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The Wolverton Bible - Introduction: "Wolverton and Armstrong" by Monte Wolverton Print
Article Index
The Wolverton Bible - Introduction: "Wolverton and Armstrong" by Monte Wolverton
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In this environment, Wolverton was somewhat of an anomaly. In contrast to the strict church culture, Wolverton put people at ease with his self-effacing humor and off-the-wall wit. He was admired and sought out for his balance and wisdom. If this was too "liberal" for any of the more officious ministers, Wolverton was generally immune from their criticism because of his friendship with Armstrong. In the early ‘60s, for example, when Wolverton was editor of the local WCG congregational newspaper in Portland, he ran caricatures of leading ministers, including Herbert Armstrong, complete with mildly satirical text. Only indirectly did he hear of any of his targets being upset.

in the early ‘50s, Armstrong and his son Garner Ted invited Wolverton to contribute his outrageous cartooning style to the college publications. Part 8 of this volume includes these and all of Wolverton’s cartoons for various church and college publications. These are nearly as delightful as his best humorous work for any secular publication.

It is worthy to note that in spite of all the WCG rules, regulations and discipline of the ‘50s and ‘60s, there were good times to be had. Armstrong’s teachings did not ban the use of alcohol (in moderation), dancing, card playing and other recreational activities forbidden by many fundamentalist groups. Both Wolverton and his wife, Honor, loved to entertain, enjoyed good food and good friends (in and out of the church) and led a very active social life.

Wolverton circa 1969
Wolverton circa 1969.

By the time Wolverton had finished the Old Testament, the plan was to condense the story and republish it in six new volumes. In 1972, having finished the writing of The Bible Story, Wolverton set about revising and condensing the story toward that end, but a stroke ended his work in 1974, and it was not until 1982 that the revised blue-covered six volumes of The Bible Story were published (some art was not included for space reasons — and some because it was deemed too grotesque or violent). This version included all the material up to the fall of Babylon. For reasons unknown, the final chapters Wolverton had written — through the book of Nehemiah — were not included. The art for these chapters is published in this volume for the first time.

Why didn't Wolverton continue the story through the New Testament? He could have — and was probably up for the task, but Armstrong felt it was a violation of the second Commandment to picture Jesus in any form. A New Testament story would have comprised a narrative of the Gospels and the book of Acts, incorporating some historical inferences from the Epistles. Of course Wolverton had already done some of his best illustrations based on the book of Revelation. But there were no plans for the rest of the New Testament and a stroke in 1974 ended Wolverton’s ability to work.

The ‘70s were tumultuous times for the WCG, with various scandals and defections of ministers. Because of this (and ‘70s culture in general) there was a certain slackening from the harsh days of the ‘50s and ‘60s — a change which Wolverton welcomed. Wolverton died in 1978, and did not live to see the profound doctrinal and cutural reforms of the church which eventually followed Armstrong’s death in 1986. While Wolverton would have been saddened by the loss of his friend and benefactor Herbert Armstrong, he would likely have embraced the reforms in his church — as his wife and family did.

As art historians will attest, many of the world’s outstanding creative endeavors have been driven by unorthodox worldviews, whether one agrees with the worldviews or not. The collaboration of Wolverton and Armstrong is an example of this. Had Armstrong not developed his peculiar theology, and had Wolverton not accepted it, we would not have the incredible body of work contained in this volume.


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