Plato and the Governing Body

In general, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know much when it comes to ancient Greek society. We are happy when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not “So-crates.” Oh, the Greeks are back there in our school days somewhere. After all, they lived in a window of time during which civilization got its act together long enough for some privileged persons to think deep thoughts and record them for our benefit. But we don’t consider knowledge of them indispensable for enriched life. The rapidly ascending Chinese and Indian populations most likely are completely ignorant of Greece—the root of Western civilization, but not theirs—and don’t bemoan the loss.

Nonetheless, there is this atheist fellow I’ve been conversing with lately who throws Greeks at me right and left. He’s even assumed a Greek moniker, Moristotle, and he’s prompted me to consider changing my own name to Tom Harleticus so as to win some respect. So it behooves me to read up on those Greeks. What do we find, for example, when we do some research on Plato?

Plato put into writing his concepts of ideal government. He advocated rule by “philosopher-kings.” Several times in Moristotle’s blog I read the term. Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff—so lengthy that it seems nobody under age 50 would be eligible for consideration.

Consider this excerpt from The 100, an intriguing book by Michael Hart, which undertakes to rate the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40) “Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

“Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher-kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service.”

Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses will realize at once that this description almost exactly describes their Governing Body, the agency that governs members of the faith. Only the “mates in common” does not apply.

Compare Plato’s dream government with this depiction of the Watchtower organization, submitted by a reader to the Gary Halbert letter in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that flooded New Orleans: “They are the most non-profit of non-profit organizations I’ve ever seen. All of their workers are voluntary. *All* of them. From the top down, the way the entity is structured, even the executives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, NY (headquarters of their worldwide organization) donate their time in exchange for very modest room and board. I’ve toured a few of their facilities in the Brooklyn, Wallkill and Patterson, NJ areas. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

“Everyone who works at their printing facilities (where they print bibles and bible literature for their worldwide bible education work) works for room and board and they get a very small allowance (somewhere around $120/mo.) for personal items. This entire organization is supported by means of voluntary donations. And it’s amazing......I mean, these people are not driving around in fancy cars and getting rich pocketing donations by any means.

“They spend their money on maintaining their printing facilities, printing bible literature, housing & feeding their voluntary workers (who all live in an apartment-like community maintained by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), supporting voluntary missionaries around the world, language and reading programs (where they teach illiterate people to read), DISASTER RELIEF....I could go on.

“But the bottom line is that NONE of their money is used to line pockets of greedy execs.”

This organization is duplicated in the one hundred or so branch organizations that exist around the world.

Of course, one may object: Plato’s recommendation is for the government of nations. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religion. But the similarities are more striking than the differences. Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses number between seven and seventeen million, depending on the criteria you use in counting. That’s more than the population of a great many nations. Moreover, Jehovah’s Witnesses are overwhelmingly viewed as a moral, decent, and law-abiding people. This is no mere accident, nor is it explained solely by their belief in the Bible as the source of divine instruction. It is also the result of effective administration, governing if you will, since there are ever so many groups that claim to follow the Bible but whose lifestyles belie that claim. Jehovah’s Witnesses are unified in a common goal and purpose, as the above letter points out. They would appear to be Plato’s dream come true.

Author Hart allows for a religious setting when discussing the application of Plato’s ideal. He suggests “there is a striking similarity between the position of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe and that of Plato’s guardian class.” I assume he is referring to the Church before the Inquisition. Otherwise, Hart acknowledges, Plato’s ideals have never been adopted by any human government.

Oh, this is too rich! Here is Plato, poster boy of the modern Greek aficionados, devising a system of government which none of them have come close to reproducing, but which is adopted without fanfare by a group most of them would look down upon—Jehovah’s Witnesses! The reason, of course, is that Plato’s system depends on persons who are neither ambitious nor materialistic nor overly proud. It is not that such persons cannot be found among the general population. It is that the values of this world are such that these persons cannot rise to the top. Indeed, they are often dismissed as impractical nuts (as with Jehovah’s Witnesses).

By the way, what happens when atheists themselves try to adopt Plato’s ways? Hart continues: “The role of the Communist party in the Soviet Union has also been compared with that of the guardian class in Plato’s ideal republic. Here, too, we see a self-perpetuating elite whose members have all been trained in an official philosophy.”

Aren’t communist systems atheist, indeed the only governments officially atheist? Yes—and when the atheists try to implement Plato, their creations are hijacked by bullies and even mass-murderers: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and so forth. Look at these guys crossways and you do ten years hard labor.

No, those atheists are unable to implement the ideals of their hero. Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, have done so. Okay, I guess it is too much of a stretch to suggest that if Plato were somehow to appear today on the world stage he would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I do not suggest it. But I can picture the educated elite rushing to embrace him as one of their own, and he, upon assessing how they have failed to implement any of his ideals, wanting nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, he could not help but be appreciative toward the one sizable organization on earth that has managed to transform his dream into reality. He might even rush right over to Bethel to consult, where they, having no idea who he is, would make him take a number. (February 2008)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!


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Jehovah’s Witnesses do Socrates and Plato—with Plato, a Surprising Application.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are simple people, for the most part, who are content when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not So-crates.

We don’t know much about Plato, either, in the main. Yet, without knowing much about him, their governing body alone has adopted his concept of government. Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

From ‘The 100’, a book by Michael Hart that attempts to rank the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40) It reads:

Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher -kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service. 

Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will recognize at once that this description almost exactly describes their Governing Body. Only the "mates in common" does not apply. Even Bernard Strawman, who calls our guys plumber-janitors rather than philosopher-kings, admits that no other ‘nation’ has been able to institute Plato’s system.

