Monday, January 24, 2011

A Pattern of Dishonest Documentation

I happened across an article on the Living Church of God website that I want to expound upon today. It's not the article in particular that I care about, rather I want to use it to point out something I see way too much of. I just get so very tired of blatant, willful adulteration of facts.
Here is the opening paragraph from the LCG article:
In an article on syncretism in the 1911 edition of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, it says: ‘Its (syncretism) most frequent use, however, is in connexion with the religious development of antiquity, when it denotes the tendency, especially prominent from the 2nd to the 4th centuries of the Christian era, to simplify and unify the various pagan religions … Syncretism even went so far as to blend the deities of paganism and Christianity …  The triumph of Christianity itself represented a result of syncretism, the Church being a blending of the beliefs and practices of both the new and old religions.
-Roger Meyer, “Is Religious Syncretism A Good Thing?”,, 12-28-2010
Just reading that paragraph alone, what does that lead you to believe? I don’t know about you, but it leads me to believe that the Christians in the 2nd to the 4th century were unifying pagan religions into Christianity. In fact, that is the very stated thrust of the entire article. It goes on to say, “A whole host of pagan practices and symbols were absorbed into Christianity.
Funny - no mention of how paganism was literally outlawed in the Empire in the 390's AD.

We don’t deny that some pagan symbols were adopted into Christianity. It’s true! But it isn't nearly as wide-spread as the COGs would have us believe.
Sola scriptura!

What my article today is about is the way Armstrongist media outlets tend to do (or rather tend not to do) research.
Over the years I’ve seen grossly absurd examples of the butchering of source material by Armstrongists who want to turn something into a jab against their competition. It’s as if they feel no compunction whatsoever against selectively quoting a source and totally, completely changing its meaning into something entirely different.
One person butchers the facts, another quotes him, then another, then another, and before you know it you have a perfect example of the “lie told often enough.”

One day I happened across a man on the Internet who was trying to tell everyone that there was a rock carving depicting Assyrian King Shalmaneser capturing the leaders of the “lost ten tribes of Israel.” He had names and a whole back story to go with it. It seemed really, really well researched!
…Until I checked his facts.
Well, turns out the carving he showed us was the Behistun Inscription. It is not Assyrian whatsoever. It is in Iran and was carved by Darius the Mede around 500 BC. It includes an inscription written in Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian text. It has no mention of Assyria or the Israelites at all.
If WikiPedia can be believed [I know! I know.], the notion that it speaks of Israel apparently comes from a man by the name of Sir Robert Porter who originally made this claim around 1821.
So it has been known that this story is false for some time now. Did the guy I met care about the truth? No.
What was the man’s response when I told him the truth? He at first deleted my comments. When I put them back, he said this, “This had to be something God wanted to be forgotten, and then around the End of Man's rule on the Earth, all God would put into men's hearts to search, and discover our Ancient Roots.”

So God caused the rock to be changed because He wanted the truth to be hidden, but right before the Tribulation, He’s going to change it back? Well, alrighty then.

Is this man a lone nut? Nut, perhaps. Lone, no. He fell from the tree of Armstrong and didn’t roll far.
For example, read our article “True History of the True Church?”. For another example, read our article “Another True History?” Or for another example, read our article “Rome’s Challenge”. All fine examples of delusion vanquishing reality and a lie told often enough.
This pattern is just typical of how Armstrongists seem to not want to be forthcoming with the facts.

But just to drive the point home I want to ask you something. 
The LCG article mentions the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 edition’s article on Syncretism, did you ever read it for yourself? 
I did. Here’s what I found.

Sure, those words are right there in the encyclopedia as claimed. Not a word was changed. But Roger Meyer, the “Guest Columnist” who wrote the article for LCG, left something out – something important.
Do you see how Mr. Meyer breaks up the source quote into three sections by using ellipses (those three … dots)? Those three dots mean that something has been left out. Usually what is left out is unimportant filler info. But what I found is that there is critically important information skipped over inside those ellipses.

Let’s read what was passed over by the first set of ellipses, the part immediately after, “to simplify and unify the various pagan religions”. Here’s the part you didn’t get to see:
"During this period, as a result of the intimate knowledge of the world's religions made possible by the gathering of every known cult of importance into the religious system of the Roman Empire, belief in the identity of many deities which resembled each other, and indeed in the essential identity of all, received a special impulse. Not only were various forms of the same deity, such as, for example, Jupiter Capitolinus and Jupiter Latiaris, recognized as being really the same under different aspects, but even the gods of different nations were seen to be manifestations of a single great being. Roman Jupiter, Greek Zeus, Persian Mithras and Phrygian Attis were one. The Great Mother, Isis, Ceres, Demeter, Ops, Rhea, Tellus, were the same great mother deity under different masks (see Great Mother Of The Gods). Venus and Cupid, Aphrodite and Adonis, the Great Mother and Attis, Astarte and Baal, Demeter and Dionysus, Isis and Serapis, were essentially the same pair."

