It's everywhere. And it's free. It can be found in supermarkets

and airport terminals. It can be obtained by mailing a postcard or by

calling a toll-free phone number. It's THE PLAIN TRUTH magazine of

Herbert W. Armstrong's "World Wide Church of God". A magazine of

humble beginnings, like the church that produces it, it claims its

purpose is to spread the real Gospel to all nations.(1) While many

Christians recognize Armstrong's name and face and have heard of the

WCG, fw are aware of the history and teachings of the man and his


The Humble Beginnings

. Herbert W. Armstrong was born July 31, 1892. He did not get

involved in religion until 1926, when his wife "discovered" that

Christians were keeping the wrong day of the week as the Sabbath.

Angered at her "religious fanaticism", Armstrong threatened divorce.

But rather than divorcing her, he developed an interest in the Bible

himself, and as his business failed, he spent more time reading the

Bible. This study, Armstrong claimed, led to his conversion to

sabbatarianism, the belief that God's people should worship on

Saturday rather than Sunday.

. He continued his religious work and in 1932 became a licensed

minister in the Oregon Conference of the Church of God, a spinoff of

the Seventh-Day Adventists. In 1933, Armstrong began delivering a

15-minute morning devotional from a radio station in Eugene, Ore. The

next year, it was expanded to 30 minutes and Armstrong began calling

it "The World Tomorrow," the name the show carries today. Armstrong

also began printing THE PLAIN TRUTH magazine that year. Its first

printing was 250 copies, run off by hand on a mimeograph machine.

. Armstrong's communication empire has come a long way. In 1985,

his radio and television broadcasts reached every part of the United

States, and Canada and Australia and part of other countries. THE

PLAIN TRUTH now boasts a press run of 7.5 million copies per issue.

Armstrong considered himself Christ's sole true Apostle on the Earth.

. Armstrong's name made the news from time to time. In 1984, his

church lost a $1.26 million libel and slander suit that had been filed

by the former wife of a church executive. She claimed in the suit

that Armstrong and other church leaders had tried to smear her

reputation after her divorce in 1976.

. That same year, Armstrong divorced his second wife, Ramona, after

seven years of marriage. The case reportedly cost the church more

than $5 million in legal fees before finally being settled in 1984.

. The church was wracked during the 1970s and 1980s by defections,

personnel changes and allegations by several ex-members that Armstrong

and other leaders had diverted millions of dollars in church money for

their own use.

. These dissidents succeeded in getting the California attorney

general's office to place the church's finances under control of a

church-appointed receiver in 1979. But the allegations were never

proven and the charges were dropped in 1980.

. All this transpired shortly after Armstrong's son, Garner Ted,

once an eloquent and dynamic spokesman for the church and heir-

apparent to his father's position, was excommunicated. Garner Ted

then founded his own church, the Church of God International, in

Tyler, Texas.

. While no one can deny Armstrong succeeded in disseminating what

he called the "true original Gospel", one can easily question his

claim to its fidelity.

The True Original Gospel

. Armstrong's gospel can be found in Scripture, but only in Paul's

warning about the "different gospel" given in 2 Corinthians 11:4.

Armstrong's gospel is one of heavy legalism and a "different Jesus"

and a "different Spirit" than that of Christianity.

. Armstrongism is a smorgasboard of unorthodox doctrines borrowed

from the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons,

Christian Scientists and others. Much of the legalism, such as

adherence to dietary laws and observance of Jewish feast days, is

taken directly from Judaism. Let's take a look at how the WCG differs

from Christianity on some key doctrines:

The Trinity

. Armstrong, as do Jehovah's Witnesses, went to great lengths to

try to show the Trinity was a pagan-derived doctrine. "The doctrine

of the Trinity is false," he wrote. "It was foisted upon the world at

the Council of Nicea. It is the pagan Babylonish trinity of the

father, mother and child - substituting the Holy Spirit for the

mother, Semiramis, and calling it a 'person'."(2) He used the same

tactics the Watchtower Society does in denying this doctrine: namely a

misstating of the Christian position. For example, Armstrong led his

readers to believe that "Because of false teaching - including that of

the 'Trinity' - nearly all of us have been reared from childhood to

assume that God is one individual Person."(3)

. What then is Mr. Armstrong's idea of God? "God is not merely one

person, nor even limited to a 'trinity', but GOD is a FAMILY." he


. Armstrong's theology of a family of God also lends itself to a

defective Christology. While Jesus is acknowledged as God (one of the

two persons currently composing the "God Family"), Armstrongism

appears to borrow from Mormonism, as it says that when one is born

again, he "will possess the same power, glory and holiness of God!"(5)

Thus, one finds the WCG teaching that there is not one God, but two.

