Exit and Support Network

Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)

By Kelly Marshall


Chapter Four - Mystery of Civilization

I shall also endeavor, according to my moderate ability, to furnish the means of overthrowing them, by showing how absurd and inconsistent with the truth are their statements. Not that I am practiced either in composition or eloquence; but my feeling of affection prompts me to make known to thee and all thy companions those doctrines which have been kept in concealment until now, but which are at last, through the goodness of God, brought to light. "For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be made known." (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book I)

Herbert Armstrong opens this fourth chapter of MOA with his usual stark contrasts of modern society's "progress and degeneration," which naturally leads into another age-old, unanswerable question—"Why, if God exists, does He allow so much violence and human suffering?" Can the reader discern another predictable set-up coming?

How did our civilization develop to our 20-century state? What a mystery that is to thinking people! Of course most are not thinking people and never ask themselves that question. But if one does, he finds the question enveloped in mystery. So let us understand. (p. 137)

And there it is. There is a mystery to be solved, and the reader should, by now, easily guess who is going to solve it with the only "correct" answer. Notice (once again) the win-lose set up. If you are a thinking person (and according to HWA, very few are), then you will open your mind to accept his explanations. But if you are not open to "understanding" this mystery (his explanations), then you are not a thinking person. Time after time, the reader is conned to accept HWA's challenges—refusal to do so results in being categorized with an unpleasant title that insults one's intelligence. In this case, one is dubbed as an average, "unthinking" Joe for not pondering this question. These are not the fruits of a man of God, but of a skillful salesman and con artist. By choosing to acquire "understanding," HWA fans the flames of vanity by making the reader feel he is a daring, unique, above-average individual for accepting the challenge HWA lays before him.

On pages 139-140, HWA claims that the "true Church of God was to be set back on the track, restoring the glorious knowledge of the faith once delivered to the saints in the days of the original apostles." Is this true? Read my article: True Original Church/Faith Once Delivered (Proof Herbert Armstrong Lied About the "Lost" Church Century).

HWA begins the isolation process under the subheading "A World Held Captive" (p. 141). He emphasizes "SATAN'S WAY" and defines this loaded term as "one choosing to do his own thing." In other words, by making personal choices and decisions, one is equated with outright rebellion against God. This is where the new convert relinquishes control over his life and hands it over to HWA, thinking he is obeying God directly. Once in the group, he will be specifically instructed in matters concerning food, dress, finances, social life, child rearing, personal development, and any daily life decisions, both significant and insignificant. Materials written by the leader are the only authoritative views allowed within the group. One is no longer allowed to look outside of the group for answers, lest he be accused of following "Satan's way" by looking to "the world." HWA erects a clear, dividing line by defining "the world"—all civilizations—as SATAN'S WORLD (p. 143). Once the unsuspecting convert enters the church, he is informed that anything outside of the organization qualifies as ""the World," and that the member must cut himself off from its influence. This means cutting ties with "unconverted" friends, spouses, families, which causes further isolation and places the convert in the position of continued exploitation and control by the group.

HWA repeatedly emphasizes "the way of GET and the way of GIVE" in order to gain control over the new convert by making him feel shame or guilt for spending money on himself, or his needs. He equates choice-making and freedom to make personal decisions as following "Satan's way," and this includes finances. This is why many who exit the various "COG" groups [Herbert Armstrong groups] feel fear for not being able to tithe, wondering where "God's tithe" should be sent, or else wanting to give their money away to some religious group or cause. They have been programmed repeatedly that they are living "the way of get" and "stealing from God" if they don't tithe, and that He will curse them for their supposed "greed." This is deeply internalized by the convert. Exiters also experience feelings of shame or guilt whenever they do splurge and buy something for themselves with their hard-earned money. (Read: Getting the Group out of Us for more about this.) (Too bad the leaders of these groups lack any feelings of shame for stealing the widow's mite to finance their elevated lifestyles.) The "Way of Get and the Way of Give" is shoved relentlessly down the followers' throats, so much so, that they fail to see exactly who is living each of these ways: The members lived the way of give—they gave all their money to HWA, and HWA lived the way of get—he got all of it and spent it however he pleased! Fear and shame—these are tactics employed by controlling Bible-based cults and are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

n the previous chapter I showed how HWA transferred the reader's allegiance away from God and onto himself. Having successfully achieved this, the fourth chapter is filled with audacious speculations, which will largely go unchallenged by the now "loyal" reader. The first bold claim he makes is the building of the Ambassador Colleges.

