By COGwriter [Robert Thiel]
Original version was published as "Consider candid responses to 15 accustations about Herbert W. Armstrong" in The Journal: News of the Churches of God, February 28, 2003, pp. 6-7. A few small updates have been included in the on-line version--mainly to address specific issues raised on-line (there was also a brief section on adversaries added).
Since first learning about the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) more than 30 years ago, I have heard many false accusations against the WCG and its leadership. This article, however, dwells only on the accusations I have personally heard against church founder Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA).
Although it is not likely this article will persuade anyone who has made up his mind that he/she doesn't like Herbert W. Armstrong, I hope those who are interested in the truth will realize that he has often been unfairly accused. (Those interested in more background on Herbert W. Armstrong may wish to read the article Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?)
One problem with doing this research is that Herbert W. Armstrong grew up during a time when one was taught not to dignify false accusations with an answer. Thus he almost never denied the many attacks against him personally.
Another problem is that since he is dead (he died January 16, 1986) I cannot ask him about any of these matters.
It has been said that it is impossible to prove a negative. So about the only way this writer knows how to try to do that concerning someone who is dead is list the accusations, review whatever facts are available, consult with some who were around Herbert W. Armstrong for decades, attempt to contact witnesses, and include that information in this article.
I spoke with many people who had much contact with Herbert W. Armstrong relevant to these accusations, I spoke with several of the accusers, and I had E-mail communication with the reporters of some of the accusations. I name many of my sources, but several requested that I not include their names.
I have also reviewed various of Herbert W. Armstrong writings and writings of his critics. The accusations answered in this article range from what some might describe as the trivial to the deadly serious.
No middle name
Accusation No. 1: Herbert W. Armstrong was named Herbert Armstrong at birth and did not have W as his given middle initial.
This is true according to Living Church of God founder Roderick Meredith of Charlotte, North Carolina, and from one of Herbert W. Armstrong's relatives who lives near Tyler, Texas.
In all U.S. States I am aware of, anybody can take just about any name he wants, including middle initials, as long as he has no intent to defraud anyone.
There were apparently so many Herbert Armstrongs that Herbert W. Armstrong decided the sheer number of them caused confusion. One of them even lived across the street from the Pasadena, Calif., campus of Ambassador College (the school Herbert W. Armstrong founded) in the early days, causing problems with mail deliveries.
Someone else who claimed to ask him about it reported the following:
I let loose the quizment somewhat as follows: “Mr. Armstrong, I have read your autobiography in The Plain Truth and do not see what the Win your name stands for. You know, that W between the Herbert and the Armstrong. Just what do you mean by the W in Herbert W. Armstrong? Mr. Armstrong, what does the W in your name stand for?”
The slight jerk of the head, the eyes now near slits, a metathought could well be arising in his brain that the young man standing before him might be one of those deviant students who came to question, to distort, to wreck.
But then the double take and doubt lifted like a misbegotten mist, and his face softened, like his hand, and he matter-of-factly replied: “Nothing. It stands for nothing.
I added it years ago.” I believe he said something about needing to add an identifying letter for postal purposes and that he wanted a letter that worked well with his name (Arnold JP. What’s the plain truth about the W? The Journal, print date September 29, 2009, p. 3).
Why Herbert W. Armstrong chose W is not clear, but by adding it he made his name more distinctive.
In Herbert W. Armstrong's early years it was not unusual for people to have middle initials that did not stand for anything. An example is Harry S. Truman. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, President Truman's initial did not represent a middle name.
The excesses of youth
Accusation No. 2: Herbert W. Armstrong drank to excess.
A quotation attributed to Herbert W. Armstrong's grandson has it that Herbert W. Armstrong drank too much (see a quote from John Tuit's 1981 book The Truth Shall Make You Free).
However, Herbert W. Armstrong's grandson told The Journal that he did not "recognize the first person statement attributed to me in Tuit's book".
Other observers have said he was often sluggish or sleepy, presumably from alcohol, almost every night.
Another wrote: "Armstrong himself admitted to excessive drinking as a young man, but 'not at all even the fraction of the volume of an alcoholic' (Autobiography, p. 240)" ("Booze!," Dec. 9, 2002, Missing Dimension Web site, published by Gavin Rumney, Auckland, New Zealand, www.missingdimension.com).
The truth is that Herbert W. Armstrong did drink alcohol, as do probably a majority of Church of God members. Here is specifically what he himself wrote about his younger days and alcohol:
I began palling around with two other young men who were advertising representatives of magazines. One of them was in process of separating from and divorcing his wife. The wife of the other was away for the summer and fall. We began to haunt nightclubs--then called cabarets. Often we would hang around these places of sorrowful, moaning, screeching, wailing music--if you could call such dirges 'music'--until 1 or 2 a.m. We began to drink--not at all even a fraction of the volume of an 'alcoholic'--but too much for efficiency (Autobiography of Herbert Armstrong, 1986 edition, p. 243).
