Armstrongism is the teachings and doctrines of Herbert W. Armstrong while leader of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG).[1][2] His teachings are professed by him and his followers to be the restored true Gospel of the Bible. Armstrong said they were revealed to him by God during his study of the Bible.[3][4] The term Armstrongite is sometimes used to refer to those that follow Armstrong's teachings. Armstrongism and Armstrongite are generally considered derogatory by those to whom it is applied,[5] who prefer to be known as members of the Church of God (COG). These doctrines were also espoused by his sons Richard David Armstrong (until his death in 1958) and Garner Ted Armstrong (until his death in 2003) with slight variations.

Herbert Armstrong's teachings have similarities to those of the Millerites and Church of God (Seventh Day) (sometimes referred to as "COG7" to differentiate it from similarly styled sects named "Church of God" which worship on Sunday and generally hold to traditional Christian teachings), from which WCG is spiritually and organizationally descended. The religion is a blend of Christian fundamentalism, non-belief in the Trinity and some tenets of Judaism and Seventh-Day Sabbath doctrine.[6] Armstrong himself had been a COG7 minister before the Oregon conference stripped him of his ministerial credentials and excommunicated him for his seeking to water down and change their long established COG7 doctrines. It was in the fall of 1937 when Elder Armstrong's credentials were revoked by the Salem Church of God organization. The reason given by the Board of Twelve Oregon Conference of the Church of God, 7th Day (COG7) for this adverse action against Herbert W. Armstrong, was because he taught and kept the annual Feast days. But the real reason seems to have been because of his uncooperative attitude.[7] Armstrong then began his own ministry.

Armstrong taught that most of the basic doctrines and teachings of mainstream Christianity were based on traditions, including absorbed pagan concepts and rituals (i.e. religious syncretism), rather than the Judeo-Christian Bible. His teachings have consequently been the source of much controversy. Shortly after Armstrong's death in 1986, the Worldwide Church of God started revising its core beliefs towards the concepts, doctrines, and creeds of mainstream Christianity. This resulted in many ministers and members leaving the WCG to start or join other churches, many of which continue to believe and teach Armstrong's doctrines to one degree or another. In 2009, the WCG changed its name to Grace Communion International (GCI). Today, the official doctrinal position of GCI is mainstream evangelical, although there are still GCI ministers and members who do not fully embrace all of the changes.

Doctrinal differences

Some of Armstrong's identifiable doctrines are in addition to or are different from traditional mainstream Christian doctrines. Many groups and churches which splintered in the aftermath of doctrinal changes within the Worldwide Church of God continue to hold many or all of these teachings of Armstrong.

God Family

The God Family doctrine holds that the Godhead is not limited to God (the Creator) alone, or even to a trinitarian God, but is a divine family into which every human who ever lived may be spiritually born, through a master plan being enacted in stages. The Godhead now temporarily consists of two co-eternal individuals (see Binitarianism), Jesus the Messiah, as the creator and spokesman (The Word or Logos), and God the Father.

According to this doctrine, humans who are called by God's Holy Spirit to repentance, who [accept], hope to inherit, the gift of eternal life made possible by Jesus' sacrifice, who commit to live by "every word of God" (i.e. biblical scripture), and who "endure to the end" (i.e. remain faithful to live according to God's way of life until either the end of their own lifetime or the second coming of Jesus) would, at Jesus' return, be "born again" into the family of God as the literal spiritual offspring or children of God. Armstrong drew parallels between every stage of human reproduction and this spiritual reproduction. He often stated that "God is reproducing after his own kind— children in his own image." Whatever the changes brought about by this new entrance of humans into God's family, God the Father will always be the omnipotent sovereign and sustainer of both the universe and the spiritual realm, forever to be worshipped as God by the children of God. Jesus, as the creator of the universe and the savior of God's children, will always rule the Kingdom of God, which will ultimately grow to fill the entire universe, and he likewise will forever be worshipped as God by the children of God.

Church's authority

Armstrong taught that the Bible (excluding the Biblical apocrypha and the deuterocanonical books) is the authoritative Word of God (The Proof of the Bible). He taught that even though the Bible's message is inerrant, it had been distorted as the result of many conflicting interpretations of it, and the Gospel's full message of the Kingdom of God as it was understood by the original apostles was not restored until the 20th century, when God opened Armstrong's mind to the plain truth of scripture and revealed the Gospel's full message of the Kingdom of God to the Church through him (Armstrong).[4] Armstrong taught that all other churches which called themselves "Christian" churches were not merely apostate churches, they were actually counterfeit churches because their histories could be traced back to the first century, and they are also described as false churches in the epistles (which refer to a "false gospel", "false ministers" and "false apostles"), the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (the appropriation of "Christian" trappings by influential and ambitious pagan religious figures [including a man known to secular history, Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts]) and later historians like Eusebius.

