As is our custom, my Jehovah’s Witness friend and I sat and talked for awhile before we began our study. I never did like having Bible discussions with people who just want to jump into the study without spending some personal time talking to each other. I enjoy getting to know the person I am investing my time in. After almost a half an hour of catching up, my Pioneer friend began our study by saying;
JW: I love this chapter!
KW: Chapter two?
JW: Yup, we got through paragraph three last time and the rest of the chapter examines some lines of evidence which show us that the Bible is a gift from God.
We read paragraphs four and five out of the Teach Book and answered the corresponding questions for each paragraph. I asked another question for clarification knowing that the issue of inspiration of Watchtower literature would come up sooner or later. The Watchtower teaches that their publications are not inspired, yet at the same time believe that God is responsible for them. I actually had one elder tell me a number of years ago that God gives “non-inspired messages” through the Watchtower. I wanted to see how my Pioneer friend would address these ideas.
KW: What does the phrase “borne along by holy spirit” mean in paragraph five?
JW: Literally it means “carried along.” You can even say “being directed” or influenced or moved.
KW: So it means “directed by the Spirit.”
JW: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Our newer translation actually says it a little differently. It says, as they were moved by holy spirit.”
I started writing down his definitions in my Teach book.
KW: So “moved by the Holy Spirit,” “directed by the Spirit” and “spirit directed” are all synonymous terms.
JW: That’s right. They all carry the fundamental reality of spirit directed and inspired.
KW: So “Spirit directed” equals “inspired.”
JW: Um-hmm, that’s right.
This is HUGE! My pioneer friend doesn’t know it yet, but a conversation is coming where he is going to have to defend the idea that the Watchtower publications are “spirit directed,” but not “inspired.” Unfortunately for him, he has already equated the two terms. I read aloud what I had written in my book.
KW: Alright, so moved by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Holy Spirit and Spirit directed equals inspired. Got it.
JW: Very good. Now paragraph five uses an illustration of a businessman and a secretary. Some people say the bible was written by men.
KW: So, the secretary was a man. What’s the big deal?
JW: Exactly, what’s the problem? If Bill Gates writes a memo, he’s not the guy actually writing the memo, but it still carries all the weight of Bill Gates.
KW: Right, because it’s got his signature, his stamp of approval.
JW: His thoughts, right?
KW: Right. The memo carries the businessman’s thoughts and instructions.
Again, HUGE. The Watchtower loves to make comments about how the Faithful and Discreet Slave conveys Jehovah’s thoughts and instructions to us. If the Watchtower publications contain God’s thoughts and instructions, how are they not considered inspired?
We continued to progress through the book at a rapid pace. When we got to paragraph eight, I wanted to take some time to share an experience I had. The book states, “At a time when there were wrong ideas about the shape of the earth, the Bible referred to it as a circle, or sphere. (Isaiah 40:22) The Bible accurately said that the earth ‘hangs on nothing.’ (Job26:7).”
A number of years ago I went to hear the testimony of a Christian astronaut. He was one of the few people who had the privilege of standing on the moon. He told the audience that as he was standing on the surface of the moon looking back at this blue marble hanging out in space, Job 26:7 came to his mind. The earth was literally suspended in “mid-air” and hanging on nothing. What an incredible sight. My Jehovah’s Witness friend appreciated hearing the story.
You might wonder why I like to share stories like this with Witnesses when I speak to them. I want them to know that many people from different denominations of Christianity love and have an appreciation for God. The Watchtower wrongly portrays “Christendom” as evil with nothing to offer anyone. Anecdotes like this give Witnesses a slight glimmer of hope that there are other people out there who are serious about their faith and that it contributes to their lives in very practical means.
In paragraph nine we discussed the historical accuracy of the Bible. I told him about some of the things I saw on my recent trip to Israel and how even some secular archaeologists have used the Bible as a guide to dig in certain places expecting to find exactly what the Bible says is there. My Pioneer friend made a comment about wondering how these archaeologists could remain unbelievers in the light of such evidence. I responded;
KW: The more I walk in my Christian life, the more I come to understand that belief is a matter of the will. You either will or will not believe. It doesn’t matter what evidence can be shown. If you are dead set against not believing or even believe in spite of whatever evidence is given to you to the contrary, there isn’t a whole lot you can do with that.
I find this true with people in every belief system. Obviously, my Witness friend was thinking about showing “proofs” from Watchtower literature, but I was speaking directly of the countless Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons I have ministered to over two decades. I hope this will not be true of him in the future when he is faced with obvious contradictions, lies, historical revisions, doctrinal changes, flip-flops and false prophecies.
Today’s meeting wasn’t very long and aside from the part about inspiration and Spirit direction, there wasn’t much in-depth discussion. There was one interesting thing he said though right before we left.
JW: The spirit you’ve shown to humbly desiring to know God and His will. Jehovah must be pleased to look upon such a childlike and honest spirit.
KW: Thank you for your kind words. That was very nice of you to say.
Wow, that caught me off guard. I was very pleased and honored to have him say that of me. It reminds me of something one of my friends asked me after reading the previous conversation. He asked, “How do you talk to them when they start questioning whether you are an apostate?” I answered that the trick is to talk to them so that they never ask you that question. A lot of it is not letting the Jehovah’s Witness know what you know. As they slowly reveal the things you already know, then we can use them and talk about them, like I did in this conversation with inspiration.
So often people are too quick to tell the Jehovah’s Witness all the problems they know about the Watchtower and its theology. We rush to preach the gospel when we should be listening and looking for opportunities to make sure our intended audience really hears what we are saying and just as importantly, what we are not saying. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been trained to recognize and expect a “full frontal assault” from those who disagree with their teachings, but they have no idea how to handle someone who asks genuine questions for the purposes of understanding and clarification. If you are never seen as a threat, you can plant many more seeds than if you were viewed as an enemy. I am thankful that my Pioneer friend does not view me as his enemy.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friend and his family.