However, if Herbert W. Armstrong had as much problem with his liver due to alcohol as his critics have contended, then maybe he would have died prematurely because of liver damage. But he lived to be 93 1/2 years old.
Also, Herbert W. Armstrong did take a variety of medications in his later years, and some can make a person appear under the influence of alcohol when such is not the case.
Further regarding the above quote attributed to Herbert W. Armstrong's grandson, he told this writer on Dec. 17, 2002:
"I did not say those things in Tuit's book. He [Herbert W. Armstrong] was not a drunkard, and if he were he never could have done all the things he did."
(He also made other strong denials of this allegation that I did not get down verbatim.)
This is the third or fourth accusation I have investigated in Tuit's book. Thus far every time I have contacted a source cited in the book, the source has denied making the accusation. I conclude that Tuit's book is entirely unreliable for anyone seriously interested in determining the truth about accusations against Herbert W. Armstrong.
Dixon Cartwright of Big Sandy, Texas, publisher of The Journal, did tell this writer that in the late 1970s at various times he answered the phone in the office of The Worldwide News in Pasadena when Herbert W. Armstrong was calling to dictate his editorial and that Herbert W. Armstrong "sounded as if he were under the influence."
However, Dixon Cartwright agreed that it is possible Herbert W. Armstrong could have been under the influence of medications, as Herbert W. Armstrong was on medications at the time.
Dr. Meredith, who knew Herbert W. Armstrong for over three decades acknowledged that he witnessed Herbert W. Armstrong drinking a "bit heavily" at times but never saw him incoherent or drunk.
Others have said Herbert W. Armstrong did drink at certain public functions and that he did, for a while, rely on alcohol to help him fall asleep at night--this part seems to be true.
Accusation No. 3: Herbert W. Armstrong was addicted to cocaine.
A former WCG member told me this in 1982.
This obviously false accusation is strongly denied by my numerous sources and in one respect is somewhat funny, since the toxic effects of cocaine are more or less the opposite of those for excess drinking: tachycardia, or extreme nervousness.
An addiction to cocaine would have been extremely difficult to conceal because, as one medical source (Merck Manual, 1999 edition) understates it: "Discontinuing sustained use of cocaine requires considerable assistance."
Accusation No. 4: Herbert W. Armstrong was guilty of gross sexual impropriety.
After reviewing the details of one particular allegation regarding sex and what I uncovered, Dixon Cartwright, The Journal's publisher, asked me to remove them from this article because of the lack of proof and because certain parties are not alive to defend themselves and because The Journal is a family publication.
Various versions of this accusation are extant, most of which seem to be based on a chapter of David Robinson's 1980 book Herbert W. Armstrong's Tangled Web. (A version of the accusations appears in Tuit's book as well.)
I investigated four allegations related to this specific accusation and concluded that unless certain alleged audiotapes (which have never been made public, and I requested them and even spoke to one who had claimed to hear them--he finally admitted to me that he actually had not heard them) surface (and I made diligent inquiry to attempt to find them, including dozens of phone calls, plus E-mails through late February 2003, and even later after this article was originally published), the accusations are not provable and aspects of the accusations are indeed disprovable.
Perhaps I should mention that since one aspect of these accusations is commonly attributed to a comment supposedly made by Herbert W. Armstrong's son Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) concerning his dad and another relative. I personally called Garner Ted Armstrong's office on Dec. 12, 2002 to inquire about this particular accusation. I was not able to speak with GTA directly, but a key employee of the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association discussed it with him and got back with me. Through his spokesperson, GTA declined to comment except to pass on the message that:
"everything you really need to know about my father is contained within the Autobiography (of Herbert W. Armstrong)."
Thus GTA would not stand by a statement attributed to him on this matter--so how can any believe this?
In December 2006, I saw a post at an anti-Church of God website that stated that Dibar Apartian supposedly confirmed that he felt that Herbert W. Armstrong was guilty of incest. On January 3, 2007, I spoke with Dibar Apartian about this. He knew Herbert W. Armstrong for the past 30 plus years of Herbert W. Armstrong's life. Dibar Apartian clearly and flatly denied the claim someone made that Dibar Apartian said he felt that Herbert W. Armstrong was guilty of incest.
Every single time I have gone to the alleged sources of information on this incest matter, none of these "sources" have ever stood by the statements that the anti-Herbert W. Armstrong critics have claimed were made. I would like to add that at that time Dibar Apartian was 88 1/2 years old and he specifically told me that it should be clear to everyone that he has nothing to gain by denying this. Dibar Apartian also told me that he has never once made a statement confirming any of Herbert W. Armstrong's alleged personal faults, and specifically that he never stated that he thought Herbert W. Armstrong was guilty of incest.
In his Tangled Web book, the late D. Robinson wrote that "like the Wizard of Oz, Herbert Armstrong is operating on image. When his hand is called, there is no substance there. Like the Wizard, he is just a lot of bluster."
