Could Herbert Armstrong’s teachings have been better than orthodox Christianity?

When truth has to be told, Hebert Armstrong comprehended Scriptures better than the orthodox Christianity. No-one can take away the passion that he exuded in teaching what he considered to be true, though later found to be false. Of course, there is no doubt that the name Herbert Armstrong can cause many people to unapprovingly raise eyebrows.

This is the name of a man who, after his death, everything he taught evoked shame. He is historically inscribed among the cult leaders. The uncomplimentary comments that appear on internet, concerning the man, can cause revulsion. Most of those formerly associated with him, prefer not revealing that they ever associated with his teachings.

However, a few groups still stand, even today, trying to defend Armstrong’s personality. But such people are unwilling to test the veracity of what Mr Armstrong taught, against what the Bible teaches. This is common with people who idolize human beings, rather than being guided by truth.

It is undisputable that Herbert Armstrong had countless weaknesses.  This is just as, it is true that the first century apostles had their share in teaching what Jesus did not teach. For instance, Jesus had instructed the eleven apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit that would guide them in their ministerial conducts (Acts 1:8).

Apparently, the eleven apostles could not remain patient, even for a few days before the Holy Spirit descended. They assumed that it was prudent to elect a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). Jesus had made it clear in His teachings that the Church of God was to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Where did those apostles get the instruction to elect an additional apostle, even as the Holy Spirit had not yet descended? This was the first incident on misleading the Church.  It was only after the Spirit had descended, that the Church experienced phenomenal growth:

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32) (ESV).

Having everything in common was instigated by the power of the Holy Spirit, causing people to think communally. In other words, the real significance of “whatever you wish others to do to you, do also to them” was being fulfilled at that point. (Matthew 7:12). But Jesus had prescribed a method of giving that appears as having been disregarded by those believers? (Matthew 6:1-4)

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feed and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35) (ESV). This was to be a second incident on misleading the Church by the apostles.

There is a narrative of a man called Ananias and his wife, who perished, after having lied against the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). This unfortunate development could not have taken place, had Jesus’ instructions been taken word for word:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4) (ESV).

The method of giving, as practiced by those spirit-filled disciples was different from the teaching of Jesus, on this passage of Scripture. The costly mistake of Ananias and his wife was in seeking to do what everyone else was doing—so as to receive approval. This couple could not have fallen into this trap, had the giving been applied according to Jesus’ teachings.

Bear in mind that Jesus had taught the secrets of the Kingdom only to those, having left everything to follow him (Mark 4:10-12). Jesus did not divulge the things of God to the people who would have not been ready for that information. Messing up with the Holy Spirit can be highly dangerous.

The reason why Jesus could not divulge the Kingdom secrets to ordinary people is that He knew how lost in sin, humanity had been. The Lord had driven the couple out of the Garden of Eden and made sure that they would not access the tree of Life:

“Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23-24) (ESV).

The blockage of the Holy Spirit, was for the humanity’s own good. God does not allow what is unholy to mix up with what is holy. This is why Jesus was very clear in that to be His follower one had to first forsake everything, including self-denial (Luke 14:25-33). One cannot be a disciple of Jesus when still committed to the things of this world.

The behaviour of Jesus, showed how dangerous it can be to just divulge the secrets of God’s Kingdom, to those not yet ready for that information. There are two Scriptural references that are analogous, but remain enigmatic to most Christians. The first is covered in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7), the other was when hinted by Jesus in Matthew 12:31-32.

These two scriptural references are one and the same thing. God cannot forgive anyone who takes the name of the Lord in vain, in this life or in the life to come. The gift of the Holy Spirit is accessible to those having repented and having accepted Jesus as personal Saviour.

This is why Jesus insisted on counting the costs before accepting baptism. What exposed Ananias and his wife to the danger was the disciples’ failure to maintain what Jesus had taught them. This exposure may still be with us, even today. This is when taking everything recorded in the book of Acts as sacrosanct. However, Jesus had insisted that His disciples were supposed to abide by everything He taught.

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This does not necessarily mean discarding the book of Acts and everything written after Jesus had left. What is necessary is to use Jesus’ words as stable datum. A careful person checks everything said by anyone, against what Jesus taught. The third incident on misleading the Church as affecting the modern Church is by Paul:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:1-5) (ESV).

These appear as beautiful and noble instructions on leadership, by the apostle Paul, according to human reasoning. But they hold nothing to do with Jesus’ instructions, concerning the Church that He established. All the confusion that is in Christianity emanates from this passage of Scripture.

However, it never dawned on Paul that his communication with Timothy would cause confusion even in our time. Anyone taking the words of Jesus verbatim, is like someone building on solid rock (Matthew 7:24-27). This was said by Jesus, after giving the lecture that is commonly known as Sermon on the Mount.

Certainly, Jesus cannot say things, only to reverse them, through another person, regardless of whatever position that person assumes to hold?  Were Paul’s instructions applicable to Christianity, according to Jesus? Let us verify:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1) (ESV).

