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Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

MORE COG Theological Ancestry

Back in September 2008 I posted about the COG Theological Ancestry.  I still believe that HWA gained much of what he believed from A. N. Dugger, but I wonder how much he got from G. G. Rupert. Rupert is undeniably a large source of inspiration for HWA. But was he as important as I had previously assumed? It may seem I overestimated Rupert - in at least one area.

I happened across an article on, of all places, the Worldwide Church of God website. I may not be willling to send my tithes in to Joe Jr., but I like his new direction. The WCG has access to material I could only dream of. I would love to spend a month in their archives! And they aren't afraid to apologize for their past. 
One manifestation of their guilt is a well written three-part document entitled "Herbert Armstrong and Anglo-Israelism" By Ralph Orr, from 1996. Here is a quote to whet the appetite:

"How did Mr. Armstrong come to believe in Anglo-Israelism? One possible source is G.G. Rupert, a Sabbath-keeper in Oklahoma. In 1915 Rupert convinced A.N. Dugger to allow him to advertise his book The Yellow Peril in The Bible Advocate. Thus it is possible that Herbert Armstrong could have come across Rupert's book in back issues of the Advocate. However, no evidence exists that proves Rupert to be the source for Mr. Armstrong's Anglo-Israelism. Rupert's Anglo-Israelism was not his Anglo-Israelism.
"However, Herbert Armstrong did (perhaps later) become familiar with Rupert's work. Copies of Rupert publications were among Mr. Armstrong's possessions. Rupert's observance of the biblical festivals might have increased his attractiveness to Herbert Armstrong. Still, an examination of Mr. Armstrong's correspondence for the late 1920s proves that his Anglo-Israelite beliefs came from another direction, which we will now discuss."

This study touches on some great topics, such as how HWA came to believe he had a special calling from God. Wouldja believe, it was because some strange woman arrived at his door and asked him to unload some wood? Sounds like a Monty Python skit to me. Strange women, walking around in towns, distributing wood, is no basis for a church government.

"There was no vision. There was no dream. There was no voice. There was only the woman at the door with an offer for him to stack wood, which he concluded was an answer to prayer. That offer to stack wood kept the Armstrongs from starving and enabled him to continue to write. This was all it took to convince him that he had a unique calling — a God-ordained commission to shout the Third Angel's Message to the world."

This is it, ladies and gentlemen. This is what Armstrongism is based on - wood stacking.

Whenever the topic of HWA's flaws is brought up among his followers, inevitably there is this response: "If King David were alive today, would you reject him for his flaws too?" Answer: if King David were alive today he would be speaking with God via legitimate prophets, with signs and other wonders, and not relying on a hunch and an old woman with wood. If only it were true that he spent hours studying the Bible and praying on his knees and God revealed the truth to him. Yet that isn't so. I can demonstrate quite easily how his theologies grew and changed over the years (remember church government, Pentecost, D&R, etc?). There was no great revelation. It really, truly, incredibly boils down to a woman and a pile of wood. Hundreds of thousands of people call him an apostle because of this.

The most important thing to understanding Armstrongism is British-Isralism. That was what HWA was on about in those formative years. The false doctrine of British-Israelism is key to understanding Herbert Armstrong. It is the main reason the WCG split from the COG7. This study is incredibly informative on many fronts, but especially on how HWA came to accept British-Israelism. I highly recommend it!

One bad thing is that navigating the website is clunky. The WCG needs to revise the site. I think the study used to be in 5 parts, because the links are numbered incorrectly. On the bottom of the second page, after the list of references, is a link to the next section. It says it takes you to part 5. Ignore the incorrect numbering and just click the link. Even the naming of the html pages is totally incorrect.
If it makes things easier, I will link to the three parts here for you.


Anonymous said...

There are some materials on the Painful Truth website which shed a bit more light on this topic. I had never heard of GG Rupert back in the day. Obviously, if this were a primary source for HWA, he would likely have kept it quiet. But, somewhere on the PT site is an article by someone who had been assigned to clean up HWA's house, following his decease, and had run accross some GG Rupert archives in the basement. The article may be in the Ambassador Reports Archives there, or it could be a separate article.

I also recall having read some other first person experience of one of the COG-7 elders or ministers with whom HWA worked before having his ministerial credential pulled. If I remember this correctly, HWA was explaining to his colleague that God had revealed such and such "new truth" to him. The colleague retorted that he had read something very similar to that just that morning in one of the religious newsletters of their day. HWA explained that that was how God had revealed it to him! Apparently he was not embarrassed by the obvious lack of specialness in this!

