Sunday, February 7, 2016

The "Loose Brick Theology" of Armstrongism





Here us an interesting excerpt from an article in the Baptist Press about a former Church of God International minister's journey out of Armstrongism. One of the first things he debunked was the British Israelism myth. After that the house of cards quickly fell.  This tends to be the path of many out of Armstrongism.  Once a person debunks the British Israelism myth, things start collapsing quickly.

Theology and doctrinal study by church members is not something many did.  If it wasn't printed in a booklet for them most never studied theology or doctrinal history.  The Correspondence Course was the end-all when it came to established belief. Theology classes at the various campuses were never taught be well rounded theologians, but by men trained at the feet of Rod Meredith, Herman Hoeh and others. We all know now that these men were theologically bankrupt.

Once in cult, student now sees importance of knowing theology

“Armstrongists have a ‘loose brick’ approach to theology,” Bell said. “They look at doctrine as a complete whole or as nothing at all. That’s why they refer to their system of belief as ‘The Truth.’ person any one doctrine falls then the whole system falls.”  
Bell had been a member of the movement for three years when he began to question its teachings. In 1995 he founded the Owensboro church but soon began to examine central Armstrongist teachings under the microscope of Scripture and history.  
For Bell, the first brick to crumble from the wall of Armstrongism was the sect’s doctrine of “Anglo-Israelism.” Influenced by a book called “Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright” by J.H. Allen, Herbert Armstrong taught that Anglo-Saxons are direct descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Armstrongists see this teaching as the key that unlocks a true understanding of biblical prophecy.  
Bell read “Judah’s Scepter” and was incredulous at his findings. 
“When I got finished with it, I thought, ‘There are some interesting ideas here, but this is historical fantasy,’” he said. “... I began to research it in more depth and quickly tossed it out.”  
Though spooked by this revelation, Bell nevertheless dismissed the doctrinal aberration as a peculiarity of Herbert Armstrong’s system of belief. 
The next doctrine to tumble down was the Trinity -- Armstrongists are strongly anti-Trinitarian. The final Armstrongist brick that Bell dislodged was the group’s teaching on God. Armstrongists believe that man eventually accomplishes ‘god-status,’ a qualitative equality with God. 
It didn’t take a seminary education for Bell to realize that was blasphemy. 
 “When I was first getting into the Armstrongist movement, I read a booklet that said the resurrection (of the dead at Christ’s return) would be the most momentous event in the history of the world because it would be the birth of gods,” Bell said. “When I read that, I said ... ‘that’s blasphemy.’”
Still, Bell decided to ignore the booklet because Garner Ted Armstrong had not written it. He remained in the movement. 
“I chose [to believe] that everything else I was hearing was so good, I was going to shove that aside,” he said. 
Under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, who succeeded Herbert Armstrong as leader of the Worldwide Church of God upon his death in 1986, the sect experienced a massive doctrinal shift in the mid-90s toward biblical orthodoxy.  
The group’s website trumpets this radical transformation as a “Damascus Road experience.” The Worldwide Church of God was admitted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1997.  
As an Armstrongist devotee, Bell saw the change as a great apostasy. Other true Armstrongists agreed and the Worldwide Church of God lost more than half its members and ministers because of the shift. True Armstrongists still hold fast to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong and have churches scattered about the country, Bell said.  
It wasn’t until the spring of 1998, after a series of sexual misconduct allegations were lodged against Garner Ted Armstrong, that Bell’s foray into Armstrongism came to an end.  
The allegations turned the Church of God International on its head and struck Bell with sledgehammer force. Due in large part to the accusations, Bell eventually resigned the pastorate and began the journey back to Christian orthodoxy.  
Bell enrolled at Southern in the fall of 1998. It was a revolutionary experience and within one year, his view of theology underwent a profound metamorphosis. 
That first year, Bell studied Baptist and church history, theology, and hermeneutics. Soon, he had embraced fully historic evangelical Christianity.  
“By the end of my first full year at Southern Seminary, I had my theological world rocked,” he said. “I emerged from that a convinced evangelical.”

18 comments:

Byker Bob said...

Armstrongism is a house of cards, built on eisegetic proof-texting and circular reasoning. If you begin to understand any of the "doctrines" differently, (not just B.I.), the house collapses. It was a "take the apostle's word for it" religion. The minute you even consider a second opinion, poof! It's gone.

BB

Anonymous said...


“'By the end of my first full year at Southern Seminary, I had my theological world rocked,' he said. 'I emerged from that a convinced evangelical.'”


And if he had gone to Vatican University for a full year, would he have emerged from that a convinced Catholic?


Anonymous said...

All this intellectualising leaves God out of the picture. God does answer prayer, and can confirm or disagree with the Israel-Anglo-Saxon thingy. If the guy was a minster, he should know the bible inside out, and back to front. So why go to a seminary. I've been studying the bible since the 70s, so as far as I'm concerned, seminaries should come to me, begging me to teach them. If the begged and grovelled enough, I might consider their offer. They would have to pay me well, and treat me like the Queen of Sheba.

Anonymous said...

"All this intellectualising leaves God out of the picture. God does answer prayer, and can confirm or disagree with the Israel-Anglo-Saxon thingy. If the guy was a minster, he should know the bible inside out, and back to front. So why go to a seminary. I've been studying the bible since the 70s, so as far as I'm concerned, seminaries should come to me, begging me to teach them. If the begged and grovelled enough, I might consider their offer. They would have to pay me well, and treat me like the Queen of Sheba."

Oh. You've been studying the bible since the 70's?

