The Three Worst Errors of Armstrongism
Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 7:00am
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s
clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt.
: contrary to or different from an acknowledged standard, a traditional
form, or an established religion : unorthodox, unconventional <heterodox
Herbert W. Armstrong claimed to be a prophet, an apostle and the "Elijah
who was to come". In fact he was a deluded false teacher claiming direct
revelation from God when God had not spoken to him.
Herbert W. Armstrong (born 1892) grew up among the Quakers in Des
Moines, Iowa. After marriage, he joined a Methodist church. Upon a move
to Oregon in the 20’s, his wife joined an off-shoot of Seventh Day
Adventists (the Church of God Seventh Day).
In an effort to prove his wife’s new found views were wrong, Herbert
began to read the Bible in earnest. After study of the Scripture he
agreed his wife’s view about worship on the Sabbath was correct. More
study and inner struggle ensued. There seems to have been associations
with the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.(1) The result was that in 1931
he became an ordained minister of the Church of God, from which he was
expelled only two years later because of his peculiar views.
Even though Herbert W. Armstrong studied the Scriptures, it becomes very
apparent that he didn’t study with an open mind letting the Scripture
interpret Scripture, as we shall soon see. He read the Bible in light of
learned errors from his varied religious background, and then added a
few peculiar twists of his own. One can pick up almost any issue of
Plain Truth or read any of his pamphlets and easily find examples where
Armstrong twists Scripture to fit his own odd theology or where he makes
statements that simply have no Scriptural support whatsoever, even
though a Scriptural reference is tossed in to make it look legitimate.
Meanwhile, he totally ignores those passages which clearly conflict with
his erratic beliefs.(2)
What makes Armstrongism distinctive from most other cultic sects is
British-Israelism, or Anglo-Israelism as it is sometimes termed. This is
the belief that the British and the other English speaking peoples are
really the lost tribes of Israel. In Biblical prophecy, as interpreted
by Armstrong, Britain is specifically Ephraim and America is Manasseh.
Although not a new teaching, Armstrong has given this dying error much
new life. His book, The United States and British Commonwealth in
"Fantasy" (oops, that was "Prophecy") ... later renamed The United
States and Britain in Prophecy, ... was written to prove his views. It
is in this book that Herbert plagiarized from J. H. Allen's book called
"Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright" written in 1902. A thorough
refutation of it can be found in Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults,
and Roger R. Chambers, The Plain Truth About Armstrongism.
It is in his efforts to prove British-Israelism that we can begin to see
how Armstrong misuses, distorts, and adds to Scripture.
Armstrong claims to be an “end-time apostle.” It is he who has been the
first one to proclaim the ‘truth’ -- his brand of truth -- since the
first century. It is typical for someone in cults to make these kinds of
extravagant claims. Christian Science has it’s Mary Baker Eddy. The
Mormons have Joseph Smith. Jehovah’s Witness have Charles Taze Russell. The
Worldwide Church of God has Herbert W. Armstrong.
These false prophets have an uncanny knack for mixing Biblical truth
with human error. They are good at mixing what is pure and wholesome
with unscriptural garbage and rot. This is what makes not only the
cults, but all heterodox religions so deceptive. The problem then is
sitting down with people and helping them sort out the truth from the
error; what, is good from the glittering garbage. And the best way to do
this is to follow the example of the Bereans who “examined the
Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true” Acts 17:11. In this
instance, we need to study the Scriptures to see if what Herbert W.
Armstrong says is true. Only then will we effectively burst the bubble
of his appeal which draws others to him.
(1) Walter R Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany
Fellowship, Inc., 1965) p. 296-297.
(2) Herbert W. Armstrong and The Worldwide Church of God (A Modern False
Prophet and His Cult) By Don Thompson
The house of Israel was in Judah during the personal ministry of
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into
the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye
not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel
Here Jesus commanded the twelve to "go rather to the lost sheep of the
house of Israel." If "lost" in this passage means that the tribes were
physically lost, how could the twelve disciple "go" to them? And if the
Jews were "not in the house of Israel," since it is claimed that the ten
tribes were not in Judea, but were lost, to whom did the disciples "go,"
and to whom did they preach? They were specifically told not to go to
the Gentiles, and not to go to the Samaritans, so if they did not go to
the Jews, to whom were they sent? But if they did go to the Jews, since
those to whom they went were the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," it
certainly follows that the Jews were "in that house" in fact, the Jews
were that house.
Again, if "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" were the ten tribes
only, as asserted, then the disciples did not belong to the "house of
Israel" themselves, and were therefore forbidden to preach to their own
tribe! Of course, "lost sheep" does not mean literal sheep, hence they
were not literally lost. The expression "lost sheep of the house of
Israel" denotes their spiritual condition.
In Luke 2:36 we are told that Anna was of the tribe of Assher, and she
was not lost, and Luke knew the tribe to which she belonged, and I
reckon Anna knew it, too. It must be plain to all who regard these facts
of scripture that the people of Judah were the lost sheep of the house
of Israel, to whom the twelve and the seventy were sent. The house of
Israel refers definitely to the Jews in Judea and Galilee. If this is
not true, it becomes the task of those who deny it to tell us where they
were when the Lord sent his disciples to preach to them.
Ezekiel was sent only to the house of Israel in Babylon, dwelling by the
river Chebar. The disciples of Jesus were sent only to the house of
Israel, dwelling in Judea and Galilee in the time of Christ. Yet these
so called experts on history and ethnology tell us that these tribes
were not there, and that no Jews were in the house of Israel: But the
house of Israel was in Babylon with Ezekiel. Every tribe of Israel,
referred to as "all Israel," is found in Ezra. They are mentioned in the
New Testament specifically, and Anna the prophetess was personally said
to be one of them. The disciples were sent out by the Lord to preach to
them—yet these British-Israel historians, ethnologists, philologists and
archtheorists tell us that none were there.