Therefore we can expect in the new system, when Plato is resurrected, he will learn in time that, while none of the nations were able to put his government ideal into action, his new government, the one that remains, did. He will rush over to Bethel to consult, perhaps hoping for an advisory position. They, however, having no idea who he is, will make him take a number and wait his turn.

Parallels between Socrates and Jesus: here.


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The Bashful Guests Want Low-Key but the Hosts Ae Gregarious

Some individuals hang on to their [charismatic church leader’s] every word. It is hard to imagine that these churchgoers could be more excited if Jesus himself were to appear to them!” said the October 2021 article, ‘Hold Fast to the Truth with Strong Conviction’

An unusual bit of satire for the Watchtower, which normally takes the position that satire is the language of you-know-who. It evoked in our congregation some comments of ‘superstar’ preachers of megachurches, even that creepy guy dripping with wealth who explained how Jesus said he needed yet another jet. We may fuss a bit over some of our guys, but nothing comparable to that. Respect for those taking the lead is markedly different from worship.

There is a clip that made the rounds of Sam Herd deboarding an airplane. A dozen or more brothers are there to shake his hand and he moves down the line, shaking each of them. “What disgusting creature worship!” Vomodog groused.

Doesn’t he have a life? Herd’s an old man of many decades’ service to God being greeted by well-wishers. What’s he going to do—tell them to scram? If you know anything about Sam Herd, you know that he is probably muttering under his breath. But if he appeared aloof, you know there would be plenty of beefing about that too. 

It is hard to operate in the flesh. It just is. The ones taking the lead became prominent by attending well to their duties, and now that same prominence becomes a trap. Everyone crossing their path wants a minute of their time, maybe to commend, maybe to suggest, maybe to be noticed by means of a selfie. No wonder I hear tell of council at Bethel that if you cross paths with one of them just content yourself with a nod, if that.

I don’t know what it is with people and ‘celebrities.’ I would love for one of the Governing Body brothers to stay at my house so I could ignore him. He would find it refreshing, I’m sure. I would say, and have said to visitors before, ‘There’s your quarters, feel free to come down and visit, that would be fine, but you’re a busy guy with much to do. If we do not see you at all we will not be the slightest bit offended.’

Intense hospitality actually does pose problems for brothers trying to book rooms for theocratic volunteers such as on build projects. 3B97A285-2DF6-4C6D-A6BF-D5E895C57A18Not all of these brothers are extroverts, and after a hard day’s work some squirm at the interaction they fear may be forced upon them by gregarious friends. Of course, it is the gregarious friends who are most likely to extend hospitality! But I won’t. I’ll ignore them. They’ll like that. (Actually, that unusually puts them at ease and they are more likely to visit. But they don’t have to.)

(photo—Stephan Muller, Flickr)


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To the Coarse People I Became Coarse, so as to Pull Their Bacon From the Fire

Just after Christmas comes the rush to return gifts that didn’t hit the bullseye—or even missed it by a mile. It’s like when someone gave me a tee-shirt (though not for Christmas) emblazoned with, “Where’s My Senior Discount?” Trust me on this: It will be a cold day in you-know-where before you see me wearing a shirt that says ‘Where’s My Senior Discount?’ And yet the giver is a great guy who meant well. 

So it is when this giver (me) regifts Bill Shatner’s song to Witness HQ. He means well. They won’t like it for its language. But he means well.

Will one put HQ under a microscope, like the malcontents do? Look for flaws among humans and you will always find some. It is a fool’s game to base judgments on the flaws of those taking the lead anywhere, but it is also the oldest trick in the book. Honing in on the imperfections of the doers will allow you to discredit anything. The only ones not making mistakes are the ones not doing anything (as though that itself is not a mistake).

The Word itself says, ‘we have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us—impaired, error-prone humans]. (2 Corinthians 4:7) And since it is the critics, not the friends, who hone in on faults, you know they will multiply several-fold whatever they think they find. It is in the nature of critics.

We’re in weak position to say what ‘should be done’ in directing the Lord’s work. To those who think they do know, consider how Jesus said something that, if any of the Governing Body had said it, they would be blisteringly condemned as irresponsible and wrong.

Why did Jesus say as he did about eating his flesh and drinking his blood? (John 6:53) No clue here. Enemies of the truth would later seize upon it to spread the ill rumor that Christians practiced cannibalism. Early Christians were persecuted and killed, their enemies spurred on by this abominable report that could be traced to Jesus himself. Who would not, if they didn’t know it was Jesus, not quickly condemn whoever said the inflammatory words?

Another reason ‘Has Been’ might not fly as a gift, apart from its courseness, is that being a William Shatner song, one gets sidetracked musing over just how insufferable the guy was supposed to have been. The costars of Star Trek often say that about him, to the point that the modern-day Shatner complains, ‘You’re still obsessing over that?! It was 60 years ago!’ Even if he was insufferable, that doesn’t mean he still is. Many a person learns modesty with passing years. Besides, the guy can make fun of himself. I know that because of a Colombo episode in which he played a mogul whose favorite painting—an oversized portrait of himself, hung prominently on the wall.

Critical factions tend to be topheavy with people who haven’t done squat. The Witness support organization, in contrast, has. You’re supposed to do things if you are a follower of Christ, since ‘faith without works is dead.’ Nothing more multiplies getting things done than organizing for that purpose.

Shortly after my chum entered Bethel in the mid-70s, he reported that whereas Bethel had once been a family where everyone knew each other, its growth made that no longer possible, and that it was becoming more “corporate” [his word] in nature. Most would agree with that assessment. Just how are you going to deal with a ‘family’ consisting of thousands? Who else undertakes the experiment they do.

