THE PLAIN TRUTH OF HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG
Written by: Personal Freedom Outreach Posted on: 04/29/2003
Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics
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 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 Sunday.
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 million 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 wracked 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 receiver in 1979. But the allegations were never
proven and the charges were dropped in 1980.
All this transpired shortly after Armstrong's son, Garner Ted,
once an eloquent and dynamic spokesman for the church and heir-
apparent to his father's position, was excommunicated. Garner Ted
then founded his own church, the Church of God International, in
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 heavy legalism and a "different Jesus"
and a "different Spirit" than that of Christianity.
Armstrongism is a smorgasboard of unorthodox doctrines borrowed
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 Christianity on some key doctrines:
Armstrong, as do Jehovah's Witnesses, went to great lengths to
try to show the Trinity was a pagan-derived doctrine. "The doctrine
of the Trinity is false," he wrote. "It was foisted upon the world at
the 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 position. 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
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 receive 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, is
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.
According 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
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)
Armstrongites, 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 martyrdom - 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 a prophet.
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 the saints."(19)
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
For additional information and literature, write to:
PERSONAL FREEDOM OUTREACH
P.O. Box 26062
Saint Louis, Mo. 63136
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