This letter reveals how Herbert Armstrong1 was confronted time and again with doctrinal issues and failed to change. Also covers double standards, false prophecies, bad fruit, the lack of intellectual freedom of the members to think for themselves and how Herbert W. Armstrong placed himself in a position before Jesus Christ and the Bible. It was written by Robert Gerringer, former member of Worldwide Church of God and former employee at Ambassador College, to Charles Hunting, WCG evangelist who headed Ambassador College in Bricket Wood, England.
Note: Charles Hunting discussed HWA’s double standards on The Clyde Thomas Show, WKIS, Orlando, FL, 1988 (transcript is here on offsite link). [Note: This is an agnostic/atheist site] However, he also attempted to debunk the doctrine of the Trinity [i. e., the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God and the Holy Spirit is fully God –but they are united in the fullness of one God], but in doing so has totally denied the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit as being God. Charles Hunting died November 11, 2011.)
“Check up on me! And if I don’t preach the truth, don’t you believe it! But you come to me and show me where I’m wrong
and I’ll change.” ~Herbert W. Armstrong, sermon given at Westminster Hall, Bricket Wood, England, July 25, 1981.
Also be sure and read:
Jack Kessler 1981 Letter to Worldwide Church of God Board of Directors (Reveals the evil of the continuing, persistent financial abuses in the Worldwide Church of God and the shocking moral depravity. Also covers Tkach, Sr. stealing $5,000 as a “needy church member.”)
Worldwide Church of God History (Transcription of message given by Kenneth Westby; exposes the double standards of the Armstrongs and the suffering of the members that finally led to the exit of many WCG evangelists, ministers and members in the 70’s.)
Begin Part One of Letter:
April 19, 1975
Dear Mr. Hunting,
Thank you very much for your letter. Connie and I really appreciate you thinking about us and taking the time to write us. I must apologize for taking so long to answer your letter. When it arrived we were gone. I arranged it so my new job would begin three weeks after I finished at Ambassador, since I would not be eligible for a vacation until working there for one year.
Actually, the three weeks weren’t a vacation — we traveled north to Modesto to visit my folks; then, to Seattle to see my brother and his wife; then to Spokane to see Connie’s sister, husband, and their two kids; then to Colorado to visit my maternal grandmother, aunts, uncles, etc.; then to Lebanon, Missouri to visit Connie’s folks and two sisters; then we came straight home., except for a quick look at the Grand Canyon. We traveled 5700 miles which I think is nearly as many miles as it is from LA to London by air (about 6000). We drove through blizzards in WY, CO, and MO. And Teddy came down with the roseola (a mild type of measles) just before we headed home from Mo. So, it was quite a strenuous trip, but, now that it’s over, we’re glad we took it. For an eight-month-old baby, Teddy traveled quite well, and our l0 year old car with 98,000 miles gave us virtually no trouble.
Because of the cold weather, etc., etc., we all had colds when we returned to Pasadena. But I had to start to work, and I had accrued no sick leave, so I had to go every day. But, we have all recovered now.
I am a systems analyst at Kaiser Foundation Medical Care Program. They have hospitals, doctors, clinics, and a group medical coverage plan. They have 28,000 employees in Calif., and over 10% of the population of Southern California. are enrolled in their Health Plan — 1.2 million. The work I’m doing is very similar to my job at Ambassador, and there seem to be very good growth opportunities there. It is located on East Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, and is only 17 miles from our home in Altadena — it takes 30 minutes to drive there.
Even though it has taken a number of weeks to start this letter to you, I’ve thought about it nearly every day. I’ve been jotting down notes to myself whenever I had a thought as to what to say to you, or how to say it.
Began Intensive and Serious Study
Connie and I began very intensive and serious study this past July or August (1974). By the time the Feast came, we were reaching a number of conclusions. A number of times since the Feast I’ve thought about talking with you. (I’m not sure how many times you’ve been in Pasadena since then.)
I wanted to talk to you and I didn’t want to talk with you; let me explain. I felt closer to you than anyone else on the faculty. Connie and I have always respected you (and Mrs. Hunting) very much. I was extremely pleased when you said you would perform our marriage ceremony — there was no one else did rather have had do it. And, Mr. Hunting, next to my Dad and Mom, there is no one I less wanted to disappoint than you. Yet, I knew that if we talked the questions I would ask and the statements I’d make would probably upset and disappoint you. On the other hand, in my enthusiasm and zeal, I really wanted to inform you of what I had learned and concluded, and why — the spiritual, emotional, and mental process we have gone through. So, I’ll try to give you a brief synopsis of the things we’ve recently come to see, and how we came to see them.
Let me first say that my actions have been based solely on theology, and not individual personalities, “rumors, real or imagined sins, etc., etc. You mentioned looking at the fruits of those who’ve left the church, And I’ll mention this subject later, but the fruits of either those in or out of the church did not influence my conclusions. Over a year ago I became aware of some of the “personal problems or sins of certain individuals high up in the Worldwide Church of God, and yet clear through last July (1974) I would firmly and emphatically defend the Worldwide Church of God and its leadership, though I was aware of certain “problems”. Anyway, please don’t think we found out about a sin, heard a rumor, believed a slanderous tale, etc., and this caused us to leave Ambassador College, because that just isn’t true.
The first time I can remember having a question was in November, 1972. At a Bible Study Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong announced changes in the tithing doctrine — Ambassador College and Worldwide Church of God employees no longer had to pay third tithe, and ministers had to pay second tithe. What alarmed me was that he didn’t quote one scripture or explain, biblically, the reasons we had been wrong and why we were changing. He only referenced certain budgetary reasons such as insufficient excess 2nd Tithe, etc. Something I had been taught as being truth from His Word which wasn’t to be taken lightly, was casually changed without so much as a verse being read. Interestingly, a couple of months later the decision regarding 2nd Tithe being paid by ministers was quietly reversed because of a deluge of complaints from the ministry. I only pondered this event for a short time, then dismissed it, but it did make a small impression I would recall later.
The next time I can recall having certain questions and doubts was almost one year later, right after the Feast in 1973. The Pentecost question was a large issue among some at that time. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was speaking at services, strongly defending a Monday Pentecost, when he said that the day on which Pentecost was to be kept was not a decision for us to consider or make, but “it is the church’s responsibility”. Of course, he meant the church hierarchy and, more specifically, himself. I immediately thought, the members are the church. The church is not a building, and neither is it the top ministers, nor is it Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong — it is all of us. So here was an issue we were being told didn’t concern us — we should simply do it the way “the church” (Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong) told us. We were told God will not judge us on this matter, but that those who make the decision are responsible. The simple inference was, don’t look into it, because if you reach a different conclusion than “the church”, you still must do as “the church” says.
Mr. Hunting, Jesus Christ worked awfully hard to remove the need for a physical priesthood; the “veil was rent,” and so each Christian has direct access to God. But the approach I’ve related in the above paragraph re-invents the priesthood and inserts it between God and the Christian.
Both Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong have said “Follow me as I follow Christ,” or in other words “as I follow the Bible.” Yet these words are rendered empty and meaningless when we are told we must leave certain decisions up to “the church,” and that if we don’t think a decision constitutes “following Christ,” we must abide by it anyway, since “it is ‘the church’s’ responsibility.”
These statements regarding Pentecost I also dismissed after a short while; although they, too, made a lasting impression.
Next in my recollection was “the split” which occurred in Feb. and March of 1974. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s letter to all the members, dated Feb. 25, 1974, contained a number of statements which bothered me.
Armstrong Accused Dissenting Ministers
On page two of this letter, he accused the dissenting ministers of one overall thing — greedily trying to get the tithes into their own pockets. I knew this accusation wasn’t true. These ministers were willing to give up their job security, salaries, fleet cars, and in some cases their church-owned homes because of their firm convictions and their unwillingness to compromise with God’s Word as they saw it. I’m not discussing at this point the truth or error of what they believed, but simply the point that they didn’t have greed and theft in their hearts. (Perhaps one or two out of 40 or 50 were guilty, but Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said this was the primary motivation for all the dissidents.) Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s accusation was a serious one, and he told 50,000+ people. I, of course, assume he honestly felt the accusation to be a correct one. I have never heard him publicly before the membership apologize for making the accusation. It is interesting that the very next sentence in his letter said that the “one who Ambassador College ACCUSES … is always guilty of the very thing of which he falsely accuses another.”
