My Jehovah’s Witness Elder friend was extremely uncomfortable for the majority of our two and a half hour meeting. We picked up where we left off from last week. I wanted to talk more about the paragraph I brought up last week where the Watchtower claims to speak God’s Words. Most of our conversation was about this topic, but it took us roughly a half hour to get started. My Witness buddy confided in me about some serious health issues that run in his family.
Sometimes a person who is in a cult will tell people outside of the group some of the things they are thinking about or that are bothering them. Some of these things they cannot express to other members for fear of being judged. The health issue my friend spoke about today are serious issues that others could use against him in the future. I don’t want to get into specifics here, but suffice it to say that if you ever find yourself in a situation like this where the person you are trying to reach gives you very personal information, love that person enough to be quiet and listen. It is truly an honor that my Jehovah’s Witness friend would tell me the things he told me today.
I was hoping that my buddy was not going to try to get back into the “Teach” book this week because there was more I wanted to say about last week’s discussion. I was pleased that he brought up something I asked last week.
JW: Do you remember last time we met, you asked a question, “Why not just the Bible. Why do we need to Watchtower?”
KW: That was one of my many questions.
For some unknown reason he started talking about the founder of the Watchtower, Charles Taze Russell and how he joined a Bible study group which looked at the Bible, took notes during their study and then put it in writing for others to benefit from their study. According to my friend, that is how the Watchtower came about and they have been doing the same thing ever since. He was sure to tell me that the publications are not inspired nor do they replace the Bible. He added that all Churches have someone in authority so in that way, it is no different. I asked;
KW: Two things come to mind. First, if Russell can look at the Bible for himself and understand what it means, then why can’t we? The other observation is that from what we talked about last week and from what the literature says, it doesn’t look like you have a choice but to believe the Watchtower says. That reference we looked at last week, Matthew 4:4 claims that what they are producing comes from the mouth of God. At that point it is no longer a Bible aid or similar to my pastor preaching something. I don’t have to agree with everything he says or be kicked out. It seems like the Watchtower has taken on a more authoritarian position and not the role of someone offering you their opinion. My question is, how does the society view itself and do we have the freedom to agree with them or not?
For those readers who may be new to this blog, last week I brought up a statement from a recent Watchtower magazine which is very problematic. Page 20 of the July 15, 2013 magazine says, “That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relation-ship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.”
I pointed to the reference of Matthew 4:4 which states in the New World Translation, “But in reply he said: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” I wanted to know why the Watchtower is claiming that what they print should be considered as if it came from the mouth of God. My Witness friend is attempting to answer that question.
JW: There should be unity among the Christian congregation and they should speak in agreement. That is what Paul says.
KW: There is a difference between unity and uniformity.
JW: Go to 1 Corinthians 1:10 and read what it says there.
KW: (Reading the NWT) “Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”
Let me read on here. (Reading verses 11-17 from the New American Standard) “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”
If we were to read verse 10 by itself, I understand what you are saying, but if we look at the rest of what was going on, the only reason why Paul tells them to be of one mind, is because they weren’t.
KW: Having disagreements is a normal, natural thing. If people disagree with each other, it doesn’t prove that they are not part of the true faith any more than we could point to the Corinthians and accuse them of not really being Christians. I tell my children to stop arguing only because they are arguing. It doesn’t mean that if they argue, I am going to kick them out of my house. Would you consider your family unified?
JW: Most of the time, yeah.
KW: Do you argue at all?
JW: Um hum.
KW: Exactly. I am not going to accuse you of not being a true unified family because you argue. I believe there can be diversity within unity as long as you’ve got the same basic goals in mind. It is just that sometimes there are difference ways of doing things. To say that I have to agree with everything an organization says is uniformity, not unity and it is authoritarianism, not authority.
My last statement was a risky one, but I felt led by the Lord to say it. I knew it could be a hard thing for him to hear and that it could possibly cause unnecessary contention. The way it just flowed out of my mouth was surprising to me, but it worked well. The next thing my Witness friend did must have been according to God’s own playbook because I could not have set this up any more perfectly than it occurred. Sometimes Jehovah’s Witnesses will bring up things that I am unfamiliar with, but once we take a look at it together, it completely supports the point I was trying to make in the first place.
JW: You’re right. There were some who spoke against the apostle’s teachings and not just in Corinth. Diotrephes for example.
JW: Diotrephes. I think he was in Ephesus.
It is very common for Jehovah’s Witnesses to change the subject when they are stuck on a topic which makes them uncomfortable. If they bring up another verse that they want to discuss, but they do not know the reference, I usually let them struggle to find the verse because it often doesn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand. Once they can’t find it, we are then able to get back to the subject. Again, I felt led by God to break my rule.
KW: Where can we read about this person?
My Witness friend didn’t know how to spell the name so I couldn’t search for it on my iPad. It took us a little time to find the reference to him. Once we found it, I read Third John verses 9-11 aloud.
KW: “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.”
