Herbert W. Armstrong

From Academic Kids

Herbert W. Armstrong (July 31, 1892January 16, 1986) was the founder of the Radio Church of God / Worldwide Church of God; Chancellor of Ambassador Colleges and Ambassador University; Publisher of The Plain Truth magazine in several languages; Presenter of The World Tomorrow radio and television programs and director of several programs in other languages; President of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation; self- styled as Ambassador for World Peace and Patron of the Ambassador Auditorium concert series.


Brief biography

Birth, marriage and early career

In 1892 Herbert W. Armstrong was born in Des Moines, Iowa to parents of the Quaker faith. In 1917 he married Loma Dillon. Most of his early life until 1926 was devoted to selling advertising services and copywriting. During this time he adopted a copy and layout style of presentation in which upper and lower case words were mixed within both headlines and text for emphasis and impact. This writing style became his own trademark which he never abandoned throughout his life.

Early religious beliefs

In his early life Herbert W. Armstrong abandoned the faith of his parents and professed agnosticism. At some time around 1926 or 1927 when he was living in Oregon, his wife Loma became friendly with a lady who was a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day). He is said to have been converted after attempting to prove her beliefs to be wrong.

Background to Ordination

The history of this church began with the work of William Miller, who between 1831 and 1844 promoted the doctrine of a pre-millennial return of Jesus. In 1842 Gilbert Cranmer became a convert to the teachings of William Miller. In approximately 1843 Rachel Oakes, a Seventh Day Baptist converted Frederick Wheeler, a Sunday observing Methodist-Adventist minister to observing Saturday instead and in so doing created a Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1844 when the prophecies of William Miller fail to occur, the entire Adventist movement began to collapse. In 1845 Gilbert Cranmer began observing the Saturday Sabbath. In 1846 Ellen G. Harmon (Ellen G. White married James White and they also began to observe the Saturday Sabbath. In 1849 William Miller died. In 1858 the Whites denied Gilbert Cranmer a license to preach for their own new group and as a result Gilbert Cranmer independently established several congregations of his own in Michigan. In 1860 Sabbath-keeping Adventists met at Battle Creek, Michigan and the group adopted the name Seventh-day Adventists. In 1863 the Seventh-day Adventist denomination was created and Gilbert Cranmer published the first issue of The Hope of Israel paper, which in 1872 changed its name to Advent and Sabbath Advocate and Hope of Israel. In 1884 after divisions had occurred within the Seventh-Day Adventist movement, groups from Michigan, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska formed a new organization under the name of Church of God which in 1887 adopted Stanberry, Missouri as its headquarters with A. F. Dugger as vice-president.

In 1892 Herbert W. Armstrong was born. In 1899 The General Conference of the Church of God was officially incorporated. In 1900 Gilbert Cranmer's paper changed its name again, this time to The Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom and it would undergo yet another name change to The Bible Advocate. In 1903 Gilbert Cranmer died at the Church of God Sanitarium in White Cloud, Michigan. In 1906 Andrew N. Dugger, son of Andrew F. Dugger, who died in 1910, began his ministry and in 1914 became publisher of The Bible Advocate. Ellen G. White died in 1915.

Ordination and foundation of his own belief system

In 1927 Herbert W. Armstrong was baptized as a member of the Church of God. On February 9, 1930, Garner Ted Armstrong was born. In 1931 Herbert W. Armstrong was ordained by the Oregon Conference of The Church of God and in Chapter 24 of his autobiography under the heading of Ordained to Christ's Ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong explained his own thought process that formed the backbone of everything that he came to believe and put into practice. (Note that the upper and lowecase style of writing in the following abbreviated excerpt is in the original text which was the signature style of his authorship):

First, Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry at about age 30. God took away my business ... inducting me into His ministry, when I was 30! Second, Jesus began ... training ... His original disciples for carrying HIS GOSPEL to the world in the year A.D. 27. Precisely 100 time-cycles later, in 1927, He began my intensive study and training for carrying HIS SAME GOSPEL to all nations of today's world. ... the significance of 100 time-cycles! God set the earth, sun, and moon in their orbits to mark off divisions of time on the earth. ... the earth, the sun, and the moon come into almost exact conjunction only once in 19 years. Thus 19 years mark off one complete time-cycle! ... Exactly 100 time-cycles later, after 3½ years of intensive study and training, Christ ordained me to preach this same Gospel of the Kingdom in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:14). This ordination took place at, or very near, the Day of Pentecost, 1931. ... Christ started out His original apostles preaching the very Gospel of the Kingdom which God had sent by Him, and which He had taught the apostles, in the year A.D. 31. For exactly one 19-year time-cycle this preaching was confined to the continent where it started -- Asia. After precisely one 19-year time-cycle, A.D. 50, Christ opened a door for the Apostle Paul to carry the same Gospel to EUROPE! This was A.D. 50. Before A.D. 70, Roman armies besieged Jerusalem. From that time the Roman government stamped out the organized mass spreading of the Gospel of Christ. Soon a different gospel was being tolerated, later endorsed and then enforced by Roman government. It was Roman paganism now being palmed off under the new name "Christianity." ... For nearly 19 centuries the world has been rendered spiritually drunk on the wine of this counterfeit gospel! As prophecy foretold, ALL nations have been deceived. But looking into our time, just before the END of this age (Matt. 24:14), Jesus foretold that His same original Gospel of the Kingdom of God was to be preached and published (Mark 13:10) in all the world as a witness to ALL NATIONS! This was to immediately precede HIS SECOND COMING! TODAY THIS IS BEING DONE! Now consider this amazing parallel! God first opened a door -- that of radio and the printing press -- for the mass proclaiming of HIS ORIGINAL TRUE GOSPEL the first week in 1934! The exact date was January 7, 1934. Exactly one time-cycle later, January 7, 1953, God opened wide the massive door of the most powerful commercial radio station on earth, and RADIO LUXEMBOURG began broadcasting Christ's Gospel to EUROPE and Britain!

Church of God

In 1933 the Church of God group into which Armstrong had been baptized and ordained split into two factions. Herbert W. Armstrong followed the breakaway group which was led by A. N. Dugger who then formed the Church of God 7th Day with its US headquarters in Salem, West Virginia and world headquarters in Jerusalem. On October 9, 1933, Herbert W. Armstrong took to the airwaves for the first time with a religious program on radio station KORE in Eugene, Oregon where he pastored a church congregation. The broadcast over KORE gave rise to the name Radio Church of God. In 1934 he began publication of The Plain Truth magazine which was an outgrowth of earlier attempts at publication.

Credentials revoked

In 1937 Herbert W. Armstrong's ministerial credentials were revoked due to disputes over a number of controversial new ideas that he had begun to adopt. Among these were a belief in a version of the Lost Ten Tribes and his decision to incorporate many of the Holy Days which most Christian churches had relegated to being a part of the Old Testament and thereby not applicable to believers in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Move to California

On March 3, 1946 he moved his base of operations to Pasadena, California where he incorporated the Radio Church of God:

... we, HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG, BASIL WOLVERTON, DAVID T. HENION, JAMES A. GOTT, ESTHER M. OLSON, and LOMA D. ARMSTRONG, have voluntarily associated ourselves together for the purpose of incorporating a hitherto unincorporated voluntary association in Eugene, Lane County, Oregon, known as "Radio Church of God", under Title III, Article I of the General Nonprofit Corporation Law of the State of California ...

On January 5, 1968, Herbert W. Armstrong and one associate filed a Certificate of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation of the Radio Church of God, which stated that the two individuals were the President and Secretary of the corporation and that as a result of a meeting of the board of directors it was resolved that:

ARTICLE I of the Articles of Incorporation of this corporation be amended to read as follows: "The name of this corporation shall be WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD."

As leader of the Worldwide Church of God he began to be regarded by his followers as a modern-day Apostle.


Many, but not all, of Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings appear to have been influenced by Church of God ministers Andrew N. Dugger (1886-1975) and Clarence O. Dodd (1899-1955).

