We continue with part 2 – “The Waldenses and the Lies the WCG Told”
But first, we wish everyone a happy and joyous Easter!
Continuing: Here we have an original version of some of the Waldensians trying to claim a link to the “primitive church.” Comba refers to apostolic succession applying to the Waldensians as a pretension (a fabricated story). But one must remember that apostolic succession had been claimed by the popes for centuries by the time of Peter Waldo. If a group of heretics wanted to disarm the Catholics, claiming apostolic succession would be an effective way to do so. In actuality, what these Catholics and followers of Waldo were arguing about was who acted more like the “primitive church,” not who was descended from it. The Waldensians were upset with the direction Christianity had been taking, during the Middle Ages, under the papal system. Here in Comba’s book we find that fictional claims might be attempted to support this mysterious “Church of God” theory through the Waldensians. To do so, we would need to overlook the context, ignore history, and misquote the historians who have already debunked their plagiarists for fanning the flames of vanity.
What made the Waldensians heretics was their defiance of the Pope.
They believe that Pope Sylvester, at the instigation of the devil, became the founder of the Roman Church. “They say,” repeats the monk Moneta, “that the Church of God had declined in the time of Sylvester, and that in these days it had been re-established by their efforts, commencing with Waldo.” “They call themselves successors of the Apostles,” adds monk David of Augsburg, “and say they are in possession of the apostolic authority, and of the keys to bind and unbind.”(Comba, p. 7)
The above mentioned Moneta was an Inquisitor. The Church of God that had declined (or become corrupted) was the Catholic Church. This is a third party accusation by Moneta against the Waldenses. Moneta further claimed that the Waldenses were rejecting the papacy because the prelates were wealthy, loved “red wine and women” and had locked away the scriptures in the Latin language, of which no common man could read. The poor were not receiving the scriptures.
Peter Waldo, as Hoeh pointed out, was a Catholic. As one of the earliest reformers of the Catholic Church, he preceded Martin Luther by 300 years.
The popes themselves had authored the doctrine of the “primacy of Peter” or “apostolic succession” and they commonly referred to the Roman Catholic church as the “Church of God”. Further, since they had canonized the Bible, it was written in Latin, the language of scholars and clerics, but not of commoners. They claimed vicarious authority from God. No one could challenge the Church of God or its bishops without being in danger of excommunication or becoming declared anathema.
Peter Waldo felt sympathy for the poor. As an example, he took on a vow of poverty (formerly kept by the early popes themselves but now abandoned). He went with a handful of followers to the Vatican. Standing in the opulent chambers before regally dressed bishops and emissaries, Waldo’s ascetics, much like those of his contemporary Francis of Assisi, looked shabby and pathetic dressed only in rags. His group was received well by the Pope for their vow of poverty. It was Waldo’s desire to translate the scriptures from Latin into the common language that was perceived as a threat to the clergy, resulting in his excommunication in 1183 AD.
Waldo was mentioned in Jones’ History in Volume II, pages 90-92, as one of the early catholic reformers. In other words, he was a Catholic until 1183 AD.
It must be noted here that Waldo was not raised up to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, did not call himself an apostle, did not belong to any Church of God except the Catholic Church of God (from which he was excommunicated), did not commemorate the Hebrew Passover, and observed the Sunday Sabbath (sometimes simply referred to by Catholics as the Sabbath).
What are we commanded by the third commandment? –By the third commandment we are commanded to worship in a special manner on Sunday, the Lord’s day. “Keep you my Sabbath: for it is holy unto you….(My Catholic Faith, p. 202)
Was Dr. Hoeh actually making more out of this story than really existed?
