Earning Everlasting Life

Tom Pearlsandswine, the melodramatic sap, was conducting a study, or just starting to, with a surly fellow who reached into his wallet and pulled out $100. “This is what you're after,” he said. “This is what you guys are always after. Here.”

Pearlsandswine declined.

“Look, you're time is worth something,” the other said. “Nobody does anything for free! Why do you keep coming? What's in it for you?”

“I'll tell you why I come,” Pearlsandswine replied with quiet intensity. He turned to James 5:19-20 where he read “…..if anyone among you is misled from the truth and another turns him back, know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

“I've committed a lot of sins in my life,” he said sincerely, “and I need them to be covered. I want to make it up to God. I'm leaving behind all the bad I used to do.”

Was there a dry eye in the house? What a heartrending confession! What a humble reply! What an repentance-filled life turnaround!

What a pious big dope! For you know, and I know, that he butchered James 5:19-20. He got it exactly backwards. Last time The Watchtower magazine mentioned the verse (3/1/83 page 15), it said:

"The person who reproved him has thus worked toward the covering over, or pardoning, of the erring one’s sins."   (Wt 3/1/83 page 15, italics mine)

It's not the teacher who gets his sins covered and soul saved. It's the taught one. Look, it sounds all pious and teary, the way Tom explained it, I grant you. But if it was really that way, we would truly be earning life, wouldn't we? “Attaboy, Pearlsandswine....a disciple! That's one hundred sins knocked off the record! Just two more people baptized and you're home free!”

There's plenty of people who accuse Jehovah's Witnesses of having just that attitude toward their ministry....that of earning life through good works. But doesn't this accusation originate with people who do little or nothing in appreciation for Christ's free gift of life, yet want to feel morally superior to those who do? "Works" that Jehovah's Witnesses perform are in appreciation for that gift, and in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples." (Matt 28:19) Witnesses do not imagine for one minute that they are "earning" everlasting life. The importance of Christian activity is supported by James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” KJV

See, the teacher already has his sins covered and soul saved. Not through any special merit on his part, mind you, but because he has put faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And by guiding the student to a place where he can also dedicate his life to God through Christ, he is “covering the sins” and “saving the soul” of that student. That's how it works, and not the other way around, the way Pearlsandswine said it.

But you can almost forgive Pearlsandswine his mistake....in fact, you can forgive it......since it largely stems from a revulsion of the other guys, the 'believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved' crowd. There's so many of these folk who do nothing after they start to "believe"...nothing in appreciation of the gift of life. Or, more typically, they suggest that anything they do after their 'believing on the Lord' has become sanctified....they've turned their life over to Jesus and Jesus is now driving! If they do something good....praise be to Jesus! If they do something not so good....you know, the kind of stuff they've long been used to doing......ah, well.....Jesus is driving, to be sure, but he is driving an old wreck of a car and there's only so much even an expert driver can do. However, it's not a problem at all, since Jesus' syrupy love covers us even when we're at our sinning worst. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.” That's what they like to hear! The easier, the better! The rest of the Bible is just so much "fine print." In short, they get to live pretty much as they've always lived, only with a self-righteous layer floating agreeably on top!

Guys like Pearlsandswine hate that hypocracy, as do all of Jehovah's Witnesses, and so at times are inclined to blunder the way in which he did, in his case botching the James verse.

Pearlsandswine's well aware of the free gift of life:

 For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.   Rom 6:23   Okay? It's free. PnS knows that.

But he also knows of the many verses that call for showing appreciation for that gift, some which would seem to require substantial effort and self-sacrifice. Like “faith without works is dead,” quoted above, but also:

Now a certain man said to him: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” He said to them: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.   Luke 13:23-24

Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.   1 Cor 9:24-27

Or....


Consequently, my beloved ones, in the way that you have always obeyed, not during my presence only, but now much more readily during my absence, keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling...   Phil 2:12  NWT

Let's focus upon this last verse for a moment. The New World Translation renders it just as does the New International Version, the King James Version, and most other popular translations. There is remarkable agreement across translations on "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

However, if you don't really like the idea that you must “keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” maybe you can change the verse. Perhaps you can change the wording so that the advice appears to be a suggestion, not a command.

Notice how the New Life Version puts it:

My Christian friends, you have obeyed me when I was with you. You have obeyed even more when I have been away. You must keep on working to show you have been saved from the punishment of sin. Be afraid that you may not please God.   New Life Version.

Note the subtle difference? No longer must you “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” which implies you could lose that favored standing. The only danger, from New Life's point of view, is that you might fail to show your saved standing!

Or consider the Contemporary English Version:

My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 

See? No danger that you could lose your “saved” standing.  But you might....gasp!.... fail to discover what that standing really means!

Or the wordy Message translation, which I've quoted from favorably before, here and here. True, they undeniably scored a dud here. It's not a literal work. All paraphrased Bibles give their editors much leeway to insert favored interpretations:

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.    The Message

I don't know what that's supposed to mean! Just a feel-good pep talk, really.

The offerings of New Life, Contemporary English, and Message illustrate what Jason Beduhn called the “Protestant's Burden.” You remember Jason Beduhn. He compared nine popular Bible translations and concluded that the New World Translation was the most un-biased...it ran truest to accurately translating the original languages! Placing a close second was the New American Translation, a Catholic translation. This somewhat flies in the face of what he expected, and what most people would expect. Shouldn't the more ecumenical Bibles, with editors representing many different denominations, result in the least bias? Yet the top two works for bias-free translating came from single denominations: Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics. What gives?

Beduhn hypothesized that the New World Translation had little pressure to be biased, since Jehovah's Witnesses are a relatively recent religion. Their track record isn't too long. Hence, they can just let their translation say whatever the original languages say, and then conform to it. If it calls for a change in some of their views, then they can just change them; they're no more than a few decades old anyway. Catholics are also free from bias pressure, Beduhn suggests, though the reason is different. The Catholic Church freely maintains that scripture is not the final word, but is augmented by interpretations of subsequent Saints and Popes. So if their translation reveals something contrary to present Church practices, (such as Matt 23:9, 1 Cor 9:5 which shows Peter, their first pope, a married man, and 1 Tim 4:1-3) it's really not a problem since nobody among them ever said the Bible was the final authority. 

But Protestants...alas! have the burden of a) a long history, therefore hard to amend, and b) an insistance that they represent Bible truth completely. So when the Bible doesn't agree with their doctrines or practices, that's a problem for them. And as the three translations above illustrate, they're not above changing the verses to solve such difficulties! Thus, the phrase Beduhn coined: the Protestant's Burden!

So.....albeit with some effort....we can now exonerate Tom Pearlsandswine from his doctrinal blunder re James 5:19-20, at least this week. It was merely an overreaction to pious fundamentalists. Let's hope he doesn't say something even dumber next week.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Income, Religion, and Jehovah's Witnesses

Pew Foundation recently studied the correlation between religion and average income. They published their results. Anyone religious dropped whatever they were doing to check just where they stood on the list. I know I did. Toward the top, hopefully. That's where I wanted to be. I mean, nobody wants to be in one of those loser religions at the bottom. If you're not making a lot of money, then....let us not mince words here.....what good are you?

But as I checked my ranking, I did so with trepidation. I was hopeful, but still I had my heart in my mouth. See, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I knew very well I wouldn't rank at the top. Maybe middle of the pack. Surely I must rate higher than the …....OH NO!!! DEAD LAST!! Well, almost. Right down there with the Pentecostals, who are slightly lower.

