Sep 182008
 

When I was a Jehovah’s Witness, I viewed those who were assured of their salvation as being very presumptuous. Looking back now, that only makes sense because I did not have the testimony of the Holy Spirit. At that time, I did not think that the words of Romans 8:16 applied to me since I was not one of the 144,000anointed”.

Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”

Of course, at that time, I was right that those words did not apply to me, but it was not because I was not one of the 144,000 anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that is another story. The point here is that assurance of salvation is one of the core differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have it, Christians do. Why is this important? Reading the following quote from “This We Believe” really brought it home for me. Hopefully it will for you too.

The Holy Spirit assures us that God is our Father and loves us. God has poured out his love into our hearts. (Rom. 5:5) Romans 8:15-16 says that when we cry “Abba, Father,” the Holy Spirit is witnessing to our spirit that we are God’s children. Few experiences can provide more power in our lives than to have the assurance of salvation.

Think of what it could do for us:

We would be joyous in our service for God, but not driven in our works, or mistaken in the notion that our works would save us.

We would be delivered from frantic preoccupation with taking our spiritual temperature minute by minute.

We would be free and spontaneous in our witness, exercising patience, and understanding as well as speaking with conviction and challenge.

We would not get overwrought with our friends about future security, for we would be assured of our present relationship with Christ – who loves us with an immeasurable love. – This We Believe, pp 201,202

(Originally published Oct 18, 2008 on blog.docbob.org)

Nov 282006
 

Here’s another quote that really hit me:

As long as Jesus is one of many options, he is no option. As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situations brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken half-heartedly.

But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on him, for he is waiting in the midst of the storm” – The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado, p. 58

Nov 262006
 

I’ve been reading Shane Claiborne’s book “The Irresistible Revolution” lately. In it, he quotes Soren Kierkegaard:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christian are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is ever dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

If you haven’t read “The Irresistible Revolution”, I highly recommend it – well, with one reservervation. If you are comfortable in your Christian walk and want to remain that way, if you don’t want to be challenged – you may want to avoid it. It is a book that has, and will continue to, challenge and change my view of what it means to be a Christian.

Nov 232006
 

I’ve been reading and listening to some interesting views on what it means to be a Christian lately. Here’s one example

“A friend of mine says much of the evangelism and witnessing done by Christians today is a pyramid scheme. The purpose is to acquire the product, i.e. salvation, sell it to others and then train others to sell it too, so those others, will in turn acquire it and train others to sell it. The problem, my friend says, is that nobody ever uses the product. … It can be true with the Bible too. We can spend so much time selling and defending the Bible to others that we don’t use the product very much. And we can spend so much time articulating and defending our doctrinal position from the Bible that we forget why it was even important in the first place.” – Steve Brown, Key Life – Radio broadcast, 11/08/2006

I love Steve’s teaching and views. Check out KeyLife at www.keylife.org

Feb 242005
 

In recent years, the “faithful slave” has encouraged Jehovah’s Witnesses to present their beliefs as though the Witness came to these beliefs as a result of their private study of the Bible.

Here is the quote from the 3/15/98 WT, page 19, para 4. After discussing the difference between the Watchtower Society and the “faithful slave,” the article says:

“In order to avoid misunderstandings, Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be careful about how they express themselves. Instead of saying ‘the Society teaches,’ many Witnesses prefer to use such expressions as, ‘the Bible says,’ or, ‘I understand the Bible to teach.’ In this way they emphasize the personal decision that each Witness has made in accepting Bible teachings and also avoid giving the false impression that Witnesses are somehow bound to the dictates of some religious sect.”

This quote is interesting on a couple of levels. First, any distinction between the Watchtower Society and the “faithful slave” is a distinction without a difference. The Watchtower Society publishes exactly what the “faithful slave” sends to it – nothing more, nothing less. Second, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately adopt whatever teaching is transmitted to them by the “faithful slave” by means of the Watchtower Society. As a friend of mine puts it, “Every time the ‘faithful slave’ changes directions, 6 million people get whiplash.”

Feb 022005
 

After recounting incidents of persecution in Ethiopia, the 1/1/95
issue of The Watchtower, page 6, para 8, said:

“Satan has failed to crack the integrity of such loyal brothers and sisters by direct frontal attack. So, what other crafty devices does he employ? Revelation 12:12 says of these last days: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” Having failed to annihilate God’s loyal people by persecutions, in his anger he attempts to massacre entire populations, no doubt with a view to destroying Jehovah’s people along with the rest. Thus so-called ethnic cleansing has been carried out in parts of the former Yugoslavia, and genocides have been attempted in Liberia, Burundi, and Rwanda.”


