Today started off a little different because the restaurant we go to was packed and it was loud. Since that is not conducive to a deep theological discussion, we decided to go to another restaurant. One interesting thing of note was that my Pioneer friend came alone. His wife had a school function she needed to attend so this is the first time he came by himself. I always enjoy the one on one conversations better because the individual Witness is forced to rely only on himself. There isn’t anyone there to bail him out of a trouble spot in the conversation. I find that there is a whole lot more I can say and even challenge them on when they are alone.
Before we got into our study, we talked about school ending and how that is going to free up their schedule for the Summer. In a weird twist of the conversation, he began to tell me about a pedophile who lives near their home and how they have to take extra precautions when their kids are at the bus stop. I tucked that little fact away because I knew the Watchtower has a nasty habit of hiding and protecting pedophiles within the organization. One day, when the timing is right, I may drop a hint about the news reports I read EVERY WEEK about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the sexual abuse of children. We talked for about 40 minutes before we transitioned into our study.
My Witness friend started talking about the Name of God again and asked if I had a chance to do a little research on the topic. I told him that I did and made reference to the Appendix on pages 195-197 which mentioned the Watchtower Brochure, “The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever.” I checked the JW.org web site looking for the brochure, but it is not there. I asked about this publication and told him that I couldn’t find it on their web site. We was confident that I was looking in the wrong place. We both searched our mobile devices and sure enough, it is not there.
He was really surprised at that and thought he had a copy of it in his car. He briefly went to go look for it, but was mistaken about having one. While he was gone, I perused their web site and asked about certain things when he returned. I asked about the online library and other things in hopes that he would tell me about more resources that I could then use in the future. If I tell him what I already know about the Watchtower’s resources, he will be suspicious, but if he tells me about them, then it will be natural for me to bring it up in future conversations.
Once our food arrived, we put the Teach book aside and began talking about various things. We talked about what our kids do in homeschooling regarding memorization, history, how to make a presentation in front of your peers and even some logic. He mentioned the Theocratic Ministry School (TMS) and said they do similar things there. I’ve been to some of their TMS meetings and one thing they definitely DO NOT do is utilize logic. Granted, Jehovah’s Witnesses do learn how to present and speak formally in front of others, but when it comes to thinking correctly and using logic, no. They DEFINITELY don’t do that.
I decided to let him talk about that a bit to see where it would take us. By doing this, I am able to plant seeds about topics that I know will come up in the future. It is easier to get a Jehovah’s Witness to think about certain doctrines and practices from a completely different angle and then when it comes time to get into specifics about those doctrines, I have already set the stage to counter the argument I know is coming.
For instance, I have had Jehovah’s Witnesses tell me that using logic is using human reasoning and we are not to trust it. This usually comes up when you are looking at a specific verse and just pointing out the rules of grammar. But if you can get the Witness to agree with you that logic is important before there is a confrontation about a specific verse, then they can’t tell you that logic is untrustworthy. If they do, you can gently remind them of your previous conversation when they agreed with the use of logic about another topic.
Somehow our conversation switched to President Obama. I remembered the confrontation I had with my previous elder about praying for our governmental leaders. To my surprise, this current Witness agreed with me. He was actually getting upset.
JW: I get so frustrated at religious people who talk trash about the President or whoever is in charge. You now what? Have honor for the King! It doesn’t say you have to like him. When Paul wrote that, we was about to be killed by that King. Have honor for the King whether you like him or not.
KW: But it doesn’t mean you can’t criticize. If you want to know if there is a dictator in your life, find out who you can’t criticize.
My Witness friend agreed wholeheartedly, but what he did not realize was that I just set the stage for him to admit that the Watchtower organization is his dictator. It is one thing for him to agree with me that political leaders who cannot be criticized are dictators, but once he admits that he is not allowed to criticize the Watchtower… yeah, you know the rest.
JW: They are the untouchables.
KW: There is a logical fallacy that relates to this called a Tu Quoque.
JW: A what?