Oh, the dishonor! I tell you, I was absolutely mortified. I pulled the shades down, turned off the phone, and didn't leave the house for a month. How could I face anyone? I thought and thought and thought, but couldn't work around the disgrace.

But then I thought some more and I could.

If members eschewing Christianity actually apply the Bible in their lives, will that not, in itself, put them at the low end of the spectrum? Any number of passages advise living simply. For example, from 1 Tim 6:7-8

"For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things."

Seen in this light, it's almost a badge of honor to be on the low end of the spectrum. It's evidence that your group really is content with sustenance and covering, just like Paul said. Yours is a faith that doesn't just shunt aside such verses so as not to distract from what's really important: making money. Just the thought that religious folk get smug when they see themselves at the top of the scale steams me. Ought they not be embarrassed to be there? At least, if they profess Christianity? And yet, for the most part, the blogosphere had it 180 degrees backwards: with writers chest-thumping for those at the top, and hoo-hawing those dopes at the bottom.

But again, it's not the Christian pattern:

“Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."            Matt 6;19-21

 


And


“No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. you cannot slave for God and for Riches."       Matt 6:24

And

"For all these are the [material] things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you."    Matt 6:32-33
 

Other than Jehovah's Witnesses, is there anyone who actually does this? “Seek first the kingdom,” instead of “eagerly pursuing” material things, trusting that “your heavenly Father "knows you need all these things” and will "add them to you"? I've no doubt there are individuals who apply such counsel, swimming against the tide of their own churches. But are there entire religions who apply such counsel, other than Jehovah's Witnesses? I tell you, it makes me proud to be a Witness. We're all about seeking first the kingdom.

But if your main goal is advancing in your secular career, using religion mostly to put a smilely, softening face on that quest, you won't be attracted to Jehovah's Witnesses. That's not us. We “seek the kingdom,” acting upon such verses as Matt 24:14:

“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”  Obviously, the good news of the kingdom will be preached by those who believe in it. Who else is going to do it? So we adjust our lives to have such a role, rather than chase after money.

And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”   Matt 28:18-20

You don't make yourselves wealthy doing that. You're not going to be at the high end of the Pew spectrum. Money's going to be a tool for you, not an end in itself. You're deliberate in your choices. You don't want your work so low-paying that no time' s left over for the ministry. But neither do you want work so engrossing and demanding that no time remains for the ministry. You maneuver yourself to get into that position. Believe me, it's a great balancing act, especially for one with a family. It's not easy. It requires planning. Some have even come to regret decisions they've made. But we don't just blindly chase after maximum income, putting material things above all else, which is the pattern of the Western world, if not all humanity.

For example, the Watchtower recently (3/15/11 issue) advised

…...Of course, God does not want you to be imprudent or irresponsible, especially if you have a family to care for. (1 Tim 5:8) but he does expect his servants to trust fully in him – not in Satan's dying world – Heb 13:5

Consider the example of Richard and Ruth, parents of three young children. ….“I had a comfortable life but felt that I was just giving God my surplus, as it were. After praying about the matter and counting the cost, Ruth and I agreed that I would ask my supervisor for a reduced work schedule of four days a week – even though the country was in the middle of an economic crisis. My request was approved, and I started working the new schedule within one month.” How does Richard feel now?

“I get 20 percent less pay than before,” he says, “but now I have an extra 50 days a year to be with my family and train the children. I have been able to double my time in field service, triple my number of Bible studies, and take a greater lead in the congregation.”

He's not worried about lousing up the Pew spectrum, is he? Talk about “counting the costs!” This fellow has counting down to a fine art. Does anyone other than Watchtower publish such counsel? You know religions embrace, if not sanctify, the pursuit of career...if for no other reason that they know they'll get a percentage of the lucrative income. But who actually encourages their people to live simply, besides Jehovah's Witnesses? Even our wealthy ones.....for we have some...the Pew figure is merely the average on a bell curve...are not gushed over and boasted about, as is typical in religion today. Like this fellow in “Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry,” who I mentioned in the post “The New Cool Mormons.” I know him. I've been to his house. His work has prospered. He became (I assume) a millionaire. Yet when the Watchtower features his colorful life story, it doesn't even mention his material success. It's not what's important. Probably the next guy written about didn't have two nickels to rub together. The focus is purely spiritual.

So, it's not so shameful to be at the bottom of the Pew list, after all. Rather, for a Christian, it's shameful not to be there.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 


The Marcion Trap

So here I am, battling villains who insist the name Jehovah has no place in the New Testament, assisted by allies who nobly and quite properly come to my defense, when what should land in my comment inbox but a dissertation about Marcion. Who in the world is he? And what does he have to do with anything?

“In all likely-hood, Marcion actually lived in 40 AD not 140 and was the apostle John Mark, writer of both the gospel of Mark and gospel of John, as well as parts of Matthew and Luke,” says Rey, who offers the comment, “which were originally one gospel but were separated into four under the reign of Commodus because Commodus fancied himself to be a god who sits between the four winds. The first figure in church history to proclaim there are four gospel is Ireneaus, who works in the palace of Commodus, and who argues that there must be four gospels because there are four winds. Very suspicious.”

Very suspicious, indeed. But suspicious, from my point of view, because it has absolutely nothing to do with anything we'd discussed thus far (which often is grounds for my rejecting a comment, but I let it go this time).

Now, anyone familiar with the parent organization behind Jehovah's Witnesses knows that their enthusiasm for the internet is not boundless. In fact, it barely exists at all. One of the reservations they have about cyberspace is how easy it is for a person therein to hide their true identity. You'll think you're talking with your bosom chum, only to find out its really some scoundrel.....why...a wolf in sheep's clothing! I get around this reservation by assuming, up front, that everyone's a liar. That way, if it turns out they're not, it's a pleasant surprise.

But there's no reason not to answer this guy Rey. If you're a blogger, you like to receive comments. And this bit about Marcion, whoever he is, is a comment. Actually, I have only three rules regarding comments, and “agreeing with me” is not one of them. I don't mind a bit when people don't agree with me, but

1.) comments have to be reasonably respectful.
2.) they have to be reasonably “on topic”.....you just can't submit a laundry list of all you don't like about Jehovah's Witnesses, and
3.)  they can't link back to a site whose primary or substantial purpose is to tear down JW beliefs.
 
For instance, one sorehead submitted a comment positively bursting with insults and crudeness, and so I read my rules to him, and asked “are you capable of writing such a comment?” His subsequent answer showed he was not.

Sometimes I'll think of minor corollaries to my three rules along the way.....comments that choke the virus checker, for example.....but in the main, those three rules are it.

So Rey keeps carrying on about this Marcion character, and he seems sort of an oddball, both he and his namesake, pushing theology that you might expect on a Dr Who episode. But am I not a blogger? So, blog already, Tom Sheepandgoats, even if you don't know exactly where this guy is coming from. You don't have to know everything.

Moreover, when you're responding to a comment, you don't necessarily address each point made. Especially when you're talking to a lunatic. It's too taxing for the reader. No. Pick a few points, or sometimes just one. If the fellow has ten additional points, let him submit ten additional comments. Just because he thinks in a muddle doesn't mean you have to. That way, readers can readily skip over whatever they find dull. So I go back and forth with this Rey character. All the time wondering....who is this guy anyway? Is he really a  devotee of Marcion, someone I've never heard of? Ah, well....blog away Tom. Just do it. Besides, sometimes good posts emerge from such conversations. You'll know it when you see it.

