The Man of Lawlessness in the 21st Century

Yes, I know, I know. The application of the Man of Lawlessness is to the emergence of the clergy class in the early centuries. That point was repeated in the discussion of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians at the midweek meetings.

But is there anyone other than me that thinks a modern application would be more to the emergence of a modern-day atheist class, today’s apostasy, that turns upon the theocratic organization under the guise of “protecting people” from its “mind-control?”

2 Thessalonians 2:3. Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. 

4  He stands in opposition and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits down in the temple of God, publicly showing himself to be a god. 

5  Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I used to tell you these things?

6  And now you know what is acting as a restraint, so that he will be revealed in his own due time. 

7  True, the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who is right now acting as a restraint is out of the way. 

8  Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence. 

9  But the lawless one’s presence is by the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and wonders 

10  and every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth in order that they might be saved. 

11  That is why God lets a deluding influence mislead them so that they may come to believe the lie, 

12  in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.

Verse 4 fits an atheistic Man better than it does a clerical Man. Also verses 9 and 10–with the powerful works and wonders being the application of science, which enthralls them to the point that they forget all about God.

It certainly fits better with the line of Paul from the next chapter: 

Finally, brothers, carry on prayer for us, that the word of Jehovah may keep spreading rapidly and being glorified, just as it is with you,  and that we may be rescued from harmful and wicked men, for faith is not a possession of all people. 

It is not those with faith—even a skewed faith that might be ascribed to a clergy class—that most seek to further the “cult” meme today. It is those without faith.

it is all spot-on to identify the Man of Lawlessness with the emerging clergy class in the first century, with all the infusions of Babylonian and Greek philosophies that it embraced and spread. But today that Man is much weakened. He is casually respected as long as he stays in his place, but his place is much reduced. In the old days his place was anywhere he wanted it to be. He limps along trying to insist that he is relevant, and more and more people doubt that is the case.

