Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 6

This is a multi-part series. See Preface,  2nd Preface,  Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Each part links to the next.

Count up the ways that ‘knowledge of the present by revelation’ makes you scratch your head when it conflicts with empirical knowledge, knowledge of the present acquired from observation. A few are arguable but the list is long.

Pursue higher education and it can only be because you want “to make a great name for yourself,” to secure a cushy seat on a sinking ship. “Nah, I just want to make a living,” some will say, but it is lost upon those who receive knowledge from the revelation of the scriptures. ‘Wisdom cries aloud in the streets and public squares,’ says Proverbs 1:20, not the quadrangles. In the quadrangles, Scripture indicates you will more likely find “every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men,” not to mention “empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’” Since the Word says it is so, the Bethel brothers don’t bother to look for exceptions. If you do look for exceptions, they will wonder how you got off unscathed and question as to whether you really did. Why flirt with what revelation says not to flirt with? It doesn’t help that revelation says a Christian is to “work with [his] hands.” (1 Thess 4:11).

It’s all revelation that tells them this. They trust revelation because it is from God. Nor is it untrue in so far as it goes. To the anticultists who want to ensure that nobody depart from mainstream secular thinking and who level charges of ‘brainwashing!’ one might respond that it is not brainwashing they object to, but brainwashing that is not theirs. The Witnesses’ caution of higher education is overall valid, but some will say they torpedo themselves with a revelatory approach that misses the nuances. At times, nuances make a substantial difference.

At college they unscrew your head and pour in undiluted the wisdom of this system of things, convinced it is all wisdom, trusting that if it isn’t you will sort it out with your newly acquired ‘critical thinking.’ Alas, humans don’t work in accord with critical thinking. The heart makes a grab for what it wants, then charges the head to come up with a convincing rationale. This lends the appearance that it is the head calling the shots, but it is the heart all along. As to ‘overeducating’ the populace, the time is coming, says Mike Rowe, when an hour with a good plumber will cost the same as an hour with a good psychiatrist, by which time we will have need for them both.

In a way that’s not totally integrated with the decadent images of lowlife, revelation in the person of Asaph shows that some unbelievers, the movers and shakers of the world, personally have it altogether. “Their bodies are healthy. They are not troubled like other humans, Nor do they suffer like other men. Therefore, haughtiness is their necklace; Violence clothes them as a garment. Their prosperity makes their eyes bulge. . .  Yes, these are the wicked, who always have it easy.” (Ps 73: 4-11)

At a high-brow function long ago where we would not typically be, I whispered to my newly betrothed wife: “Here’s people we don’t usually hang out with—the wicked!” She looked at me as though to say, ‘Did I really marry this guy?’ but it was too late. I got that one from revelation, specifically Ps 73. Witness leadership draws on that Psalm as well, and it is hard to imagine them wrong on that point. One taunter hurled at me: “Why do you Witnesses always have to believe things are getting worse? What does that belief do for you?” I replied that it helps me to explain why the Doomsday Clock is set at 90 seconds to midnight and not 10:30 A.M. I mean, it can’t be that everyone’s doing a great job for that situation to exist.

887C5798-5532-4A69-B94A-4540CE7A7775Nor do they even do a great job personally, though the money covers up that deficiency. My buddy the hair stylist, the one who worked in the la-di-dah spa where people like Cher go to spiff up when they breeze into town, says, “Oh, you should hear what they tell me! Their personal lives are a mess.” I mean, everyone tells their barber everything. And then their barber tells it to his chum. And then his chum puts it on the World Wide Web! But do I know it only through this chum? Nah, I also know it through the professor that sat next to me on the airplane. It’s not perfect, but knowledge of the present through revelation has served me pretty well overall.

To be continued

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Things That Drive You Crazy about the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 3

This will be a multi-part series. See Preface,  2nd Preface,  Part 1Part 2,

A second indication that the Witnesses are not unduly hobbled by the mindset of ‘knowing things by revelation’ is that they don’t do ‘personal revelation.’ Many religions do. Witnesses rely upon a received text. The trouble with receiving your truth through personal revelation, and then attempting to read it into a text where it is not explicitly stated, is that you eventually run into someone who has also received their truth through personal revelation, only the two revelations don’t match. How in the world are you ever going to reconcile them? Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid that problem. Early on they developed a method of letting the Bible interpret itself. On a given question, look up all scriptures with any bearing on the subject, then seek to reconcile them. It works, whereas myriad personal revelation tends to produce a hodgepodge of confusion.

The third qualifier is that knowing things by revelation is exactly what you want when it comes to the big picture. It doesn’t hobble you at all. It liberates you and it is why people become Witnesses in the first place. “Here is a curious thing.” Vermont Royster writes after reviewing the material progress of his 1960s day. “In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.” Not all will care about those questions, contenting themselves with technology instead. But those who do know it will come from revelation. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, that revelation is the Bible.

The problem arises when you rely on ‘knowledge by revelation’ not just for the big picture but also the small one. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses do that? If so, it is not so debilitating as it might first appear. The greater world, shunning knowledge through revelation for knowledge through observations and experimentation, Bacon’s kind of knowledge, comes to little resolution with the knowledge it collects. In 2018, the survey organization Pew Research reported that not only do most Americans not agree on answers to policy questions, but they also don’t agree on what the questions are. The majority of grown people are like sports fans. They cheer when their side scores and press their advantage. They wince when the other side scores and spin into damage control. But on no account do they examine the merits of the other side. They congeal at opposite poles and from those positions hurl abuse at each other on the internet 143A3728-459B-453A-8FA0-7666B185864B—be it regarding human politics, public policy, health concerns, philosophical leanings, or whatever else is contemporary controversy. One advantage to the Witness who closely follows current events is to see this trait of people and thereby not become unduly concerned should the tide of criticism turn against them. It’s just the way people are. Read social media, see them hurling barbs at each other, and you can better endure when they do it at you.

