Saturday, January 29, 2011

COG Worldwide Association Claims False Roots (long version)

The FAQ on the Church of God A Worldwide Association website makes this claim: “We trace our history back to the first-century Church of God.” Oh no, they most certainly do not! They do not trace back at all. Rather, they presume. I would like to look in to this and why it is dead, dead wrong.

To make this easier on people who can't stand history, I’ll split this article up into two posts - the short version, and the long version. This post is...


Look for yourself:

We trace our history back to the first-century Church of God. Jesus promised that from the time He founded the Church onward through His second coming to the earth there would always be believers who understood and held to the truth.
"‘I will build My church,’ Jesus said, ‘and the gates of Hades [the grave] shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). In other words, He promised that His Church would never die out."
The Church of God has always remained small in comparison to others, but Christ has kept His promise, His Church has survived, and it continues today.

Here is their logic and their presumption:
Jesus promised that His church would never end, and we are the “true” church, therefore, we must have always existed since the time of Jesus.

It is easy for a person within the organization to accept this. They accept without question that they are the “true” church. The fact of the matter is all Adventist organizations believe this about themselves. They cannot all be the “one true church.” Nor are they alone in this regard. There are many, many organizations who claim to be “the one true church.”
Allow me to demonstrate my claim that they believe they are the “true” church. This can be proved from the FAQ itself.

However, He also prophesied the rise of counterfeit churches throughout the ages (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Acts 20:29-30).
Secular history is not always helpful in tracing the history of the Church of God because it focuses principally upon churches that preach ‘another Jesus’ and a ‘different gospel’ (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Do you see? They have set themselves up as the “true” church by tearing other churches down as “counterfeit” and anti-Christ, most especially the Catholic Church. But if the history of the Catholic Church is so very false, then by extension so are all Protestant Churches. And if we ignore all groups and cults and what-not which are neither Catholic nor Protestant (for example the Coptics, the Orthodox church, and the Gnostics), that leaves whom? Why, them, of course!
But is this any proof, or just baseless accusation?

How do we know for sure that the COGWA is the “true” church? Two distinguishing marks are given.


The lesser of the two marks (I say lesser because it is barely mentioned in comparison to the first mark) is the gospel that they preach.

Do not be fooled, valued reader. The gospel which Herbert Armstrong taught is a false gospel. The gospel preached to this hour by the COG splinter groups is the counterfeit.
We have a whole section in the Categories page about the gospel which Armstrongism teaches. If you would like specific suggestions, then please read “What Is the Gospel?” or “The Gospel In Detail”. Or if you just want a quick overview, look up the section on the Gospel in our FAQ page. This is a massive subject, so please excuse me if I take the easy way out and just quote a section of our FAQ.

HWA taught “Kingdom of God” means the second coming of Christ and the rule of God on Earth. The second coming is a portion of the Gospel, but not the most important portion. More important is our redemption, salvation, and glorification through the life, death, and life of Christ. The phrase “gospel of the Kingdom of God” is mostly used in Matthew. But we also see “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (MARK. 1: 1), “gospel of the grace of God” (ACT. 20: 24), “gospel of God” (ROM. 1: 1; 15: 16; II COR. 11: 7; I THS. 2: 8-9; I PET. 4: 17), “gospel of the blessed God” (I TIM. 1: 11), “gospel of His Son” (ROM. 1: 9), “gospel of Christ” (ROM. 1: 16; 15: 19, 29; I COR. 9: 12, 18; II COR. 9: 13; 10: 14; GAL. 1: 7; PHP. 1: 27; I THS. 3: 2; ), “gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II THS. 1: 8), “gospel of the glory of Christ” (II COR. 4: 4), and “gospel of peace” (ROM. 10: 15; EPH. 6: 15). Out of the 101 appearances of the word “gospel”, the phrase “gospel of the Kingdom” only appears 4 times. None of these include any indication that this phrase exclusively means the second coming. This understanding is read into the text because this is what HWA taught. For comparison, “gospel of Christ” appears over twice as often at 10 times. As a matter of fact, the oft-used phrase, “gospel of the coming Kingdom of God” appears nowhere in the Bible.