KW: Tu Quoque. basically it means, “You too.” Let’s say that I were to prove you are a thief. If you replied, “Yes, but you’re a thief too!” that has nothing to do with the fact that you are a thief. It may be hypocritical for one thief to condemn another thief of stealing, but just because I am a thief doesn’t mean that my claim about you is false. You’re a thief!
KW: So if someone criticizes President Obama, and then another person responds, “But President Bush did it too,” that has nothing to do with the argument. If it was wrong when Bush did it, then it is wrong when Obama does it too. That is called a “Red Herring,” when someone tries to switch the focus of the criticism from themselves to the other person.
KW: I am constantly dealing with these logic issue because many people don’t know how to think straight. Sometimes they can’t separate emotion from the argument or they can’t even deal with the topic at hand.
JW: They should deal with the issue rather than try to dodge it. When people reason like that, that tells me that they are not confident in their position.
KW: Right. I couldn’t agree with you more. I know some people who are in favor of gay marriage. If I disagree with it, they will claim that I am full of hate. My response is that the first person to bring up the “H-Bomb” (use the word “hate”) is the one who usually doesn’t have a reason for their argument. Because now they are attacking me instead of my argument which is called an ad hominem attack, which means, “against the man.” How about we look at my reasons instead of calling me names?
Or sometimes people will question my motives for questioning something. They will accuse me of having sin in my life because I question their authority.
JW: What? Really?
KW: Oh, yes. I have a lot of friends from a bunch of different backgrounds. They will question my motives for wanting to look a little more seriously at some specific issue. They’ll accuse me of just looking for bad things. If there are bad things, why shouldn’t I look for them?
KW: If they don’t want me to look for things, it makes me wonder what they are trying to hide.
JW: We should address them and expose them.
JW: Jesus spoke about that in John 3: 19-21. “Now this is the basis for judgment: that the light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For whoever practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be reproved. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that his works may be made manifest as having been done in harmony with God.” You know with Jesus, the truth does not need to hide.
KW: The truth can bear any amount of investigation.
JW: That’s right.
KW: I shouldn’t be made to feel like there is something wrong with me for asking questions.
JW: Um-hmm, quite the contrary. That is commendable.
KW: I am glad you feel that way.
JW: To me that is a gigantic red flag if someone says, “Don’t ask” or “Don’t worry,” or like you said, criticize people for asking questions.
KW: I’ve heard people say, “Let’s put it on the shelf and deal with it later.” No, it is a question now, not later.
It was nice to hear him say these things, but I know he doesn’t really believe them. As an elder in the congregation, he has to tow the party line and the party line of the Watchtower is to believe regardless of whether or not things are understood. He says it is commendable that I ask questions and don’t take people’s word for things, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
We began our formal study once we finished our meal. He asked me to read paragraph 15 on page 14 which again, addresses the topic of “God’s name.” In our last meeting he insisted that there are two different words in Hebrew, one which can be translated as “name” and the other translated as “reputation.”
KW: Part of the research I did was to look for the Hebrew word for reputation and there isn’t one. The best option we have is what I told you before. “Shem” most often translated as “name” is the word which would be used.
KW: That is one of the cool things about the Bible being written in languages which died. No one speaks those languages today so the meanings don’t change. What it meant then is still what it means today.
JW: People today speak Hebrew and Greek.
KW: But Modern Hebrew and Greek it is not the same as Biblical Hebrew and Greek. Those languages are dead languages so you don’t have to figure out how the definitions may have changed throughout the years.
I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I do have a friend who is one. Randy earned his PhD. in Biblical languages in South Africa. Since I have never heard that argument before, I told him I would ask my friend about this claim. I again reiterated what I had learned from my own personal study and he seemed to agree with me.
JW: It may be that the reason why this word is so elusive is because it isn’t culturally relevant.
KW: That is exactly the point I was trying to make last week. I think the Teach book is looking at it from a different angle than the Hebrews looked at it. I don’t think the question, “Does God have a personal name that He wants us to use like we use your friend’s name” really applies. I don’t think that is a culturally relevant question because of the whole idea of the reputation involved. If we were to make a distinction between the two, which I don’t think you can do in Hebrew, I know which one is more important to me. An identifying label is not as important as my character.
