Friday, November 17, 2017

The COG Path To Indoctrination



From Beware of Armstrongism
I was a member of Worldwide Church of God for about 10 years under these false teachings. I want to describe the process of accepting these "truths" so you are aware of the danger.   
First, you become indoctrinated into the idea that the Seventh Day Sabbath, annual festivals, and clean/unclean meat laws apply to you as a seeker or believer. Unfortunately, due to the ambiguity of traditional Christianity on this subject, younger or less experienced Christians fall for this idea easily. Many within traditional Christianity itself teaches that the Ten Commandments as a whole apply to everyone. They think the day switched from Saturday to Sunday, but they still think that the Sabbath still applies to everyone due to their assertion that it is a moral absolute, rather than a sign of the Old Covenant. They also fail to teach that the Old Covenant applied to ancient Israel and not New Covenant Christians. There is much ambiguity on this topic, and this ambiguity has created an opportunity for Armstrongism to develop. 
Second, you become indoctrinated into the idea that the whole world, including Orthodox Christianity, is deceived by Satan, including orthodox Christianity. Because of your new-found knowledge, you and your group alone possess 'the truth'. Orthodox Christianity is viewed as a bunch of unconverted, bumbling idiots who know nothing. They are non-Sabbathkeepers who are still in their sins, and have nothing to teach you. Therefore, you reject any source that could correct your errant belief system. The fact that you know 'the truth' appeals to your sinful nature, as the essence of sin is pride. Most Armstrongites are totally absorbed into intellectual pride and superiority. This increases your enslavery to this false belief system.   
Third, you accept doctrines that are even more aberrant because you give great credibility to the source who convinced you of Sabbathkeeping. You are totally ensnared into many false beliefs that you would not have accepted if you had seen the whole picture at the beginning.
Other elements of Herbert Armstrong's teachings include the following: 
  • British - American Israelitism - the claim that Western Europeans and Americans are physical descendants of the "lost ten tribes of Israel". This doctrine was used to strengthen the argument requiring Sabbathkeeping for most individuals who were a part of the church, since they were largely white people of Western European descent. It also created a situation where most of the prophecies in the Bible applied to white people of European descent. Prophecy was a big part of Worldwide Church of God theology.
  • God Family Doctrine - the claim that God is a "family" into which converted human beings would be born into, with the full nature and powers of God. Christians were considered to be literal sons of God in this sense, to be born into the Kingdom at the resurrection as a full-fledged God being. Speculation was that they would have their own planet and be worshipped like a God by other human beings at some point. This doctrine denied the fact that Christians have eternal life now. The focus tended to be on the 'not yet' Scriptures of the 'already but not yet' status of believers.
  • Apostolic Authority - Herbert Armstrong claimed to be God's apostle or sole authority on Earth. He restored true Christianity to mankind after a 1900 year void in spiritual knowledge, much like Joseph Smith claimed as the founder of the Mormon church. He also claimed to be a prophet by calling himself the Elijah to Come. He prophecied the return of Jesus Christ in 1975, which obviously failed to come true, clearly identifying himself as a false prophet. Unfortunately I did not know the details of this until I was already indoctrinated, and his prophecy was misrepresented to me as a speculation rather than a prophecy.
  • View of the Bible - The Bible was written in a coded manner that required putting verses together from different places in the Bible to arrive at sound doctrine. The hermeneutic used to justify this was Isaiah 28:10. If he simply read down to verse 13, he would see that the result of this verse wasn't a good one. The classical error that Herbert Armstrong was engaging in was "collapsing the context"....connecting two unrelated verses in different contexts to create a doctrine.
  • Rejection of Orthodox Christianity - Cults must create suspicion about traditional Christianity and Church History in order to make their erroneous assertions by nature. Herbert Armstrong was no different. Besides portraying other Christians as antinomians which are unconcerned with obedience, he characterized them as blind leaders of the blind.
  • Trinity Doctrine - He rejected well-founded Christian doctrines such as the Trinity as being of pagan origin. The biblical basis for the Trinity doctrine is solid, and I would encourage anyone who doubts this to read Forgotten Trinity by James White.
