Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fifteen areas of disagreement with the Watchtower Society.

The following are the 15 main areas of disagreement I had/have with the Watchtower and Jehovah's Witness theology.

1. Jehovah does not have a specific organization on earth today and its Governing Body is not directed by Jehovah. The Body of Christ, the Church, is made up of all born again, justified believers in the Lord Jesus, irrespective of their organization or denomination.

2. Every believer from Christ's time (A.D. 33) forward to the end has the heavenly hope. All of these should be partaking of the elements at the Lord's Supper and not just those who claim to be of the anointed remnant, because all Christians are part of the anointed remnant.

3. There is no proper arrangement of a "faithful and discreet slave" class made up of anointed ones and their Governing Body to direct affairs of Jehovah's people. At Matthew 24:45 Jesus used this expression only as an illustration of faithfulness of individuals. The Bible alone is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice.

4. There are not two classes today, the heavenly class and those of the earthly class also called "other sheep" at John 10:16. The "little flock" is the Jews and the "other sheep" are the Gentiles. All Christians must be Born Again.

5. The number of 144,000 mentioned at Revelation 7:4 is symbolic and not to be taken literally. Those of the 'great crowd" mentioned at Revelation 7:9 also serve in Heaven as indicated in verse 15.

6. We are not now living in a special period of "last days" but the "last days" started in A.D. 33 as indicated by Peter in Acts 2:17 and the Writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:2.

7. 1914 is not an established data. Chirst Jesus was not enthroned then, but has been ruling in his kingdom since A.D. 33. Christ's presence (parousia) is not now but when the "sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven" (Matthew 24:30) in the future.

8. Based on Hebrews 11:6 Abraham, David, and other faithful men of old will also have heavenly life.

9. Justification is by faith alone, and not by faith and works combined. (Ephesians 2:8-9) In chapter 2 of his letter, James is talking about a faith that produces good works. Good works are the fruit of a true saving faith, not the root or the basis for salvation.

10. Based on Hebrews 1:1-14 clearly indicates that Jesus is not an angel, nor Michael.

11. Jesus was not resurrected as a spirit creature, but with the same physical human body he died with, which was now transformed and glorified. (Luke 24:39)

12. Jesus is not a created being, but shares the same nature, substance, and essence of God. (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3; 1:18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3,8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Romans 10:9-13; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:9)

13. The One True God Jehovah eternally exists in three separate and distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are equal in nature, substance, and essence, but have differing in function and role.

14. A person does not cease to exist at death. Hell is not non-existence or annihilation, but eternal separation from God and unending punishment as the unbeliever faces the wrath of God. Death seals a person's destiny, there is no second chance after death.

15. Jesus death and atonement on the cross does not pay for Adam's sin alone, but he stands in the place and pays for of all the sins of all his people. On the cross Christ bore their sin and absorbed the wrath of God due them. All their sins are paid for, past, present, and future, along with sins of omission and commission. His atonement doesn't make salvation possible, but it actually saves.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In what way are Jesus an the Father one? - A Response to the Watchtower Part 2 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. My previous article was part one of a three part series in response to this article.

To read the first article please click here.

The article entitled “In What Way Are Jesus And His Father One”, continues from where I left off:

This strong bond of unity, however, does not make God and his Son, Jesus, indistinguishable from each other. They are two individuals. Each one has his own distinct personality. Jesus has his own feelings, thoughts, experiences, and free will.

Once again, they have failed to deal with the Writing Committee in Brooklyn has failed to understand one of the basic ideas in the Trinity, viz. that Jesus isn't the Father. Yes, they are two individuals. Of course they are! Yes each is a distinct personality. Each is a distinct personality, but equally the One God. The argument here given by the Watchtower does not disprove the Trinity at all. So my response to this would be a very emphatic, "So what?"

The article continues,

Nevertheless, he chose to submit his will to that of the Father. According to Luke 22:42, Jesus said: "Let, not my will, but yours take place." These words would have been meaningless if his will could not differ from his Father's.