The verses of 2nd Thessalonians remind me more today of an atheistic Man than of a religious Man.

~~~***~~

There were some who thought I was trying to change space and time, what with a new interpretation of the Man of Lawlessness. I wasn’t. They pointed out that atheism came about because the clergy class of those early centuries wrestled away the wheel but then didn’t drive people anywhere, so that some became disillusioned. 

They are right, of course, as regards the overall picture. 

“Yes, in her [Babylon the Great] was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”  Rev 18:24

“All those who have been slaughtered” is a big category, and it is especially huge if we equate slaughter to death, since no one would have died at all were it not for rebellion back in Eden. Most die, not due to acts of commission, but due to acts of omission. The Man of Lawlessness does not teach biblical truth, and the sheep, as a consequence, are found roaming the hills, and land themselves into all sorts of mischief, atheism being one of those mischiefs. Had they not been force-fed a diet of spiritual junk food, they might not have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, asserting that not only are the doctrines untrue, but also is God.

So the origin of the Man of Lawlessness may be correct, but I am not sure that we keep up with its modern evolutions. Sometimes I think that we do the equivalent of railing about Egypt or Assyria, and don’t grasp that other heads have emerged in the seven-headed wild beast. The “apostates” that cause us trouble today are overwhelmingly atheistic. The media people, be it print or video, who “accuse the brothers day and night before our God” are almost always atheistic, Every general needs to know the enemy. We do ourselves a disservice if we imagine that today’s enemy is religious. It leads to miscalculations as to how to oppose him. Sometimes, for example, we imagine that explaining doctrine clearly will serve to rectify things.

 

The clergy class still rears its ugly sting to inflict vindictive damage on true servants of God if possible (See the Russian affair).”

I don’t think that’s true, and it is a good case in point. Buy too much into this and it would appear that if the clergy were to disappear, attacks against us would be over. In fact, the clergy has practically disappeared from the standpoint of influence, and attacks come upon us full-throttle. 

 Nobody believes me on this. They just assume that the Russian Orthodox Church is behind the ban. They have said that they are not. I am inclined to believe them. To be sure, most there squealed with delight when the ban on Witnesses went into effect, like kids on Christmas morning, but the thinkers among them don’t like it. They think that the same legal reasonings being used against us could also be used against them. They also regard themselves as the true church, and THAT is now illegal under the new laws first applied to Witnesses.

The centerpiece of my “theory” is articles such as this one in the Daily Caller:

We fixate on the Russian Orthodox Church because we have not moved on from the days of the Roman Catholic Church in 1950s Quebec, and 1940s America and Europe, when religion truly did orchestrate the mischief. The anti-cult movement of today that would take out ALL religion starts with the biblical faith that is most clearly “no part of this world,” but it is hardly friendlier with other types. We should know the enemy.

Recently in field service a woman answered my companion’s knock and said she wouldn’t speak with us since she “follows the Word of God.” Thus, she drew “battle lines,” and it was hard to not respond in kind. My companion began to go where we so often go, where I used to go, and a silly little contest begins of searching for chinks in her “armor,” since we are loath to leave an “objection” such as hers unanswered. After all, we also think that we are following the Word of God.

After a time, I interrupted to say: “Look, you believe in God and you think we’re doing it all wrong. We believe in God and we think you’re doing it all wrong. We will steal sheep from your church if we can and you will do the same to us. Let’s just accept that as a given. Either way it is a search for God and a desire to worship him.” With that, I made a point about the “shocking disregard for Jesus” prevalent in the world today, and a brief defused conversation ensued. We parted with her thinking that we were, at least in some respects, on the same page. And we were. We both have a common enemy who is on the ascent.

The Western clergy is licking its wounds these days. It is the atheists who are riding tall. It may be correct to identify the Man of Lawlessness with a religious faction—it certainly was that way in the early centuries—but its latest manifestation is not religious and has no use for God, having elevated other concerns to that status.

 
 

 

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'

Talk: (5 min. or less) w04 5/1 19-20 ¶3-7—Theme: How Were Certain Christians “a Strengthening Aid” to Paul? (Col 4:11, ftn.) (th study 7)

“I know several people who rose in their employment far beyond what their qualifications and education would have seemed to permit. When I investigated, I found that it was because they had deliberately made themselves indispensable. 

“Aw, man, I can’t believe I left my parchments at my apartment,” someone would say. He (or she) would volunteer to get it. “Rats, I left my cloak in the car,” another would say. “I’ll get it,” was his reply.

Of course, those are Bible examples from 2 Tim 4:13, the gist of such will be revisited presently. What they would actually volunteer for is some pain-in-the-neck spreadsheet that had to be done but nobody wanted to do it.