If ‘knowledge through revelation’ has applied to the small picture has a downside, one can conclude from the foregoing paragraph that it also has an upside. When critics leaned on one Witness, that his people ought to involve themselves more in public controversies, he said, “Why should we? We have solved most of the problems that you are yet grappling with. Why should we trade the superior for the inferior?” Instead, Witnesses proclaim what works for them to a world that accepts or rejects it. Most do the latter. In which case, why weigh in? Jehovah’s Witnesses have no idea how to fix the problems of a world that discards the instruction manual. If there is a downside to knowledge by revelation, it is outweighed by the upside.

To be continued

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: 2nd Preface

This will be a multi-part series. See Preface.

On all the important questions topics Jehovah’s Witnesses are spot on. In these present days, when atheists are perfectly content with a few decades of life followed by eternal non-existence, even holding fast to God is a significant win. But besides holding to God, they get it straight on who he is. They carted off that trinity doctrine that paints him unknowable 100 years ago, about the same time they discarded the hellfire doctrine that paints him cruel, someone you would not want to know. Within his lifetime people called C.T. Russell “the man who turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.”

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Not to mention how they explain why God permits evil and suffering, and tell what he’s going to do about it. They preach the good news of the kingdom. They tell about the resurrection. They heed what God says on how to live, and to the extent they do, their “peace is just like a river.” And their “righteousness?” Tell me about it. (Isaiah 48:18) Like the circuit overseer said, we are all “one big, happy, united, somewhat dysfunctional family.” All is bliss.

And yet—and yet—there are a hundred aggravations. Basking in the big picture, you won’t notice them at first. But in time, they can be like that pebble in your shoe, driving you nuts with every step.

What is it with these aggravations? Some are because Witnesses hang out closely even with those with whom they don’t mesh. They don’t take the easy way out and put distance between themselves like Lot and Abraham. Some are because, should a respected Witnesses do dirt, it can seriously stumble a person because the congregation is the one place he/she didn’t expect to find any.

Yes! That’s the answer. Surely that accounts for it. Just smother your plate with agape love and you’re home free! And yet—and yet—there is one indefinable something . . . There is one—how can we define it? We can’t—it’s indefinable, unless, unless . . . what is it that’s so hard to put a finger on? I thunk and thunk and thunk about it and finally came up with the answer. Not me, really, but the Great Courses professors—college professors, every one of them. And I didn’t have to go to college to hear them. I found them free in the library and listen to them an hour each day walking the dog—which unfortunately died not long ago, but he lived to a ripe old dog age of 14, so I’m grateful for the time my wife and I had with him.

Six times the Great Courses professor (Alan Charles Kors) spoke about “ideas which had stood the test of time.” It took every one of those times for the words to sink in. It wasn’t just my obtuseness. The concept is hard to get your head around. But once you do, all is a breeze, like when you learned to ride a bike.

To be continued:

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Scholars and Seed Pickers: Part 1

From time to time I have appended comments on Introvigne’s Bitter Winter tweets. He has never responded. In the same manner, I had a brief exchange with George Chrisyddes and he wrote a really nice review of Tom Irregardless and Me that I have made use of. He even said, on my request, that I could use his real name if I wanted, not ‘Ivor E Tower.’ But since then he has not responded to email. 

Now, it’s possible these guys are so busy they don’t keep up with their own posts upon writing them. Look at their output and you begin to suspect some of them are on hyperdrive. It may also be they think I am a yo-yo. My early books were very choppy, though I have cleaned them up since. But since Introvigne has stated he has a soft spot for Jehovah’s Witnesses, it seems odd I should draw no response from him. I have come to think that, as scholars of ‘new religions’ they wish to keep themselves unattached to apologists for any given one. Possibly all the other ‘sects’ have someone trying to get his ear as well.

“Or they just got a little too big for their boots,” says a pal.

Maybe. But I try to see it through what I imagine are their eyes. I am not a scholar. They are. A scholar sets his sites on a topic, makes thorough investigation no matter how long it takes, and writes up his/her findings. A non-scholar just writes up whatever he happens to know. The result may appear scholarly if he knows a lot, but it is a entirely different process. I check out a fact here and there, sometimes delve into a topic that has newly come to my attention, but I am mostly like what the naysayers said of Paul in Acts 17: “What is this chatterer trying to say?”

The word literally means seed-picker. It denotes a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there. 26EB44BB-BE1B-40AF-B5F2-D773A22CB5B3That’s all I’m doing. That’s all most writers do. But it is not what Introvigne and Chrysiddes do.They are scholars.. I think true scholars must almost necessarily keep a certain  distance from apologists, which I am clearly one of. Even Shultz, obviously a fine brother, avoids approaching his work as an apologist, likely so as not to throw away his credibility as a scholar.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that I freely indulge in what I hope passes for riotous humor—anathema to any true scholar.

…One local bro (who eventually went apostate) would inform one and all that he was an historian. ‘How do you know that?’ a householder would ask and he would say it was because he was an historian. In time I told him to knock it off. He was a history buff, not an historian. An historian is when others recognize your expertise, not just yourself.

However, Chrysiddes and Introvigne are scholars of ‘new religions.’ I accept that. If they strive to know what makes Witnesses tick, they do the same with all the other ‘sects.’ I double-down on my feeling that it compromises them to be closely identified with apologists of any faith. Even Introvigne does not want to say something backing up the JW organization only to be dismissed with, “Yeah, but aren’t you a friend of that yo-yo TrueTom?”

“I always wanted to be a scholar but I didn’t know much.”—Garrison Keillor

See Part 2

***The bookstore.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)