Is GCI Still Holding to Some of Herbert Armstrong's Doctrines?
Worldwide Church of God changed their name to Grace Communion International in 2009, but their leaders hold the view that HWA was a man of God who was very sincere.1 They may say he was "wrong," but they soon forget what they taught before the "change" about others who were not in the WCG who were also sincere. They used to say about these people: "They might be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong.
They say that they are not carrying any past baggage with them, but they are. The one piece of luggage that bothers me the most is their belief that one can receive salvation after death ["The Second Resurrection" teaching]. They believe that if a man has never heard the gospel, he will get a chance to when he is in the White Throne Judgment. They say God would not be a just God if He allowed anyone to go to hell that never heard.2 The argument that, "God would not be a just God if...." (do they really want God's justice?) is an argument as old as time. It started way back in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. That was one of Satan's tricks. This doctrine is one that they carried with them that Herbert Armstrong taught.
These are doctrines that show they are like other religious cults:
- They teach that the earth was here for millions of years and needed evolution to help it to become "good." The Bible says God created everything in six days, "and it was indeed very good." Gen. 1:31. The word "good" in the Hebrew is "Tobe" it is an adjective and used to mean "best" or "beautiful." God made it good immediately not in millions of years. (I wrote an article entitled, The Six Days Of Creation.)
- They teach that the spirit is in a unconscious state when it dies.3
- They believe that there is not a literal hell. [See: From where did HWA get his teachings of hell?]
- They believe that hell is not a necessary doctrine to know for one to be saved (not core doctrine as they put it).
- They teach only the good news, but not why it is the good news. They think that if a believer warns the unbeliever about hell, that he is using scare tactics. But shouldn't we warn those about their coming fate, and tell them there is a God that loves them and He sent his Son so that they don't have to perish (a final destination of ruin in hell). Of course we should.
- They believe that there is another day of salvation.4 Yet the Bible teaches "Now is the day of salvation." II Corinthians 6:2.
- They deny that their history was that of an apocalyptic cult and say that they were always part of the body of Christ.5 This is a sign of an unrepentant attitude. Most all such cults believe they are, and have always been, true believers.
- They now believe that they are a unique Church; that God is using them to do a special work. Another sign of a religious cult.
- They have told their membership that the WCG is "where God placed them"6; that they should not leave the WCG. This to me is implying that, to leave the WCG is to rebel against God. These are further scare tactics and mind control that they have used in the past. One minister told me, "Those that left did not have the heart of God."
I have sent a number of letters to their leadership about these doctrinal errors and they never responded in any way. I sent a list of twenty questions pertaining to when salvation is received and others pertaining to the above questions.
Anyone that asks a question, or makes a statement to them about their doctrines, they take as an attack on them. Help me pray for them to be separated from this false Church that is leading them into the very pit of hell.
Thank you for posting the story I wrote on your web page. As you know, I am very aware of the destruction of lives that the WCG is responsible for. What really bothers me about this organization is that they completely deny and deny that this all began with their leader Herbert W. Armstrong.
By John Miller, Jr. (Former WCG member)
October 3, 2002
Updated February 10, 2014
NOTE: Herbert W. Armstrong got his teachings on hell and universal salvation from the Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower Society). For evidence, see chapter 3, pt. 2 of ESN's critical review of Mystery of the Ages (search for the word "Watchtower").
Grace Communion International Teachings & Beliefs
In GCI's (often ambivalent and confusing) online booklets and articles, they have stated the following:
- The state of the spirit after death: After saying that "Christians hold various viewpoints on the nature of the intermediate state based on their interpretation of relevant biblical passages," they say "some passages suggest a conscious intermediate state, and others an unconscious state." Then they go on to say that they believe both views should be respected. In other words, they do not take a stand on what happens to the spirit after death. (Statement of Beliefs, "The Intermediate State" 2001) "In this age, we all die, just like Lazarus did, and Jesus will have to 'wake us up.'" ("Lazarus, come out!" by Joseph Tkach, 2005)
- Hell: They say that the Bible doesn't make it "absolutely clear" whether the separation and alienation from God in hell means annihilation or conscious spiritual alienation from God." (Statement of Beliefs, "Hell" 2001) "The parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) has often been considered a description of hell, but it should not be taken literally. Jesus was simply using imagery from the folklore of his day, just as he used Isaiah's imagery without intending a literal description." "The Book of Revelation uses these Old Testament phrases to indicate God's punishment on his enemies, but they do not have to be interpreted literally." "He [God] would rather put people out of their misery than see them suffer eternally." "Is it moral to resurrect sinners just to cause them more pain and then another death?" "The condemned will not be in the presence of God, but will suffer eternal destruction, that is, the destruction of the age to come (which is not yet describable for us mortals in the present age--it might be annihilation, or it might be something else." "We believe the details of life after the judgment are not clear in the Bible." (Mike Feazell, Q & A's on Eschatology, Eternal Security, Millennialism, Hell, & Salvation For All) They say "Scripture is vague on the details of what happens to the righteous at death; the church therefore feels it is not necessary to have an official position on this subject." ("What is 'Heaven?'" 2001) They throw out the possibility that some people can get out of hell: "If some leave hell, it will be because they, using the freedom God gives them, repent and thus decide to leave." ("Can People Get Out of Hell?" 2011)
- Annihilation: "Eternal suffering and immortality are two traditional doctrines that usually go together, but one is not necessary for the other." "It is possible for an immortal soul to be annihilated in hell and for all consciousness to cease." "Is it possible that he [Jesus] used the same word with different meanings -- a life that does not cease, and a punishment that ceases? "("Why Did Jesus Teach About Hell?" by Michael Morrison) [Note: This article is no longer online.]
