filename : ARMSTRNG.TXT
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THE PLAIN TRUTH
HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG
It's everywhere. And it's free. It can be found in supermarkets and
airport terminals. It can be obtained by mailing a postcard or by
calling a toll-free phone number. It's THE PLAIN TRUTH magazine of
Herbert W. Armstrong's "World Wide Church of God". A magazine of
humble beginnings, like the church that produces it, it claims its
purpose is to spread the real Gospel to all nations.1 While many
Christians recognize Armstrong's name and face and have heard of the
WCG, fw [sic] are aware of the history and teachings of the man and his
The Humble Beginnings
Herbert W. Armstrong was born July 31, 1892. He did not get involved
in religion until 1926, when his wife "discovered" that Christians
were keeping the wrong day of the week as the Sabbath. Angered at her
"religious fanaticism", Armstrong threatened divorce. But rather than
divorcing her, he developed an interest in the Bible himself, and as
his business failed, he spent more time reading the Bible. This
study, Armstrong claimed, led to his conversion to sabbatarianism, the
belief that God's people should worship on Saturday rather than
He continued his religious work and in 1932 became a licensed minister
in the Oregon Conference of the Church of God, a spinoff of the
Seventh-Day Adventists. In 1933, Armstrong began delivering a 15-
minute morning devotional from a radio station in Eugene, Ore. The
next year, it was expanded to 30 minutes and Armstrong began calling
it "The World Tomorrow," the name the show carries today. Armstrong
also began printing THE PLAIN TRUTH magazine that year. Its first
printing was 250 copies, run off by hand on a mimeograph machine.
Armstrong's communication empire has come a long way. In 1985, his
radio and television broadcasts reached every part of the United
States, and Canada and Australia and part of other countries. THE
PLAIN TRUTH now boasts a press run of 7.5 milion copies per issue.
Armstrong considered himself Christ's sole true Apostle on the Earth.
Armstrong's name made the news from time to time. In 1984, his church
lost a $1.26 million libel and slander suit that had been filed by the
former wife of a church executive. She claimed in the suit that
Armstrong and other church leaders had tried to smear her reputation
after her divorce in 1976.
That same year, Armstrong divorced his second wife, Ramona, after
seven years of marriage. The case reportedly cost the church more
than $5 million in legal fees before finally being settled in 1984.
The church was wraked during the 1970s and 1980s by defections,
personnel changes and allegations by several ex-members that Armstrong
and other leaders had diverted millions of dollars in church money for
their own use.
These dissidents succeeded in getting the California attorney
general's office to place the church's finances under control of a
church-appointed reciever in 1979. But the allegations were never
proven and the charges dropped in 1980.
All this transpired shortly after Armstrong's son, Garner Ted, once an
eloquent and dynamic spokeman for the church and heir-apparent to his
father's postiion, was excommunicated. Garner Ted then founded his
own church, the Church of God International, in Tyler, Texas.
While no one can deny Armstrong succeeded in disseminating what he
called the "true original Gospel", one can easily question his claim
to its fidelity.
The True Original Gospel
Armstrong's gospel can be found in Scripture, but only in Paul's
warning about the "different gospel" given in 2 Corinthians 11:4.
Armstrong's gospel is one of heave legalism and a "different Jesus"
and a "different Spirit" than that of Christianity.
Armstrongism is a smorgasboard of unorthodox doctrines bowwored from
the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian
Scientists and others. Much of the legalism, such as adherence to
dietary laws and observance of Jewish feast days, is taken directly
from Judaism. Let's take a look at how the WCG differs from
Christanity on some key doctrines:
Armstrong, as do Jehovah's Witnesses, went to great lengths to try to
show the Trintiy was a pagan-derived doctrine. "The doctrine of the
Trinity is false," he wrote. "It was foisted upon the world at te
Council of Nicea. It is the pagan Babylonish trinity of the father,
mother and child - substituting the Holy Spirit for the mother,
Semiramis, and calling it a 'person'."2 He used the same tactics the
Watchtower Society does in denying this doctrine: namely a misstating
of the Christian postition. For example, Armstrong led his readers to
believe that "Because of false teaching - including that of the
'Trinity' - nearly all of us have been reared from childhood to assume
that God is one individual Person."3 What then is Mr. Armstrong's
idea of God? "God is not merely one person, nor even limited to a
'trinity', but GOD is a FAMILY." he wrote.4
Armstrong's theology of a family of God also lends itself to a
defective Christology. While Jesus is acknowledged as God (one of the
two persons currently composing the "God Family"), Armstrongism
appears to borrow from Mormonism, as it says that when one is born
again, he "will possess the same power, glory and holiness of God!"5
Thus, one finds the WCG teaching that there is not one God, but two.
