Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apologetics.com - All Along The Watchtower: A Former Jehovah's Witness (That's Me) Gives A Guided Tour Of Watchtower Theology

I was actually on the radio!! Three years ago I became one of the 30,000 people per year to be disfellowshipped from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I share with the Lindsay Brooks of the Apologetics.com radio program my journey and attempt to shed light on the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society along the way. Most people when asked what they know about the Jehovah's Witnesses might reply that they don't celebrate birthdays, Christmas or allow blood transfusion. Some may point to Michael Jackson's former days as a witness, or Venus & Serena William's membership, noting the morally conservative values and political neutrality of the group. Some may note with interest that Prince is one of 7 million Witnesses worldwide and reflects Watchtower theology in his lyrics. But what are the unique teachings of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society and, most importantly, what are the stakes of these teachings. Always being ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us means knowing what our neighbors believe. Since the Jehovah's Witnesses log over 1.3 billion hours per year going door to door, we have many opportunities to engage with this enigmatic group, to invite them in when they knock, to share the Gospel.Who is God? Is Jesus the Archangel Michael? What happens when we die? Who are the 144,000? Is the Logos God or "a god"? Lindsay Brooks explores these questions and more with myself.

HERE is the link to the summary, and here is the mp3.

Blessings,

Matt

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In what way are Jesus an the Father one? - A Response to the Watchtower Part 1 of 3

In the September 1st 2009 issue of the Watchtower magazine, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, on page 28 there is an article that would be worth taking the time to look into. The article is under the heading “Our Readers Ask”, and it is an attempt by the Watchtower to deal with John 10:30. I am going to start a three part series in response to this article.

The article entitled “In What Way Are Jesus And His Father One”, begins:

“I and the Father are one,” said Jesus . (John 10:30) Some quote this text to prove that Jesus and his Father are two parts of a triune God. Is that what Jesus meant by this statement?

Thus begins the misrepresentation of the doctrine of the Trinity. I am convinced that the Writing Committee and the Governing Body do not know what they are talking about. When it comes to the Trinity to seem to have no understanding of their subject.

I think it might be beneficial begin by giving a definition of what the Trinity. The Trinity is the belief that the one God eternally exists as three persons , the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and there is only one God. Implicit in this definition is a difference between the word "being" or "essence" and "person".

The first thing that I find interesting is the phrase “two parts of a triune God”. That is not what historic Trinitarian Christianity has taught. God’s being is not divided into three equal parts. Each person is completely and fully God. Each person has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself. The Son is not just partly God, or just one-third of God, but the Son is wholly and fully God, as the scripture says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Colossians 2:9 ESV) We see from the beginning that the Watchtower does not understand the Trinity, and thus they fail to address it adequately.

The article continues,

Let us take a look at the context. In verse 25, Jesus stated that he did works in the name of his Father. From verses 27 to 29, he talked about symbolic sheep who his Father had given him. Both statements by Jesus would have made little sense to his listeners if he and his Father were one and the same person. Instead, Jesus said, in effect, ‘My Father and I are so close-knit that no one can take away the sheep from me, just as no one can take them away from my Father.’ It is much like a son saying to his father’s enemy, ‘If you attack my father, you attack me.’ No one would conclude that this son and his father were the same person. But all could perceive the strong bond of unity between them.

Once again, we see the complete failure of the Watchtower to understand what they are attempting to refute. Notice that twice they said that Jesus isn’t “the same person” as the Father. A teenager might respond, “Well, DUH!”. Historical Christianity never said they were the same person. They are separate and distinct persons, sharing a personal relationship of love between each other. The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit. The Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. They are one in “being” but different in “persons”. This is something far removed from the human experience, where every different human is a different “person” as well. God’s being is so much greater then ours that within his one undivided being there are three distinct interpersonal relationships so there can be three persons. This is essential to the very nature of God.

To help us get our bearings, I quote the Athanasian Creed. I do so, not so much as an authority over the church, but an expert so to speak on what the Trinity is defined as being. It says, “We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another….Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God…..As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so Christian religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords…And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.”

As we can see, the Society does not understand this definition of the Trinity and thus fails to refute it. The article goes on,

Jesus and his Father, Jehovah God, are also “one” in the sense that they are in complete agreement as to intentions, standards, and values.

Now begins the Watchtower’s attempt to define what “one” means here in John 10:30. Taking a look at the context will show just how stretched this understanding is.

I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came--and Scripture cannot be broken-- do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."(John 10:30-38 ESV)

Notice how the Jews understood what Jesus was saying. They, “picked up stones again to stone him”. Why? “For blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." Why would Jews pick up stones to kill Jesus if all he was affirming was his “complete agreement as to intentions, standards, and values”, with the Father? “’Cause we’re not about that,” says the Jews according to the Watchtower. “We don’t want anyone to in agreement with the Father.” How absurd is that! If Jesus just affirming a unity of purpose with the Father by saying “I and the Father are one,” then why did they Jews understand his words to be an affirmation that he was God (v. 33)? Cause they ‘re mistaken? If they were mistaken, why didn’t Jesus correct their misunderstanding? Instead Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6. I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince." (Psalms 82:6-7 ESV) Here, unrighteous judges are called “gods”. However the whole Psalm is holding these judges in derision. They had misused the Law of God, tyrannically abused their authority and power for their own sinful passions, for oppressing the poor, and for every evil action.

