Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)
By Kelly Marshall
Chapter Six - Mystery of the Church (Pt. 4 of 5)
Herbert Armstrong despised the doctrine of grace. On one hand, he taught that grace was "unmerited pardon," but he emphasized endlessly the loaded term "grace was license to sin." This kind of double-talk produced a cognitive dissonance in the members, who never questioned this disparity. He openly expresses indignation and continually impugns guilt toward "traditional Christianity" for "nailing the law to the cross." So disdainful was HWA's attitude toward this particular doctrine that the Subject Index at the end of the MOA has the word grace listed twice and it is found on the same page:
He [Simon Magus] accepted the doctrine of "grace for the forgiveness of sin (which the pagan religions never had), but turned grace into license to disobey God (Jude 4). (p. 52)
Now this brings us to an interesting point. HWA tries to make the reader believe that grace was nothing more than a license to sin. But in his own contrived "Plan of Salvation," he announces that the whole of mankind will not be judged for all the sins committed in this present life—he will merely reap the consequences of what he sows. Listen closely to what HWA is saying. "Sin all you want in this present life. God isn't judging you or condemning you for anything you have done, no matter how evil, although you will have to reap the natural consequences. When Satan is removed, then you will be resurrected in a beautiful paradise on this earth, have your eyes opened and given a chance to qualify for your salvation. Only this time, it will be a cakewalk since Satan won't be around to influence you to sin."19 Now whose plan of salvation is giving license to sin? Although HWA accuses "traditional Christianity" for teaching others to sin with impunity, we see just the opposite happening here. Careful examination of this salvation plan makes one thing obvious: It is better that one not be part of the Church in this present age. There are too many disadvantages. You have Satan and the world fighting against you (in the next age he will be bound), and you can fall out of favor with the organization and be condemned to eternal death in the Lake of Fire! Yes, what HWA doesn't reveal in the MOA, is that one who leaves the church will lose his salvation. Once one has "tasted this way of life" and turns his back on it, he is considered incorrigible and is condemned.20 Never mind that the majority that "left" were forcefully put out and not allowed to return, but as observed earlier, HWA is a master at leaving out important details when it plays to his disadvantage. (Although HWA states on page 272 that one "put out of the church could be readmitted upon repentance and renewed belief," members know this happens rarely.)
Why didn't HWA ever challenge his followers to look up the word "grace" in the Strong's Concordance? He repeatedly guided his followers to the oft-quoted passage in Jude 4, but never mentioned the numerous Scriptures found in the NT using the word grace (129 of them to be exact). Shouldn't we find this odd coming from a man of God? Grace must have been very important to have been mentioned this many times in the Bible. Why would HWA overlook this very fact? HWA doesn't want his readers to know about grace because he cannot enslave those who fully understand the true meaning of grace.21 He minimized grace, perverted its meaning, so his followers turn up their noses in disgust whenever this word is mentioned.
HWA taught his followers that they would be the Firstfruits, resurrected into spirit beings in the first resurrection and becoming "God, as God is God."9 But this blasphemy only gets worse. On page 240, HWA will offer the ultimate prize—to be on equal footing with Jesus as co-saviors!
In a sense, then, the Church shall become co-saviors with Christ.
After we have attained to the resurrection of the dead, as the wife of the Son of God [the Bride of Christ], and members of the God family, we shall be not only heirs and coheirs with Christ, but in a sense, co-saviors.
The family of God will grow. As kings and priests, the Church in the resurrection will be co-rulers under Christ in restoring the government of God over all nations. But we shall be, as priests, co-saviors with him in saving the world.
Notice the lack of scriptural backing to this particular claim. One would think that something as important and earthshaking as becoming a "co-savior" would be plainly stated in Scripture. Instead, God's handpicked and personally trained apostle failed to quote this scripture plainly revealed in Isaiah 43:11:
I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
Time and time again, we see HWA outright lie while he accuses Christianity of engaging in this practice. HWA knew that the offer of ultimate status and power would be difficult to ignore. Once in the group, he/she will learn that God is reproducing Himself through him/her. He/she will be resurrected into a spirit being at Christ's return and become God, as God is God.9 His/her future will have a purpose and a master plan. He/she will help Christ rebuild the destroyed earth (after Armageddon), and restore it back to Paradise. Following the Millennium, the second and third resurrections22 will take place. After this, the whole earth will be purified with fire. Then there will be new heavens and a new earth, and the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven to earth. At this time the fully trained convert will have a chance to re-create the universe and fulfill his/her "incredible human potential" as a God-being. Speculations such as "becoming a God on your own personal planet, and having to die like Jesus did for the sins of the people on your planet" were commonplace. Warped theology leads to warped conclusions. The uniqueness of Jesus' sacrifice was diminished when followers entertained thoughts that they, too, could become a savior.