So it is that five obscure characters rose in the ranks in the apostle Paul’s eyes. “Only these are my fellow workers,” he says of Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, almost as though they formed a cabal. He describes them as a “strengthening aid” (“source of great comfort” - 2013 NWT) and the Greek root word is peregoria, used only once in scripture, which generally has medicinal connotations, hence the two acceptable renderings. Going back several decades, there was the English ‘peregoric,’ an over-the-counter medicine. It had opium in it. It was good for whatever ailed you.

Paul comes across as almost superhuman in his endurance—recall Mark Sanderson at the Gilead gradation referring to the list at 2 Corinthians 11:23 and observing that just one of those experiences would have floored most of us—yet he surely could have used “strengthening” from time to time. Like when enemies try to pin the charge of ‘sedition’ on him—as they did with Jesus—as they have done with Jehovah’s people today—and, far from according him respect as a driving force of an important religion, dismiss him as a “pest” promoting a “sect.” (Acts 24:5)

If someone is described that way—especially if they are under (house) arrest, as was Paul—there is a tendency to keep one’s distance, lest the unsavory accusations rub off. If someone is charged with sedition, you think twice before you say, “That’s my buddy!” If someone is written off as a “pest,” you show whose esteem you are trying to court by whether you identify with that person or not.

Similarly, “they will say every sort of [wicked] thing about you,” Jesus says of his disciples. And ‘if you see how they treat me, then you know how they will treat you.’ (Matthew 5:11, John 15:20) There is a tendency to back away from anyone of whom “every sort of wicked thing” is said, and these five cabal Christians would not do it. It is hard not to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia right now. As some are being led off to courts andimprisonment, after having personal property confiscated, their brothers, far from laying low, are publicly identifying with them. There is even a scene somewhere of the friends clapping in the aftermath of a trial, as the “guilty” member is being led away. It plays a little odd from a distance, but the idea is to recognize and support those keeping integrity under trial. It is hardly just Russia, however. Everywhere “every sort of wicked thing” is said about Christians, affording ones opportunity to gather round or distance themselves.

Qualifications were not unreachable for those whom Paul would later recognize as a “strengthening aid,” or “source of great comfort”—just stick with him under censure and don’t run like a chicken. One of them even DID run like a chicken at one time (arguably) —Mark, but he later got his act together and identified with Paul in hard times—so if we are chickens, there is yet hope.

The others: “Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you so that you will know how we are and that he may comfort your hearts. He is coming along with Onesimus, my faithful and beloved brother, who is from among you; they will tell you all the things happening here.Aristarchus, my fellow captive, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, the cousin of Barʹna·bas (concerning whom you received instructions to welcome him if he comes to you), and Jesus who is called Justus, who are of those circumcised. Only these are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have become a source of great comfort to me.” (Colossians 4:7-11)

Tychicus made himself a conduit and a go-for. Onesimus is the former slave that the educated Paul hung out with—probably freed at his request, since his owner had also become a Christian. Aristarchus—all that is known about him is that he was a jailbird with Paul, and incurred the same slander. Mark, as mentioned, is the reformed chicken. Justus—virtually nothing is known about him. These are not high-profile people and their high praise as Christians is not unreachable for anyone.”

That is how I ended the talk, by observing that anyone could attain that status and that I hoped to be described that way myself someday.

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photo: Jwilli74 

 

 

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'

The Russian Brothers are Doing Very Well, Thank You Very Much

What Witness of Jehovah could not think of their brothers in Russia when reviewing Philippians, this week’s Bible reading?

The imprisoned Paul writes: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has actually turned out for the advancement of the good news,  so that my prison bonds for the sake of Christ have become public knowledge among all the Praetorian Guard and all the rest.  Now most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence because of my prison bonds, and they are showing all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

It is the case with Witnesses in Russia, isn’t it? They are holding up pretty well, by all reports—it can be seen in the public support they give to ones punished by the state for their worship of God. As in the first century, “most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence,” trial-some though their circumstances are. We are proud of them, and even wonder whether we would do so well ourselves. ‘Don’t think that you can do it on your own strength,’ comes the answer, ‘and you will do fine.’

The anti-cultist mastermind, Alexander Dvorkin, did not foresee it happening this way. Just after the ban went into effect in April 2017, he was “absolutely convinced that after a few years, the number of members of the organization will decrease dramatically, two or three times, because, when one cuts off its financial foundation, its ability to freely, without hindrance, recruit other people, to rent large halls and so on, then, in fact, people will lose interest and will very quickly disperse.” Now, two years is not “just a few years,” but it is not so far apart. He did not say “generations.” He expected his results rather quickly, and it is not turning out that way at all.