HWA describes the three Ambassador Colleges he erected (i. e., in Pasadena, California, Big Sandy, Texas, and Bricket Wood, England), claiming that Jesus Christ Himself commissioned them, through "the Church," to be built. He describes their beauty as being unsurpassed. He cannot resist letting us know that "a royal Queen" herself exclaimed, "I have just been in heaven." (p. 140) Ironically, for one that disregarded heaven—refusing to acknowledge heaven as a beautiful, perfect, blessed place for believers to reside—HWA didn't mind usurping it to promote the image of his headquarters operations! The reader needs to pause here and carefully observe how their tithe money was spent: award-winning, world-class landscaping, purchase and restoration of former millionaire mansions, and entertaining "a royal Queen."

HWA justifies this extravagance by making the reader believe that God ordained and commissioned his actions. (p. 140) He further justifies these gross expenditures by declaring that the restoration of the dilapidated millionaire mansions and the slums of Pasadena into a paradise is God's way of showing mankind that obedience to His (HWA's) government results in paradise on the earth. Let's examine this set up.

To question his expenditures is to question God Himself, and he knows any person with a tender conscience wouldn't want to jeopardize their fellowship with God by their insolent "questioning." He cleverly shifts the focus away from his greed, distracting the reader with his solution to the world's poverty dilemma. He name drops "the Queen" so we believe that he is an Ambassador without portfolio (not an Ambassador for Christ).

HWA wants readers to believe that this lushly landscaped, richly restored slum is a result of God's own desire, direction, and personal involvement. Is this true? Was all this greatness achieved because God's hand was in it? Is the establishment of a "wonderful world tomorrow on earth today" proof that God intended man to live this way since the beginning? Let's think about some past civilizations where magnificent, glorious "wonders of the world" were displayed. Ancient Egypt, under the rule of the Pharaohs, was world renown for its impressive structures and advanced civilization. Ancient Babylon had The Hanging Gardens that were legendary, unsurpassed in beauty, and considered one of the "seven wonders of the world." These paradisiacal civilizations—and many like them—are a result of a ruler with a vision, considerable cash flow, and a large pool of laborers.1 If erecting and restoring beautiful buildings, installing and maintaining extraordinary landscaping, entertaining and impressing royalty with these marvelous accomplishments are God's objective—giving us a "modest foretaste of the wonderful world tomorrow" of what mankind "should have done" (p. 140)—then the pagan rulers appear to have had a jump start on HWA. Of course these civilizations in all their splendor—achieving what "man should have done" to the earth—still did not gain any further knowledge of the true God, as can be easily witnessed by their endless plethora of gods. And HWA, basking in all his Ambassador-quality finery, never gained a true understanding of God and salvation, either. His physical empire, like all manmade empires, has declined and crumbled away. On page 146, HWA quotes Matthew 7:24-27—"a house built on a faulty foundation is bound to fall." Precisely.

Now let's examine another contradiction in HWA's own belief system. On page 8 of MOA, HWA spoke about today's society as "the glamour dream world of the three 'Ls'—leisure, luxury, and license."2 What a terrible shame that "push-button leisure" was forced upon this humble apostle while he cruised around in his fleet of Rolls Royces, limos, and multi-million dollar jets.3 Can one warn the world of their sins while partaking of those same sins? Let's focus on the second "L," this disgusting evil called luxury. It seems that God's own apostle has been guilty of wallowing shamelessly in this heinous sin. True to Bible-based cult characteristics, the leaders live a completely different lifestyle than their followers. HWA amassed treasures on earth, living in utter luxury, while his tithe-payers scraped to get by. Even widows, the underemployed, single parents, and those on welfare were not exempt from his financially oppressive tithing system. These were to benefit from the system—not pay into it! And now the final "L"—license. Drunkenness, incest, sex-addiction, divorce, estranged children, indulgent spending, hypocrisy, fits of anger, contempt toward others (especially those of the faith), unable to take correction, controlling others through fear and intimidation—if anyone had a "license" to sin, HWA was firmly in the driver's seat.4 "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Did God really want millions of dollars worth of paintings, antique gold and silver trinkets, and other such nonsense that HWA amassed with tithe-payers' money? Was God pleased when HWA purchased a $65,000 silver soup tureen while refusing to give financial help to the widows and orphans? How many times have members heard in services that "third tithe assistance isn't a retirement program" and to seek "outside financial assistance first"? How many people, already in dire straits, were asked to pay back what was given to them, making their situation even worse than before?

