Where is the Authority? The Word of God...Or, a Mere Man?

It is Now Time to Issue a Challenge...

Are YOU In the True Faith?.... OR ARE YOU NOT?

It seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb that Armstrong was wrong on something like 90% of his public pronouncements. He was right that this world is effectively held captive by Satan and he was right to finally admit that Pentecost must fall on a Sunday but, against that, he was clearly wrong on scores of points. This is not just one man's opinion but it is very easily researchable - as long, that is, as emotions do not interfere.

Robin A. Brace.

H ere at UK Apologetics we continue to be regularly surprised that some will idolise certain religious leaders, placing them and their writings upon a pedestal, when there is often overwhelming evidence that these people were/are often just plain wrong. So we see what appears to be an emotionally-motivated refusal to face the evidence. Why?

Often, the sort of people who bow down before such - I'm afraid have to say it - charlatans, are, perhaps surprisingly, rather intelligent people; they are people who will exercise logic, common sense and weigh the evidence in most all of the choices and decisions of life which they will need to make, yet when it comes to evaluating their preferred and revered religious leaders, all quality discretion and reasoning flies straight out of the window! They just seem unable to correctly evaluate and discern their preferred leader's ideology/theology. In this article I am going to suggest why that is, and suggest a way to overcome such erroneous influences.

Recently, a newly married young lady was in email touch with me. She told us that she was absolutely new to Christianity and asked us where our articles on polygamy were. I was a little surprised, and asked for clarification. It turns out that this poor, wretched young lady's husband had "carefully explained" to her how God commands "fine Christian men" to be keen polygamists. In incredible innocence she explained how she really wanted to please her husband, and please God, by allowing her husband to take many wives, "which is surely his Christian birthright." The lady was truly sincere and obviously a little shocked when I explained to her that polygamy has no place within biblical Christianity. The point is: her husband, at some stage in the past, has come under the influence of some false religious leader (probably one of the founders of Mormonism). Yet that influence, and all such influences, could be avoided by exercising what one could call 'biblical sound-mindedness' ; this is about boldly looking at the evidence, using just a little logic, balance and a healthy sprinkling of good, old-fashioned common sense. That part is elementary and not difficult for most people; the research (usually not too much is required) comes after that. But emotional involvement (similar to what happens in a love affair) clouds the issues for some people.

Probably Sincere...Totally Wrong.

Many of these individuals were probably entirely sincere, however, the results of their efforts have led to many thousands being led astray from biblical Christianity.

Our pictures show Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), Joseph Smith Jr (1805-1844), Ellen G. White (1827-1915) and Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986). Most of these people set out to overturn the authority of established Christianity, claiming a divine mandate to 'restore' biblical Christianity, but the actual effect of their efforts was to undermine the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, introducing a works-based legalistic package which reduced the importance of the work of Christ upon the cross. A good knowledge of the Book of Romans alone is enough to show that they were false teachers who would have incurred the strong anger of the first apostles.
Interestingly, most of these teachers claimed angelic revelations as their authority. In this, it is impossible not to be reminded of the following warning:

'I marvel that you so soon are being moved away from Him who called you into the grace of Christ, to another gospel, which is not another, but some are troubling you, and desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we - or an angel from Heaven - preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel to you beside what you have received, let him be accursed.' (Galatians 1:6-9).

If one considers such people as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White, Charles Taze Russell or Herbert W. Armstrong, who, between them, founded, or were important early leaders, of such groups as the Christian Science Movement, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, The Mormons and the Worldwide Church of God, these were obviously all powerful and influential people (within their own spheres of influence, of course). Such people made numerous dogmatic "biblical" statements and made the claim that they alone were representatives of "biblical truth" - yes, as I say, even when it has always been within the area of pretty elementary study and research to reveal that such individuals were walking down a spiritual blind alley! Since such "truly biblical leaders" knew that the research to disprove their various claims was hardly in the realm of rocket science, they covered their tracks by claiming that established Christianity was and is a vast satanic deception. This subtle psychological trick, without a doubt, has been very effective. The problem, it seems to me, is that some people immediately place their spiritual leaders into a mystical and separate 'upper house' (as Francis Schaeffer would probably have described it), where things such as science, common sense, enquiry and research are never allowed to stray. Their mystical upper house becomes the domain of the emotional, spiritual, subjective and romantic. Sound reason is positively barred from entrance! Many years ago a staunch Armstrongist (that is, a committed disciple of Herbert W. Armstrong) said this to me,

"You must not apply human reason, or the intellect, to Mr Armstrong; he lives in the area of the spirit. Yet we know in our hearts and minds that he is God's true, twentieth century apostle, and we must hold onto that in faith."

Problem here, of course, is that such flawed reasoning placed "God's true apostle" in the category of the magical, the whirling dervishes, the "predictions" of Nostradamus, astrology and the fairies. Now, of course, such people did not intend Armstrongist former head guro the late Herbert W. Armstrong to keep any such company, but you must never claim that it is 'lacking faith,' or, 'rebellion,' or, 'showing a bad attitude' (that's a favourite one of Armstrongism), to use our God-given human minds to look into any claim of 'divine guidance.' For sure, if any such individuals claim, purely and simply, that their chosen guro, or spiritual leader, is purely basing his/her authority on the deity, that is, Almighty God (who is more than adequately revealed in the pages of the Holy Bible), it becomes especially easy to research their claims; yet some fear to do so, worrying that this may show a lack of faith, surely that is a most incredible fact!