So we go round and round a bit, and I point out why I think this fellow is a nutjob, when suddenly Rey tips his hand:

“I don't get why a Jehovah's Witness would find Marcionism so offensive. Why wouldn't someone from a cult started in modern America be happy to jump back to a cult that actual has at least a claim to being authentic, I mean **hello** 2nd Century here. Your cult is clearly wrong in that it didn't exist until now. That one is from the early 2nd Century, pre-dating even the New Testament Canon!”

HA! So that's what this is all about! Another cult accusation! Up till now I had never met someone who believed in Marcionism, and now I saw that I still hadn't. It was all about setting me up for a sucker punch! Just like I'd been warned. Rey just doesn't like us. If you don't like someone, they are a sect. If you really don't like them, they are a cult.

Nonetheless, what about his charge? If you “didn't exist until now,” can you really claim to link directly to first century Christianity? Especially when the Catholics will tell you that Peter was the first Pope? (even though Peter was a married man)

You can. There are any number of passages in the Bible that point out 'new and improved teachings' would commence soon after the death of the apostles, and would overrun Jesus actual teachings. The latter would not be fully restored until the final days of this system of things. For example:

1.) Jesus' parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13:24-30):

"Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse."

Lest anyone doubt how the verses apply, vs 36 continues:

And his disciples came to him and said: “Explain to us the illustration of the weeds in the field.” In response he said: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels."

Didn't Paul also say the weeds would sprout? (Acts 20:29-30): "I  know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves."

Those early Christians spoke to the general populace, like Jesus and the apostles did. But that's hard. Over time, more and more people simply didn't want to hear it. Easier to preach to the choir! Teachers taking the lead in the congregation began to specialize, preaching only to their flock, and drawing a salary....something new....for doing so! Those only marginally “keeping on the watch” quickly adjusted to the new plan: pay a preacher and go hear him out once a week. The public ministry was tough.  Easier to become “the laity” at a "church," and focus six days a week (in time, all seven) on secular activities. Preachers became like politicians....adept at seeing which way the wind blew, so as to incorporate whatever was popular, and draw in more paying parishioners.

Christians should be “no part of the world?” (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4; John 17:16) Why not become fully part of the world, and thus broaden your base? Oh....and there's going to be an “end of this system of things.....a “harvest?” Can't have that....it's too much of a disruption! Better to tell people to simply “be good” and go to heaven when they die. By the time of the fourth century, when Christianity became the Roman “state religion,” it was barely recognizable.

You can trace the details if you want....in fact, you should....but even intuitively, you know it's true. After all, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, eager clergy participation on both sides of World Wars I and II, hardly square with what Christ taught. But it's all part of religious leaders pushing to the fore.....telling people whatever they'll most readily consume so as to expand their influence.

Everyone knows it's happened, but not everyone knows the Bible said it would happen. Nearly all the NT writers predicted it:

Jude: "Beloved ones, though I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we hold in common, I found it necessary to write to exhort you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ." (vs 3-4)

Peter:   "However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively." (2 Peter 2:1-2)

John:  “Look out for yourselves, that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him."  (2 John 8-10)                   

and "I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us [the apostle John!] with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words."   (3 John -10)

Paul: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories." (2 Tim 4:2-3)

And another parable of Jesus. Note a long period of inactivity.....sleep, it's called.....and when the bridegroom finally does arrive, not everyone's ready to receive him. Using language common to many Bible verses, Christ's followers initially prepare to meet the bridegroom [first century] But there is a long delay, during which they fall asleep. When the cry comes "Here is the Bridegroom," towards Christ's reappearance, some are not ready, having long strayed from Christian teaching:

"Then the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet. For the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps. While the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep. Right in the middle of the night there arose a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Be on your way out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order. The foolish said to the discreet, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are about to go out.’ The discreet answered with the words, ‘Perhaps there may not be quite enough for us and you. Be on your way, instead, to those who sell it and buy for yourselves.’ While they were going off to buy, the bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!’ In answer he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you."  (Matt 25:1-11)

The prophet Daniel received many visions, which are collected in the book bearing his name. Yet they were not to be understood during his time, or even during the time of Jesus' ministry, but only in the "time of the end." ........... "And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant." (Dan 12:4)

So, to quote Rey, is our “cult clearly wrong in that it didn't exist until now?" Frankly, in view of the above Bible verses, the more unbroken your history, the more suspect you are.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 


Did Jesus Die on a Cross?

I think it was Tom Oxgoad who, when confronted with something shocking, or even unexpected, would frantically move his right hand from breastbone to abdomen and back again, over and over. Of course, any companion would look at him quizzically. 'What's with you?' they'd want to know. Nothing to worry about, he'd say: “Just making the sign of the stake.” He was merely staking himself.

All the JWs he pulled this on either thought him very funny, or would, at least, tolerate him. Naturally, the joke would be lost on everyone else, and even offensive to a few, but he never did it in front of anyone else....just JWs. He was just clowning, you understand. His joke could be made with Jehovah's Witnesses, and them alone, because JWs are well known for rejecting that Christ was executed on a cross. We maintain he was put to death on an upright stake. Where many Bibles say “cross,” the New World Translation says “torture stake.” (Greek word: stauros)

I've mentioned this quirky aberration from common dogma only once on this blog, and even that was in response to someone else....the scientist from Iceland, who was impressed with a dialogue between the two of us and chose to reproduce it on his own blog, assigning icons to himself and me. He, man of science that he was, represented himself with the double helix. I got stuck with the cross! So I fired back my reply that we don't believe Jesus died on a cross. 'Yeah, I know,' he admitted, 'but I had to use something, and a stake looks ridiculous as an icon.' I have to admit it does, but then who says that the instrument of Jesus death should be used as an icon, anyway...kissed, carried around, worn around one's neck, and so forth? What if he had been killed with a handgun? Would folks wear tiny handguns around their necks?

But I otherwise haven't mentioned our belief that Jesus did not die on a cross, because once you come forward with something like that, people latch on to it as the definitive Jehovah's Witness belief, whereas it really is only a detail for us. “What do you know about Jehovah's Witnesses?” they'll be asked, and their reply will be “well, I know they don't celebrate Christmas, and they don't take blood transfusions, and they don't believe Jesus died on a cross.” All true, but it's as though someone asks you at a party, “what do you do?” and you say “well, I brush my teeth.” So I haven't made a big deal about this point before.

But now I will make a big deal about it, because over the summer, ABCNews.com made a big deal about it. “Jesus Christ May Not Have Died on Cross” runs the headline of July 2, 2010, followed up with: “No Evidence in Ancient Sources Backs Up Defining Symbol of Christianity, Scholar Says.”

The text goes on to tell about Gunnar Samuelsson, an evangelical preacher and theologian, who researched the cross for his doctoral thesis and concluded it's a mistranslation! Stauros is the Greek word generally translated as 'cross,' but it doesn't mean that! Or, rather, it didn't mean that at the time it was written; it has been assigned that meaning retroactively by some who want to read their doctrines into the New Testament. Rather, Samuelsson says, stauros, at its time of use in the New Testament, meant stake, or pole, or even tree trunk.

This evangelical preacher searched through thousands of ancient texts to research his 400-page "Crucifixion in Antiquity." "If you chose to just read the text and ignore the art and theology,” he says, “there is quite a small amount of information about the crucifixion. Jesus, the Bible says, carried something called a stauros out to Calvary. Everyone thought it meant cross, but it does not only mean cross.”

