Note: The following article is a reprint. It originally appeared in the Aug. 31, 1999 issue of The Journal.
Human deification not biblical
Mr. Haney is an independent minister and founder and director of Christ Fellowship Ministries (CFM).
By F. Paul Haney
WATERTOWN, Conn.--The Journal (June 30) published an interview with Ian Boyne of the Church of God International (CGI) detailing a class he had conducted in Jamaica on cults. In that interview it appears Mr. Boyne proudly defeats a class of Protestant seminary students in a lecture and Q&A session.
The gullibility, ignorance and inexperience of the vast majority of professing Christians regarding much of biblical Christianity, even of that to which they subscribe, is widely known. Those seminary neophytes are no doubt just as ignorant of as much biblical doctrine as most people are; they are only beginners and not the "best and brightest" in the Protestant world.
The more important consideration is this: Did Ian Boyne glorify Jesus Christ or Herbert Armstrong in his lecture with those of another faith and in his representation of Sabbatarians?
Why am I so concerned? What business is it of yours or mine what Mr. Boyne teaches publicly?
Our main concern should revolve around the spreading of unscriptural but, oddly enough, popular Church of God cultic dogma in the name of Christ. To ignore this stuff is to give it some amount of credence, which inevitably reflects on nearly every one of us, since Mr. Armstrong obliquely claims to represent most of The Journal's readers and then some.
Specifically the article said Mr. Boyne "explained" to the students two of the "Armstrong movement's" most controversial doctrines: (1) "man will become God" and (2) "the Armstrong movement is the only true church," which he "still passionately believes." I take issue with both of these cultic doctrines and his presumptuous representation of other Sabbatarian believers.
I am thankful we are free to believe what we want.
However, a serious problem emerges when someone presumes to represent a body of people to the world, and that body supposedly comprises a religious sect he has dubbed "the Armstrong movement."
To make matters worse, Mr. Boyne further misrepresents many Sabbatarians by publicly teaching traditions of men that are demonstrably false, by propagating cultic doctrines and by implicating others in his remarks.
Frankly, if Mr. Boyne would simply speak for himself, his "reformed Armstrongism" and the CGI, rather than presume to represent some obscure "Armstrong movement," he would better serve the Sabbatarian community.
Sabbatarians are a varied bunch, and not all of us are huddled in Mr. Boyne's Armstrongism camp.
I, for one, am most definitely not a part of any Armstrong movement, organization or alliance, regardless of my affiliations for the last 32-plus years or what I may doctrinally believe. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: "It's about time you come to know who are the false prophets, and who is speaking the true word of God faithfully!" (from the booklet Kingdom of God: What Does It Mean to You?, reprinted by the Church of God Sabbath Day, Springdale, Ark.). That is still a good idea.
Further, when a person purporting to represent my King and Lord, Jesus Christ, propagates cultic, heretical doctrines in a public forum as biblical truth, it becomes my business. It should also be yours.
Facts and fallacies
Fact: Those in "the Armstrong movement" most definitely do not encompass "the only true church" of God. The proven false prophet and self-proclaimed apostle Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) concocted this cultic idea, and it is about time someone put the notion to rest.
HWA: "God's Church today [the Worldwide Church of God], as in the first century, receives its teachings from the living Christ, through an apostle, just as in AD 31" (Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong, 1985, p. 350).
That this man preached good and believable things is no defense of his status as a false prophet and a false apostle. Nor does it excuse his (or anyone else's) teachings of rank WCG error.
According to the Bible, the church is the spiritual body of believers, in no certain place, with Jesus at its head. No organization or group of organizations in the world may morally and honestly represent itself as the only true Church of God.
"And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23; compare 1 Corinthians 12:12-28).
More than one God?
Much worse than Mr. Boyne's delusion regarding the "true" church is his unscriptural, misleading and dangerous teaching that "man will become God." This notion flies directly in the face of a sovereign and holy God. The view that man will become God is one of the original lies and heresies of the great deceiver, Satan, the father of lies.
You can read about the big satanic deception in Genesis. "Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).
To desire to be like God in some way or another is a driving force behind many religious and not-so-religious types, and this of and by itself is not bad. Christians are supposed to develop and grow into Godlike persons and bear godly fruit (Mark 4:20; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Peter 3:18).
