Did Mr. Armstrong make a mistake when he told the Church to follow the new pastor general, who was Mr. Tkach?
Mr. Armstrong gave a sermon to the Church shortly before he died. He was sick at the time, and he knew he might soon die. This might have been his last sermon to the Church.
He talked about a number of things, but he also said that if he should die God would provide a new pastor general and we better follow that pastor general if we wanted to be in the kingdom of God. He did not put any qualification on following the next pastor general. He did not say, follow him as he follows Christ. He did not say, follow him as he follows the Bible. He just said we better follow him, period.
He did not name Mr. Tkach in that sermon. That came later, in a letter.
You can probably find that sermon in sites that publish Mr. Armstrong's material.
There are some points to pay attention to.
Mr. Armstrong's statement to the Church that we must follow the next pastor general if we want to be in the kingdom of God was DOCTRINE. Doctrine is simply teaching. Teaching is doctrine no matter if it is given verbally in a sermon or in writing in an article or book. If it is teaching, it is doctrine, period. This statement about the next pastor general was something Mr. Armstrong taught the Church in his sermon. It was doctrine.
Also, it was wrong. If we followed the next pastor general, we would go into Protestantism. We would fall away from the truth we had. And many did follow Mr. Tkach and fall away from the truth. Whether or not those people were deceived and influenced by Mr. Armstrong's wrong teaching on that, and to what extent they were influenced by him, I do not know. But Mr. Armstrong's teaching certainly seemed to make it easier for members to fall away.
Mr. Armstrong could have said, follow the next pastor general as he follows Christ, or, as he follows the Bible. But he didn't. He didn't put any qualifications or conditions on it. We were to follow the pastor general of the Church, period. And that was obviously wrong doctrine, as the history of what happened after that shows.
It was something Mr. Armstrong never corrected to the end of his life. Critics of learning new knowledge might say, if you point out his error of saying Pentecost was on a Monday, that he corrected his errors before he died and that the doctrines he taught at the end of his life should be held fast to and not changed. But you cannot apply that to his statement about following Mr. Tkach. He died in a matter of weeks or months after he made that statement. He never corrected it. It stands today as part of the body of doctrine he taught.
Also, it was harmful to anyone who believed, followed, and taught that doctrine. God no doubt allowed Mr. Armstrong to make that mistake to test the members, but in this case, the only way to pass the test was to reject that doctrine. You could not pass the test by believing Mr. Armstrong and following Mr. Tkach. If you did that, you would fall away. The way to pass the test was to recognize that Mr. Armstrong was wrong and not follow Mr. Tkach. To believe Mr. Armstrong's teaching on this was to fail a test and reap the consequences, which in this case may include, for some members, going into the lake of fire.
So those who say we are not to change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines today, not correct any errors, not add any new knowledge to the things he taught in his lifetime, have a problem. How can they reconcile their position with the fact that NONE OF THEM follows their own position?
None of them believe, obey, or teach Mr. Armstrong's instruction before he died to follow Mr. Tkach. They can't! If they did, they would have to abandon most of Mr. Armstrong's other doctrines as Mr. Tkach did.
Their whole position is self-contradictory. How can they explain it?
No doubt, this is why Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to make this serious mistake in doctrine at the end of his life, a mistake no Church of God member can deny. God is showing us that we are NOT to hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines. They are not trustworthy, of themselves, just because he taught them. They are only trustworthy as proved in the Bible because God, the author of the Bible, is trustworthy, but not man.
I challenge any Church of God leader who holds the position that we should only stick to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and not change anything he taught or learn anything new from the Bible to answer this: If we are to hold fast to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, shouldn't we hold fast to his teaching that we should follow Mr. Tkach? And if we don't do that, how can we hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's teaching?
If you are a member attending a COG fellowship led by such a leader, do you have the guts, or the interest, to ask him this question? And if you are afraid to ask it because you anticipate a hostile reaction, why attend with such a man? Why support him if you can't ask him a question?
Remember, when Mr. Armstrong taught us to follow Mr. Tkach, it was at the end of his life. How long had Mr. Armstrong been converted? How much life experience did Mr. Armstrong have in learning from God's word, the Bible, and teaching it? How many years did he have to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ? How many trials did he face, and how many years did he have to build the character of Jesus Christ?
He was converted in 1927 I believe. He died in 1986. That makes 59 years of learning, living, and teaching God's way of life, being converted, having God's Holy Spirit dwelling in him.
If ever there was a time when he would be at the peak of his spiritual discernment, if there was ever a time when he was close to God, it would be at the end of that lifetime of accomplishment in God's service, a lifetime in which God used him to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning powerfully to the nations of Israel and the world. Yet, it was at the end of that life when he made such a serious mistake, a mistake that may have hurt the chances for salvation for many members, and God allowed it.
If God allowed him to make such a serious mistake at the end of his life, God could have allowed him to make a mistake in anything he taught any time in his life. God does not want us to hold fast to and trust the teachings of any man or any church tradition. He wants us to hold fast to and trust Him and His word, the Bible. And that means believing and trusting what we can see and understand in our own Bibles.
