the conflict between a Good Friday - Easter Sunday resurrection surfaces. I have participated on these discussions a number of times. The weaknesses of the Wednesday crucifixion view are just as glaring as the Friday view once one has lost his "indoctrination" and can weigh both options objectively.

While researching explanations for "supposed" or "alleged" contradictions, I came to realize the worn-out excuses and pathetic "explanations" which is the stock and trade of the well known apologists such as Josh McDowell and Norman Geisler wore thin after some time. I began to realize if one used their methodology to explain contradictions in the Bible the same person could also explain any error in any holy book, including the Koran or the Book of Mormon. The methodology used by such apologists is not only extremely biased but absolutely refuses in advance to consider the possibility of error. This ~a priori~ bias is often projected upon those who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. The apologists accuse the critics of an irrational ~a priori~ bias but is they who have the bias and stubbornly refuse to entertain even the *possibility* of an error in the Bible. I have heard many sermons how history and archaeology have confirmed the Bible record and none have disconfirmed it. This isn't true, of course, as anyone who has read ~Biblical Archaeology Review~ can attest. The problem is this: If a discovery proves a bible record, it is embraced with open arms by fundamentalists. Then they claim to one another, "Nothing has ever disproven the Bible record so we can rely totally on the Bible's accounts." However if something disconfirms a Bible account, fundamentalists dismiss with a wave of the hand the account and calls it "unreliable, the product of biased interpretation, and should be rejected." The methodology is this: If it agrees with the Bible, it is good archaeology. If it disagrees with the Bible, it is bad archaeology and is to be dismissed. You can replace archaeology with science and get the same results. Since a fundamentalist rejects anything that contradicts the Bible and accepts only that which agrees with it, then it is small wonder that in the world of fundamentalism they can say to one another, "There are no facts which dispute the Bible."

Anyway, my change from fundamentalist to liberal Christian to outright infidel took a little over 12 months, from the summer of 1988 to early fall 1989. Once a crack in the dam occurs, it is only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses. Two difficult passages that couldn't be reconciled became outright contradictions, but the implications of Matt. 12:40 being a contradiction did more to damage the trustworthiness of the Bible than the genealogies did. Too much was riding on Matthew 12:40 for it to prove to be a contradiction. Once my bias for the Bible had been damaged, I began to notice more "difficulties" and "discrepancies" that in time I had to admit were contradictions or absurdities. The trickle became a stream, the stream became a flood. You can figure the rest. I left FBA in the fall of 1989 and ceased being a "member" at that time. I called myself a deist when I left and used deist interchangeably with atheist from fall 1989 to fall 1991, at which time I began to have contacts with the writings of freethinkers like myself, and was able to accept the label "atheist" without fear of contradiction. I learned that Christians love to use "atheist: in a very narrow sense as one who denies the existence of God. They refuse to accept another definition of atheist, namely, "one who doesn't believe in God." There is a difference.

And the apologists know it, but they want to retain the narrow sense because it suits their purpose. It suits their purpose because if they can convince their targeted audiences the first definition is the only correct one, they can try to shift the burden of proof to the atheist. Fundamentalists almost universally cringe at the burden of proof. They realize their doctrines and inane beliefs cannot withstand the storm of intellectual and rational attack, so they desparately attempt to shift the burden of proof to the unbeliever. In any forensic/scientific endeavor the burden of proof falls on the one who positively asserts something exists. The person who doubts or disbelieves the assertion does not have the burden to disprove the assertion. Without this simple, axiomatic rule any outrageous claim could be considered true until disproven. And since universal negatives are known to be virtually impossible to disprove, the rule is accepted by most disputants in a given debate (ask a fundamentalist to disprove the existence of elves, leprechauns, invisible unicorns, or invisble giant green spiders that affect human thinking).

In December 1992 while wintering out in San Diego I came across, quite by accident, an ad in a local magazine advertising a freethinkers meeting in a cafe the next day (Sunday). I went to the meeting and from them I came into contact with the Truth Seeker magazine and through them I was able to contact people such as Dennis McKinsey, editor of ~Biblical Errancy~(now defunct) Farrell Till, editor of the ~Skeptical Review~ (also defunct) the Freedom From Religion Foundation, publisher of ~Freethought Today~ and others. I also made contact with Tom Malone, who at the time was a capable editor of ~The Atlanta Freethought Newsletter~.

I especially enjoyed my correspondence with him because in the summer of 1988 we had stood opposite each other as he disputed with fundamentalist men and women the merits of atheism verses theism. The catalyst for this debate was the movie ~The Last Temptation od Christ~ which attracted nearly two thousand angry fundamentalist protesters and (on this day) a sole counter-protester, Tom Malone. He was roped off from the rest but I went over to where he stood and listened to him debate with the fundamentalists. I was one of course but I had just begun to question the authority of the Bible and so I listened objectively as I could. I was still too steeped in fundamentalism to believe everything he said but some of what he said made me rethink some of my own arguments against atheism, including Pascal's Wager. I alwys enjoy hearing from people with experiences like myself.

I have written three articles that appear on the Web :

The Missing Night

Before the Court Ruled - Were They Really the Good Ol' Days?

The Atheist Professor's Brain - Redux
(Co-Written by Dave Mooney)

Refutation of Wednesday Crucifixion2003-08-05

Refutation of Wednesday Crucifixion Part II
2003-08-09

More on the Crucifixion Part One

More on the Crucifixion Part Two

More on the Crucifixion Part Three

More on the Crucifixion Part Four

More on the Crucifixion Part Five

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