  • Conspiracy Theories involving Church History - In addition, in order to assert the Sabbathkeeping doctrine, suspicion was created by a distortion of the history of the migration from Saturday observance to Sunday observance. The Emperor Constantine is often blamed for this switch, along with the Roman Catholic church. The reality is that the switch occurred long before that, around 90 AD or earlier, when Christians were no longer welcome in the synagogue due to anti-Christian resistance from the Jews. Christians would often go to the synagogue to hear the Scriptures read on Saturday, and meet by themselves on Sunday to discuss these Scriptures from a Christian standpoint. It was a natural thing for them to begin meeting themselves on Sunday, as they were not parties to the Old Covenant anyways.
  • Legalism - Besides adherence to the Saturday Sabbath, Armstrong taught that Christians needed to observe the festivals of Leviticus 23, clean and unclean meat laws, and a system of tithing which allocated about 23% of one's gross income to devotional purposes. This created a serious bind financially amongst the membership. The funny thing is that the pastors did not tithe, so they subjected others to burdens that they themselves did not bear. This reminds me of the Pharisees and Christ's statement in Matthew 23:4. In addition, the Church was inconsistent in its assertions. For example, they claimed that Colossians 2:16-7 was teaching Sabbathkeeping rather than refuting it, but there are problems with that view. One problem is that it's ignoring the context of the rest of the verses around it and the context of the book itself. The other problem is that they did not observe New Moons which were commanded by the same verse.
  • Rejection of holidays with pagan origin - Christmas and Easter were rejected as pagan. I know this is an issue with many different Christians outside of Armstrongism, so I have some level of sympathy for anyone who holds this position. However, for me, Christmas simply means getting together with family for fellowship and there is nothing pagan about it. In addition, Easter simply means going to church, and inviting an unsaved friend to attend, as the message is about salvation generally on Easter. If God is going to throw me in hell for that, so be it. I don't hunt easter eggs or do anything with bunnies anyways. This reminds me of another thing about Armstrongism...when the Church had Pentecost calculated wrongly, and were observing it on the wrong day, the Church strongly insisted that God was merciful and would overlook such mistakes, but somehow their doctrinal intolerance did not extend to others outside of their circle..hmmmmm. Sounds like a double standard. Legalists want God to be merciful to them, but not to others.
  • Virtual Universalism - Armstrongism teaches that not all are called now, but only a select few individuals, church members, who will be priests and kings in the Millenial reign of Jesus Christ. This is a very dangerous doctrinal position. It implies that today is not the day of salvation, and is a disincentive for evangelizing. In their view, these chosen individuals (again, appealing to human vanity of Armstrongites) are going to guide others into following God in a subsequent resurrection that occurs after the Millennium. A few will reject salvation and be destroyed in the lake of fire, but the majority of mankind will accept salvation during this 100-year period following the Millennium. They call this period of time 'the judgment'. The Bible refutes this idea by stating that the vast majority are on the path of destruction.
  • Annihilationism Annihilationism is the doctrinal position that denies eternal torment for those who are lost, but specifies that punishment will be temporary. I am not going to get into this point too much. Suffice it to say that I think both positions, eternal torment and annihilationism, have some reasonable basis in the Scripture and I neither deny or affirm either one of them. Some Christians consider annihilationism to be a damnable heresy but I do not put it on this level. John Stott, a famous theologian who is well respected in evangelical circles, was an annihilationist.
  • Soul Sleep - This is the position that the dead are not conscious until the resurrection, either to eternal life or eternal death. This is another doctrinal position that I hold no position on. Scriptures seem to indicate either position, and Martin Luther held the position of soul sleep from my understanding.
  • Spirit Resurrection Herbert Armstrong held the position that Christ did not have a resurrection body but that he manifested a physical body at the resurrection. The bodily resurrection is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Scripture uses the phrase 'spiritual body' to describe the resurrection body..the Greek word is pneumatikos. Spiritual does not mean composed of spirit, though. It is a glorified physical body which has been changed to be incorruptible and to have different characteristics than the body we currently have. Armstrong denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. If his view was correct, the physical corpse of Christ should have been in the tomb, and we all know that's a primary evidence that he was resurrected. In fact, there is no need for a resurrection unless it involves the physical body. This is a position that he seems to have obtained from Jehovah's Witnesses theology.

