Our meeting began the same way it usually does. We talked for roughly 30 minutes about a number of topics. Since this is the beginning of the school year, most of our conversation was about our kids and school. It was also nice that my Pioneer friend brought his wife again. Although there are benefits to me talking to him alone, I’d rather talk to the both of them together. Neither of them is argumentative or overly aggressive and the three of us get along great. I guess what I like best about them being together is that they BOTH get to hear my objections and reasoning at the same time. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on their wall when they get home and talk about our discussions.
JW1: We start a new chapter today, “What is God’s Purpose for the Earth?” This should be interesting. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read it yet.
KW: Yes, I have.
JW1: You have? Great. You’re the man!
He asked me to read the first paragraph and then he asked the corresponding question at the bottom of the page which reads; “What is God’s purpose for the earth?”
KW: Actually, that question would never enter into my mind.
KW: Really. I see those first two questions at the top of the heading as the same question. “What is God’s purpose for the Earth” and “What is God’s purpose for mankind” is really just asking the same question twice.
JW1: They are. You are exactly right.
KW: I don’t think there is anything special about this planet, but when you talk about the earth, depending on the context, you could be talking about the ground or soil or you could be talking about the people on it. Again, context defines words.
JW2: You are a step ahead of where most people are. Your understanding is different from most people.
I was very surprised by this reaction. I have never had a Jehovah’s Witness tell me this before. They told me that most people see the two questions differently and with distinction. They claimed that the goal of this chapter is to correct that misunderstanding. I needed to listen more and see how they would explain some of what this chapter says in the coming paragraphs. They have some explaining to do.
In my past conversations I have always got the understanding that Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about the earth almost as if it is a personal entity to whom God owes some debt. They often speak about God making promises to the earth that He must fulfill. This always made about as much sense as me promising a certain chair that I would sit in it at the dinner table. Personal beings don’t make promises to impersonal objects.
We talked about paradise and what the earth must have looked like when it was first created. He also told me something I’ve never heard before. The Hebrew word for “Eden” means “pleasure.” I looked it up in the concordance on my Bible app. Ha! You learn something new every day.
The first two paragraphs of chapter three are pretty innocuous. I asked some clarifying questions, but there was really nothing worthy of note here… until you get to the very last Bible passage which was quoted in paragraph two. We were looking up all of the previous Bible references in the paragraph and then when we got to Revelation 21:3-4, I noticed something. He had me read it aloud.
KW: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’”
JW1: Will there be death when this scripture is fulfilled?
KW: This passage says a LOT of things. The tabernacle of God will be here.
KW: God will dwell with us.
He said that much less enthusiastically than when he agree with my first comment. As I kept pointing out what this passage says, he agreed less and less, but didn’t want to say anything about why he disagreed. He just made noises as if to acknowledge that I had said something.
KW: We’re going to be His people.
KW: He is going to wipe away every tear.
KW: There will no longer be any death, mourning, crying or pain. That’s definitely a better paradise than Hawaii.
They both laughed at that and seemed like they wanted to move on in the book. I decided to stay and continue to make this point.
JW1: Hawaii definitely doesn’t have all of that.
KW: No, Hawaii doesn’t have the tabernacle of God, it doesn’t have Him dwelling among His people wiping every tears from our eyes. It does have death, mourning, crying and pain. This is cool. It tells us what we are going to have and what we are not going to have.
I just thought of something. Notice the contrast here of what we are going to have. What we have on earth now is the exact opposite. We don’t have the throne of God here on earth, we don’t have the tabernacle here on earth, God is not dwelling with us now on earth. Most of the people on earth are not His people. He is not here to wipe away every tear. There is definitely death, mourning, crying and pain, so everything is going to be reversed.
I really wanted to make this point stick because the Watchtower does not teach what Revelation 21:3-4 says. The Watchtower teaches that God remains in heaven and will be joined by only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses. All other Witnesses who live on the earth will not enjoy the presence of God and neither will He dwell among them. The Watchtower teaches that what this passage says will happen on earth is only figurative and will really be done in heaven. Rather than deal with what the passage says (he has yet to reveal the two class heaven and earth system to me), he instead made an observation about how I viewed at the passage.
JW1: It is really interesting that you do that because at the convention we went to this summer, they said to read passages and also look at the opposite of what it says. For instance, one of the speakers told us to look at 2nd Timothy 3:1-5 and reverse the adjectives used to describe people. So in verse one where is says men will be lovers of themselves and lovers of money, we read it that in the new system, people will be lovers of others and not lovers of money.
He read the whole passage that way reversing what is says about people. I thought it was pretty cool and hoped that he would do the same thing with passages like Revelation 21:3-4 where it doesn’t quite make sense if you believe Watchtower doctrine. They both commended me on how I did that and thought it was good.
Right after we talked about this passage, my Witness friend tried to impress me with what he thought was a good logical argument regarding what God told Adam in the Garden in Genesis 2:16-17. “If you eat of the fruit, you will die.”
JW1: Now you will appreciate this as man who understand logic and reason. God says, “If you eat, you will die.” Therefore, if you do not eat…, what is the logical result?
I really hated to do this to him in front of his wife.
KW: Actually, that is a bad form of logic called, “Denying the antecedent.”
JW1: Oh, it is?
I started explaining why it is a bad form and before I even got halfway through the explanation, he kept agreeing with me as if he hoped I would stop talking. He was embarrassed and avoided eye contact as I continued my explanation. Basically it looks like this;
A —> B
It looks similar to the argument I wrote about not too long ago called modus tollens, but they are not the same. What I have written above translates to the following.
A implies B
I don’t have A
Therefore, I don’t have B.
This is an invalid argument form because I can plug terms into the operators to prove it false. For instance, if I said;
(A) If I live in San Antonio, (B) then I live in Texas.
(Not A) I do not live in San Antonio.
Therefore, I do not live in Texas (Not B).
This is obviously a wrong conclusion because you don’t have to live in San Antonio to live in Texas. You could live in Houston, Austin, Dallas or any number of towns and still live in Texas.
We only covered three paragraphs in this meeting and would have covered more, but a large group of people came into the restaurant and it got extremely loud. It wasn’t one single group of people, but many different groups who all came at roughly the same time. Although we stopped our study, we sat and talked for at least another 20 minutes before we left. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends.