- Questions About Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International)
- Questions About Herbert W. Armstrong
- Questions About Philadelphia Church of God
- Questions About Other Offshoots
- Questions About Members
- Questions About Recovery
- Questions About Our Website
- Questions About the Law, Works or Salvation
- Miscellaneous Questions
(Note: Insertion of offsite links are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily mean an endorsement of all views espoused on that site.)
Questions About Worldwide Church of God (GCI):
What information can you give me on the WCG (GCI)?
Worldwide Church of God Expose` (many articles & testimonies)
Yes, they are. Read this part in: What in the World is Worldwide Church of God Doing Now? (GCI) (“Tongues Speaking”) with also has a letter sent to ESN at the time of the changes about WCG allowing tongues speaking.
Also, go to the 2020 letters on our site, starting with Question on Tongues and read the comments and letters following that. There will be links to helpful articles.
The following two articles are posted on our site:
Could you tell me when WCG’s first observance of the Feast of Tabernacles was and their timeline for moving away from the feast days?
Read reply to: WCG’s First Feast of Tabernacles and Moving Away From the Feast Days (September 19, 2021 letter)
Questions About Herbert W. Armstrong:
What information do you have on Herbert Armstrong?
Herbert W. Armstrong (many articles)
What does the “W” in Herbert W. Armstrong’s name stand for?
It doesn’t stand for anything because he didn’t have a middle name. Most of the explanations on the web about this appear to be nothing but spin and misinformation, such as saying that Armstrong told someone he added the “W” because there were too many Herbert Armstrongs in Pasadena, CA (or Oregon) and also, since there was another man with the same name across the street from Ambassador College it caused problems with the mail delivery. This is almost ludicrous.
While there is no way of knowing exactly how many “Herbert Armstrongs” were living in Pasadena at the time he was there (unless a census can be checked), a recent search for those with the name Armstrong living in Pasadena, CA today brought up only three names and none of them started with Herbert!
The most valid answer is most likely that which is found in Ambassador Report #36, August 1986, “HWA remembered” and which follow: [excerpts]
Many who knew him personally say that HWA didn’t have a middle name. He adopted the W at some point (at least as far back as 1915) simply to add dignity, dimension or dressing to what he apparently thought was too ordinary a name. And why the W rather than some other letter? We really don’t know. But former WCG minister Gary Arvidson has theorized:
“First of all, as an advertising man HWA must have known that of all the letters in the alphabet W is visually the largest, phonetically the longest, and with its three sharp angles, symbolically assertive. Second, W was the middle initial of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential preachers in American history. I have wondered, frankly, if HWA was not unconsciously or even consciously modeling himself after Beecher.”
Henry Ward Beecher…had a large following, was rich and politically influential, traveled widely abroad, claimed to be a friend of U.S. presidents and European royalty, constantly sought the public limelight, has been called an opportunist and hypocrite, and made national headlines when he was put on trial for adultery in 1875. David R. Robinson, a devoted student of British and American history, and the author of a revealing book on HWA [Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web], told us:
“Henry Ward Beecher and Herbert Armstrong had much in common. The definitive biography of Beecher is Henry Ward Beecher. An American Portrait by Paxton Hibben. That biography, which can still be found in many libraries, first appeared in 1927, shortly before Herbert embarked on his career in religion. I really think Herbert read that book, or at least knew of Beecher’s life story. There are just so many similarities in their two lives.”
Part of it would be to imitate how HWA used one for importance. (See previous question.)
“If you want people to think you’re an intellectual, use your middle initial.” ~Excerpted from: “Here’s Why Using Your Middle Initial Makes You Look Smarter” by Drake Baer.
So that is why we have: Gerald R. Flurry, David C. Pack, Fred R. Coulter, Roderick C. Meredith (deceased), Gerald E. Weston, Jon W. Brisby, John W. Ritenbaugh, and William F. Dankenbring (deceased).
Wasn’t HWA just an imperfect man who made mistakes?
“None of God’s Servants Were Perfect” (for those who like to use this reasoning)
Why are you attacking a dead man?
It is common for those who have been conditioned by Herbert Armstrong to accuse and resist any who would expose him as “attacking a dead man.” This is a simple way of ignoring and dismissing the facts that he was a false teacher and false prophet who left a trail of destruction in people’s lives (many who still suffer to this day). Even decades ago when HWA was alive, there were a number of others who publically exposed and criticized him not only as a charlatan but as one who had altered and twisted the Word of God. (See Footnote #1 in Dropouts See Hucksterism Where They Once Saw God for a list of some who exposed him in those early days.) Any “attacks” on the site of HWA are backed up with supporting evidence.
Others have protested by saying “HWA is now dead and buried.” HWA may be “dead” in these people’s minds, but he continues to live on (especially through his copied and plagiarized doctrines) in hundreds of offshoots today.
Herbert Armstrong was known to say that certain churches (or organizations) had “some” of the truth, but not all of the truth (which only he had and which was revealed to him long before he ever read their material). Many of his followers still believe this today. But none of these groups had “the truth” in the first place and their destructive fruits bear this out. HWA plagiarized, borrowed and copied from several cultic groups, put it all together, and then simply added his own spin. This made it look like he had all the answers. This also served the purpose of controlling others in order to exploit them financially (which was what many of these other cultic groups were already doing).
Herbert Armstrong’s Religious Roots (The origin of Herbert’s unique doctrines)
Angels of Deceit: The Masterminds Behind Religious Deceptions by Richard Lee & Ed Hinson (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”)
Facts Seventh-day Adventists Won’t Tell You [offsite link]
This is an excuse which certain ministers in some of the WCG splinter groups (i.e., Church of the Great God, Philadelphia Church of God, The Church of God-PKG, etc.) use. The argument is that, given enough time, all the prophecies (or “predictions”) which HWA gave will eventually come to pass. It was HWA himself that first said only his “timing was wrong”–and this after giving 21+ prophetic failures during the 1930s and 40’s. (I supposed we could say Ellen G. White’s timing was off also–by 150 years plus.) What these ministers do not tell their members is that the prophets in O.T. times not only prophesied what was coming in the future, but they told what was going to happen locally in the immediate future. This was how people knew whether someone qualified as a true prophet of God. The local event had to transpire exactly as it was predicted. When it did, the people knew it was a true prophet compared to a false prophet.
Did Herbert Armstrong Set Dates? (several of his false prophecies)
Memories About Petra (Shows how false prophecies were excused away)
Where can I have the false teachings of Herbert Armstrong explained
In our section on Herbert W. Armstrong see this part: Questioning HWA’s doctrines.
Questions About Philadelphia Church of God:
What can you tell me about Gerald Flurry and PCG?
Mike’s Page (many expose` articles & testimonies)
Is the Philadelphia Church of God the Laodicean Church?
What is the “no-contact” ruling in PCG?
How Does PCG Use its Third Tithe?
[Note: The phrase “government of God” is used in PCG and other controlling, totalistic offshoots and splinter groups of WCG.]
“Government of God” are words which are intended to connect with the group’s leader and its headquarters, which members are to unquestionably obey in all matters and at all times. Those who don’t are said to have “a government problem.” This total obedience opens the member up to the mind control abuse of the system.
While the leader of the group will state that members are not “forced to obey,” but “choose to obey God’s government,” their minds are, in fact being influenced and programmed through fear to submit to the “authority.” This teaching has led to many abuses of those under the one in authority.
Members in PCG (as in all high demand groups) believe that to question Gerald Flurry is the same as questioning God. They believe they are building more and more of the “character of God,” when, in reality, they are only becoming more submissive to the government of the organization.
Questions About Offshoots:
Which offshoots have you posted information on?
Questions About Members:
What do I do if my loved one (or friend) has been deceived by one of these groups?
If You Have a Loved One in a Deceptive, Exploitive Group (Includes what to do and what not to do)
A person in any of these groups will probably not be able to leave until they start having doubts and/or questions. You should never try to force them out. Their decision to leave could come about by seeing a contradiction in what the leadership says in contrast to with what they are actually doing (hypocritical behavior, failed prophecies, etc.), discovering the real history of the group, including the history of WCG, or by being abused by the leadership. Furnishing information on the thought reform methods used by high demand groups may help if it causes them them to question. It is only through awareness and education, and learning the facts that they didn’t have upon joining, that an individual can regain his critical thinking skills. A thinking person can then make decisions to leave. Research in the United States has shown that if members have been away from the group for a period of time; i.e., three weeks or more, most of them tend to leave without exit counseling.
Members that are passive, positive, agreeable, lacking in critical thinking skills, having a need to be led, and who never cause any trouble to those in authority, are valuable assets to mind-controlling groups. The ones that speak up, or start asking too many uncomfortable questions, are soon gotten rid of. Those who are individualistic and inquisitive are more likely to leave.
People rarely come out of the deceptive and exploitive Armstrong groups because they discover the theology is wrong (although some do). It is rather when they are so abused by the leadership that they finally say to themselves, “this all cannot be of God.” But if they do leave still believing the leader or founder was “a tool in God’s hands” and that “God’s true church” exists out there somewhere, they will most likely start looking for a suitable offshoot.
If you have left the group, don’t go back inside to try and “rescue” someone. It doesn’t work.
Recommended article: Why it’s Hard to Leave Philadelphia Church of God (focuses on the fear members experience; although written by ex-PCG member, it is applicable to those in any of the totalistic Herbert Armstrong groups)
God’s Timing For Our Loved Ones (if you’ve prayed for years)
The Answer to the Problem of Unanswered Prayer (offsite article; helpful for those who have prayed for their loved ones for years)
How do people get out of these groups?
How can intelligent people become deceived?
Anyone can be susceptible to sophisticated thought reform methods. Leaders of deceptive, totalistic groups are skilled in coercive persuasion and mind control techniques. A number of them may exhibit the behavior characteristics of sociopaths and have no conscience or scruples whatsoever in regard to exploiting others. Setting themselves up as “spiritual authorities,” they take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. Those who have carefully studied the literature of these groups will see that it is saturated with fear. This type of manipulation is called “fear phobia induction.” (Note: This is covered in our OIU Newsletters under OIU #4, pt. 3) Once the person is fear phobic, they become submissive to the authority in the group.
All human minds are open to influence and persuasion, including intelligent people that are simply looking for answers to the many problems they see in society. Some may be going through a difficult time in their life and the group’s literature appears to provide answers. Other people may be idealistic and naïve.
We should always take the time to research the background of any group we are becoming interested in, especially before sending them money This includes the founder and where he actually got his doctrines from. If they are legitimate they should be able to stand up to any historical and background check on them.
How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People? (The step-by-step process; applies equally to those drawn into PCG, RCG, etc.)
What happens to their personality?
Members in the high demand, totalistic groups form what is known as a “cult personality,” or new personality, which is different than their personality before joining. (Refer to the book, Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change by Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman.) This is also known as “doubling” and it can happen quickly or take approximately 3 l/2 years. They can also behave quite differently with the group (happy, upbeat), but switch and be totally different at home. They often become negative, sarcastic and judgmental toward “the world” and those outside their religious frame of mind. After exiting, the personality begins to re-organize itself. Reading some of the books on our Booklist will help you understand how these groups work and how people are being harmed psychologically and spiritually in such systems. Members become, in most cases, “religious addicts.” While very sincere in their desire to follow and obey God, their trust has been used against them in order to exploit and control them.
There is no unconditional love in these groups, only “love-bombing.” This is a manipulative technique where the new recruit is showered with positive attention and reinforcement which helps them to feel that joining is in their best interests. This “loving atmosphere” also enables the recruiters to access the psychological needs, fears, dependencies, and resistance of the person who is thinking of joining. Methods of shame and guilt are also used to keep them in line.