On page 4 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong explains why he “did not state the specific details of the personal, emotional problems” of Garner Ted Armstrong which led to his 1972 “leave of absence.” He said he was afraid that the specifics would “SEND THOUSANDS OF BABES IN CHRIST TO A LAKE OF FIRE.” Mr. Hunting, this attitude is a large part of what is wrong with the Worldwide Church of God. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (and, I think, much of the ministry) looks at the members as poor, dumb sheep; innocent, helpless, babes who must be sheltered, spoon-fed, kept in the dark, told nothing, never consulted, and guarded strictly lest they fall helplessly away or are defenselessly led. astray. This is the way the Catholic Church looked at and treated its laity during the Dark Ages. Though perhaps the motive is good, this modus operandi keeps the masses ignorant and blinded. What happened to God’s Holy Spirit? Many of these “babes” are spiritually mature adults, and they should all be begotten with God’s “Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” When people are treated like children2 and animals (sheep), they will act the part, and their minds and God’s Spirit will be stifled and smothered. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said on that same page, “The number of lives I might destroy forever … might be as many as ten thousand.'” As long as the Worldwide Church of God ministry looks at the members as a gullible, vulnerable mass of people, the members won’t learn to stand on their own two Christian feet, and use the Holy Spirit to grow and mature spiritually.
Before an individual becomes a member of the Worldwide Church of God, he is encouraged “to prove all things, hold fast that which is true.”3 The ministry tells him, “Don’t believe what we say — check it out.” “If we teach contrary to God’s Word, do not follow us.” Etc. Unfortunately, the opposite process begins once one is in the Worldwide Church of God. The member is told that “Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is closer to God and has more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else, which is the reason he is the leader of the Church” or “Since Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is the leader of God’s Church, he must be closer to God and have more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else ” Therefore his opinions (re: scriptural or non-scriptural matters) are more godly than anyone else’s can be, so to do as he says must be the course of action which most pleases God. This type of circular reasoning is taught to the members, and is applied to a lesser degree to Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, then the evangelists, then the pastors, then the preaching elders, etc., etc. By the time you get to the lowly lay member, his opinion is worthless, when compared with the hundreds of those who must be closer to God since they have higher positions, or who have higher positions since they are closer to God.
Placing the Ministry in Place of Christ and the Bible
In this way the member is stripped of any confidence in himself or God’s Spirit in him. He places Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the rest of the ministry in the position of defining what he must believe — in place of Jesus Christ and the Bible. The ministry carefully shows the lay members how to prove the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God from the Bible. The member thinks his belief is firmly grounded in the Bible, but for him to prove it he must rely heavily on the proof-texts and the explanations he has been given. I don’t necessarily mean all these beliefs or explanations are incorrect, but the member is being groomed into a spiritually dependent person, and his primary dependency isn’t on Christ or the Holy Spirit, but on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God.
Our most precious, God-given possession at birth is our mind — our ability to think independently, to question, to learn. Couple this with the Holy Spirit and we have the most fantastic tool known to man — a mind begotten with God’s Spirit. The approach of the Worldwide Church of God indicates that the lay member needs the Holy Spirit only to help him overcome “personal problems” and help him accept that which the ministry tells him the Bible says. The Holy Spirit isn’t simply to help us agree with the way the Worldwide Church of God explains it. In this way, the “weak of the world” are being made weaker. It doesn’t take a spiritually strong person to merely accept exactly what the Worldwide Church of God teaches and to obey it strictly. But it does require strength of character and spirit to question, research, prove, and then abide by your convictions, regardless of what the Worldwide Church of God or anyone else says.
Members Not Encouraged to Draw Conclusions on Their Own
In this way I think the members of the Worldwide Church of God are not being helped. They know what they believe and how to “prove” it. If there is a doctrinal change they are then taught what new thing they should believe and how to “prove” it. But they are not encouraged to draw conclusions on their own, to research through many “worldly” commentaries written by “unconverted” men, to discuss with many the various options. I do not think it can be said that the members of the Worldwide Church of God are allowed, let alone encouraged, without fear of reprisal, to approach with intellectual freedom and honesty and candor any scriptural issue on which Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the “church” have ruled. And: of course they would be forbidden from remaining “in the Church” if, based upon the results of their study and convictions, their actions were contrary to the official Worldwide Church of God teachings.
So in these ways and others, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s letter of Feb. 25, 1974, to the membership, was very disturbing to Connie and me.
Continuing the chronological chain of events, David L. Antion, Albert J. Portune, and many other ministers resigned or were fired, and some 3,000 members quit attending. I was curious as to the reasons these men were quitting, but I did little investigation — I felt this (the Worldwide Church of God) was God’s One True Church and He would take care of the situation. I felt I should obediently follow Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (although I didn’t totally agree with his tactics).
It was in April, 1974, that Connie and I found out that her parents in Missouri were about to leave the Worldwide Church of God. By phone and letter we immediately encouraged them to stay in the True Church, even though it wasn’t perfect. We sincerely felt they’d be making a serious mistake to leave, and if they had left at that time, we would have flown out to discuss it with them.
Next came the May Ministerial Conference. Since I received “The Bulletin,” I was allowed to attend all the “plenary sessions,” although I attended none of the “workshops.” I was very impressed and encouraged that Armstrong seemed to be sincerely willing to examine any doctrine.
Armstrong Never Admitted He Was Wrong
But Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong still took what seemed to me a less than candid approach. He called our Divorce & Remarriage change “new light,” “new truth” which God has (finally) shown us. In other words, he subtly blamed our doctrinal error on God. He never once admitted that he had simply been wrong. He never apologized to all the people whose lives and marriages he had ruined. He gave God all the credit for wrecking and destroying thousands of families.
In Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s May 14, 1974 letter to all the brethren he said on page 10, “A strong and firm family structure is a basic building block of any happy and stable society. ” And yet for years we’ve been destroying thousands of these “building blocks” of society. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong still claims he has never made a major mistake in his guiding of this church, yet I can scarcely think of a more serious and damaging theological blunder as far as the physical, day to day lives of people are concerned.
In Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s May 14, 1974 letter to all the brethren he said on page 10, “A strong and firm family structure is a basic building block of any happy and stable society. ” And yet for years we’ve been destroying thousands of these “building blocks” of society. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong still claims he has never made a major mistake in his guiding of this church, yet I can scarcely think of a more serious and damaging theological blunder as far as the physical, day to day lives of people are concerned.
Continuing in the May 14 letter (page 11): “No matter how much anguish is caused God’s Church cannot depart from God’s Laws or His Truth.” In other words, the Worldwide Church of God can’t depart from its interpretation of what God says on the matter.
Loyalty Above God’s Word
Another quote from the same letter: “Brethren, this very experience (the Divorce & Remarriage change) ought to teach all that loyalty to God and to His Church must always be placed first, over supposed or real wrongs or personal grievances.” Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is saying loyalty to the Worldwide Church of God must be placed above loyalty to God’s Word! He’s saying that it was right for us to obey the Worldwide Church of God’s unbiblical and anti-scriptural teaching on Divorce & Remarriage all these years, because this is what he terms “loyalty to God’s Church.” And he says this loyalty must “always be placed first, over supposed or real wrongs or personal grievances”; in other words, loyalty to the dictates of an organization must be placed first over what the Bible really teaches (on the subject of Divorce & Remarriage, for instance) if you personally come to see the Bible and the Worldwide Church of God do not agree. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong goes on to say (page 11), “God has given those of us who are loyal to Him and His Word the relief we relied on Him to give us.” In actual fact, the “relief” has been there for 2,000 years, but it has taken the Worldwide Church of God this long to discover and accept it. And those who were “loyal to Him and His Word” on the subject of Divorce & Remarriage needed no relief since they refused to ever submit to the Worldwide Church of God’s incorrect teaching in the first place. Yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong would consider those who ten years ago refused to obey the Worldwide Church of God’s teachings on Divorce & Remarriage, Pentecost, etc. to be disloyal, even though they were being loyal to what God said in His Word.