One is God the Father, possessor of Heaven and Earth, the Father of

Jesus Christ. The other is the God of the Old Testament, the creator

of Heaven and Earth, the one who became Jesus Christ.

. Armstrong's doctrine leaves no place for the personage of the

Holy Spirit. So, as in Watchtower theology, the Holy Spirit becomes

an impersonal force or power. WCG writings consistently refer to the

Holy Spirit as "it."

Christ's Resurrection

. Here, the WCG departs from biblical Christianity in two major

areas. First, Armstrongism teaches that Jesus Christ himself was born

a second time - "born again" - by his resurrection from the dead.(6)

Next, one finds Armstrongism teaching that "the Son of God, (was) now

no longer human, but composed of SPIRIT - a Spirit Being," and that

"Christ's body did disappear. Christ was raised as a divine spirit



. Armstrong continually redefined terms as he gained new "insights"

into the Bible and nowhere did this happen more often than with his

doctrine of salvation. He taught that true Christians are only

"begotten" sons now and are not yet born again.(8) The term "born

again", Armstrong taught, means "changed into spirit." Thus, it is

taught that, like Jesus, believers will be born again - changed into

spirit - at the resurrection. Further, salvation in the WCG includes

godhood. Once again we see Armstrong's teaching: "There are only two

members in the God Family or Kingdom at the present time - God the

Father and Jesus Christ the Son. But God is increasing His Family!

And YOU can be 'born' into it!"(9)


. Armstrong taught that Christians are wrong to "think they were

'born again' when they 'accepted Christ' and were 'baptized.'"(10)

Armstrong denied the doctrine of the nature of the new birth and

misrepresented the Christian position on baptism. Christians do not

regard baptism as a requirement for salvation. Tied to the WCG's

gospel is baptism, and Armstrong reasoned the works - faith salvation

by saying; "You shall be saved by grace, but God does lay down

conditions. You can comply, and receive glorious grace - or you can

rebel, and pay the death penalty - for eternity!"(11) The seriousness

of not submitting to sabbatarianism, Armstrong told his followers, is

that it is impossible for Jesus Christ to dwell in a person if he

profanes His Holy Day by observing a pagan day.(12) Of course, while

there are several different religious groups who keep the Sabbath

(Saturday) worship, Armstrong maintained that there is only one true

church: the WCG.

. According to WCG teachings, those who reject its "true original

gospel," will not suffer eternal punishment in hell, but an

all-consuming fire that will annihilate unbelievers. The church's

Ambassador College Correspondence Course on hell says; "The 'hell

fire' that the Bible speaks of will be thousands of degrees hotter

than the imaginary 'hell fire' of most preachers - which is only hot

enough to torment. The biblical 'hell fire' will totally consume the

disobedient! Never will they exist again."(13)

. Although Armstrongism teaches that "Salvation will be open to all

then resurrected, just as in the thousand year reign of Christ on

Earth, only now there will be many more to accept it." But it turns

out not to be a second chance at redemption, for Armstrong reasoned,

"If they were blinded when they formerly lived, they never had a first


. One can find more beliefs that separate Armstrongism from

biblical Christianity; denial of man's immortal soul, soul sleep,

British Israelism, a rejection of holidays (Christmas, birthdays and

so forth), and a disapproval of medicine and physicians.

What Does the Bible Say?