To have peace and contentment with one’s faith is entirely different than being tricked into believing (as a result of fear and coercion) that one is in “God’s one true church,” and all others outside of it are lost and headed for the Great Tribulation or eternal death. Totalistic (authoritarian) groups have done great damage to individuals by causing them to hold to the belief of unconditional submission to a man that claims to be “God’s representative.” For anyone to manipulate another person’s mind for one’s own gain is a great evil.
They stay because they feel they have “proven” their beliefs, but in actuality, they are being held by certain fears: fear their mind will be taken over by Satan; fear of the Lake of Fire; fear of the Great Tribulation; fear of being cut off from family and friends in the group; fear they will cut themselves off from “the vine” and wither and die; fear of losing their salvation; fear of being cursed by God, fear of nowhere to go if they leave (they believe it is “the one true church”) and fear that they will “cease to exist” if they find themselves on the outside, since their existence is in the group.
When taking on a new identity and new belief system after becoming a member (refer to the previous Q&A), they will become what the group leader desires–submissive, powerless, yet highly devoted and offering undying loyalty and servitude. In this state of mind, they discard and avoid all information which disagrees with what the leader teaches. They are taught to tell themselves and others (concerning whatever problems they see or experience as a result of their allegiance) that “God will take care of it” or “I’m leaving it in God’s hands.” Therefore they dismiss any thoughts that something may be amiss. Outside their awareness, they are being exploited and controlled for the leaders’ purposes.
What is the spiritual status of those in the HWA groups?
What is the Spiritual Status of People in the HWA Groups?(answers from 3 people in ESN to a question that was sent in)
Questions About Recovery:
The healthiest ex-members are those who have patiently studied their way through:
(3) Spiritual discernment is gained by:
a) learning how WCG used techniques that spiritually damaged members (such as Scripture twisting)
Note: Scripture twisting is covered in the following reviews:
- Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)
Chapter by chapter review by Kelly Marshall in ESN; shows proof of HWA’s plagiarism from other groups; twisting of Scripture, contradictions, deceptions, and how people were set up.
- Mystery of the Ages (a 2nd critical review)
Chapter by chapter review by William Hohmann; shows how HWA caused readers to rely on his teachings while abandoning critical thinking. The end result was a false gospel that diminished Christ.
- Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)
b) networking with others who have experience and sensitivity with the understanding of GRACE vs. LAW and the Gospel as understood by traditional Christianity
c) following through on the Booklist provided which leads members into making solid decisions backed up by factual content and not just emotion, which often leads to toxic faith syndrome. [Note: Some of these books are available by PDF downloads.]
There is no particular order in the healing process. It has proven to be most successful when the exiter becomes responsible for his own recovery on his own time schedule (taking breaks when needed). Understanding of corruption and deception within the organization has proven to be instrumental in leading the exiter away from the Armstrong dogma and into clear traditional Christian understanding. Recovery consists of breaking down every facet of manipulation and lies and building a solid foundation on truth.
The following information on our site has proven to be especially helpful for exiters:
Healing From Spiritual Abuse (many articles)
Where Do the Feelings Go? (feelings from hurtful stimulus were not allowed to be expressed in the group; covers how to get the feelings out of our head and onto paper)
A phobia is a persistent, irrational fear that is being triggered. One of the main techniques mind manipulating groups use to control their members is fear. Their literature is saturated with it. Many of these fears may remain for years if the exiter doesn’t work on breaking free from them. (Read how WCG made use of fear phobia induction in OIU 4, Pt. 4 [OIUs available as PDF download]) Once a person becomes fear phobic, they become submissive to the authority of the group and are vulnerable to exploitation.
If one feels they need further help in recovering, cognitive therapy has been found to be helpful for phobias that resulted from the group’s spiritually abusive teachings. However, many exiters, especially child survivors, are unable to read, or hear quotes, from the Bible, due to it being used against them in the group. If the therapist is a Christian, they must understand this and pay heed to how the counselee is feeling about it. Therefore, when searching for a counselor the survivor should choose one that shows consideration in this regard, along with having a good understanding of abusive groups and/or trauma and methods of thought reform (or be willing to learn). The counselor should not try to control the exiter or blame their problems only on what happened before joining the group; otherwise, they could be harmed by the therapy.
It helps to be able to recognize the fear and then challenge it. For example, write the fear thoughts on the left side of the page in a column, and then on the right side in another column, challenge it by writing out what you rationally know is the truth of the situation.
Cognitive Behavioral Focusing for Exiters (An Approach to Handling Depression, Anxiety, Fear & Guilt)
Some books that might prove helpful are:
Captive Hearts, Captive Minds (Freedom & Recovery From Cults & Abusive Relationships) by Madeline Tobias and Janja Lalich (Includes info on phobias)
How can I help my children overcome fear of Armstrong teachings?
Read: Any Ideas to Help Children Overcome Fear of Armstrong Teachings (includes letters from exiters; also covers Halloween and Christmas)
Why do I have so much guilt?
In a system where perfection is the model, no human being can ever measure up. On of the things leaders of abusive, high demand groups use in order to control people is guilt. A common characteristic is to blame the members when they don’t (or can’t) live up to expectations–or when the promised physical benefits never arrive, which is sure to happen sooner or later. The end result is that the person blames themselves and feels guilty for not measuring up to what the group expects and demands of them. What exiters almost always have is “false guilt.” To reverse this involves a process of unlearning false concepts (lies) that we have come to believe about ourselves. Understanding the love and grace of God and how He does not try to control us (as leaders in the abusive group did) can begin to erase those guilt feelings.
Untangling our mind from false teachings and lies about God and the Bible takes years and even then we cannot claim to have all the answers. Only cultic groups will proclaim that.
Loyalty and unquestioned obedience to Herbert Armstrong was what was paramount in the group, and this “obedience” was always laced with fear. To understand this is very important before trying to “untangle the mind” from any teachings. Read: Lifton’s Eight Criteria of Thought Reform (shows how these methods are used in totalistic groups).