One is God the Father, possessor of Heaven and Earth, the Father of
Jesus Christ. The other is the God of the Old Testament, the creator
of Heaven and Earth, the one who became Jesus Christ.
Armstrong's doctrine leaves no place for the personage of the Holy
Spirit. So, as in Watchtower theology, the Holy Spirit becomes an
impersonal force or power. WCG writings consistently refer to the
Holy Spirit as "it."
Here, the WCG departs from biblical Christianity in two major areas.
First, Armstrongism teaches that Jesus Christ himself was born a
second time--"born again"--by his resurrection from the dead.6 Next,
one finds Armstrongism teaching that "the Son of God, (was) now no
longer human, but composed of SPIRIT--a Spirit Being," and that
"Christ's body did disappear. Christ was raised as a divine spirit
Armstrong continually redefined terms as he gained new "insights" into
the Bible and nowhere did this happen more often than with his
doctrine of salvation. He taught that true Christians are only
"begotten" sons now and are not yet born again.8 The term "born
again", Armstrong taught, means "changed into spirit." Thus, it is
taught that, like Jesus, believers will be born again--changed into
spirit--at the resurrection. Further, salvation in the WCG includes
godhood. Once again we see Armstrong's teaching: "There are only two
members in the God Family or Kingdom at the present time--God the
Father and Jesus Christ the Son. But God is increasing His Family!
And YOU can be 'born' into it!"9
Armstrong taught that Christians are wrong to "think they were 'born
again' when they 'accepted Christ' and were 'baptized.'"10 Armstrong
denied the doctrine of the nature of the new birth and misrepresented
the Christian position on baptism. Christians do not regard baptism
as a requirement for salvation. Tied to the WCG's gospel is baptism
and Armstrong reasoned the works--faith salvation by saying; "You
shall be saved by grace, but God does lay down conditions. You can
comply, and recieve glorious grace--or you can rebel, and pay the
death penalty--for eternity!"11 The seriousness of not submitting to
sabbatarianism, Armstrong told his followers, that it is impossible
for Jesus Christ to dwell in a person if he profanes His Holy Day by
observing a pagan day.12 Of course, while there are several different
religious groups who keep the Sabbath (Saturday) worship, Armstrong
maintained that there is only one true church: the WCG.
Accrding to WCG teachings, those who reject its "true original
gospel," will not suffer eternal punishment in hell, but an all-
consuming fire that will annihilate unbelievers. The church's
Ambassador College Correspondence Course on hell says; "The 'hell
fire' that the Bible speaks of will be thousands of degrees hotter
than the imaginary 'hell fire' of most preachers--which is only hot
enough to torment. The biblical 'hell fire' will totally consume the
disobedient! Never will they exist again."13
Although Armstrongism teaches that "Salvation will be open to all then
resurrected, just as in the thousand year reign of Christ on Earth,
only now there will be many more to accept it." But it turns out not
to be a second chance at redemption, for Armstrong reasoned, "If they
were blinded when they formerly lived, they never had a first
One can find more beliefs that separate Armstrongism from biblical
Christianity; denial of man's immortal soul, soul sleep, British
Israelism, a rejection of holidays (Christmas, birthdays and so
forth), and a disapproval of medicine and physicians.
What Does the Bible Say?
Christianity is a monotheistic faith and Armstrong's "God Family"
concept is not found in the Bible. The Bible does not teach the
existence of two gods with additional "gods" to be added to the "God
Family" upon their resurrection from the dead. Scripture clearly says
there is one God and that there are three persons who are addressed as
God. The attributes of God are ascribed to each member of the
Godhead. While Armstrong was right in saying that the appearance of
God in the Old Testament was the Second Person of the Trinity, namely
Christ, the old man clearly was preaching "another Jesus."