The next bold claim that will test the loyalty of the new believer is HWA's racial segregation doctrine. [Note: Also see the 1963 Plain Truth. (found online)] HWA paints a dismal picture of the earth filled with violence during the time of Noah. He informs his readers that Noah was not only righteous, but racially pure. (p. 147) HWA states that God selected him due to his heredity and ancestry being "perfect" and "unblemished (in his genetic heritage) among his contemporaries." Let's examine Genesis 6:8-9 and read these verses in full context in different translations:

V8: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. V9: These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect (footnote states: "wholehearted") in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (KJV, Nelson)
V8: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. V9: These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, [a]blameless in his [b]time; Noah walked with God. (footnotes state: a. Genesis 6:9 Lit complete, perfect; or having integrity b. Genesis 6:9 Lit generations) (NASB)
V8: But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord. V9: This is the history of the generations of Noah. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his [evil] generation: Noah walked [in habitual fellowship] with God. (AMP)

It is clear that these verses, read in context, concern the spiritual character of Noah, and don't have anything to do with his racial heritage. Noah, only, was not corrupt. Like Enoch, he walked with God. Chapter 6 of Genesis is clearly concerning the spiritual condition of mankind, but HWA twisted this to suit his purposes. HWA begins his set up by asking what "this universal evil and corruption" was that God considered "exceeding wickedness." (p. 147) Of course, his answer is "rampant and universal interracial marriage." Once again, he partially quotes Matthew 24:38 as "proof" that Jesus himself confirms this. Let's look at this verse in context and see if this is what Jesus was saying. Backing up to verse 36 of Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking concerning the time of His return. In verses 37-39, Jesus states:

V37But as in the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. V38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe [Noah] entered into the ark. V39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

The remainder of Matthew 24 continues with further details of Christ's return. These verses clearly show that the people in Noah's time were caught off guard when the flood came. Jesus used this example to show that the same situation would occur at His return. They were oblivious to what was going on, even up to the very moment that Noah entered the ark, and they will be oblivious right up to the Second Coming. There is absolutely nothing in these verses condemning interracial marriage because that wasn't the topic Christ was discussing in the first place. This is another example of sloppy scriptural interpretation on HWA's part.

From here, HWA will openly claim Noah to be of the "original white strain." (p. 148) Now this is where things begin to get interesting. HWA claims that Noah was "perfect in his generations"—all his ancestry back to Adam was of the one strain, and undoubtedly that happened to be white. (p.148) Carefully notice that there is not one single Scripture that the "apostle" could give to back this claim. If maintaining racial purity was that imperative to God, why would He bother creating Eve with ovaries that contained different colored genes? It certainly would have spared Him a lot of trouble. Why don't we see any instructions to mother Eve to keep her different colored children separate from each other? If the truth be told, nobody knows what color Adam and Eve were—nor what color Noah was—and apparently it wasn't important enough for scripture to be explicit concerning this matter. God cares about the condition of the heart, not the color of the skin. (I Samuel 16:7)

Now let's observe this next statement HWA makes:

If you are a livestock breeder, planning to enter your prize animals in a livestock show—perhaps at a state or county fair—you will be sure to enter only thoroughbred or pedigreed stock! Mixing the breed alters the characteristics. (p. 148)

