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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Church Government - Image of the Beast?

Did Herbert Armstrong say the government of the Worldwide Church of God is the Image of the Beast of Revelation? It shocks me too!

I was reading the Painful Truth and came across this gem entitled "Herbert W. Armstrong's 209 False Prophecies" by "the Watcher". Yes indeedly do, I recommend it!

Anywho, I get to this one, "23) 1940 PT: 'Christ will come after 3.5 years of tribulation in October 43'", and I decided this was so interesting that I had to read the source for myself. There was no month stated. I decided to start at the beginning of the year. Well, I got to April-May, and I found a major curiosity. You simply have to read it for yourself:

"The first pope, in the real sense of the word, was Leo I (440-461 A.D.)," says the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 7, page 829. To him this form of GOVERNMENT of the Roman Empire was the most marvellous thing on earth. It became an obsession. He applied its principles to the CHURCH, organizing the church into a GOVERNMENT, forming the PAPACY. This CHURCH GOVERNMENT or ORGANIZATION is the IMAGE OF THE BEAST. Says Myers' Ancient History: "During the reign of Leo I, the Church set up, within the Roman Empire, an ecclesiastical STATE (government) which, in its constitution and its administrative system, was shaping itself upon the imperial MODEL." The Britannica calls the papacy an ECCLESIASTICAL WORLD EMPIRE! This IMAGE---church government---compelled people to WORSHIP THE CHURCH! And since the church was organized into a government, this was worship of the IMAGE---FALSE worship---IDOLATRY!!

"But this church became a MOTHER, and DAUGHTER CHURCHES came out of her ... And ALL ARE ORGANIZED , and have CHURCH GOVERNMENT. ...

"Yes, CHURCH GOVERNMENT is the "IMAGE" of the "BEAST." When people speak of "MY Church," they mean their organized denomination. And today people seem to IDOLIZE their CHURCHES! This is "worshipping the IMAGE of the BEAST."
Herbert Armstrong, Plain Truth, April-May 1940, p. 9 [emphasis his, if that wasn't obious]

Church government is the "IMAGE of the BEAST"?? Oh, where to begin?

Perhaps I shall remind you that church government is the first, number one, el numero uno, primary, of the 18 "truths" restored by HWA. Yet, church government, Armstrong said in 1940, is the "IMAGE of the BEAST." We all know of the time when HWA said church government is the one thing the Catholics got right.

Why the flip-flop? Yet this isn't the only time he flippidy flopped!

"There is not single HINT in the NEW TESTAMENT of any Church BOARD with authority to rule, to govern, to decide doctrine, or to handle tithes and church finances (the whole church). In a later number we shall devote an article to explaining Acts 15, which certainly sets no such example.
"Jesus never organized, or re-organized his Church! There is NO SCRIPTURE for it!
"All authority and power to rule is limited solely to each LOCAL congregation. But there is NO BIBLE AUTHORITY for any super- government, or organization with authority over the local congregations!"
"How, then, did ORGANIZATION, and the idea of CHURCH GOVERNMENT get into the Church? It came out of BABYLON! Spiritual BABYLON -- that is, ROME! The same as nearly all the false doctrines of Satan."

HWA firmly came out against church government to such a degree that he pulled out all stops to attack the idea. He even invoked the name of Nimrod! Not only does this prove he flip-flopped, but it is is solid evidence against the fabled 'divine revelation after prayerful Bible study' story we've all heard a million times. Recall Pentecost, D&R, healing, meats as a physical issue only, and others - all changed over time. 
If there was a revelation, wouldn't it be right the first time, and not after a few iterations? Not only that, but how can the diametric opposite of what was 'revealed' eventually become the "truth"? After the alleged revelation, HWA said government was evil; the "IMAGE of the BEAST" no less. Decades later, government is great! It's one of the proofs!

Is it just the Catholic Church's government that HWA spoke of? No. He said "ALL ARE ORGANIZED , and have CHURCH GOVERNMENT." But which was the best? That is obviously the governmental form employed by the Catholic Church. If Leo I gushed over Rome, HWA gushed over Roman Catholicism.

I would now like to deconstruct a few things from the above quote.

"an ecclesiastical STATE (government)"
The Catholic Church is also a state. Certainly that doesn't apply to the WCG, right? Ahhh, but the Worldwide Church of God was also a state. Stanley Rader admitted to so much.
The following is a snippet of transcript from an interview Stanley Rader did with Mike Wallace on television's "60 Minutes" back in 1979:
[Wallace] "Are you suggesting that Herbert Armstrong is a head of state?"
[Rader] "Exactly. Exactly. And..."
[Wallace] "And you're the Secretary of State?"
[Rader] "You got it. By God you got it, Mike. That's it! That's the whole key. This is a state and we are representatives of God, and I am Mr. Armstrong's Secretary of State."
Stanley Rader, 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace (starting at time stamp 8 minutes 29 seconds)
(You can download the audio file in .mp3 format from the Painful truth here. Look at the bottom of the page for "".)