“Ignore the art and theology,” Samuelsson says. Now, that is exactly what Jehovah's Witnesses do. They focus only on what the text says, not the art and “theology.” So, not having to grapple with these red herrings, JWs have recognized for over 100 years the truth about the cross. Not only was Christ not put to death on a cross, but the symbol itself far predates Christianity, and finds its roots in various beliefs which, from a Christian point of view, would be considered unsavory.

From An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London, 1962), W. E. Vine, p. 256:   The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had it origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A. D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical systems pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ. -

Samuelson originally printed just 200 copies of his work. He figured family and friends might like it....maybe a few others. Instead, he got his Andy Warhol ten minutes of worldwide fame. The ABC.com piece alone is followed by (at last count) 463 comments. [!] No....I didn't read them all...if I don't exactly have “a life,” at least its not to that extent. But I skimmed through some of them. There's a few scholarly types saying scholarly things. And quite a few religionists, essentially calling him the antichrist, since they know “by faith” that Jesus died on a cross. Then some atheists chiming in that, not only did Jesus not die on a cross, but everything else about him is made-up hooey, as well. Then the aforementioned religionists responding “Oh yeah!! Well, you atheists will be singing a different tune when you're BURNING IN HELL!!!” And then, somewhere along the line, Jehovah's Witnesses discover the post, and they....shall we say.....pile on? with comments that (in a few cases) amount to “nyah, nyah, told ya so!” But how can you blame them for piling on? Didn't I, sort of, do the same with that New Scientist article “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room”? It's irresistible. JW's have said this about the cross forever, only to be told to shut up since they are ignoramuses, and then some University fellow concludes the same, and it's taken as ground-breaking research. Not at all unlike the learned response to “unlettered and ordinary” apostles of the first century. (Acts 4:13; KJV reads more harsh: “unlearned and ignorant”) Once again, we see it's not what is said that counts, but who says it. If this Samuelsson fellow had been one of Jehovah's Witnesses, his story would not even be on the bottom of ABC's cat litter box.

Frankly, I'll bet he, an evangelist preacher, curses the day he ever thought to write about the cross. He thus joins the ranks of people like Bruce Speiss, Jason Beduhn, and Joel Engardio who write something that squares with JW beliefs, and spend the rest of their days on earth denying that they are one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Occasionally, they (though none of the aforementioned, to my knowledge) issue statements to the effect of  “Look, I'm not one of Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't agree with Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't like Jehovah's Witnesses.” But it's too late! The damage has been done! Sigh....what's a scholar to do? Agreeing with Jehovah's Witnesses is detrimental to one's career, and yet Jehovah's Witnesses are right on so many things. And the things they're right about, they have been saying for a long time, so it's embarrassing for cutting edge scholars to endorse what the JWs, for the most part unscholarly and ordinary folk, have long maintained. Alan Greenspan better be very careful the same fate does not befall him. He recently completed his memoirs in which he observes 1914 was a turning-point year, something you-know-who has said for 90 years.  

And, of course, we ought not let this subject go without putting in a good word for the New World Translation. There's not a cross in the entire work. Stauros is consistently rendered “torture stake,” and xylon is consistently rendered “stake.” Nor are there any “crucifies” in the NWT; the verb form of stauros is rendered “impale” throughout. Nobody else had the guts to do this, but now, per Samuelsson's research, we see that such translating is exactly correct. I am so sick and tired of know-nothings, guided by their “divine revelation,” and not scholarship, trashing the NWT, solely because it doesn't justify their favorite doctrines. It doesn't justify their favorite doctrines because those doctrines are not to be found in the Hebrew or Greek scriptures – they are found only “by revelation,” and the trouble with knowing things by revelation is that eventually someone else comes along who also knows something by revelation, but his revelation doesn't square with yours, and how is anyone else to ever get to the bottom of it? That's why Jehovah's Witnesses have always let their Bible study dictate their beliefs and not the other way around.

The closest any mainstream non-Witness work comes to exposing the cross dogma is the King James Version (and a few derivations that have kept its wording, such as the Revised Standard Version.)  Translating the Greek word xylon, the KJV reads:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree   (Acts 5:30, see also Acts 10:39)

Not to worry, though. Most modern Bible translations have cleaned up this “apostasy,” either crucifying Jesus, or hanging him on a cross so as to conform to that “ol time [if innacurate] religion.”

Gunder Samuelsson deserves credit for his investigative work....there's no taking that away. Nonetheless, his discovery has been written about before, just not lately. The Watchtower organization can cite many sources. Such as this one from the Imperial Bible-Dictionary (Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376): “The Greek word for cross, [stau·ros′], properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground.....Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole.”—Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376.

“An upright pole.....on which anything might be hung.” Yeah. That struck Samuelsson as odd, too. Says the ABC.com article: “Part of what tipped Samuelson off to the apparent mistranslation, were routine references to things like fruits and dead animals being "crucified" in ancient texts, when translating the word as "suspended" makes more sense.”

Here's another source:

The Non-Christian Cross, by J. D. Parsons (London, 1896): “There is not a single sentence in any of the numerous writings forming the New Testament, which, in the original Greek, bears even indirect evidence to the effect that the stauros used in the case of Jesus was other than an ordinary stauros; much less to the effect that it consisted, not of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross. . . . It is not a little misleading upon the part of our teachers to translate the word stauros as ‘cross’ when rendering the Greek documents of the Church into our native tongue, and to support that action by putting ‘cross’ in our lexicons as the meaning of stauros.......[bolded type mine]

Well....."misleading upon the part of our teachers." It's what they do best. Doesn't that show you need new teachers? Someone has to call them on it. This time it is Gunder Samuelsson, but Jehovah's Witnesses came long before him. 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The New Cool Mormons

The Mormons launched a new PR campaign on local TV.  Two 15 second spots run back to back.  There's a series of them. Each features a young, cool, vivacious person doing young, cool, vivacious things, with voiceover:
 
 I'm a bicyclist, I'm a curator, I'm a husband......and I'm a Mormon!
 
I'm a scateboarder, I'm a student, I'm a musician.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Toss in some feel-good banal statement, such as “I believe in living every minute of each day as though it was my last,” and the ad is complete:
 
I'm a surfer, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse, I believe that we're all here in life to make a difference.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Get it? We're cool, just like you. What.....did you hear somewhere that we're weird? Who told you that? No! We're not weird at all! We're just like you, only more so! Please.....love us!
 
Now, can I tell you what I think of this campaign? If I do, it will be a departure for me, because I've said kind things about Mormons on these posts. Besides, I don't want to offend Nate the Mormon, an amiable fellow with whom I sometimes exchange comments, who is these days given to writing movie reviews on off-the-radar films.  I mean, don't get me wrong.....it's not as though I think Mormons and JWs are brethern religions or anything.......we're poles apart spiritually.... but there are several similarities between us and they are good similarities. Both faiths have a public ministry....yes, yes, just a two year stint for the youngsters, but it's intense, and more than anyone else has. Both have a reputation for honesty. Both keep their ranks clean. Both look after their own, and promptly come to the aid of members in times of disaster. Both recognize the value of organization. Neither has members who insist on exercising their own rights to the exclusion of all else. Both even had a child superstar of the 70's: Donny Osmond for them, Michael Jackson for us (who, alas, strayed). No question about it: there's things about Mormons I like.

But I can't stand this new campaign of theirs. It wore out it's welcome the first time I saw it. Is it just a stupid  public relations move from the Mormons, or does it represent what they are? Dunno. But it's so pandering. It is so....oh, please love us.....we're cool, like you! Not the slightest hint of anything spiritual. Instead, absolute emphasis on how Mormons love to have fun, and how they love to do neat things. It's like the Catholics crowing 'we're the place for BINGO! Or “we've chucked those boring masses for guitars!” At least when they embraced those things, they didn't glorify it through PR spots, as though they wished to redefine themselves thereby. I mean, why carry on as if ashamed of what you are? Aren't Mormons supposed to be a faith?
 
