WAS HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG REALLY AN APOSTLE?
(Abbreviated versions of this article appear elsewhere on the 'net' with our permission, but this is the Full Version).
TACKLING ERRONEOUS CLAIMS ON
THE "APOSTLESHIP" of HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG
Were "Lost Truths" REALLY Restored to Christianity Through Herbert W. Armstrong?
'Some have wandered away .... and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.' (1 Timothy 1:6-7, NIV).
(In the following article I am going to critique the concept that Herbert W. Armstrong was a true apostle of God. I do not do it in anger, spite or bitterness but in love and concern for those whose understanding has been clouded, in the hope that they may yet come to fully appreciate the glorious light of Christ).
hose who adhere to Armstrongism, that eclectic set of beliefs which are held to by those numerous groups, most of them quite tiny, which have broken away from the Worldwide Church of God sect (which is no longer officially Armstrongist), claim that Herbert W. Armstrong, the original founder of the WCG, was clearly an apostle sent from God. In fact, they base their very existence on their firm belief in Herbert W. Armstrong's apostleship. But I have long noted that their "proofs" or "evidences" of this central tenet are entirely slanted, subjective, emotional and only based on the most selective use of Holy Scripture.
In this article I intend to critique part of Just What is An Apostle? (* see footnote) an online booklet written by one such Armstrongist group. I felt that the time was right to critique the claim of Armstrong's apostleship and looked on several Armstrongist websites for a suitable and typical writing of this sort before finding this one and it seems representative and typical of the usual approach.
Okay. Before picking up a few points from this online book (and I have confined myself to the book's chapter 9 'The Evidence of Our Apostle' as being, perhaps, the central chapter of the writer's thesis and assertion that Mr Armstrong was actually an apostle sent by God), let us notice three or four important points about the biblical office of Apostle. Evangelical Christianity largely agrees that these verses define Apostleship, so we need to consult them. This article is not about possibly subjective or prejudicial personal opinion, this is about learning what the Word of God actually says on this subject.
So What - According To The New Testament - Is An 'Apostle'?
Before we note the clear Scriptural indications of Apostleship, I will kick this off with a brief quote from my 2004 article, 'Who and What Was an Apostle And Are There Any Around Today?'
"The basis of the Greek word translated 'Apostle' (apostulous) is 'One sent forth' and the word has an implication that the one 'sent forth' has been granted extra power by God and certainly has the authority of God to perform this particular mission. The first Apostles were witnesses of the ministry of Jesus and were undoubtedly granted additional strength/power to lay down the first and primary foundation of witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide in the first century AD.
There is a looser sense of what Paul calls our 'apostleship' which can be applied to all who accept the truth of the gospel and are then appointed by God and 'sent forth' to witness for Christ (Romans 1:5) - this applies to every one of us! Yet this should not blind us to the fact that the original apostles were granted additional power and authority to lay the very foundation of Christian witness. It was vital that this was done correctly since the first century AD had no means of mass communication as we do today and, in order to be a truly effective 'message' the good news of Christ needed to spread fast. We now know that this was certainly accomplished."
Okay, so what does a careful consideration of New Testament teaching show us about Apostleship?
1. The Apostles had seen Christ in the flesh (I will make some comments about the apostle Paul in this regard a little later):
Luke 1:2; Acts 1:21-22; 1Corinthians 9:1; 1 John 1:1.
2. The Apostles had been witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:2-9 here perhaps especially significant):
Luke 24:33-53; Acts 1:2-9; Acts 10:40-42; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9.
3. The Apostles were specifically empowered to work miracles, often of a most spectacular sort (2 Cor 12:12 here perhaps especially significant):
Matthew 10:1, 8; Mark 16:17-20; Luke 9:1-2; Act 2:43; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4.
One might also add a fourth point:
4. They were to rely entirely on God for the material needs of ministry!
Matthew 10:8-10; Luke 6:38; Luke 9:3-4.