What an incredibly callous misrepresentation of God's relationship to mankind! Did God really create man as a type of "livestock" to be used in some sort of experimental breeding program with the sole purpose of creating a perfect, unblemished race? Is the name "Adolph Hitler" going through your mind? Can the reader see how blind loyalty to this human leader puts one in the position of accepting everything that issues from his mouth, even though there is no biblical basis for it? Let's look at this paragraph to see how HWA purposely misquoted scripture in order to make the reader believe that racial separation was ordained by God:

God originally set the bounds of national borders, intending nations to be SEPARATED to prevent interracial marriage. Notice, "When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance [speaking of land or geographical boundaries], when he separated [notice—he separated] the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people…" (Deut. 32:8) (p. 149)

HWA is employing his deceptive methods. Notice the use of CAPITAL LETTERS, brackets [where HWA emphasizes the unimportant and redirects the readers attention away from what Scripture actually says], and the notorious ellipses "…," which is a clear indication of quoting partial information.

Now let's look at the whole verse in context:

When the Most High divided to the nation their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deut. 32:8)

It really changes the meaning when the "rest of the verse" is not omitted. This verse is located in the 32nd book of Deuteronomy, which is the Song of Moses. Joshua had been ordained Israel's new leader in the previous chapter. Moses is getting his final business squared away just before his death and Israel's imminent entrance into the promised land. Verse 8 is speaking about the boundaries within the nation of Israel that God had established in the promised land. Once Israel entered the promised land, they would settle into the areas that God had ordained for each tribe. Deuteronomy 32:8 is clearly speaking about the nation of Israel, but HWA altered the verse, making it sound that it was speaking of Adam and the supposed "sin" of interracial marriage.

Now let's closely examine another contradiction in HWA's logic. On page 148, he states:

Mixing the breed alters the characteristics.

HWA says that mixing livestock results in a different breed (altered characteristics). But on page 149, he makes this blundering statement:

But the people wanted to intermarry—until there would be only ONE RACE!

Mr. Confusion strikes again! First he states that God intended for the races to stay "pure," and that interracial breeding altered that pureness (creating mixed races). But then he turns around and says that interracial breeding creates one race. Think about it—the whole world turning into one race? That's about as "pure" as it gets. Man wouldn't have to worry about the sin of interracial marriage anymore since everyone would be the same race. Now ponder this for a moment: Does interracial marriage create one race, or does it create more races? Is there anyone alive today that isn't a mix of different ethnic backgrounds? Can anyone really claim to be "pure" all the way to Adam or Noah?

But HWA doesn't stop there with his ludicrous speculations. He informs us that Noah, his wife, and three sons were of the same white strain, but that one of Noah's sons married an Oriental and another a Black woman. He begins this thought on page 149, but one must go all the way to page 154 for HWA to continue with the "rest of the story." In the meantime, HWA must keep the reader off balance by mixing in Satan's sway, enormous world evils, the soon-coming annihilation, and of course, the ever predictable "way out" by being part of the "elect." On pages 150-153, HWA quotes his own sources (C. Paul Meredith) in order to prove his own doctrines concerning ancient civilization. C. Paul Meredith was under Armstrong's employ. How unbiased can this information possibly be?

Continuing on page 154, HWA confidently explains that God wiped out the entire corrupt world by the great flood, and spared only Noah and his immediate family. Previously, HWA informed readers that Noah, his wife, and his three sons were of the pure "white strain." But HWA stated that two of Noah's sons married interracially! Please think carefully about this. HWA defined this "universal and evil corruption" as interracial marriage, but then states that God spared Noah's family from the flood, and starts the human race over again with two mixed marriages. Now why would God wipe everyone off the face of the earth because of interracial marriage, and then start civilization over again with two interracially married couples? Does this make sense? Why didn't God simply spare Noah, his wife, and Shem, and find a pure Asian couple and a pure Black couple to place on the ark, and leave Ham and Japheth behind with their wives? Shouldn't God have punished them along with everyone else that had committed this gross "sin"? Once again, another major blunder in HWA's logic. Simply put—God loves all peoples and all races—a fact that seems to escape HWA's myopic heart.

