Thursday, September 7, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 11 - The Spiritual Heritage of Herbert W. Armstrong

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we believe they conflict with the Bible.

Chapter seven of the COGIW article addresses the issue of the authority of an apostle's teaching after he died. It uses the example of Peter.

Does the authority of Peter's teachings over us continue to this day? Yes, because all we know of Peter's teachings are his writings in the Bible, and the Bible is God's word to us, free from error. Therefore, Peter's epistles in the Bible carry authority over us. They are the word of God, and we must believe and obey Peter's epistles just as we do the whole Bible. And if there is a conflict between Peter's teachings and Mr. Armstrong's teachings, we must believe Peter's epistles more than Mr. Armstrong's writings.

The COGIW article says that the spiritual heritage of an apostle must be kept by the Church after the apostle's death. By this I think the article means that we must retain Mr. Armstrong's "spiritual heritage" after his death and make no changes to it. And by "spiritual heritage", I think it means his doctrines, all of them, in detail.

There are several things wrong with this.

First of all, the article never proves that there is any Bible instruction telling us to follow the teachings of a man in the Church, whether that man is an apostle or not, beyond his death, except when that man's teaching is part of the Bible. We must follow and believe and obey Peter's writings, not because he is a dead apostle, but because those writings are part of the Bible and therefore the word of God. The whole Bible is true, guaranteed free of error, and scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34). That includes Peter's writings, but not Mr. Armstrong's. Peter's writings are true and cannot be broken. Mr. Armstrong's writings can be broken. They are not scripture. They are not God's word direct to us. They can contain errors because they are not part of the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, being human, made mistakes.

Therefore we must always believe what we find in the Bible, whether that be the writings of Peter, Paul, or any other servant God used to produce the Bible, more than we believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings. If there is a conflict, we must correct Mr. Armstrong's errors.

A second thing is that the spiritual heritage that Mr. Armstrong left us is not primarily a list of detailed doctrines of the Church of God. The true spiritual heritage he left us is a tradition and way of life that believes and obeys the Bible more than all else. It is the spiritual heritage of putting the Bible first. It is the spiritual heritage Mr. Armstrong lived when he corrected Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, on the subject of keeping the holy days, before he was ordained as a minister. It was the spiritual heritage he lived when he taught Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, new knowledge about the end-time identity of the lost tribes of Israel, again, before he was even a minister much less an apostle in his own eyes or the eyes of anyone else. Perhaps he was doing the work of an apostle in those days in God's sight, but no one recognized him as an apostle including himself. That came much later.

Later, Mr. Armstrong continued to live by that spiritual heritage and passed it on to his radio listeners when he said, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

It was that spiritual heritage, the tradition of letting the Bible correct us, letting the Bible teach us new knowledge, and believing the Bible more than any church or any man, that resulted in all the doctrines and details of doctrines that Mr. Armstrong helped us understand from the Bible.

The third thing wrong with the idea that we can never change the doctrines and details of doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, even after his death, is that Mr. Armstrong taught and practiced a process of correcting error and learning new knowledge from the Bible. That is a part of the spiritual heritage he passed on to us. But that process was never intended to be stopped or interrupted by his death.

While Mr. Armstrong was alive, he was able himself to make corrections to his own doctrines and to add new knowledge from the Bible. These corrections could be suggested to him by other ministers or members, and he was alive to examine the issue and make a decision. He did this with Pentecost.

But now that he is dead, does that process stop? I don't believe he ever intended that, for if he did, he could easily have said, after I die don't let anyone change my doctrines. If you, the reader, know of any letter or sermon in which he said that, let me know in the comments. The process that Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught the Church of God of learning new knowledge from the Bible and correcting error must continue, even after the death of Mr. Armstrong. That is the spiritual heritage that must continue.

Moreover, we have a living apostle, today. That apostle is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1), and Christ has the authority to make changes to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines by His word, the Bible, and by help and inspiration upon the existing leaders of the Church to understand the Bible and see the need for correction.

There is another part of the spiritual heritage left to us by Mr. Armstrong, and that is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That spiritual heritage must also continue, but I will write more about that later in this series.


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