One is reminded of Satan’s taunt: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?  Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock has spread out in the land. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11) It isn’t working out that way. Our brothers in Russia are doing us proud.

Human rights advocates widely predicted that this would happen—it is not a circumstance solely of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but of people in general who are concerned with spiritual things. Similar fortitude is shown in other faiths as well. It is Dvorkin who, fleshly man that he is, totally misjudges the power of spiritual things to motivate. “But 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,” says the apostle again at 1 Corinthians 1:14.

He drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid, and thus, when things fail to turn out as he anticipated, it is due to his own self-deluded assumptions. Dvorkin is playing the role outlaws of religion have played from before he was born, using state apparatus to squash enemies, and doing so under a guise of People’s Protector. His premise is wrong: that individual Witnesses are being “manipulated” by an evil corporate outside class. Instead, the ‘outside’ class IS them, merely in the organized form that members know is necessary to best implement the faith that they have chosen. They are not like the munchkins of his imagination, delighted that the wicked witch is destroyed. They recognize his attack as the attack on Christianity that it is.

We see this all the time—enemies impose their own standards on spiritual things, and then draw wrong conclusions when things do not turn out as they have anticipated. It is seen when they make the self-determination that religious things cannot change, as secular and scientific things do, and that should Witnesses see that some teachings have “flip-flopped,” they will be outraged at having been “misled.” How can people be so nuts? They change all the time—it is called “tacking” and the “ever brightening light”—completely above board and nobody has ever said otherwise.

Still, the changes that are made are analogous to details, roughly akin to looking at the map anew and rereading it. It happens all the time with science. Somehow, physical people have decreed that it cannot happen with spiritual things. Of course it can. It is their own presumption of everything religious being autocratic, ironclad, and unyielding, that stymies them. It may not be so fluid—‘to each his own!—as the world they have chosen, but it is far from inflexible.  Moveover, the essential building blocks of the faith—defusing the ‘immortality’ of the soul, establishing the non-Trinitarian nature of God, the reason as to why he allows suffering and evil, along with the Name that he says he wants sanctified—these things have been firmly in place for over a century.

The Russian brothers are doing very well, thank you very much—“in no way being frightened by [their] opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this is from God.” (Philippians 1:28)

Surely the people are but green grass. The green grass dries up, The blossom withers, But the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) So. Dvorkin thinks he will kill off the green grass, like a dog peeing on it? Time will tell. So far his dream is not coming true.

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photo: persecution 2, by dr zoidberg 

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

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'

The Incredible Sinaiticus Sheepngoats Parchment - Book of Galatians Variation Destined to Update the Bible Cannon

Whenever a new version of Scripture appears that is colloquialized, paraphrased, or just plain dumbed down, the refrain is heard: “If it gets modern people to read God’s Word, it is worth it.” How far you want to take this trend is anyone’s guess. Suffice it to say that the Sinaiticus Sheepngoats pushes the boundaries as they have never been pushed before. It is an incredible find from the dry desert where it has been preserved for thousands of years. (though there are a few critics at the Whitepebble Institute who claim it has only been around two weeks and was discovered in the glove box of Harley’s car)

And yet—and yet—though it takes outrageous liberties and outright manufactures a few things, it does serve to convey the basic idea of the entire Book of Galatians. Is it right to spoil the book for everyone else in the course of getting a good grasp of it yourself? Your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, here is the text of the Sinaiticus Sheepngoats edition of Galatians:

Chapter 1

Dear Galatians: Hi. Remember me? It’s Paul. How are you? (1:1-5)

The reason I say ‘remember me’ is because I’m not sure that you do! I can’t believe how quickly you are screwing up! Is that chair I used to sit in even cold yet? What is this about louts trying to change the whole narrative? They’re not allowed to do that! Look, even angels are not allowed to do that! (6-9)

You remember what a jerk I was. Nobody made more trouble for you than me. But after God let me hear about it right there on the Damascus road and that other fellow was sent so that I could see again, I went off to Arabia for three years to think about it. (13-17)

Then I came back to Jerusalem and stayed with Peter for a couple of weeks. But no one else—wait, I did see James, but none of the others. Then I went off again. What! You think I am fibbing? For years and years, had you asked those apostles about me, they would have said, “I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine. He used to be the nastiest fellow. Now it looks as though he is on our side. Cool! We’ll take it!” (18-24)

Chapter 2

About 14 years later I figured that maybe I had better give those guys a call. I had Barnabas with me by then, and Titus—fine fellows. I met with them privately, of course, just in case I was not doing something—um, kosher. “You okay with this?” I said to them. “You’re not going to make Titus do that Jewish thing, are you? I don’t see any need for it.” They didn’t either! (2:1-3)