ONE CHURCH WITH ONE GOVERNMENT
Against mainstream denominations, HWA stated on page 206:
Jesus founded only one Church. Yet in the Western world today there are many different churches—Catholic, Protestant, independents. And within them many denominations, sects and divisions or congregations, each with its differing beliefs, teachings, rituals and programs.
HWA gives the impression that his church is the "only one church" that Jesus founded and doesn't suffer from division. Is this true? On pages 241-242, HWA makes some telling remarks about the origins of his organization:
When I came among the brethren of the Church of God, there were questions among the leaders respecting the nature of Church organization….But division over Church organization and government began about 1930. Two leaders organized a new Church, departing from its headquarters at Stanberry, Missouri, setting up its new headquarters at Salem, West Virginia. They adopted a system of organization that they erroneously called "Bible organization."
Selecting his words carefully, HWA does not point out that his church is a splinter from this Salem, West Virginia church, which split off from the Stanberry, Missouri church, which split from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, etc. (See the chart on: Roots of the Worldwide Church of God) He disguises this fact forty-five pages later, pretending these splits are "batons" being passed between the different church eras (which will be discussed later in detail).
Though he accuses religious organizations of confusion and division, his organization was no better. He doesn't mention the split by his son, Garner Ted, or the "rebellion of the `70s." Following HWA's death in 1986, two major splinter groups formed (the Philadelphia Church of God, and the Global Church of God, which is now Living Church of God.) Later, during, and after 1995, the only "one church" that Jesus founded spiraled into hundreds of splinter groups, claiming either to be the only true church, or the continuation (or restoration) of the original true church. The house built on the sand has collapsed, but the various landlords won't allow the tenants to pack up and leave.
CHURCH OF GOD—WHAT'S IN A NAME?
HWA reassures his readers that God has provided a safe enclave against the heresies of this world—his church—which he claims is the ONLY TRUE CHURCH. He dismisses other denominations (Congregational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, etc.) for not using the specific words "Church of God" in their namesake while spurning them for holding a democratic form of church government.
HWA will build the case that this particular denomination—the only true church—must hold the name "Church of God."
Jesus said his true Church was to be KEPT in the name of the Father—GOD. Twelve times in the New Testament, the NAME of this one true Church is the CHURCH OF GOD! It is God's Church, and Jesus Christ is its guiding, sustaining, directing HEAD! (p. 247)
HWA quotes the twelve Scriptures proving that "Church of God" is the true NAME of the church, and reminds readers that it "CANNOT BE DIVIDED" and everyone must "SPEAK THE SAME THING." HWA also states that, "There must be no division in what is believed, taught or preached." (p. 249). Here, strict conformity of the organization's rules is cleverly masqueraded as "unity." Before the reader has time to process this, HWA quickly distracts him with the eye-catching, bolded subheading, "Traditional Christianity." For the next few pages, he hammers into the reader's head that the true identity of traditional churches is "Mystery Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." After elevating his own church, HWA must vilify and burn in effigy, the competition.
First, we will look at the assertions by HWA that the true church must have the name "Church of God." Later we will look at some interesting allegations made concerning this false Mystery Babylon church.
Withholding pertinent information is a trademark of HWA. Although he informs readers that the true church must have the name "Church of God," he fails to mention that there are approximately twenty other denominations (and countless WCG splinter groups) that hold the name "Church of God."
Of course, HWA does not bring any of this to our attention. He also takes liberties in embellishing the name of his church (Radio Church of God, and later, Worldwide Church of God23) without explaining why this is permissible for his church to do. While describing other denominations calling themselves after their leaders, doctrines or systems (Luther—Lutheran, Wesley—Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.) he opportunely forgets that his own members call themselves "Worldwiders" and are known as "Armstrongites."
Just in case one discovers that there are other "Church of God" branches not affiliated with his church, HWA requires further qualifications to "God's Church":
Yet none is truly the Church of God, unless it is GOD'S CHURCH, continuing in doctrine, practice, organization, in all ways on the original biblical pattern, headed by Jesus Christ, yet belonging to God the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, having GOD'S TRUTH, fulfilling Christ's commission of proclaiming his GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD to the world as a whole. (p. 249)
And it CANNOT BE DIVIDED. It remains ONE. (p. 249)
The reader is unaware of the hidden meanings of the loaded words shown in capital lettering. Once in the organization, the member will quickly learn to refer to this organization as "THE Church" (denoting the one and only church) or "GOD's Church" (meaning no other church outside of this organization belongs to Him), and he will learn to call the doctrines of the church "THE TRUTH." This "TRUTH" will become his central reference point for every decision he makes in life, no matter how wrong this "TRUTH" may be. He will learn to internalize this word more than he will ever internalize the name Jesus, and it will flow incessantly from his lips. When one carefully listens to sermons and conversations between members, he will find this word used with suffocating regularity.