Another quote, same letter (page 11): “I want all of you to know how happy we are for the answer given by God Himself.” Again, this makes it sound like God has been responsible for our wrong teaching, and that now God has decided to clear up the matter (which must make people wonder why it took God so long). Mr. Hunting, the truth is that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and everyone else who taught, supported, and accepted (myself included) the disgraceful practice of breaking up marriages is responsible – but one Being isn’t responsible — God. He had nothing to do with the Worldwide Church of God being in error all these years in the matter of Divorce & Remarriage. It is a giant “cop-out” to claim the only way out of the doctrinal nightmare called Divorce & Remarriage was for God to provide “the relief we relied on Him to give us.”
Then Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong tells how much he and the other ministers appreciate “the faithfulness of those of you who have endured this anguish in order to be obedient to our God.” Actually, they were obedient to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God rather than God every time they submitted to a Worldwide Church of God command to break up a happy home. Anytime we obey men rather than God, He is not pleased, regardless of the sincerity of the individuals involved. Mr. Hunting, is it ever right to obey Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong rather than the Eternal? Yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong commends the brethren for doing exactly that, and then labels it faith in and obedience to God. Finally, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says, “Loyalty and faithfulness always pays.” And whether he realizes it or not, he is saying that “loyalty and faithfulness” to himself rather than to God (if they differ) “always pays.” Why? Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong feels if he is wrong it is God’s fault, and God is responsible to provide “the relief” through “new light,” “new truth”, “revelation,” etc.
I am not questioning the sincerity or dedication of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong or anyone else. But back at the time of that Conference, what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was saying and writing was not providing me with the reassurance that God agreed with his approach or attitude.
Not One True Organization
So all of the things I’ve been relating to you finally led to perhaps the most important question and a very pivotal issue for any member of the Worldwide Church of God: Is the Worldwide Church of God the True Church? Is it the only True Church? Are True Christians only found in the Worldwide Church of God?
I had not looked into the doctrinal issues facing the Worldwide Church of God. I had not consulted with or read any literature from any of the “dissidents.” I felt this would be disloyal to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and God’s True Church. If the Worldwide Church of God was the only true church, where else was there to go? why go elsewhere anyway? and since God was totally in charge of the Worldwide Church of God, wouldn’t He take care of everything in time and in His own way? and wasn’t it showing both a lack of faith and insubordination to question the way the Worldwide Church of God handled things and the way Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong directed things since that would be identical to questioning God?
But would God be upset at me for studying extensively into both sides of the doctrinal questions? Would God really be upset if I dared to read some of Dr. Martin’s literature; many in the Worldwide Church of God said we shouldn’t even open a piece of literature written by a “dissident.”
When I first began attending the Radio Church of God4, I was told this was the true church because we did and taught exactly what the Bible said. Recently the Worldwide Church of God has said we’re the true church because we change our teachings when they are wrong.
By July of 1974 the Worldwide Church of God had changed two of its teachings in a short period of time. It was obvious the Worldwide Church of God didn’t have the Bible 100% correctly understood. Since there had been errors in the past, there certainly would be errors in the future, so of course, it couldn’t be said the Worldwide Church of God was the true church “because we have 100% accurate teachings.” So what is it that would make the Worldwide Church of God the only true church? Is there a certain percentage of correct doctrines necessary? 99%? 90%? 80%? Are there certain key doctrines which must be understood correctly, whereas others are not as important?
I could more easily explain my conclusion and the reasons for it in person, but it became clear to me that there is no such thing as one True Church the way the Worldwide Church of God believes there is — in other words there is not one true organization. The Worldwide Church of God is not the True Church of God.
Definition of a Christian
The one true Church of God certainly does exist, but it has no organizational boundaries. The definition of a Christian, one who is a part of the body of Christ, a member of the Church of God is one who has God’s Holy Spirit in him (Rom. 8:9).
The same question with regard to an individual arose in my mind –must an individual understand a certain percentage of doctrines correctly in order to be a Christian (in order to comprise a part of the true Church of God)? 90%? 80%?
Mr. Hunting, God looks on the heart and the attitude of an individual, not on how much they understand. We cannot draw lines and say a person must agree with a certain view of a certain number of doctrines, or he cannot receive the Spirit of God. People who are illiterate, elderly, blind, deaf, and/or low IQ, etc., can all become Christians. They may understand very few of the Bible’s doctrines, but if God finds a receptive heart and attitude, God can give His Holy Spirit and so add another member to the true Church of God.
I concluded the Worldwide Church of God has no corner on truth or Christians. I feel most in the Worldwide Church of God are in the “True Church,” but the Worldwide Church of God isn’t that “True Church.” Neither is any other organization on earth, although many of them also have members of the “True Church” in their organization. The Body of Christ transcends man-made organizational boundaries (such as the Worldwide Church of God) and comprises all whom God has chosen to receive His Spirit.
Could No Longer Agree
Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong feels the Worldwide Church of God is the only True Church. He feels he is an apostle — God’s one direct representative on this earth. But after coming to grips with the “One True Church” issue, I could no longer agree with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong on these matters. I came to realize that simply taking the word of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God would displease God. I would be placing them above Him and His Word as the primary molders of my beliefs.
Chronologically, I arrived at these conclusions in early August, 1974. It was at this same time that Connie, 3-week-old Teddy, and I took a two-week vacation to Seattle to visit Chuck and Carol. Chuck and Carol had, completely independent of Connie and I, arrived at these same conclusions, and they had already begun studying all sides of the issues. It was at Chuck’s home that we first read some Dr. Martin’s literature and listened to his tapes. Many members in Seattle received Dr. Martin’s materials, so Chuck originally sent for it so he could study it, then disprove Dr. Martin’s teachings to any who raised questions regarding these subjects. However, upon careful analysis, Chuck and Carol were surprised to discover that much of what Dr. Martin said indeed appeared correct, and so they began to study more and more.
I was very skeptical when Chuck declared Dr. Martin was right on a number of issues where he differed with the Worldwide Church of God, but I knew then I’d really have to confront these issues.
When we returned from the Northwest, I visited Dr. Martin’s Foundation for Biblical Research. I discussed a few things with him, then took copies of his writings and tapes. I studied what he had to say on a subject, what the Worldwide Church of God had to say, what the Associated Churches said. The subjects we researched were: Church government, old and new covenant, Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, healing, law and grace, etc, etc, as well as a number of areas of prophecy.
Doctrinal Gap Growing
I will not even begin to try to relate my conclusions in these various doctrinal areas. But by the Feast, 1974, we knew it would be our last with the Worldwide Church of God — the doctrinal gap between them and us was growing with virtually every subject we looked into.
As soon as we returned to Pasadena following the Feast, I began looking for another job. It was about this same time that Chuck and Carol, and Connie’s folks quit attending the Worldwide Church of God. Virtually independent of them, we were nevertheless reaching very similar conclusions.
I perhaps reached the depth of my disappointment with the Worldwide Church of God when I read a statement written by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong appearing on page 631 of the December 3, 1974, “Bulletin.” Its implications are horrendous. He said, “Christ has BOUND in heaven what His Church, even in unrealized error, has bound in earth.” The statement hit me like a lightning bolt. I am enclosing with this letter a copy of my contribution to the “Open Forum” of the “Bulletin.” In it I explain why I feel nothing can be further from the truth than the above statement by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. Needless to say, the “Bulletin” would not print my opinion in the Open (?) Forum. Bob Kuhn refused it because it was “too inflammatory.”
The Worldwide Church of God cannot afford to openly present both sides of the story, cannot allow its members to read the opinions of those who disagree with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the official stand of “the church.” In the ministerial meeting of March 4, 1974, Garner Ted Armstrong said he was just trying to hold it together. He and Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong treat the effect and not the cause of the Worldwide Church of God’s problems. This is why disfellowshipment is such a bandy tool for them. New, unapproved, “heretical” ideas and opinions can be stopped by kicking the trouble-maker out of “the church” and then forbidding anyone in “the church” from talking with him.
