Two years ago this month, our friend yet theological foe, passed away unexpectedly to the shock of many. Our staff here at the Painful Truth were indeed shocked at his sudden passing.
ARMSTRONGISM SUPERIOR TO EVANGELICALISM?
As someone who has spent the last 30 years studying philosophy (particularly epistemology and philosophy of religion) and comparative religions, as well being as a specialist religion writer and broadcaster, I have long thought of issuing this challenge to this forum: That Armstrongism—minus its obscurantism and fanaticism—is actually far superior to all other brands in Christianity, and that the most intellectually defensible alternative to Reformed Armstrongism is agnosticism or theistic existentialism.
As I have read the serious scholarly journals in theology and philosophy and kept up with the latest books in the fields, I have become more convinced that far more credit should be given to the high school dropout Herbert Armstrong than he actually gets. Because there has been so much focus on the corruption, authoritarianism, abuse and exploitation in the movement—and that is both overwhelming and irrefutable— little time has been spent showing how much better a religious system Armstrongism is—absent its errors—than its alternatives. As someone who has experienced many “long, dark nights of the soul” and who has had to wrestle intellectually and emotionally with major philosophical and theological issues, I could never see myself rejecting certain cardinal tenets of Armstrongism and going on to embrace orthodox Christianity, either of the Protestant or Catholic version. As I read ex-Armstrongite Peter Ditzel’s press release, issued (appropriately?) on April 1 attacking the movement, it struck me again that many persons who are celebrating their release from “the bondage of Armstrongism” have really bought into inferior versions of revealed religion without realizing it. For example, I could never, like Ditzel and others, go back to the barbaric and repulsive belief that a loving God would create a hell to burn people for all eternity—most of whom never even had an opportunity to learn about him. Notice how abominable this doctrine—strongly rejected by Armstrong—really is. The 1.3 billion people in China, the one billion in India, the over 240 million in the former Soviet Union who, through no fault of their own were born in the “wrong country”, have to spend an eternity in hell for the Bible says “there is in other name under heaven whereby men must be saved except the name of Jesus”, yet This God is too impotent to get His Gospel across to people. The atheists have developed a brilliant Argument From Non-Belief to counter this horrendous “Christian” doctrine (See especially Theodore Drange’s excellent book, Evil and Non-belief)
Some, struck with the incongruity of the loving God (as portrayed in the Bible) casting ignorant people in Hell for all eternity come up with the view that God will judge people by the sincerity of their hearts and their good works and let the good ones into the kingdom. But wait: Isn’t Sola Fide (faith alone) and Sola Gratia (grace alone) at the heart of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith? Then how can God look at how well the Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi lived and let them into Heaven based on their works when works are supposed to have nothing to do with right standing?
Evangelicalism, which people like Ditzel have bought uncritically and mistakenly, can’t match the philosophical and theological force of the Armstrongite teaching that a good, loving and just God will find a way for every single human being to come to a knowledge of the truth—including the mentally retarded, the mentally ill as well the sincere atheist and agnostic who did not have enough evidence to believe. Even the apostate WCG cannot let go of this refreshing teaching of Herbert Armstrong. Significantly, Armstrongism is the only movement which says it alone is right and yet which opens the door for those who disagree to be saved eventually. This is most compassionate view which should promote tolerance. Herbert Armstrong, contrary to his Evangelical critics, actually did more to promote the exclusivity of Christianity and Christ by stating that good Buddhists , good Muslims etc would not be saved in their ignorance just because they were not wicked like Hitler; but would get their chance to learn the one truth and make a personal confession of Christ (See Romans 10). Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists have more than one way of salvation—one for those who heard and rejected Christ and another for the millions who died without hearing, leaving God no option but to find a way to get them to Heaven without their having personally accepted Christ. So if he could do that for so many “good heathens”, why allow so much evil in the world ostensibly to accommodate free will which he then takes away by putting people in Heaven who never really made that personal choice? You don’t have the space for me to point out the serious moral and theological problems which orthodox Christianity poses. It is a pity that so many are so emotionally scarred and abused that they might not have the intellectual energy—or interest—to look at the strengths in the theology of Armstrongism.
