When I arrived at the restaurant, my Witness friend already ordered and had a desert sitting in front of my spot at the table. He has been doing that for awhile now. Our friendship has grown and we are very comfortable in each other’s presence. We talked for roughly 45 minutes before we even began our study. I honestly enjoy his company and I think the feeling is mutual. I believe part of the reason he continues to meet with me, in spite of all the hard questions I have given him, is because we are building a friendship. (It is not uncommon for us to text each other during the week about unrelated things.) It is imperative that if our relationship is going to continue, he needs to know that I genuinely care, not to mention, it will make it harder for him to drop me if he likes me. Once we got into the “Teach” book, I knew most of our conversation would be about chapter two, paragraph five. I have been waiting for this conversation for weeks.
Paragraph five reads, “Furthermore, the Bible ‘is inspired of God.’ (2 Timothy 3:16) In what way? The Bible itself answers: ‘Men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.’ (2 Peter 1:21) To illustrate: A businessman might have a secretary write a letter. That letter contains the businessman’s thoughts and instructions. Hence, it is really his letter, not the secretary’s. In a similar way, the Bible contains God’s message, not that of the men who wrote it down. Thus, the entire Bible truthfully is ‘the word of God.’—1 Thessalonians 2:13.”
This paragraph is important to our conversation because my Witness friend gave this same illustration a few weeks back when we were discussing whether or not the information contained in Watchtower publications is really from God or not. It is contradictory to claim that a message comes from God, but is not inspired by Him. In the mind of the Jehovah’s Witness, there is no contradiction, but by asking the right questions, it is possible to get them to reconsider their view. After my friend read the paragraph, I said;
KW: We’ve actually talked about this a little bit before and you gave the illustration about the businessman and his secretary. Here are my thoughts. If a message comes from God, it has to be true because God does not lie. If the Bible comes from God, then it has to be true and I can’t change it because it is His Word. If it is God’s word, then by definition it means that it is inspired by God. The word “inspiration” means “God-breathed.” There is a verse that mentions it.
JW: 2nd Timothy 3:16.
KW: That’s the one.
I read verses 14-17 and then explained that when I see the term “inspired by God” it is synonymous with “God-breathed, coming from God and true.” In other words, if a message comes from God, it is inspired and must be true. There are no other options unless God is a liar. He agreed with me. I then explained;
KW: That is why I was having trouble with that quote from the July 15 2013 Watchtower.
JW: Which quote?
KW: “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.” That alone is troublesome because I read 2nd Timothy three which talks about the Scriptures giving me “the wisdom that leads to salvation,” yet the Watchtower says that my relationship with God depends on the Slave.
So those two statements seem to be at odds to me. So do I need the Scripture or the Slave? Then we have the reference to Matthew 4:4, at the end of the paragraph, “every Word that comes out of the mouth of God.” What is the Watchtower trying to communicate to me with this statement?
JW: The truth is always the truth. It is just that our understanding of it may change. I’ve been thinking about this and I see what you’re saying about how we taught one thing as the truth, but then time passes and then we teach something else as the truth. I have taken first aid courses and they teach something different now than they have taught before.
My Witness friend then explained that the old way of doing CPR was to pump the chest a certain amount of times and then give a few breaths in the victim’s mouth. Then it changed to more pumps on the chest and less breaths. Now what they are teaching is continuous pumps on the chest and no breaths. He explained that each view was correct for its time, it is just that as time goes on, they are learning new and better ways to do CPR. I responded;
KW: I understand that, but I see a difference. Your illustration involves limited human beings who do not know the truth, they are learning through experience and doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. As they learn, they change their views based on what works best. I get that. But, if we were to apply your illustration to the changing views of the Watchtower, God would be the one who is learning.
JW: God would be what?
KW: Learning. God would be the one learning what is more true now. Because if you claim, “This information came from God,” and then you change the view and say it was true back then but now we know more, then God is the one who is learning and I have a problem with that. do you understand what I am saying?
KW: Because if it comes from God, there should be no adjustments. It should just be true.
JW: The information in the Watchtower doesn’t come from God.
KW: It doesn’t?
JW: No, it comes from Bible students.
KW: Then why the reference to Matthew 4:4?
JW: That is a legitimate question.
KW: Yeah, that is troublesome for me because what it communicates to me, and I could be totally wrong here, I’m open for correction, but what this tells me is that the organization says, “We are God’s spokesman, your salvation depends upon how closely you follow my instructions, but these instructions are subject to change later on.” I look at that and wonder, are they the Watchtower’s instructions or God’s instructions? If they are God’s instructions, then there shouldn’t be a need for adjustment. It should just be the truth.
JW: Remember when we also said that God changed from the Mosaic Law. It was abolished.
KW: It was fulfilled. The writers of the New Testament quote the Old Testament and explain how the blood of animals could never take away sin. Blood sacrifice was always a type of what was to come in the sacrifice of Jesus. They never pointed to the Old Testament and said, “This was wrong and we need to change it,” so I don’t see that example as the same thing.
JW: But it was still an adjustment.
KW: Sure, no doubt, but the New Testament doesn’t look back at the Old Testament and say, “The Old Testament was wrong and we needed a change,” like the magazine does. It flat out said, we use to think view A, but now we think view B, but the New Testament says, “We have fulfilled the Mosaic Law.” It works hand in hand. The magazine says the Slave use to be 144,000, but now it says it is only the eight guys at the top. 143,992 people just got demoted.
