Dear readers, first I would like to take a moment to express my deepest appreciation to you for your visiting, commenting, and even supporting this blog. I welcome all of you, whether you agree with me (in whole or in part) or not. You've come from all over the globe - Italy, China, Australia, Chile, South Africa, to name a few... all to my little corner of the Internet. I am humbled, I am without the proper words to express my gratitude, I am encouraged, I am hopeful. Thank you! I mean that.
What I would like to share with you today is a letter from a couple (Bob and Connie) who were seeking many of the things I have so very recently sought (and so have many others, including many of you). This letter was written in 1974-75 and is addressed to a minister of the Worldwide Church of God by the name of Hunting. What I found most striking about the letter was the similarity between the author's own search and mine. In more than one place the author's comments were virtually identical to some I have made. The questions, the search, the frustration, the areas investigated, the order of the process, the conclusions, all eerily similar to my own... and here that was 35 years ago. It was as if this person reached forward in time into my thoughts in the present day and pulled them back to record them in his own words. I get the feeling as if this letter was written for me.
I honestly believe this one letter summarizes every COG splinter group, indeed even the entire history of what I call "Armstrongism" itself.
I am going to quote from that letter, and there are so very many things I believe must be quoted (all emphasis mine) - things that touch deep in my soul and speak immeasurably to what I felt and thought and wrestled with for the past year as I came to realize God was lifting me out of Armstrongism. Please read these along with me and share in these vital new ideas recorded so long ago.
"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.'"
"...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."
"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.' 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. 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."
"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.
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."
"[HWA] 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."
"Another quote from the [May 14, 1974 Letter to the Brethren]: "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..."
"Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong goes on to say...'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."
"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 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."
"When I first began attending the Radio Church of God, 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."
"...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 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)."
"I came to realize that simply taking the word of Mr. 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."
"I perhaps reached the depth of my disappointment with the Worldwide Church of God when I read a statement written by Mr. Armstrong appearing on page 631 of the December 3, 1974, Bulletin. It's 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."
"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.' ... This is why disfellowshipment is such a handy 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."
"...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.' ... 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."
"I vividly remember attending, in my freshman year, Pasadena Bible Studies conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He was always getting upset at people who sent up questions during the Bible Study. If any question expressed even slight 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. [Where have I seen that before?] 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." [Excatly as John Keisz said!]
"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."
"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."
"I hope you will look at what Mr. 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. Armstrong prides himself in being able to preach the "gospel" in a way that no one realizes it has been preached."
"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."
"When I examined Mr. 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."
"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."
"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.'"
"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."