 

33 comments:

Ilija Korac said...

Why did you left W.C.G? I believe that people who left W.C.H are children of Satan, who discovered Truth but truth insult them and abusing Mr. Armstrong instead abusing them self.

Hoss said...

While Armstrongism is fundamentally flawed, it is not totally in error. It also shares some errors with mainstream Christianity.
For myself, I think the worst error is the claim to be the Mythical True Church, with One-man Rule and a hierarchical power structure, and its claim to have a monopoly on The Truth.
The most ubiquitous error is that of Tithing, made far worse with rigid enforcement.

Anonymous said...

I take issue with this posts 'God family doctrine.' The church never formally taught that resurrected saints would have all the powers of God. I've been reading church literature since the 1960s, so I should know. Revelation says that saints will be kings and priests in the kingdom. That's it. That God would hand over skills and knowledge acquired over billions of years, is wishful speculation. It defies 'you reap what you sow.' That people will be 'born' into the kingdom implies baby gods that need to keep growing.

So Christians having their own planet and being worshiped is mere speculation by some ministers and members. It's not official doctrine.

Anonymous said...

IIija
Has it ever occurred to you that a Christian is one who follows Christ rather than Mr Armstrong or a physical church.

Steve D said...

I think that they key teaching that opens the door to all others is that HWA was called by God to restore lost truths not taught in any existing church. WCG was a restoration church, much like Joseph Smith and the Mormons. Once you accept this, then ANYTHING that HWA or Joseph Smith taught was accepted without question. Add to this the "truth" that ALL OTHER churches were Satanic means that you have nowhere else to go if you leave the WCG.
When Joseph Smith asked the Personages who stood above him in the light, which of all the sects was right and which one he should join, the reply was, "I must join NONE of them, for they are all wrong . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his sight. (Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, History 1:18-19). The only true path to salvation was through HWA's church. It's interesting that for as much as he liked to criticize the Roman Catholic Church, he followed so many of their teachings.

Near_Earth_Object said...

Does anyone know how to contact the owner of "Ambassdor Reports" at hwarmstrong.com?
There is an article I wrote that is carried on this website. The site owner prepared an intro to the article (animated video) that contains some erroneous information. For instance, it says that 1-Ws were "slave laborers". This is not in my article and was not true.

I would like to contact the owner of the site and ask that the intro be corrected.

Thanks.

Neo

Byker Bob said...

Generally, people change their belief systems because something has gone wrong in their lives, and they are in search of new directions and solutions. That basic truth led people to accept Armstrongism as a solution, and it is what caused people to leave Armstrongism for more effective or workable solutions.

HWA embraced the COG-7 as a solution for his string of business related failures. Apparently these failures constituted an extreme when seen through HWA's unique filters, and there were sufficient numbers of the failures that he could no longer shake them off. As an ad man, he began tweaking and embellishing what he learned from COG-7 to market it to people experiencing a similar pattern to his own, virtually targeting it to that segment of the population. He also exploited fear, referencing news events of the day to replicate imminent failure for every human walking the planet, with his own package of doctrine being the only solution. Being intimately familiar with one somewhat sizable subset of human experience, he was fairly successful in opening minds to his own brand of indoctrination. That success lasted so long as certain constants were present. With many of those constants having long since disappeared, it is fortunately no longer possible to effectively market Armstrongism and to produce the growth and income pioneered by HWA.

BB

Hoss said...

Anon 558

Also an article, possible in AR, or at the PainfulTruth site, dismissed the claim that the doctrine was copied from the Mormons. Apparently HWA got this idea from a different source, which differs from the Mormon doctrine.
One of the Eighteen Restored Truths - which Bob Thiel claims are only held correctly and faithfully by his CCOG - is that the "Purpose of God" was to "reproduce Himself". I think that statement in itself sounds blasphemous - a sort of Divine Darwinism. Although the idea of conception by the union of our "Spirit of Man" and the Holy Spirit may be a suitable analogy, sonship is by adoption. HWA probably didn't comprehend the cultural significance of adoption; for example, Jesus adopted by Joseph, and Sarai adopted by Terah.

Byker Bob said...