Now it is true that not all of the first Christians were given apostleship but those who were would carry the main responsibility of Witness to the Christ firstly to the Jews, then to others. These Scriptures clearly show that the biblical Apostles were a unique group called by God at a very special time for a very special purpose. It should be observed at once that this office will hardly be repeated! While the most loose sense of 'apostleship' could be applied to all of us who represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if anybody claims that a particular person is an apostle in the specific New Testament sense (it is plainly not an Old Testament office), then that 'apostle' should be able to stand up to these test Scriptures! Don't forget that Christians are admonished to prove all claims from the Scriptures! Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12.
So these tests may be applied to any claiming to hold the office of 'apostle' (whether in the extremes of the charismatic movement or anywhere else). Regarding Herbert W. Armstrong (and he is always claimed to be a specific 'end-time apostle' sent by God by all the Armstrongist-type groups), let us boldly ask the following questions:
Had Mr Armstrong seen and observed Jesus 'in the flesh' during his lifetime?
Had he been a personal witness to the ministry of Jesus, and did he personally witness Christ's sacrifice, resurrection and ascension?
Can anybody claim that Herbert W. Armstrong was empowered to perform miracles as testimony to his apostleship? The above Scriptures are especially clear that true apostles would be granted this power, indeed this power was the sign of an apostle – check out point 3 above and especially Acts 2:43; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 14:3 and most particularly 2 Corinthians 12:12).
And one might add: Did Herbert W. Armstrong rely entirely on faith to fund his “apostleship”? (An imposition of a tithing system on somewhat naïve people, by the way, is pure legalism and it is relying on the wealth of people to fund a claimed “apostleship” - the apostle Paul gives us a New Testament example of a true apostle relying entirely on faith to meet the expenses of travels; numerous Bible commentators have noted Paul's obvious refusal to refer the early Church to any system of tithing).
Regarding the apostle Paul, the article writer states this,
“During the time of the early apostles, there were several who would not accept the authority of the apostle Paul. They refused to accept that Paul had been specifically sent to them as their apostle. Instead they listened to others – who led them away from the truth formerly revealed to them. However, when we examine the scale of grace given to the apostle Paul, and how God used him in the role to which He sent him, it is that collective evidence that indicates very clearly that he was the genuine article – even though he was not one of the Twelve.”
Herbert W. Armstrong with his first wife Loma in 1965. Armstrong announced to the WCG (which he founded), that he was an apostle and Armstrong's followers mostly continue to believe that he was a true apostle, however, put alongside the New Testament tests of apostleship his claim falls well short.
I don't think that “collective evidence” is really the answer to this. Paul was called in a different way to the other apostles. He carefully explains his calling in Galatians 1:11-24, and in the Book of Acts Luke gives full authority to Paul's apostleship. See Acts 9:1-29, and especially note Luke's comment that “...Saul (Paul) on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him...” (verse 27). So while – in a sense – only two of the four tests of apostleship might appear to apply to Paul, in a somewhat different sense, they could all be said to apply to him. Also Paul was in the company of – and accepted by - the original apostles as one of their number – and this really tells us all we need to know. In the case of Matthias too, care was taken to seek an appropriate man who fulfilled what was needed in an apostle,
'Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.' (Acts 1:21-22). Also be sure to carefully consult Acts 10:39-41.
These texts makes it very plain that the apostles themselves were well aware of the criteria needed for apostleship: Witness to the ministry of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection were important components of this. Again, it is clear that the office of apostle can no longer exist.
The article, Just What Is An Apostle? Which claims apostleship for Herbert W. Armstrong, says this,
“If we are close to God, and weigh the collective evidence of our apostle – in the honest way that God demands – then two things become remarkably clear: Mr Armstrong was both our apostle and the prophesied end-time apostle as well. He was the one prophesied to restore the “all things” that God requires for this critical period. “
More on the concept that Armstrong's mission was to restore “all things” in a moment, but please note that an assumption continues to be made that it should be obvious to all that Armstrong was an apostle and that “collective evidence” should convince us of that, even when we have clearly seen that Mr Armstrong cannot possibly be an apostle according to the New Testament's own standard of apostleship. By the way, the phrase, "end-time apostle" occurs nowhere in Scripture, therefore "prophesied end-time apostle" is just an unbiblical statement which continues the old Adventist concept of focusing believers away from the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ to a focus solely on so-called "end-time" events. Oh, by the way, according to the New Testament the "end-times" commenced with Christ's sacrifice. Go Here to check that out. The phrase carries emotional baggage for a people already cut loose from true biblical moorings. This approach and line of reasoning which apparently rejects the testimony of many Scriptures on the precise subject of apostleship but just selects a few preferred scriptural slants and biases is totally unacceptable both intellectually and spiritually and – with all due respect to the writer – does not merit serious consideration. Yet since some are taken in by such reasoning so we need to continue this critique.