When it comes to controlling both the actions and minds of people’, the Worldwide Church of God has a lot in common with the Catholic Church of the Dark and Middle Ages and the Renaissance. That church used excommunication to rid itself of “heretics.” (They used even stronger tactics in the Spanish Inquisition.) Galileo believed and was trying to disseminate facts regarding the earth and the universe. “The church” threatened him with excommunication if he would not recant. Rather than allow people to examine the facts and judge for themselves, the pope felt he had to protect the “babes” of the church from deception, and so shut-up Galileo. He may have even claimed Galileo was in the bonds of Satan” and greedily trying to get a following so he could get their tithes: The Catholic Church had such absolute control over Europe for over 1000 years that it was largely responsible for the Dark Ages.
It was the “free spirits” and rebels against the church who got the world back on the track of progress. There was no dearth of sin during the Dark Ages, but there was complete stagnation in the areas of learning, knowledge, invention — the only progress was backwards. I feel the members of the Worldwide Church of God are in their own Dark Age.
I’m sure that not everything Galileo believed was accurate, but he should have been able to express his ideas for public evaluation. I definitely do not agree with everything Dr. Martin teaches, but I thank God that at last he can express what he believes and why without fear of reprisal. And I’m equally thankful that I can feel free to study and evaluate for myself what he and everyone else says — then I can decide and act accordingly.
Worldwide Church of God Inaccurate in Many of its Teachings
God does not today have any organization of men ordained to tell others what the Bible says and what God wants them to do. The Worldwide Church of God is inaccurate in many of its teachings — so I know it isn’t commissioned to enforce its beliefs on others.
Wherever there are thinking, questioning, probing, seeking inquisitive curious, independent, intelligent, free people, there will be differences of opinion and interpretation, and I don’t mean only regarding obscure, relatively unimportant scriptures dealing with seven thunders or why eagles gather around carcasses. God intended this — He gave each of us individual minds and He gave us His Word which in parts is anything but perfectly clear. God is concerned with our heart and our attitude, and not with our ability to, like programmed computers, all profess the same point of view on a specified number of doctrines. Individuals can differ significantly in both their beliefs regarding and their application of the scriptures, and yet all be brothers in Christ and members of His Body.
But whenever someone who used to be a loyal supporter and member of the Worldwide Church of God begins ‘to believe and teach something different Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong declares them to be “in the bonds of Satan.” In his letter of February 25, 1974, he makes such statements as: “These deceived ministers (are) allowing Satan to use them, “Satan is the real author,” “these Deceived men (are) now allowing Satan to turn them the wrong way,” “this thing is of SATAN.” It is one thing for Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to disagree with them, but when he dogmatically declares them to be agents of Satan he is making a serious accusation. And when I began to see that many of the things “these deceived ministers” were saying were true and that many of the actions they were taking were the only courses they could follow and still be loyal to God, I began to recall Matt. 12 wherein the Pharisees accused Jesus; of acting “by Beelzebub the prince of the devils,” although Jesus said His actions were “by the Spirit of God.” If God through His Holy Spirit is motivating and guiding certain individuals, He will not look lightly on accusers who claim the Spirit-led individuals are actually motivated by and in the bonds of Satan (see verses 31 and 32).
I would like to quote from The General Catalog of Ambassador College –1973-74: “The entire curriculum in religion and theology is designed from a fresh viewpoint and approach … (The student is) under continual caution to lay all preconceived ideas and religious bias on the shelf ·.. All difficult verses are studied not only in relation to other Scriptures, but also in connection with Hebrew and Greek texts, historical and archaeological facts, expositions of commentaries and recognized authorities, and the processes of careful study and specialized research. Students are taught to approach the Bible with open-mindedness and with due respect for the results of past research, but accepting only that which is proved true, regardless of previously accepted or universally approved theories or doctrines .Nothing is accepted unless proved, and every student is emphatically encouraged to think for himself in the realization that his salvation is a personal matter between him and God.”
Not Encouraged to Think for Ourselves
Mr. Hunting, the above quote is a misrepresentation of the facts. As students we were not encouraged to think for ourselves. Careful re-evaluation of one’s thought system and the admonition “to lay all preconceived ideas and religious bias on the shelf” were urged if one had other than a Worldwide Church of God upbringing. However, once one accepted the Worldwide Church of God theology, all serious, and especially vocal, re-evaluation was expected to cease. One is then expected to proxy all “important” re-evaluation to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and, perhaps, Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong. Dr. Hoeh and others have often made the statement, “We shouldn’t try to cross the Red Sea before ‘God’s Apostle‘,” — meaning that, just as the Red Sea wouldn’t open up for anyone except Moses and only Moses knew the proper time and method for crossing it, understanding in “important” doctrinal areas will not open up until Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong puts his mind to it and decides the matter. As one faculty member expressed it, “I’ve just had to come to accept the fact that we can never grow any faster than the two men at the top.”
The selection I quoted from the college catalog is an example of the artfully developed technique used by the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College to advertise their indoctrination as “education.” I realize this is a strong statement, Mr. Hunting, but were we ever encouraged to challenge and question the doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God? Back when I was in Ambassador College, suppose that during an Old Testament Survey class a student had seriously questioned the reasoning behind a “Monday Pentecost.” Would such inquisitiveness and open-minded re-evaluation have been welcomed? Would the student have been encouraged to continue researching until he satisfied himself with a logical, proven conclusion? Suppose during an Epistles class a student had expressed disagreement with the instructor’s explanation of Gal. 4:10? Suppose the student felt this indicated Paul was opposed to the Galatians observing the Holy Days, and that they were not to be kept by the Christian today? Would the instructor have applauded this student’s intellectual curiosity? Would the instructor have encouraged the student to conduct “careful study and specialized research,” including the “expositions of commentaries and recognized authorities”? Would the student have been warned to put no more emphasis on what the Worldwide Church of God says than other theologians, but rather to prove it for himself? And would he have been allowed to present to the class his research and his conclusions, regardless of the outcome of his study?
We know what would have happened if a student would have been so daring and bold as to have asked such questions. There would have been gasps of horror in the classroom at his virtually blasphemous statements. The instructor might have taken the time to repeat the Worldwide Church of God’s official explanation of the question. If the student seemed unwavering in his point of view, he would have been “called in, counseled,” told not to question “God’s Apostle,” told God is in charge, told this is the only true church, he must repent and change his attitude, “the doors swing both ways,” asked if he was really converted, told he was disloyal and would never make it into the field, etc., etc. Am I exaggerating? If so, only slightly. The college catalog’s glowing description of intellectual freedom and honesty as an exemplary specimen of higher education is very different than the real-life approach taken by Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God toward those who question and disagree with official church dogma.
Probably no college instructor at Ambassador College has ever had to face such a situation, because it is doubtful whether any truly inquisitive, questioning, open-minded individuals still actively possess these traits by their third year of college. Almost everything about Ambassador College teaches one to accept what he is taught without question. Unquestioning acceptance and unfailing obedience prove ones loyalty to “God’s Church.” Ambassador College is not a ‘liberal arts college”; it isn’t an “educational institution.” At most Ambassador College is a theological seminary where a person can go to learn what the Worldwide Church of God denomination believes and how to instruct others in those beliefs. I vividly remember attending, in my freshman year, Pasadena Bible Studies conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He was always getting very upset at people who sent up questions during the Bible Study. If any question only slightly expressed disagreement with him, what he had said, a belief of the Worldwide Church of God, etc. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong became very irate. He would scold the questioner for “his attitude,” his lack of respect, disloyalty, and so on. Mr. Hunting, I’m not exaggerating. He made it quite clear he does not want to be questioned. He was very defensive and constantly felt the questions to be a challenge to his authority. He made it clear to all of us that he was responsible to no one but God (and the more people who believed that, the more powerful he became). At first it bothered me when he responded so defensively and antagonistically to the honest, open questions sent up by people in the audience. However, as the months went by and I attended many Friday night sessions conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, I began to look at it the way he did. When he chewed someone out because they asked a certain question, I agreed with his appraisal of their “wrong attitude.” Slowly my outlook was being warped until I concurred with his belief that no one had the right to seriously challenge or question him or the Worldwide Church of God.
