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Whitepebble's son asked me to go with him on a return visit, so we took a few minutes to get our ducks lined up. You want to do that before a call.  You don't script every word, of course, but you want to get some general idea of where discussion may lead, and how you will respond if it goes here and how you will respond if it goes there. This particular fellow, Whitepebble Jr told me, had some questions about Michael in the Bible. Who is he? Is he really the same as Jesus?

Now, I don't especially like return visits where the main topic is 'who is Michael.' Nineteen times out of twenty, they are simply back door entries into a Trinity discussion, and I don't really like Trinity discussions. Unless handled with care, they can easily run on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on with neither side budging an inch. I bring them to an end fairly promptly if the other side doesn't respond to what strikes me as common sense. If both sides are dug in, it's just a time-waster. Let God sort it out. He knows if he's a trinity or not. But some of those evangelicals are quite happy to blow through acres of time in such debate. Truth be known, some of our own people, as well. But I'm not one of them.

Still, not every call goes by formula. You do have to probe around some to be sure you have a rigid trinitarian dogmatist on your hands...not everyone is. It may be different in your neck of the woods, but here, such a 'Michael' call is usually, not always, an invitation to spend forever locked in fruitless discussion. 'Who is Michael' is just a sneaky way to get into it. See, if Jesus is the same as Michael, then he is NOT God, since nobody anywhere (to my knowledge) claims that Michael is God. That's what riles Trinitarians, the implication that Jesus is not God. Were it not for trinitarian considerations, they'd have no issue with Jesus a/k/a Michael, just as they have no issue with Jesus a/k/a 'the Word', or Jesus a/k/a 'King of kings and Lord of Lords.'

The Witness understanding of this is fairly straightforward. Both Jesus and Michael are described as having the same role. They both carry the same title. So why not conclude they are the same individual, referred to, at different times, by different names? Makes sense to me.

Michael, for instance, leads God's army to battle Satan's forces:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.    Rev 12:7-10   NIV

That's the same role Jesus has, here described as the Word of God and KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (all-caps a device of the NIV):

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.    Rev 19:11-19

So two generals, Michael and the 'Word of God', have the same role. Why not conclude they are the same person?

Of another occasion, 1 Thes 4:16 says:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

The “Lord himself” uses a voice lesser than his own? No. If he has “the voice of the archangel,” it's because he is the archangel. (a word, by the way, which never occurs as plural, but only singular. There are not archangels, but only one)

And 'the archangel' is? Michael.

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses.....        Jude 9

It always steams me to come across evangelical sites and read there that "Jehovah's Witnesses say that Jesus was only an angel." No. He is, as one of his titles, the archangel; there's only one. (Not to mention how it steams me even more if they claim JWs say Jesus was "only a man." No, again. His life-force was transferred from long heavenly existance, as God's first-born son, to be born on earth as a perfect man; there have only been two. And by his faithful course, he undid, for those who put faith in the arrangement, the damage done by the first perfect man. Upon his resurrection, he's granted even greater authority than before, as king of God's Kingdom.)

So the Lord himself is the archangel Michael. Is that so hard to comprehend?

Dan 12:1 foretells:

At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.

Right! That's just what Jesus role is in the heavens. He is the 'great prince' [prince of peace] who protects God's people. He is Michael.

Nonetheless, I'm willing to yield on this point in the ministry. It's not central. If you “win,” you've won very little, much like winning on a flood discussion. Moreover, you will not win if speaking with a firm Trinitarian. They have it rock-solid in their head (like concrete, Lee Chugg used to say...all mixed up and firmly set) that Jesus is God, and if he is God, he certainly is NOT the archangel. Don't spend a lot of time on this. Instead, discern that the underlying issue is the Trinity, and deal with that if it seems fruitful. Look, I'm not crazy about Trinity discussions; I've already said that. But I'd rather have an open Trinity discussion than a masked one. In an open one, you can appeal to texts to show that Trinity for what it is. And the texts you'll use are not ones about Michael the archangel.


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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'

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



“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


"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.



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'