It probably wouldn’t even have come up were it not for those pinheaded louts trying to drag us down, wanting us to everything Jewish that we don’t have to do anymore. We blew right past them, and it was for your sake just as much as for ours. (4-5)

Okay, so I consulted with these ones—I mean, I guess they are important. I wondered if they might try to rein me in, but no!—they said, “Whatever you are doing, keep on doing it. We’ll stick with preaching to Jews, but you—I mean, Peter unlocked that door for the nations, so go for it! Just don’t ignore the poor.” Sure, I can do that. (6-10)

But then Peter came calling later on and suddenly he himself goes all Jewish on me. Oh, sure, he pals around with these new Gentile Christians easy enough, but when his buddies show up, he acts like he doesn’t know them. I said, “I don’t believe it! Here you are living the free life, telling others to be like that, and then the narrow-minded fuddy duddies show up and you get all scaredy cat? (11-14)

Yeah, well he’s a good sort, but he goes a little weak at the knees sometimes. You don’t have to do any of that Jewish stuff! What do you think the Lord is for? (15-21)

Chapter 3

What on earth is wrong with you? How can you be so dumb? You break free but then turn around and go back because you forgot your leg irons? Are you kidding me? (3:1-5)

Don’t pull this Abraham stuff on me. Wait, no. If you want to talk Abraham, let’s talk Abraham. You think he earned anything? No! He “put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” THAT’S what you want to take away from Abraham—his faith, and how he pointed the way for other people to have faith. Not the later Law—that Law did nothing but show you up for the basket cases that you were! Did you manage to keep it? No! All you did was screw up. That’s why when Christ comes along, you are supposed to say, “Exactly what we need! Thank you, thank you, thank you. (6-11)

You don’t go back to the Law again—what’s wrong with you? The Law has nothing to do with faith. Christ pulled us out of that—THAT’S what Abraham was pointing to, and you want to dive back in again? (12-14)

Okay, now look—let’s take this real slow. Take notes if it will help. So Abraham gets a promise that means the Christ will come through his lineup, but how does the Law figure in? It comes 430 years later. Does it change his promise? I don’t think so. (15-18)

Why the Law? It’s because you guys kept messing up, that’s why. And it was supposed to dawn on you that you DID keep messing up and that you’re never (and yes—me, too) going to come out like the champion of Jeopardy. You weren’t supposed to think that dotting all the ‘I’s and crossing all the ‘T’s would get you there—besides, you missed lots of them. (19-22)

Yes, it gave you something to do and kept you off the streets. But now that the real thing has arrived, you can set down your slates. Class is over. You can join in with that promise to Abraham. (23-29)

Chapter 4

It took a long time for you to get to where you are. A lot of work went into it. Don’t mess it up. (4:1-8)

You had real freedom. I mean, real freedom in Christ. And now you want to become law nerds again and focus on dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘T’s? Really? What! Do I have a death wish or something? What am I doing this for? (9-11)

Remember the good times we used to have? Remember how you used to loan me your specs? You didn’t then stick out your foot to trip me up. What’s gotten into you? (12-16)

Do you think that these pinheaded louts are your friends? They just want to be your bosses. “Meet the new boss—same as the old boss.” (17-20)

Go back to Abraham, you law nerds, and take a point. Two women, remember? One a concubine, one a wife. Hagar gave birth first because Sarah thought she was too old to have a child. No mystery about how Hagar conceived. You see it all the time on TV. But Sarah! THAT’S where God’s promise came in, and she didn’t even believe herself it could happen until it did!

The two women stand for two groups of people. Hagar, the one of ordinary birth, is mother to the ones of Law (that you want go back to!) Sarah, the one of the promise, is mother to the ones putting their faith in Christ. (21-28)

The Hagar kid made trouble for the Sarah kid back then. It’s the same today with these pinheaded louts trying to force their Law on you. But what does the verse say? “Take this Law and shove it! I ain’t workin here no more!” Keep it that way! (29-31)

Chapter 5

You are free from slavery. Don’t go back to it. Or if you do, you’d better not miss a single one of those ‘I’s or ‘T’s. (5:1-6)

You were doing so well. Who tripped you up? Who made you think you need circumcision? It ain’t me, babe. Those Jews would give me a free pass if they thought I was turning Christianity into just one of their outposts. “Just you wait, enry iggins”—they’ll get theirs. (7-11)

In fact, I have half a mind to come and kick them in the nuts so hard that they won’t qualify to serve in the temple that they want to drag you into! (12)

No, brothers, don’t go there. Just don’t. You don’t need their picayune Law. It all boils down to love anyway—that is the greatest part of it—so if you get you head around that, you’ll do just fine. You start nitpicking at each other over every pissy little thing and you’ll tear each other apart! (13-18)

Don’t do bad things. Do good things. What do you mean, ‘What bad things?’ “No back-biting, no ass-grabbing, you know exactly what I mean!” [thank you, Randy Neuman] It shouldn’t be hard, if you really are following the Christ. Do the best you can, and don’t go thinking that you are better than the other guy. (19-26)

Chapter 6

Okay, let’s wrap this up. Don’t be babies—man up, but pull each other out of the crud when you have to (be sure you don’t fall in yourself). (6:1-5)