Based on my experience in trying to track down credible sources for this accusation, all I find--including a whole chapter in Robinson's book--is "just a lot of bluster." Actually, it appears to me that no one who has made or repeated most of the accusations against Herbert W. Armstrong actually has any real proof for most of them--no one seems to have checked with either the primary (those involved) or secondary sources (those with proof), but instead relied on accusation and rumor--simply stating a false charge does not make it true, no matter how many times it may be repeated.
Accusation No. 5: Herbert W. Armstrong was improperly involved with female Ambassador College students.
Bernard Kelly's Bible Expositor newsletter of Oct. 19, 2001, publishes allegations that in 1957 Herbert W. Armstrong unsuccessfully attempted to recruit AC coed Suzanne Black as a "special lady" for the purpose of providing him with sexual favors and claimed that Herbert W. Armstrong justified his actions in this regard by declaring that he was "above the law."
To investigate, I spoke with many who were around Herbert W. Armstrong in the late 1950s, including Dr. Meredith, Dibar Apartian and Wilbur Berg. They all said that, based on their close association with him at the time, they believed such accusations could not be true.
If the accusations were true, why would Suzanne Black remain a WCG member until 1975, some 18 years after the alleged incidents, and why would her husband teach at Imperial Schools in Big Sandy and later at Ambassador College many years after the alleged incidents?
I even spoke with her husband, Wiley Black, on this matter. In my opinion his comments, as well as the report in Kelly's newsletter, were contradictory and illogical. It is clear to me that those that repeat this accusation simply have not attempted to question either of the Blacks about it.
B. Kelly also quotes S. Black as saying Herbert W. Armstrong's wife, Loma, forced her to clean toilets in a women's dormitory with her bare hands and that Dr. Meredith tried to drown her by pushing her head forcefully against a rock while he was baptizing her, an accusation Dr. Meredith categorically denies.
When taken as a whole, S. Black's testimony, as published by Kelly, lacks any credibility.
Herbert W. Armstrong's disposition
Accusation No. 6: Herbert W. Armstrong had a temper.
By numerous accounts, this accusation is true.
Accusation No. 7: Herbert W. Armstrong made false prophecies.
Various sources have leveled this accusation. For this article, I simply cite one of them, the book Transformed by Truth by Joseph Tkach Jr.
Under the heading "Failed Prophecies" in chapter 11, J. Tkach listed several supposed failed prophecies of Herbert W. Armstrong:
* Mr. Armstrong wrote that the death of Pope Paul VI could "plunge the world into the most terrifying crisis ever experience by man."
* Mr. Armstrong wrote that a meeting of Catholic cardinals "may well prove to be a WORLD-SHAKING EVENT--the most important world event since World War II!"
* In 1980 Mr. Armstrong wrote that the world had "entered into a 'whole new ball game.' The intervention of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan changes the whole world picture."
* Mr. Armstrong wrote that the 1980s "well might see the END of this present world; WAKE UP!"
* In the early '80s Mr. Armstrong wrote that "signs are now fast appearing that our Work of the GREAT COMMISSION may be much more near completed than we have realized." n Mr. Armstrong wrote, in the early '80s, that "God's great work through His Church (Philadelphia era) may be FINISHED in a matter of months."
* Mr. Armstrong wrote of the 1980 U.S. presidential election that "this present election travesty may well be the very LAST political election for the presidency of the United States, with little incompetent men vying for the coveted prize."
* In 1981 Mr. Armstrong wrote that the conditions that would allow Bible prophecies to be fulfilled were "fast accelerating, indicating that we are indeed in the very last of the last days." He predicted that "terrible, frightful things are going to happen in the next few years that are going to take the lives of probably two thirds or more of all the people now living on the face of the earth."
My response to J. Tkach's listing here of these supposed examples of Herbert W. Armstrong's prophecies is to point out that many of Herbert W. Armstrong's predictions did indeed come to pass, even though Herbert W. Armstrong obviously believed we were closer to the events of the very end time than we were.
Nevertheless, the death of Paul VI did trigger a drastic turnaround in world events, ultimately leading to the appointment by the Catholic cardinals of Pope John Paul II, who was instrumental in helping break Eastern Europe free from communist influence.
The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets did change world events markedly. It contributed to the bankrupting and disolution of the Soviet Union. It contributed to the influence of leaders such as Osama Bin Laden. Those events are still resonating in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the war on terrorism.
The WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong did at least partially fulfill the prophecies of Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 3:7-8 about the work of the end-time Church of God.
Regarding the 1980 presidential election, in November 1980, Herbert W. Armstrong sent Herman Hoeh out to state that the election of Ronald Reagan meant that there would be much more time (Sermon, Sacramento, November 1980). I personally heard this.
