How To Identify and Deal With Liberal Ministers
“Liberal Quotes” from Ministers at ABC, 2007
From January to August 2007, I attended the United Church of God's course for Bible Study at the Ambassador Bible Center (ABC) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Just two months into the year, I felt like dropping out of the program because what was being taught was at odds with the way I had been raised to believe the Bible—and the way the entire church was taught for the 50+ years Mr. Armstrong led the Church of God. In short, it was apparent to me that ABC was totally off-track. Dad persuaded me to stay on and learn what I could, while disregarding erroneous teaching. But throughout the rest of the year, I had frequent phone conversations with Dad about the liberal ideas being taught (see Mr. Armstrong's article What Is A Liberal for an explanation of what this means). As ministers said things I perceived were evidence of liberal thinking, I jotted down their words. Meanwhile, Dad gave me some tips on how to handle the situation; advice which I found immensely helpful, both at that time and in dealing with church matters today.
Here, then, is a sampling of the kind of things I heard daily at ABC, both taught from the lectern in class and spoken in private when I'd discuss with ministers their teachings with which I couldn’t agree. The following direct quotations represent what I believe to be the wrong kind of thinking about God, the Bible and Mr. Armstrong—the kind of thinking prevalent today within the Church of God community.
Regarding Mr. HWA Being "Just a Man":
"Be careful who you hitch your wagon up to. Mr. Armstrong himself said to 'blow the dust off the Bible,' not to follow him blindly."
"If you follow Mr. Armstrong, then you're following a man and not the Bible."
“We need to respect Mr. Armstrong, but we also need to remember that he was just a man.”
“Herbert Armstrong was just a man; he was a nice man but he made mistakes.”
Dad added this comment, since these arguments are so widely used to do away with Mr. Armstrong's teachings today: "The fact that Moses and Joshua made mistakes" [Numbers 20:1-12, Deuteronomy 3:23-28, Joshua 9] "did not nullify the fact that they were genuine men of God whom God used to lead His people. The same could be said about King David, Peter and many other Bible heroes—as human beings they all 'made mistakes,' but what they taught was inspired by God" [2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21]. "These liberal ministers would have been fired if they had done what they now are doing while Mr. Armstrong was still alive. 'When the cat's away, the mice will play,' Mr. Armstrong said with regard to liberal ministers. God has given time for the true colors of these men to be exposed" [Matthew 7:16, 20, 1 Corinthians 11:19, 1 Timothy 5:24-25].
"Daniel prophesied of our time: 'Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand' (Daniel 12:10). Truly this has been a time of trying and testing. We are the firstfruits called to be students that we may become kings and priests and rule with Christ (Revelation 5:10). We in the Church are students, and we are in the time of final exams."
--Herbert W. Armstrong, Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God
Regarding Mystery of the Ages:
“Don’t read that.” —Pointing to a copy of Mystery of the Ages.
“There are a lot of errors in that.” —Said of Mystery of the Ages.
“That book doesn’t represent what Mr. Armstrong thought at the end of his life.” — Said of Mystery of the Ages.
“Let’s get one thing straight, students—wearing makeup is NOT a sin.” —A statement given on the very first day of class.
“Makeup is not a big issue.”
“Makeup was buried 20 years ago.”
“My wife is much prettier with her makeup on.”
“Don’t use the Bible to explain to anyone why you don’t wear makeup. Just tell them that you don’t, but don’t try to reason out of the Scriptures about it.” —Told to me in private when an instructor discovered that I believed the booklet, Truth About Makeup. Mr. Armstrong expounded many Scriptures in his booklet and articles on makeup, including, but not limited to, Isaiah 3:16, Ezekiel 23:40, Jeremiah 4:30 and 2 Kings 9:30. And what about such Scriptures as Matthew 5:27-28, 1 Peter 3:3-5 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10? Do they not suggest that the very purpose of makeup is spiritual adultery --to attract the glances of men in violation of the spirit of the law? Mr. Armstrong wrote that makeup originated in harlotry.
“I know Herbert W. Armstrong’s mind better than anyone else. I used to help him get around after services in his old age, when his eyesight was failing and he couldn’t tell whether or not women were wearing makeup. He once commented how nice one lady looked, and I could tell she was wearing quite a lot of makeup.” —Said by a minister who was trying to convince me that Mr. Armstrong should have approved of women wearing makeup.
“Herbert Armstrong vacillated on the makeup doctrine. He surely knew that it had been changed. I believe he wrote to the church that he didn’t know what was going on in order to preserve his image. . . . Come on; no one could not know that the policy had changed while all those women around him at church were wearing makeup!” —Consider this along with the previous quote.