Look, I'm not opposed to fun. Or having interesting work. All of those things the various Mormons do....we have people who do them, too. But I can't imagine a campaign in which we identify ourselves by those activities.

Now, it just so happens that the general managers of two Rochester radio stations are Jehovah's Witnesses. Sometimes you'll hear them on the air. That's cool, isn't it? I know both of these guys They're nice people. But there's no way I can imagine a TV spot featuring them in the control room, laughing and chatting into the mike, flipping this switch or that, grilling some recalcitrant newsmaker....so busy, so active, so alive, with the voiceover: I'm Tom Whitepebble. I'm a radio guy. I'm a husband. I'm a golfer. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!
 
For crying out loud, you could make one of those dopey ads about ME! Surround me with the developmentally disabled. See me helping them with this or that project. See the happiness I bring them, their excited, smiling faces. And now listen to the promo:  I'm Tom Sheepandgoats. I'm a community worker for the disabled. I'm a writer. I'm a father. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!

“I'm not weird at all! I'm cool! I don't eat Bible sandwiches! You could be cool, too, and happy, just like me, if you'd just become a Jehovah's Witness!”

I mean, doesn't it just make you want to puke?

Two years ago the Watchtower ran the life story ("Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry") of a Witness who was raised a Mennonite. I know the fellow. I've been to his home. As a Mennonite, he was chased from Russia to Germany. There he studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, was baptized, and again emigrated to Paraguay. He began preaching in a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, where they promptly spread out warnings about the newly arrived "false prophet." With his growing family, he moved here to upstate New York. The article touches upon various spiritual highlights and experiences of his life.
 
What it does not mention at all is that this fellow is now a millionaire. I mean, he must be, unless he gave it all away, which is possible....he's a very generous man. He became one of the area's premiere homebuilders. Tracts of homes bearing his company name are found everywhere. But there's absolutely no mention, in the Watchtower, of his material success. Instead, an exclusive focus on the spiritual. Possibly the next guy featured in the magazine didn't have two nickels to rub together. It's a matter of no importance. Each is defined in terms of spiritual things, not material. The day I hear “I'm Bob the Builder. I'm a homebuilder. I'm a traveler. I'm a millionaire. And......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!” I'm outta here.
 
That the Watchtower does not even mention this fellow's material success makes me very proud indeed to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Finally, a group that sees right through the shallowness of goals society teaches us to slobber over. Finally, a group not awed by social prominance, material success, or “coolness.” When our people are cool, it's incidental. It's not something sought after, and....one might as well say it, we have many who are decidedly uncool. Finally, a group who gets the sense of 1 John 2:15-17:
 
Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.
 
Of course, 1 John is from the Bible, and Mormons make little use of the Bible. Other than trying to make a few verses point to an Upcoming Modern Revelation, their own Book of Mormon, I don't think they use it at all. But apparently, if this new media campaign is anything to go by, the Book of Mormon repeals 1 John 2:15-17 in favor of avidly pursuing all goals the world deems valuable, being fully part of the world, if you will. It's just not our way.
 
Look, we have fun, Jehovah's Witnesses do. And we have interesting work, too, some of us anyway. A handful of us are even cool. But if you're main focus on life is to have fun and career fulfillment, don't come to us. That's not what we're all about. We're Bible people. We live it. We teach it. We don't carry on as if ashamed of it.

...........................

Update here

Still more here

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Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Who're You Calling a Cult? Part 2

Jehovah's Witnesses don't fit the traditional definition of cult, but they do fit the new and improved definition [people we don't like] devised by Evangelical Christians and Evangelical Atheists, two overbearing groups who otherwise have nothing in common. If a website is run by members of either group, therefore, you can be sure we are a 'cult'.

Of the two groups, atheists are, at least, not hypocritical. Look, they don't like God; they're real clear on that. God is a delusion, they say, and worship a sham. So it's wholly consistent that a group like Jehovah's Witnesses, who agency, would cause them to use the C-word worship seriously, and in a manner influenced by biblical interpretation of a human governing 
 
Not so with evangelicals. There is hypocrisy here, or at least, Bible ignorance. If they were organized in a Christian manner themselves, they would not be calling JWs a cult....they would be imitating them.
 
Doing his utmost to goad me, one character (alas...I no longer recall just where) wants to know what I would do if I disagreed with JWs about something. Would I keep it to myself? Or would I speak out? I can start a debate club at my church, he tells me. Can ya, Tom Sheepandgoats, huh?? Well, can ya? Or would ya be scared?!
 

It's axiomatic to him that the Church be patterned on Western values, and in the West we have RIGHTS! First and foremost is the right to free speech. Robust debate! Can anything be more healthy? Wasn't it Patrick Henry who declared: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it!" How American! Mom! Baseball! Apple Pie! Flags a'flying! Surely that must be in the Bible!
 
Each time the Watchtower says something modeled on Bible principles, but not ideals of the West, it prompts vicious attacks from those who assume Western values ought to be the template of Christianity. But Patrick Henry was not one of the Twelve Apostles. He might not agree with verses like:
 
"It is necessary to shut the mouths of [self-styled authorities], as these very men keep on subverting entire households ..." Titus 1:11
 
...stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer    1 Tim 1:3
 
How's that for free speech? How's that for robust debate?
 
You cannot read the New Testament without being struck by the apostles' efforts to prevent sects, divisions, dissention, and at the extreme, apostasy. Christianity started in unity. They wanted to keep it that way. It's a constant theme:
 
Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought. For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  1 Cor 1:10-15
 
I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.    Acts 20:29-30
 
I [the Apostle John] wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.   3 John 9-10
 
Now....you know, and I know, that it's not human nature to agree. Furthermore, small disagreements quickly widen into large disagreements. Yet, Jesus disciples were to be "one flock, one shepherd." So there was a human governing agency in the first century congregation, consisting first of the apostles, and it was through this agency that Christian unity was preserved. Every Christian was encouraged to know the scriptures, even before they were all assembled into a 'Bible.' The earliest Christians had known Jesus personally. All this worked toward unity and agreement, to be sure. But as Christians increased in number from 12 individuals to congregations throughout the contemporary world, do you really think unity would remain unmarred without a human authority to explain, interpret, and settle disagreements? And if so then, all the more so today when congregations exist around the globe.
 
If Jehovah's Witnesses seem "authoritarian," it's mostly because churches, reflecting general society, have tired of authority and have cast it aside. Consumerism reigns in most churches today, so says Haddon Robinson:
 
"Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches we have a consumer mentality."
 
There's a price to pay for casting aside discipline in favor of consumerism: people cater to and start to spread their own novel interpretations, their own ways of doing things, their own outlook on what it means to be a Christian, and before long 2 Pet 2:1-2 comes to pass:
 
"...there also came to be false prophets among the [Old Testament Israelites], as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively"    2 Peter 2:1-2

I vividly recall circuit overseers and the like pointing out that "50 years ago the difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general was doctrinal, not moral." Time was when there was little difference between the two groups as regards conduct. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal governing not be a factor?
 