Now what about his Mystery Babylon? If Mystery Babylon is the false church, or false religious system, why doesn't HWA mention the Mormons, the Watchtower Society, the Seventh-day Adventists, and other well-known heretical groups? Of course, he knew that if he condemned them, he would condemn himself, so he must remain silent. Since HWA accuses "traditional Christianity" of being this Mystery Babylon, let's take a look at a particular group that has written a book with the word "Mystery" in the title. This highly esteemed book of "mysteries" is on equal footing with the Bible. The author claims that "seven basic mysteries" were revealed to him, and declares, "I want to fully reveal the MYSTERY."24 The central message is not about Jesus Christ and finding salvation through Him. It's about the author, and his special calling, his understanding of these various mysteries about God, angels and evil spirits, man, civilization, Israel, the Church and the Kingdom. He boldly claims that the Bible itself is a confusing jigsaw puzzle that only he can put together. On page 243 of this special book of mysteries we read:
The CHURCH is not divided. There is only one Church. Not a parent church and many little daughter churches that have split off in disagreement. Divisions splintering off are NOT STILL IN THE CHURCH. It is the CHURCH that is to marry Christ in the resurrection at his coming—not disagreeing churches—not groups who have broken off! Not a parent church and apostate daughters. That will become more obvious as we continue.
Yes, it has become painfully obvious that the author of these seven mysteries died almost two decades ago, leaving behind his parent church. This parent church has splintered into countless daughter churches, many claiming to be the ONLY TRUE Church (or the continuation or restoration of the original true church.)—disagreeing with one another—while still claiming to uphold these MYSTERIES. Using the author's specific criteria to identify this "Mystery Babylon," it seems HWA has described his own organization in amazingly accurate detail.
NO PROPHETS IN THE N.T. CHURCH
On page 244-245, HWA makes the clear statement concerning the role of New Testament prophets:
The prophets set in the foundation of the Church are those of the Old Testament, whose writings were used to form a considerable part of the New Testament and gospel teaching and functioning. No prophets are mentioned as having either administrative, executive or preaching functions in the New Testament Church."
Gerald Flurry, founder of the Philadelphia Church of God (and who now owns the copyrights to the Mystery of the Ages), couldn't allow these words to remain since donning the lofty title of "That Prophet." Understanding fully the ramifications of that sentence, he removed it entirely.
Even though Flurry causes his followers to virtually worship the infallibility of HWA (even believing he was "the Elijah to come"25), apparently it wasn't beneath Flurry to alter HWA's "infallible" words in the MOA to his advantage.
HWA wants his followers to believe that the traditional churches have "some" of the truth, and declares that this is due to the devil's deceptions:
Many Protestant denominations, and some personal "ministries," quote certain scriptures, especially concerning Christian living, faith, love, etc., correctly. But they ignore numerous basic scriptures, cited in this book. Satan seems willing to let the deceived have parts of the truth. (p. 251)
Do the Scriptures say that the devil has any truth to "let the deceived have parts of"?
…He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him…for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44)
The Bible states that there is no truth in the devil. He cannot give what he does not have. HWA simply cannot admit that these "Protestants" got their "correct" ideas from the Bible without tainting it in some way. Just like the Pharisees in Matthew 12, he gives the devil undue credit. Accusing Christians of ignoring "basic scriptures," HWA opportunely ignores numerous Scriptures that contradict his teachings. Hypocrisy runs deep in the veins of false teachers. Appearing as "an angel of light" is not the same as having truth, and HWA is an excellent example of this. He sounded so logical, and reasonable. His arguments seemed to make sense. But when we begin to peel back the layers, we see that behind every logical argument, there were hidden lies to make his claims seem true.
CHURCH ORGANIZED—RAH! RAH! RAH! WE'RE A TEAM!
HWA must continually remind his readers that he is special:
God put it in my mind and heart when I was a child only 5 years old to desire—literally to crave—UNDERSTANDING! (p. 231)
Through this and other revealed knowledge of the Holy Bible, God gave me UNDERSTANDING of the working out of his great PURPOSE! (p. 231)
Oozing with "humility," thirty-six pages later, HWA reassures his readers that he, the author, is "Christ's apostle"26 (pp. 267, 269). He describes those in his church as ORGANIZED into a TEAM, cooperatively performing TEAMWORK. (p. 271) This is a continuation from the last chapter, where HWA described the different "teams" (Abraham/Isaac/Jacob team, etc.) that God would utilize in the World Tomorrow. HWA actively recruits the reader to become part of the TEAM, which he elevates as "an ORGANIZED SPIRITUAL ORGANISM unlike any secular or worldly organization" (p. 268). He lets the lay member know his role:
The individual lay member HAS HIS VITAL PART in proclaiming the GOOD NEWS (gospel) to the world. How? Not by going out and himself proclaiming Christ's message to the neighborhood or to the world. (p. 266)
HWA tells the reader that he is not to go out and proclaim Christ's message. Yet, three paragraphs later, he says the spreading of the gospel was done by "personal proclamation" by the early church:
In the first century it was done by personal proclamation. (p. 266)
So much for restoring the teachings of the "original church."