Who else has coupled the detailed points of religious truth with a worldwide unity—keeping everyone on the same page? How many are in that league? The unity of many religious groups begins and ends at believing in God, and there are some which don’t even get that far. So it’s refreshing to think of the brother in our congregation who related to me how his non-Witness family is nonetheless intrigued that he can go anywhere in the world, as he has in several countries, and instantly find himself among friends. Isn’t that what holds people back from freely traveling—the fear they may find themselves friendless in uncooperative places?

You think I’ll be thanked for dedicating the Shatner song to them? What! Are you nuts? A ‘Put up your dukes’ song that begins, “You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?You calling me ‘Has been’? I don’t think so. It’s not exactly the mild-tempered spirit, is it? But parts of it fit. The only ones who make no missteps are those who do nothing. So click here if you are bold enough.

Riding on their armchairs,they dream of wealth and fame.Fear is their companion,Nintendo is their game.Never Done Jack and Two-Thumbs Donand side-kick Don't Say Dickwill laugh at others failuresthough they have not done sh*t.

I admit I get fed up with those who are intensely critical yet offer nothing positive themselves. You may never again think of ‘Has Been’ in the same way realigned to its new cause, and maybe you will never agains see the Witness HQ in the same way. No, they will not thank me. They don’t know just what congregation Bill Shatner attends and they’ll frown at the language. But when they call me on the carpet I will reply that I am just imitating Paul: 

To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law . . . To those without law I became as without law . . . To the weak I became weak, in order to gain the weak. . . . to the course people I became course, so as to pull their bacon out of the fire.” (1 Corinthians 9:20–sort of)


(Photo by Pixabay)

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An organization that says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) might not feel compelled to include a member of each in order to prove their ‘diversity’ to an irreve

Then there was Morristotle—where is he now anyway?—who scanned the photos on the JW website and said, ‘Where’s the women?’ He was put out by it.

Morristotle—who used to pitch to me the virtues of atheism and I would throw it back in his face. What spectacular rows we used to have! Like that time he pitched to me some Ancient Greek reputed to be the world’s first atheist and I did an online search to reveal what a knave the fellow was.

It is a near universal sentiment today: if different roles are assigned to different groups, then one group must be oppressing the other. Lord forbid they could be cooperating seamlessly. It doesn’t happen in their own world so they assume it cannot happen. If they see it, they don’t trust it. 

But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Doesn’t work for these guys, who take it as a formula for oppression.

A similar sentiment prevails with nationality and race, which holds if you are not a member of that nationality or race, it can only be that you are exploiting it. Doesn’t this come from the survival of the fittest ‘scientific’ mindset in which everyone puts themselves first? It is the world they have bought into. They presume it is universal. “Have love for the whole association of brothers,” be they of whatever nationality, race, class, or economic status? No, they say. It is every man for himself.

Diversity is all the rage today and unless you are diverse you must be stepping upon those not included in your headship ranks, the same as men must be stepping on women if they are abiding by the above 1 Corinthians 11:3 verse. 

The Jehovah’s Witness's headship catches some flak when judged by this contemporary norm, an ‘American white boys’ club, grumbles Vic Vomodog (with whom I used to pull shoulder to shoulder in the work!—Vic Vomodog, the Wily E Coyote saboteur of Tom Irregardless and Me!

He forgets that David Splane hails from the exotic land of Canada. And what of that Aussie Geoff Jackson? Don’t get me started on Gerrit Lousch, working Eastern Europe back in the day. And Mark Sanderson speaks of his missionary history in the islands. He speaks Russian. If he is white, he also gets around. Then there is tough old bird Sam Herd, son of a black mule driver, who has said he wants to retire, but the others “won’t let him.” Admittedly, Kenneth Cook, who comports himself well, nonetheless gives credence to the feeling that he was snatched up because it was convenient—he from nearby Pennsylvania. “It's who you know" that counts, Vic muttered at that one.

Ah, well. The trick is not to sanitize the present.  It is to desanitize the past. There was no ‘it’s who you know’ club like there was in Jesus’ time,  when so many of his disciples were related to one another. But these days diversity is all the rage. Individual branches invariably reflect it. And even the harshest JW critic will concede that racial tension is all but non-existent in the worldwide brotherhood. Will the earthly organization headship cave into the modern demand for ‘diversity’ someday, a demand that insists you can only represent a group if you have some of that group within your midst? (Sheesh—the latest insistence of the acting crowd is that you cannot even act the role of a minority unless you are of that minority, lest you cross the ‘razor thin’ line from appreciation to commit the crime of cultural approbation!)

An organization that says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) might not feel compelled to include a member of each in order to prove their ‘diversity’ to an irreverent world. It would be a way to defang those who complain about Witnesses being an ‘American religion,’ though.

Then too, though usually married, few of organizational headship will have been parents. Not to worry. It is consistent with the main mission—putting the evangelizing work first. Still, I was sorry to see Guy Pierce go. He had children. The only other one who has raised kids is Anthony Morris.

79619468-F0F7-4B6E-9364-EF1CDD6B4629Yeah, load up these guys with a few teenagers apiece!’ said my prevailed-upon buddy, whose kids continually sought to outmaneuver him—but most have stuck and are doing well. ‘Then we’ll see if they keep singing the same tune.’

(Pixabay photo)


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Little Enemies of God

Vic Vomodog, with whom I used to pull shoulder to shoulder in the work! —just like a couple of oxen, was busy as an ox throughout the Pursue Peace Regional Convention, taking detailed notes! Afterwards, he threw at me:

“I know you wouldn’t dare comment on what GB Stephen Lett said during your convention,” before quoting Lett’s, “You hear people say of a little baby, ‘look at that little angel’, but more accurate would be to say, ‘look at that little enemy of God’”

You don’t think so, do you?