The article continues,
“It should be plain to all of us who know the Truth today that we learned the vast majority of that Truth through Mr Herbert Armstrong or those he taught. This, more than any other thing, should tell us that he is our apostle. Foundational Truth, as we have seen in preceding chapters, is by its very nature revealed knowledge. It comes only from God, and is revealed via the apostle whom He chooses to send to His people. If we know that Truth – and have therefore been made part of God’s True Church – then the one who taught us humanly is our apostle – sent (grk: apostello) by God.”
So the illogical reasoning continues, but here the concept of “Truth” is firmly equated with Armstrongism whereas the Bible equates 'The Truth' firmly with Jesus Christ (John 1:14,17; 3:21; 4:23-24; 5:33; 8:32,40,44-46, 14:6,17).
If, in fact, 'Truth' is all about Armstrongist doctrines (as this writer asserts), would this not have been revealed to the apostle Paul who was plainly the first theologian of the Church? After all, in his often weighty epistles Paul even found time to discuss the length of people's hair and the wearing of head coverings in church! Okay, arguing from silence can only achieve so much but let us consider the following:
Would Paul not (should Armstrongism be correct), have also the found time to explain the "millenium," "the second resurrection" and the continued forbidding of “unclean meats” (especially in the view of the comments recorded by Luke in Acts 10:9)?
Would he not have found the time to outline the necessity of faithfully keeping the Sabbath? (In fact, while Paul can be found going into synagogues on the Sabbath in Acts in order to firstly approach Jews and the 'God-Fearers' in any town he entered, the word 'sabbath' only ever occurs in Paul's highly theological epistles once in Colossians 2:16 in a Scripture in which he specifically warns about Legalism!) Significant? If Sabbath -observance is so necessary in order for us to be saved (as Armstrongism has always stressed), surely a highly intelligent man like Paul - who wrote about 90% of the theology in the New Testament – would have made this abundantly clear?? But Paul is completely silent on this, even while frequently haranguing legalists (all of Galatians, for instance!)
What about the observance of the Leviticus 23 Holydays? If "True Christians" still needed to be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Day of Atonement would Paul not have made this abundantly clear in his epistles? To Armstrong, such observance was essential yet Paul, who - don't forget - even discussed relatively peripheral matters at times, never upholds such a teaching. So if Armstrong was right about this, is it really credible that Paul would have neglected a subject of such importance? But in fact, on the contrary, Paul not only shows that Christians should not even judge each other over such matters as the observance of various days and feasts, but that to do so is immaturity in the faith - see Galatians 4:10 and Colossians 2:16-17!
How about our final calling as 'God-Beings' in the very family of God (always a central tenet of Armstrongism), why is the apostle Paul completely silent on this?? Might it not be because such a belief was completely foreign to his theology?
But the online booklet, 'Just What is An Apostle?' continues on its own merry way with the assumption that any who are 'spiritual' enough should readily understand Mr Armstrong's apostleship,
“It is our ability to understand spiritual things that gives the major proof of Mr Armstrong’s position as apostle...”
Hmmm! One might well suggest that the ability to comprehend spiritual matters, as well as to understand the plain biblical teaching on apostleship would only tend to show that Herbert W. Armstrong – as sincere as he may have been – could not possibly have been an apostle! Will we read, appreciate and accept the Bible's own doctrinal authority or won't we? There seems to be an inference here that Armstrong was infallible which he most certainly was not since he can be credited with quite a list of failed predictions (that is another subject which I won't get into here but I vividly recall – as just one example – that in 1982 when Britain went to war with Argentina over their seizure of the Falkland Islands, Armstrong predicted that Britain would lose. In fact, Britain only took a matter of days to defeat the Argentine war effort. Without doubt, if Armstrong was not an apostle he certainly was not a prophet!!).
