Armstrong Heresy

 •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 9
This is the second part of our review of the false religion propagated widely today under such names as "The World Tomorrow," "The Plain Truth," "Ambassador College," and under the name of its promoter, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
This false system brings in confusion at every turn. Notice Mr. Armstrong's remark: "The BLOOD of Christ does not finally save any man... But we are SAVED-that is, given immortal life-by Christ's LIFE, not by His death." 17 What is this but a deliberate slight on the blood of Christ? Have we not boldness to enter the holiest-that is, the very presence of God-by the blood of Jesus? (Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19)). Surely we have, for God says so; but Mr. Armstrong says that it is insufficient to save us. Is not the wish parent to the thought, so that all can turn on our keeping the law, as though Christ lives our life, so that we keep the law for salvation? A careful examination of Rom. 5:1010For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10) will prove that when we were enemies of God we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son-all the enmity was broken down-but are we to be forgotten or forsaken now that Christ is risen? No, never; "We shall be saved by His life"; that is, in His living, He secures our salvation to the very end. There is no law-keeping in the text; it is only so in the false doctrine that perverts it.
Now let us see what Mr. Armstrong says of repentance. He states: "Repentance means to quit sinning, and sin is the transgression [here is that error again] of God's spiritual LAW-so repentance means to begin living according to God's Commandments!" 18 This is unadulterated error. How is a sinner going to stop sinning? you may as well tell him to quit breathing. Only if he did that, would he stop sinning. Repentance, rather, is the judgment that I form of myself in the presence of God. Job was finally brought to repent and abhor himself in dust and ashes, whereas this erroneous teaching would have a man lift himself out of the mire of sin by his own effort. True repentance would have me see the utter ruin of myself and have me own it before God, while looking away to Jesus, my sinless and holy Substitute, and His finished work.
Here is another fundamental error of Armstrongism: "If we obey God's commandments as revealed then by God's spoken Word, but now by the Bible, we clothe ourselves with God's kind of righteousness and are acceptable to God." 19 If this were possible-to obey the commandments-it would be our righteousness and not God's, and the Scripture says that all our righteousnesses are "as filthy rags." The Apostle Paul, a blameless Jew in his day, said that he desired to be found in Him-in Christ -not having his own righteousness, "which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Phil. 3:99And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:9). The "righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Rom. 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22). Here is the righteousness of God, and it is for all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ-not for those who pretend to keep the law. We say pretend, for we are bold to affirm that there is no man that does keep it so as to stand before God, accepted by Him. People who say, We keep the whole law, are either very careless with the truth, or they lower God's law to suit their own selves. The (perhaps) best natural Jew that ever lived was Saul of Tarsus, but he said the law killed him. He verily thought he was keeping the law until the sharp edge entered his soul by the tenth commandment- "Thou shall not covet." Where is the man who can say before God, "I have never lusted, I have never coveted anything"? God's righteousness is for those who had none, and it is on the basis of faith and not of works-not of law-keeping.
These people who in substance say they are Jews, but are not, put great stress on absolutely keeping the Sabbath. But perhaps the Lord's word to such in His day would be in place, "But none of you keepeth the law." How many Sabbath keepers keep it according to the law? Yet Mr. Armstrong says we have to keep the letter and spirit of the law. Does he not know that the letter kills (2 Cor. 3:66Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:6))? Which of them does not light a fire on the Sabbath? Now the letter of that law would preclude turning on the gas stove or flicking a light switch; yes, and even turning on the automobile switch. These are just the modern counterparts of the old ways of making a fire. 0 that those who desire to be under the law would believe God: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse"! Gal. 3:1010For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10). Not merely those who break the law.
We have noticed before that this false cult denies that a sinner is saved instantaneously when he accepts the Lord Jesus as his personal Savior-as the One who died for him and his sins on the cross. Now notice what this system says salvation is: "The Creator is still creating! He is molding, fashioning, CHANGING us, transforming us to His own noble, righteous, holy, spiritual CHARACTER! Yes, creating in us this perfect CHARACTER! Salvation, then is a PROCESS!" 20 What a fable! Salvation according to this system then is but a process of creating a character, as the false teacher says: "Salvation is merely the COMPLETING of CREATION.... Character is created by experience... SALVATION IS THE COMPLETING OF CREATION." 21 In another place this character building process is spoken of thus: "Holy, righteous CHARACTER is something even God cannot create instantaneously! It is produced, or developed, only through EXPERIENCE! Experience requires TIME, and CIRCUMSTANCES!" 22 If all this process of salvation could be true, then the Philippian jailer and his household were not saved as Paul told them they would be by simply believing in the Person of the Lord Jesus, nor had they any reason to rejoice as the Scripture tells us they did. Neither was the converted thief received into Paradise that day (as promised by the Lord), for he had no time to build a character; nor have we received the salvation of our souls. Nay, but let God be true, and Armstrongism be found a false witness; and this goes even further and says: Christ "WROTE that salvation BY HIS EXPERIENCE." 23 Reader, have you had enough of this religious contradiction of the Word of God? BEWARE OF POISON! The false system is spiritual poison.