“Then Tom Harley, also called Tom Sheepandgoats, becoming fed up, looked at him intently  and said: “O man full of every sort of fraud and every sort of villainy, you son of the Devil, you enemy of everything righteous, will you not quit distorting the right ways of Jehovah?  (Acts 13:9-10)

What Lett said was: 

“Now, if we think about it, we're not born as friends of God because we're born as sinful offspring of Adam. Actually, when we think about it, we're born as enemies of God. Sometimes you'll hear people say of a little baby, ‘Look at that little angel,’ but more accurate would be to say, ‘Look at that little enemy of God.’ Now, of course we love that little baby and it's now not hopeless because our loving creator has made reconciliation with him within the reach of everyone. We can become a good friend of God and that close relationship with Jehovah will become our most valuable possession.”

Notice how he twice said, ‘when we think about it?’ You have to do that—think about things. You don’t just parrot sound bites to make people you don’t like look bad. O, you spiteful fellow, who quotes scripture by the bushel basket but never lays hold on the one that applies, besides the reference to Adam in Genesis, the place to focus is here:

“…through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned—.” Romans 5:12

when we were enemies we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” by exercising faith in him, which a baby cannot yet do, and thus is temporarily ‘grandfathered’ via the faith of it’s parents. (vs 10)

Now, as for Bro Lett, for a guy who will quote Job 12:11, “Does not the ear test out words As the tongue tastes food?” you’d almost think he’d test them out a little more before letting loose with a phrase that every evil cherry picker will use to “distort the right ways of Jehovah.”

But I hate to think what Vomodog would have done to Jesus for his, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.’ John 6:54-55

Vomodog taunted, “Please tell me if he is truly adhering to and following Christ as a model.”

Taking into consideration that passage in John, I would say Lett is supremely adhering to and following Christ as a model, in fact, more so than any of the other HQ staff.

Imagine: what sort of vile person would comb through a convention in which every talk explores the theme verse (Psalm 34:14) ‘Seek peace and pursue it’ to find and exploit a faux pas?


Gif: Crying baby gifs/ tenor

It may be just an example of God ‘laughing at the wisdom of this systems’s wise ones,’ proof that his anointed are, as in the first century, seldom of ‘noble birth,’ nor ‘wise,’ but decidedly ‘uneducated and ordinary.’

I’ll take substance over style any day. Turn on the TV and you can see endless people whose ‘style’ is impeccable. Among them are some of the stupidest people whom God ever let roam the earth.


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Things that Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 4

This is  a multi-part series. See Preface,  2nd Preface,  Part 1Part 2, Part 3,

In general it is as 1 Corinthians 1:14-15 puts it: “A physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” The spiritual man has a greater grasp than the physical man.

But that doesn’t mean that the physical man has no grasp at all. 833E53A7-9390-44AA-8C18-97F4300F4627 Most of the aggravating disconnects that arise in the Witness world stem from a reliance on ‘knowledge by revelation’ for the short term picture as well as the long. That reliance conveys certain advantages but also disadvantages. Whoever has followed this reasoning up to here—will they find this conclusion as comforting as I do? It means that 100 annoyances are actually just one. And that one, while it can be bamboozling, is not a dealbreaker. It is simply a way of looking at the world. It overall compares favorably with other ways of looking at the world, and where it does not, one can see why and adjust.

I tiptoed around this way of looking at the world in ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why,’ not at that time fully appreciating just what it was that I was tiptoeing around. I attributed all to staying “no part of the world,” which is a factor but it is not the decisive factor. The decisive factor is ‘knowledge through revelation’—weighing in on almost any situation based upon what can be gleaned from the Bible.

“If [the Governing Body] ever misrepresents the non-Witness world . . . it is because they do not know it intimately themselves. They take their own counsel with regard to association. They have lived their own lives with the lesson of Haggai ever foremost: ‘clean will be contaminated by unclean’, not the reverse, and so they do not go there. Because they do not go there, they know certain things only through the lens of Scripture.

“If the Bible says, in effect, that the “world will chew you up and spit you out,” they assume that it does. If they find someone who says it in exactly those words, they eat it right up and broadcast it. And who is to say the words are untrue? Some get chewed up and spit out so promptly and decisively that no one would ever deny it, but with others? Who is to say the scriptures are wrong on that point? It may just take a longer time to get chewed up and spit out. Many seniors have encountered calamity, even contrived calamity, and have seen everything they had worked for drained away at their end. Even the powerful are not immune as their strength and faculties wane.

“The Governing Body chugs along, deferring to what the Scriptures say. They go wherever the Bible indicates to them that they should go. If it gets them in a jam with some component of the present world, they are content that God will somehow get them out of it. They are like the leaders of the first century who were loath to abandon teaching of the word so as to wait on tables. That’s what helpers are for. Should they shoot themselves in the foot, as low-key as possible they extract the bullet with a grimace at their own mistake, and carry on. They will refine and shift and ultimately something will come down through congregation channels and this writer will say, “Yep, it must work, or there would not be the 1,000 languages [standing for the success of their efforts to get the uncontaminated gospel message out there, 1,000 languages far exceeding what even the most innovative tech or media company has come up with].”

To be continued…

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FECRIS vs Jehovah’s Witnesses: Just Who is the Destructive Cult?

Here is one to develop: FECRIS, the international anti-cult organization based in France, denounces and schemes harm to Jehovah’s Witnesses on the basis they are a ‘harmful cult.’ It does this mostly through the machinations of its Russian born Vice President, Alexander Dvorkin. He is the one who masterminded the 2017 ban against Witnesses throughout Russia that has to date resulted in the arrests and jailing of hundreds.