But now the assertion is made that Armstrong's own acceptance of his “apostleship” is yet further proof that he must indeed have been one,
“If we look at the way in which Mr Armstrong taught as an educator – doing an Elijah-like work – the very same Elijah-like qualities within John the Baptist can also be seen in him. He clearly recognised this parallel himself. Notice this quotation from Mystery of the Ages:
But now God's time has come! He now sends a voice to cry out with amplified world-covering power to reveal the way out of this senseless madness, into the world of peace and righteousness that soon shall grip the earth!
In the book of Isaiah is a "now" prophecy: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord . . . lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say . . . Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him” (Isa. 40:3, 9-10).
That voice now cries out!
The prophet Malachi confirmed this: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 3:1).”
The teaching here was always an important Armstrongist teaching; That is, that just as John the Baptist had prepared the way for the First Coming of Christ, even so an “end-time Elijah” would prepare the way for Christ's Second Coming and that end-time Elijah was no other than Herbert W. Armstrong! It is surely somewhat surprising that Armstrongist groups still unashamedly teach this in view of the fact that “God's Apostle” (so-called), died in 1986 (twenty years ago as I pen this article) and Christ's return has still not occurred!
The article continues with this illogical line of reasoning,
“...Mr Armstrong knew he fulfilled the role of end-time Elijah. In the early 1980s he also repeatedly referred to himself as “God’s apostle,” both when he spoke and in his writings. Anyone who has any doubts about this, should listen to the bible-study he gave on Zerubbabel’s Temple on 21st July 1978 in which he specifically answers both how and when he knew he was God’s apostle. He knew who he was. Those of us who know the Truth – revealed to us by God through him – must hold this fact in crystal-clear focus. This is particularly true now, after his death, when so many formerly with us in the Church have lost sight of the utterly momentous times in which we live – and into which we are poised to enter.”
But this is just emotional rhetoric which contains an inference that Armstrong's 'apostleship' is beyond doubt even when - at no point - has the writer ever established such a thing.
Moreover, according to this manner of reasoning, it seems that a large part of the proof of the apostleship of any claiming that apostleship is the very fact that they claim it!! Hmmm! Am I missing something here? Is this making any sense? If, from tomorrow morning, a few of us started to claim to be 'end-time apostles' should this – in any way or sense at all – be taken as very good evidence that we were indeed “end-time apostles”? (especially in view of the fact that we only get the knowledge of 'apostle' from the New Testament and – as we have seen – New Testament teaching itself seems to strongly indicate that since Jesus walked this earth almost 2,000 years ago and the apostles were part of that ministry, apostleship is now impossible!) No; I suggest that if a few of us started to claim apostleship from tomorrow morning that would only tend to indicate that we were suffering from delusional problems.
In fact, why would any claim to be an apostle at all since the New Testament shows that pastors, ministers, teachers and even evangelists can be reasonably be expected to be found in our day? Why "apostle"? The answer, of course, is either total self-deception or sheer vanity - and, more likely, a mixture of both; if enough sincere and religious people can be convinced that one is truly an apostle then one places oneself on a very high plane of spirituality/religiosity - one is specifically 'sent by God' and people better make sure that they believe and obey you! Armstrong is not the only man who - during the last 150 years or so - has convinced truly sincere people of their claimed "apostleship."
