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The Theodicy that No One Takes Seriously Today: Is it Because it Works?

People run in herds and theologians are no different. New ideas replace old and these fellows jump ship en masse. New ideas come along and they abandon the old for the new. It is today almost taboo to mention what was once widely accepted. ‘Functional dualism,’ the notion that there is not just a good supernatural being (God), but also a bad supernatural being (Satan) to oppose him—it is as unpopular an idea as could be today. “Nobody takes this kind of thing very seriously anymore,” Hall says of it, even though he acknowledges that, as a theodicy, it makes sense. He does this after considering several theodicies in his preferred ‘ethical monotheism’ realm and finding fault with all of them. None of them work. The ‘functional dualism’ one that does work, theologians don’t like. Sometimes you suspect that is the reason they don’t like it—because it works. They don’t like the source of evil being outside their grasp. They want it strictly in the human realm where it can be fixed. Assign it to Satan, and human efforts to reform and remold are largely doomed.

Everything boils down to the universal question of, ‘Who will rule the earth—God or humans?’ The theologians of today want it to be humans, hopefully humans molded by the fine morals that religion may instill, but they want it to be humans. Hall speaks of the current trend in theology “that wants to put satanic powers, and anything that has to do with them, sort of in the attic of theological memories, to be forever forgotten and ignored because they're part of our theological childhood, or something of the sort.”

Theology is not a study of God, as the uninitiated may think. It is a study of humanity’s relationship with the concept of God. It is primarily a study of humanity, not of God. It makes no assumption as to even whether God exists or not. Following the herd of today, theologians may conclude that he doesn’t. They are not like me, trying to sway the new visitors to choose our congregation over others, telling them, ‘Frankly, in some of those congregations, I’m not even sure they believe in God.’ It is a joke. Everyone knows it is a joke.

But in the world of theologians, it is not. They may not believe in God at all, and if they don’t, this does nothing to downgrade their credentials as theologians. In the cases high-brow churches in which pastors hold degrees in theology, you can almost take it as a challenge to your faith, as though George Bush III landing on the aircraft carrier and saying of terrorists, ‘Bring them on!’ It is hard not to draw parallels with religious leaders of Jesus day, who elevated tradition over the ‘Word of God.’ It is even harder to not do it upon learning that they are embarrassed but the very expression ‘Word of God’ and strive to avoid it.

Mind you, the theodicy of ‘functional dualism’ that works, according to Hall, he does not flesh out—and without fleshing it out, it really doesn’t work. It just shows potential as a viable idea. Hall says nothing about how this ‘dualism’ came to be or why God puts up with both it and the mischief it causes. He leaves it untouched, it being “very unpopular,” a topic that “nobody takes . . . very seriously anymore,” a matter tucked away and “forever forgotten.” If I didn’t know better (and I don’t), I would call it an example of ‘the god of this system of things blinding the minds of the unbelievers,” just like Paul does at 2 Corinthians 4:4, as though making them blind to his very existence—all the better to flimflam the learned ones so they can flimflam everyone else.

Let us posit another reason that Hall and his cohorts flee from the Devil as a means of explaining anything. It is because the Devil to them (Hall states his upbringing as evangelical Lutheran) is the one who stokes the fires of hell! Hellfire—the teaching that Isaac Asimov called “the drooling dream of a sadist.” Even human justice knows that punishment ought be proportional to the crime. Even human justice knows that wanton cruelty ought be disallowed. The Devil and Eternal torment are bound together forever in Hall’s mind—he cannot separate them. To admit the one is to admit the other. If only he had been exposed to C. T. Russell, popularly known as the founder of what is today Jehovah’s Witnesses. The man was known within his lifetime as the one “who turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.”

******  The bookstore

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'

Theologians Delight: the The Priestly and Prophetic Traditions

If you get involved in politics and make a big stink over some issue so as to fix it, you are following the prophetic tradition of biblical writings. Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah—all those fellows are your forebears. Whereas, if you just want to keep the stuffy status quo—“what is good for General Motors is good for the United States”—you are operating in the priestly tradition. So it is that theologians apply biblical writings to the modern world, whereas Jesus says that you ought not get involved in politics. “My kingdom is no part of this world,” he told Pilate.

Theologians, however, are heavily a part of it; they are all in for fixing it. It is part of human evolution—upwards, hopefully. The idea that God might one day replace governments with the rulership that is God’s kingdom makes all their efforts pointless, and for that reason they ignore that interpretation. Instead, the prophetic tradition back then warred with the priestly tradition back then, setting the template for societal struggling today. Don’t think for a moment that evolutionary theory is confined to science class.