Proselytizing is not permitted in HWA's organization. Once the recruit is "in," he learns that only the "apostle" is allowed to publicly preach the gospel. The members learn to PAY, PRAY and OBEY. At first this comes as a relief. The individual is off the hook for personal evangelism—the discomforting burden of approaching others with the gospel has been removed. Later, the financial burden of tithes, offerings, and various "needs" begin to drain him financially, and the strict obedience drains him physically and emotionally. In due time, he realizes something is amiss. Instead of questioning the organization, he begins to question his own loyalty and dedication "to God and His Work," certain that he, himself, is the cause. The recruit is unaware the isolation process working in his life. He does not share what he believes, which in turn, keeps the society secretive. Sharing his beliefs leaves the member open to questions by outsiders, something that HWA wanted to avoid at all costs. Isolation is a key element in mind control, and HWA employs this technique effectively. By appointing himself as sole-declarer of the gospel, he absolves his members of any personal responsibility in sharing the gospel. The avoidance of proselytizing keeps the organization out of public scrutiny. Members are known as "quiet, keep-to-themselves kind of people that devoutly go to church on Saturday." Aside from this, neighbors, co-workers, and friends know little else of their personal convictions and beliefs. Members are taught that people on the outside "don't understand the truth," so they are told not to "cast their pearls before swine."
Just in case the reader gets the idea that he is going elsewhere to gain his reward, HWA warns him that "only those so trained in the Church will be kings and priests in the kingdom of God." (p. 270)
HWA wants his readers to believe that early church history is "scanty and suspicious," a product of a great cover up orchestrated by the devil himself. Nevertheless, the surviving early church documents have been covered extensively in my article True Original Church/Faith Once Delivered (Proof Herbert Armstrong Lied About the "Lost" Church Century!) Confident of his findings, HWA paints a picture of scholars and historians agreeing with his assessment:
Scholars and church historians recognize that events in the early Christian Church between A.D. 50 and 150 can only be seen in a vague outline—as if obscured by a thick mist. (p. 280)
In the interest of "proving all things" we will look at the sources that HWA gives in the MOA and see if he is guilty of misquoting, omissions, and misrepresentations, which would certainly not be the fruits of a man of God. First HWA quotes Edward Gibbon:
Now we quote from a book of history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I and chapter 15: "The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the Church." I have often called it "the lost century" because the history of that Church was lost at that time. (p. 280)
Now I will supply the full quote. The red text is the sentence quoted in the MOA. The bold lettering is my emphasis, while the historians' footnote commentaries to Gibbon's writings are in brackets:Part I. The Progress Of The Christian Religion, And The Sentiments, Manners, Numbers, And Condition Of The Primitive Christians. ^*
[Footnote *: In spite of my resolution, Lardner led me to look through the famous fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of Gibbon. I could not lay them down without finishing them. The causes assigned, in the fifteenth chapter, for the diffusion of Christianity, must, no doubt, have contributed to it materially; but I doubt whether he saw them all. Perhaps those which he enumerates are among the most obvious. They might all be safely adopted by a Christian writer, with some change in the language and manner. Mackintosh see Life, i. p. 244. - M.]
But this inquiry, however useful or entertaining, is attended with two peculiar difficulties. The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church. The great law of impartiality too often obliges us to reveal the imperfections of the uninspired teachers and believers of the gospel; and, to a careless observer, their faults may seem to cast a shade on the faith which they professed. But the scandal of the pious Christian, and the fallacious triumph of the Infidel, should cease as soon as they recollect not only by whom, but likewise to whom, the Divine Revelation was given. The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption, which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. ^*
A candid but rational inquiry into the progress and establishment of Christianity may be considered as a very essential part of the history of the Roman Empire. While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigor from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capitol. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman Empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans, it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili, in a world unknown to the ancients.
[Footnote *: The art of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression produced by these two memorable chapters, consists in confounding together, in one undistinguishable mass, the origin and apostolic propagation of the Christian religion with its later progress. The main question, the divine origin of the religion, is dexterously eluded (otherwise avoided) or speciously conceded (erroneously accepted); his plan enables him to commence his account, in most parts, below the apostolic times; and it is only by the strength of the dark coloring with which he has brought out the failings and the follies of succeeding ages, that a shadow of doubt and suspicion is thrown back on the primitive period of Christianity. Divest this whole passage of the latent (underlying or hidden) sarcasm betrayed by the subsequent one of the whole disquisition, and it might commence a Christian history, written in the most Christian spirit of candor. - M.] (Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Random House, N.Y., ch. 15, p. 382).