Herbert W. Armstrong preached a gospel that was quite different from that of mainstream Christianity because he did not primarily intend to attract members, but to serve as a base with which to warn the world of a timetable of coming events. The climax of those events, in his concept, would result in the return of Jesus Christ to Earth as King of kings and Lord of lords in order to establish the Kingdom of God.

Three major platforms of doctrine

Although Armstorng always taught that faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the baptism of believers into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were central tenets of belief and practice for Christians, he also promulgated what were considered unorthodox teachings concerning Old Covenant practices, national identities and the prophetic role of the Church he had founded:

  1. A belief that the Old Testament commandment to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, various Holy Days and abstention from proscribed animals and fish was still in effect, although the Worldwide Church of God was not a mirror of the faith of either Orthodox Judaism or Reform Judaism. To this end he offered a booklet called: Pagan Holidays – or God’s Holydays -Which? (http://www.giveshare.org/HolyDay/hdorpaganhd.html)
  2. A belief in British Israelism, that primarily the former Anglo-Saxon peoples were the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel and by virtue of having this basic knowledge, hitherto unknown prophecies of the Bible had been revealed. Most particularly, Armstrong identified the United States and British Commonwealth with the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. To establish this claim he offered the public a book called: United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (http://www.hoselton.net/religion/hwa/booklets/usbc/intro.htm).
  3. A belief that the Worldwide Church of God had been given a commission to warn the world by print and broadcasting media before the end of the age would come about with a World War III brought on by a United States of Europe. For many years the key to the timetable was described as being two 19-year timecycles, with the second and last timecycle having commenced in 1953 when The World Tomorrow program was first transmitted by Radio Luxembourg. The end of that last timecycle was set for some time in February of 1972. All of this was laid out in a booklet called: 1975 in Prophecy!, which was written by Herbert W. Armstrong and illustrated by Basil Wolverton. As that date approached with seemingly very few developments suggesting the fullfilment of Armstrong prophetic scheme, there was naturally a de-emphasis placed on that speculation.

Other doctrines

Among the most distinctive teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, (some held in common with the Seventh-day Church of God, and other Christian groups as well), were:

  1. That eternal life was God's gift and works did not save anyone - but the works one did show the faith they had which will determine their reward and level of authority and service in the Kingdom of God.
  2. That not all who call themselves Christians are saved.
  3. That those not saved, or not called have a resurrection to judgement and will finally learn of Jesus Christ and all who ever lived will come to have the opportunity to know God.
  4. The reward of the saved was not Heaven, but the Kingdom of Heaven with the Government of God being set up on the Earth, for the first time since Satan's rebellion, during the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the Earth over those who survive great tribulation.
  5. That those called in this life would receive salvation at the return of Jesus Christ and reign with him 1000 years as kings and priests over humans with Jesus Christ as our elder brother.
  6. After the 1000 years, the Great White Throne Judgement period would occur in which all of mankind who ever lived would appear before the judgement seat of God and would have the opportunity to learn God's way and do his will for the first time ever. This would happen after Satan the Devil is cast into the Lake of Fire so he could deceive the people no more.
  7. The kingdom of God would be handed by Jesus Christ to God the Father.
  8. All who rejected God would be permanently destroyed ("anihilation of the wicked") in the Lake of Fire as opposed to being tormented forever and ever. This is to be Satan's punishment.
  9. That the Christian Godhead was a family made up of two personages, with the Father, whom Jesus revealed, and the Son, Jesus Himself. However, the Godhead would later expand to billions of personages, as the destiny of humans, if they obeyed the Law of God, was to be reborn as God beings.
  10. That the Holy Spirit was not a third Person of the Godhead, but rather it was the power that eminated from God the Father and Jesus Christ that can be in mankind making us one with them and enabling us to keep God's commandments as Jesus did.
  11. That Jesus Christ pre-existed before he was in the flesh as the Word and known to all as the God of the Old Testament.


Herbert W. Armstong was a prolific writer and most of his works were stamped with his early style of advertising copy-writing that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote many articles and booklets and a few books. However, shortly after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong disputes arose over the copyrights to these works when the Worldwide Church of God withdrew them from circulation.