So, why didn’t the Israelites listen to the prophets who warned of destruction at the hands of Babylon lest they mended their ways? Because they operated in separate spheres and, locked into a survival-of-the-fittest power struggle, they related to each other even less than the political parties of today. Everything is disunity in the eyes of theologians, who assume the prophetic and priestly writings were fused together later by canon editors, where they present as a frozen-in-time struggle for Darwinian theology—theologies developed entirely separately via the evolution model applied to social settings. It does not occur to them to integrate the contrasting traditions into a whole.

In contrast, see how the Watchtower puts it, in a study article designed for the congregation, an article entitled, ‘Keep Following Jehovah’s Guidance.’ (February 2024) All meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses incorporate Bible study. You can prepare for them:

“Years later, Jehovah raised up judges to guide his people. Afterward, during the time of the kings, Jehovah appointed prophets to guide his people. Faithful kings heeded the counsel of the prophets. For example, King David humbly accepted correction from the prophet Nathan. (2 Sam. 12:7, 13; 1 Chron. 17:3, 4) King Jehoshaphat relied on the prophet Jahaziel for guidance and encouraged the people of Judah to “put faith in [God’s] prophets.” (2 Chron. 20:14, 15, 20) When in distress, King Hezekiah turned to the prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 37:1-6) Each time the kings followed Jehovah’s guidance, they were blessed and the nation was protected. (2 Chron. 20:29, 30; 32:22) It should have been obvious to all that Jehovah was using his prophets to guide his people. Yet, the majority of the kings as well as the people rejected Jehovah’s prophets.”​—Jer. 35:12-15.

There. Isn’t that better? Here, there is the prophetic tradition interacting with the priestly tradition on the same plane. The latter is not really the priestly tradition per se, but is the authoritarian tradition which the priestly tradition took good care not to cross, for therein lay its power base, so in a sense the two are synonymous. It is not inherent that they fight like cats and dogs. The Watchtower paragraphs highlights times where they did not, though concluding, “the majority of the kings as well as the people rejected Jehovah’s prophets.” But they were same time, same place. They didn’t have to be shoved together after the fact by revisionist theologians.

Historians might assume it was the kings leading God’s people, at that time, the Jewish nation, back in the day—David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and so forth. Nah, even then, that was politics. God was never keen on there being kings in the first place. Judges, forerunners of the prophets, had worked just fine from his point of view:

It displeased Samuel when [the Israelites] said: “Give us a king to judge us.” Then Samuel prayed to Jehovah, and Jehovah said to [judge] Samuel: “ . . . it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected as their king. They are doing just as they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day; they keep forsaking me and serving other gods, and that is what they are doing to you. Now listen to them. However, you should solemnly warn them; tell them what the king who rules over them will have the right to demand.” (1 Samuel 8:6-9)

Whereupon, Samuel went on to point out what pains in the neck politicians would be.

It was the prophets (the prophetic tradition) leading his people back then, sometimes even correcting the kings (and sometimes not; riled kings were known to toss prophets into the hoosegow; just ask Jeremiah down there in the cistern). God hadn’t welcomed kings; they weren’t his idea, though he worked with it. So today there is also politics—not exactly the same, but close enough—often honorable people who want to solve problems (though as the world gets more and more polarized and crazy, so do they).

Now that Christianity has spread throughout the earth and there is no longer one nation to contain them, Jehovah’s Witnesses remain neutral to politics and instead focus on ‘the prophetic tradition.’ They don’t imagine that prophetic tradition exists to reform politics. They assume it exists to replace it, once the obscene experiment of human self-rule comes to its end.


******  The bookstore

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'

What Axiom to Start With—Unity or Disunity: A Starting Point for Theologians

Why don’t those theologians from the previous post see the exile to Babylon as a consequence of violating the covenant? Why do they put cart before the horse and carry on as though that covenant was remembered (if not concocted) much later? Is it not because theology as a field assumes disunity? Yes, there may be a tradition that says that, they will acknowledge, but that was a different people with a different theology. When you model your view of religion upon evolutionary theory, you do not see worship devolving from one-time purity. You see it gradually assembling itself from chaos.

When you assume disunity, it never occurs to you to put the puzzle pieces together. After all, you didn’t find them in the box at the craft store. You found them in the landfill. What are the chances they might fit together? It never occurs to you to try. Such is the case when disunity as an opening axiom.

