It was bound to happen sooner or later. It was 11 months to the day. My Jehovah’s Witness elder “friend” dropped me today (February 26, 2014). It looks like I’ve got my Wednesdays free again for awhile. I tried my best to keep him from discontinuing our study, but I think he already had his mind made up. He was beginning to understand my views and it is just too dangerous for a Jehovah’s Witness to start thinking on his own.
When I walked into the restaurant, I noticed that there was someone new with my Witness friend. He was a young man, but big. He had a large face, broad chest, wore a long, dark trench coat and looked like he had never heard a joke in his life. I greeted them both and we small talked a bit. I turned to the new Witness and said;
KW: So, tell me about yourself.
JW2: Uh… there’s not much to tell. I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and that’s my life.
I waited for more, but there was nothing.
KW: That’s it?
KW: You don’t like any sports? You don’t like any music? You don’t have any family?
JW2: I don’t have time for that.
JW1 Giggled at his comment and my response.
JW2: I’m always busy. I’m helping someone or doing something.
KW: Okay, this is a start. Tell me more.
I felt like the father of a teen-ager trying to get his kids to talk to him after school. “How was school son?”
“Good,” and then no conversation follows. Trying to get this guy to talk was like pulling teeth. JW1 jumped in to tell me more.
JW1: He just gained his freedom. He moved out on his own.
JW2 then began talking about how he tried to keep busy because he has a truck and people ask him to help when they move. A big, single guy with a truck is bound to get asked to help with moving and evidently he gets asked a lot. I spoke to him about setting good boundaries and that it is okay to sometimes say. “No.” I don’t think that thought ever occurred to him.
True to form, JW1 jumped into the discussion abruptly. We usually talk for anywhere from 30-45 minutes before we begin out actual study, but not today. Less than ten minutes after my arrival JW1 says;
JW1: So you pointed out Isaiah 44:24.
KW: Here we go.
We all opened our Bibles.
JW1: We have to look at it in context.
KW: Okay, let’s look at it.
My Elder friend pointed out that God was speaking to Israel at the beginning of the chapter. He added that this verse needs to be seen in a relative sense and that when God asks the question, “Who was with me?” God was supposedly only asking if any of the Israelites were with him.
I didn’t buy his explanation because not only were the Israelites not with Him, no one was because verse 24 is speaking about the act of creation itself.
JW1: But if you take it in context of Job 38:7, you see that someone was with Him.
KW: In context? How is the book of Job a context for Isaiah?
My elder friend began speaking about Job and how is the beginning of chapter 38, God asks Job a similar question, “Where were you when I founded the earth?” I saw what he was trying to do, but explained that the context is different in Job than it is in Isaiah. In Job, God is challenging Job one on one and asks him directly, “Where were you?” In Isaiah, Jehovah is challenging the existence of other Gods and asks the rhetorical question, “Who was with Me?” One is a challenge to an individual and the other is a challenge to everyone.
He read Job 38:1-7 and then answered the question that the angels were with God because they shouted for joy in verse seven. So, it wasn’t that no one was there, it is just that no one in the relative sense was there.
KW: You are mixing the contexts. Even in Job 38, Jehovah still says that He did the work of creation. Regardless of whether or not the angels existed before God created the earth, and I do believe they existed before, they were not involved in the act of creation because God said He did it by Himself.
Things were not going as planned for my Witness friend so he tried to tie Revelation 3:14 and 21:6 into the discussion. He actually did some research into the Greek language and admitted that one of the meanings for the Greek word translated “beginning” is origin or source. Obviously he didn’t want to hold to that possibility in Revelation 3:14, but at least he knew that it could be translated that way. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even know that. He spoke at length about a number of verses in Revelation and rather that counter all of his points, I decided to hear him out. I wanted him to make his entire case before I responded.
As he was working through some of the verses he said that he has never had a discussion this in-depth about the Trinity.
JW1: Usually we just show people John 14:28, “the Father is Greater than I am” and they look at that and say, “Oh yeah, you’re right.” It may go a little deeper than that, but you responded differently.