All of us have been desperate at one time or another, and have asked God to intervene, either with food, money, or a job. And, God answers. It is possible that the wood lady was simply God's way of answering a prayer for daily bread, but reading an entire calling into it without substantial additional witness from God is extrapolating way too much! I for one, would never want to be so presumptuous as to speak for God unless there was a very powerful witness from God that this is what He expected. (think Moses, or Jonah here!) Scripture tells us that God deals very harshly with those who speak presumptuously on His behalf!

Lastly, the Joe Jr. whom I knew was, like myself at that time, just a kid. Some of us were rebels, jokesters, even bordering on delinquency. It was a common reaction to being brought up by WCG parents. So, it would be unfair for me to judge his sincerity in reforming WCG, not having known him as an adult. People do change. All I can say is that at least he tried to correct the toxic error of the organization. Now, my opinion is that anyone who has ever been part of Armstrongism has been irredeemably contaminated by the embedded "programming", and most are probably unfit for the real ministry of Jesus Christ, but I can't really question the basic sincerity of their having tried. Let's face it, so pervasive was the influence that years after the fact, you can even tell the difference after five minutes of conversation, between a typical atheist, and a WCG one!

Old School WCG under OG (Original Gangsta) HWA was so extreme that it contaminated or modified just about everything and everyone it ever touched. I've certainly been frustrated by the years of work required to get right. It's very therapeutic for us all to be able to share experiences here on these blogs and forums. I believe it accelerates our recoveries!


Anonymous said...

Stacking? I can beat that. When I was a student at AC, I hated LA so much that I wanted to spend the summer in Boise, Idaho helping a minister etc. I had a ticket for June 6, 1971 but the afternoon bfore I left, I was approached to take a summer campus job. I was compliant kid at the time and said I'd try it one day but was leaving for Boise if I didn't like it.

He said fine.

I did the job one night, hated it more than I can tell you and missed my 6 AM flight to Boise. (That's back when a plane ticket could be easily used on the next available flight the next day).

My missed flight was hit over Duarte, Calif by a fighter Jet and all died.

At minimum, I should feel called to be the Pope.

Little did we know that I was being saved to have a therapeutic massage practice after 26 years in the ministry :)

Fred Gilreath saved my life.

Anonymous said...

Holy monkeys, Dennis! That's incredible!
Have you ever considered a lucrative career as one of the Two Witnesses? Certainly your story qualifies you. It's a temp position, but can go permanent if you play it right. There will be a position opening soon when Ron Weinland is carried off by the feds. Be sure to check in with Dave Pack for training. ;)

Heck, that would qualify you for Joseph Smith and Ellen G. White combined.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I've read those papers you're talking about. I should see if I can find them again. They're real good!
I liked this one from Ralph Orr because it includes details I have never heard of before. They go well together.

I agree with you, Bob, it could have been just answered prayer for daily bread. HWA should have seen that as God's kindness, not his own greatness. God does deal harshly with people who do this sort of thing. Realizing that was high up on my list of reasons for leaving Armstrongism. If God deals such with the presumptuous person, then He can't be well pleased with his followers.

There is a stain, Bob, and thank you for bringing that up. I have spoken with no one who says "Oh, i just left Armstrong and blended right in with x, y, z." Even with me, who apparently has had an easier time than most, I still have a heck of a time with second guessing and doubt and lack of direction. I hate that HWA stole from me any ability to be part of a group. I pray I can get that back. And people carry those scars with them for decades! DECADES! What kind of insidiousness lasts in the human mind like that? Any bleeding wound that lasted for a decade would be cause for panic; a mental would is no less a wound.
I do hope that you and many others find that path to healing here and on the other blogs. I pray to God for all that have been hurt and are searching. I pray most for those who would like to come out but are still there. They have a long row to hoe, and they need help very much, but they don't really know

Mary Lane said...

One reason that HWA used the B/I theory as well as the church era theory, is to promote the elitist concept in the membership that they were special as long as they stayed in the WCG, and recognized the WCG corporation as "the only true church."
He of course, had access to the truth about the B/I theory(ie, that it is only a few hundred years old, and was initiated to promote the monarchy)but if he taught the truth about that, the membership would not have been as easily merchandized.
An exellent book on the way research was conducted in the past WCG, is "Showdown At Big Sandy" by Greg Doudna, which can be found on

Anonymous said...

I do agree that HWA twisted his theories into elitism. And they are quite effective, as we all well know.

"Showdown at Big Sandy" eh? I'll check on that on your recommendation.