“Gospel” means “good news.” The following is the good news Paul preached. Paul recorded for us what is believed to be the oldest creed in Christianity:

(I COR. 15: 1-5) 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

(I COR. 2: 2) For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Elsewhere, Paul calls the Gospel the “message of the cross” (I COR. 1: 17-18). Why would he do that if the Gospel was only about the future Kingdom? He would not.

So, I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and gravity, do not make assumptions about the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (ROM. 1: 16). You get this wrong, and salvation itself is at stake, unless you have believed in vain. Get this wrong, and you can build nothing of value on the Foundation. Get this wrong, and you may bring upon yourself the very wrath of God Himself.

(GAL. 1: 8-9) 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

And what Gospel did you receive from Paul? That Jesus Christ came as a literal, physical, fleshly man, was crucified for our sins on the cross and literally died, and was raised to life again on the third day. There is no other Gospel than this. There is no other way to salvation other than through what Christ accomplished on the cross. This is the good news! Jesus accomplished what He came to do. "Telesteo!" There would be no second coming and no hope for mankind if it weren't for this.


The first mark that they are the true church is, oddly enough, the size of the organization.

In comparison to these other churches, His description of the original group of disciples proved prophetic, for He called them a "little flock" (Luke 12:32). The Church of God has always remained small in comparison to others…
We find the origins of Sabbath-keeping in the colonies in a small group…
Although remaining relatively small, the Church of God grew in America.

But this is no proof at all. All groups are small in comparison to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is the largest single denomination of any religion on earth. Just recently, the sum total of all Muslims on earth has surpassed this one Christian denomination.
Protestants combined are estimated to make up roughly 40% of Christianity (but there is no way to accurately measure this, since massive underground churches exist in oppressed areas of the world.) If we compare the sizes of the major Protestant denominations, they are also comparatively small. This gets increasingly true when we factor in the minor Protestant groups, like the Church of Christ or the Amish for example.
Then we have the many fringe groups, like the Mormons or the Adventists or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are also very small in comparison.

So the relative size is no proof at all. Jesus did say that He had a little flock. But what did He mean by that? He had 120 disciples; a very little flock. But did He intend that His church would be a little flock forever? The Bible doesn’t say. There were thousands of converts on the first Pentecost alone. In a single day the Church grew exponentially. So, we are only making assumptions when we claim that the church would always be little.

But notice how the Armstrongist groups have always played both ends of this. While claiming the little size is the sign, they also tout the growth and reach of their groups. Herbert Armstrong would often claim that his Worldwide Church of God grew at an annual rate of 33%.
The COGWA is no different in this:
In 1931 this Conference ordained a man whom God would eventually use to do a powerful worldwide work, Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986).
“Powerful, worldwide work,” eh? So the “true” church is a small group and a powerful, worldwide group at the same time. I call this playing both ends against the middle.

So we need a small group, but a large group. The Seventh-day Adventist church is the largest of all of the world’s Sabbatarian churches. They are small, yet large. They match the criteria. Why aren’t they the “true” church? So, I suppose we have to be very careful in our calculations on this.
Then, we have infighting between the various splinter groups that broke off of the Worldwide Church of God. Several of them claim to be the “one true church” to the exclusion of their own sister churches. The Philadelphia Church of God, for example, has made it a rule that its members cannot have anything to do with members of the other COG splinters.

And you just try to get the actual head-count in any Armstrongist splinter group. They won’t give it to you. Most of them don’t really know for sure. Some of them purposefully cook their books; counting only new members but never subtracting when members leave.
Think about it. If we calculate an annual growth of 33%, a church which starts with just one person will grow to over 1.5 million people in 50 years. The official number of members of the Worldwide Church of God never made it much past the mystical number of 144,000 people.