Assume unity or disunity; it makes all the difference in the world. G. K. Chesterton, author of the Father Brown short stories, sides for unity. He doesn’t really care how the unity comes about, whether “[1] achieved by some supernal spiritual truth, or by [2] a steady national tradition, or merely by [3] an ingenious selection in aftertimes, the books of the Old Testament have a quite perceptible unity. . .” (I believe he would extend this perception to the New, but he does not here do so, this excerpt being taken from his commentary on the Book of Job.)

Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, assume unity. Witnesses are known to observe how 40 different writers were used to compile the Bible, that they came from every conceivable background, social, and economic class, yet their writings all harmonize with a steady development of God’s purpose—and what are the chances of that happening? But you have to look at the puzzle pieces as a whole to discern that. You have to make a study of the Bible itself as a whole. Relatively few of these theologians have. They have only studied the individual pieces, assuming them from the landfill. Whereas, there was a time when most everyone assumed the unity that Chesterton and JWs assume, the new crop of critical thinkers does not; they assume disunity. Should they come across something that implies unity, they either attribute it to coincidence or maintain after-the-fact editing made them that way.

Some of these theologians come from religious backgrounds that themselves incorporate disunity. In short, they wouldn’t know unity if it bit them in the rear end because they have never seen it. Bart Ehrman comes from that school, that fellow I have called ‘the Bible-thumper who became a theologian, but you can still see the Bible thumper in the theologian.’ You can. ‘Why did the early Christians do this and not do that’ he asks? “Because they didn’t want to go to hell!” Coming from such shallow theology, it is no wonder that when he turns scholar, he continues that shallowness. Note here, his book entitled ‘Heaven and Hell,’ in which he has painstakingly uncovered what every child of Jehovah’s Witness knows, though he seems entirely unaware of their existence:

James Hall, another theologian, does the Great Courses lecture series entitled ‘Philosophy of Religion.’ He, too, relates his evangelical origin. He thinks that the opposite of going to hell—that is, anticipation of heavenly bliss—works equally poorly as a Christian motivation. Neither Hall nor Ehrman seem aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses have said nearly their entire existence. Hell just makes people mean; if enemies will get torment in the hereafter, where’s the harm in giving them a little foretaste of it now? And, just hanging in for the reward has all the depth of nasty children being nice as Christmas and Santa approaches.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, have said from their beginning that the sanctification of God’s name is the all-important issue before creation, not human salvation. The later is a pleasant consequence of the former, but it does not usurp it in importance.

The point is that when theologian come from a religious background incorporating chaos and disunity, they may not know unity when they see it. And, theologians from a non-religious background are even less likely to look for it; all their background tells them it is a ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ world out there. It is not a once-united world breaking down. It is a naturally disunited world trying (in vain) to build up. They won’t expect to find unity in ancient writings, and hence, will never look for it.


******  The bookstore

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'

Witnesses and Higher Education—Coming Up on the GB Update List?

Huh! Ocala invites me on a Bible study he is conducting for about a month. Turns out to be a ‘textbook’ study, exactly what HQ would enact if they wanted to demonstrate one.

Unprompted, the man said how, in a moment of spiritual desperation, he had got to his knees and prayed. ‘God, if you exist, please—I only seek to be happy.’ Within the hour, Ocala had knocked on his door and made his acquaintance.

So, I said to Ocala later, ‘Had you prayed for a Bible study?’ He told me he had. ‘I’ve read about these things happening, but it never happened to me,’ he added.

Ocala asks me at the study if I have anything to add. I put in some remark, something grounded to the theme that does not launch off into another direction, upon which he says, “Thank you for that personal expression.” If the student thinks that a little stilted (he may not), he attributes it to Ocala’s African background. He does not connect it to the mannerisms of the Witness broadcast channel.

Ocala appeared out of nowhere a year or two ago as a full-blown graduate student on scholarship at the local university. So unusual is this among the congregations that some did not quite know what to make of him. The brother I have dubbed ‘Barnabas,’ in answer to one of his public meeting comments, mentioned his publisher cards had arrived from the home congregation and elders in African. Congregations keep such minimal records. That way, no scam artist can just breeze in and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes (as they can most anywhere else). Since then, Ocala has established himself as solid in every way, now pioneering and a ministerial servant. Few have a more steadfast ministry. He doesn’t overcomplicate things.


They’re all rather trivial matters—all these GB updates of late—adjustments to the ministry, changing norms of dress and grooming. Still, they are changes to long-standing policy, so people make a big fuss over them. A brother at our hall, commenting on fast-moving changes we all must adjust to, mentioned “sisters wearing pants,” (did he also mention no ties?) as though aghast that someone had run the chariot into a ditch.