Well, isn’t that interesting! The quoted selection made me think the Catholics were being syncretistic, when it was the pagans of the Roman Empire who were being syncretistic.

Think about it. The second century is the 100’s AD, and the fourth century is the 300’s AD. What was happening for the majority of that time? Why, the Christians were being slaughtered for refusing to blend their faith with paganism in even the slightest way. Do you suppose it was the Encyclopedia Britanica that forgot about that? Hardly. Does what this LCG article claims make any sense, then? No. It does not.
These people are historically illiterate! Yet they claim this is God's truth.

What about the next set of elipses? The ones right after "Syncretism even went so far as to blend the deities of paganism and Christianity." This is an even better example than the last! Let’s read:
"Christ was compared with Attis and Mithras, Isis with the Virgin Mary, & Isis, perhaps more than any other deity, came to be regarded as the great maternal goddess of the universe whose essence was worshiped under many different names."
Was this the Christians doing this? No. This was the pagans! 
The pagan syncretists were merging their many gods into one, therefore they claimed Jesus is Attis and Mithra and etc. But you wouldn’t have known that by reading the high-quality, “truthful” work posted on the LCG website.

Now we go to the last section of the source quote; the part that says this, "The triumph of Christianity itself represented a result of syncretism, the Church being a blending of the beliefs and practices of both the new and old religions.
That happens to be the last sentence in the encyclopedia article. Do you know what comes immediately before it? This:
Syncretic, being a movement toward monotheism, was the converse of the tendency, so prominent in the early history of Rome, to increase the number of deities by worshiping the same god under special aspects according to special activities. In the hands of the Neoplatonists it was instrumental in retarding somewhat the fall of paganism for the time, but in the end contributed to the success of Christianity by familiarizing men with the belief in one supreme deity.
What this says is, before the Roman pagans started merging their gods, they had at first split and multiplied their gods. The syncretists therefore helped Christ to conquer paganism by preparing the Roman mind for monotheism. The Church triumphed with the help of syncretism.

Then this one last half-sentence comes, “the Church being a blending of the beliefs and practices of both the new and old religions.” 
And this is the only part of the entire article that even begins to suggest that Christianity absorbed paganism. One part of one sentence.

Is it just me, or do you find the way the LCG massaged the facts to be deceitful too?

But there’s more! 

Do you suppose the author of that article knew that when the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 edition was written, it was a generally accepted thing that Christianity absorbed paganism, but that is not generally accepted anymore? Did you know that?

This idea that Christianity absorbed paganism came mainly from a group of German religious historians called the “History of Religion School.” Here's a quote from Ronald Nash's book "The Gospel and the Greeks" page 1:
"During the period of time running roughly from 1890 to 1940, scholars often alleged that primitive Christianity had been heavily influenced by Platonism, Stoicism, the pagan mystery religions, or other movements in the Helenistic world [by this he means the entire Roman Empire]. ... Today most Bible scholars regard the question as a dead issue."
A dead issue.
But that doesn’t stop the Armstrongists from promoting it as “God’s truth” and condemning the remainder of Christendom with it.

Have you ever wondered why an organization in 2010 is using the 1911 version of an encyclopedia as his primary reference? Now you know why. Because it's more likely to say what they want. 
 Do you think they’ve read anything recent? I believe they will read about anything, so long as it says (or can be made to say) what they want it to say. Well, maybe not "read" so much as "selectively read and deceptively misquote." You've seen what they did to the encyclopedia. So check those sources! 

This kind of manipulation happens far too often! And it makes me sick because people out there base their eternal lives on this stuff, and then they condemn people using articles like this as "proof." I find this to be completely unacceptable.
I suggest you read stop reading the articles on the LCG website and pick up a copy of Mr. Nash’s book. Read it for yourself. It’s quite interesting! 

In closing, I would like to ask you one simple question: would the "one true church" really lie to people like this?  

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

I checked the link to the LCG article on 11/29/11. Still there! Unchanged.

Dillon said...

X, am I the only one who is aware of this kind of reasoning? Lo and behold I find something similar to this kind of tactics in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code! He claimed that the person sitting next to Jesus is a woman because,"the figure had long flowing hair and a delicate face" Notice the same tactic Hislop and Armstrong have used! They offer up an illustration as the supposed proof and then they deviate from the supposed proof. Long flowing hair and delicate face does not automatically mean a woman and neither does a drawing with a snake wrapped around a stump mean a Christmas tree. Am I not correct?

xHWA said...

You are correct, Dillon!

I shudder to think of how many times I have seen people make life decisions based of of that sort of "reasoning" you mention. Especially in regards to Christmas.

I try to remind people of some basic standards of evidence, like "commonality does not prove causailty" (just because two things are similar doesn't mean they're related.) We have to prove a link between two things, not just infer one.