HWA taught that “salvation (and conversion) is a process.” That was not true. It was the mind control (thought reform; programming) that was the “process” and it will take time to undo it. If survivors fail to undo the programming they received, they will be vulnerable to joining another controlling, or exclusive, offshoot with similar methods.
In addition to redefining the entire Bible, Herbert Armstrong redefined history; i.e., his own personal history, biblical/church history and the history of the Worldwide Church of God. There is ample documentation to prove that his own history as reported by himself was a lie.
An individual may have left the group because they came to see the abuses, but the teachings (“God’s way”; “God’s truth”; “God’s Government”) can still be implanted in their mind. Many have not understood that these teachings were instilled in them in the first place for the sole purpose of controlling and exploiting them financially.
When a survivor makes their own choice to read the Bible again, they often continue to see many parts of it through the lens of HWA’s dogma. It is suggested that they start in the New Testament epistles (especially Romans and Galatians) and stay out of the Old Testament for awhile. Read and believe what the Scriptures say, not what HWA said they mean. Pray for guidance and the spirit of discernment. Only the Holy Spirit of God can reveal the meaning of Scripture.
However, since reading the Bible was always pushed in the group, reading a Bible commentary (the older ones are recommended) or a Bible dictionary such as Unger’s Bible Dictionary may be less triggering for some. Even taking a Bible concordance and noticing how many times the word “grace” is mentioned in the New Testament, along with the context the verse is in, can be helpful. When doing this, notice how the focus is on the death and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The exiter can then go from there to read other Christian material on the New Covenant and grace.
The messages of the late J. Vernon McGee are helpful as he reveals Christ as the centerpiece of Scripture and gives a true understanding of the grace and love of God and our position in Christ. Another helpful ministry with programs to listen to is Bob George Ministries which teaches the complete forgiveness and unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
The following material may prove helpful:
List of books refuting Armstrong’s doctrinal errors (from our Booklist)
Grace & Law (many articles)
Biblical Studies (from our Booklist)
Rooting Armstrongism out of Ex-Worldwide Church of God Folk (by WCG exiter) [offsite article]
Along with reading the previous question and working on replacing the lies, the following is recommended:
How do I help someone recover?
Intense emotions are normal whenever anyone has been coerced, abused and exploited. Be willing to listen patiently and non-judgmentally whenever they desire to talk about their experience and that they feel safe. Avoid being confrontational. Never push anything on someone who has left an authoritarian group, as they are very sensitive to being controlled. It can also feel like a reprogramming of their minds if you try to force a particular belief system on them, or urge church attendance, no matter how correct you feel it is. Remember that survivors of mind-manipulating or high demand groups have had the Bible used (and pushed) on them in a very negative way. Therefore, it is normal for them to not be able (or even want) to open the Bible after exiting, due to triggers and fears, or to not trust any religious leaders or organizations. Many survivors struggle with their faith at a very core level and it is common for them to find it hard to even trust God.
It is important to build trust, convey love, and offer support before issues of belief are broached. No one should insist on Bible reading for those who have been in any type of high demand religious group, as it takes years to undo the emotional and spiritual scars. Resolving spiritual issues is only part of the recovery process.
Give them time to rest; to evaluate their goals and identity. Encourage them to make simple decisions. Let them know that there is hope, and that you support them unconditionally.
When they have questions about the history of the group they were in and how mind manipulative groups (aka “cults”) function in our society, don’t feel you have to be the one to furnish all the information you can find, or it could prove overwhelming. Allow them to have an active part in their own recovery and to learn to make independent decisions. It is important for them to know they are not powerless.
Recovery From Spiritual Abuse – How You Can Help [good offsite article]
Exiters placed their trust in and were betrayed by spiritual leaders; therefore, it is very common for those who have exited any abusive, authoritarian group to have a deep fear and distrust of anyone in a position of spiritual authority, and not to be able to attend a church for quite awhile, perhaps never. Going to another church can also present many triggers and exiters need to be aware of what to expect. Even attempting to sing certain hymns in some churches can cause problems (i.e., cognitive dissonance) since HWA changed many words in sacred hymns, along with teaching that all churches were “false” and were “Satan’s churches.” HWA fostered many lies in order to keep others from leaving his exclusive “true” organization.
We need to very discerning today as most evangelical churches are now part of the church growth movement (incorporating New Age teachings), or the emergent church. Others are hyper-Charismatic, theologically liberal and apostate, or extremely controlling, even abusive, and focus on works in order to be saved (Lordship salvation). (See links under Discernment & Research)
If an exiter does decide to attend another church but finds they are having more and more problems, or they feel something isn’t right, they should not hesitate to leave instead of remaining and hoping things will get better.
Those who have suffered in a high demand group need time to rest, heal, become stronger, and then determine for themselves whom to trust again. It is more helpful to first spend time reading some books on mind control, spiritual abuse, and recovery.
Beware of the Organic Church and Frank Viola (letter to ESN)
How to Find a Good Church Home (good article; offsite link)
Questions About our Website:
Why are you critical of WCG and certain offshoots?
Worldwide Church of God destroyed thousands of innocent lives in the name of “god” through fraud, deception, intentional abuse and exploitation, using techniques of mind control. What happened is a holocaust that cannot be simply buried and forgotten. We expose them in order that the other side of the story may be known as a testimony to the victims and also that others may avoid going into the abusive and totalistic splinter groups that engage in the same practices. Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to suffer the same fate for lack of knowledge.
What do you believe?
First of all, we do not believe that doctrine should be used to control, deceive or exploit others. Neither do we believe that anyone should force their beliefs on survivors who have suffered exploitation and spiritual abuse, since their trust has been betrayed in the deepest sense of the word. Simply stated, we at ESN believe that eternal life is found through faith, by grace, in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Truth, not a particular church, denomination, or organization, and that He completed everything for us on the cross.
Why do many survivors choose to remain anonymous?
