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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.


Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash




Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

1874, 1914, 1975, and, and what's this about 1994?

Tobias from the other side of the globe penned a long and thoughtful post on religion. I commented about something or other, and he responded with:

Personally, I don't believe the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm more inclined toward the Protestant (maybe Presbyterian) view, but that's just my belief.

Russell did make several mistakes, after all, declaring 1874 as the Second Coming of Christ and World War I in 1914 as Armageddon. He was wrong on both counts.

Like I said, it all eventually comes down to your interpretation of the Bible.


Dear Tobias from the Other Side of the Globe:

It may seem odd to you, but I don't regard the mistakes you mentioned as very serious wrongs. Embarrassing, yes. But not so serious as to disqualify Russell as a genuine Christian, or the movement he founded. After all, we all know that humans are imperfect. And we all know (I think) that Christians are instructed by our Lord to "keep on the watch" concerning his return. For example:

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man............Luke 21:36

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
................Matt 24:42

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour...........Matt 25:13

Okay, okay, so we may not know the day and the hour. But to nail the year has proven an irresistible temptation. Not just for us, but for many - even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton, still thought by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He foretold all would end in 2060, a date which the discerning reader will note, lies yet before us.

Combine Jesus' words with human imperfection, and it is not so hard to understand that a genuine Christian might jump the gun on occasion. Their mistake is not that of issuing a prophesy, which would make them (gulp) false prophets. Instead, they misinterpret an existing prophesy. A different thing altogether, not unlike misreading a bus schedule. A perfect person will not misread a bus schedule. An imperfect one sometimes will.

Frankly, you could even turn it around and count the failed dates as a plus. If we really are to "keep on the watch," as Jesus said, what are we to say about a group who never even comes close to anticipating a time for Jesus' return - indeed, who never even thinks of it? Aren't they sleeping on the job? After all, the guy high up on the mast, peering into the mist for all he is worth, ready to sound the alarm at the approach of an enemy ship - well, he may sound off prematurely once or twice. The stakes are high. He wants to not let his shipmates down. He's been charged by the captain to keep a sharp eye on things.

But the guy who is sound asleep up there will never issue a false alarm. He also won't issue a true alarm. When the bow of the approaching ship smashes through the hull and pinches his toes....that's when he'll sound the alarm. Who's the better watchman?

Or the racer on the blocks who jumps the gun. It's a great nuisance. They have to restart the race. But nobody holds it against him - so long as it's occasional. They realize it's a consequence of an imperfect person "keeping on the watch." Now, there are probably some racers who never jump the gun. But they never win any races, either.

No, a failed "Armageddon date is not such a bad thing. Nor has it been especially common. In my lifetime, it's happened only once, in 1975. So just how many times have Jehovah's Witnesses foretold the end of this system of things, anyhow? Well, there is the aforementioned 1975, which I've written about here.

And there are the dates 1874 and 1914, which Tobias mentioned, and which I've written of here.

And there may be one or two right around 1914. They really were pretty sure they were going to heaven that year. So, like when you drive in a nail, and it doesn't go in straight, and in frustration you hit all around the it was something like that. Or maybe not. History is murky, and there are a lot of grousers who gleefully try to inflate the figure, hoping to embarrass me, as if JWs predicted the end every other week, so some of these enddates may come just out of their own wishful thinking. I'm not sure.

Oh....and I think there was something in 1925. Not the big deal that was 1914 or 1975, but something. How widespread it was I'm not sure. I'll bet, though, that since 1925 differs from 1975 by fifty years, the 1925 date has something to do with the Jubilee system, in which every 50th year had significance. Aspects of that system have long been thought to be prophetic.

And sometimes on the internet, from these soreheads who try to pump the numbers, one comes across 1994. I've no idea where that comes from. I was very active in the faith throughout that time, and I never heard a thing about it. It was certainly never in print. I think it's the soreheads and number-puffers at work.

All the same, we're not doing it any more, setting dates. We've gotten burned too many times. Besides, we've sailed past all the markers, as I recall one speaker saying. Besides, we don't have to do dates; the Aztecs have 2012 as a end of the world date! This one's not even biblical, so it's more palatable for the new-agers, astrologers, modern witches, and the like. And don't forget 2060, from the Father of Science. Didn't he stand on the shoulders of giants to figure out that one?