War in Ukraine breaks out—a bloody, punishing, shocking war in which civilian deaths are many and genocide is alleged. Dvorkin backs Russia to the hilt. Others of that organization back Ukraine. Whatever semblance of unified action they may have had—smashed to smithereens over Ukraine! Just who is the ‘harmful cult’ here—FECRIS or Jehovah’s Witnesses?

The one thing we know for sure about Jehovah’s Witnesses is that not one combatant will be theirs. They may be drawn from every other religious and secular background—the ‘king’ can always persuade his subjects they are the victims—but not theirs. Just who is the ‘harmful cult?’ Given the ongoing atrocities, they are among the few parties not harmful!

I mean, this FECRIS fix is almost as poignant as the most prominent exJW ‘activist’ cavorting with the lithe and pretty young sex workers of Thailand, blowing his own family to smithereens in the process. It is as though those ubiquitous Watchtower drawings of slovenly opposers shouting and shaking their fists in rage finds complete fulfillment in that bearded bullying slob who perfectly typifies the scriptural ‘promising freedom while himself being slave to corruption!’ (2 Peter 2:19)  And now the secular FECRIS grapples with the enormous bloodshed its VP cheers for! And Jehovah’s Witnesses are the harmful cult??! I don’t think so!

What has FECRIS done with this division in its ranks? As quietly has possible, it has expelled Dvorkin, its Vice President. It hasn’t really ‘disfellowshipped’ him because only cults do that. But what it has done so closely resembles disfellowshipping that no reasonable person can tell the difference. Is it enough? Or is the ideology of FECRIS itself the fault, whose factions stoked the perception of evil cults at work in Ukraine right until it all blew up in their faces? I mean, it is possible to drink too much of your own Kool-Aid.


“But…but…but,” that perennial apostate Vic Vomodog wrote me, “What about that Watchtower line, ‘We need to obey the faithful discreet slave to have Jehovah's approval?’ Huh, Tom Harley, what about that? Jesus Christ himself said at John 14:6, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Unlimited power is what they want!”

No, Vic. They no more make a grab for “unlimited power” than did those taking the lead in the first century:

As [Paul and Banabas] traveled on through the cities, they would deliver to them for observance the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)

Never did those two suggest Christians ought blow away “decrees” from Jerusalem as though the tyranny of domineering men. All Bible translations use words such as ‘decrees’ for Acts 16:4. Some say ‘rules,’ some ‘regulations.’ Some strengthen it as regulations “which were to be observed.” Only the independence-savoring Message translation waters it down to ‘helpful guidelines which proved most useful.’

“What I am saying is that trust us because God trust us sounds cultish!” Vomodog fired back!

It does sound cultish and it may therefore be impolitic to say it, but only for that reason. There’s nothing especially shocking in the idea itself. The Lord trusted the twelve. Does that mean their performance was flawless? We are the children of those who drove around with bumper stickers saying “Question Authority.” (if we are not those people ourselves). It makes us touchy on the point of authority. Dare I say overly touchy?

The Governing Body says what it says as it mans up, girds its loins, and takes the same lead as did faithful men in the first century. They think we’re entering crunch time. Witnesses will agree with that; if they don’t they have no business being Witnesses. The Governing Body does not want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, urging evasive action only to find his sons-in-law think he is joking. (Genesis 19:14)

Jesus says (John 14:12) “whoever exercises faith in me will also do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these.” The first century governing body, “the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem,” did considerably greater works than Jesus in that they spread the message throughout the then-known world. The modern-day governing body has far eclipsed them, spreading it throughout the entire world regardless of the barriers set up (language, nationality, ethnicity, culture), at the same time keeping it freely available, unified, and uncontaminated. For this they deserve great respect, and yes, obedience. It is understood that this obedience is not tyranny, that it recognizes “we are not masters of your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24) and that we shall smell a scandal when Sam Herd upgrades to a bigger dorm room.

By and large, rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses have worked out the balance pretty well: “We have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us—imperfect humans. We are imperfect and those taking the lead are imperfect], so that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

If we are going to carry on about “absolute authority” let us attribute it to the one who has it in this system of things and who uses it for great harm—the “great dragon who is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” the “ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Rev 12:9, Ephesians 2:2) It is this one who uses his absolute authority over the “air” to motivate the malevolent ones at FECRIS to boast of their “freedom of mind,” caring not that it makes them pawns of the national kings fighting their bloody battles for dominance. That’s the “absolute authority” to worry about, not those of the people who say we should pay attention to dress and grooming and keep track of time spent in the ministry. “Light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light,” says Jesus. (John 3:19) See how quickly a discussion about the authority that kills is diverted into beefing about the authority that doesn’t.

The Governing Body may not correspond to the human authority Jehovah has used in the past in every particular, the main one being that since Scripture was completed in the first century CE, they are not explicitly mentioned in it. But it is far more beneficial to dwell on the similarities than the differences. Even Witnesses who aren’t thrilled over every aspect of GB policy have no problem conceding that there should be human leadership. Any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is easily able to reconcile “I am the way and the truth and the life” with verses such as Ephesians 4: 7-13 that plainly state Christ grants authority to men:

Now undeserved kindness was given to each one of us according to how the Christ measured out the free gift. ….And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, to build up the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness of the faith and of the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to being a full-grown man, attaining the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.

Surely Christianity was not meant to die with the completion of the Bible canon. Surely someone was meant to be around to oversee Matthew 24:14: “And this good news will be preached in all the inhabited earth, as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”


the bookstore

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The 144K and the Governing Body: Gnostics?

It’s all the rage now to accuse people of the “new religions” [cults, in derogatory-speak] of being “gnostic.” I haven’t figured out why, but it probably is some variation of what PBS observed on the gnostic movement in the early years of Christianity—that the term “is often used as a sort of umbrella term to cover the people that the leaders of the church don't like.” Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t liked in mainstream Christian circles, hence they must be “gnostic according to this new view.

