Any Good Doctrine in the
Worldwide Church of God Era?
Did HWA have some good basic Christian doctrine, or could it have been "doctrines of devils"? Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International) wants others to believe they have always been a "Christian denomination (i. e., church)"1 and always had "some" good doctrine (albeit twisted a little) from the very beginning.
Here are the myths and half-truths that they would like others (especially those who have joined their organization since Herbert W. Armstrong's death in 1986) to believe their founder taught.
Included is: What are Doctrines of Devils?
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" ~Galatians 1: 6.
(1) "We taught that Jesus Christ was the Son of God."
The truth: HWA did not believe that Jesus was the eternal Son of God;2 he taught that He was the second member of the "God family"; the "Word" in eternity past. He taught that Jesus was not perfect, that He could have sinned and been lost forever, and needed to be born-again, since He inherited a sin nature.3
(2) "We taught that Jesus was coming back again."
The truth: HWA taught a Jesus who was coming back to "restore (enforce) the government of God"4 (e.g., the Mosaic Law) which was to be a Kingdom on earth only for those who accepted HWA's doctrine and became a member of his "one true church."
(3) "We taught that Jesus died on the cross for our sins."
The truth: HWA taught that Jesus died because He "bled to death" on the cross5 (or died after a spear pierced his side) when He actually died of His own volition before the spear even pierced Him. (See John 10:18 and Matt. 27:50) HWA taught that Jesus' death only covered our "past" sins, when He died for all our sins--past, present and future. (Hebrews 10:12; I John 2:2; 4:10)
(4) "We believed in Jesus' virgin birth."
The truth: HWA did not really believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man in His incarnation, because he taught that as a human He had to strive day and night not to sin, and that it was possible that He "could have sinned." (see #1 above) This is a false Jesus. The Word of God reveals that Jesus had no sin in Him (II Corinthians 5:21) and therefore He could not have sinned.
(5) "We taught that God was the Creator of everything."
The truth: HWA taught that the "Word" (whom he said was the second member of the "God family") created everything and that Christ was "the God of the Old Testament." HWA denied the omniscience of God the Father, believing those in the WCG would "counsel and advise God" when they "became God" in a so-called "God family." He denied God's omnipresence and taught that He was not everywhere, only His "power" was. HWA said that God the Father was not the same essence as God the Son. This is not the true God of the Bible.
(6) "We believed that Christ was resurrected from the dead."
The truth: HWA taught that Christ's resurrection was not physical; i.e., He was not resurrected with the same body, but a different body than that placed in the grave.6 The body that was placed in the grave simply "disappeared." (See Luke 24:38-40 and John 20:25-27). This is a false Jesus.
(7) "We believed that the sacrificial laws were done away with."
The truth: HWA knew it would be impossible to get his members to offer sacrifices today. However, he deceptively taught that whenever the word "law" was mentioned in the book of Galatians it was referring to the "sacrificial (or ceremonial) laws," not the entire Mosaic Law. This was a lie. You cannot pick and choose from the old covenant laws. (Galatians 3:10)
(8) "We believed in the repentance for sins."
The truth: HWA taught that repentance meant to beat ourselves down; to see our entire human nature as "filthy, rotten, vile; selfish and worthless." (Read some HWA quotes on repentance.) He taught repentance would result in going "God's Way" (i. e., keeping the Law) which actually meant to obey all of HWA's teachings, lest one never obtain eternal salvation. This is not the meaning of repentance. The Greek word metanoia, which is translated repentance in our English Bibles, means "a change of mind." The sin question is over as Christ died for all our sins.
(9) "We believed in the fellowship of believers."
The truth: Members had no true Biblical, Christ-centered fellowship with each other, because fellowship in the WCG meant to "serve the organization." (See: The Truth Behind "Love Your Neighbor") Members were taught to spy on one another and to report to the minister those who weren't submissive to the "government of God" (headquarters).