I then asked if this doctrinal change was an anomaly or if the Watchtower is in the habit of changing it’s theology. We brought up issue of smoking again, but wouldn’t give me other examples. I don’t know if he knows of some and just didn’t tell me or if he didn’t know at all. I have a suspicion that he does know of some, but didn’t want to get caught up in trying to explain those changes too.
I never expected him to give me other examples, but the reason why I asked the question in the first place is because I find that it is easier for people to ask questions themselves if they see other people asking questions they don’t have the courage to ask. By my asking the questions, they are implanted in his mind and now they become his questions. Regardless of whether or not he verbalizes those questions to me, at least they are in his head and he has to deal with them on his own. Remember, earlier in the conversation he admitted to thinking about how to explain certain things to me and thinks my questions are valid. That is a huge step.
At one point in our conversation he brought up Proverbs 4:18 again. The New World Translation reads, “But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” The Watchtower uses this verse as a proof text for the need for changing doctrine. My friend asked me;
JW: Do you believe that the Bible compares knowledge to light?
KW: Yeah, sure.
He then read the verse and gave an example of how Daniel wrote things in His prophecies that he himself did not understand. I asked;
KW: But does this mean that the truth is getting truer and truer?
JW: No. The truth is always the truth and always will be the truth. It is just that our understanding of it progresses and changes.
KW: Which would then mean that the Watchtower is in the darkness.
JW: Not necessarily.
KW: But they keep getting things wrong, otherwise there would be no need for an adjustment.
JW: This is a minor adjustment.
KW: It doesn’t matter how minor it is, if it comes from God there shouldn’t be an adjustment at all.
JW: Maybe I need to find the Watchtower that says that the Watchtower is not inspired and that the brothers never claim inspiration.
KW: Then you can’t say it is God’s message.
My friend looked like he was hit in-between the eyes with a two by four after that statement. He hemmed and hawed a bit and wasn’t quite sure what to say. I think he is beginning to see the problem of claiming too opposite things. You simply cannot claim to have God’s message and at the same time claim that the message is not inspired. If it is God’s message, then it is inspired (God-breathed). If it is not inspired, then it is not God’s message.
JW: Look, we believe that we have the truth and you may dispute that, but that is Okay. In the end, I am not the judge God is. The bible says that Jesus’ followers would be recognized by their love for one another. I understand why you point these things out, but what can I do about it? Does Matthew 4:4 really apply to the Watchtower? You may have a problem with that and I can see why, but I don’t have a problem with it. Everyone needs to make his own decisions.
My Witness friend then began to speak about how Jesus had some hard thing to say to His disciples about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Some left Him because of these statements. Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked if they were going to leave too. My friend then quoted Peter and asked;
JW: “Where else would we go?”
KW: Peter didn’t ask, “Where else would we go?”
JW: He didn’t?
KW: Let’s look at it.
We both went to John 6:67-68 which reads in the NWT, “Therefore Jesus said to the twelve: ‘YOU do not want to go also, do YOU?’ Simon Peter answered him: ‘Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.’” My friend read the verse aloud and I pointed out that it does not say, “To where should we go?,” but “To Whom should we go?”
JW: Yeah, Okay. Those were just my words.
It is enormously important that Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that we do not go to an organization for salvation. We go to a person. We do not go to a Church or anything else, we go to Jesus Christ. The 12 disciples understood this. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t. I could tell that my friend was a little annoyed at my correction which only goes to prove that he just does not get it… yet. I then said;
KW: What would really trouble me is if the Watchtower applied this passage to itself. If they ever said “Where else would you go to salvation, but to us,” that would be very troublesome. We don’t go somewhere else, we go to Jesus for salvation. If these verses were ever applied to the Watchtower the way that Matthew 4:4 is applied to the Watchtower, I don’t know what I would say.
I was really going out on a limb with this one because I know that the Watchtower has applied this passage to itself, and more than once. The November 15, 2008 Watchtower says on page 13, “JESUS CHRIST was once abandoned by many disciples who rejected one of his teachings. ‘You do not want to go also, do you?’ he asked his apostles. Peter replied: ‘Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.’ (John 6:51-69) There was nowhere else to go. Judaism had no ‘sayings of everlasting life’ then, and such sayings certainly cannot be found today in Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. For any who have strayed from God’s flock but who want to please Jehovah, ‘it is high time to awake’ and return to the fold.”
This quote is an obvious example of blasphemy. The Watchtower has taken a verse that applies only to Jesus, and then inserts itself into the equation. Notice that the quote specifically says that just as the disciples could not go to Judaism back then, so today we cannot go to “Babylon the Great.” This is a terrible misapplication of the passage. Peter specifically asked “To Whom?” not “To where?” or “To what religious organization?” Peter rightly recognized that, “You (Jesus) has the words of everlasting life.” Not an organization and not a Church.
I don’t know how I would ever bring up this Watchtower quote (or another one like it) without raising his suspicions, but I threw out my concern in hopes that I can one day use it, or perhaps that he comes across this quote himself. Either way, it is a troubling problem. I continued;
KW: If an organization ever did that, I would see it as blasphemous. To say that an organization could say things like, “You’ve got to come to us for salvation…” The Bible clearly says that we don’t go to an organization for salvation. We go to Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?
He said he did, but he didn’t. He quickly moved the conversation to the one topic that in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses proves that they are the one true religion because they supposedly have love among themselves. War. Jehovah’s Witness are completely neutral politically and would rather go to prison than fight in a war where they may have to take the life of another Jehovah’s Witness fighting on the other side. That may seem like a noble idea, but it is fundamentally flawed. I will finish our conversation about War in my next post.
Please keep my Jehovah’s Witness friend in your prayers.