By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2000|
|A brief look at the history and doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, including information on a recent positive move toward orthodoxy within the organization.|
(from the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House, 1999)
INFO AT A GLANCE
- Name: The United Church of God and approximately two dozen other Armstrong sects, which continue to advocate the doctrines of Herbert W. Armstrong.
- Purpose: To spread the Armstrong “Gospel” of Jesus Christ.
- Founders: Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong.
- Source of authority: Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986).
- Revealed teachings: Yes.
- Claim: To have the only true interpretation of the Bible.
- Occult dynamics: Apparent occult guidance in the life of Herbert W. Armstrong.
- Examples of key literature: The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy; The Incredible Human Potential; The Wonderful World Tomorrow; Why Were You Born?; Just What Do You Mean Born Again?; What Is a Real Christian?; Is God a Trinity?; The Ten Commandments.
- Attitude toward Christianity: Rejecting.
- Relevant Quote: “Who are the harlots [of Revelation chapter 17]? All the Protestant churches.” (Herbert W. Armstrong, Ambassador Report, p.15, citing a sermon of May 7,1974.)
Note: In the late 1980s, in an almost unprecedented move historically, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) began radically changing its doctrines from heresy to orthodoxy. From 1988 to 1997, the transformation occurred gradually to the point that in 1997 the church was accepted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. Thus, the WCG Website now declares, “Today the church and The Plain Truth [magazine] are in full agreement with the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals.”
The cost was great. The television ministry was lost, as was over 50 percent of church membership. The Plain Truth had its circulation decline from 8 million to less than 150,000, and the Pasadena employees fell from around 1,000 to 180. But history and eternity will prove the rewards worth the sacrifice. As the WCG church website declares “Organizationally this doctrinal change had catastrophic results. But spiritually, it was the best thing that ever happened to the WCG.”
Of course, we welcome the fact that the Pasadena WCG has changed its course. Nevertheless, we have included H. Armstrong’s teachings because the information is still relevant for numerous offshoots of the WCG that refused the changes, left the WCG, and began their own churches in order to preserve Armstrong doctrines. The Global Church of God, The Associated Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, United Church of God and others, still hold to Arm-strong doctrines.
While the WCG has made truly dramatic doctrinal changes, it still has a way to go. It is understandable that some things which need changing remain unchanged given where the church has come from as a full blown cult and the cost of its transformation. In some areas it has moved slowly, apparently in its desire to reach as many members for Christ as possible. But there will come a point when certain issues can no longer be avoided, such as the full truth about its own history and Herbert W. Armstrong’s status as a heretic. Armstrong was never a “minister of the gospel” and the old WCG was never a Christian church, although statements by the new WCG in 1996-1998 have allegedly said that the old WCG was Christian. In addition, the truth of the doctrine of eternal punishment needs to be recognized. Clearly, the old church denied this, and at this point the new church doesn’t seem to have made much progress.
For all we know, these issues are in the process of being addressed, and the Evangelical Church should do all in its power to continue to encourage and assist the new WCG toward a complete and robust evangelical faith, and be grateful to God for the historic changes already accomplished. Our prayers for the leadership of the church are especially important.
- God: Currently, two Persons, the Father and Jesus; now reproducing themselves into billions of Persons.
- Jesus: Jehovah of the Old Testament; triparte.
- Holy Spirit: God’s mind and power, God’s life and love, but not the third Person of the Godhead.
- Trinity: A satanic, pagan doctrine.
- Salvation: By works.
- Man: Becomes a God at the resurrection.
- Fall: Instituted by God to help people eventually attain perfection.
- Bible: Accepted as authoritative when interpreted by Herbert W. Armstrong.
- Death: Soul sleep; annihilation for the wicked.
- Hell and Heaven: Hell is a pagan teaching; no heaven, as taught in Christianity, exists.
- Internet copy: A Brief History of the Worldwide Church of God—Transformed by Christ: The New Worldwide Church of God.
- See the articles in, e.g., The Quarterly Journal July-September 1998.