Herbert Armstrong claimed to have truths that were revealed to him by God alone. He said this knowledge had been lost for 1900 years [see “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall Chap. 5, Pt. 2, beginning with “On page 294, HWA states:”] but was now, in this end time, being proclaimed to the world by God’s “Apostle” (him) and through His “one and only true Church of God.” Was this true? Or do his doctrines, instead, appear to be very similar to other groups which have always claimed similar “truths”? If one examines, for example, the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Church of God (7th Day) and Seventh-day Adventists, and then compares what they teach with HWA’s “truths,” they will notice not only a similarity–but in many cases a word for word copying.1
It is well known that most leaders of Bible-based cults have been guilty of plagiarizing others’ material and then claiming it as their own–in other words, saying it is what God revealed specifically to them alone. Plagiarizing is the act of copying the words or ideas of another author without giving that person recognition. Herbert Armstrong’s copying doctrines and then pawning it off to members as his own unique truth; i.e., “God’s truth,” would constitute plagiarizing. We all know that he never said, “I got this truth (or mystery) from such and such author, but decided it was so good that I thought I would put it in a booklet of my own and pass it on to all of you as the restored gospel.” HWA was dishonest since he always claimed God had revealed that “truth” directly to him.
Claimed to Have Restored Truth
Most of these groups that claim to have God’s revealed (or restored) truth will also claim to be the “one true Church.” We highly recommend you do some research into this. (Also, read our articles under Mind Control & Exploitation.)
But the truth always has a way of coming out.
The True History of the True Church, a WCG booklet that members were to read and believe, has been found to be completely fabricated. (See ESN article: True Original Church/Faith Once Delivered for proof that Herbert Armstrong lied about the “lost” church century.)
Many of Herbert Armstrong’s “truths” sound quite similar to extremist New Age thinking and Gnosticism. Compare what WCG members were taught and what many New Agers and occultists are taught:
|HWA TEACHINGS||NEW AGE/OCCULTIC TEACHINGS|
|Mystery of the Ages||Mystery of the Ages|
Mysteries of the Ages
Mystery teachings of the ages
|The Incredible Human Potential||Human Potential Movement|
|We will become God in the God family||Progress toward a statehood of God|
|We are called, chosen, and have received special knowledge||We have special information and knowledge coming to us|
|Unity in the church |
Unity in the World Tomorrow
All human minds and wills eventually one
|A world government with the Government of God ruling||A World Government|
|Christ will be the world ruler||The Christ as the New World ruler|
|Rulers in the World Tomorrow having power and authority and enforcing God's laws||Elite rulers with power and authority to enforce the above|
|God's Law will be over the whole earth||Universal laws will prevail|
|A World Tomorrow of peace and happiness||A New Age world of harmony and peace|
|The solution to man's problems||Solving man's problems|
|All will choose to obey||People will want to obey|
|All will learn the way of love||All will love each other|
|Educating the world and relocating|
the races and nations
|Gradual education and reorganization of people|
The Plan of God
God's Plan of Salvation
|The Plan |
False teachers and false prophets usually never have anything new or original to offer. Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) wrote a book entitled Divine Plan of the Ages. His successor J. F. Rutherford wrote one called, The Finished Mystery. The Masonic author Manly P. Hall wrote a book entitled, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Can you see similarity between the titles of those books and Herbert Armstrong’s Mystery of the Ages?
The Words “Mystery of the Ages”
Where did HWA get the words “Mystery of the Ages” for his book? Look at Colossians 1:26:
“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”
But what does Scripture go on to say this mystery hidden really was?
“To Whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles;” (verse 27)
The mystery was that Christ was the Head of a new body made up of Jews and Gentiles. This was not revealed in the O. T.
It was a special revelation to the Apostle Paul (not Herbert Armstrong) as Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:3. Nothing about some “God’s Plan.”