Armstrong's distorted theology of God's nature again is demonstrated
in his denial of the personality of the Holy Spirit. Scripture
presents clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force.
The Holy Spirit creates and gives life (Job 33:4). He works according
to His own will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He appoints and commissions
ministers (Acts 13:2, Acts 20:28). He teaches (John 14:26). He can
be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
The WCG's account of Christ's resurrection is like every other false
religion's; a spiritual resurrection which is no resurrection at all.
That which separates Christianity from other religions is that its
founder made good his claims. Jesus said, "Destroy this temple and in
three days I will raise it up," in reference to His body.15
Armstronites, like the members of the Unification Church and the
Watchtower Society, have nothing that distinguishes their "Jesus" from
any other religious founder. Christians have a Jesus who died and
whose body then was reunited with His Spirit, got up and left the
grave. Scripture testifies that the Jesus who came out of the tomb
and now dwells in heaven has a body of flesh and bone.16
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
Eternal life with God rests not on any works or keeping of the law.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says; "For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of
works, that no one should boast." Furthermore, baptism does not save
us. Paul told the Corinthians that Christ did not send him to
baptize, but to preach the gospel.17 To these same people paul makes
known the Gospel by which we are saved, as he says, "For I delivered
to you of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for
our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that
He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."18 The
Christian Gospel does not require baptism, Sabbath observance, triple
tithes, or law-keeping for salvation. It requires only belief in the
atoning work of Christ's death on the cross. Armstrong followers
should examine Paul's letter to the Galatians and see what he had to
say about legalism.
A Final Word
Jesus warned that "false prophets" would come as wolves in sheep's
clothing. Armstrong fulfilled Christ's words as he hid his false
doctrines behind a Christian image and Christian terminology. He also
proved he was a false prophet by making predictions that went
For example, in the 1956 WCG publication, 1975 In Prophecy, Armstrong
wrote; "But now you're going to peek into the surprising future,
exactly as it will happen! Not what men PLAN-but what GOD
SAYS!...very soon-of this very present generation-of all people you
know now-ONLY ONE THIRD of them will be left alive!" He went on to
say that this surviving third would be "uprooted from their homes like
cattle as slaves to Europe, and probably some to South America," and
"Yes, millions of lukewarm, inactive professing Christians will suffer
martydom-and before the anticipated push-button leisure year of 1975
draws upon us!"
Armstrong's prophecy did not come to pass. Neither did the nations
return to an observance of "Almighty God and His Laws and Ways" as
Armstrong said they would.
Those who take God's word seriously will remember Deuteronomy 18:20-22
and conclude that Armstrong does not meet the biblical requirements of
Herbert W. Armstrong died Jan. 16, 1986. But Christians should not
regard this as the beginning of the end for his church. The WCG
probably will continue to mislead many with its appearance of biblical
authority unless Christians pray for its members and potential victims
and witness more effectively against its lies.
When Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Watchtower Society, died in
1916, one Christian magazine said; "With the passing of its founder,
the movement he created and organized will probably drift along for a
time, to sink finally into the limbo of things forgotten." Christians
should have learned their lesson by now. When fighting the cults, we
are not fighting flesh and blood, but demonic forces. We cannot
afford to rest because one person has died. We must continue to
"contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to
1 This claim is made and found within the front cover of all current
issues of The Plain Truth magazine.
2 Armstrong, Herbert W., The Missing Dimension In Sex, pg32
4 ibid (emphasis in original)
5 Ambassador College Correspondence Course, Lesson 8, pg 9
6 Armstrong, Herbert W., Just What Do You Mean...BORN AGAIN?
7 WCG reprint, "If You Die...Will You Live Again?", pg 5
8 Correspondence Course, op cit, pg11
9 ibid, pg 10
10 ibid, pg 3
11 Armstrong, Herbert W., Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath?, pg 107
12 ibid, pg 103
13 Correspondence Course, Lesson 6, pg 10
14 WCG reprint, "Is This The Only Day Of Salvation?", pg 4
15 John 2:19-21
16 Luke 24:36-49
17 I Corinthians 1:17
18 I Corinthians 15:1-4
19 Jude 3