Bible-based cults will always say, "Jesus is the Son of God," but the real truth of what they believe departs radically from those few words.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" ~I Timothy 4:1
Many who have studied Bible-based cults or high control religious groups believe that Satan is the founder of them and they are filled with lying spirits (demons), and the only way to set anyone completely free is with the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The human heart, unaided, will not invent exact opposites of Christian teaching" (Kirby Kinman). Anyone teaching so many opposites of Christianity, as HWA does, must have been influenced by Satan somehow, sometime, somewhere. ~S. E. Anderson
Can we know if Herbert Armstrong could have been influenced by the forces of darkness and indeed taught doctrines of devils (i. e., doctrines of demons)? This can be easily seen when one studies the doctrines of other Bible-based cults.
There was a man named Johannes Greber who was deeply involved with the occult. He was the translator of the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation Bible. He openly states that he accomplished this through his wife who was a medium. By using his wife and contacting a demon in the spirit world (which is totally unscriptural) he came up with a "doctrinal statement." Although these are doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses, one can clearly see that many are what Herbert Armstrong taught as truth. When we realize that HWA plagiarized doctrines from the JW's (and others), this should come as no surprise. (See chapter three of ESN's critical review of Mystery of the Ages for proof of this.)
Following are direct quotes from the demon that Johannes Greber contacted:7
- Jesus Christ is not God.
- Jehovah only is God (the Father).
- Jesus Christ is a created being.
- Michael (the archangel) is a God.
- Christ's body was not resurrected.
- The body of Jesus was dematerialized.
- There is no eternal hell.
- Higher powers of Romans 13 are not the earthly governments.
- The Bible is not inspired or dependable.
- The Christian church today is not preaching the Gospel.
While Herbert Armstrong did not teach every one of the above, we can spot the ones he copied from Jehovah's Witnesses.
He also also copied and plagiarized from many other religious groups, including the 7th-day Adventists. Read 2013 letter to ESN from a former SDA which asserts that Ellen G. White had a "spirit guide" disguised as an angel of light who told her things.
The false teacher first departs from the truth, next he listens to and co-operates with "deluding spirits." This is how "doctrines of demons" are born. ~Merrill F. Unger
When members started exiting Worldwide Church of God in 1995 as a result of the new doctrinal changes, they were very unclear about God due to HWA's teaching. Many members were left in the dark about what was being taught, and the WCG leadership never went into depth about the Holy Spirit being a Divine Being because they didn't want to admit that they may have been wrong, nor did they want to deal with the enormity of it.
WCG headquarters, at this time, started talking about "hypostasies," which was entirely confusing to the members. They only spent two Sabbaths discussing what they called the "nature of God." On one headquarters' tape Dr. Stavrinides8 chastised members for being ignorant of Greek and stated that he had always understood that God was three beings in one. That's laughable considering how he never wrote any articles in all the decades he was in the WCG about this (as he says) "important" issue. If he knew the proper Greek all along, then why didn't he refute HWA's teaching about the Trinity since HWA was openly adamant about this being "pagan." Even more interesting is that no member ever heard from this Greek "Dr." since that sermon!
Herbert Armstrong's teaching on the denial of the Holy Spirit being God is very similar to what Jehovah's Witnesses taught.
"Contrary to popular misconception, Constantine did not have a vote, nor did he participate in the arguments for or against the Trinity. After the council of Nicaea, Constantine converted to Arianism. Soon after, anyone who opposed the Arian doctrine was exiled. … It is commonly taught that Constantine instituted the Trinity doctrine into the church. History reveals that the opposite is true. Constantine was baptized as an Arian. The Arians were anti-Trinitarians. The change in the church was not as the result of the Council of Nicaea. At the council, the historic position of the church was affirmed and written into a creed. It was after this council that historic Christianity was exiled and replaced with the Arian heresy." (Excerpted from: Heresies and Heretics in the Early Church, p. 5, by Eddie Snipes, Exchanged Life Ministries)
If you would like help in untwisting demonic doctrines, one place is Kevin Quick's website (former Jehovah's Witness), as he has an excellent book Reasoning with Jehovah's Witnesses that can be downloaded for free. Kevin Quick's testimony is incredible. When he was a Jehovah's Witness, he did an intense Bible study to try to prove Christians wrong. The result? Kevin proved them right and he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. His notes are very helpful because he first gives the JW's belief, or beliefs, then he asks questions concerning it and next quotes ten or more scriptures for the answer. For instance, he clearly shows through Scripture the deity of Christ, which HWA and all cultic groups will deny. (See footnote #3 below which shows HWA taught the heretical belief that Jesus had "sinful flesh" and was not the eternal Son of God.)