Intolerance of Beliefs Contrary to Theirs
The above is only one example of the Worldwide Church of God intolerance of beliefs contrary to theirs, or even of those who merely have questions about the church’s doctrines. Being a student at Ambassador College, and to a-lesser extent a lay member in the Worldwide Church of God, is to experience a type of brainwashing. The indoctrination results in a form of mental castration; theologically the individual will not or cannot think for himself. He will blindly accept, believe, and obey whatever Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says. He will loyally support and uphold the Worldwide Church of God’s castigation of those who question, doubt, or criticize.
Primarily theologically, and oftentimes in many other facets of life, the Worldwide Church of God has turned thinking, reflective, inquisitive, analytical, seeking, free people into a dependent, unconfident, gullible, easily led and manipulated group. Obviously there are a wide range of degrees of how individuals were before entering the Worldwide Church of God and how they are ending up, but I feel the above trend represents the vast majority of cases. II Cor. 10:5 does not say, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.”
Christ is the Gospel
Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has done what he has accused so many other churches of doing –taking one small Biblical point, and making it the central point of a religion. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims there’s only one reason we’ve been called today –to get the gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness. This extremely limited and incomplete interpretation of the real meaning, intent, and fullness of the gospel is crippling when it comes to understanding the New Testament and what real Christianity is all about. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has often said, “Jesus Christ is not the gospel.” Well, He most certainly IS! Christ IS the good news. Paul in I Cor. 15:1-4 sums up the gospel as: “Christ died for our sins … He was buried He rose again the third day.” Rom. 1:16 says the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.”
I’ve read Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet, “What is the True Gospel.” He only quotes five or six of the New Testament scriptures which mention “gospel.” Three or four of the quotes serve as his “proof-texts” — and he proceeds to draw dogmatic conclusions, ignoring both the immediate context and the rest of the New Testament. If he’d examine the other 95 places where “gospel” is mentioned the meaning would be quite clear, although very different. This booklet is typical of the research and “open-mindedness” which has gone into most Worldwide Church of God publications and conclusions. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s concept of the gospel is similar to the blind man who got hold of the elephant’s tail and quickly concluded that an elephant resembled a piece of rope.
So, instead of spreading the real gospel, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is delivering his gospel message to political figures and dignitaries around the world. It is also interesting to examine the scriptural support for these activities. In the October, 1956, Plain Truth, page 22, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said, “The popular churches of Christendom nearly all take active, vigorous part in the world’s affairs and its politics … They are part and parcel of THIS WORLD, and they serve only THE GOD OF THIS WORLD, Satan the Devil. They are deceived.’ They do not even know they are doing wrong — they ARE DECEIVED.'”
Although God has personally given Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong no commission, he nevertheless feels that virtually every commission God has ever given is his. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong either thinks he is, or is to do the job given to: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the “watchman,” the “inkhorn,” the one who “cries aloud and spares not,” Elijah to come, a type of John the Baptist, either Joshua or Zerubbabel, one of the two witnesses, an apostle, a “messenger” one who “prepares the way,” Hosea, Malachi, Moses (anyone who disdains Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s authority or position is immediately compared to Korah), Daniel, Joel, Amos, etc., etc., etc. And, of course, he primarily feels he is to fulfill Matt. 24:14 — see Rev. 14:6 for the most likely individual to take care of that job.
British Israelism Unprovable and Untrue
When I examined Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s “United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy” belief and found it to be not only scripturally and historically unprovable, but untrue, I realized that virtually my entire concept of Bible prophecy was built on sand; not necessarily the what, but certainly the where, when, and to whom.
Mr. Roderick C. Meredith said that Dr. C. Paul Meredith had “always been a student, and he took careful notes on Mr. Armstrong’s prophetic sermons. As time went on, he compared these notes to the events that were taking place — and to what other preachers had said — and soon came to realize that Mr. (Herbert W.) Armstrong was the only one who actually knew what was going to happen BEFORE it happened.'” (“The Inside Story of The World Tomorrow Broadcast”, p. 12) “This is the ONLY Work on earth that really understands … the specific meaning of present-day world events, and the exact time schedule of prophecy!” (IBID, p. 17)
Predictions Made by Herbert Armstrong
To see how inspired and Godly this supposed “understanding” has been, I would like to quote from just a few of the writings of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and others in the Worldwide Church of God. I would first like to refer to one of the original issues of the Plain Truth, June, 1934. On page 3 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has drawn a chronological chart of end-time events.” In this chart the “tribulation” is diagrammed as ending in 1936. 1936 is also labeled “End of Age.” Immediately thereafter are the “heavenly signs” and then the “Day of the Lord.”
Now to quote Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong in the May/June, 1941 issue of the Plain Truth: “Since the last issue many things have occurred, every one in accordance with prophecy! … War events thunder on, rapidly approaching the prophesied climax! … Hitler now emerges as the “BEAST” of Revelation! Bible prophecy shows the Roman Axis forces will take Egypt, Suez, Palestine, –even Gibraltar. Britain will go down. And, unless we turn as a nation to God our beloved United States will have to go under … We lack space for more detailed comment on specific prophesied events in this number. Without (a spiritual turnaround) we (USA) lack TOTAL Defense, without which we shall never win. We are at the END of the present order. ARMAGEDDON is now just a short way off.”
Now to quote Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, September/October, 1941 issue of the Plain Truth, page 7: “What does Hitler’s invasion of Russia mean? What does BIBLE PROPHECY say about it? As usual, there are many ideas. So FEW, it seems, have a right understanding of the Bible and its prophecies (You can say that again!) Plain Truth readers know world events, before they occur. … Hitler MUST BE THE VICTOR in his present Russian invasion! A settlement will be reached, giving Hitler the supplies and resources he must have and undoubtedly part of Western Siberia. The terms will give Hitler assurance that the Red army is unable to attack him, as Hitler turns his wrecking machine to the British Isles, the United States, and Palestine. Hitler will emerge from this Russian campaign stronger than ever, free to turn the entire might of his forces against Britain — and AMERICA!”
Plain Truth, May, 1950, page 5, Herbert W. Armstrong: “Most certainly it is easily possible the thing (US of Europe) will be fully developed and ready to strike in seven years! Yes, time is running out on us … One third of our people will die from starvation … and in the next FEW YEARS!”
Plain Truth, Aug., 1952, page 10, Herbert W. Armstrong: “Thus it has been proved conclusively and beyond doubt, that Hitler did not die — his body was not there — HE HAD ESCAPED! … The next Pope will be a professed miracle worker, as supposed proof that God is using him to order and pacify the world!”
Plain Truth, April, 1956, pages 3, 23, 24, Herman L.. Hoeh: “PLAGUES are coming –and, according to this prophetic warning, in about two years from now. … For seven long and frightful years we are going to suffer as never before –until we are left “few in number!” We have about reached our population peak, despite the guesses of our political and industrial planners. In another ten years for fear of Communist terrorism it won’t be safe to live in Asia or in Africa.’… This most important Work will in all probability be completed in 1972: The coming Fascist-religious revival of Europe will conquer us within a prophetically indicated 17 years!”
“1975 in Prophecy!”5 1956, pages 10, 12, 20, Herbert W. Armstrong: “Indications of prophecy are that this drought … will strike sooner than 1975 — probably between 1965 and 1972! At the outset of article I stated that the KEYS that had kept prophetic doors locked and closed from human understanding have now been found — or, more properly, been given to us by God …”
“Yes, millions of lukewarm inactive professing Christians will suffer MARTYRDOM — and that before the anticipated push-button leisure-year of 1975 dawns upon us!”
Plain Truth, August, 1957, page 5, Roderick C. Meredith: “We will soon find that hoof-and-mouth disease will spread COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL! These things are not far off. They are here and NOW! DISEASE EPIDEMICS are prophesied to begin soon! America, WAKE UP! After 1965, we are destined to run into increased trouble with the Gentile nations. America and Britain will begin to suffer from trade embargoes….We will begin to experience the pangs of starvation and of scarcity of goods!”
“A True History of the True Church”, 1959, page 27, Hoeh: “God has given His Church — THIS CHURCH — just two nineteen year cycles … The first cycle passed. Then God suddenly opened the door for the second cycle in January, 1953.”