False teachers always turn people’s eyes away from Christ onto some hidden mystery or plan. This mystery spoken of in Colossians 1 and Ephesians 3 was in stark contrast to the mysteries of the Gnostics at the time, the same as it is with New Age mysteries today.
Note: HWA’s Mystery of the Ages has been reviewed chapter by chapter by Kelly Marshall of ESN and also William Hohmann and is available as a PDF download.
Plagiarizing and Distorting Church Documents
HWA plagiarized the writings of Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and Pentecostals (the last three groups have occult roots).
Those who would deceive have no qualms about distorting church documents; taking things out of context, adding, omitting, twisting and slanting. (To see how HWA did this, read: Did Herbert Armstrong Distort Historical Church Documents?)
False teachers and those who claim to be “enlightened” always add some extra book or “new” information to the Bible, which they proclaim was “revealed to them.” HWA’s, Mystery of the Ages was supposed to contain the “truth of long hidden mysteries”; Gerald Flurry’s book, Malachi’s Message, was claimed to be the “little book” mentioned in Revelation and was “revealed by an angel” to him; Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science) made special claim for her Key to Science and Health; Joseph Smith (Mormons) did the same with the “golden plates” which he claimed he found, and with his Book of Mormon. These are only a few out of thousands who have added (or taken) from the Word of God and who teach similar dogma.
What did the Apostle Paul say about this?
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (II Corinthians 11:4).
Many of the doctrines Herbert Armstrong taught as “truths” were known as heresies; i.e., Gnosticism, in the early history of the church. One can read the documents from the early church fathers online to see this and how they tirelessly defended the truth of the Gospel against these false teachers and self-proclaimed prophets whose aim was to subvert the Word of God and draw off followers after themselves. (These subjects are also covered in “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” and accompanying research articles). Heresies are mentioned in Galatians 5:20 as one of the “works of the flesh.” HWA was able to pawn them off as the “restored gospel.”
By subtle and clever twisting of (and taking out of context) the Scriptures, not using proper methods of biblical scholarship, along with covering up pertinent information, HWA was able to cause others to feel that they were discovering (and proving) these long lost truths on their own (with assistance from him, of course). He helped them in this process through the aid of his booklets, magazines and Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. While many of HWA’s teachings seem to be exciting and new revelation–especially to those who are seeking black and white answers to life–they cannot be found in the Bible. All of this is adding to and taking away from the written Word of God.
Herbert Armstrong, as all other false teachers, could make his arguments sound enticing and thrilling, especially when he presented them as “mysteries” that the rest of the world didn’t and couldn’t understand.
Difficult to Give Up the Programming
Using his knowledge of advertising and propaganda, HWA selected texts out of context and gave them his interpretation, which in many cases were demonic reasonings. He even studied Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Communism2 as a guide in controlling people. Anyone who did not understand how deception, mind control and propaganda works were susceptible to being drawn into his exploitive, controlling secret organization.3 And once a member, most became too fearful to question, doubt, or even entertain the thought of leaving. It is the use of such methods that causes these groups to be known as destructive.4
Unless someone is willing to take the time to research the background of the organization they were in, its founder, the thought reform methods employed, and understand how many other groups are very similar, it is very difficult for them to give up what has unknowingly been programmed into their mind for years, or even decades. Those who exited or were disfellowshipped from WCG without understanding these things are often drawn into a similar exclusive group where they become doubly programmed. In most cases, no matter how much is shown to them about the founder’s hypocrisies, lies, false prophecies, extravagant lifestyle, arrogance, abuses, etc., they still maintain that they have “proved” everything, it is “God’s true (or restored) Church,” and/or these “truths” are simply what has been around since the first century of the Christian church. However, doing some research on these subjects shows otherwise.