If Christians are expected not to practice righteousness before men, how would Timothy be able to accurately identify an overseer, for instance?  But a simple question is on how Paul himself was chosen to be an apostle. Did Jesus use the criteria that Paul is instructing Timothy to be cognizant of? Everyone knows that Paul was called by Jesus whilst on his unsavoury mission to Damascus.

Paul was not even married, to be qualified to judge on matters of marriage and child-rearing? While everyone knew Paul as a murderer, only Jesus knew his potential, as to call him into the ministry. Why should Paul’s calling be different from those that Timothy would be expected to ordain? These are, but just few questions, to show that Paul’s instructions to Timothy, were not inspired at all—except coming from his own opinion.

Does all this mean that Paul should be regarded as a heretic? Does this also mean that everything that Paul taught should be discarded, as to make him apostate? Answers to these questions cannot be in the affirmative. There is a lot of what Paul wrote, which can affirm him being effectively used by Jesus in his ministry. The same applies to all the other apostles.

Trouble with humanity is that they love idolizing other human beings, thereby, losing focus on God. Why can’t everyone accept truth in that only Jesus is the way, truth and the Life? Even when He was hear, Jesus faced opposition with people stuck on tradition to idolize other humans:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) (ESV).

If the early apostles did not deserve denouncing for teaching what Jesus did not teach, why should people like Armstrong be denounced? I use Armstrong’s name, not because I love him more than those similarly denounced. This is only because I was one of those directly affected by his wrong teachings. See [Defending the Pharisees, the apostles, SDAs WCG and GCI].

However, I personally view Herbert Armstrong as having understood the Bible better than orthodox Christianity, for two simple reasons: 1) Herbert Armstrong did not rely on other people, on everything that he taught. He was passionate about teaching what he understood to be scriptural. Yet in the history of his ministry he changed, whenever convinced of being wrong.

This is not the case with orthodox Christianity, who seem to fit in well with lukewarm Christians of Revelation 3:16-17. Such lukewarm Christians are known to be very critical of those behaving like Armstrong. Instead of taking responsibility to help such people, they seat in the comfort of passing negative comments.

Mr Armstrong’s zeal displayed being among those categorized as hot, though misguided, in some areas. Vigorously teaching anything assumed as correct, even when completely unscriptural, is not problematic with God. As long as God would not have revealed the truth to the person concerned. The question is on what the person decides to do, after He would have shown you the error?

Orthodox Christians do not tolerate those regarded as unbelievers, who in some cases they classify as Satanists. But such are the cold ones who Jesus tolerates, along side the hot ones who teach what is considered as unorthodox. Both the cold and hot have one common attribute; they do not pretend, in order to please other people. Both may be behaving ignorantly, but there is no pretence in their conducts.

In Revelation 3:16-17, it is clear that Jesus loves both the cold and the hot groups, rather than the lukewarm. Basically, the enemies of Christ are the lukewarm Christians. When analysing Scriptures, these are the people who Jesus says He would spew. See [Only the “Red Hot” Christians will make it].

Bear in mind that being accurate in understanding the Bible is not what God is interested in. But being hot, or cold. 2) During his time as leader of Worldwide Church of God, Herbert Armstrong experienced phenomenal growth, annually, on all corners of the world. Probably except Russia and China? His critics cannot deny that they cannot match this reality. Yet unable to appreciate the fact that this growth could not have been possible without the power of the Holy Spirit.

The orthodox Christianity suggests that you are a good Christian, as long as not moving out of what is taught in orthodox Christianity. Teaching anything different, invites being labelled a “heretic.” There is nothing complimentary with the term “heretic,” except scaring people away from everything you teach.

My personal commitment to Christianity was after having followed Herbert Armstrong’s teachings.  I regard myself as red hot, due to my association with Herbert Armstrong, not because of orthodox Christianity. Though now aware that there are some things that Armstrong taught, that were not Biblically accurate.

However, for me, this was a blessing in disguise, as enabling me to develop a skill of verifying information before adopting it. For instance, Orthodox Christianity is stuck on believing in the doctrine of Trinity. But I have long discarded this, as not based on truth. Those willing to verify the truth can check. See [The doctrine of Trinity is not revelation].

As for those remaining stuck with Armstrong’s teachings, this is the time to evaluate whether one stands on solid ground or not. (Luke 6:46-49). Such people are not, necessarily, the friends of Herbert Armstrong, as much as they assume to be. They are not different from those Corinthians who were sternly castigated by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). All true Christians are guided by what Jesus said:

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).

This does not necessarily imply that Christians should despise one another. Everything said by anyone, including what is on this website, should be compared against what Jesus taught. Christians should treat each other as brothers and not shying away from helping those teaching untruthful data.

The great example is that of Aquila and Priscilla who spotted the zeal with a man called Apollos and took time to sit down with him. Apollos had not yet been Scripturally grounded. (Acts 18:24-28). Instead of behaving like what this couple did, most Christians find comfort in criticizing such gifted preachers. They think more in terms of competition, than supporting one another in the advancement of the gospel.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.

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