"in its constitution and its administrative system, was shaping itself upon the imperial MODEL
The government of Rome, which the Catholics copied, and which HWA copied in turn, was 'imperial'. Oddly enough, the name of the church sponsored grade school was what? Imperial! A name which the Philadelphia Church of God carries forward to this day. How appropriate it is when one says, "Herbert Armstrong built an empire"!!

"this church became a MOTHER, and DAUGHTER CHURCHES came out of her"
Let's give HWA some of his own medicine. This "mother church" is the Worldwide Church of God, and her "daughter churches" the UCG, LCG, PCG, RCG, CGG, PKG, CGF, etc, etc, etc ad nauseum.
Not so nice when the barrel of that gun is pointed at you, is it?
I point this out for one reason. Do we not see what a tangled web and a fine kettle we have when we start condemning and judging others? 
To quote Harold Smith, of the Church of God Fellowship, "All prophetic interpretation is speculation." Based upon absolutely nothing more than speculation, Herbert Armstrong judged and condemned BILLIONS of people. His ministers mimic and perpetuate this same unsavory nonsense. HWA put the above into writing, thinking he was doing a service to God. His words have now come full circle to bite him in the rear. Certainly - certainly - all of this condemnation must stop! All of the bickering and arguing over who is the false church and who is the one true church has done absolutely nothing good.

"When people speak of 'MY Church,' they mean their organized denomination."
Yes. And this is exactly what the splinters promote. If it were not so, then there would not be so very many splinters.

(I COR. 3: 3-4) 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

"This IMAGE---church government---compelled people to WORSHIP THE CHURCH!
And I say there is NO difference between what Leo I did and what HWA did.
"And today people seem to IDOLIZE their CHURCHES!"
This is exactly what we were taught to do in Armstrongism! This is exactly what they promoted! All that talk about "one true church". All of those "proofs" and "truths restored" and great swelling words about how HWA was "God's Apostle" and "Elijah" and "the voice in the wilderness". All of the buildings and the temple in Pasedena and the international trips and the Steuben crystal and the magazines and the radio shows and the "work". All of that pomp and circumstance was hyped and pushed and advertised to show how we should honor and respect the 'one true church' so we could all pay, pray, and stay. 
And what exactly was all of that? Herbert Armstrong himself will sum it up:
"this was worship of the IMAGE---FALSE worship---IDOLATRY!!"

(II COR. 11: 13-15) 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Beloved and prized by God who are still in Armstrongism, look at the evidence for yourself. Open your eyes and see the confusion! God is not the author of the decades of flip-flopping and condemnation. God is not the author of all of these splinters, each clamouring to continue the idolatrous empire. I implore you, by the love of God, do not let those men deceive you any further. There is another way! A simple way. A loving way. Step into the New Covenant!


Byker Bob said...

Yes, and it may also behoove certain of our former brethren to read up on the Nicolaitanes, who practiced this same type of oppressive government in New Testament times, and were condemned for it by the apostles.


Anonymous said...

you forget the Word taught church means come out of the world to worship God not the traditions of our fathers . mr armsrtongs article is clearly talking about the papacy church those that have eyes see those that have ears listen to what the spirit says to the churchofGod in rev.

xHWA said...

I don't quite follow what you're saying there, Anon.

"Church" means "come out of the world"? Well, not in the definition of the word. The Greek word where we get "church" from isn't in the Bible. At all. So, I would disagree with you. The word "ekklesia" is translated as "church", but that's not a good translation to be honest. It means "assembly", not "church."

Even factually speaking about what HWA is "clearly talking about", I don't understand what your point is. When he started writing articles against church government he was referring to the COG7, not the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church may have issues, but those are issues he at first bashed, then later extolled the virtues of.

I think what you mean, though, is that the ekklesia (regardless of how you translate it) is called out of this world to worship God. You see Catholic traditions as contrary to that calling. Many people do. I am not Catholic. If I didn't agree with you at certain levels, I might be Catholic. Then it must be asked -- why did HWA adopt those problems?

However... I never bash Catholics or set myself up on a pedistal as if I am some great thing because I don't do the things they do. Guess what, we're all still sinners! If they are less, it does not follow that you are any better. So, it matters not what they do. Compare yourself to Christ, not other men. Let God sort it out.
Never the less, I will tolerate no Catholic bashing here.

I may very well have forgotten some thing or the other. The difference is that I've done the research. I've done due diligence. If I forget something, then I have something to forget.
What this post is about is Herbert Armstrong's claim that church government is the image of the beast. Later in life he completely adopted the image of the beast. Regardless of what else the Catholics do, that changes nothing about this.

It would be helpful if you let me know which of these facts, exactly, that you have a disagreement with? Claiming to have extra eyes and ears does not leave much to go on.

Gregory Diaz said...

I agree completely that Mr. Armstrong flip flopped on this.

Suppose that even if Mr. Armstrong did not bring in the exact "image of the beast" and instead created an "image" of the government of God in the church it would still be idolatry. The only true government of God must be supernatural.

Either way I would compare Mr. Armstrong to Aaron who created the golden calf. He sinned yet he was still God's servant.