But as we have gone this far, perhaps we should examine the doctrine a little more. With the background of law-enforcement, it was easy for this system to press the absolute necessity of giving God at least one tenth of your earnings, and then after pressing this on the basis that if you do you will reap rich rewards here and now, it was an easy transition to press the point that only to God's chosen ministers could the tenth properly be given. As all others were to them false teachers and even ministers of Satan, then it could be urged that you should seek out God's true ministers as the only ones to whom the tithes should be givens-this quite naturally then applies to themselves as the only proper recipients. We marvel at the credulity of so many people who have sent them their money.
We wish to further call attention to certain remarks which we deem derogatory to the glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is one: "No one, outside of our Savior, has yet attained to immortal life." 24 This may sound innocent enough, but is it? That blessed One was the author, or originator, of life; He had life in Himself; yes, He was the life. As a man, He could lay down His life and take it again. No mere man could "lay down" his life. Even as a man, no one could take His life. To say that He attained to immortal life at His resurrection is to degrade Him. Really, it is a part and parcel of that false doctrine found in Seventh-day Adventism (which Mr. Armstrong seems to have taken from them intact) called "conditional immortality." Its reasoning is that man does not possess an immortal soul that lives on and on after death, either in weal or woe. It is a flat denial of the Word of God which tells of those who die in faith as being "absent from the body, and present with the Lord." The soul and spirit do not die at the death of the body, nor do they sleep. Luke 16 takes us behind the scenes and lets us see the misery of the soul of a man in hades, whose body was buried on earth. "Conditional immortality" is false in every way. In the working out of that scheme, the Lord Himself is supposed not to have existed when He lay in the tomb; whereas, He sustained the universe at that very time. Therefore, to say that He had to await resurrection to get immortal life is a denial of the glory and truth of His Person. "Conditional immortality" also denies that the converted thief went to Paradise that day to be with Christ, as promised.
Another Armstrong statement that requires notice is: "Jesus Christ was the most FULL-GROWN man who ever lived. He alone had COMPLETE emotional stability and maturity." 25 Is not this statement dishonoring to Him who was absolutely the perfect Man in every way, and who was God manifest in flesh as well?
Let us not start to compare Him with fallen human beings, but ever stand in awe when His blessed Person is mentioned. We need the unshod foot of reverence when we approach this ground, as did Moses and Joshua in His presence in another day.
Here is another statement which we deem derogatory: "Melchisedec was the High Priest of God during patriarchal times. And Christ occupies the same office now, holding the same rank"; 26 and in another place, "We know Melchisedec was High Priest-that He held the rank equal to that of Jesus Christ, actually one of the Godhead!" 27 To us this is nothing short of blasphemy. Who has the same rank as Jesus Christ? No one who is not God, and Scripture gives NO hint of Melchisedec's being anything but a man. He was purposely introduced without giving any genealogy, as a mysterious personage who could be a type of the Lord Jesus when He reigns as "priest upon His throne." Mr. Armstrong's denial of the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead opens the way for this strange doctrine.
And another erroneous statement is: "A greater man never lived-a man never lived who could exercise more gigantic, all-encompassing POWER than Christ! There never was a more dynamic, lively, energetic, personable, talented man!" 28 Do not these remarks lower Him to the level of man? To compare Him with mortal, sinful man, even favorably, is to degrade Him. Frankly, we are shocked at the language found here. Psalm 50:2121These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. (Psalm 50:21) comes to mind: "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee." We have been struck time and again with the evident lack of consciousness of who and what He is, and the very infrequent use of His title, "Lord."
Now we come to another piece of consummate error, which is the counterpart of what we have been considering: "We shall then be BORN of God [at the resurrection]-WE SHALL THEN BE GOD!... The PURPOSE of your being alive is that finally you be BORN into the kingdom of God, when you will actually BE GOD, even as Jesus was and is God, and His Father, a different Person, also is God!... You are setting out on a training to become CREATOR-to become GOD." 29 Can anything be ranker than this? Is not this lifted from Mormonism? Think of it—man to become God. This is a gigantic falsehood. That is what the devil suggested to Eve in the Garden-a way to become God. Here it is in our day. How can a true believer read such gross error and not burn the paper containing it forthwith? In our previous paragraph, this false doctrine put Melchisedec in the Godhead; now it puts all who attain the resurrection (on the basis, as we have seen, of their law-keeping, with perfect characters obtained thus) into deity. Mr. Armstrong says that Jesus is no more God than we shall be! And this is palmed off as the last great message from God for this age! Is it not rather the doctrine of antichrists? (1 John 2:2222Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)).