Read in complete context, we begin to understand the full meaning of what was really said. This book concerns the Roman Empire—its rise to world power, and its fall— and how Christianity triumphed in the face of the Empire's decay and final collapse. When one understands how fervently the powerful Roman officials tried to stamp out this "new religion," it truly is a miracle that it not only survived, but prospered, outlasting the Empire itself. So in spite of what seemed to be "silent and obscure" beginnings for this humble religion, it has managed to triumph beyond the confines of the Empire, and become established throughout the world. The great Empire that once was responsible for persecuting this new religion, by quirk of fate, was now responsible for the spread of this same religion. The historian accurately discerns the error of Gibbon's comments concerning the unfair impression he gives concerning the "shadow of doubt and suspicion" of primitive Christianity. He correctly points out Gibbon's error in blending the early origins of Christianity (which exist as accurate records) with its later progression (possibly referring to the thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) in order to reach his conclusion.
HWA undoubtedly read these very same records, but extracted one sentence to prove that his claims of lost church history were true. HWA misrepresented the writings of Gibbon's by not divulging the full context of Gibbon's discussion. His failure to point out the authentic historical church documents in existence is nothing short of deception.
Now let's examine the second quote given by HWA:
The noted English scholar Samuel G. Green in A Handbook of Church History wrote: "The thirty years which followed the close of the New Testament Canon and the destruction of Jerusalem are in truth the most obscure in the history of the Church. When we emerge in the second century we are, to a great extent, in a changed world." (p. 280)
HWA continually challenged his followers to "prove all things." How can one prove these things if HWA refuses to give out precise information so one can follow this specific dictate? Notice that the source that HWA has quoted above contains no publisher, no dates, no pages numbers, no footnotes, nor an Appendix. For one who claims to have the "truth," he isn't very forthcoming with particulars. One reason, of course, is to make it difficult to verify his information. But another reason for this is to screen out those who were willing to put their total trust in his claims—these are the ones HWA is looking for. How many of us thought, "I'll have to look that up and see if what he says is true," only to never get around to doing it? Others of us started to look up these claims, only to be frustrated by the inability to locate the information. So we gave up and said, "He seems to know what he's talking about, so I'll trust he's telling the truth." Still others, who questioned the minister about these sources, were told, "These books are no longer in publication. They were written in the early 1900s, back before evolution and other false teachings permeated society. These older books contained valuable information before Satan caused worldly scholars to edit most of these truths out." (Members can easily recall HWA's penchant toward the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as a prime example of this reasoning).
Today, fortunately, the Internet can be very helpful with procuring information and after much searching I was able to locate a copy of this book. The full quote is provided below. The red lettering is the portion quoted in the MOA:
Obscurity of the History, A.D. 70-100. - The thirty years which followed the close of the New Testament Canon and the destruction of Jerusalem are in truth the most obscure in the history of the Church. When we emerge in the second century we are, to a great extent, in a changed world. Apostolic authority lives no longer in the Christian community; apostolic miracles have passed; the Church has fairly begun her pilgrimage through "the waste of Time." (A Handbook of Church History, From the Apostolic Era to the Dawn of the Reformation, Samuel G. Green, D.D., The Lutterwoth Press, London: 1937, p. 22).
Notice that the sentence quoted by HWA states, "When we emerge in the second century we are, to a great extent, in a changed world." The sentence says "changed world"—not "changed religion." In fact, if there had been specific quotes about this, we can guarantee that HWA would have quoted it in his usual dramatic, over-emphasized style. Remember—what HWA doesn't say is just as important—if not more so—than what he does say. This author also does not validate HWA's "lost century" dogma. Green states that church history was obscure (but not completely lost) for only 30 years—from 70 A.D to 100 A.D. Remember, HWA stated (bolding mine):
Scholars and church historians recognize that events in the early Christian Church between A.D. 50 and 150 can only be seen in a vague outline—as if obscured by a thick mist. (p. 280)
I have often called it "the lost century" because the history of that Church was lost at that time. (p. 280)
This is why HWA omitted the first part of the paragraph "Obscurity of the History, A.D. 70-100." He didn't want to publish any dates that would be contrary to his theory and make readers suspicious. Clearly, Dr. Green does not support the notion of a "Lost Century" and HWA knew this and tried to hide this fact.
Now let's look further into the context of Green's book and see if it supports this "lost century/false church emerges in Rome" theory. Predictably, HWA does not quote the previous paragraph of this book.