. Christianity is a monotheistic faith and Armstrong's "God Family"

concept is not found in the Bible. The Bible does not teach the

existence of two gods with additional "gods" to be added to the "God

Family" upon their resurrection from the dead. Scripture clearly

says there is one God and that there are three persons who are

addressed as God. The attributes of God are ascribed to each member

of the Godhead. While Armstrong was right in saying that the

appearance of God in the Old Testament was the Second Person of the

Trinity, namely Christ, the old man clearly was preaching "another


. Armstrong's distorted theology of God's nature again is

demonstrated in his denial of the personality of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture presents clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person,

not a force. The Holy Spirit creates and gives life (Job 33:4). He

works according to His own will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He appoints

and commissions ministers (Acts 13:2, Acts 20:28). He teaches (John

14:26). He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

. The WCG's account of Christ's resurrection is like every other

false religion's; a spiritual resurrection which is no resurrection at

all. That which separates Christianity from other religions is that

its founder made good his claims. Jesus said, "Destroy this temple

and in three days I will raise it up," in reference to His body.(15)

Armstrongites, like the members of the Unification Church and the

Watchtower Society, have nothing that distinguishes their "Jesus" from

any other religious founder. Christians have a Jesus who died and

whose body then was reunited with His Spirit, got up and left the

grave. Scripture testifies that the Jesus who came out of the tomb

and now dwells in heaven has a body of flesh and bone.(16)

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

. Eternal life with God rests not on any works or keeping of the

law. Ephesians 2:8-9 says; "For by grace you have been saved through

faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a

result of works, that no one should boast." Furthermore, baptism does

not save us. Paul told the Corinthians that Christ did not send him

to baptize, but to preach the gospel.17 To these same people paul

makes known the Gospel by which we are saved, as he says, "For I

delivered to you of first importance what I also received, that Christ

died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried,

and that He was raised on the third day according to the

Scriptures."(18) The Christian Gospel does not require baptism,

Sabbath observance, triple tithes, or law-keeping for salvation. It

requires only belief in the atoning work of Christ's death on the

cross. Armstrong followers should examine Paul's letter to the

Galatians and see what he had to say about legalism.

A Final Word

. Jesus warned that "false prophets" would come as wolves in

sheep's clothing. Armstrong fulfilled Christ's words as he hid his

false doctrines behind a Christian image and Christian terminology.

He also proved he was a false prophet by making predictions that went


. For example, in the 1956 WCG publication, 1975 In Prophecy,

Armstrong wrote; "But now you're going to peek into the surprising

future, exactly as it will happen! Not what men PLAN - but what GOD

SAYS! ... very soon - of this very present generation - of all people

you know now - ONLY ONE THIRD of them will be left alive!" He went on

to say that this surviving third would be "uprooted from their homes

like cattle as slaves to Europe, and probably some to South America,"

and "Yes, millions of lukewarm, inactive professing Christians will

suffer martyrdom - and before the anticipated push-button leisure year

of 1975 draws upon us!"

. Armstrong's prophecy did not come to pass. Neither did the

nations return to an observance of "Almighty God and His Laws and

Ways" as Armstrong said they would.

. Those who take God's word seriously will remember Deuteronomy

18:20-22 and conclude that Armstrong does not meet the biblical

requirements of a prophet.

. Herbert W. Armstrong died Jan. 16, 1986. But Christians should

not regard this as the beginning of the end for his church. The WCG

probably will continue to mislead many with its appearance of biblical

authority unless Christians pray for its members and potential victims

and witness more effectively against its lies.

. When Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Watchtower Society,

died in 1916, one Christian magazine said; "With the passing of its

founder, the movement he created and organized will probably drift

along for a time, to sink finally into the limbo of things forgotten."

Christians should have learned their lesson by now. When fighting the

cults, we are not fighting flesh and blood, but demonic forces. We

cannot afford to rest because one person has died. We must continue

to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered

to the saints."(19)


1 This claim is made and found within the front cover of all current

issues of The Plain Truth magazine.

2 Armstrong, Herbert W., The Missing Dimension In Sex, pg32

3 ibid

4 ibid (emphasis in original)

5 Ambassador College Correspondence Course, Lesson 8, pg 9

6 Armstrong, Herbert W., Just What Do You Mean...BORN AGAIN?

7 WCG reprint, "If You Die...Will You Live Again?", pg 5

8 Correspondence Course, op cit, pg11

9 ibid, pg 10

10 ibid, pg 3

11 Armstrong, Herbert W., Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath?, pg 107

12 ibid, pg 103

13 Correspondence Course, Lesson 6, pg 10

14 WCG reprint, "Is This The Only Day Of Salvation?", pg 4

15 John 2:19-21

16 Luke 24:36-49

17 I Corinthians 1:17

18 I Corinthians 15:1-4

19 Jude 3

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