Pseudonyms, initials, or first names only, are often used on the site for two reasons: (1) Survivors of abusive and controlling religious groups have had their trust severely broken, and they do not wish to take the chance of being harassed or threatened by their former group, receive criticism from family still in, or have to explain their involvement to friends or employers. Therefore, anonymity is often chosen unless the former member or survivor requests their real name be used. (2) Basic Internet Security bulletins put out by officials, including police agencies, recommend several ways to stay safe on the Internet. One of these is to not give out personal information such as full names and/or addresses.
ESN is not a journalistic website. It is a website dedicated to the recovery of people who were involved in Herbert Armstrong’s WCG, along with offshoots that developed from it. As such, the website gathers information germane to mind control methods employed by cults, and also posts letters from ex-members who give their input as to the goings-on inside the various groups they were a part of, and what they are hearing from family members that remain in those cult groups. We will post encouragement and information regarding their recovery, and other information we deem useful to their recovery, such as articles refuting some of the beliefs taught their members which we believe to be untenable scripturally.
Information is not necessarily “news.” That we offer commentary regarding the letters sent to us, it can hardly be construed as being news in the sense of journalism that normally deals with a wide range of current events and commentary on that level and in that regard.
Questions About the Law, Works or Salvation:
Note: Exiters of high demand groups have had the Bible used on them in order to control, coerce, manipulate and exploit them spiritually, emotionally and financially. (See our sections: Mind Control & Exploitation and Grace & Law) Sorting through one’s personal beliefs takes much time. The following information is posted for those who have expressed an interest in these subjects.
The Ten Commandments constituted the old covenant, and there is nothing in Scripture stating that they were ratified as a separate covenant. The Law of Moses (which the Ten Commandments are a part of) was given to the children of Israel. This Law consisted of 613 points of law. [See offsite article which lists all of them.] The “written Law” consisted of 10 commandments and the “oral law” consisted of 603 commandments. All is considered the Mosaic Law. All 613 points of law were/are “written” by Moses and recorded in the book of the law. Oral law are added “traditions” or commentaries on the written Law. [See offsite article on the Oral Law.] The Scriptures state that one cannot pick and choose from these old covenant laws. If you are going to try and observe them, you are obligated to do the whole law, including the New Moons with their sacrifices. (See Galatians 3:10) After Christ came, there is no more need nor obligation for Christians to observe the Mosaic Law and the ceremonial types.
Besides, no one can keep the Law perfectly in thought, word or deed. Trying to keep it actually stirs up the sin nature. (Romans 7:8) It will always condemn us and say we are guilty. The Law is called “the ministry of death.” (II Corinthians 3:7-8) In contrast, the grace of God through Christ Jesus is what releases us from sin and death. The purpose of the Law is to lead the unconverted (those not under faith) to Christ. (See Galatians 3:24-25) We must not mix up this old covenant Law of the letter which brings condemnation and death with God’s spiritual law of faith which leads to life. (See Romans 3:27; Romans 7:6 and 8:2)
Must We Keep the Law for Salvation? (many Q&A)
The Sabbath was the sign between God and ancient Israel. It was part of the old covenant, which was a national, temporal law for a national, temporal purpose. The Israelites first received the Sabbath command from God through Moses. (See Nehemiah 9:13-14 and Deuteronomy 5:2-3). It was a covenant between God and the Israelites and no one else.
Leaders of certain authoritarian religious groups emphasize the Sabbath and teach that it is a “sign” of God’s “one true church.” This serves to control members (in order to exploit them) and leads to a dogmatic insistence that one couldn’t be converted unless they were in this “one true church.”
We find no mention of Paul instructing the Gentiles that they must keep the Sabbath. In fact, the Sabbath command is not mentioned at all in any of the Pauline epistles. Romans 13:8 mentions five of the Ten Commandments and then states, “if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” There is no mention of the fourth commandment and that Christians need to “keep it holy.” When our motive is love (the love of Christ in our hearts), there is no need for any other laws. The “law of Christ” mentioned in Galatians 6:2 refers to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12), not to the Ten Commandments. The Christian is to live on a much higher plane than the Ten Commandments, and that is love. (Romans 13:10: “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.”)
The early church fathers wrote that the observance of the Sabbath was demonstrated to have been temporary. (An Answer to the Jews 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, p. 155) [offsite link]
If one chooses to rest on the Sabbath, they are free to do so, but it does not affect one’s salvation. (Romans 14:5-6; I John 5:12a)
For further study:
Should the Sabbath Be Observed Today? (Will cover Colossians 2:16)
Sabbath and Sunday (Common Arguments & Misunderstandings) (Will also cover whether or not the Roman Catholic Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday; also quotes Justin Martyr who lived 150 years before the time of Constantine)
Was the Mosaic Sabbath Eternal and Unchangeable? [offsite article]
The Sabbath in the New Testament [offsite article]
The Sabbath Law (6 MP3 messages; free download; excellent study) [offsite link]
Jesus tells us He is able to save to the uttermost all those that come unto God by Him. (Hebrews 7:25) All that come to Him, He will not cast out. (John 6:37) He also says that He gives us eternal life and we will never perish, neither is any man able to take us out of His hand. (John 10:28) We are sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) We are preserved in Jesus Christ. (Jude 1) We have an inheritance (that does not fade away) reserved for us in heaven. (I Peter 1:4) We may backslide or stumble, but we will never perish because He holds on to us, not vice versa. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will seek His lost sheep (those who wander away). He will not lose one of them. (John 6:39)
It is encouraging to know that when we turn to God and place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the complete forgiveness of all our sins, we have assurance of eternal life now. (I John 5:13) To teach otherwise is to deny the finality of the cross.
Leaders of totalistic religious groups redefine grace, salvation and faith. “License to sin” is covered in several places on our site; i.e., “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review) by Kelly Marshall, Chapter 6, Pt. 4, “GRACE.” (PDF)
Eternal Security of the Believer (Written many years ago by the late H. A. Ironside, but very good. Page two answers 24 questions; i.e., question #11 discusses Hebrews 6:4-6 and while question #12 discusses Hebrews 10:28-29, it also covers Hebrews 10:26 about “no more sacrifice for sins.”) [offsite link]
My Position in Christ (accepted and secure forever)
There is no act of sin that you can commit for which there is no forgiveness because Christ died for all our sins–past, present and future–and, therefore, does not hold any sin against us anymore.