No, the anointed of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not gnostic. As the PBS article explains, Gnosticism comes from the root word meaning “to know.” It is not a reference to book knowledge, but to a individualized secret knowledge not available to all. That type of knowledge generally translates into one-up-mans-ship—the one who claims it is apt to lord it over the one who do not.

Is that special secret knowledge a characteristic of the Witness governing body? From the October 1, 1984 Watchtower (in a footnote): “Regarding his misguided statements as to what we could expect in 1925, [Rutherford himself] once confessed to us at Bethel, ‘I made an ass of myself.’” How’s that for gnostic? If you say “Not very much,” you have answered correctly.

And yet there is some applicability to the label. There is something to it, if not in the sense the charge is made. To zero in on a few statement from that PBS program on Gnostics in the early developing church (statements all bolded):

They thought of themselves as Christians who had received, in addition to the other gospels, secret teaching.”

This doesn’t fit the Witnesses’ anointed ones at all. Those anointed among Jehovah’s Witnesses have no source of teaching beyond the Bible itself—nothing at all “secret.”

And Gnostics were people who claimed to know something special. No, that doesn’t fit either, but also yes, it does. The anointed have no special source. But the Bible itself speaks to them differently than it speaks to those of the great crowd. Paul writes in Romans 8 that “you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (15-16) Bible knowledge implants in them the heavenly hope, whereas for the overwhelming majority of Christians today, living forever on a paradise earth is their hope. It is mine.

From PBS: Gnostics convey “the sense that the divine is to be discovered by some kind of interior search.” It doesn’t apply to the Witness anointed, making an interior search, but it does apply to how the exterior source of the Bible, speaks differently to them. Same source, but it implants two hopes in two separate groups. Is that gnostic or not? There are elements of both.

PBS: “This knowledge could be…a kind of propositional knowledge of certain key truths.” Again, the answer is yes and no with regard to the Witness anointed. They do discern “certain key truths,” but it’s not through any hidden source; it is from the Bible. Could it be said that holy spirit opens the Word to them in a way it does not to the other sheep? The “key truths” that identify Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are found and preserved only where the Witness anointed Governing Body is present. That there is no immortal soul, no trinity, the use of God’s name, the kingdom a real government, everlasting life on earth, why God permits evil, exactly how the ransom works, what happens to the dead—these are all discerned from the Bible by the anointed. They pass them on to the “other sheep” who can easily grasp the truths since they clearly are Bible teachings, but they were not able to discern them independently.

Acquiescing to this apparent means of distribution, the other sheep defer to the Governing Body taking the lead. Clyde Tussen, with a gift for illuminating complex spiritual things so that a child could understand, used to overstate how with Jehovah’s Witnesses all study their Bibles—they don’t all do it, but Clyde lived in a world of his own and for him it was so. Things begin to dawn on members of the Governing Body in the course of their Bible reading, he would say, and they bat it around among themselves. After considerable prayerful discussion, that new point appears in print. He would add: “Now, the thing is, you are studying your Bible too. That new point the Governing Body just wrote about? You may have already noticed that point in your own studying. And if this were Christendom, you'd run out and start your own religion over it.” Because it is not, you wait on them to take the lead.

Luke Timothy Johnson, historian of the early church, presents Gnostics as tremendously disruptive to the order of the developing church. The apostles and presbyters, men with the most experience in the faith, would try to coordinate and unify growth of the congregations. They would apply existing scripture to new developments, as is outlined at Acts 15. They would issue “decrees” or “decisions” based upon that application and convey them to all the congregations, which served to make them “firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day.” (Acts 16:4-5) Thwarting their efforts would be Gnostics popping up in individual congregations, each with his/her own private truth and secret revelation, who soon came to regard themselves as the only real Christians for being so favored with hidden revelations, better than the “proto-orthodox” Christians who did things in an orderly way. The trouble with “truth” arising through personal revelation is that inevitably there arise others who also have had truth revealed that way—only their truths do no agree, in which case how is anyone ever going to get to the bottom of it?

If there is anything in Witness congregations corresponding to this disruptive brand of gnosticism, would it not be found in those apostates who claim anointed status and thereafter are unwilling to cooperate with the organized arrangement coming from the Governing Body? For the most part, the remnant of anointed Christians today recognize their calling is for that of a future heavenly assignment, not a present one. At present, they set an example in following a unified arrangement, setting an example and building up ones in their proximity. But there’s that tiny group who simply won’t do it; they are gnostic in the PBS sense, thinking themselves privy to special insight that entitles them here and now to a place of authority. That not being granted, they work to “draw away the disciples” after themselves. (Acts 20:30) Imagine! a crazy system in which anyone can take the lead simply by saying that they should take it! No wonder Luke Johnson says order and unity went right out the window when those guys came around!

Now, the Governing Body whose members take the lead—these members too received their commission through a heavenly calling, “gnostic” in some ways, not in the source, but in that the Bible implants through holy spirit a hope in them not implanted in the bulk of Witnesses. But they are not asked to become a part of that body before a lifetime of humble full-time service, so that their faith is amply testified to and reinforced by their works. Should the need arise to replace someone who has died, the Governing Body looks within the ranks of anointed for one who also has decades of faithful experience. Thus, they combine the gnostic tradition with the orderly tradition. The “gnostic” in their case does not work to divide but to unite.