He then brought out the same Trinity graphic that he used last week and was confused by some of the answers I gave. I explained to him that because God is unique (Isaiah 40:25), any illustration we give of Him is going to be incomplete. I used the example of eternity. I honestly don’t get eternity. God has lived forever? Really? How does that even work?
The reason why I used eternity as an example is because there is section from their “Reasoning From The Scriptures” book which makes the same point. Obviously I couldn’t quote it to him because he would want to know how I knew this information, but the quote says, “Did God have a beginning? Ps. 90:2: ‘Before the mountains themselves were born, or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.’ Is that reasonable? Our minds cannot fully comprehend it. But that is not a sound reason for rejecting it. Consider examples: (1) Time. No one can point to a certain moment as the beginning of time. And it is a fact that, even though our lives end, time does not. We do not reject the idea of time because there are aspects of it that we do not fully comprehend. Rather, we regulate our lives by it.’”
I fully agree with this statement. If we do not fully understand time, and God created time, then why do we expect to be able to understand God? Is He limited to our understanding of him? Obviously not. Therefore, we should be open to allowing God to explain Himself in a way that may not make complete sense to us. This does not give us license to neglect our study of Him, but we shouldn’t expect to know everything about God. Interestingly enough, he agreed with me.
I told him that I had an illustration that I like to use, but then cautioned him that any illustration we give of God is going to be heretical at some point because God is unique. So while the illustration is limited, there are some things about it which can be helpful. I borrowed his pen and then asked if I could write on the graphic that he had. I told him I needed to scratch out the terms, Father, Son and Spirit.
JW1: Oh, I have something better for you.
He pulled out another sheet of paper with the same graphic, but each other the circles were blank so I could write whatever I wanted to in each circle.
KW: Oh, perfect! Look at you. How many of these things do you have?
Jw1 started giggling.
KW: Ok, remember. This illustration only goes so far, but it is the best I’ve got.
I wrote “H2O” in the center circle and then “Liquid, Solid and Gas” in the other circles.
KW: The Liquid is H2O. The solid is H2O, but it is not liquid because it is a solid. The gas is H2O, but it is not liquid or solid because it is gas. So when Christians use diagrams like this, what we are trying to say is each of these three different things consist of the same substance. Where the illustration fails is that Christians do not believe that the Father became the Son like water can become ice or gas.
Again, this illustration is not suggesting that the Father can become the Son and the Son can become the Spirit. We believe that each of these three forms illustrated in the graphic are really three coequal and coeternal persons. What that would mean in this graphic is that the liquid would always be liquid. It would never change to either gas or solid. The same thing applies with the gas and solid, they would always remain in their states coeternally. They are all coequal because they are all H2O, but existing as three different persons eternally. So I am not saying that the Father becomes the Son who then becomes the Spirit. What I am saying is that each of these three persons have always existed as the same substance and that is who God is. Does that help you understand my view a little bit more?
I asked that last question because I wanted him view this conversation as a learning exercise for both of us. I didn’t want him to think that I had assumed the teacher role and resigned him to be the student. We are just two friends trying to understand each other’s views so that we can better communicate with each other.
He agreed that it helped, but didn’t understand some other aspects of my explanation. I turned toward JW2 and jokingly asked;
KW: Did JW1 warn you that this was going to be a really deep conversation?
JW2: Uh… JW1 warned me a week ahead of time.
KW: Oh, so you guys planned this out a week ago?
JW1 laughed, denied it and then asked another question about another verse. I’ve had numerous people tell me they wish they would be a fly on the wall and listen to our conversations. I wish I could be a fly on JW1’s wall and hear what he says about me.
He again had trouble with the Father having authority over the Son and kept talking about the distinction in persons to which I agreed.
JW1: But then He can’t be the same being.
KW: He is not the same person. What someone is, is different than who that person is. I think you are starting to understand what I believe a little bit more, but you are still hung up on the hierarchy.
JW1: That is why I keep saying that we are closer then we think we are. One thing that still bothers me is that the Father sent the Son. You have a sender and one being sent. One has more authority over the other.
