Homo Habilus, Erectus, and Piltdown
Screening With the Barenaked Ladies

Salvation by Grace, Trinity, Hell, and so forth...

When I first began blogging about two years ago, I imagined that from whatever posts I wrote with a spiritual theme, about half would be directed toward the skeptic crowd and half aimed at the religionists. Like our Lord impaled between two thieves, Jehovah’s Witnesses are caught between two unsavory types. On the one side are the atheists who don’t like us because we are theists (an annoying word…..would you call a married man a wifeist?). On the other hand are the churches who also don’t like us because we fail to line up with their favorite doctrines.

In spite of my noble 50/50 intentions, I find myself writing 90/10 in response to a powerful Carolina force who’s name I will not mention but whose initials are Moristotle. A prolific commenter with boundless energy, he not only writes his blog but he also writes mine in that he plants ideas in my head - they swirl around, and gel into some post geared to something he’s brought up.

Now, this is not disagreeable to me, for I tire very quickly of fisticuffs with the religionists. Squabbling with someone over the trinity, for example, brings to mind that Monty Python scene with the Black Knight. You take off one arm; they keep charging you. You take off another; they don’t notice it. Take off a leg and it doesn’t faze them. Another leg and they keep on arguing, confident they’ve trapped you. You take your leave in disgust and they taunt you for being a coward. Look…almost all scriptures proving the Trinity are wordings that would instantly be recognized as metaphor or illustrative device in any other context, and you have to painstakingly go through every blasted one of them with the Trinitarian and then start at the first and do it all over again since nothing you said in the first place registered. Some people enjoy the exercise. More power to them. The field is theirs. As for me, if for some reason I’ve kept a car group waiting, upon my return I may say “I don’t believe I couldn’t get that person to see that Jesus and God are not the same.” You can see veins standing out on the necks of those waiting. “You kept us waiting all that time for the Trinity!?” they seem to be fuming.

Still, in an effort to respect my original Mission, here’s a few tidbits either from my blog or from exchanges I’ve had on other blogs. They've accumulated. They're too good for the dumpster yet too meager to merit a post of their own. So I'll present several together as a casserole. Perhaps I'll expand on some later.

One religious blogger takes issue with our stand on holidays. Most  holidays Jehovah’s Witness refrain from. Does that not border on child abuse? she suggests, recalling how eagerly she anticipated Santa. Yet in the next breath she worries that, deviating from Truth in this or that doctrinal way, surely I and mine are all apt to go to hell. There is not some incongruity here? Refraining from holidays is intolerable cruelty, but she has no problem with an all-powerful God who would hand someone over to be tortured forever and ever!

With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

 

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Salvation is by Grace, sir...that's the point. Religion cannot save, only Jesus does.

Well, of course, everyone knows that.

If "everyone knows" that salvation is by Grace, why does JW preach that you earn salvation by good works?

They don't. I think this accusation originates 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) They 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

Only 144,000 are going to heaven, huh? No wonder you knock on so many doors! There are 7 million of you! That’s a lot of people to beat out so as to grab one of the heavenly spots.

Well....the premise is wrong here.

Jehovah's Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God's Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord's Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn't put them there because he wanted them somewhere else. Life on earth is not "second class." to us. It is God's original purpose for humans.

Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all "nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" who would survive the "great tribulation" and live on into the "new order," life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to belong to this group. I do.

The Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests," very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members, or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police, and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country? I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity? I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

 

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members  [I’m not exactly sure what “files” this writer was referring to, but I took a stab, in view of the point she brought up next]

The policy of Jehovah's Witnesses is that a known child molester may never be appointed to any position of oversight. Plainly for such a policy to succeed, someone has to keep track, otherwise simply changing congregations would be enough to thwart it. Jehovah's Witnesses should not be criticized for this. Rather, you should criticize churches who do not care enough about protecting children to have done the same. A simple police background check is not enough. Many known molesters have never been convicted. Nor are police records necessarily reliable. A report from Toronto last week laments that, due to loopholes, only half of the province's convicted sex offenders appear on the national list.

or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police

There is nothing to say congregation members can't call the police in cases of child abuse. Where do you get this from? If they choose to contact the elders first, or instead of, then the elders contact the police as required by law in New York, and I think all of the United States.

and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country?

I'm not sure what the author means by that remark. Jehovah's Witnesses scrupulously obey laws, they diligently pay taxes, they stand for family values. Do those things not count as supporting your country? Or is he speaking of attitudes toward military ventures? At present this country is sharply divided over military policy. Does he feel one side or the other is not supporting the country? If so, which side?

I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell

I've already answered this in my comment about the three original language words from which the English word hell is translated. None of them refer to a place of fiery torment. When you translate a word, you have to translate it according to its meaning, not according to what simply fits into your belief structure.

or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity?