- Another day of salvation (or being saved after death): In explaining Heb. 9:27-28 they say that it "says nothing about what that judgment might include, nor anything about whether God will allow people to trust in him after they die." They do not state clearly whether there is no chance after death if one has not accepted Christ in this life. To the contrary they say "there is no need to worry that our departed loved ones, nor any of the rest of the masses of humans who have died, are consigned to the eternal flames simply because no missionary reached them with the gospel message before they died" and that since most of humanity died without ever hearing the gospel, "we must take into consideration the possibility that their decision of faith, or decision of non-faith, may well be one that takes place in the realm of death." ("No Other Name" by J. Michael Feazell, 2000) "Peter does not say that they must believe in him before they die." "We believe those who haven't previously been called will be able to believe then, when confronted with the glorified Christ..." (Mike Feazell, Q & A's on Eschatology, Eternal Security, Millennialism, Hell, & Salvation For All)
In another booklet they ask and answer the question, "what about people who die without hearing about Jesus?" "Do they have any hope? Yes--precisely because the Christian gospel is the gospel of grace. People are saved by God's grace, not by pronouncing the name 'Jesus'" ... "Therefore we can believe that one way or another he urges every person who ever lived, or who ever will live, to trust in him for salvation—whether before they die, at the point of death, or even after they are dead. If some people in the last judgment turn to Christ in faith when they at last learn what he has done for them, then he will certainly not turn them away." ("Is Jesus the Only Way" by Joseph Tkach, 2002)
"The unevangelized — those who have not had opportunity to hear the gospel and put their faith in Christ — will also learn that the Lord has already provided for them." ("The Last Judgment," 2007, 2016)
"[Christ] makes gracious and just provision for all, even for those who at death appear not to have believed the gospel." (Statement of Beliefs, "Eternal Judgment" 2001) "We believe that those who die in this life without knowing the gospel will be presented with the gospel when they come face to face with the risen Lord at their resurrection." (Q & A's on Eschatology, Eternal Security, Millennialism, Hell, & Salvation For All)
"All humanity, at Jesus' return, will know who Jesus is and in knowing, will face the ultimate decision: to receive and embrace the one God has given them as their salvation, or to reject and turn away from him." ("What About Hell?" 2011)
- Eternal security: Regarding eternal security, WCG believes that those who will be saved are "all whose faith remains in Jesus Christ." (Statement of Beliefs, "Eternal Security" 2001) This is similar to HWA words, "To be 'saved'--to inherit eternal life in God's Kingdom--you must still be traveling THAT WAY at the end of your life!" (What Do You Mean..."The Unpardonable Sin"? p. 34) WCG says that certain verses in the Scriptures are "tempered by some warnings that appear to say Christians can lose their salvation through persistent unbelief." ("What About "Eternal Security"?" 2000, WCG) "Christians can lose the eternal life they already have." (July 12, 1994 Worldwide News, "How do we overcome?" by Ralph G. Orr, p. 7)
- Heaven: Regarding heaven WCG says "Scripture is vague on the details of what happens to the righteous at death; the church therefore feels it is not necessary to have an official position on this subject." ("What is 'Heaven?'" 2001) They also seem to believe that heaven is a state of mind as they say, "To be in heaven is to remain in Christ in the presence of God." (Statement of Beliefs, "Heaven" 2001). "God has not chosen to describe the intermediate state explicitly and dogmatically in the Bible." ("What About the 'Intermediate State' "? 2001, 2016)
GCI's booklets and articles on doctrine (which ramble on and on) are absolute confusion with much ambiguity. In addition, since individual members are allowed to hold "different doctrinal viewpoints" in GCI, there remain members and ministers, especially overseas, who continue to believe some of Herbert Armstrong's doctrines and are allowed to do so.
Today Grace Communion International has endorsed New Age teachers and philosophies. They actually began doing this before they had even changed their name. Read: Letter to Worldwide Church of God, Philippines (On Apostasy --A Radical Proposal) and Grace Communion International - New Age and Ecumenical Connections.
Updated by AJW
Exit & Support Network™
March 22, 2017
"Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died." ~H. A. Ironside
Worldwide Church of God's Faulty Orthodoxy (Dr. Robert Sumner gives strong reasons to be skeptical in accepting the new WCG as now Orthodox)
Other articles by John Miller, Jr.:
Testimony by John Miller, Jr.:
Footnotes by ESN:
2 How God chooses to reveal His light to people in this age is up to Him. But it will be those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of all their sins that will not receive eternal life. (John 3:16; II Thessalonians 1:8-9) Read: How Do I Receive Eternal Life?
3 HWA plagiarized his teaching about the "unconscious state" from the Jehovah's Witnesses. For evidence of this see chapter three, pt. 2 and chapter six of our critical review of Mystery of the Ages (just search for the word "Watchtower"). HWA also used John 3:13 ("No man hath ascended into heaven") and Acts 2:34 ("For David is not ascended into the heavens:"). But David, as a flesh and blood being, did not ascend into the heavens. When Jesus was on earth, no other man had ascended to heaven. It was not until Christ died and ascended to heaven that the child of God is "absent from the body...present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8). Jesus stated: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John 11:26)
4 Grace Communion International and Their Universalism Views (by John Miller, Jr.)
5 This is documented on several places on the site. Also see our critical review of Transformed by Christ. Tkach, Jr. has also referred to the WCG as being a "denomination." ("WCG considers denominational name change" by Joseph Tkach, WCG Today, October 2005.