Herbert W. Armstrong did make various errors in the 1940s in his predictions concerning the outcome of World War II. But his main errors were when he suggested--or at least implied--dates for specific prophecies.
None of the specific "prophecy" items listed above in Transformed by Truth were actually false. After all, if the criterion for a true or false prophecy is that it happens when the predictor thinks it will happen, then Paul, Peter and even Jesus are guilty of the same type of false prophecies that Herbert W. Armstrong is accused of. (For example, "Surely I am coming quickly," Revelation 22:20).
Further, when Herbert W. Armstrong said something "may" happen, he was not making a false prophecy. It was true that certain things might have happened. He allowed for that when he used the word "may."
Herbert W. Armstrong critics also tend to forget that he made many correct predictions. For example, in the December 1948 issue of The Plain Truth Herbert W. Armstrong predicted a coming "United States of Europe." As recently as October 2002, Valery Giscard d'Estaing suggested that the name of the European Community should be changed to United States of Europe. I believe Herbert W. Armstrong was among the first if not the first to coin the term United States of Europe for the government that is even now still forming in Europe. Even if the EU is never renamed, the truth still stands that a united states of Europe is still forming.
Herbert W. Armstrong also correctly predicted that the Soviet Union would never launch a major attack on the United States. He also preached that East and West Germany would reunite (which happened) and lead a unified Europe (which is happening). At the Feast of Tabernacles in Tucson, Ariz., in October 1979, the WCG taught that the unified Europe would probably include many nations then in the communist bloc.
Although the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have not been taken over by a German-led unified (that ultimately will not include the U.K.), those of us in the Living Church of God believe this prediction will eventually come to pass (see Anglo - America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel).
Another point needs to be made here. Herbert W. Armstrong never claimed to be a "prophet" in the accepted sense (see accusation 14). He did not receive information in visions and dreams or from God face to face, as did the prophets of old. Therefore it is improper, in my opinion, to characterize any predictions of his that did fail to come to pass as "false prophecies."
Accusation No. 8: Herbert W. Armstrong made predictions he knew were false in order to maximize the WCG's income.
Although it is true that at one time Herbert W. Armstrong apparently believed that members of the WCG would probably "flee" to a "place of safety" in 1972 and that Jesus Christ would probably return in 1975, as those dates grew closer Herbert W. Armstrong and associates apparently began to have second thoughts about the accepted time line. John Robinson of Decatur, Ind., wrote an article in 1997 that talked about this aspect of the history of the WCG. As 1972 drew near, wrote John Robinson, some in the WCG:
"began to question the time line set forth by Mr. Armstrong and Herman L. Hoeh, the chief architect of the church's teachings on government and prophetic understanding. The first high- profile minister to do so was Roderick C. Meredith, then head of the WCG ministers . . .
"In the late 1960s Mr. Meredith wrote in a letter to the ministry that he felt there was 'more time left than we had expected.' "To his credit, Mr. Meredith tackled the issue head on and began to influence members to rethink the issue" ("WCG Governmental History Traced Up to Tkach Era," In Transition, Jan. 31, 1997).
Dr. Meredith informed me that Mr. Armstrong sent the letter (which was quoted by J. Robinson) to all WCG ministers in 1969.
Further, here is what Leroy Neff of Big Sandy, Texas, a retired WCG evangelist, treasurer and AC faculty member, said on the subject of Christ's predicted return in 1975:
"Rod Meredith preached strongly around 1970 that it was very unlikely" ("Third Ambassador Campus Came to Texas in 1964," by John Warren, The Journal, Sept. 30, 2002).
If Herbert W. Armstrong were trying to milk money out of church members and the church's "coworkers," you would think he would have waited until late 1975 and claimed to have had a vision that instructed him to change the date. Instead, he encouraged Dr. Meredith to inform the ministry and others that 1975 would not likely be the end. The truth is that Herbert W. Armstrong did believe what he wrote and so strongly wanted Christ to return that he sometimes allowed his enthusiasm to bias his writings.
Accusation No. 9: Herbert W. Armstrong was in it for the money.
Herbert W. Armstrong believed what he wrote--according to all sources with whom I spoke in connection with this article, including people I haven't yet mentioned by name, such as Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas, and even people who can be described as critics of Herbert W. Armstrong, such as Art Mokarow and Norman Edwards.
A careful reading of Herbert W. Armstrong's Autobiography reveals that his decision to preach had the immediate effect of hurting his income rather than enhancing it. It was several decades before his income was reliably better than before he had began to preach.
If Herbert W. Armstrong had been in it for the money, one would have expected him to retire at some point and live off what he had accumulated. Instead, he continued to make telecasts until shortly before he died at age 93, visited 70 nations to proclaim the gospel after he was of retirement age and pushed himself relentlessly to get the gospel out.
The value of world trips
Accusation No. 10: Herbert W. Armstrong wasted money visiting world leaders and other dignitaries, and in other ways, without financial accountabilty.