Plain Truth, December, 1962, page 42, Herman L. Hoeh: “Russia and China Will NOT Split . -. Russia and China are to remain allies!”
Plain Truth, Jan., 1963, page 21, Herbert W. Armstrong: “Somewhere along about seven to ten years from now the REVOLUTION IN THE WEATHER will become a national and international calamity. Drought, epidemics of disease, will reap a mounting harvest of death across North America — and in Britain. Economic depression will strike …And the time will be right for the new United Europe to strike!”
Plain Truth, June, 1963, page 46, Roderick C. Meredith: “This coming, revived Holy Roman Empire which is prophesied to arise in Europe and CONQUER America and Britain within the next ten to twelve years …”
Plain Truth, Mar. 1964, page 48, Herman L. Hoeh: “We face a national catastrophe before 1975!”
Plain Truth, Nov. 1964, page 32, Eugene Walter: “In the next few years it is entirely possible that some of the satellite countries will break away from Russia altogether. East Germany could well become reunited with West Germany. Rumania and Hungary are also good candidates to join the West.”
Plain Truth, May 1965, Page 21, Raymond F. McNair: “The greatest proof that the ‘times of the Gentiles’ have not yet ended is the simple fact that the Gentile Arabs are still in possession of the old city of Jerusalem. They will remain in control of this city until the second coming of Christ.”
Plain Truth, Mar. 1966, page 22, Charles Dorothy: “Hitler escaped, probably to Argentina!”
Plain Truth, Feb. 1967, page 47, Herbert W. Armstrong: “The ‘Day of the Eternal’ … is going to strike between 5 and 10 years from now!”
“The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy,” 1967, pages XI-XII, Herbert W. Armstrong: “The events prophesied to strike the American and British peoples in the next four to seven years are SURE! That is why the events of the next four to seven years may prove this to be the most significant book of this century. These colossal world events, shrinking the first two world wars into insignificance, WILL COME, on schedule.”
Plain Truth, Feb., 1970, page 27, Raymond F. McNair: “Will Britain ever be admitted to the Common Market? Probably not!”
I have given you about twenty quotes out of about one hundred which I have collected — predictions made by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and others which did not materialize. The Worldwide Church of God always tries to speak with dogmatic assurity [sic]; however in the case of prophecy, their absolute-ism has been quite reckless.
In the Feb., 1972, Tomorrow’s World6, pages 30-31, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong tries to claim they never really made specific predictions: “It has never been our intention to SET DATES! Yet, in our human zeal and enthusiasm we have a few times come close to it or appeared to.. Yet, in our zeal, we have used ‘possibles’ and ‘probablys’ and even appeared to set dates we really didn’t intend to set.”
Set Specific Dates
Mr. Hunting, I sincerely feel that is an unfair “cop-out.” After all, Dr. C. Paul. Meredith said Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong “knew what was going to happen BEFORE it happened!” Mr. R. C. Meredith claimed “Truth after truth, prophecy after prophecy has come to be clearly REVEALED by Almighty God to His servants in this Work.” (“The Inside Story of the World Tomorrow Broadcast”, p.17). He also declared that the Worldwide Church of God understood “the exact time schedule of prophecy!” Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed to have been given by God and had kept prophetic doors locked and closed from human understanding and he claimed on page one of “1975 in Prophecy” that these prophecies were now “crystal clear.” Not only has the Worldwide Church of God set specific dates and placed clear time limits on its prophecies, but time and again it has been in error — prognosticating that a certain thing will not occur and it does, or that something else will occur which doesn’t. Certainly a few of the forecasts have been correct, but when so many are made a few are bound to come to pass.
In that Feb.,1972 Tomorrow’s World editorial Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims that this entire subject is “of MOST MINOR consequence.” To get another view on this subject I would like to quote God in Deut. 18:20-22: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: you shall not be afraid of him.”
The Worldwide Church of God specializes in “Self-Fulfilled Prophecy.” The News Bureau or writers choose those sections of newspapers, news releases, news magazines, etc. which they believe fulfill prophecy, and then ignore much of what might modify or contradict those selections. Eventually sufficient clippings have been amassed to prove that severe drought, crop failure, upset weather conditions, etc. are going to sweep the country next year. But when hoof-and-mouth disease fails to envelop the intended target or when Russia and Red China do indeed split, does the Worldwide Church of God admit error and print retractions? No. They continue to interpret world news. They do not analyze the news, but rather force it to fit into their pre-conceived prophetic super-structure. The Worldwide Church of God often makes conditions seem worse than they really are in an attempt to “help” God fulfill prophecy sooner and according to their interpretation of it.
Soon after Rohan’s attempted Mosque burning Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong began saying that neither he nor anyone else in the Worldwide Church of God had ever proclaimed that a literal temple had to be built in Jerusalem. When I heard him say it, I believed it — unquestioningly. After all, it would be virtually a sin to question Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
Could Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s denials represent a possible credibility problem? situation ethics? expedience? deception? The following quotes helped me decide:
Plain Truth, Oct., 1958, page 4, column 31 paragraph 4, Herman L. Hoeh: “A temple or sanctuary is yet to be built by the Jews in Jerusalem.’ it shall happen in less than 14 years from now.”
Plain Truth, June, 1967, page 2, column 2, paragraph 6, Herbert W. Armstrong: “There will very soon be a Temple in Jerusalem” with daily sacrifices once again being offered … They will invade Jerusalem, and take charge of the Temple.” Page 4, column 2, paragraph 3, Herbert W. Armstrong: “So there will have to be a temple there.” Page 5, column 1, paragraph 4, Herbert W. Armstrong: “So there will be a temple built on the spot of the old temple in Jerusalem.” Page 5, column 2, paragraph 4, Herbert W. Armstrong: “Then Revelation 11 shows there will be a temple in Jerusalem.”
Plain Truth, Mar., 1968, page 8, column 2, paragraph 3, Roderick C. Meredith: “…. a religious center and Temple will be built there (Jerusalem) within the very next few years. Page 41, column 1, paragraph 2, Roderick C. Meredith: “The building of a literal Temple” and “a great religious leader making his Headquarters right in that Temple in Jerusalem” are to be signs that “the END OF this age” is near.
Plain Truth, Aug., 1968, page 41, column 2, paragraph 4, Garner Ted Armstrong: “Bible prophecy specifically states that there WILL BE A TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM.” Column 3, paragraph 3, Garner Ted Armstrong: “This reveals clearly. that the TEMPLE of which these prophecies speak must be a Temple IN JERUSALEM — on the same site as the one in which Christ spoke; the same site on which Solomon’s Temple had stood. This cannot be some other “temple” in some other area — it must be a temple IN JERUSALEM — or the prophecies of your Bible fail! He will SIT IN A TEMPLE OF GOD” — IN THE TEMPLE SITE — IN JERUSALEM.’ “
Why did no one in the Worldwide Church of God speak out against Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s denial of the above statements?
Worldwide Church of God’s Apocalyptic Predictions are Not Unique
The Worldwide Church of God’s apocalyptic predictions, of course, are not unique in the field of religion. The Montanists set a date for the return of Christ in the second half of the second century. The Anabaptists predicted the return of Christ in 1533. Prevalent among European Jews was the belief that the Messiah would come in the year 1648. The Millerites expected the second coming of Christ in 1843. The Worldwide Church of God expected to flee in 1972, with the Second Coming in 1975 (Sept. 6th, to be exact). And the same thing happened when all these dates failed: the delay of the second advent failed to put an end to any of these movements; quite to the contrary it gave them new life and vitality. The failure was always followed by greater efforts to expand their work.
Perhaps the most poignant illustration of this is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have set dates of 1878,1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975. I think you would find it interesting and informative to read the article: “Prophetic Failure and Chiliastic Identity: The case of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” in the American Journal of Sociology, 1970, pages 926-948. I will not take the time to quote from it here, but the parallels between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God are unmistakable. There is an incredible similarity between their reaction to repeated prophetic failures and the Worldwide Church of God’s.