But the above comment from our considered article raises a particularly serious issue: According to the writer, the "Truth" is "...revealed to us by God through him" - that is, through Armstrong. We alluded to this a little earlier and this is actually a very common belief among Armstrong adherents, but this actually attributes the properties of the Holy Spirit to a man. Might not this be seriously close to being a blasphemous doctrine? Carefully check out John 15:26 and John 16:13 to see Who the Spirit of Truth really is!! So while the New Testament is clear that the 'Spirit of Truth' Who would bring things to a sharper understanding for believers (following Christ's ascension), is none other than the Holy Spirit of God, the Armstrongist view is apparently that a mere man would guide God's people into all truth and bring things to their 'remembrance.' Of course, in fairness, Armstrongists would agree about the work of the Holy Spirit, but apparently are unaware that they have tended to grant the Holy Spirit's attributes to a mere man! The completed Bible canon gives ample testimony of the Holy Spirit's activity in inspiring various Spirit-led individuals to bring the sayings of Christ and the work of the first Christians into remembrace and accessibility to God's own people, neither can we restrict the Spirit's activity to that, of course.
Were Vital Original Church Teachings Really Restored Though Mr Armstrong Thereby Providing Even Greater Proof of His Apostleship?
It has been claimed that several vital church teachings which had been lost were only restored through Armstrong's ministry, thereby affirming his status as an apostle. The article which we are considering gives the following examples (my comments in parentheses):
Truth Restored: The True Gospel of God’s soon coming Kingdom. (Armstrongism's “True Gospel” is nothing other than the old Millerite Adventist Gospel of the 19th century. It is a legalistic message which reduces Christ to simply being a messenger sent from heaven. This 'gospel' makes Christ play second fiddle to the Law whereas the New Testament places Christ absolutely central. There is also confusion about a “soon-coming” kingdom because in this system of thought the kingdom does not truly arrive until the Second Coming. Traditional Christianity, however, understands that Christians enter the kingdom right now so this is indeed a soon-coming kingdom, but the Adventist “soon-coming” kingdom is hardly “soon-coming” at all!)
Truth Restored: The Purpose of God – and how He is reproducing Himself through mankind. (Again, there is nothing new about this heretical teaching since Mormons already held it. The teaching does not occur in the Bible so mainline Christianity rejected it for wholly biblical reasons).
Truth Restored: The re-establishment of God’s Government within the Church. (What is meant here is church government 'from the top down' - as a hierarchy. But certain Christian denominations had always practiced this form of church government including the Roman Catholic Church, Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy, so what would be 'new' about this? Of course, Armstrong believed that only he had authority directly from God so only his church government hierarchy was authoritative).
Truth Restored: Who and What God is – that God is a family of persons into which we humans may be born. (Essentially the same as the second point).
Truth Restored: How God is not a trinity and the Spirit of God is not a person. (This was long a heretical doctrine. How on earth can anybody claim that Armstrong “restored” this as a "lost teaching" when the teaching was always around but was rejected for the very sound reason that the Scriptures do indeed reveal God to be a Holy Trinity? The teaching that God is not a trinity and the Holy Spirit is not a person was 'alive and healthy' among Unitarians long before Armstrong was born. Unitarianism emerged in 16th century England and Hungary. Nothing new in Armstrong's approach. It was 'old hat' but rejected for solid scriptural reasons! So in what sense can Armstrong have “restored” it?)
Truth Restored: What and Why man is – that he is flesh, deliberately made incomplete, with a human spirit that is designed to be joined to God’s Holy Spirit – uniting him with God. (Nothing new here! Armstrong obviously decided his prejudices very early and therefore never studied classical theology because he probably believed it was demonic. The terms might be a little different but this is classical evangelical theology. Nothing here was in need of “restoring”).
Truth Restored: The nature of this “spirit in man” – that it imparts human intellect to the physical brain. (Again, nothing really new here although the term 'spirit in man' was peculiar to Armstrongism. But Christianity has always understood that man had an intellect provided by a spirit component but has tended to prefer the term 'soul' – this is just a difference of terminology. Also, using the term 'soul' never meant that all of Christianity embraced the doctrine of the Immortal Soul as found in Greek philosophy; in fact, large parts had a problem with it, although 'soul' was still – by and large – the preferred term for what Armstrong called 'the spirit in man.' A full and quite illuminating explanation of the biblical approach to 'soul' and 'spirit' can be found Here.).