So, how many ancient near-eastern languages are you proficient in? How much do you know about the current field of near-eastern archaeology? How much do you know about the texts and traditions of other near-eastern religions that predate and were contemporary with the formation of Judaism and Christianity? I assume you've been studying the extant non-canonical Hebrew and Greek texts with equal diligence as the canonical ones. How much do you know about the documentary hypothesis?

Tell us more about how the seminaries should come begging and grovelling to you...

Anonymous said...

11:23, it's significant that you put things in the context of someone begging for something. The Mr. Bell in the article appears to have gone to a seminary on a quest, not a begging mission. In that quest, he chose to clear his head and make open and honest inquiries of theological concepts. It appears that you would do well to do the same. I won't be so conclusive to say that you should burn all your old copies of the Plain Truth and the Good News, but it couldn't hurt.

Connie Schmidt said...

True Christianity was a religion that could be understood and practiced by peasants. How many colleges and seminaries are found in the New Testament?

Steve D said...

Grow in grace and knowledge.
Be transformed by the renewing of the MIND.
The C of Gods seem to have intellectual rigor mortis.
Indoctrination, rather than education, was the purpose of AC.

Byker Bob said...

True, Steve. Studying the Bible and studying Armstrongism are not one and the same. Single-sourcing your spiritual information does not end well. That should have been evident in many ways throughout recent decades.

BB

L said...

I emerged from Maple Street Elementary School as a fully convinced 6th grader.
Later I emerged a Methodist Church member and believe what the bible says despite that!
I would rather be a Methodist with round and shining face
than be a staunch faced Calvinist who damns near half the race.

Anonymous said...

3.15AM, That's exactly my point. Near eastern archaeology? Useless drivel. These seminaries are penny wise and pound foolish, just like the Shineing Light blog. The near eastern thing has no relation to every day life. It's like the televangelist sermons in which you learn nothing. It just makes you feel religious. I by contrast have understanding. And I did say I studied my BIBLE, not Herbie literature.
They can beg me on their knees, with their hands clamped together. I'm also all for humility, so they can humble themselves before me.

Anonymous said...

I've always been puzzled as to why Jesus Christ didn't just write the holy bible himself.

drive-by-philosopher

Anonymous said...

anon 12:39 PM:"I did say I studied my BIBLE, not Herbie literature."

Was herbie right?

standing-tall

Anonymous said...

anon 12:39
I would ask for my money back. The understanding that you paid for is flawed and worthless. You could ask Gerald Flurry or Dave Pack to honour your warranty, but I've herd they have terrible customer service. Then again that may not bother you.

Anonymous said...

12:39, you're not the only one with a Bible, or a brain. Get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

"3.15AM, That's exactly my point. Near eastern archaeology? Useless drivel."

Right. Facts are useless drivel to you. Who needs 'em when you've got ignorant dogma?

"The near eastern thing has no relation to every day life."

Well, maybe not to YOUR every day life. But that's not true of everyone. If everyone thought like you, we'd still be living in caves and sacrificing our children to make it rain. Instead, we've broadened our horizons, wised up, come up with more than one thought, and gone out and started digging up the facts. And guess what, the facts, when we find them, are almost never what we would have predicted...

"These seminaries are penny wise and pound foolish..."

The seminaries have their own problems and failings. Unfortunately for you, those problems and failing are not what you think they are.

"It's like the televangelist sermons in which you learn nothing. It just makes you feel religious."

No, you're the one who is like the televangelist. You think being a bible reader is the same as being a biblical scholar. You sit down and read your bible and think you're learning something, instead you're just feeling religious.

"I by contrast have understanding."

You don't say...

"And I did say I studied my BIBLE, not Herbie literature."

Sure, whatever. Only problem is, you've never had sufficient context to have a clue what it was you were reading.

"They can beg me on their knees, with their hands clamped together. I'm also all for humility, so they can humble themselves before me."

So, you're all for humility, but only in others. Something tells me you might have made a successful minister in the COGs. If you're capable of stabbing people in the back to give yourself a political leg-up, I'd say you have all the necessary qualifications.

Anonymous said...

4.40 Pm "Sure, whatever. Only problem is, you've never had sufficient context to have a clue what it was you were reading."
This is the typical minister position. Only the big people know anything. Only they have a right to think, to make decisions and to have understanding. The peasant little people know nothing, and should know nothing, and need to be treated like 10 year olds by the big seminary people. My bible doesn't agree. It tells me to "prove all things' My bible commands the peasants to be bible scholars. As for myself, I have been studying my bible with a open mind for 40 years, and I know I'm good. I'm better than the seminary teaches with their MacDoctrines, MacBeliefs and church MacAnswers. People listen to thousands of these MacSermons, and are still morally confused. These seminaries can justly be called "lost in trivia bible schools."

Anonymous said...

You guys talk about "meaning", "context" and at the same time get riled up about this joker.

To me the context of this blog signals that, "funny guy" with his radical position is exercising his right to satire.

On a serious note however.
When I visited Nazareth I discovered after many years of "bible study" that it was situated next to this huge and major important Roman city. A crossroads of cultures and seat of government.

It occurred to me that the bible explained everything about the hamlets of "Clifton" or "Hackensack" while completely ignoring ALL information on it's next door neighbor New York City. Only after this visit it occured to me how a "simple peasant carpenter boy" could turn out to be the Cosmopolite he was. What did the Romans ever do for us?

(same goes for the story about those nasty hilltribes in between the great empires of the Egyptians and the Assyrians/Hittites and Persians) Diplomatic correspondance in the Amarna letters shows those people just couldn't act "normal" and settle for the good life.

So far about my research on near Eastern history.

nck

Anonymous said...

Seminary students study more and more about less and less, until they know absolutely everything about nothing.