Extent of the Church at the close of the Century. On the whole, the later part of the first century instructively shows that the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. At its close, however, Christian Churches were already planted in the chief cities of Syria and of Asia Minor; possibly also in Mesopotamia; in Greece, in Macedonia, and Dalmatia; in Rome, and possibly in Northern Africa and Western Europe. The remnant of the Church of Jerusalem, returning from Pella, lingered amid the ruins of the Holy City (now called Aelia Capitolina), under, it is said, the Presidency of Symeon; the Gentile mother-church in Antioch flourished under the care of Ignatius; Polycarp had commenced his lengthened and illustrious ministry in Smyrna; and in Rome the chief pastor Clement, often thought, but on insufficient grounds, to have been the "fellow-labourer" of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:3). (A Handbook of Church History, From the Apostolic Era to the Dawn of the Reformation, Samuel G. Green, D.D., The Lutterwoth Press, London: 1937, p. 22).
If church history had been lost, then these historians seem to have had no trouble finding it. In fact, by the end of the first century, the church was well established and thriving, and many of their writings were preserved. HWA did not quote Samuel G. Green's previous paragraph, because he knew it would flush his bogus "lost century" theory down the toilet.
If HWA taught that "theologians and scholars are deceived" and "don't understand" even the simplest "truths," why is he quoting these very same "deceived" scholars and theologians? If they are truly instruments of the devil, why would he quote them at all? HWA bashes them throughout this chapter of MOA, but whenever he can find something they say that remotely agrees with him, he quotes them as sources of proof!
HWA quotes another historian without giving any precise information:
In Lectures on Ecclesiastical History William Fitzgerald wrote: "Over this period of transition, which immediately succeeds upon the era properly called apostolic, great obscurity hangs…." (p. 280)
Again, we must question why HWA did not supply the reader with information to look up this particular quote. Wouldn't he want his readers to be able to verify what he says, if it is indeed, true? Now let's look at the full context of what William Fitzgerald was discussing. First, Bishop Fitzgerald describes the primacy of the Jerusalem church:
While that city stood, the Church there formed a sort of local centre to the early churches, with far higher claims than Rome could reasonably pretend to. It was, in reality – what the Church of Rome so falsely and so absurdly calls herself – the mother of all churches, to which all the lines of spiritual descent in other places converged, and in which they met. It was the place in which our Lord's own ministry had closed, and in which the presence of the Comforter had been first manifested, and it was the golden link of connection between the old and the new dispensations.
Bishop Fitzgerald observes the importance of the dissolution of the Jerusalem Church:
With such advantages as these, it is not wonderful that the Church of Jerusalem should have exercised great influences over the whole circle of the Christian community, and there certainly was no small danger that, especially after the guiding hand of the inspired Apostles was withdrawn from this central wheel as it were of the ecclesiastical machine, its movements might have been highly prejudicial to all that depended on it. There was manifest danger that the national peculiarities of the Church of Jerusalem might be impressed upon Christianity itself, and a character thus given to the religion which would render it unsuitable to discharge its important function of blending freely with the institutions of all nations and all climes and all ages, in which the true secret of its real strength and permanence lie.
The almost synchronous events of the removal of the Apostles, and the disruption of the Jewish polity, seem thus to have been so arranged by Providence that the latter to some extent compensated for the former. And just at the time when the Judaising tendency of the Church of Jerusalem was likely to do most mischief, the Roman arms drove it from its metropolis and violently broke up the associations of local dignity to which it owed its influence.
Without the influence of the original apostles, it would have been far too easy for the central church to fall prey to Judaizing or Galatianism. God used the Roman army to scatter the Jerusalem Church to prevent this from happening. Bishop Fitzgerald continues:
By these events, however, as I said, the churches were for a certain space deprived of the means of combined action. That central tie of common government, or at least a common point of contact, which had been supplied by the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem, was taken from them, and nothing of the same sort substituted in its room. Thus each separate Christian community was thrown upon its own resources for the conservation of the apostolic faith and the working out of such institutions of church order as might suits its own case.
After this scattering, there was no central church government, or point of contact. Each believing community had to work out its own church order. This, in turn, had quite remarkable results, as we will later see. Next comes the quote that HWA provided in the MOA: [HWA's quote in red]
Over this period of transition, which immediately succeeds upon the era we call apostolic, great obscurity hangs. I shall endeavor presently to assign some reasons for that obscurity.