When you say that you believe in God and deny the deity of Christ, you really do not believe in God, certainly not the God of the Bible. ~J. Vernon McGee
Investigate every anti-Trinitarian quote from HWA and you will find that every quote is a misquote, which left out pertinent information that supported the Father as God, Jesus as God and the Holy Spirit as God. (For evidence that I John 5:7 is a part of Scripture, see The Epistle of 1st John - a Brief Commentary.) When you challenge the teachings that have been ingrained into your mind by Herbert Armstrong's twisted logic and just read the Scriptures, it all becomes quite clear.
I hope you will no longer doubt the deity of Jesus, nor the personage of the Holy Spirit.9 I feel that as long as a person does not acknowledge this, he can never fully understand God. All religious cults deny the deity of Jesus, so that should tell you something right there.
We have only covered a sample of what Herbert Armstrong taught. For much more information on HWA's doctrines and how he perverted the Scriptures, see our list of books that are helpful in refuting Armstrong's doctrinal errors and also our section on Grace and Law (and other teachings).
By D. M. Williams and Lindsey Anderson
Exit & Support Network™
November 22, 2005
Last updated April 15, 2013
Footnotes by ESN:
1 "Worldwide Church of God Fact Sheet" and "Information About the Worldwide Church of God," 2000-2004 states, "The Worldwide Church of God, a Christian ministry established in Eugene, Oregon, in 1933..." Also in other publications; i. e., "WCG considers denominational name change" by Joseph Tkach, October 2005 WCG Today. [Note: In May 2006 WCG Today was changed to Together. A few years later Together was no longer available Their magazine is now Christian Odyssey.] Also see: Has WCG (GCI) whitewashed Herbert W. Armstrong? (Q&A)
2 "Before Jesus was conceived by Mary, He was not the SON of God. ... In John 1:1 He is called the 'Logos' -- the Word." ("Just What Do You Mean ... Born Again?" by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1962, 1971, 1972. "Jesus Christ became perfect...He developed the perfection of spiritual character which enabled Him to become our Savior and elder brother. (The Ambassador College Correspondence Course, Lesson 9, p. 10 (1972).
3 "Yes, Jesus had sinful flesh." ("Millions Do Not Know What Christ Really Was!" by Herbert W. Armstrong, The Plain Truth, November 1963, pp. 11f.); "He was not the 'Son' of God until He was born of the virgin Mary." (The Plain Truth, July/August, 1955, p. 4). Also in: "Why Were You Born?" by Herbert W. Armstrong, p. 14; "What Do You Mean...Born Again?" by Herbert W. Armstrong and "Could Jesus Have Sinned?" by Garner Ted Armstrong. .
4 "What is the True Gospel" by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1972. Also, see quotes from the booklet, The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What it Will be Like.
5 "Do You Have an Immortal Soul" by Garner Ted Armstrong, p. 3, 1957, 1971)
7 List taken from Questions for Jehovah's Witnesses, For Those Who Love the Truth" by William and Joan Cetnar.
8 Read about this in a letter to Janis Hutchinson by Kelly Marshall. Kyriacos Stavrinides (also known as Dr. K. J. Stavrinides) had no real degree in theology and rambled a lot when explaining the Trinity to members.
9 HWA didn't believe in the personage of the Holy Spirit, yet while teaching that we must "develop character," he overlooked that sanctification is by the Holy Spirit. (See II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2) Read: Is the Holy Spirit Only the Power of God? (lists many Scriptures and also covers Jesus' two natures)