HOW IN THIS age of religious confusion could one come to know these seven basic truths that decry this world-gripping conglomeration of beliefs? Why are people in Thailand Buddhist, those in the Arab world Islamic? Primarily, of course, because they and those around them grew up being taught, and automatically accepting, those faiths. To expect one of them to discover the TRUTH (hidden from them and also contrary to the teachings of childhood and maturity which engulfed them) would seem to be expecting the impossible. Why do most people believe the things they believe? Few, indeed, ever stop to ask themselves in retrospect how they came to accept the beliefs that have found lodgment in their minds.
The Source of TRUTH
You probably have seen pictures of the statue "The Thinker." A man sitting alone, leaning forward, elbows on his knees, his hand supporting his head. There, supposedly, he sits in deep thought, hour after hour, day after day—just thinking! Supposedly that statue depicts the manner in which some of the religions of the world came into being. But "the Thinker" had nothing to think from! No foundation for his thinking. No facts on which to base his conjectures. The human mind is not equipped to manufacture truth with no basis for that truth! However, few, it seems, really think! Most people accept carelessly what they are taught from childhood. And, coming into maturity, they accept that which they have repeatedly heard, read, or been taught. They continue to go along, usually without question, with their peers. Most people do not realize it, but they have carelessly assumed what they believe without question or proof. Yet they will defend vigorously and emotionally their convictions. It has become human nature for people to flow with the stream—to go along with the crowd—to believe and perform like their peers around them. Further, most people stubbornly refuse to believe what they are unwilling to believe. There's an old saying, "He who is convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." I was no different. Of myself, and of my own volition, I would never have discovered these GREAT TRUTHS. But then, the prophet Moses never would have discovered the truths he wrote—the first five books of the Bible. It required a miraculous act of GOD, in the incident of the burning bush, to open his mind and to reveal to him the things of God. Even on being confronted by the very voice of God, Moses protested. But God's command was irresistible and Moses yielded. The apostle Paul, centuries later, never would have come to know or reveal for us God's TRUTHS of his own will. He was "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1). But the living Jesus struck him down blind, brought him to his senses and instructed him both in knowledge and in what Christ determined he should do. Christ in Person revealed to him many of the TRUTHS you will read here. How, then, did I come to understand the precious knowledge of the TRUTH? Certainly not "on my own," or because I sought it or because of any virtues above other humans. But Jesus Christ struck me down in a manner quite different from the apostle Paul's experience, yet nonetheless painful and effective. Such basic TRUTHS are revealed, not thought out in any human mind. They come from God, not man! And in all biblically recorded cases, the initiative was God's! And let me add, at this point, that the sentence above is the crux of the whole matter. The world is full of religions which originated in the imagination, reasoning and speculating of certain humans. But they had no true basis to reason from. The TRUTH is REVEALED from GOD! But, does not everybody have access to biblical truth? Yes, people suppose the churches teach what is revealed in the Bible. So I give you, now, a brief synopsis of the experience by which Jesus Christ struck me down, so to speak, and revealed ASTOUNDING TRUTHS! Biblical truths not believed or taught by the churches!
The Awakening—Spark of Ambition Ignited
I was born of ordinary but stable and upright parents, with an ancestry in the Quaker faith. I have my genealogy all the way back to Edward the First of England, and a line extending back to King David of ancient Israel. My forebears emigrated from England to Pennsylvania with William Penn, a hundred years before the United States became a nation. I had been reared from earliest childhood in the Quaker faith, but religious interest in those formative years was passive. At age 18 I virtually dropped all interest in religion, and ceased attending church. I had, at 18, put myself through an intensive self-analysis, coupled with a survey of the occupations and professions to determine where I belonged—to avoid being the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Even at that age I had observed that most people were simply victims of circumstance. Few had ever planned intelligently their future lives. Many or most had stumbled into whatever job they found open. They did not choose where, in what part of the country or the world, they should live. They had been buffeted about by circumstance. Those who went to college chose whatever course or profession that appealed to them at the time. But when I was yet only 16, a summer-vacation employer had, by praise for work well done and general encouragement, aroused the fire of ambition within me. Ambition is not only the desire for accomplishment, it includes the will to pay the price! This self-analysis at age 18 led me into the advertising profession and a business life. I studied diligently, "burning the midnight oil" instead of seeking youthful pleasures. I became unusually successful. I worked hard, had a reputation as a "hustler." I studied diligently, worked toward self-improvement. All this, of course, developed great self-confidence, which was later to be replaced by a different kind of confidence—FAITH in Christ. I selected the jobs where I would learn, and "sold myself" to my employers, choosing fields that threw me into contact with successful men. In 1915 I established my own business as a publishers' representative in Chicago, Illinois. I managed to represent the nine leading bank journals of the United States—journals read by chief officers of banks. I did business with the presidents of many of the nation's largest industrial corporations in the Middle West. I attended state and national bankers' conventions, got to know many of the leading bankers of South LaSalle Street and Wall Street, New York. I was making an income, below 30 years of age, equivalent to approximately $175,000 per year measured by today's dollar value.