On page 157, HWA depicts God as a cold, vindictive and emotionally detached being. Mankind must suffer while God stands off in the distance, watching and waiting with a scornful attitude:

Mankind is nearing the end of his rope. But even now, God will not intervene to save this defiant humanity from itself until man is finally brought to the point where, if God delayed longer in intervention, man would annihilate himself.

HWA has missed the whole point of Jesus coming to this earth. God loved mankind so much and hates to see His creation suffer. Man is spiritually dead, and in bondage to sin. Man simply can't save himself, and God knew this. This is why God sent His Son to set us free from spiritual bondage and give us eternal life. But HWA doesn't want us to focus on the Redeemer. He wants us to focus on the "Revealer of Mysteries"—himself—and his man-made solutions.

Now for the final bold claim strategically placed at the end of Chapter 4 [bolding mine]:

These are the very last days of Satan's evil world. God's utopian civilization will be started with the present generation.

HWA continues to frighten his readers with an impending nuclear holocaust. Like Charles Taze Russell5 of the Watchtower Society, who claimed Christ's return would occur with the "present generation of 1914," HWA declared that "this present generation" would see Christ's return. When Jesus didn't return in 1914, Russell changed his doctrine and said that Jesus returned "invisibly" in 1914. Did Jesus return during HWA's lifetime, since he postulated for decades that he was God's chosen "end-time prophet," and that God would personally reveal these things to him just as He had done with the prophets of old?

When HWA wrote the MOA, he was quite aged in his final years of life. Members knew he wouldn't live too much longer and anticipated fleeing to "the place of safety" at any moment. The distribution of MOA during the 1985 Feast of Tabernacles was a clear "sign" reaffirming that the end was near. HWA had written "the most important book since the Bible" as a "final witness" to the world. In it, HWA had declared in writing:

This gospel now has been preached into every nation. (p. 158)

After decades of waiting, HWA finally pronounced "The Work" as "finished" and long time members were both relieved and ecstatic. Their long-awaited journey to Petra was just around the corner. That was almost twenty years ago. Herbert Armstrong did not take the church to the place of safety, but met his death in 1986. Joseph W. Tkach met his untimely death in 1995, and the church still did not fulfill its destiny with Jordan. The Great Tribulation didn't happen, but the Velvet Revolution6 did, and the threat of worldwide nuclear destruction crumbled as the Cold War ended. HWA's apocalyptic scenario did not come true as he had prophesied for decades. False prophets make false prophecies. Jesus himself said: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders;" (Matt. 24:24a) HWA has "qualified" himself as a false prophet.

By Kelly Marshall
Exit & Support Network™
September 2004

Next to MOA Chapter Five

Preface | Intro | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap 7

Footnotes for Chapter 4:

1 HWA also had his considerable cash flow and his own laborers. One 30 year ex-deacon of WCG said he helped scrape the hole for Loma Lake on the Big Sandy AC campus until his hands were cut up. In addition, how many knew their tithes and offerings went to help build a 76 acre golf course on the Big Sandy campus? (Read this in OIU 3, pt. 4)

2 In his booklet, 1975 in Prophecy, Herbert Armstrong uses the three L's to scare people into believing that Americans are lazy and the Germans are still working hard to take over the world. This booklet is filled with false prophecies and obvious errors. If you came into the church after the booklet was dropped from printing, it would be worth your time to read it online. This book was hidden from the new members for obvious reasons. It is entirely outrageous, and clearly proves that HWA was a false prophet. Note: Basil Wolverton (a comic artist and WCG elder) was behind the grotesque and horrifying pictures in 1975 in Prophecy and other WCG literature. Read on our site more about Basil Wolverton.

3 Herbert W. Armstrong: The Rich Apostle (Is requiring accountability of finances wrong?)

4 All these sins have been mentioned in the book, Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web by David Robinson.

5 Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was founder of Zion's Watchtower Tract Society (today known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society or Jehovah's Witnesses).

6 The Berlin Wall fell by the hands of its own people in 1989, and shortly afterwards the shackles of the oppressive Communist government were removed, without firing a single shot. The Soviet Union dissolved overnight, and because there was no war at all, it was called the Velvet Revolution.

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