Don’t try to Play around with God. You can’t. Keep on keeping on—it will all pay off. Lend a hand where needed. (6-10)

See the large letters I make, all by myself with my own hand? Why? Because I am blind as a bat—that’s why. I dunno—it comes and goes. That’s why I insulted that pompous character before I knew he was the high priest. I asked God to take it away, but he said, “Nah, it keeps you humble.” And it has. It’s not an altogether bad thing to have a thorn in the flesh. (11)

Now, remember—they are pinheaded louts trying to lay their Law on you. And why? They’re just chicken themselves—like Peter might have been, but he saw where he was heading and corrected himself. They don’t want to stand out among their cronies, and they want to find strength in numbers by having you do what they do—it will hide their cowardice. What! You think they do the Law themselves? No way! They just want to do some back-stabbing and ass-grabbing themselves and then throw in a gerbil or something for sacrifice to make it all good again. Come on! Please—you are too smart not to see through them. (12-16)

I’ve suffered for carrying the good news of the Christ. So have you. Don’t turn back to be a law nerd again. Press on ahead. God will back you. So will Christ. (17-18)

***

What a bunch of idiots there at the Whitepebble Institute—tossing this amazing new manuscript in the dumpster! The place has gone right downhill ever since the director, Wayne Whitepebble, took a course on critical thinking and tried to kiss up to the evolutionists by adding an ancient skull to his library alongside the globe and old maps because he heard that is what smart people do but then it turned out that his ancient skull was actually missing evidence in the Mugsy McDougal ax murder case and he got into serious hot water with the authorities.

Plainly, this new find belongs in the Bible canon.

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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'

Considered an Imposter, When I am True

It’s a good description of the Christian ministry here in 2 Corinthians 4. I like it:

“Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up... vs 1

“If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing,  among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through... vs 3-4

“However, we have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us], that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” vs 7

And in chapter 6:

“In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers...through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful.”...vs 1,8 .....

“as deceivers and yet truthful.” NWT (1986)

“as deceivers, and yet true” - KJV

“genuine, yet regarded as imposters” - NIV

“regarded as deceivers and yet true” - NASB

“regarded as imposters, and yet true” - NET

“as ‘deceivers’ and yet true” - OJB

“We are regarded as deceivers and yet we are truthful” - NWT (revised 2013)

“We are treated as liars, and yet we speak the truth” - GNB

”considered an imposter, when I am true” - An American Translation (cover)

Here are two versions of reality. Which one is true and which one is false? Is there a God or isn’t there? Does he have a purpose for the earth or doesn’t he? Will we but stumble from one crisis to another through all time or won’t we. Is the real life of 1 Timothy 6:20 really the real life or is it the false one?

“as being unknown and yet being recognized...as disciplined and yet not delivered to death, as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” vs 8-10

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One of the Foremost Conclusions of Critical Thinking Ought Be That We are Not Very Good at It

Anyone suspecting that ‘cognitive dissonance’ is a far overrated evil need look no further than American pharmaceutical ads—with narrator saying you must have the stuff and voiceover saying that it may kill you. Those adsters seem to handle their ‘cognitive dissonance’ pretty well, don’t they?

It is a concept worthy of a pamphlet, maybe, but little more. We cannot entertain two non-dovetailing ideas simultaneously without our heads imploding? Intelligent people have always done it. Moreover, the insistence that people cannot do it without incurring massive cognitive dissonance is the perfect example of Romans 1:22: “Though asserting they were wise, they became foolish.” And “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” (1 Corinthians 1:19)

The whole concept of “critical thinking” is skewed and pompous. Everything is to be looked at critically. Nothing is to be accepted as true until each and every component is proven, and one wobbly point negates the whole. People thinking this way far overestimate their ability to “prove” things and end up doing only what humans are most good at—tearing things down and replacing them with nothing.

There was once a time when it was thought intelligent to supply context and to seek to put things into perspective. Today if you do that you are told that you are “raising a straw man argument.” The best way to counter this is to invent a character—Bernard Strawman—who regards himself as the epitome of reason. Mr. Strawman appears in both Tom Irregardless and Me and No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.

“Cognitive dissonance” a problem? Humility is the deciding factor. The one with humility tells himself that the facts are not all in yet, indeed they may never be, and he will be able to juggle non-dovetailing ideas proportionately until he sees how they resolve, which may or may not occur within his lifetime. That way he is not blindsided by the recurring headline: “Everything you thought you knew about such and such is wrong!” One mustn’t get too carried away with one’s own investigative ability.

One of the foremost conclusions of critical thinking ought to be that we are not very good at it.

 

 

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An Advocate for Singleness - Francis Bacon, #90 on the Influential Persons List