Truth Restored: That man is not an immortal soul. (Already largely answered. Armstrong appeared to think that traditional Christianity accepted that version of The Immortal Soul which emerged from the Greek world. In fact, while the concept of soul was held, large areas of Christianity re-interpreted it. But the view that man did not have an immortal soul was already widely held and Armstrong did not in any sense “restore” it. His overall view was already present in several sects long before his own ministry commenced. For a full explanation of the biblical approach to 'soul' please see the link in the previous point).
Truth Restored: That those called by God and given His Spirit are only begotten now – like a human embryo – waiting to be born later in the first resurrection. (It is surprising that this error of Armstrong is still held as something he “restored” since he plainly misunderstood the Greek use of “begotten” seeing it only as a reference to conception. The basic problem is that Armstrong and the men he trained did not understand New Testament Greek. He believed that believers can only be 'born again' at the resurrection when the New Testament refers to being 'born again' at Christian conversion. He stubbornly held to this error for many years. He was far from the first to completely misunderstand Revelation 20 so perhaps should not be criticized about his interpretation of the 'first resurrection.')
Truth Restored: That God is not calling the world at large – only the first-fruits who are training to become the teachers of the future. (And here it is hard to be too critical of Mr Armstrong – he did indeed perceive that much of traditional Christianity's view of 'race against the clock evangelism' is actually erroneous and unbiblical, even if entirely well-meaning. But did he truly “restore” this understanding? Hardly. The understanding was already around that God was only calling a few during the age of the church, although not always widely accepted and frequently misunderstood).
Truth Restored: The purpose of the Millennium in eventually opening up salvation to the entire world for the first time. (This teaching was hardly new in any sense at all and it is amazing that pre-millenialism is claimed to be something Armstrong “restored.” There were always Christians around who believed in a literal millenium and Darby's Dispensationalism popularised the belief even more in the 19th century United States. Today many American Christians accept Darby's view of the millenium, but JN Darby can be credited with this – not Armstrong. The Darby/Scofield view was not identical to Armstrong's but very very close; but even if we would reject the Darby/Scofield view because of minor differences, Armstrong's so-called "classical pre-millenialism" is very old and throughout Christian history one finds certain groups which held to it. There was absolutely nothing new or unique or even 'uniquely restored' about this teaching when Armstrong adopted it - from others!)
Truth Restored: The incredible Truth of the Last Great Day – when all who have ever lived will be given their first chance for salvation through a physical resurrection. (Mr Armstrong's view of the Last Great Day was an interesting line of thought, without any doubt. Many of us also believe that the masses will finally have their eyes opened but do not feel that we need to invoke the concept of the Last Great Day. He believed that this “physical resurrection” would be to a further 100 years of life on the basis of a somewhat obscure verse – Isaiah 65:20 - which is certainly capable of being explained differently).
Truth Restored: The identity of Israel – as physical nations within this modern world. (Armstrong's British-Israelitism was nothing new. It had been quite a popular view long before Armstrong's birth even though it is based on no more than shifting sand. The “evidence” is no more than folk lore and legend and is nothing whatsoever to do with Holy Scripture. For any to claim that this view was “restored” to Christianity by Armstrong is little short of nonsense of almost Alice in Wonderland proportions).
Truth Restored: The specific identity of Ephraim and Manasseh – that unlocks our understanding to the vast spread of end-time bible prophecy. (Armstrong's view that Ephraim became Britain and Manasseh became America was fanciful, unprovable, a little silly and nothing whatsoever to do with Holy Scripture. But none of this was peculiar to Armstrong – he “restored” nothing. His concept that there was a “vast spread of end-time Bible prophecy” was not new either – this came from Adventism. In fact, there is little doubt that the large percentage of Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled. He imposed these things upon the Bible, he did not 'draw them out' of the Bible. In other words, this was not 'exegesis' but 'eisegesis' – that is, to read things into the Bible).