Instead of division, we have applications such as in the commentary on Ezekiel, Pure Worship of Jehovah—Restored at Last, of the stick of Joseph uniting with the stick of Ephraim. (Ezekiel 37:15-19) The two sticks are to become one. The stick of Joseph can well foreshadow the anointed, for it included the priestly tribe of Judah. The stick of Ephraim was just about everyone else, barring only the Benjamanite tribe. They unite. We may not do type/anti-type as before, but this one fits because the verses themselves find later fulfillment in the Book of Revelation. (compare Ezekiel 37: 26, 27 with Rev 7: 9,15)

The gnostic movement in church history divides. In Witness context, it unites. Can we call the first the “worldly” gnosticism?

A final point on Gnostics from the PBS article was that they're very much interested in getting into the world of spirit, removing themselves from the world of matter.” The worldly gnosticism presents these ones almost as too ethereal to exist shoulder to shoulder with the orderly believers, for they count themselves better Christians and insist upon grabbing the wheel. The gnosticim of the Witness anointed turns disunity into unity, all the while preserving their “interest in the world of spirit.” Let’s face it—there’s no way on God’s green earth that I will ever become one of the anointed, because it is on God’s green earth that my hope lies, as though on one of those back-to-nature camping trips that you wish would never end and in the new system it never will. But the anointed—that just doesn’t register with them. They see it, but it is not the portion of scripture that speaks explicitly to them. Their preoccupation is of “the world of spirit” from which they will comprise a part of Christ’s heavenly rule over earth.

I once asked one of the anointed to fill in for me on a Bible study while I was away. It was a study decades ago with a Czech woman old enough to be my grandmother, and in hindsight she probably regarded me as a grandson. Trust me on this: that Czech woman would NOT have experienced the heavenly calling even had she endured, which she did not.

To her anointed visitor, she told me later how she had offered some cake and coffee, same as she always offered them to me—and they were good, too. “No thank you,” the elderly anointed sister said, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me.”

“It’s theater!” sputtered my exasperated would-be grandma when I saw her the next week. “It’s just coffee and cake! You don’t need to make a speech about it!”

Well, I guess they don’t have coffee and cake in heaven. Much to my surprise, years later I learned that the anointed woman’s fleshly sister, just as faithful, had never believed her sister was really anointed, but was delusional in some way. Everyone else believed she was—reading that into her partaking of the emblems. I suppose that she was, too. But who can say? It is an individual calling, an individual experience. It is always recommended we don’t get too intrusive with them, grilling them on what their anointed experience feels like, for example. Maybe it is for their sake that counsel is given, so that they are content to remain in their present role, and not have people oohing and ahhing over them, that they do not go worldly gnostic on us, carrying on and on about their special commission, demanding their own platforms in the here and now, as well as anointed-only conventions in which to reconnoiter.

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Speaking up for the GB

One quirk of modern times is that there arise people who object to the baptism terms that they must recognise the Witness’s Governing Body to be leading God's people today. As someone explained to me, they agree with all or most of our beliefs & intepretations of scripture, but they don’t want to be part of the offical organisation, for one reason or another. They just disagree with some minor things, be it dates, or intepretations of certain smaller scriptures or meanings of prophecy, but they’re okay with whatever is a "major" doctrine or related to salvation. They’d like to be a baptized Christian holding Witness beliefs, but just don’t want to be connected with an organization.

Would it be okay for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to baptise them with that understanding, allowing the student to make his own conscience decision if they see the Governing Body as the ones to see as their "Slave" or not? Since, after all, we don't baptise people in the name of the GB, we baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit?

I think it is telling that the only group holding the beliefs of JWs…(no immortal soul, no trinity, use God’s name, kingdom a real government, everlasting life on earth, why God permits evil, exactly how the ransom works,  preach earth wide, and so forth)…is the group with the Governing Body taking the lead.

 Why aren’t there other groups? Plainly, capable and loyal human leadership is required. As much as we might like to think it is just “Jesus and me,” the fact that there are no such groups with the core doctrines except the one with a cadre of experienced disciples of Christ taking the lead indicates that’s how he leads today. Call it the divine/human interface. It is the “middleman” that cannot be bypassed.

So the GB should be cut out of the picture in the last days when the going gets rough? Wouldn’t that be like opting for a ship with no rudder?

 The Governing Body is the modern day equivalent of “men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:26) They are the successors of those who brought the truth to us in the first place and apart from them, Bible truth did not survive. We wouldn’t have the truth were it not for them. Nobody outside of the theocratic organization managed to figure it out on their own, a sure indication that Jehovah has blessed their work.

The hypothetical person may be overemphasizing the degree to which Jehovah’s people must walk in lockstep. He has most likely been influenced by opposers who say that with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is “step out of line, the man comes and takes you away.” In fact, all you really have to do is recognize headship. You don’t have to shout from the hilltops matters connected with interpretations of prophesy.

If you can’t fully get your head around something, don’t. It’s perfectly acceptable to say ‘this is the present understanding’ on this or that point. There is a recent table somewhere of beliefs clarified. Unless the end is actually tomorrow, are we to imagine there will never be any more? Opposers scour past publications and seize upon any “flip-flops.”  They look a little silly if they harp on it because it has never been said that such flip-flops don’t occur regarding non-core beliefs. The core beliefs outlined above have held firm for over a century. So maybe whatever this student cannot embrace is one of those lesser things that will one day be clarified.

Nobody gets everything they want. It is in the nature of unity and cooperation that people acquiesce on details they may not grasp or even agree with. Tell the fellow to find someone who agrees with all JW tenets except for that of a human governing body and get one of them to baptize him. Since he will not be able to find such a person, let him ponder the significance of that. It is a “Lord, to whom shall we go?” type of thing. (and the thing the Lord said to trigger that remark was every bit as controversial as what this person worries over today.)

If the hypothetical person has no regard for the Governing Body, then plainly he will have no regard for the command that he ought not be “forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” Thus, to baptize him would be setting him up for certain failure, since the meetings are an essential component of our faith.

