HAS TIME BEEN LOST ? & FOUND

 

In 1965, an attorney representing Ambassador College wrote a letter to the Church of God (Seventh Day) asking them to stop publishing the booklet, Has Time Been Lost, since Ambassador College had a copyright on a booklet of the same name and subject. The Church of God (Seventh Day) dug into their files and found that they had a copy of the booklet dating back into the early 1930s. A literature list in the February 10, 1925 Bible Advocate included Has Time Been Lost. It was clearly written before Herbert Armstrong ever began his ministry. LeRoy Dais, a young man working for the Church of God (Seventh Day) sent a letter with copies of this documentation to Ambassador College.

That was the end of the dispute. The Church of God (Seventh Day) did not put copyright notices in their literature as they were happy for their teaching to be copied and published in any manner. They were not interested in preventing Ambassador College from publishing the booklet, as long as AC did not try to stop them from publishing their own booklet. Although this information is not well-known, LeRoy Dais, still a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) remembers it quite well. (If anyone would like documentation, Servants’ News will provide copies of the Bible Advocate literature list and the associated letters.)

The two booklets are word-for-word identical in about half of the places. Armstrong did add some things, but in many places he simply dropped out information—such as the 1910 dates of encyclopedias which, if included, would make the booklet look "old" (see p. 24). Herbert Armstrong never gave credit to the Church of God (Seventh Day) or changed the booklet to more correctly say "edited by Herbert Armstrong". The original author of the booklet never filed a suit, so Mr Armstrong had no legal problems. But was his practice honest?

If a person claims to be the author of a book, it is valid to assume that he did the research required to write the book, and that he has a larger knowledge of the subject—the book being derived from that larger body of knowledge. He should be able to answer questions about the subject. A person who copies a book, and just changes some words here and there may not have near the understanding—they may not even understand what they copied.

This issue is particularly important because Herbert Armstrong often claimed to be "the one" whom God was using to restore most truth at the end time. The extent of his writings was sometimes used as evidence that he was "God’s apostle". How can these things be evidence of such, if some of the writings were simply borrowed from other Bible teachers? Furthermore, since Mr. Armstrong has never publicly acknowledged (as far as we know) either this plagiarism or that of The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, we have no way to know how many other of his teachings were also borrowed from somewhere else.

To say that "we would certainly know" if he copied doctrines from others is not true. Most WCG members do not know about these two instances of plagiarism, even though they have been written about for 30 years. If Mr. Armstrong borrowed teachings from lesser-known teachers, their original writings or lectures may be completely lost. Before modern photo-copiers, printing a hundred copies of a document was prohibitively expensive. Many Bible teachers simply gave lectures and encouraged hearers to take notes—thus producing a number of copies of their teaching.

G.G. Rupert taught many of the same doctrines as Herbert Armstrong in Pasadena, California from 1915 to 1929 (for more on Rupert, write us for the paper, The Remnant of Israel). While we know of no specific proof that Mr. Armstrong borrowed from Mr. Rupert, it is likely that Armstrong borrowed from those who heard Rupert and outlived him. (The Servants’ News staff would appreciate hearing from anyone who has access to Herbert Armstrong’s archives and knows of any other writings from which he borrowed.)

Whether or not a truth is borrowed does not make it any less true. It is better to copy the truth than it is to copy a lie—the world already has enough lies. However, this copying without giving credit does tell us something about the character of Herbert Armstrong. With the exception of Nehemiah in a few places, nearly all of the Bible writers are very humble—they say that they are conveying a message because they were told to, or because they know that it needs to be done. Many do not even put their name on their work. But Herbert Armstrong made frequent claims about the greatness of what he was doing. It is not our place to eternally condemn him. But we need to realize that if he stretched the truth to benefit himself in one area, he may have done it in others. We should not believe a doctrine only because Armstrong taught it.

—Norman S. Edwards


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