How Subtly Satan Used Makeup to Start the Church Off the Track
SATAN HASN'T GIVEN UP ON MAKEUP
An Open Letter Written by My Dad in 2007
“Don’t legislate anything Christ didn’t.” —Reason given for doing away with various doctrinal stands Mr. Armstrong taught dogmatically under the principle of the spirit of the law.
“You’re stuck in the ‘60s. We have grown since then.”
“If God ordered me to wear one black shoe and one brown shoe, I’d do it.” —This was supposed to demonstrate the approach to God’s law that only the strict letter need be obeyed.
“God has room in His kingdom for a wide range of people, not just for those that stick to the letter of what HWA taught.” —But Christ taught that we should enter into life by the narrow and difficult gate which few people find, not by the wide and broad way which leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). This minister's thinking would cause anyone who followed it to be excluded from God's kingdom (Matthew 5:19-20, 7:15-27)!
“Can’t you rise above what you’ve been taught when something challenges you? You don’t have to stay with just whatever you were taught.”
Regarding the Church:
“Preaching a soft message that doesn’t offend anyone is the way to make the church grow.” --This was presented to us at ABC as the church’s policy on anything that went to the public through the media, such as internet or written materials. The minister telling us this stated openly that the reason for such a policy is the desire to have as large a membership as possible.
“Mr Armstrong would just be happy that everyone has somewhere to worship on the sabbath.” —A minister told me this when I asked him what Mr. HWA would think about the church splits.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of government there is in the church, so long as the members respect the hierarchy.”
“We dare not try to accomplish a large-scale Work—we don’t have the manpower to handle the response.”
“The church doesn’t need to preach the gospel—the two witnesses and the third angel of Revelation 14 will take care of that if we leave it undone.”
“ABC needs to become accredited. Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world could know that what we teach is respectable?” —But Mr. Armstrong never wanted God's college to have to conform to the world's standard of education. Accreditation would have compromised the integrity of Ambassador College—a situation which would have caused God to withdraw His blessing!
"It was then that the matter of obtaining accreditation from the organized accreditation societies of secular education became a problem. The liberals at Pasadena wanted accreditation. They did not want to be accredited as a Bible college, but as a full competing college or university. As such the college would fall under the rules of the secular accrediting society, which would more or less determine policy and curricula."
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God
One of the teachers at ABC told me in his office that he was seated in the audience of the Ambassador Auditorium at the very time Mr. Armstrong announced he was going to shut down the college and put it back on track. This instructor, however, did not believe that the college was off-track. When I asked him why he accepted re-employment as an instructor at Ambassador College after Mr. Armstrong had tried to put it back on track, he replied, "I believed in the church but not in what Mr. Armstrong was doing."
“God’s commandments don’t reflect His character. They are only what He would do if He were a human. Don’t let anyone try to tell you God ‘keeps’ His commandments. It would be foolish to say God the Father honors his father—He doesn't have one. And if you try to say He keeps the Sabbath, well, which time zone does He keep it in?”
“There is no 7,000 year plan.”
“The 7,000 year plan is only a possibility. There is every chance that we have already passed 6,000 years of human history. Why make a doctrine out of something you can’t prove historically?” —But there is every reason to believe that we are still living in the 6,000 year period (see Overview and Chronology by ELM).
“Prophecy is not important, relative to anything else in the Bible.”
“We don’t know if there is a place of safety or not. We don’t know why God will send some people of the church into the great tribulation or why others will be spared.”
“Don’t be an 'egghead' or a 'Bible brain.' Don’t spend too much time studying.”
Dealing With Liberal Ministers
Here is advice Dad gave me on how to handle myself at ABC. He advised against dropping out of the program—which I was inclined to do after two months of hearing this kind of talk.
- Treat them respectfully.
- Don’t leave a bad taste in their mouth.
- Treat ABC as if it were a worldly theological school.
- Don’t make a public scene.
- Love them. Jesus loved His enemies and taught his disciples to do likewise. He spoke out against the Pharisees and yet died for them. He also taught that the “new wine“ of God's truth must be poured into “new wineskins“—He didn't want to break the “old wineskins.“ Anyone who is “liberal” probably can’t help it--there is no need to try to cram truth into someone who just doesn't want it.
Try not to let disagreement sour any relationship, but do guard the door to your mind. If you can tell a minister is liberal, stop listening to him —Proverbs 19:27 says, “Cease, my son, from hearing instruction that causes you to err from the words of knowledge.” Or, as the Living Bible puts it, “Stop listening to teaching that contradicts what you know is right.”
This Bible study was given by Matthew Kalliman on 7/7/07