Always the sticking point with people will be the divine/human interface. It was certainly true of Moses’ time. And it was even true of the ‘greater Moses,’ the prophet like him that Jehovah was to raise up. There is no indication that Judas thought himself a rebel against God. Perhaps he and God were tight in his estimation—there were no problems there. But that upstart claiming to be the messiah was more than Judas could abide, not at all what he had expected.

Should persons hold out until there is perfection among those taking the lead? If you pray to God for specifics, he may said that he has underlings who can supply those needs—it is enough that he should hear your prayers night and day. If you answer him back that the underlings are imperfect, he will say that you are no great shakes yourself and that you will just have to make do with what is provided. Online I came across such a person who billed himself as “Patiently Waiting for the Truth.” Upon reviewing some of his comments, I dubbed him “Patiently Sitting on my Hands.”

Part of being a Christian is that we acquiesce to not being a collection of loose cannons. Part of being a Christian is that we acquiesce to being “all taught by Jehovah,” as well as nurtured and supported, by his loyal earthly organization.….

When you think of it, is this not exactly what opposers are trying to do in Russia. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned there. Only their organization is. Why? Is it not the sure knowledge that a rudderless ship will founder? History testifies that it always does. There is nowhere all the core doctrines of JWs are to be found except in the one with the faithful shepherds.

Cut off the individual Witnesses from their “controlling” organization. That way they can rely upon their own consciences to truly “make the truth their own.” That is the line of the opponents in Russia. It’s a specious argument, superficially plausible It appeals to our sense of independence and pride: that nobody will tell us what to do. But the argument is blind to human nature. It is also blind to the nature of Christianity. ‘Cut off the troops from their support line so they can more easily be scattered or even assimilated’ is the actual motive and reality.

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Scholar-Lite—Nothing Infuriates More Those Who Assume Takeover Rights

When the scholars weigh in—after peering and peering the way they do, and don’t present Watchtower history as Watchtower does itself, what to make of this? It is a combination of several reasons, is my guess. de Vienne advances one when she lands such a work on their doorstep and it is met with silence—that they may be just be “incurious as to their own history.” They are doers more than contemplators of the past. They put their eye to the rows and they don’t look back, because the furrows get squirrelly when you do that. There is a plank devoted to such things of history, but it is not the rudder that steers the ship. “No man who has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well-suited for the Kingdom of God,” says the Lord.

Another person advances another reason—that to a certain degree, history is unknowable, written by the victors, modified over the years by those of myriad agendas, and much of the original data is lost forever. Thus, because they are doers more than thinkers, at Bethel they research the past, come up with what seems tight enough, and say (as one local sportscaster used to say) “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” To do otherwise is to yield to thinkers who will not engage in doing if you light a stick of dynamite under them. “God gives his holy spirit to those doing his will,” the verse says, and not so much with those just writing about it. 

It is a scholar-light approach that infuriates scholars too caught up in the supposed ascendancy of their own discipline—scholars who simply assume takeover rights by reason of their being scholars. They get those rights in many venues—and the greater world offers testimony as to what happens when the world’s scholarship runs the show—you would think that would be taken into account by those who carry on about how essential higher education is—but they do not get them in Jehovah’s organization. Once in awhile they even get sent to the doghouse, but only when they howl too much. 

“I have no problem with this,” I say, once I get over the problem I have with it—for I come from a world of ideas, readers, and books. Still, I notice that those ideas don’t add up to much when they are poured into the world vat, and may collectively even bring that world to its knees. I yield to Someone whose ways just might be higher than mine. He gives his spirit to those obeying him as leader. “And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler,” says Acts 5:32. It is the doing that counts.

In general, when I hear any viewpoint of challenge, I look for deeds at least as much as ideas. Frequently, there are none, and the remarks can largely be dismissed on that account. That is my take on what Paul says on the prospect of confronting the self-styled superfine apostles of his day—‘when I see them, I will get to know not just their words—anyone has words and many have a staggering number of them—but I want to get to know their power—their deeds. (1 Corinthians 4:19)

The saying goes that ‘if you can do something, you do it. If you can’t, you critique it.‘ Absent someone’s “power”—their good deeds, their honest track record—why should they be taken too seriously? They are critiquing—and the reason just may be that they are capable of nothing else—they are like inside-the-beltway wonks who majored in “political science”—as though that were scientific. At least Rolf has a track record—how hot it is and what has been allowed to go stone cold was my first initial question about his book—which may not be answerable until I go talk to him.

The saying is often escalated to a usually (though not always) unnecessarily cynical, “and if you REALLY can’t do it, you teach it.” Here we come to Dr. Gene Hwang, who did not fit the pattern. He taught at Cornell, and was for years, among the most published authorities on statistics. His work provides mathematical support for scientists who study gene function. He became a Witness in the late 1990’s.

I speculate in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ that after a dozen years or so, when he has proved himself stable, he or someone like him is invited to look over Watchtower’s science offerings and contribute an update if he sees fit. Many brothers seem to think that at Bethel, they assign such material to the Witness who did really well in high-school science, straight A’s!—he or she holed up In the Bethel library for a few weeks, and “out came this book!” on creation that blows the cover off evolution. 

No. Plainly it will be someone like Brother Hwang “bringing his gift to the altar” upon invitation. However, will his work silence the critics? You know it won’t. The writings of evolutionists versus those who favor intelligent design would fill multiple libraries. So they take Gene Hwang’s book at Bethel—he is a heavy-hitter—and say: “That’s our story and we’re sticking to it,”—same as they do with history. Do other “scholars” debate their own competing version? “Yeah—well—we’ll see,” they say at Bethel, as they envision a headline in the paper that they have seen so many times before: “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such-and-Such is Wrong!”

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'