(for those who like to use this reasoning)
This worn-out argument has been used to excuse the sins of Herbert W. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted. The leaders and ministers in totalistic, high demand offshoots and splinter groups of Worldwide Church of God have succeeded in causing their members to believe that their founder was a “true man of God who had God’s Truth.” Those who teach this almost always like to draw an analogy out of the Old Testament. At the same time they fail to bring into account the things that discredit someone with the label of “God’s true Apostle,” “the end-time Elijah,” “the only one proclaiming the truth of God,” etc. For instance, the following is never mentioned: (1) HWA’s over two hundred failed prophecies, (2) his using mind control and other spiritually abusive methods to control his followers, and (3) his continuing to live in sin.
So what is the answer to “none of God’s servants are perfect”? Bible students will notice that the qualifications for a servant of God are made clear in I Timothy 3:1-10 and Titus 1:6-8 (also I Peter 5:3). Let’s look at I Timothy 3, verses 1, 2 and 7:
“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (vs.1)
Bishop actually means “an overseer, a superintendent.” Any authoritarian leader of a group which claims to be the “one true church” is definitely an overseer over those under them.
“A bishop then must be blameless….” (vs. 2)
Even though any of God’s servants will undoubtedly be blamed for things if they hold an office in the church, the important thing is that the accusation must not be found to be true. In Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted’s case, many accusations were leveled against them and found to be true.
“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (vs. 7)
To have a “good report” is to have a good reputation.
The words, “them which are without” refers to those who are outside the church. In other words, if a man has a bad reputation on the outside, he is not a candidate to be an overseer in the church. Such a man would end up causing shame to the name of Christ. HWA and Garner Ted Armstrong had a bad report from without the church.
In I Timothy 4:11-12 the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to be an example to the other believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.”
And II Timothy 2:19 says, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
We must be clean vessels in order to be used by God: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21).
“All that a minister has got is his character; mark that. If you take character away from a minister, you take away all that he has got.”
~Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)
Wasn’t the Biblical David–and even Judas Iscariot–imperfect?
This is another clever reasoning that is used in order to justify someone as being “used by God” and having “God’s truths.”
First, it is the Bible that gives the requirements for an apostle (mentioned above). As far as Judas Iscariot being an apostle that “sinned,” how many would want to follow him as an example? Judas could have gone to God or Jesus and repented. Did he? Faith and obedience go together.
Judas did not have this faith. He even exemplified his greed by his protest against breaking the box of ointment, stealing from the money for the poor, bargaining to betray Jesus and then concealing his treachery. He was no longer a disciple after he betrayed Jesus. Judas revealed his true nature, and so do abusive, deceptive, authoritarian leaders that claim to “speak for God” but whose fruit testifies otherwise.
“…men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (II Timothy 3:8).
Some also use David in the Bible as an “example of sinning.” The answer is that David had a firm and unshakable trust in God. He was grieved when confronted with his sins and displayed strong efforts to return to God all the more loyally after his errors and transgressions. David’s errors stand out because of their rarity. He sinned, but he didn’t live in sin, and that is the difference.
“Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (I Kings 15:5).
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (I John 3:7).
Furthermore, David had a passion and love for God that is seldom found today, and when he sinned, the Bible shows he humbly confessed it and turned from that sin. We are to deal with the sin in our lives, not make excuses for it.
What about Peter?
Some will say that Peter, who was the first Apostle to open the door to the Gentiles, made mistakes and was still used by God. Yes, he was, but do we find the Bible glossing over those incidents? For instance, Peter and Barnabas, along with the other Jewish Christians, were severely reprimanded and rebuked publicly for hypocrisy (denying by their actions that both believing Jews and Gentiles were accepted equally on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection). The Apostle Paul tells us:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11).
Regarding Peter and his companions, Paul said:
“… I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14).
We do not see this incident swept under the rug, nor do we see these men making this same error again. Why, then, are the sins of the founders of deceptive, exploitive groups always covered up and excuses made for them?
“…The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19).
Fruits of False Teachers:
Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong never admitted to anyone that they were wrong. They had an attitude of arrogance and pride and would not even listen to those who tried to correct them. Garner Ted Armstrong continually “repented” and “repented,” putting on a show of tears, but the fruits remained the same. (“I am weary with repenting.” Jeremiah 15:6) The Word of God shows us that if anyone has the mind of Christ (which can only be imparted through the Holy Spirit), there will be good fruit produced and there will be a true turning from sin. Both HWA and GTA were involved in many scandals and cover-ups which were common knowledge among the field ministry, yet GTA admitted they were “above the Law.” But what does the Word of God say?
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:13).
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God …” (I John 3:10)
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…” (Jude 4).
Ministers who complained, or asked hard questions about these things, were slandered and fired. GTA feigned “repentance,” but it never led to good fruit in his life. The ironic thing is that GTA wrote an article in 1959–and which was revised in `69, `70, `71, and `72–called, “What is Real Repentance?” (Did he himself even know the answer to that question?)
“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may also fear” (I Timothy 5:20).
Are we to remain in a group and fellowship with leaders who have lifted up Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong? Should we allow these “ministers” to rule over us and pay homage to them?
The Word of God is clear:
“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (I Corinthians 5:11).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).
“…it is both impossible and itself evil to totally refrain from making moral judgments.”
~M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 255.
Deceived and Conned:
After everything this article has brought out, why would anyone want to defend Herbert Armstrong or Garner Ted Armstrong’s sins, or believe that they could ever have been “used by God”? The answer is because no one wants to admit that they have been deceived and conned by a hypocritical, fraudulent “minister of God” who headed an abusive, totalistic group (a.k.a. a religious cult) and got away with it. It is very uncomfortable to believe any new information that contradicts what one has previously believed; therefore it is easier to discount it, or excuse it away and hold to the belief that, after all, HWA was teaching the “restored gospel” or “God’s truths” instead of realizing that what he taught was a false gospel; the goal being to gain power and wealth.
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (III John 11).
It’s time we reflect on HWA’s religious roots and the origin of his doctrines; how he made use of mind control, how people were deceived and recruited into the WCG and even how he studied the techniques in Adolph Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf. (Read: May 29, 2007 letter to ESN and Mind Control & Exploitation for links to these things.) Many of these same methods and tactics are being used by controlling “one true church” ministers to this very day; i. e., Philadelphia Church of God, Living Church of God, Restored Church of God and other authoritarian offshoots. HWA and GTA believed they were “above the Law.” Where in the Word of God are we taught such a concept? Let us not have a lack of understanding in holding to the idea that these men, whose life produced nothing but bad fruit, were ever “used by God” in any way whatsoever. Herbert Armstrong’s teachings were a system of bondage that led to much abuse and devastation of thousands of lives. Totalistic groups that follow in his footsteps are guilty of the same.
“Immorality and false religion always go together.” ~J. Vernon McGee
Our prayer is that all who read this article will be discerning and that the Holy Spirit will reveal the freedom and peace which is found in Christ Jesus alone, through His abundant grace.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”
.~II Corinthians 11:13
Confession and Freedom From Specific Cult/Occult Strongholds (includes WCG, PCG & all offshoots)
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