Various groups then attempted to reprint and circulate the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong and this eventually led to a major and lengthy court case between the Worldwide Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God, which still largely accepts many Armstrong doctrines. Following mutual resolution of that case the Philadelphia Church of God gained legal copyrights to some of the most noteworthy works and these include:

  • Mystery of the Ages
  • The Incredible Human Potential
  • The Missing Dimension in Sex
  • The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy

Personality and allegations

There have been many allegations that have been made about the personality of Herbert W. Armstrong and most of them rely for source material upon personal written complaints, some of which have been published. Among the more serious these allegations are incest, alcoholism and financial improprieties.

Although the allegation of incest has been repeated on various Internet web sites, the single source for most of these allegations now appears to relate to a 1981 letter of resignation by former Worldwide Church of God legal council Jack Kessler (http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com/ar/AR19.html). Another source is a book that was privately published, whose author is now deceased and the book itself is out of print. Therefore until such time that a reliable source thoroughly documents such allegations they should not be reprsented as proven facts.

In 1979 charges of financial impropriety became the focus of a State of California investigation which was aborted on constitutional grounds. To date no work of academic or legal standard has provided documentation to prove allegations of financial impropriety against Herbert W. Armstrong personally.

The era of Stanley Rader

Following a series of scandals involving Garner Ted Armstrong which began shortly after the dawning of the 1970s and coinciding with the failure of the second 19-year timecycle Garner Ted Armstrong was finally removed as second-in-command of the church and replaced by attorney Stanley Rader, who had enjoyed a long relationship with Herbert W. Armstrong. From the early 1970s until approximately 1979, Stanley Rader created and directed another organization funded by the church called the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. This development sparked a war between the younger Armstrong and Rader whose plan appears to have been the financial rescue of the church corporation. (See the article about Stanley Rader for details.) Following a climax resulting in state intervention and a major 60 Minutes segment on CBS, Stanley Rader retired with a large pension.

Death and aftermath

On January 16, 1986 the death of Herbert W. Armstrong was announced. This event led to a sequence of events where the leadership of the church that he had founded passed to Joseph K. Tkatch. It has been suggested that Joseph K. Tkatch was a close friend of Stanley Rader.

The new leadership of the Worldwide Church of God then commenced a doctrinal review process that disavowed many of the central beliefs and doctrines that the church had developed since it had been founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. The World Tomorrow broadcasts were terminated and The Plain Truth magazine was spun-off to another organization which shared few of the editorial values or views held by Herbert W. Armstrong. This process included a decision to withhold from further circulation all previous publications that had been authorized by Herbert W. Armstrong. That decision eventually led to a major legal challenge that reached to the Supreme Court of the United States by dissenters who had regrouped as a rival church organization.

As a consequence of these major changes in doctrine and practice, many disaffected members left the Church in ever-larger numbers and this resulted in a dramatic fall in church income. The flagship campus of Ambassador College in Pasadena, California was then closed and the campus at Big Sandy, Texas which had briefly become home of Ambassador University was also closed. The famed Ambassador Auditorium was mothballed and sold to a group representing views almost opposite of those held by Herbert W. Armstrong and finally the entire Pasadena campus and world headquarters of the church was sold off in parcels. The church, still bearing the name of Worldwide Church of God, then began to move from the city of Pasadena to an office building in Glendale, California, amid rumors that the Church might even again change its name.

Splinter groups

Because of the schisms in the church founded by Herbert W. Armstrong more than 300 splinter groups have formed in the wake of its turmoil. A few hold to the doctrines, views and values of Herbert W. Armstrong; only a few of these groups have more than 5,000 members. These churches and organizations include the United Church of God (http://www.ucg.org), the Living Church of God (http://www.lcg.org), the Philadelphia Church of God (http://www.pcog.org), and the Restored Church of God (http://www.thercg.org). Most groups range down in size from a few hundred members to a few families.

The church today

Today the Worldwide Church of God considers itself to be and is mostly viewed as a part of mainstream Christianity. In 1997 the new Worldwide Church of God was accepted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. See Worldwide Church of God for more of its own timeline of change in recent years.

External links


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