Let us notice the facts according to the Word of God. We will never become God-never be deity-we shall always be creatures, and He the Creator. The Lord in His prayer in John 17 desired that He might have the truly saved ones with Him in the glory above, that they might behold His glory, a glory which He had before the world was-that is a glory we will never partake of, we will only behold it with awe and admiration of Him whose it is. He said further: "The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them." Here is a glory, a glory He gained as man, which we shall share with Him. May we ask you, reader, Can anything be right in a system so thoroughly permeated with destructive error-error to damn the souls of those who truly accept it? May God deliver any believers who may have become ensnared in it through ignorance.
We said before that Armstrongism denies the Trinity, although it is a cardinal truth of the Word of God. This truth was first clearly revealed at His baptism by John at Jordan, when the Father spoke from heaven to the Son on earth, and the Holy Spirit came visibly upon the Son, sealing Him as a man down here for His ministry. It is somewhat obscurely mentioned in Isa. 48:1616Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. (Isaiah 48:16), "The Lord GOD, and His Spirit, hath sent Me." But this is what the false teacher says: "One of the pagan concepts originating with Semiramis is the false idea of a 'Trinity.'... The Hebrew word for `God' here [Gen. 116And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. (Genesis 1:16)] is Elohiyrn, which is plural. The Father and He who was to become the Son [note here the denial of His eternal Sonship] are here referred to (John 1:11In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)). The 'Spirit' means the Holy Spirit of God-that divine force by which so much good is accomplished and which resides in both Father and Son." 30 And in another place: "They
began teaching the pagan Trinity doctrine and the immortality of human souls." 31 Is not this wresting the Scripture to their own destruction? The Spirit of God is spoken of in Scripture as one of the Trinity, a Person in the Godhead. Notice these words: "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come." John 16:1313Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:13). He is also spoken of as God in Acts 513And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. (Acts 5:13): "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost.... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." vv. 3, 4. Beware lest you who dabble with this false cult bring on you the "sin against the Holy Ghost," for it is dangerous ground.
Perhaps another quotation or two should be added here so that anyone will see that we have quoted Mr. Armstrong correctly and fairly: "GOD IS A FAMILY, NOT A TRINITY OF PERSONS. GOD IS A FAMILY COMPOSED OF TWO BEINGS WITH A COMMON SPIRIT.... The pagans... made a Trinity. SATAN WAS CONFUSING MANKIND." 32 And: "The false doctrine of the 'Trinity,'... at present only two persons-Father and Son, comprise this Family. But we can become members of that Family!" 33 Are we not reading about those of whom Paul wrote by inspiration, "deceiving, and being deceived"? (2 Tim. 3:1313But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)).
And now with the vital parts of Christianity removed or damaged beyond recognition, is it any wonder that such an outward thing as water baptism is made an essential to salvation (this is also true of Mormonism)? Mr. Armstrong says, "Water baptism, then, is a required part of the way of salvation!... He commanded baptism as an obligatory ordinance for this Gospel dispensation." 34 What a strange Gospel! and one not found in Holy Scripture, surely. But after all their mumbo jumbo of character development and law-keeping, it is not strange that when all this is set forth, the Christian's heavenly portion is emphatically denied and rejected-all this doctrine of Armstrongism is to fit a man for earth-are not these those who are spoken of in Revelation as "those that dwell on the earth," or rather, "earth dwellers"; those whose hopes are here? A strange concoction is produced in this baptism essential of Armstrongism; with them, "a new life, a life that is begotten AT BAPTISM [is] to grow for the remainder of our time of trial and testing-a life that will be born AT THE RESURRECTION." 35 Is there any wonder that the true gospel of God concerning His Son has been set aside?-room had to be made for all the frills conjured up by this new sect.
Another strange thing about their false doctrine on baptism is that it is not for young people, for it is said, "It is almost impossible to be ABSOLUTELY SURE about young people under 21 or 25-and especially under 18." 36 Poor young people who want to be saved! If baptism is essential and they cannot have it, they are shut out; but if they had this baptism it would not benefit them anyway. At this point Mr. Armstrong lets his readers and hearers know that being baptized in the accepted sense of orthodox Christianity will not do; it is all in vain, and only those ordained preachers that believe as he does should do the job; so he has baptizing teams roving the country to bring converts into his fold.
Reference Index to Armstrong's Writings
17 All About Water Baptism p. 2
18A11 About Water Baptism P. 3
19 The Plain Truth, January, 1960 p. 19
20 Why Were You Born? p. 11
21 The Plain Truth, July, 1959 p. 11
22 Why Were you Born? p. 15
23 Why Were You Born? p. 14
24 The Plain Truth, January, 1960 p. 15
25 The Plain Truth, January, 1960 p. 32
26 Ending Your Financial Worries P. 8
27 Ending Your Financial Worries p. 12
28 The Plain Truth, September, 1959 p. 15
29 Why Were You Born? pp. 21, 22
30 The Plain Truth, February, 1960 p. 25
31 A True History of the True Church p. 23
32 The Plain Truth, February, 1960 p. 26
33 The Plain Truth, February, 1960 p. 26
34 A11 About Water Baptism pp. 4, 5
35 The Plain Truth, December, 1959 p. 14
36 A11 About Water Baptism p. 10