According to the 1995 Yearbook: “Among the possible half million Rwandans who lost their lives were hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

So what they’re saying is that in order to put a few hundred (about 300 is what I read in a branch report several years ago) witnesses out of the picture, Satan took out about 500,000 Rwandans. I always thought that Satan had better aim than that. If he’s that inept, maybe we don’t have as much to worry about from him as we thought. :)

But seriously, folks …

This paragraph shows a great deal of arrogance. The Watchtower Society would have us believe that all world events revolve around it. Every significant world event is tied the “the outworking of Jehovahs purpose.” (Is “outworking” a word that anyone other than the Watchtower uses?) And because the Watchtower is the visible part of Jehovah’s universal organization that he uses to accomplish His will here on the earth, it is the focus of these world events. If you try to say anything to the effect that perhaps these things happened due to causes that may have nothing to do with the Watchtower, you get funny looks from the “faithful.” (Been there, Done that)

Some of the rank and file take this type of statement and apply it individually. When this occurs, they begin to believe that every bad thing that happens to every JW in the organization is as a result of supernatural Satanic forces trying to keep them from spreading the “good news.” Nothing ever happens by chance, no JW is ever just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every automotive difficulty, every illness, every financial upset is a result of persecution from Satan, especially if it happens the mo nth you sign up to auxillary pioneer. In some extreme cases, witnesses have blamed marital problems on satanic persecution. When I was and elder, I heard the following line of reasoning from some brothers and sisters whose mates had left them. “My husband (or wife) left me. It must be Satan trying to get me to slow down in my preaching.” (Hmmm, it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you spend so much time preaching that you never spend any time with your mate, and when you do spend time with them you treat them like dirt, could it?)

This becomes a very convenient device for shifting responsibility.

Joe Publisher can reason: “The flat tire I had on the way to the Kingdom Hall was persecution from Satan. It couldn’t be because I’ve been running these bald tires for the last couple of months. That cold that I got last time I tried to pioneer was persec ution too. I couldn’t be due to the fact that a good portion of the general population had a cold at the same time. My having too little (or too much) employment and consequently too little (or too much) money is Satan trying to divert me from the preachi ng work, not a result of the same economic forces that everybody else has to deal with.”

The governing body can reason: “All of this trouble we have with people leaving the organization and becoming apostates is as a result of Satan trying to destroy Jehovah’s earthly organization. It couldn’t be because we have changed doctrine so often that everyone’s totally confused. All this persecution we get is instigated by the clergy of Christendom which we know is controlled by Satan. It couldn’t be because we have publically labled that clergy as the ‘Man of Lawlessness.’ It couldn’t be because we say that they have been responsible for every war that has every occured. It couldn’t be because we try to imply that every minister and priest is in it only for the money and that after they get your money they’ll probably molest your sons and daughters. It couldn’t be because we show churches and temples and synagogues being blow to bits at Armageddon in our publications, just like we know they will be.”

Just for contrast:

Galatians 6: 3-5 (NWT): “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind. But let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”

If the WT is what is purports to be, it should stand out from other religions by its own merits, not as a result of tearing everyone else down.

Romans 14:4 (NWT): “Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stand for falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.”

Finally …

“Can there be false religion? It is not a form of religious persecution for anyone to say and to show that another religion is false. It is not religious persecution for an informed person to expose publicly a certain religion as being false, thus allowing persons to see the difference between false religion and true religion. But in order to make the exposure and show the wrong religions to be false, the true worshiper will have to use an authoritative means of judgment, a rule of measurement that cannot be proved faulty. To make a public exposure of false religion is certainly of more value than exposing a news report as being untrue; it is a public service instead of a religious persecution and it has to do with the eternal life and happiness of the public. Still it leaves the public free to choose. – The Watchtower, 11/15/63, page 688

Jan 252005
 

Here is a classic piece of Watchtower quoting. It is from the 5/15/83 Watchtower article “Earthquakes-A Sign of the End?” For years the Watchtower Society has tried to prove that part of the fulfillment of the ‘sign’ of the end of this system given by Jesus in Matthew, chapter 23 is an increased occurance of earthquakes. Since the Watchtower now teaches that the ‘time of the end’ began in 1914, it has tried to show increased frequency and strength of earthquakes. On page 6 the Watchtower says:

Some seismologists believe that the earth is now in an active earthquake period. For example, Professor Keiiti Aki of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology speaks of “the apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years,” though stating that the period from 1500 through 1700 was as active. In the Italian journal Il Piccolo, of October 8, 1978, Geo Malagoli observed: “Our generation lives in a dangerous period of high seismic activity, as statistics show. In fact, during a period of 1,059 years (from 856 to 1914) reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes causing 1,973,000 deaths. However, [in] recent disasters, we find that 1,600,000 persons have died in only 63 years, as a result of 43 earthquakes which occurred from 1915 to 1978. This dramatic increase further goes to emphasize another accepted fact-our generation is an unfortunate one in many ways.”