Herbert W. Armstrong believed that Matthew 24:14 (the gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations) applied to him personally. He went to 70 nations directly and all the rest indirectly (through attending, as well as speaking at, various state functions).
I do not doubt that some money was wasted, but, as a former cost accountant, I think I am qualified to state that money is almost always wasted to some degree when major projects are undertaken.
Of Herbert W. Armstrong's visits with world leaders Legacy Institutes' Leon Sexton of Bangkok, Thailand, wrote:
In 1984, Herbert W. Armstrong visited King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit in this same palace. I was along as part of the Ambassador Foundation team. At that time the queen explained her project and the goals she wanted to achieve to help her people. The project was in its infancy and the queen needed help. Mr. Armstrong decided to help the queen get her silk project off the ground and donated seed money. "Now, nearly two decades later, we find that the church's involvement in these projects to help the poor in Thailand, through the efforts of the king and queen, have once again been blessed by God and have born abundant fruit. So much for the gainsayers who say Herbert Armstrong was throwing money down a rathole by giving to help the royal family of Thailand or that he 'bought meetings' with them with church money! (as quoted from a letter to Legacy supporters dated Nov. 9, 2002).
Furthermore, regarding wasted money to do the work of God, even those called of God sometimes erroneously make this accusation--the disciples did!
A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.' But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her' (Matthew 26:8-14).
However, it was apparently Judas, who later betrayed Jesus, who objected the most,
Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. (John 12:3-6).
Perhaps Judas influenced the other disciples to believe a false accusation-and perhaps those in the Churches Of God can learn from this lesson and not let those who make false accusations improperly influence them.
Jack Kessler made a variety of accusations that money was wasted, etc.--WCG addressed those accusations in the Pastor General's Report dated March 18, 1982 and denied their validity. Furthermore, that same Pastor General's Report includes a reprint of statements made by Jack Kessler as of March 1, 1981 admitting that there had been no fraud and that the Arthur Anderson provided " completely unqualified opinions two years in a row" (an unqualified opinion, in laymen's terms, means that the outside auditors found nothing wrong of any importance). Hence for him to later change his position seems odd at best.
As indicated above regarding financial accountability, Herbert W. Armstrong's WCG was audited by major accounting firms and published proper financial statements. But for some reason, critics still tend to ignore them.
Accusation No. 11: Herbert W. Armstrong was never properly credentialed as a minister.
This is simply not true--though it is true that years after he left the Church of God (Seventh Day), they revoked his credentials with them.
Elder John Kiesz of Denver, Colo. (who died in 1996), an associate of Herbert W. Armstrong in the 1920s and '30s in the Church of God (Seventh Day) wrote (according to the Giving & Sharing Web site [www.giveshare.org]):
"In 1931 he [Herbert W. Armstrong] was ordained to the ministry, and in 1932 he received his Ministerial License Certificate from the Oregon Conference of the Church of God, signed by O.J. Runcorn as President, and Mrs. I.E. Curtis as Secretary. The headquarters of the General Conference of the Church of God (7th Day) had been at Stanberry, Missouri, since the late 1880's."
A photocopy of that license is shown in the article Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?
Furthermore, here is what Church of God (Seventh Day)-Denver's official website states:
What connections did/does the Church of God (Seventh Day) have with Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God?
Herbert W. Armstrong was a licensed minister of the Oregon Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) for several years in the 1930s. He was personally known by many of the Church's ministers at that time and worked in cooperation with them. In the late 1930s, Mr. Armstrong left the Church to begin his own work, which became known as the Radio Church of God and eventually the Worldwide Church of God (http://cog7.org/faq.htm 09/01/07).
Accusation No. 12: Herbert W. Armstrong was forgetful, and he was a plagiarist.
The truth is that yes, Herbert W. Armstrong could be forgetful. But he was not truly a plagiarist.
Notice the following:
In Transformed by Truth, Mr. Tkach Jr. wrote, “In fact, it is no secret that Herbert Armstrong’s The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy was copied from a book titled Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright by J.H. Allen.” He offers no support for this plagiarism charge. It’s just true because he says so—it’s “no secret”—everyone knows Mr. Armstrong “copied” it. But if you actually take the time to examine the two books, you will find that they are entirely different. Yes, entirely.
Just because both books discuss the modern identity of the lost 10 tribes of ancient Israel does not mean Mr. Armstrong “copied” Allen. If William Manchester and Martin Gilbert both write biographies about Winston Churchill, does that mean one plagiarized the other?
And it’s not like Mr. Armstrong tried to conceal the fact that he read Allen’s book when studying the subject of ancient Israel’s migration into Europe. He said, “It’s true that I had read one or two other writings and that book of J.H. Allen on the truth about the lost 10 tribes.” But it would be a “bald-faced lie” for anyone to say it was copied, Mr. Armstrong said.