With several of such updates in a row, people start anticipating the next one. What other thing that we have not done will we start doing? Might it be a lightening up over ‘higher education?’ Not that such has ever been outlawed—how could it be?—but you can find yourself running a gauntlet of peer pressure should you choose to go there. Might there come an underlining that it is a decision of the family head, leave him be to make it, and don’t think everyone else has to put in their two cents on whatever that one decides.

Witness publications have not had a kind word for higher education. Just this past week, the Watchtower study included a paragraph of Marcia, who “was offered a four-year scholarship at a university. But I wanted to pursue spiritual goals.” She didn’t throw caution to the wind. She “chose to attend a technical training school to learn a trade that would support me in my ministry,” and counts it “one of the best decisions I have ever made.” (Feb 2024 Wt) It is an example of the article’s title: ‘Keep Following Jehovah’s Guidance.’ That’s not really trashing university, of course, but it certainly is not presenting it as the preferred goal.

They are not wrong to be leery of the place. Moreover, who else has the guts to discourage it? Most faiths think it an honor to have churches bristling with lettered people. Most faiths say, ‘Christians may have started ‘uneducated and ordinary,’ (Acts 4:13) but look at how they pulled themselves up! Most faiths replace Paul’s encouragement to be a ‘workman, with nothing to be ashamed of’ (2 Timothy 2:15) with ‘a professional—so you don’t have to be ashamed.’ Not many are like the Witnesses, who expect the passage of 1 Corinthians 1:26 to hold just as true today as it did then: “For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth.” They don’t care if people sneer at them for it. Train yourself for a skill that is both portable and scalable, they recommend. That way, you have time for the ministry.

Their caution is validated in the remarks of Great Courses lecturer James Hall, who covers the topic, ‘Philosophy of Religion.’ A university professor himself, he relates how, “I have parents who come to the university perplexed and amazed that young Susie or young Johnny, who has gone off to the university and has come home for that first holiday, isn't the same that they used to be. And all I can do is lower my glasses to the end of my nose and look over my glasses and say, Why did you send them to university in the first place?”

Got it? The purpose of university is not to accept a student’s childhood values as a given. The purpose is to overhaul them. It’s all agreeable to Hall, who says you send them there “to grow up . . . to be exposed, to expand their horizons, to increase the scale of their life,” with the implicit understanding that he, as faculty member, he, who “lowers his glasses to the end of his nose and looks over those glasses” at the plebian parents, is just the one to do it.

Now, no problem here with growing up. Who doesn’t want that? Go for it. But, is this the setting in which to do it? Here, Hall sits atop the repository of knowledge that has collectively made the world what is—and he should be the one to expand those horizons and increase those scales? Only the educated can look upon the trainwreck that is modern society and congratulate themselves on their understanding. Spit back what Hall tells you if you want a passing grade—not necessarily verbatim, but you’d better not stray too far from it. The ‘safest’ correlation to his remarks will be what was said of P.D.Q. Bach, that his music bore a relationship with that of a certain great composer, and the name of that relationship was ‘identity.’ He wasn’t one for plagiarizing, but he did believe in recycling.

Ocala doesn’t know anything about this. It is not something he has encountered, or if he has, he weathered it so effortlessly that he does not remember encountering it. In his homeland, he tells me, additional education after primary school is common, common enough that Witness youths encourage and stabilize one another. Some go “off the rails,” (his expression), to be sure, but some go off the rails in any setting. Jobs are scarce where he comes from, he tells me, and employers take full advantage of the fact, reminding their workers at every opportunity that they are easily replaceable. He doesn’t yet know if he will stay in the States or return home upon graduation. He has a quiet confidence about himself and does not appear to be one easy to shove around. But, he is hurt when people think he does what he does ‘because he wants the good life,’ and he tells me sometimes people do think that.

Hall and the Witness organization are in agreement on one thing, though for different reasons. That answer to Hall’s question as to why parents sent their youngsters to university? He continues, “I'm afraid sometimes the only answer is, ‘Well, because that's what you do,’ or, ‘Well, all of our neighbors were sending their children to university so we figured maybe we [had] better too.’” Going with the crowd, in other words. Hall doesn’t want children to go for this reason. He wants them to purposefully go so he can mess with their heads, expanding them beyond whatever parochial values they absorbed from back home, such as Bible training. The Witness organization doesn’t want them to go because ‘everyone else is doing it,’ either. They’d rather the parents not give Hall and his cohorts their shot; head youngsters off into the full-time ministry instead. For all the furor of ‘anti-cultists,’ it is the university, not the Witness world, in which newbies are cut off 24/7 from all that once stabilized them—a classic technique of ‘brainwashers.’

