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Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Following A Man

I was looking for something on the Internet when I stumbled quite by accident across Raymond C. Cole's 'Church of God, The Eternal' website. He attempts to answer the question "By What Authority Do We Exist?" Instead, he illustrates everything I mean when I say that Armstrongists follow a man.

At first, Mr. Cole explains that a minister must be called and sent. He doesn't claim to be called or sent, he just states that one must be. He speaks about true doctrine, but does nothing to show he preaches any. He then shows how a minister has a responsibility to actually do his job. I still don't know what that has to do with proving anything about Mr. Cole's legitimacy.
After this, Mr. Cole basically says "by their fruits you shall know them." Once again, great. But so what? The question was about his legitimacy. Is he saying no one else has good fruits? Why aren't they legitimate if they do? I wonder by this point if there is going to be a response to the initial question.

"It was not until the failure of prophetic interpretations that the wholesale lowering of standards and watering-down of doctrine began," he says. So he admits Armstrong's prophecies failed? I'd hate to have to tell him, but it was the surety of those interpretations that was THE proof that the WCG was the one true church! If they've failed, where does that leave him?

Let's look into his mind a bit, "His [Jesus'] church and His people, for the most part, have forsaken Him!" I agree in part. Many people have forsaken Christ... for Armstrong. But what's more important right here is how Mr. Cole's view of Christ's Church is that of a physical organization instead of a Spiritual body. This displays a complete lack of understanding of the New Covenant.

"Christ kept His promise to preserve His Truth (Matt. 16:18), or there is no truth." Unfortunately, this contradicts the 1,900 years without truth theory. A 1,900 year prophecy is found nowhere in the Bible. It is actually a generalization built on Armstrong's 19-year time-cycles theory. Again, not Biblical, and having little to do with "the Truth". But I digress.
"The Worldwide Church of God never proclaimed ... that one is in hopeless religious confusion." Armstrong never said the Bible is fraud, even though Waterhouse said if Jesus doesn't return in Armstrong's life then the Bible is wrong. He did say the entire world was and is in hopeless confusion (except for his church).

Over and again Mr. Cole speaks of "the truth" and "the revealed truth". Let me explain what Mr. Cole is saying without the cloaked phraseology. He is saying "Contend for the faith once delivered....... by Herbert Armstrong."
   THAT is the real issue here.
He says, "Either the Worldwide Church of God taught the Truth, or we have no basis for calling ourselves Christians today."
Mr. Cole's first assumption, the one assumption that makes much of his conclusions fail, is that Herbert Armstrong was delivered a special revelation from God. From this one assumption arises all of his further conclusions, including his assumption that he is a valid minister - and hence the reason he dances around the plain answer to the original question, which answer is "I follow a man." Let me demonstrate.

In his "An Open Letter From Raymond C. Cole", Mr. Cole plainly says, "The concept of divine revelation was the bedrock factor upon which my faith and loyalty to God stood..." I believe every word of this, save one: "God". That should read "Herbert Armstrong". The divine revelation he truly refers to is that which Herbert Armstrong claimed.
Again from the Open Letter, Mr. Cole recalls, "For days Mr. Armstrong continually insisted God had revealed to him that which he was preaching. ... I was left with a single decision to make. Was I going to protect the self, or was I willing to accept in faith and absolute conviction that which had been demonstrated—divine revelation [to HWA]. One of the greatest psychological releases I have ever experienced came at the moment when I decided Mr. Armstrong was right—God reveals His Truth to a chosen servant [HWA]. It, therefore, is absolute and cannot change.

In plain English this means, "I follow a man." His faith is so very much tied to Herbert Armstrong that if HWA was wrong, he sees clearly he is not anywhere near what the actual truth is. He must defend HWA. Everything he has depends on it. Not Christ, HWA. 
No, Mr. Cole, either Christ died for us, or we have no salvation. If HWA does not match the Bible, then choose the Bible!

Mr. Cole now begins to pressure those whose faith in men manifested differently than his.
"Those who refuse to accept the validity of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's original commission ... and the revealed truth, are denying the validity of their baptism.
Fear and control; typical. Keep in mind Mr. Cole means "original" when he says "original"; ie. prior to the 1970's doctrinal changes. In the Open Letter, Mr. Cole refers to 1973-1974 as "an apostasy". Need I say more?
"A true minister will never separate for anything but a departure from revealed truth. Those who have left and started their own works because of personal differences or administrative debates outside the realm of doctrinal perversion, prove by such actions, that the Word, the Truth, is not paramount in their thinking."
Mr. Cole left Armstrongism in the 1970's. This is tantamount to saying HWA departed from the truth, and that's why Mr. Cole left. This was decades before Tkach.
Take this as a whole and it means that if you deny pre-1974 Herbert Armstrong, then you are not a Christian. Now he adds to that.
"If one has accepted doctrinal changes, then he is admitting he never knew the Truth."
So, if you deny pre-1970's HWA, you're not following Christ, and if you accept post 1970's HWA, you were never following Christ. Oddly enough, in his mind, this makes perfect sense.

