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Theologians Delight: the The Priestly and Prophetic Traditions

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'


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