Since the Trinity goes against common sense, one would not expect the Bible to expressly deny it, any more than one would expect it to deny that the ground is really green cheese. Exactly the opposite. If the Trinity is true, one would expect the Bible to explicitly and unambiguously state it. It doesn't. The only verse that directly states the Trinity is found at 1 Jn 5:7 in the King James Bible. Virtually all modern Bibles have either removed or footnoted the verse, since it appears in no ancient manuscripts prior to the 6th century. In other words, it was inserted into the text, [!] most likely by someone intent on proving what the Bible otherwise does not say.

I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

There’s quite a few grousers who like to portray Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization of rules “enslaving” people. Two thoughts on this. First, there’s no question that we do adhere to standards as close as we can approximate to that of the first century Christians. No apology for this.   

But where someone presents a list of JW rules, and some of them seem too petty to believe, in general, they should not be believed. They are usually the result of some discussion in the Watchtower or Awake, sometimes decades old, sometimes mentioned only once, with no intention of proposing rules, but only food for thought. To be sure, we have some folks who take every suggestion found anywhere as a rule, as acknowedged in the July 1 1994 Watchtower:

An elder could think that in order to be theocratic, the brothers should obey all sorts of rules. Some elders have made rules out of suggestions given from time to time by “the faithful and discreet slave.”

Don’t such folk exist anywhere? From time to time, these ones are readjusted.

For example, from the Aug 1 1994 Watchtower:

Responsible brothers today are equally interested in reaching hearts. Thus, they avoid laying down arbitrary, inflexible rules or turning their personal viewpoints and opinions into law. (Compare Daniel 6:7-16.) From time to time, kindly reminders on such matters as dress and grooming may be appropriate and timely, but an elder may jeopardize his reputation as a reasonable man if he harps on such matters or tries to impose what are primarily reflections of his personal taste. Really, all in the congregation should avoid trying to control others.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 2:12.   (page 18)

Or from the Sept 1, 1996 Watchtower (page 23):

We can have faith that Jehovah God by means of his holy spirit will influence the hearts of true worshipers. Thus, mature Christians appeal to the hearts of their brothers, entreating them, as did the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 8:8; 10:1; Philemon 8, 9) Paul knew that it is mainly the unrighteous, not the righteous, who need detailed laws to keep them in line. (1 Timothy 1:9) He expressed, not suspicion or distrust, but faith in his brothers. To one congregation he wrote: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Paul’s faith, trust, and confidence surely did much to motivate those Christians. Elders and traveling overseers today have similar aims. How refreshing these faithful men are, as they lovingly shepherd the flock of God!

There! Now back to those pesky atheists.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

Screech

I understand the feelings reflected here. Some additional "food for thought."

When I was having issues accepting the "no holiday" stand, I reflected on an additional point: Since mankind is in rebellion, the main issue is which side one wishes to take. Does someone want to respect Jehovah's authority or respect their own? In the Hebrew texts, we notice that when the Israelites started "celebrating holidays" that God had not commanded them to, they got into trouble. Yet God also gave them holidays and observances. In like manner, Christians today are only commanded to observe Christ's sacrifice, and are given instructions on how to do so. So is it not possible that we would be ursurping Jehovah's authority by celebrating holidays created by man? In any case, that is the logic that made the most sense to me.

Another thought:

As for files on members, I recall that in several of the Christian Greek texts there are congregation members mentioned by the Apostles in some way, some commending them others warning about their behavior. It would seem to me that in order for such texts to be written, then at the very least letters would have been written and transferred to the apostles giving congregation status. Otherwise, how would they have known? It would seem to me to be a demonstration that some form of recordkeeping was done in the early Christian Congregation.

I can also think of one instance where Jesus says to Satan, "it is Jehovah your God you must worship," when he is being tempted by Satan. That seems to imply no worship of Jesus or any others.

I'm sure you've touched on all of these references in your ministry, but I wanted to put my 2 cents in.

Moristotle

Dear Tom, how could anyone not love your vigorous style through whose transparency your vitality does so gloriously shine forth!

I'm sorry about having dubbed you a theist, though I'm not sure whether the problem is with the particular label or with labels in general. If you were an atheist, for example, would you object to being called an "atheist"? Or is there something about "theist" in particular that you (in particular) don't like? What about "believer" (in a context where it's fairly clear what is believed)?

I could surely resort to such labels less often, and I'll try in future so to do.

While I respect your patient respect for the people of whom you primarily speak in this post (I'd call them "religionists" but for the preceding paragraph), I can't join you in wishing more power to them. (Out of delicacy I'll refrain from mentioning the pox.)

tom sheepandgoats

Screech:

The main gripe as to holidays is that they are either based on religious practices with non-Christian roots, or they in some way violate Christian neutrality....promoting one nation over others. That covers about all holidays, though Ground Hog day appears safe and is a huge hit in the Sheepandgoats household.