Now, I tell you the most ironic part of this entire page. I don't think Mr. Cole thought this through very well or he wouldn't have said it like this. He said in the previous quote that if you accept doctrinal changes then you never knew the truth. But it was Mr. Herbert Armstrong himself that approved the changes that caused Mr. Cole to leave the Worldwide Church of God. Even though Mr. Cole may with his words want us to suppose he is standing against Joseph Tkach, with his actions he shows that isn't exactly true. The stand against change that Mr. Cole took was not against Joseph W. Tkach but against Herbert W Armstrong! So this says, in effect, that Mr. Armstrong accepted changes and thus never knew the truth!! How ironic is that?? So, to say that the truth is what Mr. Armstrong taught originally, and then to make an enormous gaff like this and say Mr. Armstrong never knew the truth, why, that's just talking one's self in a circle.

Your only job as a Christian is to accept that Mr. Armstrong received pure truth at the beginning of his ministry, and all changes are of Satan. This, in my opinion, is tantamount to blasphemy. It sets Herbert Armstrong nigh equal to Jesus Christ who came to reveal God's truth. Herbert Armstrong was not the Savior of anyone. Nor was he a valid prophet as he claimed. Nor were there prophecies about him. Nor did he fulfill any prophecies (save possibly for the ones about false prophets). We can talk about Elijah all day long, but the facts remain: 1) Christ said plainly that Elijah was John the Baptist (MATT. 17: 10-13), 2) Herbert Armstrong did not live to introduce the returning Christ, 3) Herbert Armstrong did not return the hearts of the children to the fathers or vice versa. I could go on, but why?

"Now can you understand why I was so troubled by the changes which constituted the apostasy of 1972-74? Can you understand why I will not budge regarding doctrine even now? I fear to compromise. I want only that Truth which is recorded in God's Holy Word and was revealed to an end-time servant (Matthew 28:19–20)." [emphasis mine]
Here is the issue. He doesn't want Christ's version of God's word, he wants HWA's version of it.

He even gives absolutely incorrect information. "In its formative years, the Church of God was the only organization founded on divine revelation. No present religion is founded on the validity of divine revelation, not even the Worldwide Church of God, since its apostasy!" Then what are we to make of the Mormons, or the Seventh Day Adventists, among many others? Many groups claim divine inspiration. All of them are just as devoted to their "leader" as Mr. Cole is devoted to HWA. This claim by Mr. Cole is absolutely false on its face. But why make such a claim at all? He means to say that even though those other groups claim to be divinely inspired, they are not. Why not? They don't have HWA! In other words, he worships a man.

I appreciate that Mr. Cole was observant enough to see that HWA claimed to be divinely inspired, but later changed what he said God had revealed. Raymond Cole called himout on that. I don't think it was the best idea to continue believing what HWA said at first was any more valid than what he said at the end. 
Mr. Cole's authority to exist is based on what? Nothing more than Herbert Armstrong's insistence on his own office. And Mr. Cole swallowed it so hard, that he based the rest of his life on it. A Christian follows Christ; Raymond Cole follows Herbert Armstrong. I hate to be so blunt, but I'm trying to illustrate a point - that Armstrongists all say they follow Christ, but it can be demonstrated again and again that they follow a man.


Byker Bob said...

Over the years, people have left Armstrongism for many reasons. It has always been my opinion that Raymond Cole left WCG because he honestly believed that HWA had left his own church! RC did in fact appear to be sticking to the faith originally delivered by HWA.

Gerald Flurry and David Pack, though they left during the Tkach era, used the same type of reasoning regarding the faith once delivered by HWA, and claim to be standing by the faith revealed to "God's Apostle", HWA.
Basically, they were/are of the same mindset as was earlier displayed by Raymond Cole.

Armstrongism really does not make any sense at all unless a person gives in to this concept of revealed truth, and therefore surrenders one's thinking to HWA as God's vehicle for such revelation. To me, in order to embrace this, it would only make sense that HWA should have had the witness of God visably supporting him, in like manner to Moses, Jonah, many of the prophets, King David, Jesus Christ, or various of the early apostles. But, he did not. That would have meant miracles, healings, fulfilled prophecy, and the other signs normally accompanying such human tools of God. In a sense, this is why the Armstrongites today insist that HWA could not have been "wrong" about prophecy, that he just got the dates off a little, allegedly because the church was not yet ready. It is also why they deny accumulated eyewitness testimony of HWA's very sinful behavior.

We live in some relatively unique times today, in that not only is the Bible and literacy very prevalent (this was not the case until the 1600s), but also there is a written history of people claiming to be teachers, and we know the results of their leadership.

