Herbert W. Armstrong
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Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) was a fundamentalist Christian radio and later televangelist who founded the Radio Church of God (later renamed the Worldwide Church of God) and Ambassador College (renamed Ambassador University after his death). His son, Garner Ted Armstrong, rose to prominence in the church, but was later disfellowshipped after a number of scandals, including adultery.
Armstrong was originally in marketing and advertising, having a somewhat successful advertising business based in Chicago which failed during the Great Depression. This advertising background was reflected in Armstrong's writing style, which reads much like the bombastic and sensationalist advertising copy of that time.
Worldwide Church of God
Under Herbert W. Armstrong's leadership the Worldwide Church of God taught the usual Saturday worship and anti-Catholicism one might expect from a Church of God, Seventh Day splinter group. Differing from the Church of God, Seventh Day, he taught that the holy days listed in the Old Testament (cf. Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16) should still be observed by Christians, and that they depicted God's plan for the salvation of humanity. Differing from Seventh Day Adventists, he taught British Israelism and rejected a trinitarian view of God.
He viewed the British and American people as lost tribes of Israel punished by exile from 721 BCE to 1800 CE (7 x 360 years of punishment, equal to what the Bible says is 7 years, if you don't know the difference between a year and a day), at which point Britain and America became world powers; fake etymology also came into this with "British" supposedly being Hebrew for "covenant people" (brit+ish). Because of this, the church celebrated Jewish festivals and worshipped on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). Their calendar includes Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and Last Great Day. They also followed Jewish dietary law.
The church, and Armstrong, made a tidy income by levying a 30% tithe on members' income before tax; this allowed Armstrong to live in a palatial home in Hollywood and to fly the world in a private jet.
Following Herbert W. Armstrong's death in 1986 the Worldwide Church of God fell under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, and then, upon his death, his son, Joseph Tkach Jr. Under their leadership, the church rejected many of Armstrong's teachings such as British Israelism, Biblical Holy Days, and Seventh-day Sabbath worship in favor of a more conventional fundamentalist Christianity. This led to most members leaving, some for mainstream Christian organizations, some to form or join preexisting splinter groups, and others to reject religion altogether.
Armstrong's influence persists in institutions such as the Philadelphia Church of God, founded by Gerard Flurry. Wikipedia lists several other bodies based on Armstrong's doctrine, generally with Church of God in their name, and including the The Intercontinental Church of God, which Garner Ted Armstrong founded in 1998 after being expelled from the parent Worldwide Church of God, and other churches founded by former WCoG people John Ritenbaugh, Roderick C. Meredith (a serial church founder and leaver), David C. Pack, Ronald Weinland (later convicted of tax evasion), and others.
Propagating his views
Armstrong's radio show The World Tomorrow, which later moved to TV, and his magazine The Plain Truth were heavily into Bible prophecy and interpreting current events in relation to his version of the end times, in which the United States, Britain, and Germany are supposed to play a central role. Unlike many fundamentalist evangelists concerned with the end times, Armstrong did not believe there would be a "rapture". Many evangelical Christians considered his group a cult in the theological sense and compared its theology to the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.
The Plain Truth was a glossy magazine with 8 million readers in its heyday and was translated into multiple languages.
- Herbert W. Armstrong on Wikipedia
- Herbert W. Armstrong College website
- Armstrong International Cultural Foundation
- Herbert W. Armstrong Library (website of God's Church material)
- Armstrong, Herbert W. (1892–1986) in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (1 rev)
- The 'Lost Tribes' of Herbert W. Armstrong, Catholic Answers
- Holy Day Calendar, Herbert W Armstrong Library, accessed 30 Sep 2020
- “Herbert W. Armstrong Meets Haile Selassie.” International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 10, no. 1 & 2, 2016, pp. 150–158. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26554856. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.
- I grew up in a cult and I can tell you why 'normal' people join them, Fleur Brown, The Insider, Apr 8, 2019
- Philadelphia Church of God website, accessed 30 Sep 2020
- See the Wikipedia article on Armstrongism.