Exit and Support Network

Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)

By Kelly Marshall

 

Introduction - How the Seven Mysteries Were Revealed

"How can an individual write such extreme praise of himself and his writings, attach such enormous, crucial, vital importance to his writings, argue for his being a special, one of a kind, never-before-seen, never-to-be-repeated agent of God and then impute a lack of meekness and humility and teachableness to those who doubt this?" ~Former member of Jehovah's Witnesses referring to Charles Taze Russell

The title to the introduction does not reveal any more about the mysteries introduced in the Preface. Herbert Armstrong must first establish himself as God's Apostle. (Although he does not say it here—you have to be "in the Church" before this is revealed to you.) The opening of this chapter continues the contrast between evil (poverty, crime, immorality, etc.) and progress. What is the cause of this world's evils? HWA blames it on religion back in his introduction:

When you see what's wrong with the world's religions, you'll have pinpointed the cause of all the world evils! (p. 8)

The Bible reveals that the cause of these problems is the heart of man—and that the world is fallen because of sin. But HWA is selling religion, so he must continue to blame every religion outside of his product as the cause of everything gone wrong.

Now HWA begins to position himself as a modern-day, God appointed "end time messenger" (also known as a "prophet" in less-subtle terms). In the Author's Statement (prior to the Preface), he implies that God has given him wisdom, even more so than Solomon, to understand these great mysteries (page viii). He believes that he is the dual fulfillment, and begins to describe his cleverly concocted "duality principle."1 He claims he is the dual fulfillment of John the Baptist (that voice now cries out!), as well as Malachi's messenger and the Elijah to come. He describes the calling of Moses, Paul, Jeremiah, Jonah, Peter and Andrew—and how each of these men was commissioned against their will. His own personal resistance to God's call is "proof" that he, too, is God's personal messenger. He was personally "struck down" by Jesus Christ (he had to parallel Paul's experience to continue with the duality theme). With these claims established, he becomes more flagrant with his pronouncements against the church:

People suppose the churches teach what is revealed in the Bible. (p.13)
(I give you)….Biblical truths not believed or taught by the churches. (p.13)

Do you think there may be a good reason "why" the Biblical truths HWA gives us is not believed or taught by churches? Many who have read his book glossed over this very thing due to being excited that God would have a "modern-day, Apostle/prophet" walking the earth today.

Not known for his humility, HWA proudly reveals that his genealogy extends all the way back to the king of England and King David. There is a reason for this that the reader (outside of "the church") is unaware of. HWA will build his British-Israelism theme in later chapters, and from there, further claim his legitimacy through bloodline (ignoring what Jesus said about, "being a son of Abraham doesn't matter"). HWA wants us to know, in no uncertain terms, that he is special.

So far, HWA has spent nine pages establishing himself as the dual fulfillment of various prophecies. Leaders of deceptive, exploitive groups follow a pattern, and HWA is as predictable as they come. The Bible is never enough to prove one's divine appointment (especially since it is easy to see that his name is not written anywhere, and all of God's true prophets are specifically named2), so "sacred myths" must be fabricated. Loma Armstrong's dream about the three angels giving them direct commission from Christ to begin "The Work" no doubt qualifies. He dismisses her dream, but cleverly labels it under the heading "The Unrecognized Call." [Read: Myths About Loma Armstrong which describes this dream.]

HWA spends the next few pages describing how Jesus struck him down by dissolving all his business ventures. Even though he tries to sound humble ("Really, I didn't want this job! God made me take it! Just like all the other men in the Bible, I tried to run away!"), he concludes under the subtitle "My Experience Unique" that he is on equal footing as the original apostles:

But I had been called specifically by the living God. (p. 24)
Jesus Christ….in person, taught the original 12 apostles, and the apostle Paul….the same Jesus Christ who taught….beginning in A.D. 27, and 1900 years later, beginning in 1927, myself. (p. 25)

From this point on, he openly and vehemently attacks the Christian church, sealing the coffin of religious authority shut. Calling everything he has proved "truth," and any disagreeing viewpoints as "popular church teachings not based on the Bible!" he brazenly declares that mainstream church teachings are pagan. (p. 26)

Remember how HWA used the word "mystery" repeatedly in the Preface? The unwary reader may not have realized that this same method is used with the word "truth" in this chapter. The word "truth" is used 26 times, but in an interesting way. HWA bookends Loma's dream and his personal conversion experience by concentrating the word "truth" just before and after this. Now the reader's mind is being programmed to believe that the "mysteries" in the Preface are now "TRUTH" in the Introduction. HWA carefully weaves this progression into our thinking.