JW: The idea here is that there were people who were trying to divide the congregation. Jesus even said that from your midst there would be wolves in sheep coverings. Paul even said that after he goes away, there would be an apostasy. If Paul or someone else in authority teaches something, it must be accepted. There has to be unity.
I love it when a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon quotes a Bible verse that completely undermines the point they are trying to make.
KW: Right, but Paul wasn’t the one kicking people out of the Church for disagreeing with him. Diotrephes was. It looks to me like John is saying, “Hey, this guy is kicking people out of the Church. He wants to be first among everyone.” John is telling people that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. Diotrephes is the one kicking people out of the Church because he wants the position of authority, he wants to be in first place and when John gets there, he is going to set maters straight because this kind of thing should not be happening. John isn’t the one saying, “You must agree with me or I’m going to kick you out,” he is calling out the guy who is saying, “You have to agree with me or I’m going to kick you out.”
JW: Well, let’s look at another example.
My Witness friend took me to Acts 18:24-28 which discusses how Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and further instructed him about Jesus. My friend wanted to know what I thought would have happened if Apollos refused correction. I told him it would be hard to say because we are talking about a situation that didn’t happen and we don’t know the personalities of those involved.
Also, the passage does not indicate the nature of the correction. We don’t know if this issue was concerning the gospel, the message by which we must be saved, but I would think that it doesn’t because verse 25 says that Apollos was teaching correctly. If Apollos rejected the correction I suppose there would have been much more discussion, but this isn’t the same thing as kicking someone out of the congregation for smoking (like we talked about in our last meeting). I told him that there needs to be unity of the faith, but there are also differences of opinion with non essential issues. I asked;
KW: In your belief, do you have some doctrines which are essential and some doctrines which are nonessential? Some beliefs that everyone must believe and some others that maybe you don’t have to agree on everything? Because we do and I believe scripture testifies to that. Do you guys have anything like that?
JW: For example?
KW: In Romans chapter 14. Let’s look at it.
This was another opportunity to stuff an ace for future conversations. (If you are unfamiliar with what I mean by that phrase, read this past blog post.) I know that bringing up this particular passage could sidetrack our conversation, but I was fairly confident in being able to stay on topic.
KW: Romans 14:5-8 says, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Paul is basically telling Christians there are some things which are up to their own decisions. I don’t know what day Paul is talking about, some high day or a holiday, but some Christians thought they could celebrate them and some Christians though they couldn’t. They were judging each other over that and Paul was telling them that those who celebrate, do so for the Lord. Those who do not celebrate the day don’t celebrate it for the Lord. Each person can be convinced in their own mind and do their own thing as long as they are doing it for the Lord. Paul doesn’t want them to fight over it. So even though different Christians are not unified in their opinions, they are still unified in glorifying the Lord. They are unified in purpose, but not necessarily in opinion. Does that make sense?
JW: What do you mean celebrating a day?
KW: Whatever day. I don’t know what day Paul is referring to. It would be hard to speculate.
For the most part, my Witness buddy agreed with me. I knew he was thinking about birthdays and holidays and didn’t agree with celebrating those, but he did understand my position about Christians having different convictions and even gave some examples himself, drinking alcohol for example. He did have a real problem with rated R movies though and kept talking about hating what God hates. I asked of that was his own personal conviction of if it was something enforced upon him. He said it was his own decision, but would really question people about seeing rated R movies. He asked;
JW: Why would you want to be entertained by violence?
KW: That depends. I have some friends who will not see rated R movies (referring to some of my Mormon friends), but they take it to such extremes that they would not go see the Passion of the Christ. They wouldn’t go see it only because it was rated R. Are you kidding me? The disciples saw the violence first hand. It was brutal and in the movie, it was realistic. That is why it was rated R.
JW: If they continue in the pattern of watching rated R movies, then we have to question if they love what God loves and hate what God hates. What does that tell you about their relationship with God?
KW: But, should your relationship with God be subject to other people or is that between you and God? I agree with most of what you are saying, but the problem I have with it is these eight guys in Brooklyn, New York having an undue amount of authority over me. I would want to know how they view Romans 14:5-8. Can some people celebrate some days that other Christians don’t have the conscience to celebrate?
JW: Are you talking about birthdays?
KW: No. Whatever day, any day. I’m just using this passage as an example.
He then referred to Acts 15:1-30. The Watchtower likes to use this passage in an attempt to prove that the first century Christians had a governing body in Jerusalem who made decisions that all Christians were to follow, just like the Watchtower has men in Brooklyn who make up rules that all Jehovah’s Witnesses must follow. It is up to us to either accept or reject their message, but it is still authoritative, just like in the first century.
I again brought up the quote about my relationship with God depending upon the Watchtower. Again, it states, “That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.”
KW: My spiritual health depends upon guys I’ve never met? I don’t understand that. That reference to Matthew 4:4, you said earlier that the publications are not inspired. If they are not inspired, then why are they using that verse? It says basically, “You have to accept our instructions as if it comes from God.” That’s not healthy.
This post is much larger than normal so I decided to divide it into two parts. There is no good place to end this post, so I might as well end it here. I will post the rest of our conversation tomorrow. Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friend.