“I examined this so-called Anglo-Israel theory,” he continued. “But I checked it very carefully with the Bible, and I only believed what I saw in the Bible. I didn’t believe and I threw out a lot of what they had.” Isn’t that the way any honest theologian would study a biblical commentary or history? If it squares with the truth of the Bible, then Mr. Armstrong was entitled to expound upon it just as much as any other theologian.
J.H. Allen introduced his book by writing, “Although it is not generally known, it is nevertheless true that God made two covenants with Abraham ….” Compare that to the introductory statement in The United States and Britain in Prophecy: “A staggering turn in world events is due to erupt in the next few years. It will involve violently the United States, Britain, Western Europe, the Middle East.” These opening remarks, like the titles for both books, highlight the vast difference between the two.
J.H. Allen organized his work into these three sections: 1) the birthright promise; 2) the scepter promise; and 3) the veil being lifted from the Abrahamic nations. The first two sections revolve around the promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and how they played out in history. And to Allen’s credit, he tried to be honest with the Bible as compared with secular history.
The third section is also mostly historical and secular. And when Allen does venture into explaining the prophetic significance, he veers way off course.
Mr. Armstrong’s book, on the other hand, is about a prophesied captivity to come upon our peoples unless we repent of our sins. That is the book’s central focus from beginning to end.
In expounding on these end-time prophecies, Mr. Armstrong devoted some space in the book, between chapters 3 and 8, to establish Israel’s present-day identity based upon Bible and secular history. These are crucial historical facts that must be explained for readers to understand the truth about end-time prophecy. J.H. Allen is to be credited for teaching the truth about some of these historical facts. But he certainly did not grasp the tremendous significance of this history as it relates to Bible prophecy.
And yet, that’s what the last six chapters of Mr. Armstrong’s book are devoted to—expounding upon the real significance of this history as it relates to end-time prophecy. In chapter 10, for instance, Mr. Armstrong wrote about how the birthright promises were withheld for 2,520 years. There is nothing like this in Allen’s book. Another chapter asks the question, “Why did Israel lose its identity?” J.H. Allen not only failed to answer that question, he never asked it. Then Mr. Armstrong concluded his book by discussing what is prophesied to happen to the American and British peoples in the very near future—a conclusion that is not only different, but at complete odds with J.H. Allen’s conclusions.
While it is true that Mr. Armstrong read Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright, along with other books about the “Anglo-Israel” theory, he did not copy those works. Joe Jr. made that dishonest claim without any supportive evidence whatsoever, simply because he dislikes Mr. Armstrong and doesn’t agree with the book that more than 6 million people requested. (Flurry S. Credentials. Philadelphia Trumpet. January 2007, p. 33).
After reading various editions of Herbert W. Armstrong's United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy and J.H. Allen's book Jacob's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright, I do not agree that he was guilty of plagiarizing Allen's book.
Although I believe Herbert W. Armstrong got certain ideas about this subject from Mr. Allen and, from what I have heard, the first edition of US&BC, which I have not seen, was much closer to Allen's work, I also believe Herbert W. Armstrong simply comes to conclusions different from Allen's in too many instances for any plagiarism charge to hold water, especially in Herbert W. Armstrong's later editions. Of course, if Herbert W. Armstrong did make significant use of Allen's work, then he should have credited Allen, even if his use of this work falls short of plagiarism.
Herbert W. Armstrong paraphrased more than he should have, but, since he, along with his wife, Loma, was the entire editorial and publish staff for a while, it is understandable that they could have become careless in this regard.
Regarding Has Time Been Lost?, it appears that this booklet was quite similar to a booklet originally produced by the Church of God (Seventh Day) (CG7). According to an article by Norman Edwards (Servant's News, November 1998), the CG7 did not have a copyright notice on it when it published it. Edwards also wrote,
"The two booklets are word-for-word identical in about half of the places. Armstrong did add some things, but in many places he simply dropped out information--such as the 1910 dates of encyclopedias which, if included, would make the booklet look 'old' (see p. 24)."
At the time CG7 published it, without such a copyright notice, the information was in the 'public domain' and it would have been legal for it to have been copied and republished (but I feel that should something in the book should have indicated that it was republished). I think it is likely that either Herbert W. Armstrong did not recall that he did not write much of this particular booklet or some of his staff made an improper assumption.
As a writer I can verify that the more you write the less you remember about what you actually did write. I think a factor in Herbert W. Armstrong's failure to properly credit other sources was his lack of formal education. Even though he was a naturally talented writer, he was not privy to formal training that would have instilled in him the highest regard for properly crediting other people's works.
The 18 truths
Accusation No. 13: Herbert W. Armstrong's "18 truths" are not individually all original.
This is true but not relevant. People who hurl this accusation fail to recall that Herbert W. Armstrong did not say he came up with his list of truths. He wrote (bolding mine):
"At least 18 basic and essential truths have been restored to the True Church since" the year 1933 (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, p. 251).