Sabbatarianism and other Old Testament beliefs

The observance of the Sabbath from dusk on Friday to dusk on Saturday was the first non-traditional religious practice (as compared to mainstream Christianity). In several of his books, Armstrong wrote that after his wife Loma met a member of a Sabbatarian church group (the Church of God (Seventh-Day)), she challenged him to use scripture to prove that Sunday was the proper day for Christian worship, as Herbert claimed. After months of Bible study, Armstrong concluded that there was no sound scriptural basis for Christian worship on Sunday, instead, he asserted that for decades after the establishment of the Church age, the Apostles and the first generation of Christians, both Jewish and Gentile converts, continued to set an example for all Christians by observing the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset).

Eventually, Armstrong accepted and observed many principles and laws which are found in the Old Testament and he also taught converts to do the same. These principles and laws included the Ten Commandments, dietary laws, tithing, and the celebration of high Sabbaths, or annual feast days such as Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Furthermore, he taught that Christians should not celebrate Christmas and Easter, based on his belief that these holidays were not of biblical origin, instead, he believed that the celebration of them originated as the result of later absorptions of pagan practices into corrupted Christianity.

British Israelism

Armstrong was a proponent of British Israelism (also known as Anglo-Israelism), which is the belief that people of Western European descent, especially the British Empire (Ephraim) and the United States (Manasseh), are descended from the "Ten Lost Tribes" of Israel.[8][9] It is also asserted that the German peoples are descended from the ancient Assyrians. Armstrong believed that this doctrine provided a "key" to understanding biblical prophecy, and he also believed that God called him to proclaim these prophecies to the "lost tribes" of Israel before the coming of the "end-times".[10] Grace Communion International, the lineal successor to Armstrong's original church, no longer teaches the doctrine,[11] but many offshoot churches continue to teach it even though critics assert that British Israelism is inconsistent with the findings of modern genetics.[12]: 181 

Other non-mainstream teachings


Armstrongism is defined as a cult in Walter Martin's book, The Kingdom of the Cults (1965). Martin argues that Armstrong's teachings are largely a conglomerate of teachings from other groups, noting similarities in elements of his teachings to the Seventh-day Adventists (sabbatarianism, annihilationism, and their belief in the soul stays asleep until the body resurrection), Jehovah's Witnesses (which is different from the mainstream Christian belief that the soul stays awake and immediately goes to either Heaven or Hell instantly following death), and Mormonism (God Family doctrine).[13]

Churches of God

There are many splinter churches as well as second-generation splinters from WCG since Armstrong's death. Most of these churches hold fast to Armstrong's teachings and primarily pattern their organizations on how WCG operated. They are often referred to collectively as the "Sabbatarian Churches of God" or simply as the "Churches of God" or "the COG."

Notable churches

Notable publications

Television and the internet

Notable people

See also: Evangelists of the Worldwide Church of God

There are a number of people publicly associated with Armstrongism and the legacy of WCG.


  1. ^ "Armstrongism, The Worldwide Church of God, The Church of God International" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2016-01-26. Retrieved 2017-04-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Armstrongism". Archived from the original on 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  3. ^ Tkach, Joseph. "Transformed by Truth". pp. Chapter 7: What we Believed. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  4. ^ a b Mystery of the Ages, pp. 7–30
  5. ^ "What is "Armstrongism"?". Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  6. ^ Times, Special to the New York (1986-01-17). "HERBERT ARMSTRONG, 93, DIES; EVANGELIST AND A BROADCASTER". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-02-14.
  7. ^ "John Kiesz Furnishes Information on Herbert W. Armstrong". 2019-10-19. Retrieved 2023-02-14.
  8. ^ Parfitt, Tudor (2003). The Lost Tribes of Israel: The history of a myth. Phoenix. pp. 52–65.
  9. ^ The United States and Britain in Prophecy.
  10. ^ Orr, R. "How Anglo-Israelism Entered Seventh-day Churches of God: A history of the doctrine from John Wilson to Joseph W. Tkach". Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
  11. ^ "Transformed by Christ: A Brief History of the Worldwide Church of God". Grace Communion International. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
  12. ^ Hale, Amy (2016). "Reigning with Swords of Meteoric Iron: Archangel Michael and the British New Jerusalem". In Parker, Joanne (ed.). The Harp and the Constitution: Myths of Celtic and Gothic Origin. Brill Academic Pub. ISBN 9789004306370.
  13. ^ Martin, Walter (1985) Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House Publishers. pp.303-37