WikiPedia article on “Christian Denomination” has some fabulous charts to help you visualize the Christian denominations. Here is another resource on WikiPedia, “List of Christian denominations by number of members.


Like I said earlier – no they don’t.
Two things. First, they are a new denomination; they haven’t traced anything. They get their information from the United Church of God from whence they sprang, and the UCG in turn got its information from the Worldwide Church of God from whence they sprang. As we documented in our article “True History of the True Church?,” Herbert Armstrong and Herman Hoeh plagiarized information from a book written by A. N. Dugger and C. O. Dodd of the Church of God (Seventh Day). So, in fact, the WCG got its information from the COG7 from which it sprang. The COGWA has done nothing but perpetuate someone else’s body of work. Second, the information couldn’t possibly be more faulty and unreliable. There is little if any truth to it. Let’s look at the COGWA’s specific claims.

Even so, we can find glimpses of the Church Jesus founded in Europe in the Middle Ages among the Waldensians and Anabaptists. The Church of God thrived for a time in England, but persecution eventually drove some believers to the American colonies in search of religious freedom.
We find the origins of Sabbath-keeping in the colonies in a small group led by Stephen Mumford in Rhode Island.

Here we see that three specific groups are mentioned: the Waldensians, the Anabaptists, and the Seventh Day Baptists [Stephen Mumford’s church.] Let’s look at them.


It is a sad reality that almost every Christian-oriented cult with a bone to pick against the Catholics traces themselves back to the Waldensians. This is not something unique to Adventism/Armstrongism by any means. Who were they?

It depends on who you ask. Like I said, groups tend to trace themselves to the Waldensians, so you’ll get anything you want about this group, depending on who you ask. I strongly suggest that you ask them. They’re still around, you know. Wouldn’t they know best what their own history is? None the less, this is what the old Worldwide Church of God said about them:

Their enemies admitted that these people proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of God, that they baptized repentant believers and obeyed the whole law of God.
-Herman Hoeh, “True History of the True Church”, p. 23

When I checked Herman Hoeh’s source material, specifically Jones’ “Church History”, I found this to be an outright lie.
Jones specifically says, on p. 80 of his book, that the Waldensians did not tithe. In fact, Jones relates this to us on p. 82:

An impartial review of the doctrinal sentiments maintained by the Waldenses; the discipline, order, and worship of their churches, as well as their general deportment and manner of life, not to mention their determined and uniform opposition to the church of Rome, affords abundant evidence of the similarity of their views and practices to those held by Luther, Calvin, and the other illustrious characters, whose labours, in the sixteenth century, contributed so eminently to effect the glorious Reformation.

I want you to know this - the Waldensians began as Catholics! One man who is credited with starting the Waldensian church, Peter Waldo, even went to Pope Alexander III and asked for permission to preach. Yes, they were Catholics in almost every way until they were anathematized in the Fourth Laterian Council. This made them for all practical purposes, Protestant. And they remain Protestant to this day. They have been members of the Presbyterian Church since 1895.
If the COG splinters trace themselves to the Waldensians, then they trace themselves to Protestantism and then ultimately to Catholicism, and that is inescapable fact.


I will not go into depth about the Anabaptists. Suffice it to say that the main groups who have come out of the Anabaptist movement are the Amish, Menonites, Brethren, and Friends movements. Do any of these groups match Armstrongism? No!

Herman Hoeh tied the Worldwide Church of God to the Anabaptists via a group called the “Peterobrussians”, which was started by a man named Peter de Bruys.

Philip Schaff, in the book “History of the Christian Church”, Vol. V: The Middle Ages A.D. 1049-1294, under section 81: “Peter de Bruys and Other Independent Leaders,” laid out the five main complaints against what Peter taught (which I paraphrase):
1) baptism of adults only, 2) church buildings and altars are useless, 3) crosses are idolatry, 4) the mass is useless, and the Eucharistic transubstantiation is not true, 5) prayers, alms, and good works for the dead are useless.