And Herbert W. Armstrong said in a sermon in which he listed the truths that the "Philadelphia Era of the Church," which he believed to be the WCG, was "restoring what had been taken away, restoring what had been taken away" (Sermon. "Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era," Dec. 17, 1983). (Here is a link to an article that list those truths titled Did You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made?)
Thus Herbert W. Armstrong believed the Ephesus (apostolic) era, the first of seven, held to certain truths that God used him to restore to the Philadelphia (sixth) era of the church. Herbert W. Armstrong also acknowledged that other, non-Church of God, groups had portions of the truth (he wrote this in a letter to WCG members dated Nov. 19, 1976).
Accusation No. 14: Herbert W. Armstrong, as did Joseph Smith, Ellen White, and other religious leaders, claimed to have divine revelations.
Herbert W. Armstrong did not claim to have massive amounts of biblical truth instantly revealed to him by God or an angel. He documents in his autobiography how he engaged himself in a six-month study of the Bible after being challenged on the Sabbath and other issues--and then later a 3 1/2 year study. He also wrote,
"Emphatically I am NOT a prophet, in the sense of one to whom God speaks directly, revealing personally a future event to happen or new truth, or new or special instruction from God--separate from, and apart from what is contained in the Bible. And I never have claimed to be" (Tomorrow's World, June 1972).
An unlikely source to back up Herbert W. Armstrong's claim in this regard would be Joseph Tkach Jr. Yet, here is some more of what he wrote about Herbert W. Armstrong and the subject of divine revelation in Transformed by Truth:
Mr. Armstrong used the term revealed in a way substantially different from how one might see it defined in most dictionaries or seminary textbooks. When he said something had been revealed to him, he did not mean that God had poured the new understanding directly into his waiting mind. No, whatever the new teaching happened to be, it usually came through a more human channel. "When some people hear this for the first time, they wrongly assume that Mr. Armstrong knowingly talked about 'new revelation' in a deceitfully malicious way. When he'd talk about ideas being revealed to him, most people automatically assumed he meant revealed in the sense of Paul's experience on the Damascus road or Isaiah's experience when he was called into ministry as described in Isaiah 6. But this would be to misunderstand. "Mr. Armstrong's use of the term revealed was a good deal more elastic than that, and I don't believe it was deliberately deceitful or malicious . . . Regardless of what you may personally think of Herbert W. Armstrong, one fact is incontrovertible: The overriding reason our reforms have developed and taken root is that Mr. Armstrong himself always insisted that those who want to follow God must find out what God's Word really says, then go and do it.
J. Tkach's most serious charge
Accusation 15: Herbert W. Armstrong ran a cult.
If the Joseph Tkach WCG had real reason to know that Mr. Armstrong was guilty of any of the 14 previous accusations, it is logical that it would have mentioned them or perhaps included them in his book Transformed by Truth. The truth is that the only accusations above that are directly mentioned to in the book (or official WCG sources) are those regarding prophecies. Yes, J. Tkach states that Herbert W. Armstrong was wrong doctrinally and prophetically, but perhaps the roughest comment alluded to be against Herbert W. Armstrong in Transformed by Truth was suggesting Herbert W. Armstrong taught "cultism": "As successor to WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong, Tkach boldly led the Pasadena, California-based church from cultism into Christianity." I disagree. I believe he ran the most biblically-based church that existed on the earth--which, according to Jesus, would be a little flock (Luke 12:32).
God uses imperfect people
Throughout history, God has called and used imperfect human beings. Noah is recorded to have gotten drunk (Genesis 9:21). Lot got drunk at least two times and then unknowingly committed incest on those occasions (19:30-36), yet the Bible calls him 'righteous' (II Peter 2:7-8). Abraham (12:12-13), Isaac (26:7), Jacob (27:24), and Joseph (42:7) all lied or were at least misleading at some time. Sarah dealt harshly with a maidservant (16:6;21:10) and lied to God's representative (18:15). Moses had a temper, was a murderer, and a fugitive from justice (Exodus 2:11-15). David was a womanizer (I Samuel 25:42-43), adulterer (II Samuel 11:3-4), and murderer (11:14- 24), who displeased God (vs. 27), yet David was also a man after God's heart (I Samuel 13:14). The Apostle Peter lied, cursed, and denied Jesus (Mark 14:67-71), and later was caught being hypocritical by the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul referred to himself as a "wretched man" (Romans 7:24) and his original name was Saul (Acts 7:58). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). By writing this paragraph, I am not saying that I think Herbert W. Armstrong is guilty of anything I did not think he was guilty of before (and even if he was and he repented, that is between him and God).
I am simply stating that if the reader comes to a different conclusion on some of the accusations, that simply does not take away from what God had him accomplish.