I don't even like that question posed up there in that 4th paragraph: 'could I start a debate group if I disagreed with this or that teaching?' I don't like the premise. Christians aren't inclined to debate. They've signed on to a manner of thinking that holds truths aren't established that way. They tend to reflect the "wisdom from above," which "is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey..."  Jas 3:17. They allow themselves to be 'readjusted" through the influence of humans, as one might expect from reading Eph 4:11-13:
 
And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ...
 
They respond, even when "not favorably disposed," to a teaching style such as Paul encouraged Timothy to cultivate: "....a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed....."  2 Tim 2:24-25
 
Think of it as riders on a bus. Ideally, everyone's happy as can be. Singin the camp song and all. In practice, though, not all are that way. They fret and grumble about their schedule. They don't feel all that great. The weather outside sucks. The passenger next to them has some annoying ways. The bus is too hot or cold....ya wanna adjust the temp controls? And....couldn't the driver have avoided that pothole? Did he really mean to take that last turn? That's really the best way? It's not so serious as to warrant getting off the bus (always an option), mind you....after all, they didn't have to get on in the first place, but there can be minor murmurings about this or that.
 
All this is human. All this is easily absorbed by the congregation. It's not ideal, but it's life. You can do these things. What you can't do is grab the wheel of the bus. You can't stand up in the aisle and yell "fire!" You show reasonable decorum. If I disagree with this or that point, I say to myself: am I really so immodest as to think what is needed in the brotherhood is 7 million carbon copies of ME? I allow myself to be 'readjusted.' If I can't fully get into something, I don't fully get into it. I wait, pending a possible time when I can, submitting myself to godly instruction in the meantime. (1 Cor 16:16, Heb 13:17)
 
Some won't like this illustration. "There is no driver," they'll grouse. "There is no bus. It's just me 'n Jesus." But the verses above show otherwise. There is authority in the Christian congregation. Human authority. Surely you can accede to that without being a "cult".

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 


Watchtower, the Church, and the Nazis

Wowwheee! Did this guy ever get pilloried!
 
....................................
 
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose mother survived the death camp at Auschwitz, said yesterday that only Jews persecuted during the Nazi reign should be honored at a Holocaust memorial in Brooklyn.
 
Hikind said even though 5 million people from other groups -- including gays, the disabled and Jehovah's Witnesses -- were killed along with 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust, the memorial in Sheepshead Bay should be for Jews only.
 
He said he is not against a memorial to honor the other groups -- as long as it is somewhere else.
 
"These people are not in the same category as Jewish people with regards to the Holocaust. It is so vastly different. You cannot compare political prisoners with Jewish victims."    New York Post, June 2009
 
.......................................
 
This blogger, for example, went so far as to bestow upon the Assemblyman his "Idiot of the Day" award! (I didn't check to see who the year's other 364 idiots were.)

 
This one called him a "jerk" and a "hypocrite."

 
This one called him (ahem) "a real dick."

 
I suppose I should join in the chorus, but somehow I can't get my heart into it. I know where this fellow is coming from. Should he not be given a free pass on account of his mother alone? Oh, I suppose if this memorial is publicly funded, like the Holocaust Museum, you should include all groups. But, if you identify with one of the groups, as Hikind does, I see his point. You can't compare political prisoners with Jewish victims.
 
As it turns out, I also identify with one of the groups, in fact, I identify with two of them. Everybody knows that I've worked closely with the developmentally disabled. I've written posts about them here, here, and here. They are my people. Life hasn't dealt them a very good hand, and perhaps if I had been dealt the same hand, I would not have played it as well. So if they (or their advocates) were to put up a memorial for their disabled holocaust victims, it wouldn't bother me for a moment that Gypsies weren't included, or gays, or Jews, or Jehovah's Witnesses, or political prisoners. You really can't compare them with these other groups. True, as one blogger pointed out, they were all murdered, but - from the Bible's point of view- all who have ever died have been "murdered," by Adam at least, if not also by some more immediate villain. Why not put up a memorial for all dead people and be done with it?
 
Of course, the other group with whom I identify is Jehovah's Witnesses. Here again, to extend the Assemblyman's reasoning, you cannot compare Jehovah's Witnesses with Jews or Gysies, or Poles, or gays, or the disabled, or anyone else. Unique among all holocaust victims, Jehovah's Witnesses were able to write their ticket out at any time. All they had to do was sign a statement renouncing their faith and pledging support to the Nazi regime. Only a handful obliged - a fact that seventy years later I still find staggering.
 
In the face of those who would deny the Holocaust, Jews are ever vigilant to keep the record clear and unambiguous. See Prime Minister Netanyahu's address before the U.N. 64th General Assembly, for example. Wow! Did he ever pin their ears back! (Unfortunately, did anyone listen?) Even watering down the Holocaust record makes them bristle. I've no problem with that. I understand it. We do the same.
 
There are any number of serial gripers on the internet who are alarmed at any favorable mention of Jehovah's Witnesses, and who immediately attempt to negate such praise. Some of these characters strive with all their might to denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses' stand during the Holocaust. Of course, this is not easy to do, because the stand is among the most courageous actions of the past century. But they try. Generally, they feign applause for the astounding courage and faith of individual Witnesses, but then take shots at their organization, as if it was entirely separate. Yes, those Witnesses were amazing, they say. Too bad they were sold out by an oppressive, self-serving, uncaring Watchtower central machine.

Man, that steams me!! Any Witness will tell you, it's because, not in spite of, the support and direction of their organization, that they withstood Hitler. Nazi troops overran Watchtower branch offices in lands they controlled; their occupants were arrested and imprisoned alike with the rank and file. Meanwhile, the mainline churches refrained from criticizing the Nazis, lest there be reprisals. "Why should we quarrel?" Hitler (correctly) boasted. "The parsons....will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes." [The Voice of Destruction, Hermann Rauschning, 1940, pp. 50, 53.] The major churches received large state subsidies throughout the war.
 
Not so with Jehovah's Witnesses. After the war, Genevieve de Gaulle, niece of latter French President General Charles de Gaule wrote: "I have true admiration for them. They ....have endured very great sufferings for their beliefs. . . . All of them showed very great courage and their attitude commanded eventually even the respect of the S.S. They could have been immediately freed if they had renounced their faith. But, on the contrary, they did not cease resistance, even succeeding in introducing books and tracts into the camp.”
 
Would that Catholics and Lutherans, who comprised 95% of the German population, were similarly "sold out" by their respective churches. The Hitler movement would have collapsed!
 
After the war, Catholic scholar and educator Gordon Zahn examined the records and, diligent though he was, could find just one among 32 million German Catholics who conscientiously refused to serve in Hitler's armies. He found another 6 in Austria. Why so few? He reports that his extensive interviews with people who knew these men produced the “flat assurance voiced by almost every informant that any Catholic who decided to refuse military service would have received no support whatsoever from his spiritual leaders."
 
Instead, Pope Pius XII, in 1939, directed chaplains on both sides of the war to have confidence in their respective military bishops, viewing the war as "a manifestation of the will of a heavenly Father who always turns evil into good," and “as fighters under the flags of their country to fight also for the Church.”*
 
*quoted from the December 8, 1939 pastoral letter, Asperis Commoti Anxietatibus, and published in Seelsorge und kirchliche Verwaltung im Krieg, Konrad Hoffmann, editor, 1940, p. 144.
 
One might imagine that, chastened by their shameful WWI record, the clergy would have resolved to do better come the next crisis. Didn't happen. See the article Pope Pius XII and the Nazis—A Fresh Viewpoint, from the Feb 22 1974, Awake magazine (from which most of this post's detailed quotes are taken). No, it was not Jehovah's Witnesses who were sold out by their organization.
 
