Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reader Email - Hymn book and the Deity of Christ

I received an email from a reader and I would like to make some of my response available on the blog.  For the sake of privacy, the email and the name of the person will be left out.

Reader Question 1: My guess is that a JW is allowed to cut off dialog and not answer questions and walk away if the questions can’t be answered.  So is that what’s happening with me with JWs I've met, that is, my guess is correct that they can wipe the dust off their feet and walk away?

Answer 1:  If a Witness feels threatened, or if they perceive that you are out to convert them, they will leave.  They say they are looking for "Sheep" which means to them, people who are not going to argue back and people who are not going threaten them. They are going to try to find people who are submissive.  They are the teachers. You are the person who needs to be taught.  If you try to change that, they'll take their leave of you. 


Reader Question 2: I have read on the Internet that there is a hymn in a JW hymnal that has worship to Christ in it – here’s what the source quote on this:

Theocracy's Increase

Hail the Theocracy, ever increasing!
Wondrous expansion is now taking place.
Praise to Jehovah is sung without ceasing
By those who walk in the light of his face.
Long years ago saw the humble beginning
As our Redeemer a lowly way trod.
Now a great crowd join the remnant in bringing
Praises to him at the right hand of God.

So my second question is finding out if this is true.

Answer 2: That song is not one I am familiar with.  The Watchtower has changed their hymnal a few times.  They did so again recently.  So the hymnal that I grew up with is no longer used.  So I am not sure if this is a hymn in current use.  It may reflect on old hymn, and judging from the words I think it is.  I think the Society has taken great care in recent editions of the hymnal to write any reference to praise or worshiping Jesus out.  They've replaced him with the Organization itself, the Society. 

Reader Question 3: Finally my third question is are there any hymns in a JW hymnal (I think they call it Kingdom Songs) that are borrowed from evangelical hymnals?  Or another way of asking do they use any hymns that an Evangelical would use?  Also if I were to find a JW hymnal to purchase do you have suggestions of where to find (ebay maybe) and what’s the title of it?

Answer 3:  No, there are no songs that an evangelical would be familiar with or that you would find in any Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox hymnals.  They are all unique to the Witnesses.  This hasn't always been the case.  Back in their early days they used many of the more famous hymns.  I once had a recording of the Bethel Choir singing Holy Holy Holy.  They reworked the lyrics though. Instead of "God in three persons blessed Trinity" it was "Glory in the Highest, blessed majesty."  Sneaky.  But they stopped using those also.  They want to distance themselves from anything that would remind anyone of "Christendom".  Also, as I mentioned, they've changed hymnals since I left so I am not sure of the name of the new one.  The one I grew up with was "Sing Praises to Jehovah".  The easiest way to get one is to ask a Witness to bring you one. The other way is the check the Book department of your local Thrift stores.  Sometimes they have Watchtower books in the religion section. And, ebay, kijiji and craigslist are also good places to look. Also, get your hands on "The Kingdom Interlinear Translation".  It is produced by the Watchtower and has the Greek and NWT side by side and it is great for comparison to show how bad the NWT is.

Some additional thoughts:

You mentioned in your email about discussing the Deity of Christ.  You went to John 20:28 as a proof text.  I just had some thoughts I have on that:

Sometimes it is more productive to beat your head against a brick wall then to talk to a Jehovah's Witness about the Deity of Christ.  Proof-texting won't work.  They are prepared for most of the major proof texts like John 1:1 and John 20:28.  Their book "Reasoning from the Scriptures" has responses to each of the standard texts you'd use.  So one has to either know how they are going to respond and know the counter argument, or you'll have to think outside the box.  The "Reasoning Book" is the JW Brain.  If you approach a subject in a way that the Reasoning Book doesn't address, you'll save yourself much headache.

That said, you can't just proof-text a few verses. I am against citing a single verse. Greg Koukl has a handy phrase, "Never quote a Bible Verse". Why? Because citing a solitary verse removes it from it's immediate context.  So site large sections of Scripture.