Then came the devastating flash depression of 1920. It was not long-lived, but disastrous for the year. My big advertising accounts were in the farm tractor and implement and other manufacturing fields, rather than the metropolitan banks. All my big-commission clients, including such corporations as Goodyear Tire & Rubber, J.I. Case, Moline Plow, Emmerson-Brantingham and Dalton Adding Machine, went into receivers' hands. One nationally known corporation president of my acquaintance committed suicide. Through no fault of my own, my business was swept out from under my feet by forces beyond my control. Out of Portland, Oregon, where I had moved with my family, I established an advertising service for laundry owners. The laundry industry was 11th in the country in dollar volume of business, yet the most backward. I teamed with an efficiency expert, in my judgment top in the nation in his field. I took on only clients who allowed us to put their businesses on a new efficiency basis—both in the quality of laundering service and in business methods, which I supervised. I had to be able to make promises in the advertising that my clients would fulfill. But in 1926 a national advertising agency based in the east sold the Laundry Owner's National Association a bill of goods—to put big-space advertising in the national women's magazines. The association had power to obligate every member to a commitment for this magazine advertising equal to approximately 85 percent of the justifiable advertising expenditure each local laundry could make. I knew nothing of this until it was a closed deal. I had been doubling and trebling the business volume of each of my clients. My business was growing. Again a highly successful business was swept out from under my feet through causes over which I had no control. But there was a reason—God was taking away my advertising business.
Disturbing Dual Challenges
Then, in the fall of 1926, at age 34, it seemed that the roof had caved in and I was crushed! I was assailed by very disturbing dual challenges. My wife, after nine years of happy marriage, began keeping the seventh-day Sabbath instead of Sunday! I was aghast! I was angry. To me that was religious fanaticism! What would business contacts think? But she claimed to have found this teaching in the Bible. All the arguments came instantly to mind. They were of no avail. "But the Bible says," I protested, "Thou shalt observe SUNDAY!" "Can you show that to me in the Bible?" she asked. "Well, no," I replied. "I don't know much about the Bible. My interests and studies have been in the area of business. But all these churches can't be wrong—they take their beliefs from the Bible, and they all observe Sunday." "If," she smiled sincerely—but to me exasperatingly—"you can show me where the Bible commands Sunday observance, I'll go back to it." There was no dodging the challenge. My marriage depended on it! Coincidentally, a sister-in-law, newly married and fresh out of college, hurled at me a second humiliating challenge. "Herbert Armstrong," she accused contemptuously, "you are just plain ignorant! Everybody who has any education knows human life has come by evolution." I was proud. I had not neglected study and education. I thought I knew the facts about evolution, and I didn't believe in it. But now I had to admit I had never pursued a thorough, in-depth research of the question. Following on the heels of my wife's "fanaticism," this challenge was humiliating. This double jolt to my pride hit me immediately after the second time my business had been destroyed. The effect was devastating. It was utterly frustrating. Nevertheless I was determined to prove both my wife and sister-in-law wrong. The dual challenge drove me into a determined almost night-and-day research. That intensive study continued for six months before I found the proved answer. Yet the study has never ceased to this day. Both challenges focused on a common starting point—the book of Genesis in the Bible—although that was only the beginning. These challenges came at a period in life when I had ample time on my hands. I plunged with intense concentration into the study.