Truth Restored: Second tithe and its link to the festivals of God. (Armstrong believed that the Levitical holydays – Leviticus 23 - were commanded for Christian observance and that the second tithe was to help families to pay for keeping and attending these feasts – especially the Feast of Tabernacles. All of this just underlines how different Armstrongism is from New Testament Christianity. Acts 15 makes it very plain that these festivals and even the weekly sabbath were not even to be passed onto Gentile Christians. Of course, the flawed Armstrongist understanding of Anglo-Saxon racial identity taught that British, Americans and many western Europeans were part of Israel. What Herbert W. Armstrong did not seem to comprehend is that even if these peoples were of Israelitish stock, the New Covenant - which Armstrong very definitely never understood - would mean that the Levitical holydays and the seventh day sabbath were no longer commanded observances anyway).
Truth Restored: The administration of third tithe. (This was for the poor and was to be paid the third and sixth years out of every seven. This understanding meant that WCG members were - effectively - required to hand over 30% of their earned income in every third and sixth year. In fact, when one carefully looks at what Josephus and other Jewish writers have written about this practise, it is almost certain that the first tithe was dropped every third and sixth year. But the main problem here was Armstrong's complete lack of understanding of the New Covenant which rendered all such regulations obsolete).
Truth Restored: The identity of Babylon the Great and her harlot daughters – identified within the Catholic and Protestant churches of this world. (Little needs to be said here. Again, this understanding was nothing new. Even in the 16th century Calvin saw Roman Catholicism identified in Babylon the Great. Millerites and Adventists had added Protestant churches to the mix because they observed Sunday rather than Saturday. Nothing here was new and Mr Armstrong “restored” nothing).
Truth Restored: How Satan remains the guilty party today – even deceiving the so called “christian” churches whom God leaves blinded – so God’s Church should not sit in judgement of them. (The last part is new to me because Armstrongist ministers spend rather a lot of time in judging Christian churches. But the first part is nothing new and nothing was “restored”).
Truth Restored: The importance of God’s Church being separate – “called out ones” from this world of Babylonian confusion. (Nothing new and positively nothing restored here. All of evangelical Christianity shares the same sentiments that Christians should be ambassadors for Christ and retain a certain separation from the world).
We can now clearly perceive the error in these closing comments from the pro-Armstrong article which we have been looking at,
“Each of the above foundational Truths was restored to the Church at this end-time through Mr Herbert Armstrong. Although we today can clearly see this knowledge within scripture, before it was restored it was not perceived humanly. Only at the appropriate time – the end-time – did God choose to reveal it. He did so using the same Spirit that inspired the original scriptures – sending that revelation through a single individual. This is why Mr Armstrong could confidently say, “don’t believe me – believe the Bible” as both sets of Words were coming from the same Source.”
Here we have the clear assertion that the words of Mr Armstrong were of the same authority as Holy Scripture, this is what Armstrongism really believes even though the admittance is rarely so plain. In fact, in other parts of this online book I found a subtle inference that Armstrong's 'apostleship' was of more importance that Paul's apostleship - this is because of the old Millerite/Adventist error that the events leading up to the Second Coming are more important than the events surrounding the First Coming.
We should test all claims of those who 'come in the Name of Jesus' against Holy Scripture. In the case of the office of apostle, our Lord surely knew that other 'Johnny come-latelys' would claim apostleship and it can be no accident that the Scriptures show us quite sufficient to show that the office of apostle is now a closed office, reaching its conclusion with the death of the last apostles, almost certainly before 100 AD.
In the case of Herbert W. Armstrong's message of Legalism+Christ we only need to consult Paul's epistle to the Galatians which reveals Paul's red-hot anger with those who perverted the message of Christ by turning it into an essentially legalistic message, thereby turning people who had understood the grace of Christ back to the law.
'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which really is no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!' (Galatians 1: 6-9, NIV throughout).
'You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?' (Galatians 3:1-5).
'Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the sons born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.” Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.' (Galatians 4:28-5:1).
Robin A. Brace. 2006.
(* Footnote: I have
critiqued the online article 'Just What is an
Apostle?' as I found it and read it on September 25-26th,
2006. Sometimes articles are dropped, edited or completely
The reader may also wish to read:
A Brief Biography of Herbert W. Armstrong
(A full list of articles to assist those coming out of the Armstrongist groups)
Recovering From Armstrongism
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