The talk title was, “Is it later than you think?” I’ve heard it for decades. I suppose if it was later than you think 40 years ago, it still is. Alas, the people of God are destined to be chumps, eternally expecting the end which does not come until it does.
Notable in this talk rendering was the torching of some straw man arguments. The speaker one by one considered, then discarded, objections to his main points.
Not everyone will know what a strawman argument is. The speaker did not use the term. But I, who am on top of every nuance of critical lingo, except for the ones too crazy to get one’s head around, am in the know. There is even Bernard Strawman, from Tom Irregardless and Me, whom everyone but me knows it is absolutely pointless to call on because all he does is spout off his learning. Bernard Strawman—who is working on his memoirs, with the running title ‘Portrait of a Man.’ Bernard Strawman—whom my firebrand Bible student, Ted Putsch, a college political science major, took an instant dislike to, even tearing a page out of that manuscript and hurling it into the fire to illustrate that ‘everlasting fire’ destroys what is thrown into it, rather than torturing it forever as that windbag maintained Revelation teaches, even as he is far above such an interpretation himself.
A straw man argument is an argument your adversary does not make. Therefore, shooting it down is not the big deal you think it is. Usually the straw man argument is employed dishonestly. The trick is to persuade the uninitiated that your opponent does rely upon it, so that your pulling the rug out from under him causes great injury—hoping no one will notice that he was never on the rug. Since he’s not standing on it, it causes no real trouble at all, expect for diminished reputation in the eyes of those who fell for the ruse.
‘Is it Later than You Think?’ zeroed in on five items of those ‘last days’ parallel passages from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. For each item, the speaker defused objections to it.
The 5 ‘last days’ items considered were 1) nation rising against nation, 2) earthquakes, 3) food shortages, 4) pestilences, and 5) increase of lawlessness.
The objection to each is that, ‘Duh—of course we hear about this more! There is better communication today’ and/or ‘There are more people today. Of course more will be affected!’ But—and here is where discarding the straw man comes into play—you can acknowledge the above and still the 5 points are meaningful.
Take earthquakes, for example. Are there more of them that ever before? In 2002, the Awake magazine (March 22) let stand without molestation the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center report that “earthquakes of 7.0 magnitude and greater have remained ‘fairly constant’ throughout the 20th century.” It didn’t try to correct that august body with, ‘Oh no!—They’ve been on the increase—the Bible says so!’
Instead, discarding the straw man, they say, ‘Who cares? Is it the Richter number that makes for ‘great earthquakes’ or the people affected? Does anyone pull out their hair about the Sahara desert earthquake that affects nobody?’ The prophesy stands.
Same thing with food shortages, pestilences, the increase in lawlessness. A key ingredient for these things to be notable is that there be more people to notice and be affected by them. That still doesn’t mean the signs are not valid.
You can spin a lot of corollaries, some of which the speaker did. Yes, of course you can say pestilence affects far people because there are far more people. But you can also say—‘Sheesh, you’d think science (unheard of back then) would have made more of a dent. Instead, human mismanagement, even with science, compounds the problem—witness the current debacle over Covid-19. You can even go conspiratorial (which the speaker did not, though I do) and picture Pharma contemplating, ‘Do you have any idea how many drugs we could sell if we could break down the human immune system under the guise of helping it?!’
You can even go for the added terror of ‘nation shall rise against nation’ by pointing out how science makes it worse—with lethal weapons that affect you though you be far removed from the battlefield.
It made me think of a certain atheist cheerleader at the door who leaned into me, with “Why do you Jehovah’s Witnesses always think that things are getting worse? What is it about that view that does it for you?” I answered that It helped me to explain why the Doomsday Clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight and not 10:30 AM.
Things are getting worse because 1) people are getting worse, or 2) they’re no more odious than they ever were but, whereas you could once put elbow room between you and they, now with a shrinking world and greater communication reach, you cannot.
In the end it makes no difference. Under either scenario, things get worse. Torch that strawman. The only ones who don’t see it are the exJWs on the internet who think, now that they have broken free from the cult, the world is their oyster. Everyone else knows it’s going to hell in a handbasket.
****** The bookstore