Researching the Bible and Darwin
I did not begin the research in Genesis. First I delved thoroughly into the works of Darwin, Lyell, Haeckel, Huxley, Spencer, Vogt, Chamberlin and More, and even into the earlier works of Lamarck and his theory of "use and disuse," which preceded Darwin's "survival of the fittest" hypothesis. Immediately those writings appeared convincing. (They necessarily are, to have won virtual universal acceptance in the world of higher education.) I readily understood how the field of education had been gripped in the clutch of the evolutionary concept. Evolution is the atheist's attempted explanation of the presence of a creation without the preexistence of a Creator. This initial stage of my research rudely shook my faith in the existence of God. It brought me to realization that I had assumed the reality of God, because from childhood I had heard, and therefore assumed, it. For a while my head was literally swimming. Was all I had ever believed mere myth and error, after all? Now I was determined to know the TRUTH! My mind was being cleaned out from ideas and beliefs previously taken for granted. Of all the writings on evolution, Dr. More alone had culled out many discrepancies in the theory. Yet he, too, went along with the doctrine overall. But now I had, first of all, to prove or disprove the existence of God. It was no casual or superficial study. I continued in this research as if my life depended upon it—as, in actual fact, it did, as well as my marriage. I also studied books on the other side of the question. Suffice it to say here that I did find irrefutable PROOF of the existence of God the Creator—and I found proof positive of the fallacy of the evolutionary theory. The overwhelming array of college brain-washed minds to the contrary notwithstanding. I had the satisfaction of winning the admission of one PhD thoroughly steeped in evolutionary thought—who had spent many years in graduate work at the University of Chicago and at Columbia—that I had definitely chopped down the trunk of the evolutionary tree. Like Dr. More though, she had been so thoroughly brainwashed in evolution she had to continue in what she had acknowledged was PROOF of its falsity. Also I had the enjoyment of being able to cause my sister-in-law to "eat those words" branding me as "ignorant." All of which was mere vanity on my part, which I had not yet eradicated. I had proved the reality of THE GREAT MAJESTIC GOD! But my wife's challenge was still tormenting my mind. Already, in the evolutionary research, I had studied Genesis. I knew each of the world's religions had its own sacred writings. Once God's reality was proved, I had expected to continue in the pursuit of comparative religions to see if any such sacred writings proved authoritative. Through which of these—if any—did GOD speak to mankind? Since I had to research the Sabbath question anyway, and already I had delved into Genesis, I decided to continue my study in the Bible.
A Doctrine at a Time
I came across, early, the passage in Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death …" I stopped, amazed. "Wages" is what one is paid for what one has done. Here I was staring at a statement diametrically opposite to my Sunday school teaching (prior to age 18). "Why," I exclaimed, "how can that be? I was taught in church that the wages of sin is EVERLASTING LIFE in an eternally burning hell." Another shock came on reading the last part of the same verse: "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." "But," I questioned in disillusionment, "I thought I already had eternal life—I am, or I have—an immortal soul. Why should I need it as a gift?" I researched the word soul by means of a Bible concordance. Twice I found the expression, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4 and Ezekiel 18:20). Then I remembered I had read in Genesis 2 how God said to the first humans, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." In Genesis 2:7 I read how God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man (dust— matter) "became a living soul." This stated plainly that a soul is physical—formed from matter. I found that the English word soul is translated from the Hebrew nephesh and that in Genesis 1 fowl, fish and animals—all three—were nephesh as Moses was inspired to write. Next, I happened to read where Jesus said, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man" (John 3:13). I researched the heaven and hell teaching further. I saw where the inspired Peter, on the day he received the Holy Spirit, said, "For David is not ascended into the heavens…" (Acts 2:34). In this in-depth study of the Bible, I had the use of all the biblical helps—concordances, Greek-English and Hebrew-English lexicons, commentaries, Bible dictionaries and religious encyclopedias. The latter three of these, I found, were the works of scholarly but carnal minds. In historical facts and matters of a material and physical nature, they give help in research, but in God's revelation of spiritual knowledge I found them of little help. I also used, in questionable passages, the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, with the lexicons. And I used every translation or version then, 53 years ago, so far published—especially the Moffatt, Ferrar Fenton, Smith-Goodspeed, American Revised and the Williams New Testament.
My Experience Utterly Unique
My research was totally different from that of students in a seminary. They absorb what they are taught in the doctrines of their denomination. Education has become a matter of memory training. The child, and the adult student as well, is expected to accept and memorize whatever is taught. For example, in an elementary grade one of my grandsons was once asked by the teacher, "Who discovered America?" "The Indians," promptly answered the grandson. The teacher was astonished. "No, Larry, don't you know that Columbus discovered America?" "No, Ma'am, the Indians were already here to greet Columbus when he finally arrived." The lad was given a zero for his answer and severely instructed to always remember that the book says Columbus discovered America! A pupil, or a student in high school or university, is graded on memorizing and believing what he is taught by the textbook, the teacher, instructor or professor. In the first dummy copy of the magazine The Plain Truth, which I put together in 1927—seven years before the magazine was actually published, I had an artist draw a picture of a schoolroom, with children sitting at the desks, each with a funnel stuck into his or her head. The teacher was pouring out of a pitcher ready-made propaganda into each child's head. A student enrolled at a Methodist seminary receives Methodist doctrine and teaching into his head. A Catholic student studying in a Catholic seminary is taught Roman Catholic teachings. A student in a Presbyterian seminary is given Presbyterian doctrines. A student in Germany studying history is instructed in one version of World Wars I and II, but a history student in the United States is taught an altogether different version. But I had been called specially by the living GOD. I was trying to prove the very opposite of what I found clearly and unmistakably to be what the Bible SAYS! I was taught by Christ what I did not want to believe but what He showed me was TRUE! Jesus Christ is the personal Word of God. He, in person, taught the original 12 apostles and the apostle Paul. The Bible is the SAME Word of God IN PRINT today. Thus it was the same Jesus Christ who taught both the original apostles, beginning A.D. 27, and 1,900 years later, beginning 1927, myself. And let me add here that my study of God's revelation of truth has never ceased. Later Christ used me in founding three liberal arts colleges— including one in England. Through constant study, teaching and collaboration with spirit-minded faculty members in theological courses, my mind has remained OPEN. And knowledge of God's revealed truth has increased. But in my initial six-months intensive in-depth study I was undergoing a process of UNlearning—discovering that church teachings had been the diametric opposite of Bible TRUTH!
JOY in Defeat
This is not the place for a lengthy, detailed account of my intensive search in the Bible, bent on proving to my satisfaction that "all these churches can't be wrong, for their teachings came from the Bible!" The essential point here is the simple fact that I did find irrefutable PROOF of the divine inspiration and supreme AUTHORITY of the Holy Bible as originally written, as the revealed Word of God. Even all the so-called contradictions evaporated upon unbiased study. Yet, to my utter dismay and chagrin, I was forced to "eat crow" in regard to my wife's supposed "fanaticism." It was not what I wanted to believe then! But by that time I had taken a severe beating. I had to accept PROVED truth, contrary to what I had wanted to believe! And I can say now, with the apostle Paul, "that the gospel which is preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ… . But when it pleased God … to reveal His Son in me… immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I [to a theological seminary, but I was taught by Jesus Christ, the Word of God (in writing)] (Galatians 1:11-12, 15-17)! That is why I have said the experience I was painfully subjected to in this original intensive study was unique in human life and conduct in our time. I know of no world religious leader who arrived at his teachings in such a manner. This world's religious teachings did not come from GOD! Only God is infallibly correct! I was brought, by the spring of 1927, to a complete MIND-SWEEPING! My mind had been swept clean of previous assumptions and beliefs—I had been brought through a painful experience. Twice profitable businesses had collapsed, leaving me frustrated. Then I was brought to acknowledge that whatever religious beliefs I had held were contrary to the truth of God. Not only what I had believed, but also the churches! I had taken a beating! I had been brought to realize my own nothingness and inadequacy. I had been CONQUERED by the Great Majestic GOD—brought to a real repentance—and also brought to a NEW ROCK-BASED SOLID FAITH in Jesus Christ and in God's Word. I had been brought to a complete surrender to God and to His WORD. I was baptized, and the infilling of God's Holy Spirit opened my mind to the JOY UNSPEAKABLE of knowing God and Jesus Christ—of knowing TRUTH—and the warmth of God's divine LOVE! What I once hated I now loved. I found the greatest and most absorbing joy of my life in continuing to dig out those gold nuggets of TRUTH from God's Word. Now came a new enthusiasm in Bible study. And I was led to find that one and only true Church of God, founded by Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 31. I now reveal to the reader SEVEN MAJOR TRUTHS that identify it, and emancipate the reader from today's spiritual wilderness of religious confusion.