Search for Hidden Truth
Some will admit that Herbert Armstrong was not who he said he was and readily agree he was a con, but then they get on a bent to search for the “ultimate truth” or “hidden truth” through other material, either outside true Christianity or outside religion altogether. It may be New Age philosophies, mysticism, Gnosticism, skepticism, or even the occult. Why? Perhaps the real truth of the Bible, which is found in the story of God saving us by His grace by sending His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16), seems too simple for them. They still feel there must be more answers regarding their purpose here on earth and how they can control their destiny. One exiter told us that he had to search in “deep, dark places” to find the truth. Feeling that we have to have “the truth” is something that all totalistic groups put into their members’ minds. It often can become an addiction to keep reading more and more books and digging deeper and deeper.
The Fruits of These “Truths”
Other former members will confess that HWA was a hypocrite and “far from God,” but affirm that he spoke “God’s truth” because “truth is truth no matter who preaches it” and “even the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and 7th-day Adventists5 have some of God’s truth.” In other words, God’s truth is a potpourri of beliefs that resides in secretive organizations that are involved in spiritual, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of their victims; a very difficult re-entry back into society, and a long period of healing to go through after exiting. Does this make any sense whatsoever? What those who hold to this reasoning fail to comprehend is that HWA merely shot down all mainstream beliefs of Christianity for the sole purpose of getting others to distrust everything about Orthodox Christianity, so that he could end up the rich apostle. While there may be certain splinter groups today that do not control or exploit their members, the roots and fruits of these “truths” have become evident for all to see. This is something that is very hard for many exiters to grasp.
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; …” (I John 3:7-8).
The Only Spiritual Truth We Need to Know
None of us will ever have all the truth about everything in life, because God hasn’t given us all the answers. But how much do we really need them? There is no man or church that has all the answers, or all the truth on 100% of everything we might want to know. If they are honest, they will admit this. We should leave the fine points with God and trust that He knows what is best and that in the end He will do what is best because He is good and He is just. Don’t let what you do know the Bible says about salvation disturb what you don’t know. The only spiritual truth we really need is to know who Jesus was, the reason He came to earth for, and how to receive eternal life that He has so freely offered. Everything in the Bible centers around Christ, not trying to find a certain “true church” or “truth” on something. Truth is not a doctrine, principle, rule or a way of life. It is a person–the Lord Jesus Christ. (“…the truth is in Jesus:” Ephesians 4:21) He desires to have a close fellowship with each of us and for us to know Him and to know we are loved and accepted unconditionally. If we could understand more about His deep love for us, we would be satisfied with that alone.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
July 2, 2004
“Every word of God is pure: … Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
Angels of Deceit: The Masterminds Behind Religious Deceptions by Richard Lee and Ed Hindson. (Covers a number of false teachers and prophets, including Herbert W. Armstrong. Part one: “The Process of Spiritual Deception”; Part Two: “The Masters of Deception”)
Inside the New Age Nightmare by Randall N. Baer (The first few chapters of this book may be read online.)
Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off? (An Exposé of the Armstrong Modus Operandi) by Marion J. McNair (available as PDF download)
1 HWA copied or lifted almost all of his doctrines from other groups, many of them known as apocalyptic Bible-based cults and then added his own eclectic spin. For evidence, see the following: chapter three, pt. 2 and chapter six of “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review” by Kelly Marshall (search for the word “Watchtower”) and for his copying from Mormonism, see chapter two of the same review (search for the phrase “Latter Day Saints”). [This MOA critique is available as PDF download] Also read: The “Key to Unlocking Prophecy” (Did Herbert Armstrong Say God Revealed It to Him Alone?)
2 Read: Hitler Used Mein Kampf as a Guide in Controlling People May 27, 2007 letter to ESN) and this part in OIU#5, Pt. 3 (beginning with “Communism is the RESULT”) which reveals by his own words that he studied Communism. (OIUs available as PDF download) It is also it is mentioned in Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web (pg. 116) that HWA studied Adolph Hitler’s book.
3 Read: How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People? (The step-by-step process)
4 Read: Identifying Marks of an Abusive Group
5 The Seventh-day Adventist Church is considered by many to be a religious cult.
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