First of all, let’s look at the Watchtower’s quoting Keiiti Aki. The Watchtower says Aki ” speaks of ‘the apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years,’ though stating that the period from 1500 through 1700 was as active.” This is a quote from a letter from Aki to the Watchtower Society dated 30 September, 1982. Here is the entire text of the letter:

This is in response to your inquiry about earthquakes [EC:ESH September 24, 1982]. The apparent surge in intensity and frequency of major earthquakes during the last one hundred years is, in all probability, due to the improved recording of earthquakes and the increased vulnerability of human society to earthquake damage. The main reason is the well established plate tectonics which indicates a very steady fault motion over the past many millions of years. A measure of earthquake strength more objective than casualty is the Richter scale. It is in general difficult to assign the Richter scale to earthquakes more than 100 years ago. An attempt, however, has been made in China, where historical records are kept in better shape than in other regions. Enclosed figures shows the Richter scale (M) of earthquakes in China during the periond of about 2000 years. The past 100 years are certainly active, but there have been periods as active as that, for example, from 1500 to 1700.

In a letter to Wolfgang Hebst and Carl Olof Jonsson dated 5 September 1985, Aki says the following (body of letter quoted in its entirety):

Thank you for your inquiry re my statement in Jehovah’s Witnesses. I feel strongly that the seismicity has been stationary for thousands of years. I was trying to convince Jehovah’s Witnesses about the stationarity of seismicity using the data obtained in China for the period of 1500 to 1700, but they put only weak emphasis on the published statement. Excellent geological evidence for the stationarity has been obtained by Prof. Kerry Sieh of Caltech, for the San Andreas fault.

So the Watchtower quoted Aki out of context in order to support a position exactly opposite to Aki’s. Copies of Professor Aki’s letters can be found in Appendix A of “The Sign of the Last Days – When?” by Carl Olof Jonsson and Wolfgang Herbst. Now, on to the Watchtower’s quote from the Italian magazine “Il Piccolo” of October 8, 1978. Again, here is how the Watchtower quotes Geo Malagoli of “Il Piccolo.”

“Our generation lives in a dangerous period of high seismic activity, as statistics show. In fact, during a period of 1,059 years (from 856 to 1914) reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes causing 1,973,000 deaths. However, [in] recent disasters, we find that 1,600,000 persons have died in only 63 years, as a result of 43 earthquakes which occurred from 1915 to 1978. This dramatic increase further goes to emphasize another accepted fact-our generation is an unfortunate one in many ways.”

Now, take a look at an excerpt from the 2/22/1977 issue of Awake!

Interestingly, for a period of 1,059 years (856 to 1914 C.E.), reliable sources list only 24 major earthquakes, with 1,972,952 fatalities. But compare that with the accompanying partial list citing 43 instances of earthquakes, in which 1,579,209 persons died during just the 62 years from 1915 to 1976 C.E.

The 5/15/83 Watchtower is quoting the 10/8/78 Il Piccolo which is quoting the 2/22/77 Awake!

Dec 292004
 

The Watchtower has quoted various historians to try to prop up their 1914 teaching. Here are some examples where they quoted from Barbara Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower”.

Watchtower quotes from “The Proud Tower”:

*** w92 5/1 3 1914-The Year That Shocked the World *** “The Great War of 1914-18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours. In wiping out so many lives . . . , in destroying beliefs, changing ideas, and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion, it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs.”-From The Proud Tower-A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890-1914, by Barbara Tuchman.

*** w92 5/1 5 1914-The Year That Shocked the World *** Indeed, 1914 changed much. It had not produced a better world, and the war did not turn out to be “the war to end all wars,” as many people had hoped. Instead, as historian Barbara Tuchman observes: “Illusions and enthusiasms possible up to 1914 slowly sank beneath a sea of massive disillusionment.”

*** g94 11/8 9 Sarajevo-From 1914 to 1994 *** “The Great War of 1914-18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours. In wiping out so many lives which would have been operative on the years that followed, in destroying beliefs, changing ideas, and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion, it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs.”-The foreword to The Proud Tower, by Barbara W. Tuchman.

A more complete quote from “The Proud Tower”

The Great War of 1914-18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours. In wiping out so many lives which would have been operative on the years that followed, in destroying beliefs, changing ideas, and leaving incurable wounds of disillusion, it created a physical as well as psychological gulf between two epochs. This book is an attempt to discover the quality of the world from which the Great War came.

It is not the book I intended to write when I began. Preconceptions dropped off one by one as I investigated. The period was not a Golden Age or Belle Epoque except to a thin crust of the privileged class. It was not a time exclusively of confidence, innocence, comfort, stability, security and peace. All these qualities were certainly present. People were more confident of values and standards. , more innocent in the sense of retaining more hope of mankind, than they are today, although they were not more peaceful nor, except for the upper few, more comfortable. Our misconception lies in assuming that doubt and fear, ferment, protest, violence and hate were not equally present. We have been misled by the people of the time themselves who, when looking back across the gulf of the War, see that earlier half of their lives misted over by a lovely sunset haze of peace and security. It did not seem so golden when they were in the midst of it. Their memories and their nostalgia have conditioned our view of the pre-war era but I can off the reader a rule based on adequate research: all statements of how lovely it was in that era made by persons contemporary with it will be found to have been made after 1914. – Forward to “The Proud Tower – A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914″ by Barbara W. Tuchman, page xv, xvi