You can look like roadkill when you stand against the common stampede. Witness HQ will never stop cautioning about university, I don’t think. They will never recommend liberal arts degrees. They will never stop recommending technical training and trade schools. But they may yield more to the view that secular education is a family decision, not something to be second-guessed by others, much less micro-managed. There is just too much variety in people and circumstances. Maybe that will be on one of those future updates. It may be happening already. Another youngster in the congregation went off to college about the time Ocala arrived and nobody had anything to say about it at all; I checked with his mom. Will he evade Hall or even stand up to him? Maybe. Maybe not. But it turns out that Hall has cousins in all walks of life, trying to shoot down biblical values wherever you happen to be.


******  The bookstore

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'

My Meeting Notes: Week of May 9, 2024

Think of a deep intimate, heartfelt connection—how can good not emerge? The phrase itself all but guarantees it.

Sigh….not with this lout:  “Transgression speaks to the wicked one deep within his heart. Ps 36:1

“There is no fear of God before his eyes.” (vs 1b) That’s half of the problem.

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect and hate his error.” (vs 2) That’s the other half.

1b and 2: Therein lies the remedy. If he learns to fear God and gains a realistic view of himself, even this character can turn around.


Peter entering Cornelius’ home after three times having the vision of unclean foods descending from heaven. (Acts 10:9-16)

This is like Ananias being directed to bring Saul in. ‘No way, Lord—the guy’s an animal!’

“Be on your way” (9:15) says the Lord. The man is a chosen vessel to me.

“Be on your way”—Andy Laguna the CO’s said long ago at the Pioneer School—Andy loved this scripture that typified his own life. He didn’t say it, but he may as well have: ‘Don’t give me any bunk! Be on your way!’

I remember working with him in service one 10 degree day on an endless street. Didn’t take a break. Only a handful answered. When they did, they may as well not have because I was too cold to speak coherently.


They’re all rather trivial things—all these updates of late. Still, they are changes to long-standing policy, so many make a big fuss over them. A bro at our hall, commenting on fast-moving changes we all must adjust to, mentioned “sisters wearing pants,” (did he also mention no ties?) as though aghast that someone had run the chariot into a ditch.


******  The bookstore

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'

Who Wants the Same Religion as Fred Flintstone? What Happens When You Subject Faith to Theological Scrutiny.

Babylon invades Jerusalem, exiles its residents, razes its temple, and a long-held Jewish paradigm is destroyed: that God will fight for his people.

Theologian Peter Berger (1929-2017) cites this as an example of a gnomos, a coherent system of understanding the world. People must have one of those if they are to stay sane. The Jewish system of understanding the world being destroyed, it had need of emergency repair. What would it consist of, according to Berger?

He tips his hand. Wasn’t there some ancient contract that stipulated the Israelites were to behave if they expected God to back them? Wasn’t there a clause in that contract that if they didn’t behave, neither would he—in fact, he would abandon them to enemies? Yes, there was! And so, that must have been what happened! God could have protected them, but he chose not to. Gnomos restored! Too bad for them, but gnomos restored.

Save us from the world of critical thinking theologians. It is as though someone runs a stop sign and a horrific accident results. Thereafter, survivors are desperate to impart meaning to the event, to understand how such a horrible thing could happen. Whereupon, one of them recalls a long-ago contract that you are supposed to stop when you see one of those things, as though no prior connection had ever been imagined before.

Why not just say we ran a stop sign and got creamed? Why not just say we reneged on God and, as a consequence, he reneged on us? He even said that was going to happen. Just like, in the U.S, you can’t come across a stop sign that is not preceded by a ‘stop sign coming up’ sign emblazoned with the shape and color of that sign. So, that, if you run a stop sign, having also run the stop sign coming up sign, it’s a little lame to pretend you don’t know what is going on. So it is, in ancient Israel, there were plenty of prophets running around with ‘Babylon coming up’ signs. Why do theologians not make that obvious connection, instead spinning it that the Babylon coming up signs, maybe even the stop sign contract itself, was concocted after the tragedy to preserve gnomos?

Don’t flock to religious leaders if you learn they have theological degrees appended to their name—for fear they will engage their flock like George Bush engaged the terrorists upon landing on that aircraft carrier: ‘Bring them on!’ For all their so-called weapons—bring them on! So it is that these theologically-trained leaders are likely to view you, with your weapons of faith: ‘Bring them on! We’ll fizzle all their weapons! Are there warnings in the scriptures? We’ll convince them they were written after the fact! That way, religion can grow! Do any of them think they’re doing things the first-century way? Forget that! Religion must evolve. Who wants to have the same primitive religion as Fred Flintstone?’


******  The bookstore

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'