However, some religious types are not content with being godly servants of the living and present King, Jesus Christ. They want to rule and lord it over others; they want to be God as God is God. They want to ascend to heaven and have their thrones exalted above the stars of God, to sit on the mount of the congregation and be just like the Most High God (Isaiah 14:13-14).
To seek to actually become God and gain tremendous power over many others, even the world, goes beyond the pale of physical corporate church elitism and authoritarianism.
At least 25 years ago Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God taught the view that man will become God. His ideas form the basis of Mr. Boyne's religious philosophy; they represent his source material.
HWA: "Untold millions of humans shall have become fully born sons of the living God--then composed of spirit--then divine as God is divine . . . Those who receive that salvation will be creators. Planets will be turned into beautiful, productive planets, sustaining new life. New life will be created" (The Plain Truth, December 1974, "Personal From Herbert W. Armstrong").
In the same article Mr. Armstrong claims this teaching is "included" in "the only true gospel of Christ."
No, it is not. As Mr. Armstrong often said, we should believe the Bible, not him.
Now, that's equality
Another WCG writer: "What is clear is that all of us human beings, male and female alike, are offered equality with God: now that's equality!" (The Good News, November 1975, "In His Image: Heirs Together," David Jon Hill).
HWA: "Our potential is to be born into the God family, receiving total power! We are to be given jurisdiction over the entire universe!" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 362).
To believe that man will become God and be recipients of all divine power is to believe a decidedly extrabiblical tradition of men. It is an arrogant heresy and a false gospel not found in the Bible.
From a WCG Good News magazine article: "True Christians who overcome and qualify in this life will become God as God is God. There is no greater glory than to look and to be like God Himself! . . . But, believe it or not, you are a potential omnipotent power. You were born to become God! This is the mystery of God!" (The Good News, July 1976, pp. 16, 28). Notice: One must qualify for eternal life as a God. This is salvation by works.
Here is a sample of the tortuous logic used to justify this offensive doctrine. "If we are to be changed from physical to spiritual--and not just ordinary spiritual, but by and into the spirit of God; if we are taught by Jesus to pray 'Our Father in heaven . . .'; if He really is our (not just His) Father; if we are (to be) His sons; if we share the Father's and the Son's glory; if we inherit eternal life; if we partake of the divine nature; if we are to be just like Jesus now is; if we have the complete mind of Christ; if we are worthy of worship--we must be God!" (The Good News, July 1976, p. 28).
The problem with this clever logic is obvious. It is only human reasoning. Not a hint of the notion that we will become God follows from any of this tainted mixture of implication, conditions, truth and much error.
For example, Scripture nowhere states that we will be "just like Jesus now is." Here is the closest we can get: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
Being "like" Christ is very different from being "just like" Christ. That something might be possible does not permit us to make the illogical leap that it will necessarily happen. The Good News argument is a fallacious extension of a corrupted if-then logical statement. Moreover, this scripture clearly says we "are" children of God while the Good News writer adds his opinion to God's Word by saying we are "to be" His sons.
HWA: "Man has the potentiality of becoming God! . . . By the very fact that God, through man, is reproducing Himself, we know man, when his spiritual creation is completed, shall actually become God!" (The Good News, September 1979, "Your Children: Future Gods?").
There is more. "But we shall also be, as priests, co-saviors with Him in saving the world" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 240). Are we now to be Gods, Creators and Co-Saviors?
Mr. Armstrong taught that becoming God was the exclusive future of people who were part of the WCG (before 1986). He gave no quarter to anyone outside his church, to those who left his church or to any summarily ejected from WCG fellowship.
Understandably, that exclusivist true church has fallen on hard times theologically. With its fall Mr. Armstrong's references to the WCG as the central focus of Christ and as the "true church" also fell.
About his church Mr. Armstrong wrote: "The very first portion of God's spiritual harvest of humans finally to be born of God--made God Beings--is the Church! . . . They shall be God beings!" (p. 234).
Continuing: "The Church, then, is that body of called-out ones who at the resurrection shall form the firstfruits of God's harvest. That harvest is the reaping of physical flesh-and-blood, matter-composed humans converted into divine immortal God beings--those in whom God actually has reproduced Himself!" (pp. 255-256).
"The kingdom of God will be the God family--a superbly and highly trained and organized family of God beings . . . Only those so trained in the Church will be priests and kings in the kingdom of God" (p. 270).
