I reluctantly give Beyond Babylon: Europe’s Rise and Fall 2 stars. Why 2 stars? Well, I ended up justifying it with the fact that even a broken clock is correct twice per day. Even those on the Church of God (COG) extreme fringe are bound to get a few things right.
So, why do I even take the time to read and review this drivel? Well, for the same reason I keep a blog. Instead of reading reviews from anti-COG, anti-Armstrong pundits, I hope to balance it out with a view from a regular Church of God Perspective.
All in all, it reads like a stream of consciousness instead of a scholarly piece of work. There are twists and turns that make it hard to follow, he doesn’t address foundational COG theology at all until the last half of the book, it is filled with questionable and racist remarks, strange hyperbole and wild assertions. In spite of this, there are some positives to the book.
Twisty Maze of Passages
Where do I even begin? Reading it gave me a headache, esp. the 1st half of the book. Ben-Ariel flips through subjects at a dizzying rate and with little or no supporting evidence. In one paragraph, he will give numerous texts as support for a minor point, and then in the next he’ll discuss something only tangentially related with no Scriptural support at all. I got whiplash in the section entitled “An Unholy Trinity”, where he goes right into ranting about evolution. He never does explain the “trinity” in that section or in the one that follows it. He spends most of the first half of the book just wildly throwing out facts, ideas and opinions with little tangible evidence. It isn’t until the second half he even addresses some of these issues. I thought several times about just putting it down and walking away in the first 4 chapters. Indeed, in the final analysis, it is really much more of a rant than a thesis.
While some of his ideas are based upon traditional COG doctrines, if he truly wants to address the US, Great Britain, modern day Israel and Europe, then he will need to go to great lengths to explain those doctrines. Otherwise, they will be foreign concepts to them and get summarily dismissed as not being seriously investigative, and they are much more likely than I to completely stop reading before he gets around to explaining them. For example, does he prove US-British roots? He waits until Chapter 5 to offer any Bible verses at all, and even then he basically glosses over it in only 5 paragraphs. Does he prove revival of Holy Roman Empire? He spouts off about it on and off during the 1st half of the book, and he really doesn’t address why it must be a Roman power until Chapter 6. I’m not satisfied that he has gone in sufficient depth in either case. He admits on one of his numerous web sites (he has like 41 sites just on Blogger alone!) that his book is smaller than HWA’s “lengthy manuscript” (I assume it is “The United State and Britain in Prophecy”, as it is the only 300 page booklet I’m aware of). However, even at that, if he spent less time ranting in the beginning and instead explained the doctrines, it still could be kept short.
The Bible is balanced. Even Mr Armstrong was noted for balancing “race” against “grace”, but Ben-Ariel seems unbalanced towards the physical, even when you take into account that the nature of prophecy and its identification of end-time nations. Even claims the “elect” are physical Israelites!
- “NEVER in a thousand years!” And yet in a twist of fate it did. The United States had surrendered…. Weakened by war, and in a state of shock, the WASPs began to stir when they caught wind of some good news coming from Jerusalem.” So, I guess that that Catholics and non-whites will not be weakened by war?
- “Why will this madness end? It’ll end for the “Elect’s sake.” Who are they? The literal descendants of Israel! We’re the Chosen People! Because “the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself” (Deut. 14:2).” There’s twisted interpretation if I’ve ever seen any! Jesus said except for the elect’s sake. Who was He addressing? His Church!
- “The Gentile animals stalk our land, rob us of our children, and steal us blind…” If Gentiles are “animals”, then all humans are, since we are all one blood (Ac 17:26).
- Although it is not in the book, I think it is relevant that he has made statements elsewhere that minorities should not even be able to vote. He has on one forum (he’s everywhere, it seems) even bragged that he is “biblically racist” not “PC racist”. I have no idea what that means.
In addition, Ben-Ariel needs to heed the admonishment of Col 3:8 to “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” I can be sympathetic that some will slip and utter words without thinking, but still some words are not appropriate in a “Christian” book.
He attempts to justify his political activities in the book, speaking of “our demonstrations” about the Temple Mount. However, the COG has always maintained that Christians need to be politically neutral. IMO, this type of political activism is doing the same thing Judas Iscariot did: Trying to force action on the part of the Messiah to achieve what we think the ends should be. It was dangerous then, and it is dangerous now. Abraham, Sarah and Hagar can tell you that God does not need help in bringing His promises, His prophecies, to pass.
Wild Clichés and Metaphors
This guy should be crowned “King of Audacious Hyperbole”.
- I’m not sure I would tell the Church to “come out of the closet”.
- To say America is dying of AIDS because its moral immune system is unable to fight off the progressive corruption is a bit sensationalistic, and the manner it was presented was abrupt enough to confuse the intent for quite a few seconds.
- I’m not sure what he means by “Such Christian-doves will get swallowed up in the belly of the Beast!” It seems to me that Christians are suppose to be “harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16), no? In fact, Biblical imagery has “dove’s eyes” for beauty, mourning like doves, flying like doves and escaping like doves (which would seem to contradict his statement completely). Am I missing something?
