Wednesday, March 25, 2009

HWA, Plagiarism and Jehovah's Witnesses

Recently I began reading about Jehovah's Witnesses. In writings about Armstrongism it is often remarked upon that Herbert W. Armstrong appears to have stolen many of his doctrines from that preeminent Bible-based mind control cult, the Jehovah's Witnesses.

HWA addressed this issue in his article No! I was Never was a "Jehovah's Witness," or a Seventh Day Adventist! which was first published in p.6 of the June 1953 Plain Truth. (In spite of the title he does not really address in depth the issue of alleged previous Seventh Day Adventist membership.) Here he admits to reading some of the JW's writings, but insists that he never learned any doctrines from them and that he read their writings only after 'discovering' his doctrines independently of them.

Why would some people believe that HWA was influenced by the Jehovah's Witnesses? It might just have something to do with the fact that the Jehovah's Witnesses, like HWA, 1) forbid celebrating Christmas, 2) Easter, 3) and birthdays, 4) do not believe in an immortal soul, 5) believe in an unconscious death (soul sleep), 6) believe that most believers will remain on the Earth when they are resurrected, 7) that Jesus in His incarnation was only a man with no divinity in Him, 8) deny the Trinity, 9) that the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal force, 10) that only they have access to the truths of God, 11) in 1921-1952 vaccines were forbidden, 12) ex-members are to be shunned (they even use the same word 'disfellowshiping') etc., etc. The link is quite clear. HWA, in true evasive Armstrongite fashion, never discusses these many similarities in his article. Some of the links are detailed in this excellent critical review of Mystery of the Ages and also here and also by Dr. J. Vernon McGee.

His assertion is thus very difficult to believe. It is interesting that he neglects to mention just what the similarities are, thus the unsuspecting reader (unless he or she has some familiarity with the JWs) would be completely unaware of just how similar they are.

If you carefully read his article you will see how at first he tries to make it appear that the issue is was he a member of the JWs? Look at the title, he is trying to make the reader think the issue is, 'Was HWA a member of those religions?' This is just a distraction. A smokescreen. Notice how long he continues in this distracting vein:
Letters continue to ask, "Were you ever a 'Jehovah Witness'?...I never belonged to the sect known as "Jehovah's Witnesses,"...[members of the] "Jehovah's Witnesses" sect, continue spreading the claim that I once belonged to them....I have never in any manner, shape, nor form, had any remote connection with them [Really? What about all the remarkable similarities? Just how 'remote' do you mean?], or associated with either sect or denomination. I have never had any fellowship with them....I have never, however, attended any meeting of the "Jehovah's Witnesses" sect of any kind....I have never belonged to, attended any meeting of, or had any remote semblance of fellowship with the "Jehovah Witnesses" predecessor, the "Pastor Russell" people.
Notice how he introduces this topic. He cites bizarre and obviously untrue rumors. He ridicules these claims. By making those people seem stupid he is discrediting them and hoping that the unsuspecting member will miss the real issue. He is trying to obscure the real important question which is this: did he acquire some of his doctrines from Jehovah's Witnesses? This most important question is only addressed at the very end of his avowal of disassociation. HWA has cleverly set the tone. It is only after he has utterly ridiculed them, made the reader think they are utterly untrustworthy he mentions the real issue. It is one thing to say HWA was a member of the JWs. It is a completely different thing to say he stole their ideas. He hopes the reader will not notice the sudden change of topic he has made.

We continue right where the previous quote left off. Notice how cunningly he has introduced a new topic. It is so quick the inattentive reader will not notice the switch:
I did not learn any of God's TRUTH from the "Jehovah's Witnesses" sect. I have, of course, read some of their writings and their books, and I have been glad to find that they have certain truths, as all sects and denominations have (though mixed with dangerous errors), but God had already revealed these truths to me long before I read of them in their literature. I LEARNED NOTHING THAT I BELIEVE AND TEACH FROM THIS SECT. If they boast of having taught me anything, they misrepresent.
That is all he has to say about that most important question. One measly paragraph that is just bluster. From here he then starts an egotistical rant of how he started up his little religion and how God is working only through him. He no longer directly discusses the issue of his plagiarism. Instead he just gives us yet another assertion of his authority.

We are supposed to believe that all those twelve similarities are just a coincidence. Notice how he never makes it clear to readers just what the similarities are. He never mentions them. He ignores the similarities, only acknowledging that 'they have certain truths' but he never discusses here what those truths are. He is hoping the reader will be kept unaware of the similarities so he or she will not have any troubling doubts. He knows if he states the similarities honestly some potential tithes payers will be scared off. He is tricking the reader.

He has given us absolutely no good reason to believe that he did not steal his doctrines from the Jehovah's Witnesses. We are just supposed to shut up and take his word for it. We are just supposed to trust him. How could all those similarities be the same? It is clear that he was influenced by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

And all he can say in response to these facts is trust me, God revealed them to me. How can we trust him, especially since it can be proven that he did steal doctrines from other people. This can be clearly shown be the case in regards to British-Israelism.

I read somewhere an account that said once John Kiesz, a COG7th minister who spoke at some of HWA's meetings until 1945, saw HWA typing away in his office. HWA said God had revealed new truth to him. Mr. Kiesz saw that HWA was writing on a topic that had already appeared in COG7th's magazine, the Bible Advocate. He mentioned this very pertinent fact to him and HWA replied that that was how God revealed it to him. This account may be seen in chapter 7 of Tkach, Jr.'s Transformed by Truth but I first saw it from another source.

When I first saw that I thought that explains so much. When HWA boasts as loud as he can in his article that only God revealed the truth to him, he may very well mean that God revealed it to him via another man. Remember how he said God gave Stanley Rader to him? (16:11). He always hid himself behind God's name.

It has been clearly proven that HWA discovered British-Israelism not from God's word but from other men as this article proves clearly. I challenge any Armstrongite to read this article and still believe that HWA discovered his Israelite ancestry simply by studying the Bible as he always pretended to have done. It even contains excepts of letters written by HWA himself that clearly show the less than divine origin of his understanding of his ethnic identity. He simply pilfered it from J. H. Allen. HWA is a plagiarizer. And yet he still insisted he discovered that doctrine from God alone. Therefore we cannot trust him.

No wonder so many are convinced of this link. No wonder so many disregard HWA's baseless assertions.

Because of this link to Armstrongism I recently began reading about them and discovered a vast treasure trove of information out there about the Jehovah's Witnesses. Just about any topic one can imagine can be found out there. For anyone who wishes to know more about this mind control cult here is a list of resources out there. My word! They sure have a lot of skeletons in their closet.

This list is in no particular order. I do not necessarily agree with everything these websites say. The reader is expected to reach conclusions using his or her own reasoning. Wide reading is encouraged. Most of these websites are Christian in viewpoint. Now that that is out of the way here they are:
  • Propmin (Update: Now offline BUT some of the postings may still be seen if you type "" into Google you will be able to read some of his postings in the "cached" link at the bottom of the Google entry.)

  • -->

    -->Some articles and miscellany
    • What's the Problem, Anyway? (Tower to Truth Ministries) This article argues that with a Jehovah's Witness the really important question is this, is the Watchtower Society the only 'channel of communication' between Jehovah God and humanity today? When debating with one this is the crux issue upon which everything else stands or falls.
    • Writings of Nelson Barbour (Jehovah's Witnesses Truth), who first developed the doctrine that Christ will return in 1874, than said he returned invisibly. JWs now say that happened in 1914.


    1. Marvelous work! There is *lots* of information here. Thank you.
      -- Peter (aka 'Que')

    2. Good stuff, RedFox! Solid. Very informative. Easy to understand but meaty.
      Carry that torch!

    3. Thanks much RedFox. I just finished reading the book "Crisis of Conscience" by Raymond Franz(a former JW) He was one of the main leaders of that organization in the past, but left due to the fact that taking part in the governing board was so troubling to him, as they made life and death decisions at the whim of that board.

    4. Excellent resources, thank you!

    5. Actually, each one of the 12 points of similarity were in Church God (7th) circles; therefore HWA likely got them from those circles, not JW. However, I agree, there are other doctrines you do not mention that I think HWA got from JW circles, primarily fromo the Divine Plan of the Ages by Pastor Charles Russell founder of the Bible Students from which the later JW arose after Russell's death in 1916.