Now, seventy years later, along comes Ragoth- good old analytical Ragoth, who can always be depended upon for substantial comments - Ragoth, meaning no harm whatsoever, who "would also point out the Confessing Church during World War II, a la Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Granted, most of them were put to death, Bonhoeffer for spying for England and being involved with the plot to assassinate Hitler, but they stood their ground in opposition to the Nazi take-over of the German church. Now, also granted, they didn't take a pacifist stance. Bonhoeffer and Barth originally started that way, but Bonhoeffer became convinced that as evil a thing as it would be, he would have to suffer the consequences in the afterlife to help the Brits, and, eventually, to become involved in the assassination plot.....they were a relatively small group, but, I just wanted to throw in there were some other religious groups openly and constantly opposed to Hitler and the Nazi party, even in the face of death threats and directly against the rest of the churches out of which they came from."
 
Ragoth has a point. Not everyone in the German churches supported Hitler. Perhaps 10% of German Protestants took a stand against the Nazis. Doubtless Catholics as well. The point is, though, that they had to defy their church to do it. They were an embarrassment to their respective churches, from whom they received "no support whatsoever." So some of them banded together into schisms of their own - such as the Confessing Church. Others acted independently as renegades. These were the "political prisoners" mentioned before, no doubt. I have nothing but admiration for these persons. Ragoth is absolutely right to recognize and honor them. They were extraordinary people.
 
But not everyone is extraordinary. Most people are quite ordinary. It's true with Jehovah's Witnesses. Some are extraordinary, but most are just regular folk. Jehovah's Witnesses did not have to stand against their own religious organization or form a new one because theirs had betrayed its values. We stood against Hitler largely because of our religious organization. Those others stood against Hitler in spite of theirs.
 
People benefit from organization, even though "organization" has become practically a dirty word today. Even the minimal organization of family is too much for many these days. You should hear how often the terms "brain-washing" and "mind control" are applied to us. But without leadership from a genuine principled organization, only 10% of Germans were able to resist the greatest atrocity of all time. With leadership from a principled organization, virtually all were able to resist. If there really is a God, why would he not be able to provide some sort of organization so that believers are not tossed about like seaweed on the surf?
 
No, I don't want to hear bellyaching about the manipulative Watchtower. It's nonsense. It comes only from those who despise all of Jehovah's Witnesses. After the fall of France in 1940, the Vatican’s Cardinal Eugène Tisserant wrote to a friend that “Fascist ideology and Hitlerism have transformed the consciences of the young, and those under thirty-five are willing to commit any crime for any purpose ordered by their leader.” It's an extreme case, but it illustrates how people are. They run in herds, overwhelmed by national, economic, social or class concerns of the day. The then-current generation ever imagines they are the first to break the trend. When the dust settles, though, they're seen to be subject to the same laws of human nature as everyone else. It takes a loyal God-centered organization to cut through the murk, and keep moral principles ever before its people, as happened in WWII and as happens today.
 
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This excerpt comes from the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial, regarding Jehovah's Witnesses.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.

He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.

No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?

Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts?  And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?

There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.

Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.


It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?

One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:


Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  (Matt 6:9-10)

The Book of Daniel points to it:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  (Dan 2:44)

Revelation points to it:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (Rev 21:2-3) 

Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people -  and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.

Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1

Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice

But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?

It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.

The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship:

 ...it is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.

And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."

And with  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."

Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.

So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Enemies

As if it happened yesterday, this gem appears on a recent Australian jurisprudence questionnaire:
 
"Some Jehovah’s Witnesses approach people in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighbourhood and play a CD, entitled ‘Enemies’, to them. The CD describes all organized religions as ‘instruments of Satan’ and then viciously attacks Catholicism in particular. Do you think that the law ought to prohibit conduct of this kind? Discuss with reference to rights and the public/private distinction."
 
So a certain blogger assumes it did happen yesterday - why would she not?  and fires off a response:
 
“Oh I really believe this scenario. It’s exactly what they’d do. Not what I ever would have done. I never had that sort of conviction. Oh how embarrassing! No wonder other churches call them ”weirdo religious strangers”. They call other churches “enemies” and “instruments of Satan” for goodness sake!”

Well, for goodness sake, it DOES seem mean-spirited, doesn't it? But it didn't happen yesterday. It happened eighty years ago. And it was a phonograph record, not a CD. Enemies was published in 1937, and was distributed for less than ten years. Someone's doing a hatchet job here, hoping to embarrass me. But the book and record was entirely appropriate for its time. In fact, given the same circumstances, I believe Jehovah's Witnesses would do it again.

In the wake of World War I, the mainline churches had proved themselves enemies of God, of Christ, and of man. They had, on both sides, stoked and cheered the conflict which would claim 16 million lives, and an additional 21 million wounded. With another world war approaching, they showed every sign of resuming that role. Yet in the interim, they presumed to slide right back into that cozy seat of representing the Prince of Peace, claiming to speak in his name. And, showing their break with the Bible was complete, after the first war - dubbed the Great War, until it was dwarfed by an even greater World War II - they abandoned all pretense of God's Kingdom and trumpeted the man-made world government substitute, the League of Nations, hailing it as the "political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth."Of course, it wasn't, and the League went down twenty years after it's birth, trampled by that second world war. Yes, the religious leaders of Christendom were the enemies that record referred to.
 
Eighty years later, it's hard to appreciate how enthusiastic church leaders were for the war, how they worked as cheerleaders for both sides. It doesn't seem believable. Surely, there must be an exaggeration. But, reflecting back, British brigadier general Frank Crozier stated: “The Christian Churches are the finest blood-lust creators which we have and of them we made free use."


A few more quotes of the day, in all cases by high-ranking clergymen, not lone renegades:
 

Bishop of London A. F. Winnington-Ingram urged the English people: “Kill Germans—do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends . . . As I have said a thousand times [!], I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr."   (Perspective (a Journal of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Vol. X, No. 1, Spring 1969, p. 78)
 

And from the other side? The archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said the following to German soldiers: “Beloved people of our Fatherland, God is with us in this fight for righteousness where we have been drawn in against our wish. We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country. In his wisdom and justice, God knows that we are on the side of righteousness and he will give us the victory.”   (La Dernière Heure, January 7, 1967 (Belgian newspaper)).

 
In America? An editorial in the Christian Register says it all: “As Christians, of course, we say Christ approves [of the war]. But would he fight and kill? . . . There is not an opportunity to deal death to the enemy that he would shirk from or delay in seizing! He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle and do the work of deadliness against that which is the most deadly enemy of his Father’s kingdom in a thousand years.” (The Christian Register, Vol. 97, No. 33 (Aug. 15, 1918), p. 775. (Quoted in Preachers Present Arms, Ray H Abrams, p. 68.))
 

Sure, such fighting words might come from a general. And in the midst of war fever, from a statesman, or a patriot, or a businessman, or the average citizen. But from the church, the institution claiming Christian leadership, asserting they and they alone speak for Christ? It's not a tad at odds with Christ's own words? “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) If you don't prove discipleship when it counts, during wartime, just when do you prove it? And after the war, should those clergy sweep their bloodthirsty record under the rug, and once again presume to speak in Jesus' name? Jehovah's Witnesses didn't think so. If Enemies seems mean-spirited today, it wasn't a fraction as mean-spirited as the catalyst that prompted it.
 