God’s Church was once again spreading the gospel! A school for ministers was established to provide the trained help to carry the gospel. (True History)
For instance, when did Peter Waldo begin observing the Saturday Sabbath? When did he start keeping the Passover on the 14th of Nisan? All we seem to have here is a spurious legend about “apostolic succession” and the mysterious name “The Church of God.” Under the heading, “Called the ‘Church of God'” in A True History of a True Church, Hoeh wrote:
Here is a marvelous record from these people, still preserved, dated 1404: “We do not find anywhere in the writings of the Old Testament that the light of truth and of holiness was at any time completely extinguished. There have always been men who walked faithfully in the paths of righteousness. Their number has been at times reduced to a few; but has never been altogether lost. We believe that the same has been the case from the time of Jesus Christ until now; and that it will be so unto the end. For if the Church of God was founded, it was in order that it might remain until the end of time…We do not believe that the Church of God absolutely departed from the way of truth; but one portion yielded, and, as is commonly seen, the majority was led away to evil. (Quoted in Comba’s History, pp. 10-11.)” ( Hoeh, 22)
Notice that after the portion of text that Dr. Hoeh used as a proof that this alleged Church of God existed apart from the Catholic church, there is a section of quoted text deleted with an ellipsis (…). Here is the deleted section that Dr. Hoeh left out while quoting Comba.
For if the Church of God was founded, it was in order that it might remain until the end of time. She preserved for a long time the virtue of holy religion, and, according to ancient history, her directors lived in poverty and humility for about three centuries; that is to say, down to the time of Constantine. Under the reign of this Emperor, who was a leper, there was in the Church a man named Sylvester, a Roman. Constantine went to him, was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and cured of his leprosy. The Emperor finding himself healed of a loathsome disease, in the name of Jesus Christ, thought he would honour him who had wrought the cure by bestowing upon him the Crown of the Emperor. Sylvester accepted it, but his companion, it is said, refused his consent, separated from him, and continued to follow the path of poverty. Then, Constantine went away to regions beyond the sea, followed by a multitude of Romans, and built up the city to which he gave his name–Constantinople–so that from that time the Heresiarch rose to honour and dignity, and evil was multiplied upon the earth. We do not believe that the Church of God, absolutely departed from the way of truth; but one portion yielded, and, as is commonly seen, the majority was led away to evil. The other portion remaining long faithful to the truth it had received. (Hoeh’s deletion of Comba’s History, pp. 10-11)
This text is obviously concerning the split between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic church. Placed back into context, these Waldensians are saying that until the Roman Catholic pope Sylvester (who reigned 314-334 AD) the Church of God (Catholic) had been pure, teaching the vow of poverty among its clergy. Constantine’s founding of the Eastern Orthodox church signified the beginning of a great culpability in the Roman church to the Waldensians. One church under Constantine, in Constantinople; one under Pope Sylvester, in Rome. Comba goes on to state that this was a “traditional” view of history, or legend held by the Waldensians and:
…has no reference to the isolated existence of any particular religious sect, and not even to their creeds; but solely to the vow of poverty, which Waldo certainly did not invent, but merely re-established. (p. 11)
What we are concerned with here is Hoeh’s accuracy as a historian. In his account he has clearly fabricated a historical “Church of God” independent of the Catholic Church. When put back into context Hoeh’s “Church of God” becomes the Catholic Church! This reminds me of the pithy saying: “We have seen the enemy and it is us.”
The story of an ancient origin of the Waldensian church is said to have sprung out of legend. There is no supporting evidence to conclude that the Waldensians were protesting against anything other than the papacy of the Middle Ages because of their wanton greed. They were doing exactly what Martin Luther did 300 years later. This makes the Waldensian movement a Protestant one.
And where are the critical doctrines of adhering to the law of Moses? Where was Peter Waldo ever made or called an apostle? There is no evidence.
Now this raises a serious issue for members of the Worldwide Church of God. After re-inserting the passage from Dr. Comba’s history that Herman Hoeh had removed, we find that the Church of God that Hoeh claimed to be the missing link to the Worldwide Church of God is, none other than, the Roman Catholic Church itself.
In other words, the Waldenses were Catholics in every way except for their vow of poverty. Waldo, like Luther, was a Catholic reformer who only succeeded in being excommunicated from the Church of God. How odd that such a thing should happen to the “apostle” of the “era” Hoeh called Thyatira!