And that was really it. No Sabbath. No “correct church government.”
Once again, the Petrobrussians and related groups were Catholic reformers. Once again, if the COG splinters trace themselves to the Anabaptists, then they trace themselves to Protestantism and then ultimately to Catholicism, and that is inescapable fact.


George Benjamin Utter, in his book, “Manual of the Seventh-Day Baptists”, p. 17, says this:

In England, the controversy relative to the Sabbath commenced near the close of the sixteenth century. Nicholas Bound, D. D., of Norton, in Suffolk, published a book in 1595, in which he advanced the modern view concerning the ‘Christian Sabbath,’ that it is a perpetuation of the fourth commandment… Bound’s book was suppressed by order of Archbishop Whitgift in 1599. But its suppression was followed by the publication of numerous other works, in which every shade of opinion on the subject was expressed.

Groups of churches sprung up in various places. Mr. Utter counts eleven main groups, three of which survived into the 1800’s. It was a group in the London area that sent Steven Mumford to Rhode Island in 1664 where he preached the seventh day Sabbath to Baptists in the region.

The Newport Historical Society, in their online article “Welcome to the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House”, says this:

In the 1660s, seven members of the First Baptist Church of Newport became convinced that the Ten Commandments should be obeyed literally, and began to observe the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. In 1671, they withdrew, formed the Seventh Day Baptist Church, and chose William Hiscox as their first pastor."

Do not forget – these are Baptists. The Baptists are Protestants. In every way they are Baptists except they have adopted the seventh day Sabbath. They had no such Armstrongist views other than the Sabbath. It was this complete compatibility that allowed Mumford to be successful among Sunday observing Baptists.
For the third time, if the COG splinters trace themselves to the Baptists, then they trace themselves to Protestantism and then ultimately to Catholicism, and that is inescapable fact.


The three groups which were mentioned in the COGWA FAQ are not ancestors of the Armstrongist splinters. If these three groups were ancestors, then they should trace their own roots in the exact same way Hoeh did. Yet they do not. They all trace their history, in three different ways, to the Roman Catholic Church.
If the COGWA claims to come from these groups, and these groups claim to come from the Catholic Church, then how could the COGWA possibly come from anywhere else?

Just like they do with the Old Covenant law, the Armstrongist groups have cherry-picked history. A little from here, a little from there, none of it contiguous - so long as the road doesn't lead to Rome!

So, where does Armstrongism really come from? Answer: the Adventist movement.

Somewhere between 1818 and 1831, a man by the name of William Miller, a Deist and Freemason turned Baptist (not Seventh Day Baptist for he was never a Sabbatarian), thought he had calculated when Christ would return (the Second Advent). Through the 1830s he preached powerfully and drew quite a following. These dupes of Mr. Miller were called "Millerites" because they followed the teachings of Mr. Miller and "Adventists" because they preached the Second Advent of Christ. In 1843-1844 his prophecies fell through. Twice! (But this pails when compared to Herbert Armstrong’s 200+ failed prophecies.)

According to Absolute Astronomy article on “Rachel Oakes Preston”, it was Ms. Preston, a member of the Seventh Day Baptist congregation in Verona, New York, who first introduced the Sabbath doctrine to Adventism. According to the Washington, New Hampshire SDA website, Ms. Preston moved her family to Washington, New Hampshire where she met a group of William Miller’s Adventists. It was between March 1843 and the autumn of 1844, immediately after the “Great Disappointment,” that Rachel’s Sabbatarian influence bore its fruit.
There is also the influence of one Millerite preacher, Joseph Bates, who learned about the Sabbath in Washington, New Hampshire. According to the Ellen G. White official estate website, Joseph Bates wrote a tract on the Sabbath in 1846 which influenced John and Ellen G. White.
According to the Ellen G. White official estate website, in an article titled “Ellen G. White: A Brief Biography”, under section “Marriage of James White and Ellen Harmon”, John and Ellen White accepted the Saturday Sabbath in the latter half of 1846.
After years of disagreements with Ellen G. White’s prophecies, Gilbert Cranmer officially split from the Adventists in 1860 and proceeded to form what became the Church of God (Seventh Day). It was the COG7 which first awarded Herbert W Armstrong his ministerial credentials in 1931. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Armstrongism does not trace its history to the first century A.D. Their history stops at the false prophet William Miller who founded the Adventist movement in the late 1830's. And that is a fact.