In regards to the Deity of Christ and the Trinity, I'd suggest building your case block by block.  The place where you want to start is Monotheism - there is only one God in existence. For this, you may want to turn your focus on Isaiah 40 through 48. As you read large sections of these chapters with them, emphasize these verses: Isaiah 40:25-28; 41:4; 42:5-8; 43:10-11; 44:6-8, 24; 45:5-7, 14, 20-23; 46:8-10.  Emphasize Monotheism: There is only one God.  The argument against the idols and idolatry in this section is essentially "Don't worship idols because I am the only God that exists".  Emphasize the constant "I am he" phrase that God uses.  Now go to John chapter 8.  Emphasize every time Jesus says "I am he". Go to John 1:3 to show that Jesus created everything that was created.  And tie in Isaiah 45:20-23 with Philippians 2:5-11. Other passages or ways you can add on to this is the fact that in Romans 10 Jesus is refereed to as Jehovah. Another passage is to look at Isaiah 6 and compare with how John quotes that text and applies it to Jesus in the last half of Chapter 12 of his Gospel.

You're line of argument should be like this:  If there is only One God. All other gods are false gods.  You're either the true God, or a false god.  There are no other Gods.  Jehovah alone is God. No one else. So in the New Testament, Jesus is clearly called God.  Is he a true God or a false God? Even if Jesus is "a god" or "mighty god", he must still be the same God as the Father because there is only ONE God.

Also, remember, the Witnesses and the Watchtower don't understand the Trinity.  They'll constantly mistake what you believe as "Modalism" or "Oneness". They'll say things like, "Jesus and the Father are different persons", and "Jesus wasn't praying to himself". To which we respond sarcastically, as a teenager might, "Well duh!" Of course Jesus isn't the Father and of course he wasn't praying to himself.


Those are just some thoughts. Hope they help!
Matt

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Of God's and Men

This coming Friday I'm having a sit down with some Mormon missionaries.

I've decided to focus my critique on their doctrine of God. Specifically, I had in mind the following quote from the King Follett discourse delivered by Joseph Smith. (http://jon.swelter.net/king_follett_discourse.html)

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible, -- I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form -- like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see."

Here there is also that little catch-phrase:
"As man is, God once was;and as God is, man may become."

However, I will bring Isaiah chapters 40-48 to bear on this teaching. Here are a list of verses that teach the exact opposite, that there is only one God. There are no other gods. He alone is God from all eternity. He created everything Ex-Nihilo, out of nothing, simply by the power of his Word.

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. - Isaiah 40:25-28 ESV

Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the LORD, the first,
and with the last; I am he.- Isaiah 41:4 ESV

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols. - Isaiah 42:5-8

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior. - Isaiah 43:10-11 ESV

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any."- Isaiah 44:6-8 ESV

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
"I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself. - Isaiah 44:24 ESV

I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things. - Isaiah 45:5-7 ESV

They will plead with you, saying:
'Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.'" - Isaiah 45:14 ESV

For thus says the LORD,who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
"I am the LORD, and there is no other - Isaiah 45:18 ESV


"Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
'To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.' - Isaiah 45:20-23 (Compare with Philipians 3)

Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,' - Isaiah 46:8-10 ESV
I think the words recorded here are sufficient enough to establish a view of God that is incompatible with the statements of Joseph Smith.

It should be noted that much of the language here is used of Christ.  Notice the frequent "I am he" in Isaiah 40 through 48.  Jesus uses this language of himself in John chapter 8. "Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins".  John 1:3 says that Christ made everything, "and without him was not anything made that was made".  Colossians 1:16 says that by him, Jesus, everything was created. Hebrews 1:3 says that the whole universe is upheld by Christ. 

Compare these passages above with the testimony of the New Testament about the person and nature of Christ and you will be forced by consitency to confess the Holy Trinity in it's undivided Unity.

Here is an extensive interview on Mormonism with Dr.  James White on the Way of the Master show:

Part 1 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i29nHMGOdA
Part 2 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-YkuZSvN4g
Part 3 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQxvWLMfdoM

Matt