(Remember that Mr. Armstrong's point of reference was always the WCG, the visible corporate church.)
These special Church of God beings will be (or, rather, were supposed to become, before the WCG fell apart) the "headquarters church" after Christ returns.
HWA: "Christ Himself will be ruling from Jerusalem. Stationed there with Christ, under immediate direction of Elijah, it is indicated, will be those immortals chosen by Christ to constitute the Headquarters Church" (p. 347).
Mr. Armstrong taught that this special cadre of God beings could exist only within the confines of his Worldwide Church of God organization (p. 271). "The purpose of the Church, remember, is to prepare 'called-out ones' to teach and to rule in the kingdom of God" (p. 298).
Although Mr. Armstrong occasionally referred to "God's church" as a "spiritual organism" rather than an organization, in practice the corporate WCG organization was central and vital to his theology, and the WCG quickly evolved into a god in its own right.
HWA: "The Church of God is God's spiritual organism, well organized, for feeding on spiritual food, training and developing in spiritual righteous character the future God beings--sons of God the Father!" (p. 265).
"God's Church was designed in His supreme master plan to prepare that dedicated and organized personnel of God beings" (p. 227).
Becoming a God being is tied to salvation. Although he mentions that "salvation is a free gift," the church organization was obviously so important that even salvation itself was not possible without qualifying. According to Mr. Armstrong, some folks stood to lose the salvation "they thought they had" if they did not qualify (p. 254).
In referring to the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:11-27, Mr. Armstrong wrote this about the servant who did not put his money to work, comparing him to someone today: "He shall not make it into the kingdom! He was not called merely for salvation, but to qualify to rule under Christ in the kingdom, when God does open salvation to all on earth" (p. 254).
Never mind, of course, that salvation had already been open to all on the earth. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Additionally, it is abundantly clear from plain Scripture that God intended to make salvation--eternal life--available to all the "nations" (gentiles) of the world beginning in the first century. That is the plain truth.
"'If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?' When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life' " (Acts 11:17-18).
New Age bedrock
Mr. Boyne and others of his persuasion in the Churches of God are not alone in their belief that certain special human beings will become God. Eventual deification of man happens to be one of the primary foundational themes of cultic New Age thought and philosophy. It is pure New Age bedrock.
Thousands of New Age fanatics would gladly embrace Mr. Boyne and rise in his defense of this concept. They, too, want to be God. Although the New Age movement suggests a number of reincarnations before reaching exaltation, deification and "Ascended Master" status, Mr. Boyne's concept (via Mr. Armstrong) of ascension to such a lofty perch takes only one change of essence or being, one essential "rebirth." His view does not appear to be terribly far removed from the New Age model.
New Age thinking says spirit guides (Ascended Masters) are former humans who have evolved spiritually to the point that they no longer have to reincarnate because they have paid off their negative karmic debts with good deeds.
New Agers need to reincarnate to qualify to ascend to wherever they go.
In other words, they must qualify for salvation. They pay their debts to the New Age culture by doing good deeds and by obeying their laws of "sowing and reaping."
The New Age movement's promise to their seekers and followers is to evolve spiritually into gods, which parallels to a great degree much of what Mr. Armstrong taught and what others in the Armstrong movement still teach (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 1996, Harvest House, John Ankerberg and John Weldon).
Followers of Mormonism also teach human advancement into God beings. "Man may become god. 'Here then is eternal life . . . to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you . . . To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of God' (History of the Church, Joseph Smith, Vol. 6, p. 306)" (Mormonism: What You Need to Know: Quick Reference Guide, Ed Decker).
Those who teach an "eventual" status of personal deification and who claim to lead others to God may actually be leading others to themselves, since they believe they will become God and rule the universe. In a sense they may be building future congregations of God beings for themselves as chief gods and kings over their respective realms but under, they would say, Jesus Christ.
This is a slippery slope. I am not so sure the Lord agrees with Mr. Boyne's or Mr. Armstrong's ideas of human deification.
WCG members were supposed to "become God as God is God" according to material written by the leaders of that organization. The WCG ministry fully supported that aberrant and foolish concept; others still do.
Question: Where is the WCG today? What happened to all those Gods in waiting? Are they busy or sleeping or meditating in the wings somewhere?
Answer: Maybe the true God had something to say about that cultic doctrine after all. Maybe the true God got tired of so many WCG people making a desperate grab for His sovereign throne.