Was it only me who was surprised to see specific counsel about sex in the Bible?

Let the husband render to [his] wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to [her] husband.  The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.  Do not be depriving each other [of it], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

I just didn’t expect to see it there—maybe I should have—and it cemented my opinion that the Bible was a very practical book.

The apostle Paul, who was not married, recommended singleness as a way of life: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman;  yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband....However, I say this by way of concession, not in the way of a command.  But I wish all men were as I myself am. (1 Corinthians 7:1-7)

In the single state, one can more readily give “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction,” he wrote at vs 35.

So from time to time, the Witness organization dutifully recommends singleness as a way of life. Few take them up on it—perhaps because those doing the recommending are almost always married themselves. Instead, they employ the “escape clause” at verse 36: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” They even push the “bloom of youth” phrase to almost mean two minutes past the bloom of youth. Many of our people go in for marriage when quite young. Many of these later come to say that they entered marriage too young.

Is there anyone other than the apostle Paul who gives such advice? To my surprise, there is—and he is a big name by historical standards—Francis Bacon, a philosopher of the 16th century who advocated for scientific investigation, recognizing its potential to change the world. From Aristotle’s time, science had been mostly based on deduction. Bacon changed it to be based on induction. Rather than ‘downloading’ ‘settled science’ and deducing from it, he advanced the notion of ‘uploading’ observations and experiments, and using that to modify existing science, so that it should never become like calcified religious dogma. Michael Hart ranks him #90 on this list of the 100 most influential persons who have ever lived. (Paul is #6)

His preference of singleness (though, like most who ‘recommend’ singleness today, he was married) is for the same reason as Paul’s: one can do more in that state: He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.”

This is not necessarily true of the unmarried—that they make great contributions (“Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences”)—but it could be more readily true of them, by reason of having fewer distractions.

Watch out the traps of marriage!—and I am not sure here whether he is lampooning those who run from it simply for the sake of self-centeredness, or if he advocating forsaking it for the contributions one can thereby more easily make to humankind: “But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fuginves are of that condition.”

He even agrees with Paul’s specific application for remaining unmarried: “Single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground were it must first fill a pool.” How well that ties in with Paul’s: “The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval.  But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided” (Vs 32-34)

That is not to say that either Francis or Paul did not concede the tempering effect of marriage on personality: “Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hard-hearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon.”

Still, all things considered, Bacon refers to “one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when an man should marry—A young man, not yet, and elder man not at all.

Who knew? C4DD0E19-880B-432F-AC49-BA17DECABA87

 

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If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There Is No One To Hear It, How Do You Know It Made a Sound? Because the Squirrels go Crazy

“Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 2;6)

If they speak the “absurdities of their experiences” it might be said that they stayed too shallow for too long so as to mistake the bloopers for the movie itself.

This one, too, is a beaut, from the same chapter: “But 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.” (2:14)

One gets to understand the other, but it does not work in reverse.

It is plain how “puffed up” they were by how the apostle leaned into them about the “wisdom” they appeared to be in love with:

“Let no one be seducing himself: If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own cunning.”  (18-19)

True today as well, surely. If the “wisdom of this world” was worth the digital bits taken to print it, wouldn’t the world that it has collectively produced have more to show for itself?

The wise ones ponder appreciably Plato’s description of reality, that we see only the shadow because of the head restraints. But the lowly ones, workmen to the core, say: “Why don’t they just invent tin shears to cut through the restraints so they can turn around the see the real thing? It is not too much different from how Lee Chugg responded to the learned question: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to observe it, how does one know that it really make a noise?”

“Because the squirrels go crazy!” he would shoot back.

“For behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame;  and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God. But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom; that it may be just as it is written: ‘He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.’” (1: 26-31)

The founders of the faith, the 12, were “unlettered and ordinary.” They always remained so. (Acts 4:13)

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The Apostle Meanders as Usual - or Does He?

The apostle writes, in chapter 8 of the first letter to the Corinthians, about not doing what one has every right to do so as not to stumble new or weak ones: 