So, the FAQ on the COGWA website is dead, dead wrong. Did they “trace their history?” If they didn’t, then why do they say they did? If they did, then they know about what I am telling you, yet they persist in claiming something that is not true.
I suspect they know good and well that their FAQ is wrong. Notice how they completely skipped over their Seventh-day Adventist history, and their roots in Millerism/Adventism. Both William Miller and Ellen G. White are considered false prophets to the very Armstrongists who came from them. Why would they skip that if it weren’t for how damaging it would be to them to admit it?

How can the “true” church come from such a background of false prophets? Would the “true” church lie about its history like this?

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11


Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

Oh yes, if one wants their eyes opened to the false roots of Armstrongism, look no further. Don't forget Bruce Renehan's Daughter of Babylon where he thoroughly disproves this nonsense at:

xHWA said...

Looks like they've updated their website and taken out the information this post was written to address. A very positive move on their part. I approve.

Anonymous said...

Well, they updated the website but they did not change the statement: The About Us section states "The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, teaches and practices the same way of life Jesus Christ and the first-century Church of God followed. We observe the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths or Holy Days, as did Jesus and the early Church."

xHWA said...

Good point, Anon.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they never had it there and this person who is writing this has a vendetta to destroy the true word taught originally by
Mr Armstrong. You shouldn't believe gossipers and warmongers.

xHWA said...

And maybe you need to learn how to use the Internet. Let me know how you like your crow.

Here is a link to the original verbiage (taken from a different COGWA resourse):

And in case that link somehow disappears:

Warmonger? Seriously? lol

Ekklesia said...

Well written. The cogs are so frustrating even as I yet attend with them. It strikes me that the seventh day Baptists and Sunday baptists got on fine as they didn't have the HWA nonsense. It could still be that way, but the "you're in; you're not" mindset is alive and well in the cogs.

Lee Walker said...

The fact that no Armstrongist history--and no Armstrongist historian save Richard Nickels--even mentions Rachel Oakes Preston's name, and all try to distort what she did, is proof enough that her story debunks Armstrongist "True Church" successions. One day, I would love to talk to one of the current crop of those seeking to prove their claims and ask about her. If they claim they haven't heard of her, their credibility would be gone--they'd either be lying, or they'd be proving their "research" is nothing but gleaning old Hoeh writings that likewise intentionally hid or obscured her story.

xHWA said...

Lee Walker,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!
We agree with you. We'd love to hear how current people justify their claims.

They had a really good thing going back in the last few centuries. All they had to do was claim that their information came from a scholarly source, and it was as good as gold. The common person would never in their lifetimes be able to access those sources to prove the claims wrong and even fewer would have the motivation, and they knew it. Those days are over.

Now we have the Internet. Now we have genetics. Now we have so very many historians, archaeologists, scholars, and etc who pour over details of history and dig up cities buried for millennia to get to the facts. Then they give that knowledge out to us. One cannot simply claim that England is the tribe of Ephraim and just forgot who they are, and hope that sticks to the wall. We have far too much information that makes British Israelism a lie. One cannot simply clam some obscure name from history, like Peter DuBruys, was a Sabbath-keeping Armstrongist from the past. He wasn't, and it can be demonstrated. One cannot simply claim the written documentation is a lie and proceed to make up something new out of thin air. Proof is mandatory!

The time of making unsupportable claims is over. All of this nonsense that the "one true church" swam like a fish up the river of time, in and out of countries and small church movements, back and forth and up and down - based on minute similarities in doctrine, or worse, made up similarities in doctrine - is finished.

Now, we just need to get current and prospective members to insist on better information for themselves.

God bless!

Lee Walker said...

