Today, I want to talk a bit about the methodology that Herbert Armstrong used when it came to how he interpreted the Bible to those who subscribed to the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, and listened to his sermons and messages. In Volume One of the 1955 Correspondence Course, Herbert outlines four different ways that one could approach studying the Bible properly. They are:
1) What the Bible is, how it was written, how to study it, and why "no one understands it."
In reality, the Correspondence Course was full of this, in extremely detailed, specific instructions, down to exactly what Bible to get, and what pencils to use, how long to study, and the methods of indoctrination (i.e. meditation, habit, writing, etc.) So, to say this was not used as an approach isn't correct. This approach was used in combination with their chosen approach. So yes, they did use this as a methodology, detailed, specific, and exact.
2) To start at the very beginning, with Genesis.
They say they did not adopt this approach - but in reality, they kind of did, just not with the Correspondence Course exactly. They used this approach with the Youth Bible Stories/Studies, leading the children through the tumultuous and violent Old Testament, punctuated with intensely graphic illustrations by Basil Wolverton, Church member and illustrator of MAD Magazine Fame. After a full childhood of indoctrination of the horrors of the wrath of God, the opening of the Earth, David, Samson, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Balaam, Rachel, Esau, Jacob, Rebekah, and others - finally, around 11 or 12 years of age, they received the lesson called "The Introduction to Jesus Christ".
3) The New Testament.
This is the method nearly every Christian Church has adopted - the foundation being Jesus Christ, the foundation of the Christian Church, the Gospel of Salvation, the Acts of the Apostles, the Pauline Epistles, the writings of other Church leaders, and the symbolic and controversial Book of Revelation, and using this understanding to understand the books of the Old Testament, whose books pointed to and were a shadow of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament pointed to. This was the one method that was completely rejected as the approach for the Correspondence Course.
4) To begin with the very present.
The chosen method of how to study the Bible was number four - "the one we have adopted". Which, truly, is not "Bible Study" at all.
This approach first and foremost was a "fear tactic" of speculation, inconsistencies, falsehoods, and irregularities. Below, you will see the text of how they rationalized their approach.
To Begin with the Very Present
They begin by saying "the whole world seems suddenly to have erupted in chaos in physical violence".
Sadly, chaos and physical violence has been going on for millennia. Ignored are countless world wars, plagues, diseases, famines, pestilences, persecutions that have been far, far worse than the 20th century that Herbert lived in. It does not take a lot of research to look back and see generations and periods of time that make our current time look absolutely blissful.
Remember, this was written in 1955. Just about everyone who read this in 1955 (assuming 18 or older) is extremely old or, frankly, dead. The intonation is the Bible would mean more to them as it's related to THEIR LIVES. Of course, things turned out very, very differently, as we all know. Besides some serious localized conflicts, diseases, and a wide range of social issues, the generations ahead of them in their prime of life (1955 -2005) were to be some of the most prosperous and bountiful years for many of the readers in many years. What Herbert Armstrong indoctrinated them with, on the other hand, was a fear and paranoia of the future which was doomed to imminent and total annihilation at virtually any time, within the next three to five years on a constant, ever-moving, but never-reaching timetable.
Instead of studying the Bible, with the foundation being Jesus Christ, the foundation was fear. The foundation was prophecy - most of which was completely incorrect. The foundation was British Israelism, which, again, has been proven (through DNA and genetic analysis) as completely incorrect. The foundation was based completely on Herbert's worldview through HIS eyes - through HIS life - conveyed and transmitted to others through this course.
Quotes That Immediately Followed This Text: (Said to a 1955 Audience.)
"YOU LIVE IN A WORLD OF CHAOS" (we still do, we always have.)
"Mass Destruction of the Earth's Inhabitants Appears Imminent" (FALSE).
"The Outlook Grows More Serious" (WE'RE HERE.)
"This World's Civilization Has Come to a Crisis!" (WE'RE HERE)
"It is Time to Be Concerned" (ALL of those who read this were able to live out their lives without Armageddon.)
"You will Learn The Only Way To Avoid the Dire Events Shortly To Fall." (They Didn't.)
"In our Generation the Entire Earth is Endangered" (We're Still Here).
"The World's Population Can Be Wiped Out in a Few Hours". (It Wasn't.)
"This World is CRASHING to it's DOOM!" (We're Still Here.)
Lesson One said the Following in BOLD LETTERS. (Remember the Psychological Condition Herbert taught)
WHAT would HAPPEN if HE WERE NOT TO RETURN (Fear Inducing)
NO SOUL would be SAVED ALIVE (Panic Inducing)
SUICIDAL ATTEMPTS (Negative Thought, Fear Inducing)
CUT SHORT (Cresendo, Emphasis)
TIME OF TROUBLE (Fear Inducing)
ONE CLIMACTIC PERIOD
MODERN SCIENTIFIC WARFARE (Fear Inducing)
HYDROGEN BOMBS, ROCKETS, GASES (Panic Inducing)
MASS MURDER (Fear-Inducing)
DESCRIBING WAR WEAPONS OF OUR DAY (Panic Inducing)
FORCE OF THE EVIL NATURE (Negative Thought, Fear Inducing)
Does MANKIND REALLY KNOW THE WAY TO PEACE (Doubt Inducing)
WITHOUT HEEDING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN (Fear Inducing)
The first lesson of the AC Correspondence Course was designed to make you afraid, to fear, to panic - and if you believed what was written, to try to escape what was said to about to happen. The problem? Nothing like this happened in their lifetimes.
Another thing to mention: In this one lesson, the order of scriptures were all over the place without context:
Matthew, Mark, Jeremiah, James, Luke, Proverbs, Romans, Isaiah, 1 Corinthians, II Timothy, II Peter, James, Micah, Isaiah. (Cherry-picking/proof-texting/find scriptures that fit what we're saying).
Some may say I'm giving HWA too much credit for this methodology. Intentional, or unintentional - he knew what he was doing. Herbert Armstrong made a choice to use fear and worry - unfounded fear and worry - a psychological manipulation of mind conditioning to use the world at that time as the foundation of interpreting the whole entirety of scripture. That was the trap - a trap many in the splinters are still trying to use today.
Finally, let me reiterate that this was written in 1955. History and time has proven everything written here was false. The predictions were incorrect. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not the foundation. Fear, panic, worry, and doubt - and money - were the foundation. This was intentional manipulation. This was spiritual extortion. This was a SCAM, plain and simple. This is 2018. My hope is people will not fall for the trickery any longer.