WHOA! $56! That's steeper than I had anticipated.
ISBN 978-0978983802 for anyone else interested. 2 left in stock as of this moment. Order soon!

Anyone got a used book they want to sell?

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I remember that plane crash very well. I had some buddies who had a Jeep, and before anybody knew that there were no survivors, one of them tried to get to the site of the crash to help in the rescue efforts.

Glad you missed your flight!


Anonymous said...

Here's my question though: Can you really 100% trust anything on the WCG site? I mean, the "stacking wood" story is a complete departure from the "Loma's neighbour sucked her in to CoG7 first" story.

"In Oregon, Mrs. Armstrong befriended a neighbor lady who encouraged her to more actively study the Bible. To her amazement, Mrs. Armstrong discovered God’s Sabbath day was not Sunday as she had believed.

"She excitedly hurried home to tell her husband. But Mr. Armstrong did not meet this news with great joy. He thought his wife had gone into religious fanaticism.

"Mr. Armstrong then reasoned that all churches who kept Sunday couldn’t be wrong. Shocked and angered, Mr. Armstrong set out to prove his wife’s newfound fanaticism wrong.

"In the fall of 1926, Mr. Armstrong set out to study the Bible in depth for the first time in his life. As he began his studies, Mr. Armstrong asked the most basic questions of all. Does God exist? Is the Bible the true and inspired Word of God? These questions led to a thorough study of the theory of the evolution and the inspiration of the Bible.

Weeks went by, then months. Mr. Armstrong, to his amazement, kept finding things he had never heard before. He searched in vain to find authority for keeping Sunday as the day of Christian worship. Instead, he proved that Saturday was the Sabbath day. He also proved the existence of God and that the Bible was His inspired Word."

Read the rest of the excerpts from YES Youth Bible Lesson Level 9, Lesson 11, "The History of God's True Church, Part 3", at I Survived Armstrongism.

Anonymous said...

Hi PH!

I think we can trust it. The paper was well referenced, and a good amount of it relied on HWA's own writings.
I guess therein lies the rub. Can we trust anything that HWA writes?

The wood stacking story wasn't about how HWA came to the Sabbath, but how he justified his pre-existing notion that he was sent from God as a special messenger (of British-Israelism). This event was after the Sabbath conversion. So I don't see a conflict between the two.

Russell Miller said...

They're not afraid to apologize for their past? Not in MY experience.

The only thing.. the *only* thing... that I'll give them in that regard is Joe Tkach Jr. blew me off *personally* a few years ago. That's faint praise indeed.

James Pate said...

Yeah, I was always fed the Mrs. Runcorn story that Aggie refers to.

I know Armstrong got some of his British Israelism from J.H. Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright. That and the United States and Britain in Prophecy are so much alike--in topics, in order, even in language, on many points.

Anonymous said...

Russell, I'm not saying they are sorry. I'm not saying they are repentant. But if they weren't given to detailed admissions of guilt, we would have much less information than we do about the facts of what went on. In my opinion, that article speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Russell, I am saddened that you were treated that way. I feel for you.
And for the legions of others who were treated similarly, I hope you find comfort and healing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, James. You're right on to my logic here!

Anonymous said...

Also see my article on Canadian WCG's July-Sept. 2007 issue of "Northern Light" (the new "Good News"), for more on the exact form that the "new and [not so] improved" WCG's "apology" has taken. (Hint: It involves a lot of hand-waving and victim-blaming. Are we very surprised brethren?)

Canadian WCG: "Reconciliation" or Reassimilation?

Anonymous said...

PH, the article was insightful. I totally see your point. And I completely agree with your apprehension on the motives of the new WCG. I agree with you that their apology appears insincere. I don't know if that affects the factuality of this article, though.

Here's what I mean when I say "apology" in this context. I mean that they are airing their own dirty laundry in hopes that we will think they've changed. You and Russell and I see through it, to name a few, but they think they're doing something good.

Aaaaaaaand, rather than fall for it, I'm perfectly willing to put the information to some good use.

Anonymous said...


Makes sense to me. Lemonade, etcetera, I suppose. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt on it. :)

technosensei said...

Sorry to the readers about the links on this post being broken. I am currently searching for the new location of the article referenced, but so far I haven't had any luck.

If anyone finds this article again, please post a comment here.

xHWA said...

Since the links to the article are broken (it is an old doc after all... 1999), I will have to pull links from the way back machine.
Try this one:
How Anglo-Israelism Entered Seventh-day Churches of God
a history of the doctrine from
John Wilson to Joseph W. Tkach
by Ralph G. Orr