Jesus in John 10:25-26 derides these leaders as well for their unbelief and for not being part of his flock. The greater context of John shows that the Jewish leaders of Jesus day were guilty of the same thing as those judges in Psalm 82. He reproaches them because they are unmindful of Him from whom they received their great dignity as leaders, and they profane the name of God. Rather then correct them, Jesus rebukes them. Jesus goes on to say, in v. 37, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me,” thus confirming that they had understood him correctly. Ironically, the Watchtower agrees with the Pharisees who condemned Jesus, that Jesus is not God in flesh. They accused Jesus of claiming to be God v. 33, and Jesus confirmed this understanding in v. 37. But, of course they denied that Jesus was God, and so does the Watchtower society.

In contrast with Satan the Devil and the first human couple, Adam and Eve, Jesus never wanted to become independent of God. “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing,” Jesus explained. “For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” - John 5:19; 14:10; 17:8.

In John 5:19 we have the Jews seeking to kill Jesus for His blasphemy. Now note that Jesus, instead of denying equality, once again, he lets it stand. When Jesus said that he can “do nothing” of himself, he meant that because of his oneness with the Father, he can do nothing “independently” or separate from the Father. For the reason that he is God by nature, the Son must act in accordance with the nature and will of God. If he ever acted apart from God's will, he would - by definition - no longer be "equal with God." Jesus, as the Son, could not help but do what God does! He in effect, CLAIMS deity.

Jesus in his divine nature is fully equal to the Father, though relationally (or functionally) he is subordinate or submissive. This does not mean that Jesus is any less God than the Father, it simply reflects the hierarchial relationship in the Trinity. This is the same with a husband and wife. Though they are equal in nature, (they are both human), there is a heirarchial relationship that exists between them (1 Corinthians 11:3). This doesn't mean that the wife is not equal with her husband. It doesn't mean she any less human or inferior in any way. They just have different roles, and the same goes for the relationship between the Father and Jesus.

Why did Jesus say that He could only do those things that He saw the Father do? The most important statement in these verses is the second half of v. 19: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” No mere man or angel could rightfully say this. Instead of Jesus saying he can only do some things that God does, he says, “Whatever the Father does,” Jesus does. If Jesus is God, then he would naturally be able to do whatever the Father can do. When the Father acts, Jesus acts. This is the sort of thing the Jews heard Jesus say. And they concluded rightly: You talk like you’re equal with him. This is so vital, as v. 23 says: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” If people honor Jesus for who he really is, then God the Father is honored for who he really is. So in that sense, all judgment is given to the Son. What people make of him decides their final judgment. But that’s because what they make of him is what they make of God.

Does the Watchtower honor Jesus for who he really is—as the divine Son of God, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Savior of the world, the Lord of the universe and Judge of all human beings? They do not and thus do not honor God.

Blessings,

Matt

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WT Baptism Questions

I was going through some old files, and I found something that I had actually forgot about. What I found was actually the Watchtower's OLD baptism questions.

When someone is about to be baptized as a Jehovah's Witness, they are asked two questions, which sort of end up becoming vows. When I was baptized, I had to anwser the questions, as did every other Witness.

Here were the questions that I anwsered:

(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

I still find it very interesting that there is no mention of Matthew 28:19-20. Not even an attempt to deal with the command that our Lord gives us to baptize in "the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Instead, Witnesses today are baptized into the "spirit directed organiztion". The authority of the Triune God is not what is the basis for their baptism, it's the authority of the Organization. A witness has to accept that the Watchtower Society is the "Faithul and discreete slave", or in plain language, God's mouthpiece and sole spokesman on Earth today.

I find it very interesting that these questions were not the ones always asked. Many older Witnesses could tell you that, but I doubt they've ever thought through the changes.

Here are the old questions:

(1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around, recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?


(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?

Wow. Those almost sound BIBLICAL! No wonder why the Soceity changed them. They can't have something actually BIBLICAL now can they?

Do you know why I think that they changed the questions? Notice the last part of the second question, "to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit". What is the source of the knowledge of God's will? Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Notice the part the individual has to play, "as he reveals to you", that might actually call for some discernment, and even a bit of thinking for yourself. Ultimately this puts Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible over the Organization. This places the Witness as a judge of everything the WT says. No wonder why they changed it. Now the authority is "God's spirit-directed organization". They are now the dispensers of God's will. What arrogance to think that any human instituton could replace our Lord, his Spirit, and his Word.

What about those who vowed the old questions at their baptism? Are those vows now invalid? If they were to insist that the Society actually start following what the Bible really teaches, (excuse the pun), should they not be held innocent, as they would just be fulfilling their baptismal vows.

Just another example of a change made by the Watchtower to keep their authority over their members, and depart even farther form the Biblical model.

Blessings,

Matt