“Now concerning foods offered to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up....we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one...Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  (8:2-8)

“He is still at it in chapter 10! Talk about long-winded!

“Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; but if anyone should say to you: “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience.  Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other person. (10:25-33)

But the chapter in between—he meanders off into something totally different! It’s his modus operandi—meandering all over about everything. Or does it only seem like he is meandering? 

Excerpts from the chapter in between, 9: “What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not partake of some of the milk of the flock?” (vs 7)

Nobody. They never do it.

“Am I saying these things from a human viewpoint? Or does not the Law also say these things?  For it is written in the Law was a of Moses: “You must not muzzle a bull when it is threshing out the grain.” Is it bulls that God is concerned about?” (8-9)

Well, I guess so. I mean, that’s what it says.

“Or is it actually for our sakes that he says it? It was really written for our sakes, because the man who plows and the man who threshes ought to do so in the hope of receiving a share.” (10)

Oh yeah, that’s right.

“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material support from you?  If other men have this rightful claim over you, do we not have it much more so?” (10-11)

It almost sounds like he is angling for a paycheck. Or is he?

“Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we are enduring all things so that we might not in any way hinder the good news about the Christ.” (12)

No, apparently not. He doesn’t in any way want to “hinder the good news about the Christ.”

“Do you not know that the men performing sacred duties eat the things of the temple, and that those regularly serving at the altar receive a share from the altar?  In this way, too, the Lord commanded for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news.” (13-14)

Wait. Now it seems like he is going back to a paycheck.

“But I have not made use of a single one of these provisions. Indeed, I have not written these things so that this would be done for me, for it would be better to die than—no man will take away my grounds for boasting!” (15)

No. I guess not. What does he mean about boasting?

“Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” (16)

Okay, it is not about the fact that he is preaching.

“If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but even if I do it against my will, I still have a stewardship entrusted to me.  What, then, is my reward? That when I declare the good news, I may offer the good news without cost, to avoid abusing my authority in the good news.” (17-18)

Is it that he does it without cost?

“For though I am free from all people, I have made myself the slave to all, so that I may gain as many people as possible.”

Looks that way. Slaves don’t pull down a paycheck, after all, and he has made himself one.

“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law.  To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law.  To the weak I became weak, in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.  But I do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others.” (20-23)

Okay. He does whatever he has to do to cater to those to whom he visits.

“Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.  Now everyone competing in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Of course, they do it to receive a crown that can perish, but we, one that does not perish.  Therefore, the way I am running is not aimlessly; the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air...” (24-26)

“but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (27)

It’s as though he says: “And you people are whining about food? Look at Barnabas and me.” So chapter 9 is not such a meandering after all. Rather, it is an example of how putting oneself out in a small way is nothing compared to putting oneself out in a large way, like he was doing.

It all comes together at the end: “even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” (10:33)

And—it is just me?—I cannot help but think of Hester Prynne, from The Scarlet Letter:

“It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society. The thought suffices them, without investing itself in the flesh and blood of action.”

Isn’t it? You don’t whine and cry over small things, as though these are the things by which you are defined. You do these things without fuss so as to focus on the big things. They are not at all in the same class. Even an accumulation of the small things does not equate to one of the big things. They are on different planes.

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More Corinthians here

 

 

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The Inspiration of the ‘Serenity Prayer’?

“Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Corinthians 7:21) 

I like this. Improve your circumstances if you have opportunity, but if not, don’t worry about it; it is not the overriding issue, because: “anyone in [the] Lord that was called when a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he that was called when a freeman is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men” 

as though THEIR arrangements were the meaningful ones. 

Seldom is there slavery today—it is illegal, but there are plenty of circumstances of economic slavery that are very hard on people. The verse is actually no more than the ‘Serenity prayer’ about changing what one can, accepting what one can’t, and being smart enough to know the difference. 

Perhaps it is even the inspiration for it.

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More Corinthians here

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