The entire HWA package appealed to a relatively small cross section of humanity. By comparison, similar individuals who claimed divine inspiration like Joseph Smith, Aimee Semple MacPherson, William Miller, and Ellen G. White, have not only been much more effective, but the personality cults or empires built upon their names have lasted, while that of HWA has fragmented perhaps due to a total lack of perceived authenticity. HWA's theories, in many cases, have reached and influenced the mainstream of evangelical Christianity, but his system of governance has not enjoyed the same widespread acceptance (thank God for that!) Tithing today is somewhat widespread amongst evangelicals, as is the preaching of the end times, and to a lesser extent, the OT holy days. However, the evangelicals in many cases have subjected themselves to fiscal accountability in the way these tithes are utilized, and they tend to preach the apocalypse with a more loving attitude rather than using it as a billy club with which to whip members into submission. They recognize the value of free will, something HWA thought needed to be rigidly controlled (by him!)

In fact, the most flagrant error of HWA was his concept of government from the top down, emanating from the one from whom God supposedly was revealing His truth. This conflicts with the very basis of Jesus' teaching, which was that God through His Holy Spirit was working from the bottom up, transforming the hearts of each of us as individuals. Armstrongism does not acknowledge the power of God's Holy Spirit as being capable of this. It assumes that this process must be domineered over by an intrusive and authoritarian ministry. This is why nothing good will ever come from the Armstrong movement. Coerced behavior, via obedience to men, is of no value whatsoever to God. It's the willing, circumcised heart, the one that says "Abba, Father!" that has God's attention. Imagine, instead of Armstrongism, the impact of a community composed of such circumcised hearts!


Byker Bob said...

This thing of "revealed truth" and the bringer of this truth has a very profound psychological effect.

Right now, I am open mindedly doing some serious study. It includes scriptures shared here and on other sites, my own personal Bible study, carefully selected programs on Christian radio and television, and some dissertations on Christian living on various websites arrived at topically through Google.

In going through all of this, I have to admit that it would be nice if there were one single source to which I could go for my "truth". But, that would be a fallacy. Here's why. The minute a would be apostle, witness, or prophet succeeds in convincing you that he is the person through whom God is working, that is the instant at which you begin to check your brain at the door! That's when you buy into his complete package, and begin not to investigate quite so completely! If that man dies, you're probably still locked in and will attempt to find a group that keeps his precepts as closely as humanly possible! If he himself attempts to correct some of his teachings or errors, you might even decide that it was his original teachings that were inspired, and leave his group in favor of joining or starting one that sticks to the original.

There is quite a difference between doing that, and prayerfully allowing God to guide us on a daily basis, specifically tailoring what we learn to our individual needs. I often wonder what process my parents went through to arrive at Armstrongism as a life-long all-purpose spiritual solution. Did they allow HWA to define and then fill the parameters for finding the true church, or did they do some independent thinking? How much due diligence was involved? What, and how many other reference materials were involved prior to their decision? I do remember that their change occurred over a relatively short period of time. We didn't have the internet back then, but I certainly don't recall seeing a plethora of books, Bibles, or other reference materials laying around the house. Just Plain Truths, Good Newses, and at first, the Radio Church of God pamphlets.

HWA always mocked the other Christians for unquestioningly accepting the religions handed to them by their parents, but what level of intelligence would be involved in reading a couple of booklets, listening to a few broadcasts, deciding that the purveyor of those was God's only end time witness, and abandoning the Methodist church for Radio Church of God? Even HWA himself claimed to have made an intense six month study in his local public library prior to proselytizing his findings to others.

I often wonder, absenting HWA, where I might be, spiritually, today. It's always possible that religion might never have become a central issue in my life. I might have been neutral on it. Or, I might have continued in the Methodist faith. Only God could answer a question like that. But, it's also possible in a perverse way that had it not been for the horrible experience, bad fruits, and lack of love in HWA's church, there may never have been a catalyst in my life which would prompt me to dig so deeply into these things as I now have. And, believe me, I strongly feel as if this is still just the beginning!


xHWA said...

Those are some excellent insights, Bob. I very much appreciate them!

"...the very basis of Jesus' teaching, which was that God through His Holy Spirit was working from the bottom up, transforming the hearts of each of us as individuals."
I agree!!
"Coerced behavior, via obedience to men, is of no value whatsoever to God. It's the willing, circumcised heart, the one that says "Abba, Father!" that has God's attention"
I think this can't be stressed or repeated enough!

"But, it's also possible in a perverse way that had it not been for the horrible experience, bad fruits, and lack of love in HWA's church, there may never have been a catalyst in my life which would prompt me to dig so deeply into these things as I now have"
I feel exactly the same way!!

"And, believe me, I strongly feel as if this is still just the beginning!"
Very good, Bob! Keep it up, keep searching, keep growing in grace and knowledge and faith of Jesus Christ! God bless and guide you along the way!
And that goes for everyone else who is on this journey with us!!