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!


NeonMadman said...

Great blog, Matt, but now I'll have "Hail the Theocracy" rolling around in my head all day!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Matt. I look forward to reading this in greater detail. Sincderely, Eric.

RuthEmily said...

The whole idea of one true God was a line of discussion I used, and although I wouldn't say we made progress, I could see that to my visitors it just didn't "compute" to name Jesus as "a god" and yet not see him as therefore false if there is indeed only one true God. So progress in part as it made my visitors think a lot more.

Taking the line of "verily I say unto you" / "truely I tell you" in Luke repeated accurately in the NWT 35 times, but only incorrectly translated on one occasion (for doctrinal reasons) to the thief on the cross, also helps undermine the JW trust in their translation, which is a key to helping them.

Also, a good book on a whole range of topics following a similar pattern of "arguing" is "Reasoning from the scriptures with JW" by Ron Rhodes.