JW: They are intricately related and that is the point of this paragraph. God’s name is not just a label. It is rich in meaning. We are seeing two sides of the same coin.
KW: I don’t think there are two sides.
JW: But it is an identifying feature. If we don’t use that name… it is like knowing someone and not using their name when you speak to them.
He almost said it. The Watchtower teaches that we can’t be saved unless we use the English word “Jehovah” so I wanted to get him to tell me that. I wanted him to see exactly how ridiculous it is to insist on using a pronunciation that didn’t exist in Jesus’ time. I had to ask more questions to get him to admit that.
KW: I am wondering what else there is behind this issue. This seems pretty important to you. Like I told you about my friend Chip. No one can tell me that I didn’t really know him until I knew his birth name. That didn’t matter because the reputation of Chip was that he was a chip off the old block. I know his Dad too so I can see them together and agree, “Yep, they’re a lot alike.” Why is this such an important thing? Does God not know who I am talking about unless I use an English word?
JW: Well… that is an interesting point. If we know God’s name and He has introduced Himself to us by that name, then it creates a lack of intimacy. Let me look for some verses to show that.
KW: When you talk about intimacy, I don’t get that. Again, my kids didn’t even know I had a first name until they were three or four years old. They only knew me as Daddy, which is a title, but to me it is more endearing than the name “Keith.”
JW: Both of those examples, your kids and your friend Chip, we call people what they want to be called…
He lost focus in what he was trying to say because he was looking up verses at the same time. I took the opportunity to reiterate that from my study, I really don’t think God cares about a specific pronunciation for His “name.”
JW: Okay, Isaiah 52:6. You asked if it is important that we use the identifying name of God.“For that reason my people will know my name; For that reason they will know in that day that I am the One speaking. Look, it is I!” This verse ties together knowing God’s name with knowing who He is.
KW: The word here for “name” is the same Hebrew word, “shem.” I guess the impasse we are having is that every time you use the word “name” I think you mean identifying marker. But every time I say it, I mean reputation. That is why I asked you last week if you knew what it means to beg the question. When you are interpreting the passage, it comes across like you already have the conclusion in mind when you make your proposition. Your proposition supports the conclusion that you already have.
JW: We have to let the Scriptures support our conclusion and yes, I have already come to a conclusion about this matter so I am showing you verses that support my conclusion.
KW: How does your translation read in verse five?
JW: “What, then, should I do here?” declares Jehovah. “For my people were taken for nothing. Those ruling over them keep howling in triumph,” declares Jehovah, “And constantly, all day long, my name is treated with disrespect.”
KW: Okay, mine says, “My name is continually blasphemed all day long.” In that context, when I hear a “name being blasphemed,” I don’t think of an identifying marker. I think of the reputation or the character behind the identifying marker. I wish I could better communicate my thought to you, but I get the impression that you could tell me, according to your view, that “God damn it” is not a curse word because we didn’t take God’s name in vain. But for me, that would be a curse.
My Witness friend was grinning now.
JW: Technically, it wouldn’t be a violation of the commandment to not use God’s name in vain.
He had nowhere else to go. He had to say this if he was to be consistent with his position. This is the fundamental difference between our views. The Watchtower holds an English pronunciation holy while Christians view God’s character as Holy. It is sacrilegious to think that you are not taking God’s name in vain simply because you do not pronounce an English identifying marker while cursing His character. I wanted to squeeze his little neck until his head popped like a zit.
KW: That makes me cringe to hear you say that.
JW: However, it is grossly disrespectful. That expression doesn’t use His name, but it does involve Him in the equation.
KW: That’s my point. When God is talking about someone blaspheming His name… “Bob Damn it” is not a curse, but replacing that with the title “God” is taking God’s name in vain!
He could see how passionate I was about this issue so he slowed his speech down and tread carefully.
This is roughly halfway through our conversation so I will end the conversation here and post the rest of it tomorrow. Thank you for your patience as I get these posts out. I am four conversations behind and some of them are so detailed they will probably need to be posted in more than one part like I had to do with this conversation. There is some good stuff coming up so stay tuned.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness Pioneer friend.