Moristotle:

The term "theist" didn't originate with you, and if I solve all things that annoy me, what am I going to have to gripe about? "Believers" works better from my standpoint, but I don't insist you change space and time for my sake. Still, I appreciate the consideration.

I think I read once that many names now mainstream originally were "slams." Quakers, for example. (they quaked) Lutherans, for another....followers of a man, and not Christ. Methodists.....they adhered to some methods others found rigid. Maybe the same will one day happen with "theist."

Showme

I'm always amazed how some people can believe in a loving creator and at the same time think he's going to burn and torture people forever. No wonder people don't want to believe in God, most religions make him sound like a monster.

vargas

Trinitarians amuse me because they don't understand basic logic (at least they don't when it comes to that doctrine). I no longer argue with them these days. I'm too old and time is precious. Being a JW means you have a lot of things to do.

One thing that irritates the daylights out of me is this idea of "God's grace". Every time I hear it I have to pray for patience!

It's as if that is all we need for salvation! When we look at the old patriarchs, the ancient Israelites or the early Christians, they all had duties or commissions to fulfill in order to have God's favor and blessing. This had nothing to do with "working one's way to heaven". It had EVERYTHING to do with obedience to His will. Those who will gain the prize of life are those who are obedient - which means that there's a lot to do.

What do some of these Christians think? That they can live and do as they like and ignore Bible principles and true doctrines and suddenly, through God's grace they will receive salvation? Huh! When I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, what I see is that the only people who will receive God's grace are those found doing what He commanded them to do.

Which means that there are going to be a lot of Christians who will be unpleasantly surprised in the future.

O.K. I'm off my soapbox now.

Screech

"Lord, lord! Did we not prophesy in your name and perform powerful works in your name?" and I will reply, "I do not know you! Get away from me you workers of lawlessness!"

Awake In Rochester

I have an Award for you, at my blog. ;o)

tom sheepandgoats

Cool! I'll scoot right over and pick it up!

Thanks.

Romulus Crowe

Completely off topic, Tom but you might want to get hold of this week's New Scientist (issue no. 2653).

You can see the start of the article here, but you can't see all of it online unless you subscribe.

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg19826533.500-blood-transfusions-found-to-harm-some-patients.html

It's enough to give the general idea. The magazine should still be around until the new issue (Thursday) and some libraries will have it.

Rom

Wifeist... I'll have to remember that one. I'd define it as a man who thinks it's macho to be incapable of looking after himself.

tom sheepandgoats

I'll see if I can track it down, Romulus, and

HA! There's probably some married men around who would agree with your definition.

Mike.e

I realize that you have no interest in discussing anything with me, but just in fairness I wanted to let you know that I put together a 5 part video series in response to this blog.

http://apologeticfront.blogspot.com/2008/05/refuting-jehovahs-witness-blogger-tom.html#links

tom sheepandgoats

Mike.e

I'm not sure that I'm substantial enough to merit a formal refutation, but....tentatively....give it a shot. No hitting below the belt, now.

NateDredge

Question, and I hope that I haven’t already asked this. I enjoy attending the religious services of various denominations and seeing what they are all about. Do Kingdom Halls have an open attendance policy, meaning if I were to just show up one Sunday they wouldn’t treat me weird or anything? Just post a reply here, I would like to know.

tom sheepandgoats

You would be welcome. Possibly, after the meeting, people may introduce themselves, even offer a Bible study. But be pleasant and forthright. You know how to handle yourself, I'm sure.

BTW, your people are front page today of the Democrat & Chronicle

http://democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080630/NEWS01/806300322&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

NateDredge

Neat. Thanks for the reply.

emanuel

Ok, I understand the idea of Jehavah's Witnesses, and I respect them for some of their ideas, their choices in life, and the morals that they live by. I am not an atheist or a theist, but rather, I am very curious about how other form their belief systems, and I am a strong believer in the idea that there is not one and only truth. So, in essence, I think that atheists are no more right than the Jehovah's Witnesses. Being raised a JW, I have developed a strong criticism of what we encounter in society, things like religion, patriotism, and other ideas we take at face value. The watchtower has encouraged a general inquisitiveness about religion and ways of living, with the final answer always leading back to the JW's. I found my inquisitiveness to be boundless and go way beyond what was presented in the wt doctrine. I also find that the belief system is too full of inconsistencies to be followed word for word. This is hard to explain to the people I run into from the Kingdom hall who ask me when I am going to go back to the meetings. I believe more in a ethical philosophy for living right. Ultimately, the creator truly knows what is in my heart, whether I believe in the JWs or any other religion that claims to be "The Truth" and I am pretty happy and solid with my belief system and my faith in the universe.

tom sheepandgoats

"I think that atheists are no more right than the Jehovah's Witnesses."

I'm unclear on this statement. It would seem that either there is a God or there is not, thus the two groups cannot be equally right or wrong. It may be you've decided not to delve into the matter, but that's a different topic entirely.

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