See: “Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross” (Explains I John 1:9; includes MP3 download) [offsite link]
The Holy Spirit cannot be lost (John 14:16), and if we have believed on, and trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we have been reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:18), and have the assurance of eternal life now. (I John 5:13) (See: How Do I Receive Eternal Life?)
Believing you have committed the “unpardonable sin” brings fear instead of peace and assurance. Such teaching is prevalent in groups which control members by fear and guilt.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is covered in “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall, Chapter 3. This also includes footnote #7, which quotes J. Vernon McGee from his notes on Matthew 12:29-32. (PDF)
Is there a 100-year period? If not, what happens to people who never heard the gospel? Are they thrown into the Lake of Fire?
There is no such thing as the “100-year period” and this is covered in our Critical Review of Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 7, “Mystery of the Kingdom of God,” Pt. 3 of 3. Go to “AFTER THE MILLENNIUM” and then scroll to “The Second Resurrection–The Great White Throne Judgment.” This will cover the so-called 100-year period.
We will not fully understand every detail until we have been resurrected, but an article by Don Koenig entitled “Lake of Fire for Devil, his angels and his seed; God’s offspring don’t go there” seems to gives the best explanation for what happens to those who never heard the gospel. (This article may need to be read a few times in order to grasp it.)
Since GCI sounds like they are believing in universalism (read our section that talks about that: Teaching a Form of Universalism), an article by the late Cornelius Stam is good to read: Universal Reconciliation by Cornelius R. Stam [opens as PDF from our site]
First of all, we need to realize that HWA got his teaching of heaven and hell from the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses). This is shown in “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall, Chapter 3. Pt. 2 (PDF) [search for the words HEAVEN AND HELL].
If we have placed our faith in Christ as our Savior, we go immediately upon death to be with the Lord: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8); “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Philippians 1:23).
Those who have rejected Christ and His payment for our sins, past, present and future, will go to hell. J. Vernon McGee says in his comments on Jude 13 that the two symbols for hell are fire and the blackness of darkness (Jude 1:13). He feels darkness will be far more frightening. His message on Jude 1:12-1:25 may be listened to on youtube
Why Church Leaders Demand Holy Days For Their Members (could it have anything to do with control?)
Herbert Armstrong taught that Jeremiah 10:3-5 was talking about “Christmas trees”; however, if one reads the chapter in context, it is clear that God is speaking about the heathen custom of idolatry, not Christmas trees.
The verses are actually directed toward the house of Israel and refers to regulating one’s life according to the Zodiac or being troubled by such things as eclipses or comets, which were believed by these idolatrous nations to be signs of coming events given by the gods. Verse 5 is talking about how the idols they were carving out of trees had eyes, ears, mouth, legs and feet, but they could not speak and had to be carried from one place to another. Israel also covered these idols with blue and purple clothing (verse 9). A similar reference is seen in Habakkuk 2:19: “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.”
Some aspects of Christmas (and Easter, etc.) have pagan origins, but we must realize that nearly everything in our culture is rooted in paganism; i.e., names of the months, days of the week, planets, weddings, rings, neckties, honeymoons, etc. That does not necessarily make them evil. Evil lies in the heart of man, not in any particular day.
If one chooses, these days can be used as a time to show love and kindness to friends and family; i.e., eating dinner with others, or spending time together, something members avoided for many years while under the control of the group leader, and which caused much division and hurt feelings. They can also be an opportunity to help the less fortunate.
Worldliness, drunkenness, revelry, covetousness and idolatry are condemned in the Bible, but HWA made it sound like everyone who did something on these holidays was guilty of such. HWA emphasized the negative elements in society in order to isolate people into his exclusive group. This fostered judgmental attitudes, self-righteousness, pride, and a lack of love and compassion toward others.
The main thing to ponder is: Which harmed us more–Christmas, Easter and birthdays (especially if we grew up observing them)–or leaders with deceitful motives who used days to control us, while they programmed our minds and exploited us in the process? (Read: Why Church Leaders Demand Holy Days For Their Members) God accepts His children not because they don’t observe “pagan” holidays, but on the basis of what His Son Jesus has already done for them on the cross of Calvary.
The main thing to remember is that Christ Jesus was born and He was resurrected, and we should remember that all year round, not just at specific times of the year.
Christmas and Other Painful Memories (child survivor story)
We Thought the Feast Was “Better Than Christmas” (letter to ESN)
Finally Able to Enjoy the Christmas Season Again (PCG letter to ESN)
Equating Christmas Decorations With Evil (PCG letter to ESN)
Christmas and Christians [offsite article]
We need to first understand that the observance of festivals in high demand groups is for the purpose of controlling members. (See question above “Is it necessary to keep the O.T. Holy Days?”) It is much easier to have authority over someone if their lives are molded around the “church.”
Leaders of totalistic groups have always taught that if healthy members didn’t show up for the Passover service, they were gravely sinning and were in danger of “losing the Holy Spirit.” To the contrary, the Scriptures show that the Holy Spirit and eternal life cannot be lost or taken away, and we are sealed the moment we place our faith and trust in Christ. (See John 14:16; John 10:28; II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30)
Christ, our Passover, has already been offered. Therefore, to continue to observe the O.T. Passover is to say He never came.
Today many Christians observe what is called the “Lord’s Supper” (often referred to as Communion), but the issue is not whether we do or don’t observe a ritual and how often. It is about what Christ has already done for us and remembering that every day. He no longer holds our sins against us.
The Lord’s Supper (excellent study; explains the Last Supper in the context of the Passover; also covers I Corinthians 11 in the 2nd message and how many people have twisted it today) [offsite link]
On what day of the week was Jesus crucified and how long was He in the grave?
Read: “The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday” (A Look at Herbert W. Armstrong’s Booklet) (detailed and shows clearly why HWA was wrong.)
