"Born Again" as Doctrine

What is a doctrine? According to dictionaries, thesauruses, concordances, and the Bible, a doctrine is simply a teaching.

In an attempt to minimize what he was doing in changing the "born again" doctrine, Joseph W. Tkach, in 1991, made the preposterous claim that "born again" wasn't a doctrine or a teaching. (He did, however, slip up later in the article and refer to it as a teaching.) He claimed that changing it would not affect doctrine, and that the church's doctrine would remain exactly the same.

Fast forward to 1995, when Herbert Armstrong's "born again" teaching was openly being referred to as a doctrine — a doctrine whose rejection had caused a domino effect that toppled other doctrines.

The Error

Joseph W. Tkach, "Personal," Worldwide News, January 28, 1991:
"Sometimes we find that we need to correct, not what the Church teaches, but the kind of explanation it has given — a matter that does not affect doctrine at all. One such matter is a description we have chosen to give of the believer's conversion and spiritual growth in this life."

"In his teachings, Mr. Armstrong emphasized that the present life of the Christian, from conversion to inheritance of eternal life, is like the process of gestation."

"The Church must now redefine its explanation of the verb gennao, not the correctness of the basic doctrine that the Church has been teaching about the spiritual life."

"Let's understand that this clarification in no way affects the essence of our doctrine."

"Our doctrine remains exactly the same. Likewise, Mr. Armstrong's analogy of human gestation is perfectly fine, so long as we understand that it is not the same analogy used in the New Testament."

The Truth

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:
"doctrine ... TEACHING ... something that is taught."

The Synonym Finder, J. I. Rodale, 1978:
"doctrine, n. 1. theory, opinion, belief, conviction; principle, precept, maxim, dictum, axiom; tenet, dogma, teaching, doxy...."

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance:
"1322. didache ... instruction (the act or the matter): —doctrine, hath been taught."

King James Version of the Holy Bible:
Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine [Strong's: didache]:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible:
Matthew 7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching [Strong's: didache],
29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

King James Version of the Holy Bible:
John 7:14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine [Strong's: didache] is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine [Strong's: didache], whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible:
John 7:14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
15 The Jews marveled at it, saying, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?"
16 So Jesus answered them, "My teaching [Strong's: didache] is not mine, but his who sent me;
17 if any man's will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching [Strong's: didache] is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

Herbert W. Armstrong, "Just What Do You Mean — Born Again!," Plain Truth, February 1962:
"It's about time the TRUTH of what Jesus Christ meant by being 'born again' is made so plain you will UNDERSTAND! For He did not say or mean what most religious people think! And NOTHING IS SO IMPORTANT!"

"Many large denominations of this world's organized religion ignore this subject altogether. Some refer to it, as a mythical, mystic, meaningless expression, casually and rarely, putting no emphasis on it as a doctrine or teaching."

"We are now FLESH — vile, corruptible flesh subject to rotting and decay. But, at Christ's coming, when we shall be BORN of God, this vile body shall be CHANGED, and made exactly like Jesus in His GLORIFIED BODY!"

"Yes, I know — this is probably TOO WONDERFUL for you to grasp!

"But Scripture after Scripture piles up on us, CONFIRMING THIS TREMENDOUS TRUTH!"


Herbert W. Armstrong, Just What Do You Mean — Born Again?:
"Many professing Christians sincerely believe they have been 'born again' — but do not understand what Jesus meant by those words. The true answer is not only surprising — it is startling! — THE MOST IMPORTANT truth you can know, here made SO PLAIN you will UNDERSTAND!"

Herbert W. Armstrong, What Is the True Gospel?:
"Does it make any difference which Gospel we believe? Listen to the answer of the Eternal God as inspired in Paul's letter to the Galatians, the first chapter, the 8th and 9th verses:

"'But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.' And it is made a double curse? For the next verse says: '...So I say now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed'?"

"Jesus Christ said it is necessary to BELIEVE THE GOSPEL to be saved! Yet the many — the hundreds of millions — today, do not know what that Gospel is!"

"Jesus ... said: 'He that BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned' (Mark 16:16). Notice! Jesus said, 'He that BELIEVETH.' Believeth what? Why, BELIEVETH that which they PREACHED, of course — THE GOSPEL! Not a gospel. Not any gospel. THE gospel! On the authority of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to believe THAT PRECISE IDENTICAL GOSPEL in order to be saved! And to BELIEVE the true Gospel, we must first come to KNOW what it is!"

"'Jesus came into Galilee, PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand: REPENT YE, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.'"

"WHAT Gospel? The one He was proclaiming — 'the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.'"

"Notice, when Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly, as recorded in John the 3rd chapter, Jesus said to him: 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the KINGDOM OF GOD.' Jesus was proclaiming the KINGDOM OF GOD — explaining a most important phase of it."

"Jesus went on to show Nicodemus that we who are born of flesh ARE flesh — just mortal flesh and blood. We were BORN that way — HUMAN — MORTAL. But it is possible for us to be BORN AGAIN — next time, not as a mortal flesh-and-blood baby, but born of the SPIRIT."

"God is REPRODUCING HIMSELF! God created man in GOD'S IMAGE, so that man may become impregnated, BEGOTTEN, and, by a resurrection, be BORN as an immortal, SPIRIT-COMPOSED person in the KINGDOM OF GOD." (pp. 3, 4, 6, 8-9)

Joseph W. Tkach and the Editorial Services staff, "God Restored These 18 Truths: How Thankful Are You for Them?," Worldwide News, August 25, 1986:
"The Editorial Services staff has compiled here, for the first time in any of the Church's publications, 18 essential, basic truths that God restored to His Church through our late Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong.

"Please spend time with this important article, reviewing each of the 18 truths and thanking God for restoring them to His Church. Pastor General, Joseph W. Tkach."

"(3) The purpose of God, that we are to be born of God and become God."

"(12) The Holy Spirit coming into us only begets us."

"(13) We are only begotten now, not born again."

"Where would we be without these truths? Without them — without Herbert W. Armstrong's legacy of these 18 restored truths — there isn't much left."

David Neff, "The Road to Orthodoxy," Christianity Today, October 2, 1995:
"One of the first doctrines to be questioned after Armstrong's death was his teaching that believers were not born again until the resurrection. Re-examining that teaching in the light of Scripture led the WCG leaders (who seem to function as a team) to reject their church's teaching that human beings were themselves destined to become gods, which, in turn, led them to revise their doctrine of the nature of God, which, in turn, led them to teach the biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 'It was a domino effect,' they recently told CT."


Topical Bible Studies > Personal Commentary > WCG "Born Again" Doctrinal Change > This Page