PART 1: I left Armstrongism in 2001, not over most doctrines, but simply a combination of a rejection of its "True Church" claims and certain matters specific to the relatively mild denomination I was attending at the time.

In that time, I found that the answer to "True Church" is actually rather simple. If someone believes there is an earthly organizational "True Church" before God, then it is of top importance that one submit to the right church organization. Hence OBJECTIVE PROOF is needed. And Scripture gives at least part of the burden of proof that would need to be met: Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. There, certain apparently priestly families were barred from operating as priests due to a lack of objective proof of their priestly descent. Armstrongist ministry famously see themselves as analogous to the Levitical priesthood, so this should at least get someone's attention. "True Church" histories have never produced a verifiable "unbroken" line of ordination from the Apostles to their ministry. They can't even show a minister was present at Armstrong's ordination! Using that scriptural standard--an objective standard--their claim of being what they claim to be is invalid. I didn't say "proven false," only invalid--it can't be accepted as proof for application. Every other serious argument for their "True Church" status is relative and/or subjective--doctrines can change and jump (and without a valid "True Church" ministry, have no authority beyond a given fellowship); Armstrong's work was big compared to what?; a "great Feast of Tabernacles" is simply individual experience/opinion. Ultimately, any Armstrongist resorting to those other arguments will end up having to lean on ministerial authority. Only "Apostolic Succession" potentially holds objective authority apart from that.


Lee Walker said...


Their ministers can continue to "rule" their denominations and congregations, as their position in those is easily proven, but they can't claim an exclusive hold on members. The whole intent and function of the claim--holding members--is gone. Members may decide to stay in Armstrongist fellowships for personal or (other) doctrinal reasons, or they may decide to leave. But that is a matter for their respective consciences between them and God in their Christian walks, and something with must be respected, even if one might disagree on those issues. In any case, the cult aspect is broken.

As for those relying on Armstrong's own "Apostle" or whatever status, there are two points:
1. He is affected by the above, as he claimed his authority came from that succession, not that his "office" dropped out of Heaven, so to speak; and
2. Whatever his merits and accomplishments, it doesn't put him in authority. He once spoke of a non-Sabbatarian minister's success running an orphanage despite every odd against him as showing him to be an "apostle of faith." If someone believes/chooses to believe Armstrong was some sort of "apostle of (Sabbatarian) Anglo-Israelism" or such, fine. Let them support his legacy in the sense of promoting their beliefs. But even as that faith apostle held no inherent authority, neither would an Israelist-ID apostle. It's entirely possible God wanted Armstrong to "bring awareness," as we say today, to that matter, and Armstrong went way off the reservation and created a cult with it.

Doctrine is an excellent reason to ATTEND a church. If you believe in Leviticus 23 Holy Days, attending a church that observes those is quite sensible. Appreciation of a certain evangelistic operation due to its doctrines--and apparent success in promoting them--is a good reason to support it financially and with words. But doctrine is not a reason to accept a claim of authority over oneself or to believe a given entity has a lock on any of it. And spiritually pleasing experiences in a fellowship is a decent reason to remain in that fellowship. But such subjective senses aren't proofs of anything other than that something is appealing in one's own heart (cf. Jeremiah 17:9).

So my suggestion to you is that you go less on all those Armstrongist "down-ballot" doctrines--think back, as an Armstrongist you'd already accepted that "all these churches can be wrong--and focus on undercutting the twin pillars of the cult--"True Church" status itself and Armstrong's credentials of whatever type. Using a carbon-copy of the Tkachite "New Covenant" theology only hurts your cause with most Armstrongists. Besides, most of your Protestant friends reject the wholesale rejection of the Decalogue. I personally fundamentally DISagree still with Tkachism, yet I rejected the Armstrongist cult. Don't be a doctrinal ditch-jumper, and don't fall into thinking that agreement on those doctrines somehow invalidates someone's Christian faith.

xHWA said...

Thank you Lee. I appreciate your insight and the time you took to comment.