More on 1914 here.

More on 1975 here.

How to Predict the End of the World (EOW) here.

[EDIT Oct 1, 2020....Additional material here from Dr.George D. Chryssides, which I came across recently, and, might as well say it, is more scholarly in tone than my own stuff.] 

False Prophets here.


Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash






Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The League of Nations and Jehovah's Witnesses

After the first World War, weary nations hoped world war would never ever happen again, though it did 20 years later. They proposed a League of Nations -  an international forum - that would hash out problems before they reached the boilover point. They even included Germany. Alas, the same Treaty of Versailles that proposed the League also decreed that Germany pay the full cost of the war just ended. Of course, Germany couldn't, and the resulting economic strain created chaos (compounded by the Great Depression) from which Hitler emerged, appealing to national pride and a sense of victimization. World War II started, and the League of Nations collapsed.

After the second World War, the League was resurrected in principle, and rechristened the United Nations. Jehovah's Witnesses have pointed to it as the beast of Rev 17:8 -

The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.

It "was," prior to World War II. It "is not," during that war, and it "ascends out of the abyss" (as the U.N.) after that war. It is also described as (Revelation 13:14-15) the "image of the beast," since it reflects the qualities of its component nations. Since the most prominent of these component creates it, they are said to have "breathed life" into it. Beasts are frequently used in the Bible as symbols of human governments, likely for the way they rip and tear and devour each other, and even their own peoples.

Detailed explanations of these verses, and indeed of all of Revelation, are found in the book Revelation - It's Grand Climax at Hand, available from Jehovah's Witnesses. I've previously referred to it here and probably some other places as well.

Now, offhand, a League of Nations - an international forum for peace and security - seems like a good idea. Let nations talk it out, not fight it out, and so forth. And no one has any gripe at all with the humanitarian good such agency has accomplished. The organization is, however, the exact opposite of what the Bible proposes. For the Bible advocates world government by God - God's Kingdom - which is to replace human rulership. It is described here, as God's answer after a long torrent of failed human efforts:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.    Dan 2:44

This is the same government of the "Lord's prayer," named here in Matt 6: 9-10   (NIV):

Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

People repeat this prayer, usually by rote, and it becomes like the Pledge of Allegiance. They have no idea what it means.

The League of Nations, noble though the idea sounds, advocates world government by man, and this puts it at odds with the Bible. President Woodrow Wilson lead in birthing the new organization. Ironically, he couldn't talk the U. S. Congress into joining. Europe was a long ways away. The oceans had always afforded good isolation, and hopefully, with WWI in the past, they would continue to do so. Let Europe attend to their own squabbling.

The churches, whom you might think would side with world government by God, fell all over themselves to embrace world government by man. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in America lost no time declaring "such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth...." If Congress didn't want to sign up, it wasn't for the churches' lack of effort; 14,450 leading clergymen signed a petition urging the Senate to get onboard with the rest of the League supporters. The Pope, too, pleaded for the League’s adoption. All this in 1919.

Seemingly, the only ones not buying into the hoopla were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as the International Bible Students. That same year - 1919 - addressing a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Society president asserted that "the Lord’s displeasure is certain to be visited upon the League . . . because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon “his plan,” even if all the rest of Christendom did. Three years later, discerning that the actual Christ’s kingdom had been established in heaven in 1914, (written about here and here) Rutherford urged conventioneers (it’s an oft-reported speech that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have heard about) to “advertise, advertise, advertise the king and his kingdom” - which is what Witnesses have done ever since.

Thus, establishment of the League of Nations represents a fork in the road. The churches, almost without exception, publicly embraced world government by man. At the same time, Jehovah’s organization publicly took the opposite path, advocating world government by God, in acknowledgement that God’s Kingdom does not come through any consensus of manmade governments. This explains Jehovah's Witnesses' neutrality toward this world’s governments. The churches, meanwhile, are ever convinced that God uses whatever national government they live under, to accomplish his aims. They are forever meddling in political affairs, trying to sway governments to write their own views into law. The actual Kingdom of God means little to them. Their goal is to put a smiley face on existing human governments.

Recommending world government by man or world government by God - this was among the chief differences between the churches and Jehovah's Witnesses back then. It is also so today.


Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'