Now why would HWA ignore the sentence after his quote? Did he not think that readers would desire to hear Bishop Fitzgerald's explanations? Or is it because he wanted them to believe that church history was lost, even if it means misrepresenting the words of a Bishop? HWA claimed that church history was lost during this period, "as if obscured by a thick mist." He claimed that the curtain began to lift around A.D. 150, but now this "original church" had become a totally different church, but still called itself Christian. Continuing from the quote above, let's see if Bishop Fitzgerald agrees with this assessment:
But what I wish to remark at present is that the fact of such obscurity, combined with with all the antecedent probabilities of the case, and the little that we do know of the history of that interval, seems to make it certain that no great piece of combined action on the part of the whole Church in its federative capacity can have taken place during it. Such an event could not have occurred without impressing some permanent record of its occurrence upon the annals of the time. And therefore, when in the middle of the next century the mist begins to clear off, and shows us the spectacle of the churches diffused over the whole surface of the Roman Empire, and beyond it, acknowledging everywhere the same essential articles of faith – tracing their religion to the same persons, founding their faith upon the same miraculous facts, appealing unanimously to the same documents as the well-attested records of their founders' teaching – and practising the same external rites as delivered down to them by those founders, this is very strong and convincing evidence that such an uniform system of belief and practice could not have originated in that short, dark interval. There was in that interval no common authority which could have fixed these things for all the churches diffused over so wide a surface...It is surely incredible that any such universal empire as this should, like Jonah's gourd, spring up in a night and vanish with the day. But if there was none, then it is plain that the unanimity which meets our view in the second century was the result of the independent testimony of the several churches, each preserving for itself, by diligent inquiry and examination, the records of the apostolic teaching. It is the uncoerced testimony of a multitude of independent separate witnesses to the same truth. (Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, William Fitzgerald, D.D., Vol. 1, pp. 132-134; London, 1885.27)
According to Bishop Fitzgerald, when the mist began to clear around A.D. 150, churches were established all over the Roman Empire. Even more miraculous was the fact that even without a central authority, they were all in agreement—not only with each other—but with the founders of the original church! This is nothing short of remarkable. The original teachings had been preserved in spite of the fact that there was no central authority overseeing this operation. Clearly, we see HWA omitting information that did not agree with his claims concerning the transformation of the early church into the false church. This would explain why he did not provide adequate references. He did not want his readers to find what he was trying to hide.
The next proof that HWA gives states: (bolding mine)
In The Course of Christian History William J. McGlothlin wrote: "But Christianity itself had been in [the] process of transformation as it progressed and at the close of the period was in many respects quite different from the apostolic Christianity." (p. 280)
Let us once again, carefully observe what is said. Since HWA lifted this sentence out of context, we cannot know what exact "period" that the author was referring to. We can clearly see that the author was speaking of a definite historical time period that had come to close. Knowing what specific time period the author was referring to would make a major difference in the context of this sentence. Past experience with HWA's dishonesty in quoting and/or omitting historical records would appropriately cast suspicion toward his direction.
HWA repeatedly refuses to supply precise information so one can look up this quote. How difficult could this have been? He doesn't even provide a footnote! I was able to locate a copy of Dr. McGlothlin's book. Below is the full quote in context, plus the exact source from where it was derived. The red type is quoted in the MOA, while the bold type is my emphasis:
Second Period – 100 to 323 A.D.
No. 18BEGINNINGS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH28
We have now followed the rapid spread of Christianity over the empire during the second and third centuries, and have seen it finally conquer the emperor and achieve its freedom. But Christianity itself had been in process of transformation as it progressed and at the close of the period was in many respects quite different from the apostolic Christianity of A.D. 100. At every step it had been changing and these changes were making the Catholic church.28 (The Course of Christian History, page 27; W. J. McGlothlin, Ph.D., D.D., The MacMillan Company, 1919).
HWA plainly tampered with this sentence, omitting the date of A.D. 100. Why? Because on page 293 of the MOA, he claimed: (bolding mine)
There ensued a hundred years in which all history of the New Testament Church was destroyed.
HWA claims that these scholars recognize that events in the early Christian church between A.D. 50 and A.D. 150 can only be seen in a vague outline, as if obscured by a thick mist. In this book, William J. McGlothlin makes no such claim. Instead, Dr. McGlothlin confidently states that apostolic Christianity existed up until A.D. 100, reducing the time of the "lost century" by 50 years! HWA obviously couldn't have that piece of evidence floating around, so he altered the sentence to make it agree with his theory. How can anyone trust a man that would knowingly alter a pertinent piece of information in order to make his theories sound correct?
Also contained in this book are thorough outlines of eight historical periods of the Church to the present day, and lengthy details of each period. At this point in our review, we are only interested in the first two periods. The First Period covers the time from 1 A.D. to 100 A.D. The Second Period extends from 100 A.D. to 323 A.D. This should adequately cover the "lost century." Dr. McGlothlin makes some interesting observations during these time periods. Under the First Period, Dr. McGlothlin writes:
"What is certain is that by the end of the first century Christianity was firmly established in most if not all the great cities of the empire, that it had spread into many of the smaller towns and even into country districts. In some sections Christians constituted a large and influential element in society." (The Course of Christian History, page 17, Section 10, Saul's Conversion and Work).
This author certainly doesn't seem to agree with HWA's assessment of a lost century. Primitive (apostolic) Christianity, by the end of the century, was firmly established throughout the empire and flourishing, which easily corroborates with Samuel Green's earlier assessment.
This author certainly doesn't seem to agree with HWA's assessment of a lost century. Primitive (apostolic) Christianity, by the end of the century, was firmly established throughout the empire and flourishing, which easily corroborates with Samuel Green's earlier assessment.
On page 247, HWA faulted traditional churches for having a "democratic" form of government. Dr. McGlothlin also informs us what type of church government the early church established: [bolding mine]
"Organization is necessary to success in any great task and so we very early find the Christians organized into bodies which they called ecclesiae, a word which is translated into English by the word churches. The basis of organization was fraternal equality. "Call no man your father, for one is your Master and all ye are brethren." This is fundamental democracy, and these early churches were undoubtedly democracies in principle as far as possible in practice. Paul appointed elders for the churches, but it must have been in consultation with the brethren in whose hands the ultimate authority rested. (The Course of Christian History, page 17, Section 11, The Churches).
HWA's top-down government (which he claims to be theocratic, but in reality is a dictatorship) that he had supposedly "restored" from the early church is a false claim. We also see that the word ecclesiae (ekklesia) simply means churches, and contains no "hidden meaning" such as "called out ones."
The final quote HWA gives as proof that a century of church history was lost:
In History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff wrote: "The remaining thirty years of the first century are involved in mysterious darkness, illuminated only by the writings of John. This is a period of church history about which we know the least and would like to know the most." (pp. 280-281)
How difficult would it have been for HWA to give the exact source of this information? One would think that he would be enthusiastic for his readers to "prove all things" and would have made it easier for the reader to locate these quotes. Instead, he has intentionally made this an arduous task so the reader would become discouraged and simply take his word at his claims. Notice carefully that Schaff states that the remaining 30 years of the first century were considered obscure (70-100 A.D.), which corroborates with Samuel Green's statements. Schaff's statement clearly does not support a lost century, but only three decades, and those decades weren't completely lost. John was still living and writing during this time.
Below we have supplied Philip Schaff's full quote in context. The red type is the quote found in the MOA: [Bold type mine, comments in brackets mine]
Sources of Information.
The author of Acts records the heroic march of Christianity from the capital of Judaism to the capital of heathenism with the same artless simplicity and serene faith as the Evangelists tell the story of Jesus; well knowing that it needs no embellishment, no apology, no subjective reflections, and that it will surely triumph by its inherent spiritual power.
The Acts and the Pauline Epistles accompany us with reliable information down to the year 63. [HWA's "50 A.D.- 150 A.D." date is clearly debunked here]. Peter and Paul are lost out of sight in the lurid fires of the Neronian persecution which seemed to consume Christianity itself. We know nothing certain of that satanic spectacle from authentic sources beyond the information of heathen historians. A few years afterwards followed the destruction of Jerusalem, which must have made an overpowering impression and broken the last ties which bound Jewish Christianity to the old theocracy. The event is indeed brought before us in the prophecy of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, but for the terrible fulfillment we are dependent on the account of an unbelieving Jew, which, as the testimony of an enemy, is all the more impressive.
The remaining thirty years of the first century are involved in mysterious darkness, illuminated only by the writings of John. This is a period of church history about which we know least and would like to know most. This period is the favorite field for ecclesiastical fables and critical conjectures. How thankfully would the historian hail the discovery of any new authentic documents between the martyrdom of Peter and Paul and the death of John, and again between the death of John and the age of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, First Period Apostolic Christianity A.D. 1-100, Volume I, Chapter III. THE APOSTOLIC AGE.)
Observe how HWA carefully avoided quoting the sentence immediately following the one displayed in the MOA. Could it be because, as Schaff astutely described, he is guilty of propagating critical conjectures and ecclesiastical fables concerning this time period? Notice that Schaff did not say historical writings were non-existent. He simply states his desire for any new authentic documentation that would shed more light during this 30-year period. This would undoubtedly put to rest the many fables generated by false teachers concerning this time period. HWA has discovered a fertile field in which to sow his seeds of suspicion, much to the chagrin of church historians.
In conclusion to this Lost Century discussion, we have seen HWA clearly omits information in order to prove his false theory true. He built up the false belief that church history was lost, and then excerpted comments to make it seem that church historians agreed with him. If HWA were truly a man of God, he would have had nothing to fear IF he did indeed have the Truth. Apparently, he knew better and had to stoop to lying through omission of key information that didn't substantiate his claims.
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