- Speaking of the golden calf that the Israelites made while Moses was up on Mt Sinai, he talks about “religious bull”. Normally, I would be amused by such a remark, but in a sea of other overdone terms, it loses its appeal rather quickly.
Not all of them are that bad, and one has to expect a certain amount of hyperbole (even Jesus’ parables often were), but too many and too many sensationalistic ones can ruin the effect.
There are all sorts of wild assertions that I cannot find in my Bible and for which he offers no supporting evidence.
- “The Two Witnesses know and proclaim God’s promise. They’ve read His Biblical pledge.” I’m not sure what pledge he’s talking about, and I don’t know what verse that’s from in the Bible.
- “Those events will soon take place! DAVID’S THRONE WILL PREVAIL – the Roman UN forces will fail!” Indeed, he mentions the “UN” at least 3 times without clarification on how and why they are involved. What is the “UN” in the Bible?
- That God’s plan was “top secret” until Jesus gave His commission. Yet, we see hints throughout the OT that this was God’s plan all along. In addition, Lucifer would have known God’s plan from the beginning, and it was this plan that would elevate humans-become-spirits in God’s family above Lucifer that made him become jealous enough to rebel in the first place.
- “God decrees the death penalty for treacherous pastor generals”, as though “pastor general” is even mentioned in the Bible.
- He says to try the Scriptural slipper on our pastors, and then he references Ep 6:15 out of context.
- Claims that the headstone of Zec 4:7 is the same as Jacob’s Pillar Stone (aka Stone of Destiny). However, my interpretation of Zec 4 is that the headstone of v7 and the foundation of v9 are referring to the spiritual temple, God’s Church. The headstone, then, is Christ (cf Mt 21:42).
- Ben-Ariel claims that the early church “attempted to power-share”. Somehow, he concludes that the early church “allowed the observance of ‘the venerable day of the sun’ back-to-back with God’s Sabbath.” As usual, he does so without any references or support. Even stranger, one can look at events in 1995 and easily see that the ones who compromised in the modern era were also the ones who rose to power first and then began their programs of changing doctrine. That’s why his reference to 3Jn 9-10 makes no sense in this context.
In spite of all of that, there are some positives. Unfortunately, just about every one of them has a caveat.
- He points out how world leaders like Herod and Pharaoh are influenced by Satan. Unfortunately, where he usually elaborates on things (and gets them wrong), here he does not elaborate enough, IMO. He should have expanded upon Pharaoh being a type for Satan and how the Exodus drama pictures coming out of enslavement of sin.
- He points out the Holy Roman Empire as the end-time beast power that will control Europe. Unfortunately, again, the proof within the text is lacking.
- The book describes how Satan hates the physical descendants of Israel today, as they are a symbol of God’s promise. The Jews particularly have been targeted for extinction many times, but God has spared a remnant every time.
- Ben-Ariel tells how God’s people will in the last days keep the 7th day Sabbath and Holy Days. He even makes an attempt at explaining how Christians should be keeping them today.
- He states that Christians today keep “men’s ideas” rather than follow the Bible, but offers no evidence until much later in the book of just how off-track mainstream Christianity is.
- While the argument that we are individually and collectively responsible for our sins is one most in the COG would agree with, he once again disappoints us with a complete lack of Biblical quotes on this point. Since he seems to be addressing those outside of the Church, this fails to hit the mark.
- I’m all for his assertion, “Don’t compromise God’s message to appease us – that’s not love! Challenge our conventional thinking. Get us good and angry. You might save us!” However, I just don’t see where the book really challenges anything except at an emotional level. Again, where is the supporting evidence?
- Ben-Ariel writes, “Would God allow a WAR to disturb our peace?” Indeed, yes He would! It’s just too bad that Ben-Ariel missed an opportunity to reference Habakkuk in this paragraph.
- He admonishes us to follow God and not a man. I suspect that it was this that got him kicked out of PCG more than anything else. I will let the reader decide what that says about the PCG.
- He hits the nail on the head that in our pursuit of pleasure, we will bring about our own ruin by “drinking ourselves to death and dying for sex!”
- He points out the connection between obedience and the land. If we continue in our sins, we will be evicted.
This book just misses the mark all the way around. No matter who he is addressing, Ben-Ariel needs appropriate supporting evidence. He needs to explain things as he goes and not wait until people have put down the book. He needs to structure it in a meaningful, logical way. He needs to drop the racism. That’s not what true British Israelism is about. It’s about God’s promises being kept even though the recipients are highly undeserving, not that any others are “animals”. Furthermore, since he claims to believe in what HWA taught, Ben-Ariel would do well to re-examine his attitudes towards political involvement and use of profane language.
Even though there are some positives to the book, they are rather weak ones at best. They are overshadowed by attitude, literary and evidential problems. I cannot in good conscience recommend this book.