Read the following offsite articles:
As the first article says at the end:
“In the grand scheme of things, it is not all that important to know what day of the week Christ was crucified. If it were very important, then God’s Word would have clearly communicated the day and timeframe. What is important is that He did die and that He physically, bodily rose from the dead. What is equally important is the reason He died—to take the punishment that all sinners deserve. John 3:16 and 3:36 both proclaim that putting your trust in Him results in eternal life! This is equally true whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.”
We must not take one Scripture out of the Bible and try to use it in order to compel someone else to do what we think they should do. Verses in the Bible must also be viewed in the context of the historical and cultural context in which they were given in.
We must consider the many Christians who are unable to attend a church or even a visible fellowship due to living in countries where they are experiencing severe religious persecution (even from their own families). The only fellowship many have overseas is to listen to foreign Christian radio broadcasts with wind-up radios (Saber devices), or flash drives or other audio devices.
In addition, most survivors of spiritual abuse are unable to attend a church due to it being too triggering for them, or because they have been unable to find a good Bible church. (Listen to this broadcast from Living God Ministries on Hebrews 10:25 [opens as mp3 file]) that says this verse is not a commandment but had to do with how it was very challenging for the Hebrews at that time to meet together with those who were free from the Law; that it was acceptable to meet outside the Temple. Also covers how those from a legalistic background may need a break from assembling.)
Nevertheless, messages abound today from other Christians or Christian leaders (especially in the United States) to make exiters feel guilty if they aren’t “in church on Sunday.” This is similar to how members and children were made to feel guilty if they didn’t show up for Sabbath services in the WCG (or other offshoot).
We worship God in spirit and in truth, not at any particular church or location. (John 4:23-24) Since more and more churches today are being infiltrated by the church growth movement (including New Age elements), or are apostate, there are times when we have to stand alone for Christ.
How to Find a Good Church Home (good article; offsite link)
Does Hebrews 12:6 mean that God punishes us for our sin?
At the death of Christ, God no longer holds our sins against us, nor ever will. The discipline of God is not punishment for a past event, it is preparation for a future event. The objective is clearly that we grow more in our relationship with Him.
This article will explain more about this verse: How Will Our God Discipline Us? [offsite article]
More: To understand what “drifting away” means and the need to believe God has forgiven you of all your sins, listen to the teaching on Hebrews 2:1-3 (MP3 file) (Note: This message is from same ministry previously.)
Where do I find the one true church?
The Apostle Paul (who was personally taught and commissioned by Christ) said the Gospel was the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. (See I Corinthians 15:1-4) It’s the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, what He has accomplished and how He has forgiven all our sins. To teach contrary to this is to deny the Gospel and to teach another gospel. (II Cor. 11:4; Galatians 1:6)
It is a commonly held belief in the HWA offshoots (i.e., churches of HWA, those who call themselves “churches of God”) that the true believers–those who believe Herbert Armstrong restored the true gospel–were all scattered (and continue to be scattered) when the WCG made their doctrinal changes. However, Jeremiah 23:1-2 (which they use) is not applying to them. The word “pastors” in these verses refers to the kings, politicians, those ruling at that time in history, the ones who were responsible for the laws of the land (and which God did later judge).
Ezekiel 34 is another chapter used where it talks about the “shepherds” and the flock being scattered and later regathered. But the “regathering” mentioned here and in other places is talking about the nation Israel, not those who left WCG, PCG, etc., and “shepherds” is what Israel’s rulers and leaders were often called.
In Matthew 26:31 Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7. The “shepherd” in this verse is Christ who was smitten and the sheep that “shall be scattered” was the dispersion of the Jews after 70 A.D. It is blasphemous to even say that the word “shepherd” refers to Herbert Armstrong when he died.
None of these verses apply to any WCG or PCG, etc., pastor or teacher. Those in the offshoots who hold to British-Israelism have wrongly interpreted these scriptures to be speaking to them, especially if they were treated harshly by the leaders of the group they left.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what the Mark of the Beast will be. HWA, and leaders from several of the WCG offshoots, use fear to teach that the Mark is worshipping on Sunday instead of the Sabbath; however, there is no day mentioned in the book of Revelation in relation to worshipping the image of the beast.
Read: The Fallacy of the Mark of the Beast being Sunday Worship (2 part article from Let Us Reason).
Here are some reasons why we should not be fearful or concerned about it:
Christians will not experience the wrath of God (which the Mark of the Beast will lead to):
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” (I Thessalonians 5:9).
God says He has not given us a spirit of fear:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).
There are many places in the Bible where God says to “fear not” or “be not afraid.”
He can deliver us from fear and give us peace:
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4).
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
We do not need to worry about the Mark of the Beast or the Great Tribulation. God promises to keep us safe “from” (not “during”) the hour of trial which is to come:
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, [the Great Tribulation] which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
The above verse is referring to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
The Great Tribulation is the time of “Jacob’s trouble.” (See Jeremiah 30:7) Also read offsite article that clearly shows the church is not “spiritual Israel.”]
Our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as a result of believing in and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, not because of any works we might perform.
Why Jesus’ Church Will Not Go Through the Tribulation
Excellent video message by the late J. Vernon McGee. (also covers the different views people hold)
The Pretribulation rapture is also known as the blessed hope. (Titus 2:13)
The word “caught up” in I Thessalonians 4:17 is the Greek word harpazo which means “to lift, to snatch up, to draw up, to transport.” It has several meanings, and one meaning is “to rapture.” The word “rapture” comes from the Latin word rapios which is a translation of the Greek word harpazo.
HWA’s WCG and offshoots such as PCG, RCG, LCG, etc., teach that members will escape the Great Tribulation by fleeing to a “place of safety” and that the only ones going there will be those who are obedient to the “government of God” (which translates to their HQs and to what their leader teaches).