The Waldensian church still exists to this day. Their world headquarters is in Piedmont, Italy and their American Headquarters is in New York. I questioned them directly about any historical data referring to the Waldenses calling themselves “The Church of God” or of them keeping the seventh day as the Sabbath or of having kept the Passover instead of Easter. This was the reply I received from Rev. Frank G. Gibson, executive director:
In past centuries, various writers held that the Waldensian experience runs to early centuries of the Christian era. No Waldensian scholar today holds to this line. The Waldensian Church and Witnesses authors trace their story to the movement of Valdesius in the 1100’s, and not before. I am aware that others–not Waldensians!–do not tend to accept this line, but unfortunately they tend to rely on very dated sources now thoroughly overtaken by historical research.
His reference to various writers of past centuries indicates that clinging to the Waldensians for a link to the “primitive church” predated Hoeh’s attempt to do so. Others have attempted this same claim in the past. There is nothing like being taken in by an old con.
Tkach was rather slow to distance himself from the claim to apostleship. As late as March 31, 1992 in the WORLDWIDE NEWS, Joseph Tkach had written in his “Personal” to the membership:
From time to time Church Administration receives questions about what the Church means by its use of the term apostle in reference to Herbert W. Armstrong and me [Joseph Tkach]…Some have been confused by this terminology, assuming it connotes an office equal to that of the apostles of the first century….Mr. Armstrong was indeed an apostle, or “one sent,” in the same sense as Peter Waldo was an apostle, for example, or as any other person whom God has stirred up through the ages since the first century to lead the Church in proclaiming the gospel.
Again there is no known reference of Peter Waldo calling himself an apostle. His gospel was that church leaders should take a vow of poverty. The Waldensians also were adamantly opposed to the doctrine of tithing. This certainly doesn’t present any evidence of kindred spirits between the Worldwide Church of God and the Waldensians.
I questioned Dr. Ruth Tucker (author of a book about modern cults entitled Another Gospel) about this use of the term of apostle by the Worldwide Church of God. Since she teaches church history, I asked her if she knew of any claim of Peter Waldo to the office of apostle. She felt that Herbert Armstrong had definitely claimed to be an apostle in the same sense of the New Testament apostles. She knew of no historical record, though, of Peter Waldo claiming apostleship. She felt that Tkach was being vague in his reference to the term. What about Joseph Tkach? Is he an apostle? In the same Personal he wrote:
As you know, the original apostles formed part of what Paul called the foundation of the Church: ‘Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone’ (Ephesians 2:20, New International Version throughout)…When referring to Mr. Armstrong or myself, however, the Church uses the term apostle (drawn from the list of ministerial offices in Ephesians 4:11).
Read what Ephesians 4:11 (not quoted by Tkach) says:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers;
Notice these points: 1) There is no biblical distinction between the office of apostle; past, present, or future. Any distinction therefore would have to be imaginary. 2) Prophets? Who were the prophets since the time of the apostles? 3) The reference to apostles and prophets in Ephesians 4:11 is taken from Ephesians 2:20. Ephesians 2:20 specifically states that the foundation of the “household of God” is Christ, the apostles, and the prophets.
I would have to concede with Dr. Tucker that Joseph Tkach was confused both historically and biblically as to the definition of an apostle. This teaching of apostleship was one that the Worldwide Church of God seemed to be gradually backing away from after Armstrong’s death. The January 1993 issue of the Plain Truth magazine managed to redefine the title apostle to that of a “fellow worker or messenger” and implied that the Worldwide Church of God had never participated in the practice, by laying the blame on “some Christian denominations”:
Today, some Christian denominations use the title apostle for the person who holds the chief spiritual office in their church. These churches generally do not mean the term in the broadest, biblical sense–as eyewitnesses of the resurrection–but rather in the administrative sense. (p. 19, Plain Truth, January 1993)
In making this statement, the Plain Truth writers were unclear in explaining exactly how these other churches came to redefine this biblical title to a sense of an administrator from the sense of an eyewitness.
If the biblical synonym of an apostle is eyewitness, then just as an eyewitness in a court hearing bears only one type of authority, that of being a witness to a crime, so witnessing the life ministry of Jesus granted some the title apostle. There appears to be no other type of apostolic authority given in the New Testament.
Article extracted from Bruce Renehan’s
“Daughter of Babylon”