In Jan., 1972 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed the gospel had gone to all the world, whereas it had not before that time; many in the Worldwide Church of God felt God had “given the world more time to repent”; Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims God has “delayed the return of Christ: so Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong can finish witnessing, so he can finish the job God gave him”; Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed that something of divine significance did happen on Jan. 7, 1972 — the greatest door ever opened to the Work — Reader’s Digest ads — thus justifying the long-awaited Jan 7th date, ending the second 19-year time cycle (Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has conveniently failed to ever refer back to the Reader’s Digest ads “door” because they failed utterly); Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong pointed out the approval of the auditorium contract as another significant event in Jan., 1972.
These five examples of the Worldwide Church of God’s reaction to the failure of its 1972 prediction are very similar to the reactions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years. There are other similarities I won’t take time to cite. Suffice it to say that, as the above article described the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Worldwide Church of God also represents a “case of the process of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’.” That is, these two groups fulfill their own prophecies in two methods:
1) By interpreting news events to fulfill prophecy, whether the news is doing that or not, and
2) By reinterpreting prophecies in terms of their own particular organizational circumstances and activities.
With reference to the first method, I will take one quote from that article about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 935: “The most frequently used device has been the selective interpretation of emerging historical events as confirming signs of the approaching end. The group’s negative and pessimistic world view sensitized it to perceive virtually every major and minor social disturbance and natural catastrophe as an indicator of the impending collapse of the earthly system.” This accurately describes the Worldwide Church of God’s News Bureau and most of its writings on current world events.
With reference to the second method, I will again quote from the same paragraph on page 935: “A related device has been the effort to interpret the experience and achievements of the movement itself as confirming signs of the approaching climax and as validation of the sect’s conception of itself as an agency of prophetic fulfillment.”
To illustrate the second method, I will quote from Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s co-worker letter of April 27, 1975, page 3: “Do you realize WHY God has held world events up, delaying the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:48??), of the GREAT TRIBULATION, and the DAY OF THE LORD? God is now holding back the world events heading toward the final climax of the GREAT TRIBULATION and the DAY OF THE LORD until we get the message of the KINGDOM OF GOD to the leaders and rulers of East Asia.”
Actions and Strategies of the Worldwide Church of God Not New
So the actions and strategies of the Worldwide Church of God are not new. One of the most meaningful and thought-provoking things I have ever read I completed this past May. The author is Eric Hoffer. The book was first Published in 1951. It is called The True Believer; its subtitle is “Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.” He begins the “Preface” by saying: “This book deals with some peculiarities common to all mass movements, be they religious movements, social revolutions or nationalist movements.”
I strongly urge you to read it. No member, past or present, of the Worldwide Church of God should be without it; on nearly every page I found one or more statements which were applicable to Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God. His perception and incisiveness were so uncanny, I found it hard to believe that The True Believer was written clear back in 1951 and that Mr. Hoffer had no knowledge of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God at the time.
Because there are a few lengthy quotations I want you to read, I decided to simply send you a copy of The True Believer. I will refer to the pages on which they are found, and they will be marked for your easy reference.
Inside the front cover of the book I have listed the pages on which are found the selections which I have marked for you. Of course, I hope you’ll read the entire book, but please at least read those I’ve marked.
Many of the selections I have marked, but especially pages 21-24 describe the type of people, in general, who become ardent members of mass movements. Pages 55-61 discuss how a mass movement wins and holds its followers; in short, this is done through its ability “to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice” (pg. 57).
Pages 75-79 are superb; virtually every sentence is uncanny in its incisive perception into the Worldwide Church of God’s approach to doctrine, dogmatism, absolute-ism, hereby, reason, close-mindedness, fanaticism, etc., etc. “Mass movements … interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine …” (pg. 75). True believers ”refuse to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about their movement … It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy” Mass movements are “stripping each human entity of its distinctness and autonomy and turning it into an anonymous particle with no will and no judgment of its own. The result is not only a compact and fearless following but also a homogeneous plastic mass that can be kneaded at will” (pg. 79).
Pages 105-110 discuss the qualifications of the leader of a mass movement, and Eric Hoffer’s description bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. On these pages he also discusses the subject of obedience. Mass movements are “inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience … All mass movements rank obedience with the highest virtues and put it on a level with faith … ‘Not to reason why’ is considered the mark of a strong and generous spirit” (Pg. 108). On that same page he quotes Pope Leo XIII as saying that there must be “complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself.”
Regarding effective leadership in a mass movement: “There can be no mass movement without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts” (Pg. 107).
On page 118 he discusses what a mass movement does to its followers: “people raised in the atmosphere of a mass movement are fashioned into incomplete and dependent human beings.”
On page 115 “the indispensable devil of every mass movement” is discussed. “It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter… If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing”;
You can read these and many other quotes I have marked in the book itself, so I will site only one more. I consider this final quote to be the most profound and important statement made in The True Believer. It sums up concisely why I feel that church organizations in general, and the Worldwide Church of God in particular, by their very existence and perpetuation, are missing the entire essence and one of the great meanings of Christianity:
“Collective unity is NOT the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty (love) of the true. believer is to the whole — the church, party, nation — and NOT to his fellow true believer. True loyalty (love) between individuals is possible ONLY in a loose and relatively free society. ” (Pg. 115, emphasis mine)
And “a loose and relatively free society” the Worldwide Church of God is not!
At the beginning of this letter I affirmed that the actions taken by Connie and I were not the result of individual personalities, dastardly rumors, real or imagined sins, slanderous tales, etc. Yet, we have not been deaf and blind, and when this subject, loosely categorized as “fruits” is examined, it only lends credence to our decision to leave the Worldwide Church of God.
Examine the Fruits
Mr. Hunting, in your letter to us you said: “What about the fruits of those who have left the Church? Examine carefully the lives of those who have already left.” We know scores of people personally who’ve left the Worldwide Church of God, and I’ve run into none of the “very tragic stories” you alluded to. Those we know are Christians exuding the qualities of Gal. 5:22-23. They are not in “the bonds of Satan”, and have not suddenly displayed the traits described in Gal. 5:19-21. They are excited and enthused with the freedom and liberty Paul describes in Gal. 5:1. There has been nothing alarming in “the fruits” of the scores of people we know well who have left the Worldwide Church of God. And even more exciting is the fact that we have met scores of people who’ve never been in the Worldwide Church of God, and in most cases have never even heard of it, who are Spirit-begotten Christians and members of the Body of Christ!
You asked me to “examine carefully the lives of those who have already left.” Therefore, I am sure you also want me to examine carefully the lives of those who have stayed in the Worldwide Church of God. This I have done in the case of some of its leaders, and it was a very startling and disappointing exercise.
You asked us: “What about the fruits of those who have left the Church? Mr. Hunting, what about the fruits of the two top men in the Worldwide Church of God? Do they meet the high standards set by God in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1? I don’t think so. (These qualifications are required, not optional; they are not to be treated lightly or applied only when expedient!) Since you are acquainted with this issue of ministerial qualifications and are no doubt aware of the unacceptable “fruits” which I question, I will not go into specific events. But I think it is fair to say that all the facts about the actions of the top two men, plus certain behavior by a number of other individuals in the upper echelon of “the Work,” would severely shock and stun the essentially naïve laity. Unfortunately the Worldwide Church of God must live under a weighty, self-imposed “sword of Damocles.”
And yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims, without basis, biblical or otherwise, to occupy the office of an apostle and to be the physical head of God’s only true Christians on the earth today. II Cor. 11:13 warns of false apostles, and Rev. 2:2 commends those who “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not …” I am sure that some who have left the Worldwide Church of God have had problems, have not always produced “good fruit,” and since you say there are “some very tragic stories,” then I’m sure there are. But there have been some extremely tragic stories — true ones — involving far too many of those who are leading and directing various aspects of the Worldwide Church of God. Good or bad fruits do not necessarily either validate or discredit the beliefs held by the bearer yet when those producing “bad fruits” attempt to govern others with their interpretation of God’s Word, then their self-proclaimed authority should not be tolerated.
So, to conclude my comments on “fruits,” I don’t feel that everyone who left the Worldwide Church of God is a blameless “good guy”; nor do I believe that there are only “bad guys” in the Worldwide Church of God. I do feel, however, that there have been very few “tragic stories” among those who left the Worldwide Church of God, and I think a number of the leaders of the Worldwide Church of God, including the two at the top, have disqualified themselves by their “fruits.”