Offsite Articles on the Pretribulation Rapture:
Proofs for Pretribulation Rapture Theology by Don Koenig
Rapture (comparison to the Jewish wedding; a shorter article)
Only two hundred million will depart in the Rapture? by Don Koenig
The Church-Rapture of the Church (Several Q&A from Answers From the Book)
Recommended Videos on the Pretribulation Rapture:
Why Jesus’ Church Will Not Go Through the Tribulation
Excellent message from J. Vernon McGee of Thru The Bible. (also covers different rapture views people hold)
The Rapture Comes Next
J. Vernon McGee explains the rapture and when it occurs.
Is the Rapture the Great Escape for the Church?
John Barnett tells how the early church heard and understood the doctrine of Christ’s at any moment return.
Books on the Pretribulation Rapture:
It helps to understand that God’s Plan and Satan’s Counterfeit run side by side. (We are not referring to “God’s Plan” as taught by HWA.) Go to this offsite article: Understanding Satan’s Plan (To Counterfeit the Second Coming of Christ & the Restoration of All Things) and scroll on down “21. NEW RELIGION.” Then below that is “PREMISE.” Right under that you will see a chart covering God’s Plan and Satan’s Counterfeit. We could be in the time of Satan’s Counterfeit Tribulation. (Note that this page is only one part of a detailed report and each section will have this chart on it, either at the top or bottom.) Realize also that the Tribulation (which lasts seven years, not 3 l/2 years as taught by HWA) is referred to in the Bible as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) and the N. T. church is not spiritual Israel, which we have covered on this site.
Recommended Articles for further study:
What is the time of Jacob’s trouble? (from Got Questions)
The Biblical Necessity of the Pretribulation Rapture by Jonathan Brentner (helpful for those who are worrying whether they are in the Tribulation now or will go through the Tribulation)
The Tribulation, the Anti-Christ and the Church (from Let Us Reason Ministries)
Why the tribulation did not happen in 70 AD! (from Let Us Reason Ministries)
It is not necessary to come out and tell others you were in a cult. Most won’t understand how you became involved in the first place, and if it is Christians you are telling this to, there is the very real possibility that they may unthinkingly say something hurtful, or look upon you as weak or inferior in some way. Read: Amazing Words That Have Been Said to Exiters -or- What Never to Say to Someone Who Has Been Deceived by an Exploitive Group. Most Christians believe they can never be deceived.
If you feel you want to tell others something about your involvement (especially if you have been asked which church you were previously in), it is better to simply say you were in a “very controlling church.” You do not need to give them the name of your former group and can simply say you “don’t feel comfortable mentioning it.”
Sometimes you will run across those who have been in a controlling, or abusive church, and who can identify with much of what you have gone through. Other Christians, however, do not even know what the words “spiritual abuse” means and its damaging after effects. (If they are interested, we list titles of several good books on our Booklist.)
It might work okay to tell them that your group used methods of control, guilt and fear to enforce compliance to their dogma. It is best, however, not to blurt out your whole story to strangers, especially other Christians you do not know very well. Don’t blame yourself or say you were “stupid” when you are sharing your involvement, or they may feel they should agree with you. The people that will understand the most are those who have been in an abusive, controlling, or exploitive group.
While some exiters have found their new church caring and accepting (or at least one or two members who are understanding), this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, it is recommended that exiters always wait until they feel strong enough to answer others concerning their involvement.
If Christianity is true, why are there so many denominations?
This question was first raised in our minds by Herbert Armstrong whose purpose was to try and plant a seed of doubt in the minds of those he was recruiting in order that they might come to distrust all other mainstream Christian churches and their literature and hold to the belief that he alone was God’s apostle of the “one and only true church” where he claimed God was working. An crucial question is, “What are the traits of churches that claim they are the “one true church?” (Read All or Nothing Statements for a sample of how totalistic leaders talk.)
What is important is what is going on inside a church or Christian organization. Do they teach that one is saved by faith through grace but then go on to add works, rituals and conditions for salvation? Do they control their members with fear and guilt if they don’t obey the leadership? Do they hold to doctrines which center around the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, or do members believe that extra-revelations were given to their founder that must be used in addition to the Bible? Are their ministers humble, or do they have a proud, unteachable spirit? Can members question or doubt what their ministers teach? Have they given many prophecies or predictions that have failed to come to pass? Do the fruits of their own lives testify as to what they teach, or have they been found to be hypocrites and liars? Do they forbid their members to listen to former members (calling them “disgruntled,” “bitter,” “Laodicean,” etc.?) Do they practice history revision and gloss over the sins of their founder?
There has always been a false Christianity and a true Christianity. Doctrine is used by false teachers for the purpose of controlling their members and to distract others from their true agenda which is financial exploitation. Deceptive leaders (who are not held accountable) will control, abuse and exploit their members over the issue of doctrine in order to receive a following which brings them money and power. While there are many denominations, a false church will lack a basic fundamental understanding of the true Gospel, which centers around the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, His forgiveness for all our sins (I John 2:2) and His bodily resurrection. If their understanding of the Gospel is inaccurate, then their interpretation of other scriptures will be flawed (and in most cases taken out of context and twisted).
While it was placed in our minds to wonder “why there are so many denominations in Christianity,” today we find hundreds of Armstrong offshoots (calling themselves “churches of God”) with most of them claiming to be the “correct” or “true” one, yet differing or disagreeing on a number of points. (Read: May 18, 2011 PCG letter: No Good Fruit in the Splinter Groups)
Why Are There So Many Christian Denominations? [offsite article]
This movement began in the 1930’s among the Church of God (7th Day) and is similar to the Hebrew Roots Movement. It has grievous errors. A good website that we recommend and which has several articles and Q&As on this movement is SacredName.com.
Other articles [offsite]:
What is the Sacred Name Movement? (from Got Questions)
If His name was Yeshua, why do we call Him Jesus? (from Got Questions)
The Sacred Name Movement (4 part series from Let Us Reason Ministries)
The Sacred Name Movement Debunked (39 min; in depth)
Note: This website gives credit to the Lord Jesus Christ for inspiring the contents therein. It would not be possible without Him.