Can we make mistakes in our reading of the Bible? Can we misunderstand the Bible?
Of course! We can make mistakes. We can be wrong. We should strive for the humility to admit this to ourselves, and we should always have an open mind to be corrected by the Bible.
But let ministers correct us in our doctrinal errors by the Bible, not by their own authority or traditions. And let ministers and Church of God leaders also be willing to be corrected by the Bible and admit when they are wrong.
All of us, members and ministers and top Church of God leaders, must believe God more than man or tradition. We have to put the Bible first. We have to believe God's word unconditionally, if we are to be completely faithful. We have to believe the Bible more than we believe Mr. Armstrong, or Mystery of the Ages, or any Church leader, minister, or tradition. We have to believe what we can see and understand for ourselves in the Bible.
We can certainly make mistakes, and we should be humble and teachable and be willing to let the ministry show us our mistakes in the Bible (if the ministry is willing and able to do that). But even there, after the ministry tries to show us we are wrong according to the Bible, we may not see it for ourselves. If the ministry itself is wrong, if they misapply the scriptures, if they interpret the scriptures instead of letting the Bible interpret itself, we may see that they are wrong.
The bottom line is, God tests our faith in Him and His word. Any time we see a contradiction between the Bible and what the Church of God or any of its fellowships teaches, we are faced with a choice, and God will judge us based on our choice. We have to choose to believe God or man. One must take precedence over the other. Even if we are making a mistake, that does not change the nature of the choice. Until we understand our mistake, we still have to choose between believing God or man.
Does this cause division? No, it does not. It only causes division if we talk about it with other members. It is the promotion of our view with other members, in contradiction to the ministry, that causes division. We do not have that right to contradict the ministry with other members. God has given the teaching role to the ministry, and we have to show respect to the office God has given them. But we can quietly believe God. We can wait for Christ to correct the Church, even if we wait until He returns.
But we must obey God first and we must believe God first. Both belief and obedience are ways of putting our trust and loyalty in God more than man.
Any man who says he leaves a group to obey God rather than man, but does not believe God's word more than the man, Herbert W. Armstrong, is not being consistent. But he is inconsistent anyway in believing we should stick to Mr. Armstrong's teachings and not learn anything new, contrary to Mr. Armstrong's own way of life, and yet does not believe what Mr. Armstrong said about following Mr. Tkach.
God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make the mistake of telling us to follow Mr. Tkach. I believe God did this for the very purpose of showing the ministry and membership that we should never believe any man or tradition more than God's word, the Bible. You couldn't ask for a more powerful and compelling demonstration.
I have said before in this blog that God is unlikely to give us an open door for the gospel if we are not willing to learn new things from the Bible and believe the Bible more than our traditions, because this is what we ask the public to do, and we must do the same or we are hypocrites.
How does Christ open the door for preaching the gospel? In these days of freedom and prosperity, it is primarily by arousing zeal in the heart of a leader, and members, for preaching the gospel. We have freedom and we have money, but we need zeal, or the work will not be done. Some of that zeal is a voluntary choice, but it is also supplied by God. And I do not think God will give that zeal to a leader who says he only wants to go by what Mr. Armstrong taught and not learn anything new, a leader that holds fast to a list of doctrines but not the way of life that Mr. Armstrong practiced and that made him a Philadelphian in God's sight.
So look at the Church of God landscape. Look at a leader who says he will not learn anything new from God. Look at a leader who says he believes Mr. Armstrong unconditionally, and will not consider that he should believe the Bible more than Mr. Armstrong. Then look at his zeal for the gospel. Chances are, his zeal is weak. Why? Because God does not arouse zeal for the gospel in his heart and mind. Why? Because God can't use him for the gospel. He won't do what he has to ask others to do - learn new things and let the Bible overrule their traditions. God is unlikely to use a hypocrite to do His work.
But how can you know a leader's zeal or lack of it? Not by his words. And we can't read his mind and heart. Look at his actions. Look at the fruits. If many months go by and he has not started preaching the gospel, that is a strong signal that his heart is not in it, no matter what he says. If he gives greater priority to teen camps, summer camps, winter weekends, and buying property for the Church - none of which is commanded by God - over preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning - which is strongly commanded by God - then how can his heart be in the gospel?
If he repents of his position of not learning from the Bible and not putting the Bible first over Mr. Armstrong's teachings, then perhaps Christ will give him an open door by arousing and inspiring zeal for the gospel in his heart and mind. That zeal would then lead to right decisions. But if he continues to reject knowledge, how can God help but not reject him from having an open door to do His work (Hosea 4:6)?
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Did Mr. Armstrong Make a Mistake in Telling the Church to Follow Mr. Tkach?
Did Mr. Armstrong make a mistake when he told the Church to follow the new pastor general, who was Mr. Tkach?