The fact remains that it is pretty hard--some would say impossible--to prove a negative. No matter how many people with whom I try to verify various supposed facts, it is nearly impossible to prove that something did not happen. On the other hand, most of the allegations I have encountered are illogical, do not fit with the facts and cannot be properly verified either (plus Herbert W. Armstrong has been dead for more than 21 years).
Jesus accused too
Jesus was falsely called "a glutton and a winebibber" (Luke 7:34), was implied to be a child of fornication (John 8:41), falsely accused of having a demon (Matthew 12:24), questioned about whether he paid taxes (Matthew 17:24;22:17), and was falsely accused of breaking the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14). He was correctly called (by some of the same accusers) "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34), called the leader of people accused of transgressing the "traditions of the elders" (Matthew 15:2), one who had many false witnesses rise up against him (Matthew 26:59-60), recorded to have demonstrated public anger and outrage (Mark 11:15-21), reportedly arrested as if He were a robber (Mark 14:48), and crucified with thieves (Matthew 27:38)). Jesus was even "numbered with the transgressors" (Luke 22:37), yet Jesus was the Son of God.
People attacked Jesus personally because they did not want people to heed His message--that appears to be a leading reason for the accusations against Herbert W. Armstrong. It is easier to attempt to attack the messenger than the biblical message. Of course, today, many not only attack the dead, but the living-- such as Roderick Meredith, human leader, under Jesus Christ, of the Living Church of God (for more information, please read the article 11 Accusations and Truthful Responses about Roderick Meredith).
That you be not condemned
Those who wish to pass judgment against Herbert W. Armstrong on the aforementioned allegations would do well to mediate on this:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matthew 7:1-2).
If something illegal ever happened, the apparently proper biblical course of action (according to an incident involving the Apostle Paul) would have been to press charges, for if any "have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls" (Acts 19:38-39). The courts were open for Herbert W. Armstrong when he was alive, and if any crime occurred the charges should have been brought 23 to 75 years ago.
Actually, when the WCG was charged in court for alleged misuse of public funds (and it is my understanding that John Tuit was one of the parties that filed against Herbert W. Armstrong on this), the State of California eventually dismissed the charges. Though various accusations may have been made in court cases, Herbert W. Armstrong was never convicted of any crime I am aware of, including any of the accusations listed in this article, nor was real proof of them offered against him in court.
If Herbert W. Armstrong were guilty of a crime, God will have to judge him. Although I do believe some of the charges I listed above are valid--such as Herbert W. Armstrong's temper and (with the qualifications I listed) his carelessness in not properly credited some of his sources--I do believe was a man of God.
Most of the allegations against him are similar to those made against other spiritual leaders down through the ages. God holds us accountable for what we know. In this article, I did my best to share what I know about the accusations and truth about Mr. Armstrong. I have little doubt that his critics will try to dismiss most of the truth shown in this article.
In 2009, Dr. Doug Winnail of the Living Church of God wrote the following:
Dealing with Adversaries: Periodically, critics and adversaries rise up to attack God’s Work, God’s people and the ministry by hurling criticism, spreading rumors, lies and half-truths, and doing whatever they can to foster doubt and division. However, those whom God is calling and using need to understand—it comes with the territory! Long ago, Solomon wrote, “an ungodly man [or woman] digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire” (Proverbs 16:27). Solomon also observed, “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles” (Proverbs 18:8). However, this is a poor diet that eventually produces a sick and angry mind. Persecution has dogged God’s people down through the ages. Joseph was imprisoned on false charges (Genesis 39). Angry religious leaders plotted against Jeremiah and determined to “attack him with the tongue.” Yet, God told Jeremiah, “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you” (Jeremiah 18:18; 1:19). Jesus had to endure mocking and vehement accusations by religious and civil leaders who wanted to destroy His ministry (Luke 23:10-11). Stephen was accused by false witnesses (Acts 6:11-13). The Apostle Paul dealt with people who “spoke evil of the Way” (Acts 19:9) and he encountered “many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Peter warned that false teachers who have gone astray would “speak evil of things they do not understand” (2 Peter 2:12). Critics and adversaries seldom realize that when they begin to spread their criticism, accusations and lies, they have adopted Satan’s methods and become agents in his hands to destroy the Work of God (see John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9-10). As God’s people, we need to reflect on these biblical examples and remember that wise people don’t believe everything they hear—and, if they are troubled by something, they seek accurate information. (Winnail D. World Ahead Weekly Update, January 29, 2009).
He, of course, is correct.
Hearing the truth
Perhaps I should mention that the Bible also suggests that knowing the facts about possibly sordid matters can help one that God is calling. Those who may doubt that should recall that Joseph was not quite sure on how to handle Mary's premarital pregnancy until God sent an angelic messenger to tell him the facts (Matthew 1:18-23). Is it not hard to believe that your fiance is a virgin when she is pregnant?
Joseph, however, made the right decision once he heard the truth (vs. 24). But others in the Bible did not, even though the truth had been revealed to them (i.e. Eve, Jonah).