Their theory is not historical; it is not ethnological; it is not
philological; and it is not biblical. And the expression "all Israel"
stands in protest against Anglo-Israelism.
Of the many false teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), the most
dangerous errors would have to be those teachings that either
contradicts or seriously compromise
the essential truths of the
Christian faith, which could affect one's eternal destiny.
Authority of the Bible
The Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.
No other writings, revelations or prophecies are to be considered
as an authoritative source of truth and/or interpretation of the
No organization, individual and/or group of individuals is to be
a - or
the - primary source of Bible interpretation;
inspired on a par with those who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote
the Scriptures, nor as
apostles on a par with the apostles mentioned in the Bible.
deity of Christ,
1 Cor. 15
atoning work of Christ on the cross, and
salvation by grace through faith.
These doctrines so comprise the
essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the
belief system non-Christian.
Scripture teaches that the beliefs
mentioned above are of central importance. Because these central
doctrines define the character of Christianity, one cannot be saved and
Central doctrines should not be confused with peripheral issues, about
which Christians may legitimately disagree.
These most basic truths involve:
nature of God,
person and work of Christ, and
means of salvation.
The following three errors are in these areas, and are
at the heart of Herbert W. Armstrong 's
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul warned of those who would come with a
different gospel, a different Jesus, and a different spirit. This fits
the theology of the old Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong.
It's been said that just about every heresy or false teaching begins
with a misconception of the nature of God. This is demonstrated in
Armstrong's theology. HWA flatly denied the Trinity and taught that God
is a family, currently composed of two beings, the Father and the Son.
He taught that the Holy Spirit was not the third Person in the Godhead,
but rather only the impersonal power of God. He did teach that Christ
always existed, but then it gets a
little muddled. When his teaching about God is analyzed, his confusion
on this doctrine is shown. At times it sounded like Binitarianism (two
persons in one) and sometimes Ditheism (two totally separate gods, a
form of polytheism),But the point is that HWA rejected the true Triune
God of the Bible. This is a dangerous error, because 1) it is idolatry
to have an unbiblical view of God, and 2) to be in error about God's
revelation of himself leads to other serious doctrinal errors.
A second major error of Armstrongism is his "gospel". Armstrong claimed
that the WCG was the only true church, the only church that knew who and
what God is, and the only church that preached the true Gospel. That
gospel was what he called "the Good News of the coming kingdom of God".
But what he meant by "kingdom of God" was different from what Jesus and
the apostles meant. Often biblical terms would be used but with HWA's
His "kingdom of God" was the ruling God family into which Christians
(WCG members) can be born. He gave the new birth his own twist. In the
gospel according to Armstrong, nobody is born again now, except Jesus.
At conversion, the Christian is only begotten as a embryo in the womb of
the church, where he grows, finally to be born again at the
resurrection. This meant that the kingdom for us is only in the future
at Christ's return, and not a present reality. HWA taught that at the
second coming of Christ, those resurrected would become literal members
of the God family, actually becoming God.
This "gospel" focused on the future time when the enlarged God family
would rule the earth during the millennium,and then the universe. The
focus of Armstrong's gospel was not the person of Christ, his life,
death and resurrection.. He called that a false gospel that all the
other churches preached. HWA did believe and teach these things about
Christ, but that was not what he said the gospel was. The Armstrong
gospel is a dangerous error because 1) minimizes the importance of Jesus
Christ and his redemptive work as the center of the Gospel, 2) it
elevates man presenting man's ultimate state as being God, which is
utterly blasphemous, and 3) since it is a false gospel, it cannot save.
Only the true Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who
A third major error of Armstrongism is its answer to the important
question of what must I do to be saved. Although HWA tried many times to
sound orthodox by quoting passages like Eph. 2:8 and saying one is saved
by grace through faith, he went on to add the law and works as
identifying signs of a true Christian. This was a kind of a "covenantal
nomism", the idea that keeping certain laws are a sign of being a part
of the true covenant people of God. It was Christ plus Moses. Armstrong
confused the old and new covenants by bringing over laws God gave to
Israel and making them binding on Christians. Specifically, he taught
that observing the seventh-day Sabbath, the annual feast days and the
dietary laws are still required, He also implemented a triple tithing
system in the WCG. This addition of the Old Covenant laws to Christ for
salvation has been called "A New Galatianism". The Christians at Galatia
had been taught the Gospel of grace by Paul. But later some Jewish
missionaries came along and told them that it's great that they had
received Christ as Savior and Lord, but that wasn't enough. They needed
to add the law to Christ. This is what Armstrong did.
The reason this error is so dangerous is that it presents a false way of
salvation. When we add to Christ and his work on the cross, we really
subtract Christ himself and his grace. Even though HWA would give lip
service to salvation by grace through faith, his brand of covenantal
nomism easily degenerated into a crass legalism, with the idea of having
to "qualify" for one's salvation through law-keeping and building
character. There is only one way to be saved. It is by grace alone,
through faith alone, because of Christ and his righteousness alone
imputed to us.
These are only some of the errors of Armstrongism, but I believe they
are the worst ones because they substitute a false God and a false
gospel for the truth of scripture, thereby perverting the Word of God
and failing to give the right answer to man's greatest need, that of
beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.
or email me if you have questions.