Scholarly Insights

Dr. John Buchner, former WCG member in Australia, was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy degree by the University of Western Sydney, Australia for research on change in the Worldwide Church of God. You may already know him from his previous work in compiling the most exhaustive reference bibliography ever assembled on the Worldwide Church of God.

John Trechak's Ambassador Report long ago justifiably praised the work of John Buchner and his exemplary efforts in contributing to genuinely scholarly research on the WCG. At one time, WCG officials had at first agreed to talk with him, but then all meetings were canceled for his research travel to the United States while meeting with leaders and members of other COG organizations. This change of direction came apparently on orders from Joe Tkach who didn't have the sense to see how Buchner's research could actually help the WCG, but instead wrote Buchner a letter turning the research down. Should you read Joe Tkach Jr's Sept 1, 1997 Multnomah book "Transformed by Truth", with his substantially similar, if not identical in many respects, 2000 Azusa doctoral thesis with bibliography, "An examination of the doctrinal reformation of the Worldwide Church of God" (available to anyone by interlibrary loan on request from Azusa Pacific Library), and compare it to Dr. Buchner's research product, you will understand the extreme irony of Joe Tkach turning down such a worthy research request.

Ambassador Reports is glad to see the WCG changed its mind on conducting research on change in the WCG. Dr. Buchner's work is entitled "The Worldwide Church of God: A study of its transformation in terms of K. Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning".

As to K. Helmut Reich, first a professional physicist at CERN, the world's largest particle laboratory, next became an APA award-winning recognized psychologist. He spanned both professional fields with his unifying cognitive developmental theory in his 2002 book, "Developing the Horizons of the Mind: Relational and Contextual Reasoning and the Resolution of Cognitive Conflict". Reich in his cognitive theory draws from complementarity theory found in physics, which theorizes how light may paradoxically appear both as a particle and a wave in the same context as a coherent whole.

Relational and Contextual Reasoning (RCR) goes beyond the conceptual premises of complementarity in resolving conflict to recognize the complexity of human interaction and transactions at a higher level of complexity. It begins at the elemental RCR of logical processing stage one, at an either/or binary level of cognition. (My notion on binary thinking is Herbert Armstrong commonly utilized it in his publications as a persuasive tool to circumvent critical thinking processes.) RCR can then progress in complexity through five stages. Stage five is relational and contextual theory taking into account complex relationships with multi-perspectives.

Reich's RCR theory is used by Dr. Buchner as a measure to stage the cognitive development of WCG leadership in regards to their level of understanding of the Trinity doctrine. In regards to grasping RCR stages, with level 1 at the beginning level up through level 5 (5 = highest cognitive level), may I humbly suggest you first take a look at the Appendices link below, at sections A-C for a diagrammatic, visual representation of Reich's RCR theory, followed by section E to take a look at the actual survey questions the WCG leaders answered in writing for the research. This may make it easier to have some background context on the RCR staging levels before reading the paper. Or if you care not to get into that much theoretical depth, just think of Relational and Contextual Reasoning (RCR) as everyday "reasoning" without getting hung up on the RCR acronym, and enjoy your plunge into chapter one.

By the way, this thesis is not exactly dry reading for Worldwiders -it is chock full of COG figures such as Herman Hoeh (who telephoned Dr. Buchner for the survey). Splinters and spin off luminaries are given coverage, too with interesting details to ponder.

After going through a lengthy approval process, thirteen members of the WCG ministry or administration responded in writing to fifteen survey questions probing their level of relational and contextual reasoning in regard to the Trinity. Joe Tkach Jr. and Mike Feazell are two of the thirteen who participated with written responses on the Trinity, but which two? WCG survey participants have had their identities cloaked, with their names replaced by thirteen phonetic monikers: ALPHA, BRAVO, CHARLIE, DELTA, through...MIKE - you get the picture.

Respondents to the survey are described as including: a very senior early stage administrator, retired senior WCG minister, senior WCG administrator, senior editor and retired pastor, longtime WCG writer, active senior WCG minister, editorial writer, retired senior administrator, and so on.

My guess is that Joe Tkach Jr. is identified as respondent LIMA in Chapter 6.

LIMA is described as exercising a prominent position in the WCG hierarchy. He received his early education in the WCG which helped form his thinking, and had an opportunity for secular work and study. This could be veiled language for Tkach Jr's work experience at Arizona Boys Ranch or Microsoft, followed by his secular masters degree in business. Exposure to mainstream evangelical theology could mean attendance at Azusa after returning to Pasadena from Arizona.

Either way, it's definitely worth a read to any Worldwider! Simply click on the following chapter links. Enjoy!

Detailed Chapter Contents, Abstract

Ch. 1 Introduction to the WCG and the Cognitive Conversion of Its Leaders

Ch. 2 Literature review of Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 3. Relational and Contextual Reasoning related to Christology and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

Ch. 4 - Method: the qualitative application of Relational and Contextual Reasoning to the case study

Ch. 5 - Results of Study 1: A review of opposing interpretations of the Trinity as a cognitive construct, and transition from rejection to acceptance of the doctrine, in search of an explanation consistent with Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 6 - Results of Study 2: Analysis of responses to a survey of Worldwide Church of God leaders in regard to their understanding of the Trinity, in terms of Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 7 Discussion and Conclusion

References and Bibliography

Appendices A-E

1 comment:

john buchner said...

Thank you Stan for a positive account of my thesis. Actually, the WCG gave its full cooperation and only after its leaders were provided with a copy did communication close down. The WCG did not cancel interviews - they just didn't go ahead due to lack of university funding. In recent times the WCG has attempted to more clearly promote its understanding of the Trinity doctrine and has pursued deeper spirituality, which must be applauded. However, I'm still waiting for positive dialogue with WCG theologians and pray for a good outcome in due course. I am well aware of the thesis' limitations but also welcome responses from readers of this website.