By Wes White
I thank the Painful Truth for the invitation to contribute to this blog site which does such a great job of analyzing the phenomenon known as Armstrongism.
I first learned the term Armstrongism in 1977 when I was a naïve and loyal follower of “the Apostle.” At that time, I came across two books. I think they are now out of print.
“Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-off?” by Marion McNair (former evangelist in WCG).
“The Broadway to Armageddon” by William Hinson (former elder in WCG).
It’s important to note that, when we use the term Armstrongism, it can have more than one definition. There is no single definition of Armstrongism. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to use the following definition: “The teachings of Herbert Armstrong.”
Any time we discuss Armstrongism, it’s probably helpful if we go back and understand a little church history that took place in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It was during this time period when HWA was formulating his doctrinal positions. During this time, he was fellowshipping with and was credentialed by the Church of God Seventh Day. And we have to remember that, after 1933, there were two CG7s. One was headquartered in Stanberry, Missouri and the other was headquartered in Salem, West Virginia. HWA was affiliated with both groups at various times between 1927 and 1937. He masterfully played one group off the other for several years in his quest to create his multi-million dollar organization. And it is from CG7 that HWA got the following doctrines: The seventh-day Sabbath, clean & unclean meats, anti-Trinitarianism, rejection of Christmas & Easter, and Passover/Lord’s Supper.
But here’s a point that many Armstrong loyalists and CG7 people want to deny. Included in the list of things that HWA learned from CG7 was the annual high days of Leviticus 23! For decades, it seemed as though HWA and CG7 had an unspoken conspiracy together where they both denied that HWA got the high days from CG7. This may sound weird, but please bear with me for a few moments.
On one hand, HWA wanted to claim he received the knowledge of the annual high days directly from God and not from man. He didn’t want to give any credit to CG7 for his understanding of this doctrine. On the other hand, CG7 has never officially accepted the doctrine of the annual high days and they did NOT want HWA’s embracing of the high days to be attributed to them.
So it was in both of their best interests to deny HWA learned the high days from CG7.
But the following fact remains. History clearly shows there have always been small pockets of holy day keepers within the membership of CG7 since at least the 1890s. And it was these folks who taught the holy days to HWA.
Now, let’s look at the doctrines that HWA added to the CG7 teachings he learned from CG7. They are: Authoritarian church government, end-time apostleship, one-true church, setting dates for the return of Jesus, condemnation of non-Sabbath keeping Christians, racist teachings against interracial marriage, family-destroying divorce & remarriage, and second tithe/third tithe/tithe of the tithe.
Important: None of these teachings came from CG7!
And, just as important, is that many in the COG people have long ago rejected HWA’s additions to the CG7 doctrines, while we still adhere to the CG7s teachings that they gave to HWA.
In other words, when we say that we have rejected Armstrongism, it means we have rejected HWA’s additions to CG7 teachings.
We say that, even though the following CG7 doctrines were promoted by Armstrong, they cannot be called Armstrongism because they pre-date Armstrongism. The following doctrines were taught by CG7 before Armstrong was even born. The following doctrines are not Armstrong doctrines, but are CG7 doctrines: Seventh-day Sabbath, clean and unclean, anti-Trinitarianism, rejection of Christmas and Easter, and Passover/Lord’s Supper.
And to some degree, the annual high days.
Again, many of us have rejected Armstrong’s additions to those CG7 doctrines. The bottom line is that many of us retain the core beliefs of CG7 even though many of us have never set foot inside a CG7 building.
Therefore, many of us say, “We do not preach Armstrongism. We are not Armstrongites.”
Those of us who reject Armstrongism have now come to believe that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) is every bit as important as the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and the annual high days of Leviticus 23. And, while we enthusiastically keep many of the Torah Laws (it is impossible to keep all 613), we still believe in having the forgiving love of Jesus in our hearts at all times. We believe that loving your neighbor as yourself is not just something we give lip service to and then go on to be mean to others. No. Loving your neighbor as yourself is a way of life to be followed 7/24.
Further, we never claim any right to determine who is or who is not a Christian. We recognize we have no right to consign anyone to the lake of fire. This is an important distinction because a lot of people who have come out of Armstrongism continue this ridiculous exercise of trying to sit in the Seat of Judgment and determine who is going to have eternal life and who is going to be damned to eternal death. That’s not us.
Some might argue that, while we do indeed reject HWA’s additions to CG7 doctrine, we are still Armstrongites because, if we had not been part of WCG or of one of its offshoots, we wouldn’t be Sabbath keepers today. To this assertion we respond that, had the WCG and its offshoots never existed, we believe God could have still called us into His truths – those truths that we see still taught by CG7. In other words, we say God never has to depend of any human being or human corporation to call people. God is more powerful than that. God can just as easily call people whether or not the WCG ever existed.
In my personal walk with Jesus, I can testify that in 1971 (when I was first learning God’s truths) I was in touch with both the CG7 and WCG.
For a while, I didn’t know which way to go. I almost went with CG7. The deciding factor for me was that (in the Chicago area where I lived at the time) there wasn’t an English-speaking CG7 congregation, while WCG had several English-speaking congregations in that area. It is for that reason that I went with WCG.
Also, while I can never deny the fact that I was in the WCG for ten years of my 46 year conversion, I try to emphasize that the history of my belief system goes back to the 1860s when CG7 first started organizing itself into state conferences. Personally, I am not eager to be associated with the name “Armstrong.” Instead, I prefer to say that I promote the doctrines almost identical to an organization I have so much respect for — the Church of God Seventh Day.
We don’t practice a negative religion of condemnation of others. Instead, we see value in all persons. Every person has been made in the image of God. Every person who wants can be re-born into the God family thru the blood of our Savior.
Others may disagree with my denial that I am an Armstrongite. So be it. They have the freedom to label me an Armstrongite. We can argue definitions till the cows come home and it will be an exercise in futility.
Finally, I am a firm believer in checks and balances. I think that carnal man needs checks and balances in governments, in families, in corporations, and in churches.
In the history of the old WCG, we never had anyone whose role was to check the powers of the church’s leaders. That changed around 1975 when a publication first appeared. It was called the Ambassador Report/Ambassador Review. I was a fan of this publication from the beginning. I have all the original hard copies. I appreciate the work of Ambassador Report because it exposed the abuses and wrong teachings of the WCG. Its publishers filled a real need for the COG brethren of the time. The AR was the watchdog of the WCG.
Today, we have blog spots such as the Painful Truth that perform this same watchdog function. I believe these blog sites serve as watchdogs for the various COG groups. I read these blogs regularly because some COG groups are still misleading and taking advantage of church members today.
I learn much from the dialogues on the Painful Truth blogsite. So I am grateful to the Painful Truth for the invitation to contribute to this blog site.
If I am permitted, I would like to contribute another post to the Painful Truth. The subject will be race. I want to share my testimony as to when I first realized that HWA’s ban on interracial dating and interracial marriage was totally bogus. It is a story I have never shared publicly before and I hope the Painful Truth readers will find it interesting and informative.
Wes White is president of Dynamic Christian Ministries, a self-funded ministry that neither asks for nor accepts donations from the public. Wes may be reached at [email protected] Wes and his wife Nancy have a live, weekly internet show (Start Our Sabbath) that is broadcast every Friday evening at 8:00 Central time from his Facebook page and from his website dynamicchristianministries.org.