In this section, the first sentence refutes the third. Jesus words in Gethsemane are not meaningless because "he chose to submit his will to that of the Father". Submission to the Father's will does not mean that Jesus can't also be fully God. I am just as human as my Father and chose to submit to his will when I lived at home, does that make me a lesser human? Of course not! I am just as human as my Father is. A child carries the same nature as the Father. That is why I am just as human as he is. God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, one, and self-existing. So, as Genesis says, "each according to it's kind". If Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, then he too must be God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, one with the Father, and self-existing. If he isn't then he isn't God's "Son".

The section of the Watchtower article I am discussing here finishes this way:

If Jesus and his Father were really one person, why did Jesus pray to God and humbly admit to not knowing things that only his Father knew? - Matthew 24:36

Take note of the first part in this section. Their argument here gets off to the wrong start because Trinitarians never said they were the same person. In fact, we consider it a heresy, viz. modalism, to say they are.

The answer to the rest of the objection is simultaneously simple and complex. The simple aspect comes from the the Apostle Paul in Philippians Chapter 2.

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider his equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! - Philippians 2:5-8 TNIV

Notice that though Jesus was in very nature God, he did not consider his equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, or as the Good News Translation puts it "did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God". So it could read....

"Who, being in very nature God, did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

What is the answer to the question then? It is that the only begotten Son of God, who was in very nature God, took on the very nature of a servant by becoming human. He humbled himself. Hey laid aside his rightful claims to equality with God, and became nothing. In becoming a human, he thus became subject to the limitations of the human experience.

That's the simple answer. However, if you understand that it is God who is involved you also understand that this is incredibly complex.

In theological terms, what this verse is showing us has been called the Hypostatic Union. Mark Driscoll in his book Doctrine: What Christian's Should Believe, on page 26 says, "Hypostatic Union means that Jesus is one person with two natures and therefore simultaneously fully God and fully human."

In his book 31 Days in the Life of Christ, on page 84 and 85, J. Oswald Sanders takes a stab at explaining this idea more fully.

"Jesus was truly God; whatever it is to be God, Jesus was that absolutely. He was equally really man. His deity and His humanity were distinct and separate, and each nature retained its normal attributes. The divine did not permeate the human, nor was the human absorbed by the divine. St. Leo expressed it: 'He united the true 'form of a servant' in which He was equal to God the Father, and combined both natures in a league so close that the lower was not consumed by receiving glory, nor the higher lessened by assuming lowliness.'

The Son of God was not changed into a human being, nor did the man Jesus rise to a sate of deity. The two natures were so bound as to constitute them a single undivided person, acting with a single mind and will. Since the union of the natures was accomplished without the conversion or weakening of either, Jesus Christ cannot be spoken of as God and man. He was the God-man."

This is probably one of the most complex aspects of the relationship between Christ's two natures is that. while the attributes of one nature are never attributed to the other, the attributes of both natures are properly attributed to His one person. Thus Christ at the same moment in time had what seem to be contradictory qualities. He was finite and yet infinite, weak and yet omipotent, increasing in knowledge and yet omniscient, limited to being in one place at one time, and yet omnipresent. In the incarnation, the person of Christ is the partaker of the attributes of both natures, so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature - human or divine - may be affirmed of the one person. This is called in theological terms the Communicatio Idiomatum, or the Communication of Properties.

This was flushed out at the council of Chalcedon in 451. The following confession, or creed, is accepted by all major branches of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, as being a faithful representation of the Bible's teaching on this subject.

"We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhood and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhood, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us."