There are many misconceptions in Armstrongism. Some of them are based on faulty understanding of ancient languages. We do know that no punctuation was used, as an example, in ancient Hebrew, and that the Bible was not originally divided into chapters and verses. We get clues as to the effects of other nuances from examining other ancient languages such as the North American ancient Athabaskan languages, in which subject, predicate, and object are in completely different order than that found in English.

Anyway, all of this has led me to the conclusion that Armstrongism has zero understanding of the so-called sealing of the 144,000, a prophecy which has already been fulfilled in our own times. But, it isn't what they think it is, and it has nothing to do with Armstrongism or the members of any of the splinter groups!

The plain and simple truth is that 144,000 seals have now died as a result of global climate change.

BB

Anonymous said...

Gerald flurry is a mental disorder.

Anonymous said...

BB
Malm thinks that there's two lots of 144,000. I've read his article and it makes sense to me. Group one is the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel, and group two is the one that sets foot on mount Zion with Christ on Christ's return, and rules from Jerusalem. This is the merit based group that did well in the parable of the talents.
Hmm, does this mean that some might be in both groups?

Anonymous said...

Hoss
Physically, mentally, psychologically, we are already made in Gods image. In one sense God has already 'reproduced himself.'

Anonymous said...

Why did you left W.C.G? I believe that people who left W.C.H are children of Satan, who discovered Truth but truth insult them and abusing Mr. Armstrong instead abusing them self.

Well I left WCG because they changed all their doctrines while saying "changes, what changes"? That means the ministry was LOADED with liars everywhere. It was totally fake. Hey, kinda reminds me of fake news. Liars everywhere there too. Everything is so fake. I was sick of fake. I wanted truth. That's why I went there in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What do these churches actually think they are accomplishing? Nobody listens to them. Even if all the members gave all their money to the work they would have zero impact. People spend far more money marketing products most people have never heard of.

Anonymous said...

Even Gerorge Soros and his bussed-in fake protesters couldn't save Gerald Flurry now. The old geezer is gonna croak soon anyway.

Byker Bob said...

Wow. People on another blog got my joke about the 144,000 seals dying and had a good laugh.

But, Malm probably wouldn't, because the ACOGlodytes deny global warming. They want to reserve their hurricanes as special punishments.

BB

Byker Bob said...

"Physically, mentally, psychologically, we are already made in God's image."

You've got to be kidding! Surely, you jest.

BB

Anonymous said...

I suffer from P.T.S.D. because of that Armstrong bull shit!

Anonymous said...

I forced myself to listen to a UCG online sermon. It was sooooo flat. The same old favorite verses about being nice to one another and, and, well that's it. Religious talk with no substance. They're definitely asleep.
Compared to them, this sites on fire.

Anonymous said...

Has it ever occurred to you that a Christian is one who follows Christ rather than Mr Armstrong or a physical church.

Yes it has.

Anonymous said...


David Pack said that in Roderick Meredith's Global Church splinter group the youths would run off into the bushes to fornicate at the summer camps.

Anonymous said...

BB
We have two arms, legs, a torso, a face like God, etc, so yes we are in God's image physically. All human drives, emotions and biases are identical to God's. We have God plane intelligence and a God plane mind. True we don't have the super intelligence to design life or have His level of character, but we have sufficient for everyday life.
So no I don't jest.

Do you see dogs, cats, elephants etc writing your type of comments on this site?
On this topic, I once read a book review about why a committee of scientists gave up trying to create artificial intelligence. It explains the insurmountable technical obstacles they encounted.
You are taking for granted what God has given you. The pearls before swine thingy.

Anonymous said...

Did you all know that Herbie denied Jesus? Yep. He told some Muslim leader that God was Allah. But God and Allah are not the same thing. Allah does not mean God. Calling God Allah is kinda like calling God Baal or Buddha or Ishtar or Muhammad or Moses or Stephen Hawking or the Pope or Ceasar or whoever the Japanese worship. Allah is not another name for God. Allah a FALSE god. So Herbie the inspired apostle endorsed a false god. What a twit.

Anonymous said...

I suffer from P.T.S.D. because of that Armstrong bull shit!

Ahem, I think what you meant to say was Baal poop.

Byker Bob said...

