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.