"Okay," you may be thinking, "you've given me a bunch of nice definitions, and some confessions of what some guys believed, but is this biblical?" In the New Testament we see that although Jesus sometimes operated in the sphere of his humanity and in other cases in the sphere of his Deity. In every case what he did wand what he was could be attributed to his one person. Jesus in his human nature knew hunger (Luke 4:2), weariness (John 4:6), and the need for sleep (Luke 8:23). Yet in his divine nature he was also omniscient (John 2:24-25; John 4:16-18; 11:11-15; 13:10-11, 21-29, 36-38; 16:30-31), omnipresent (Matthew 8:5-13; 18:20; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 7:1-10; John 1:47-49; 4:46-54), and omnipotent (Mark 4:35-41; John 2:19-22; 10:17-18). All of that was experienced by the one person of Jesus Christ.

All of this helps us to understand what Jesus means when he says only the Father knew the day or the hour of the Son's return. Jesus was speaking from the vantage point of his humanity. As a human Jesus was not omniscient but was limited in understanding just as all human beings are. Jesus in his deity is omniscient. John says that Jesus "needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:25 ESV) The disciples said, "Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." (John 16:30 ESV) After the resurrection, Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."(John 21:17 ESV) Since Jesus in the incarnation had both a human and a divine nature, and since Christ in his divine nature shows his omniscience on many occasions, Jesus was clearly speaking from his humanity when he said he did not know the day or the hour.

Once again, the Society has set up a straw man, and not dealt with Trinitarian arguments nor do they understand what the other side believes. The final paragraph of the Watchtower article will be discussed in the final article.

Grace and peace to you,

Matt

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My problem with Premillenialism

As you may or may not know, I am generally have a historical Premillenial view of the 1000 year reign of Christ. However, I do see a major problem in this view. There are problems in all the views, "pre-", "post-", and "a-". My biggest problem with the literal Millennium would come from Chapter 21 of Revelation.

Before I show why that chapter is a problem, some ground work has to be laid. In Greek ἀπάντησις (Apantésis) means to meet one, and carries the idea of escorting a person back. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is what is commonly called "the rapture" from the Latin rapio, a translation of the Greek ἁρπάζω (harpazō), meaning to catch up.

The idea is that we will be caught up (ἁρπάζω), (and changed as per 1 Cor. 15:51-52), to meet and escort (ἀπάντησις) Jesus to earth at his second coming.

Revelation 19 depicts this with the imagery of the Church on horses behind Jesus as he returns to the Earth.

When we come to chapter 20, the Church is said to be reigning for 1000 years. There is a theme throughout the Old Testament prophets that the Lord, Jehovah, (which in this case I take as a reference to Jesus), will reign from Jerusalem over the Earth and the nations will bring him tribute.

When we come to chapter 21, we see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. Verse 2 says that it is, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband". In verse 9 the angel says, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." Clearly then, this isn't meant to be taken as a literal city, but as the Bride of Christ, as the angel describes. Paul likens the entire Church to the wife of Christ in Ephesians 5:25-26. Verses 12 and 14 of Revelation 21 seem to make sense with the statement that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 2:19-20 ) The jewels and glory of the city would seem to be the same as what Paul says, "so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish". (Ephesians 5:27 and compare with 1 Corinthians 3:11-12).

All of this to say that in Chapter 21 verse 2 says that the Church is "coming down out of heaven". Verse 1 clearly puts this in the time frame of "a new heaven and a new earth". The problem arises, why is the Church coming down out of heaven, if they have been reigning on Earth with Christ for 1000 years? The Amillennial interpretation here seems to fit the best. This then would be just another picture of the second coming. This would be a recapitulation of Chapter 19, albeit from a different angle and emphasis, this time on the Church instead of the victorious Christ. This would mean that the New Heavens and the New Earth are inaugurated after the second coming and not after a millennium. Chapter 20 then would also be a retelling, or recapitulation of this same theme from a different angle. The battle in 19 and in 20 would be describing the same event, but from a different angle.

But that's my major problem with the Premillenial understanding. It's strength is in Chapter 20 and Zechariah 14. The question I have to ask myself now is, which is the bigger problem, the Amillenial interpretation of Chapter 19, or the Premillenial interpretation of Chapter 20. Perhaps I should follow Sherlock Holmes' advice, "When you have eliminated the possible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Grace and peace to you,

Matt