Members of such groups as 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (Mormons to you and me), 'Jehovah's Witnesses' (as represented by the Watchtower Society, a group which has produced a "Bible" which reveals their poor comprehension of the biblical languages), or the scores of Armstrongist groups which are out there, will devote ten, twenty, thirty or more years of their lives following a path which dictates every single thing which they do, and yet, one very commonly finds that many such people have never even taken 3-4 months out of their dictated religious schedule to properly research the claims of the men and women who - without doubt - they often idolise, while usually being blind to that idolatry. But - is it not incredible - that mystical 'upper house' religious subjectivism and emotionalism will so completely dictate such people's lives? One probably sees the influence of existentialism in why so many thousands of sincere people have been prepared to take such 'a leap of faith' as an escape from the current, the mundane and the predictable into the 'spiritual unknown' without any recourse to meaningful research or study. Oh yes, I know that the 'Witnesses' and 'Armstrongists' alike will always claim that their study was deep but just a little chat with them usually reveals they tend to exaggerate this. Certainly, Christians must walk in faith, yet that is not blind faith but based on solid evidence and substance, quite apart (we would say) from the true divine revelation which we certainly believe has affected us; the difference is: We see that divine revelation within the pages of Scripture - some, however, see their own "divine revelation" as being quite separate from Scripture; therein lies the danger.

Whilst the spiritual leaders of such people tell them that their faithful and fervent adherence inevitably makes them "biblically knowledgeable," in truth, the biblical knowledge of such people is sometimes lamentable although such people usually become adept at parroting highly selective 'biblical support' for their beliefs. I have discussed spiritual matters with a lot of these people; you just don't seem to meet Jehovah's Witnesses or Armstrongists who really know their Bibles, but, my, do they love to argue! Problem is, they will argue within a small circle of knowledge having no understanding of just how small that circle is. Frankly, sincere or not, they simply don't know how much they don't know and if your argument sounds like something they have not encountered before, that fact alone will make them defensive and hostile; they will categorize it as "worldly" knowledge which should be avoided.

You don't even meet any such adherents who really know and understand the Book of Romans. Strange really, Herbert W. Armstrong, for instance, had about 4 verses from Romans which he liked to regularly hammer away at, yet if he had ever comprehensively studied that book, he would (one hopes, but perhaps not) have come to understand that that book alone (without even taking other biblical books into account), shows that he was totally wrong on some of his most favoured 'pet topics.' Romans, along with Galatians, especially clearly reveals that there is no salvation by works and that if one, claiming to follow Christ, relies on the law, one has already 'jumped the tracks' and is heading for a future spiritual crash. Indeed, Galatianism (which caused Paul the Apostle to become white hot with anger), has a very direct connection with Armstrongist teaching. The Galatians had accepted Christ but then turned back to reliance on the law; this made Paul the Apostle furious with them. Paul told them,

'...Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman...we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage.' (Galatians 4:30-5:1).

Then there is Armstrong's much cherished "sabbath" (one won't even consider here the dreadful double standards of certain WCG "ministers," one has previously met, on this point), but with regard to the Sabbath, one may say that taking into account Romans, First and Second Corinthians and Hebrews (as undoubtedly being the four most heavily doctrinal New Testament books), the Sabbath (as a required observance), does not even get a single mention. Incredible! Now that is an area very easily researchable by Armstrongists; do they research it? No. It has also been documented that Armstrong, and his chief minister Herman Hoeh, were wrong on something over 200 specific predictions from the 1930s onwards; should not that fact alone tell one something?

As for Jehovah's Witnesses, in their curious, and frankly crass, misunderstanding on blood transfusion, they might just stand back a little from their plainly spiritually blind leaders and consider that Jesus Christ was actually the greatest blood donor of all time! Do they ever stand back and do a little research employing the full resources of their God-given minds? No. They do not; would that not be being 'unfaithful' to their leaders?

So - at this point - UK Apologetics would like to issue a challenge:

Are you now, or have you been, a follower of such people as David Korresh, Herbert W. Armstrong, Ellen G. White, Mary Baker Eddy or Joseph Smith? Since these people all claimed that their beliefs were 'biblical,' please be prepared to emotionally cut yourself off from the influence of such people and - just with your Holy Bible and a few reference books - research their beliefs and claims. No, not just for a few hours one Friday evening; isn't this thing too important for that? Rather, research and unravel, in a constant prayerful attitude and an open mind, setting aside, perhaps, 1-3 months. If you have spent 25 years following a particular movement, is 1-3 months really too much to ask? You are not being unfaithful in any such a task. The Bible tells us,

'Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.' (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Ask yourself whether these men and women truly represented the teachings of the Holy Bible. Or did they subtly mis-represent it? Don't forget that, in the Garden of Eden, the Devil was adept at telling part-truth and part-error so as to easily confuse the unwise. Don't let your group's traditions, your emotions or your religious habits put you off doing this any longer. Maybe some of you should have done such open-minded study many years ago but it is never too late to develop the attitude of the Bereans:

Act 17:10: 'And the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. They, when they arrived, went into the synagogue of the Jews.'
Act 17:11: 'And these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.'

If YOU have come under the influence of such aforementioned men and women (and, of course, there are others), is not the issue of your (and very possibly your family's) eternity, and your embrace upon Eternal Life, of sufficient importance to no longer put this off?

The ball is now in your court....

Be brave, be bold, do that research! and don't allow such things as emotion, strongly-ingrained habit or misplaced loyalty to throw you off course!

Robin A. Brace, July 25th, 2009.

Primarily, the Bible alone must be your guide, but here are a few internet pages which might help along your study:

Recovering From Armstrongism

UK Apologetics Countercult page

The True, Biblically Substantiated Doctrines of Christianity

Articles on Jehovah's Witnesses

Articles on Mormonism

Articles on the Prosperity Gospel

The underlying problem of a love of legalism will also need to be tackled:
The Move Away From Legalism