The latest information is that medical marijuana can be of therapeutic value in dealing with the symptoms of PTSD. See your healthcare professional for further details!

BB

Anonymous said...


RE: From Beware of Armstrongism


This sounds like another totally confused person who cannot get over the FACT that the ham-eating, Sunday-keeping crowd is basically ignorant and immoral, and simply rejects God's ways in favor of pagan practices. They might be very happy to find out someday that they will not burn forever in hell fire for their life-long, abominable behavior. They might be very happy someday to be able to plead that they were deceived and just plain ignorant.

In Canada, with a population supposedly about 39% Catholic and 28% Protestant (for about 2/3rds of the country professing to be Christians) the country voted in a French Catholic abortionist and LGBT promoter by the name of Justin Trudeau for Prime Minister to run the country in the last federal election. That tells you everything you really need to know about people and their religions.

Justin Trudeau openly said that all Members of Parliament in his Liberal Party would be required to support what he euphemistically called “a woman's right to choose.” He also openly criticized the previous Conservative Party Prime Minister that he was running against for having never attended a “gay pride” parade. Justin Trudeau did this during the federal election campaign, openly and not in secret, and won the election. Again, that tells you everything you really need to know about people and their religions.

Byker Bob said...

First of all, God is spirit, omniscient and omnipresent. He's not centered in one place as you would be with a physical body. What would be the use of arms and legs when you can be everywhere and will anything to happen? Besides, nobody has ever seen God. Jesus lowered Himself and made Himself as man to minister to us. He appeared as one of us.

The human mind, marvelous as it is, is a war zone. It entertains conflicting thoughts, and cannot control what comes into it. At best, we learn to deal with these things imperfectly, as we are victims of our emotions, driven by those emotions in ways that are a mixture of good and bad.

And, don't even get me started on the deeply flawed psychological aspects! Read the DSM. Realize and understand all of the disorders and illnesses common to the human mind. All of us have at least some of them, and these disorders do not suddenly go away with baptism. People learn to live with them and fight them all of their human lives. Some of the most deeply afflicted have been members of the ministry!
Towards the end of life, when we should be at the very apex of our accumulated wisdom and control, the mind often deteriorates due to dementia, Alzheimers, or whatever.

No, the qualities you cited are not indicative of how we are created in God's image! We, alone, like God, are capable of exercising dominion, of changing our environment in ways that no other species is able. That is the way in which we are created in God's image.

I do not take my mind or capabilities for granted. I've always said that my mind is my favorite toy. I try to use it, and my "gift of machines and technology" as a blessing to everyone around me, and it has been an incredible journey, with many people involved along the way. But, there is an unfathomable difference between human plane existence and God-plane existence. Five senses and 70 years average do not impart anything even close to the sharpness and wisdom which comes from eternal existence and unlimited perception. Someone once said that humans are gods in animal bodies. I don't know if even that adequately describes us. That type of existence would present many factors which mutually cancel each other out, at least during the human lifespan. I'm not satisfied with my state of existence in the here and now. Our percentage of likeness to God is statistically negligible. I want more!

BB

Anonymous said...

BB
Therapeutic use of marijuana is just the thin end of the edge in order to legalize it.
Any excuse or pretext to get stoned.

Anonymous said...

6.22 PM
I don't think 'your religion sucks' would have gone down well. Herbie was just exercising diplomacy. Like a man courting a woman. The white lie thingy.

Byker Bob said...

I don't use it or any other drugs, pharmaceutical or otherwise. Most people who have been around for a while know that my comments involving medical marijuana are always very tongue in cheek. In this case, the irony was that something Armstrongism was adamantly against was proposed by some as an antidote to relieve symptoms that Armstrongism causes.

BB

RSK said...

I knew a glaucoma sufferer in WCG a looooong time ago who used marijuana to help with the pain. Given the nasty side effects of mass market pain pills then and now, I don't have a problem with it.

DPR567 said...

You are a child of satan.

Questeruk said...

Some of the doctrines mentioned are so positive, yet they are condemned as somehow negative and dangerous.

For example, the idea that virtually all will be saved is considered ‘a very dangerous doctrinal position’.

Apparently believing that ‘the vast majority are on the path of destruction’ is a superior, positive, belief. Very sad.