I admit I am deeply embarrassed, even angered, as a thinking Armstrongite (an oxymoron?) to read the nonsense taught by the lunatic fringe in the movement (In fact, they are so many they might even be the mainstream!)
I am happy for the CGI, to which I belong, which retains the finest teachings of Herbert Armstrong without the dross and the excesses. I am NOT saying it is the only true church!) For all GTA’s moral weaknesses and reprehensible personal behaviour, he reformed a system without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Ron Dart’s work in the CGI has also been invaluable in preserving an intellectually respectable brand of Armstrongism.
The atrocious doctrine of an ever-burning hell; the view that billions of sincere people will be lost simply because they never knew about Christ; the severing of Christianity from its Hebraic roots and the Hellenisation of Christianity; the de-emphasis on the eschatological Kingdom of God and the profound truth of the eventual deification of humans are some of the major reasons I could not leave Armstrongism for orthodox Christianity. Agnosticism or theistic Existentialism is a far better option. Intellectually, people like Peter Ditzel and Mark Kellner have traded Armstrongism for poorer options than MAM, Steve and the other agnostics and atheists who write on this forum. The God of Evangelicalism, Adventism and orthodox Christianity is not worthy to be worshipped. Herbert Armstrong had that right.
The following is the refute:
Out with the Bath Water
A response to Ian Boyne’s Armstrong vs. the Evangelicals
To throw out Herbert with the bath water is not uncommon for those who have left Armstrongism. The major reason for this is as follows.
1) Herbert was a drunk who molested his daughter. A hypocrite at best regarding his personal behavior vs. his religious teachings. Herbert kept a “flog log” while at the same time teaching that masturbation was a sin. Herb set the example and was judged. Herb was a hypocrite.
2) Herbert made endless false prophecies that scared the the dumb sheep, including myself. When the prophecies failed so did Herb’s credibility. Herb set the church up for failure. The church failed. An Armstrong legacy of suicide and death and murder follows.
3) Herbert and his evangelist son GTA. Their corrupt and perverted legacy pales in comparison to the Catholic Pope John Paul II that died this past week. John Paul was not personally involved in sexual sins that would expose his papacy to the criticisms that extended out to the Armstrong’s. The Pope made one hell of a dent in the world’s moral fiber. This man spoke out on injustice. Herb & son promoted injustice. The Pope spoke out on the need of human freedom, human rights and dignity. Herb & son spoke of fear that paralyzed us with a dread of God. Herb & son spoke so much bullshit that I and so, so many others would just like to see the movement die! Herb & son converted many to atheism. John Paul II convicted the soul to repent and to live the life of Christ. The life of love. Millions show up at John Paul’s funeral. This is the legacy of John Paul. This is the legacy of Armstrongism. Which system is closer to the point of sanity and which is closer to the point of lunacy?
4) If I die as an atheist do I expect a reward? No! If I live my life according to the teachings of Buddha (whose teachings preceded the words of the biblical Jesus) what is my fate? If I take to heart the words spoken by the Jewish carpenter, or Buddha and love my fellow man as I love myself, does this exclude me from the “saved?’ The precepts of Christ without the religion. Does it save? The precepts of Armstrongism destroys. This is fact. What good can come from Armstrongism? None.
In conclusion I will state that Armstrongism rings a scriptural bell in my mind when I think of these words “ A double minded man is unstable in all that he does.” What did Herb & son do? Read the AR. Read the Painful Truth. Read Matt 7:15-21
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. How many false prophecies would you like me to quote? You still endorse this man? You think Herb & his foiled rapist son have anything to do with Christ? Look to the Pope for an example of a true Christian man!
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? What is Armstrong’s legacy? What did he or his son gather? Wealth comes to mind. From nothing & nobody’s, the Armstrong’s built an empire!
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Again, what is Herb & sons legacy?
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Were Herb & son corrupt?
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Good bye Armstrongs! To hell with you two!
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Yes, John Paul II. Well done good and faithful servant! Inherit the Kingdom of God! You were the example to follow if there ever was one in this day and age!
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.