To keep us from further investigation using outside sources, he informs us that he has already read volumes of religious academic material and found them flawed:

In this in-depth study of the Bible, I had the use of all the biblical helps – concordances, Greek-English and Hebrew-English lexicons, commentaries, Bible dictionaries and religious encyclopedias. The latter three of these, I found, were the works of scholarly but carnal minds. In historical fact….they give help in research, but in God's revelation of spiritual knowledge, I found them of little help. (p. 23) [Emphasis mine]

HWA continues to implant thoughts in the reader's mind that he is special:

My research was totally different from that of students in a seminary. They absorb what they are taught in the doctrines of their denomination. (p. 23)3
…neither went I [to a theological seminary, but I was taught by Jesus Christ, the Word of God (in writing)]" (p. 29)4

…the experience I was painfully subject to in this original intensive study was unique in human life and conduct in our time. I know of no world religious leader who arrived at his teachings in such a manner. (p. 29) At this point, the unsuspecting reader is set up to a Catch 22.

Most people, I had discovered, are obeying false gods, rebelling against the one true Creator who is the supreme Ruler of the universe. (p. 26)
This world's religious teachings did not come from God! (p. 29)

Now the reader must make a choice. So far, the reader can identify with HWA's statements about automatically following the religion they were born into without question. Now HWA is charging that the mainstream church is not only wrong, but pagan, and if we continue to practice our beliefs, then we are obeying false gods and rebelling against God Himself! Now what sincere person would ever want to do that? Since he seems to "speak with such authority," we begin to wonder if he really is God's appointed man. Was Loma's dream really true? We begin to doubt ourselves.

Now we are stuck, and must make a choice. This is exactly where the expert salesman wants us! His whole goal is to explain the product (speaking with complete authority), and then bring us to the place where we must make a decision, but not without first removing all obstacles so we come to the decision he wants us to make. So if the reader chooses to say "no" to the product, then he will be left thinking that he has made a poor choice. (A vacuum cleaner salesmen would say, "So then you are choosing to live in an unsanitary home environment!" when some refuse to buy the over-priced item).

Just before the introduction ends, another piece of bait is tactfully waved in front of the reader's face: That not only are there seven biblical mysteries, but one must now:

...find that one and only true Church of God founded by Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 31. (p. 30) [emphasis mine]

Clever. Very clever.

By Kelly Marshall (former WCG member)
Exit & Support Network™
April 2004

Next to MOA Chapter One

Preface | Intro | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap 7

Footnotes for Introduction:

1 There are prophetic statements in the Bible that can apply to more than one fulfillment, but they are about how Jesus fulfilled these prophesies, not how Herbert W. Armstrong fulfilled them.

2 When one thinks how important Jesus' Second Coming is, it seems that God would have revealed the name of this important end-time messenger. How could He possibly have omitted Herbert's name? After all, He plainly named John the Baptist before Jesus' first Advent. It would stand to reason that He would have done the same if Herbert Armstrong's "duality" theme were true. The author makes a poor attempt at this by quoting Isaiah 40:3, 9-10 on page 9. Once the person comes into "the Church," it will be further revealed that the words "strong" and "arm" in this verse is actually "Armstrong.")

3 It is easy to see the hypocrisy in this statement: HWA knocks down other religions for teaching their own doctrines, but fails to point out that Ambassador College only taught his doctrines; therefore he is guilty of the same.

4 Herbert Armstrong failed to point out that Paul, himself, was a highly educated man, having gotten his education from the best "theological seminary" of that time.


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