Now, you gotta admit, it would take GUTS to distribute that book and play that record. Nowadays, every wussy milquetoast of an atheist takes swipes at religion on his anonymous blog, but Jehovah's Witnesses went eyeball to eyeball with those enemies, in person, and what's more, they went to members of their flocks. Introducing Enemies to a convention audience in Columbus Ohio, Watchtower President Rutherford declared: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it!” So I don't want to hear Sam Harris the Atheist whining about how moderate "good" churches don't condemn their more belligerent brethren - and how they refuse to "call a spade a spade." We did it before he was in diapers, and did it with a courage that he could never match.
 

From the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses:

 
 

The phonograph work was not carried on without opposition. Ernest Jansma tells us: “There were cases of some having their phonographs literally and viciously smashed right before their eyes. Others had them ruthlessly thrown off porches. One brother in the Middle West stood by and watched an angry farmer blow his machine into oblivion with a shotgun, then heard pellets whine past his auto as he left the scene. They were vicious and religiously fanatical in those days.” Amelia and Elizabeth Losch tell of an occasion when the recording “Enemies” was played for a crowd on the porch of a certain home. After the talk ended, one woman took the record off the machine and broke it, saying, “You can’t talk about my pope like that!”
 
Today, the influence of the clergy is insignificant compared to what it was then.  I mean, they're respected so long as they stay in their place, but their place is much reduced from what it once was. In the days of Enemies, their place was anywhere they wanted. They kept a stranglehold upon popular thought. Catholics, in particular, as you may have heard your great-grandparents say, were not allowed to read the Bible. That's what the priest was for, and he would explain it as he saw fit, in accordance with church doctrine. In town after town, Jehovah's Witnesses would place literature with interested persons, and clergy would follow and demand it back. Such was the command they enjoyed, that they often got it.
 
Frankly, if Christendom's influence is a ghost of what it once was, Jehovah's Witnesses get the credit, in my view. The Enemies campaign was but one of many back in those days. See again that previous post for another. Look, Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with inventing the airplane. That doesn't mean we wouldn't have planes had they never been born. Someone else would have invented them. But they were the first. They had the foresight and guts to persevere with a notion everyone else thought was rubbish.
 
Some, taking the opposite view of the blogger quoted in the third paragraph, grouse that Jehovah's Witnesses have become too cordial with other religions, that they have made their peace, that they have wimped out. But there's no point in kicking the 'old lady' while she's down. We kicked her while she was up. Nowadays, everybody kicks her. So why should we? Whatever account she must render is with God, not us. All we ever wanted to do was loosen her hold on people, so they would not be afraid to listen to new ideas. That was accomplished decades ago.

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More early history here.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Floods in Our Enlightened Age

Let's face it, Noah and the flood and the ark and the animals boarding two by two is hard for people to swallow. So, sure enough, after I posted I Don't do Floods this email landed on my desk:
 


I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood not more than a few thousand years ago. I read the Little Red Book, God's Word or Man's and found it amazing that in this enlightened age, it could be taken seriously. Sticking strictly to the Old Testament, I asked a Jewish friend of mine how the Jews dealt with such stories as that of the flood. She mostly, just smiled.
 
Speaking of science in connection with the Bible, I use the following quote from one of my all-time favorite writers. "Pure science is necessarily godless. It is incapable of worship. There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Reason, Observation and Experience, the Holy Trinity of Science have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others happy."
 
.............................................
 
Dear Person:
 
 
 
“I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood “
 
It’s because we approach the subject from two different vantage points. If I am cruising on the freeway at 60MPH, I’m not sure why I should be especially concerned about the scientist on the radio telling me my car doesn’t run. But if my car is up on blocks, I’ll pay him more attention.
 
Put another way, if my multi-piece puzzle is fully assembled and I’ve reproduced that vista on the box cover, I may not pay too much attention to news reports that the product’s been recalled, the manufacturers jailed as hucksters. But if I’ve worked for weeks and can’t get any of the pieces to fit, I will turn up the volume and say “so that‘s why the damn thing won‘t come together!”
 
And so if I am to answer your question, I must launch into another discussion of why I think Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth and other religions don’t. And you will hate it, or at least you have hated it when I’ve ventured there in the past. But it’s the only answer to your question I can give; I’ve conceded more than once that current scientific consensus is not on my side. If I am to overlook such consensus, I have to give you a reason. You would take me to task if I did not.
 
From prior discussions, I know we agree on the hellfire doctrine being nonsense. Punishment ought to fit the crime. To wit: putting a vile person to death does no injury to our sense of justice. Most human governments have seen fit to do that. But to torture someone forever for a few decades of wrongdoing? It’s vengeful and repulsive; we all know that. Issac Asimov observed that hell was "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he muses, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.Of course, JWs have never taught hell. Most other faiths have; many still do.
 
If there is a God who cares for us, you would hope that he would make himself knowable. The Trinity doctrine makes him absolutely incomprehensible. Father and Son being two separate beings, which we maintain, squares perfectly with our common sense. Jehovah’s Witnesses have never taught a trinity. Most churches have and do. Specifically, a trinity doctrine makes Christ’s sacrifice for humankind’s sins an unfathomable, syrupy mess. But if God caused his Son to be born a perfect man, and his life course counterbalances that of the only other perfect man, Adam, and thus he can buy back, or redeem, what Adam lost - listen, I’m not saying you have to believe it, but you must admit there is some internal logic there, and not just some gooey “God died to show how much he loves us.”
 
Moreover, if God wants us in heaven, as all religions except for Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, why didn’t he put us there in the first place, for crying out loud??! What’s with this shell game of a stepping stone earth, from which we get promoted to heaven or sink to hell? How does that make any sense? But a promise that, under the proper government of God’s Kingdom, humans may live on earth forever ….well, that sure does square with his original act to start humans on earth with instructions to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the place. If God suspends this purpose temporarily while he works out the bugs  - bugs introduced through Adam’s rebellion - well, that’s not too hard to understand. We all know about working out bugs.
 
The foregoing points have an internal logic to them…..the pieces fit together, much like a completed jigsaw puzzle. I realize that completing a puzzle does not prove the puzzle is genuine, but it sure is more impressive than not completing it. That’s what the churches are stuck with - a mess of ill-fitting pieces that you can’t do much with, so that you either sweep them into the wastebasket or say “ah, well, I’ll just believe it anyway.” Only a certain type of person can take the latter course. Jehovah's Witnesses don’t have to.
 
So that’s why I’m not as influenced by the conclusions of our current "enlightened age" (is it really that enlightened?) as you may think I ought to be. We have a strong counterweight. Religions in general have no such counterweight, so their adherents are more easily toppled. You quoted your favorite writing on science. Here’s mine, from Max Planck the physicist: 


 
 

 A new truth does not establish itself by opponents seeing the light. Rather, the opponents eventually die, and a new generation arises who is familiar with the idea [paraphrased] People run in herd mentality, be they scientists or laymen.

 

I’ll even add to that flood post a little. One commenter spoke of an ancient flood in Africa, and I responded with another example and the observation that there are probably many. In fact, as I’ve since read, there are; geologists find evidence of scores of massive ancient floods. Is it really so great a stretch to link them together? Another comment spoke of a possible fallacy in current (biological) dating methods. Now, assigning, from our time, the dates of eons-ago events is intriguing, to be sure, but I sometimes wonder if it is not like swinging a baseball bat while gripping only the sixteenth of an inch on the end. Are we really so adept at it as we think we are? Or might some new view come along someday to sweep all our current understandings away? It’s not as if such things haven’t happened before. Lastly, accounts of a worldwide flood abound in the legends of many peoples, which is not proof, I understand, but not bad corroborating evidence.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash