A Semi-Humorous Look at the Folly of Taking on Titles
[Originally published on Associated Content, last updated 11 May 2015]
What’s in a Title?
Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) had many labels pinned upon him during his lifetime, and in some ways it still goes on, in spite of him being dead for almost 30 years! People engage in the great folly of taking on titles and pinning them upon leaders in an attempt to exalt them, and it should be obvious to all but the most stubborn how foolish it is to read the Bible and try to force an interpretation that simply is not there.
However, there is another reason I originally wrote this, and it should not be lost that human beings, spiritual leaders or not, are fallible, and sometimes God works with those who have the greatest flaws to do great things.
Some titles HWA didn’t mind in the proper context. For example, many compared him to a modern-day Zerubbabel, building the modern-day spiritual temple. Some he waffled on throughout his life, such as the role of the End-Time Elijah. Some titles he outright rejected. He would become annoyed when people tried to call him a “prophet”.
What is it about human nature that wants to elevate other human beings to such high places? Of course, many today still try to prove that HWA was the End-Time Elijah. One Church of God group has even called him a “prophet” even though he himself distanced himself from such a title.
I have often wondered why people don’t seem to be so eager to pin labels upon his son, Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA). After all, for a long time, GTA was the public face of the Church. He was the one who came on at 6:30 am before catching the schoolbus. He authored many of the more famous booklets, especially the ones about evolution.
So when my parents first attended the Church and people referred to “Mister Armstrong”, I immediately thought they were talking about GTA. It was a few weeks, perhaps even a couple of months, of confusion over some of the things said that someone finally told me that GTA was HWA’s son, but that HWA traveled so much that GTA did many of the broadcasts.
So, in recognition of the fact that he was such a public character and used of God to call many into the Church, why wouldn’t there be a Biblical character to pin upon GTA just as others have done with his father?
The End-Time Samson
I hereby propose that GTA was the End-Time Samson figure. He was a thorn in the side of modern-day spiritual Philistines, a man of great passions and used of God mightily in these end times.
Here, then, are SEVEN PROOFS (notice how “seven” is a Biblical number, and the fact that I capitalized and bolded the text makes it even more true) that GTA was the End-Time Samson:
1. Both were married. Or, at least Samson had a marriage ceremony, but then his concubine was given away to someone else.
2. Samson had long hair. GTA had long sideburns.
3. Both messed around with prostitutes.
4. Samson was a “man’s man”. GTA went into the Navy and even got a tattoo.
5. Samson had a way with words and there are 2 poems in his story. GTA was quite the orator.
6. Samson was easily angered and swore vengeance upon the Philistines. GTA was easily angered and swore vengeance upon his father.
7. In spite of their ups and downs and failings, both did a work up until their death.
See? ABSOLUTE PROOF, is it not?
He Who is Without Sin
One thing that we should not forget is that truth is truth, no matter who speaks it. It is up to each and every one of us to prove or disprove the truth to ourselves, whether or not the person giving us the truth lives up to our ideals or not.
OK, I’ll admit that this is a (very) thinly veiled attempt to show that all people, even ministers, are fallible human beings. GTA had many faults. HWA had many faults. Samson had many faults.
I also want to point out that Samson is listed in the “Hall of Faith” chapter, in spite of his many flaws. Since we only have an outline of Samson’s life, and much of that information is negative, it would be easy to point the finger and accuse him of not being among the saved.
But, we would be wrong.
We can also point the finger at GTA and conclude that God did not use him, he is not among the saved, etc. Anyone doing so, however, also risks being wrong.
If the Golden Rule is to treat others how we would want to be treated, it behooves us to ask ourselves how we would feel if our sins were flung out into the open and others judged us as harshly as some are wont to do of either or both HWA and GTA.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
…And these all, having obtained a good report [even Samson!] through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
~ Heb 11:32, 39-40