An Understanding of the Old Covenant
In this letter I have not really addressed most of the major doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God, nor because of the length of this letter will I. However, Connie and I have come to disagree with much of what the Worldwide Church of God teaches. One key to our new beliefs regarding the Sabbath, Holy Days, grace, new and old covenant, tithing, etc. was acquiring an understanding of the old covenant. When I graduated from Ambassador College, I had no real understanding of the old covenant, and why we kept and followed certain things, and ignored others. Much of the Bible became crystal clear when we realized and accepted that the covenant was made with Ancient Israel, and no one else. Also, we saw that God plainly states that the covenant was to be kept in its entirety, completely, and no place in either the New or Old Testaments are Christians told to keep whatever they feel like keeping. Yet, Mr. Hunting, this is what the Worldwide Church of God does!
Please read the covenant to which Israel agreed in Exodus 20-23. How much of that does the Worldwide Church of God obey? I don’t mean partially, but exactly as God stated it. The Worldwide Church of God would say that certain portions of the covenant aren’t applicable today, or can’t be followed because of changed circumstances. However, there is no biblical authority for obeying only part of that covenant. Take Lev. 23 — where in the NT does it say the Holy Days can be kept apart from the sacrifices which were an integral, if not focal, part of each holy day observance. Why does the Worldwide Church of God, completely arbitrarily, not enforce the blowing of trumpets portion of the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24) , but does enforce the removal of leavening and eating of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but does not enforce God’s command to build of branches booths which are to be lived in (Lev. 23:40-42) during the Feast of Tabernacles, does enforce fasting (Lev 23:27, 29, 32) on the Day of Atonement, does not enforce the waving of a sheaf of first fruits during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:10-11), etc., etc.?
There is no biblical authority for such haphazard, fragmented, and selective obedience to God. The entire Day of Atonement observance (as commanded by God in the OT and modified nowhere in the NT) revolved around the goat ceremony, and the Worldwide Church of God is kidding (pardon the pun) itself if it thinks it can observe the Day of Atonement, almost totally disregarding God’s instructions for said observance, and then claim to be uncompromising in its obedience to God.
But the problems mentioned above are unavoidable when Christians today try to put themselves in a system God never intended for them. If we offend God’s laws regarding the Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, etc., “in one point,” we are “guilty of all,” and that is exactly what the Worldwide Church of God is doing as long as it professes to obey portions of God’s Word which were never intended to be followed today.
Anyway, we have come to research many of the Worldwide Church of God’s doctrines, and a close examination shows most of them to be in part, if not completely incorrect. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong always claimed that he “let the Bible interpret itself.” However, the truth of the matter is that his beliefs and teachings embody a plethora of “private interpretation.” I could write hundreds of pages and not do justice to the doctrinal questions which have arisen in my mind in the last year and a half, but that is not my purpose in this letter.
Many people have told me they see problems throughout “the Work” but they continue to be a part of and support it because it’s “getting the gospel message to the world.” Mr. Hunting, I hope you will look at what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong writes and says about “the gospel,” and then contrast that to what the New Testament says. Look at the approximately 100 places in the NT where the word “gospel” is found; read the context. Please read Acts 17:3; I Cor. 1:23; 2:2; II Cor. 4:5; Gal. 1:16 — you will see Paul emphasized Christ, and didn’t merely allude to Him in a way which would prevent embarrassment. When Paul preached Christ, the listeners knew Christ had been preached to them, whereas Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong prides himself in being able to preach the “gospel” in a way that no one realizes it has been preached. In Rom. 1:16 Paul says,’ “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.’ ” This year, in the Bulletin, page 293, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says, “One thing has been a serious handicap, and caused me and my touring team NO LITTLE EMBARRASSMENT. We have had to say that we REPRESENT either Ambassador College, or the Worldwide Church of God.”
Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has frequently quoted Gal. 1:6-9, wherein Paul warns against those who “pervert the gospel OF CHRIST” and preach “another gospel.” Well, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is a victim of his own quotation — he indeed perverts the gospel of Christ and preaches another gospel — the gospel of Herbert Armstrong. The Worldwide Church of God is not preaching the gospel of Christ to the world. I think Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong himself sums it up best on page 15 of the October, 1975, Good News: “What we proclaim … in reality is outside the field of religion.” (I also address this subject on pages 11-12 of this letter.)
After beginning to examine many of the Worldwide Church of God’s teachings in detail, I began to realize they had their own complex Talmud — do’s and don’ts, many of which were not mentioned in the Bible one way or the other. When Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong left the Church of God, 7th Day, he did not retain their teachings against dancing, card-playing, movie-going, etc. Yet, over the years the Worldwide Church of God has experienced similarly biblically unfounded rules and regulations.
Since starting his Church Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has been making ex-cathedra pronouncements on everything from music to voting, dating to farming, doctors to hair lengths, investments to pierced ears, holding public offices to skirt lengths, adoption to beards, smoking to jewelry, wigs to pantsuits, medicine to customs of the land, dancing to make-up, types of employment to birthdays, business arrangements to stained-glass windows, sideburns to participation in dramatic productions, sex to nursery rhymes, bikinis to space travel, etc., etc., etc. I do not necessarily take issue with the Worldwide Church of God’s teachings on all of the above subjects, but I do take issue with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s belief that he has the authority to enforce his personal, private opinions on thousands of others. Although God is silent on many of the topics mentioned in this paragraph, that does not seem to stop the Worldwide Church of God from speaking for God when the subject arises. Such flagrant examples of “private interpretation” are wrong!
Mr. Hunting, thanks for taking the time to write us last March, and especially thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my letter. It has taken me over six months to research and write this letter, and it hasn’t been easy. I certainly have not intended it to be offensive, but rather to be honest, sincere, and “straight from the shoulder” — qualities I have long admired in you.
I am more than happy to have spent hundreds of hours of time on this letter, because these are all things I’ve wanted to tell you. The purpose of this letter was to show you some of the major steps Connie and I went through leading to our decision to resign from my job at Ambassador College and leave the Worldwide Church of God. If nothing else, this letter should show you that our actions, though you may not agree with them, were undertaken only after much thought, prayer, and study. We have not taken this matter lightly or casually, but rather we have tried to seriously, logically, and systematically consider all the factors.
Connie and I are very happy, blessed, and excited about the future. We get infinite enjoyment out of Teddy, and our second child is due in December. We certainly love you and everyone in the Worldwide Church of God, including the man most accountable, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. We do not question sincerity — only God can do that. We have no hate or bitterness toward anyone, although I would not be completely candid if I claimed there wasn’t a great deal of disappointment we have experienced in the last year and a half. But the blessings we have received and are receiving far overshadow any negative experiences. By the way, Connie and I have many fond and heartwarming memories of Bricket Wood and the tremendous people we knew there. If we can ever travel to Europe again, we’d love to visit the campus and all of you. (Do you still play basketball?)
Connie and I would really like to see you next time you’re in Pasadena. In fact, we bought our home over one and a half years ago and you’ve never seen it. We’d love to have you up for dinner, so just give us a call next time you’re in town. Also, if you choose to answer this letter, I’ll strive to answer it much more quickly and with a great deal more brevity.
Please give our regards to Chris, Denise, and Charles Freeman.
All our love,
Bob & Connie
PS A few of our other friends also wonder why we have left the Worldwide Church of God, so rather than writing other letters of this scope, I’ll just send them a copy of this one.
Jack Kessler 1981 Letter to WCG Board of Directors (Reveals the evil of the continuing, persistent financial abuses and shocking moral depravity which was taking place in the WCG; plus revealing info on HWA’s lifestyle.)
Herbert W. Armstrong’s Religious Roots (By Robert Gerringer; shows that HWA did not receive his teachings from God by revelation)
Footnotes by ESN:
3 To see how true this was, read: How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People?
5 Basil Wolverton (a comic artist and WCG elder) was behind the grotesque and horrifying pictures in “1975 in Prophecy” and other WCG literature. Read on our site more about Wolverton. Read: Basil Wolverton and “The Bible Story” (letter to ESN).
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