KW: Yes, I see what you are saying and that gets into another aspect about Jesus which we have not yet discussed. Part of the doctrine of Jesus, and it is a necessary component of the Trinity, is that Jesus is both fully Deity and fully Man at the same time. So when Jesus makes statements like “My Father, My God” in John 20:17, Jesus is relating to the Father as a Man as well as God the Son. Jesus has an additional nature that the Father doesn’t have. The Father never became a Man so that is another thing that you’ve got to try to wrap your mind around too.
I think you are starting to understand what I believe much more so than you did when we first started. It just takes time. These concepts are difficult to explain and they are concepts that you’ve never really heard before. I think we are making more progress in our communication because you are asking questions about what I believe and I am able to clarify what I believe and what I don’t. I do the same thing. There are things you believe that I am still trying to nail down which brings me back to Isaiah 44. I was thinking about this on the way home after last week’s meeting.
Again, I wanted JW1 to be comfortable with the thought that we were two friends learning from each other about their beliefs. I also wanted to get back to Isaiah 44:24 because I could tell that there were some things he hadn’t thought about based on his answer.
KW: I understand from what you have told me that Jehovah God directly created Jesus and then God through Jesus created everything else. I don’t see how that fits with Isaiah 44:24 because He says He did it by Himself, that He created everything and then asks the rhetorical question, “Who was with me?”
JW1: But does “everything” always mean “everything?”
KW: No, it doesn’t. It depends on the context, but when you put those three things together… Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Jehovah God really created everything and that Jesus didn’t create anything. How would you word Isaiah 44:24 so that I could understand that Jesus didn’t have any part of creation? That Jehovah alone created it. How would you word that and would it look any different than it does now?
I asked the question this way because it is obvious that this verse is problematic unless you have a Trinitarian view of God. This verse goes out of its way to say that Jehovah created everything by Himself. There is no indication here whatsoever that Jehovah created one thing which then created everything else.
My Witness friend brought up Donald Trump and how he “built” Trump Towers.” I answered that he couldn’t claim that he did it by himself, but regardless, he was missing the point. I was trying to get him to assume that God created everything by Himself. I wanted my Witness friend to explain to me how God could say He did it by Himself in such a way that we would not misunderstand and think that someone else helped Him.
JW1: It would be the same way that it is worded in Revelation 4:11, “because you created all things and because of your will they came into existence and were created.”
He was not getting it. If Revelation 4:11 is to give us the impression that God created everything by Himself and He didn’t have any help, then why do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus created everything other than Himself?
JW1: If Jesus had a beginning, it would still harmonize with Isaiah 44:24.
KW: I don’t see that. This is why I am asking this question because I don’t understand that.
My elder friend went right back to Job 38:7 and repeated the same argument. He was arguing in circles and relying on arguments I had already refuted. He also brought up Proverbs 8:22 which reads in the RNWT, “Jehovah produced me as the beginning of his way, The earliest of his achievements of long ago.” He likened Wisdom to Jesus saying that as wisdom was “produced” as spoken about in this verse, so Jesus was also created. He tried to move on to another verse, but I stopped him here.
KW: Hang on for a second. If you are saying that Jesus didn’t exist before God created Jesus, in other words, Jehovah was alone at one point, if you are saying that wisdom spoken here is Jesus, then you are saying that God wasn’t wise before He created wisdom.
He hadn’t thought of that before.
JW1: Let’s move on to 2nd Corinthians…
KW: Is it going to answer how God can be wise before He created wisdom?
JW1: Jehovah has always been wise.
KW: Then He didn’t produce wisdom.
JW1: That is why this is talking about Jesus.
I wanted to scream. Folks, this is cognitive dissonance at its finest. By interpreting a verse which says God produced wisdom to mean that God created Jesus because Jesus is wisdom personified, yet not believe that wisdom is created, is believing two opposite things at the same time. Simple logic tells us that if A=B and B=C, then A=C. If Wisdom is Jesus and Jesus was created, then Wisdom was created. I was too frustrated to try to argue this point so I let him move on.
He said he was looking for a verse out of 2nd Corinthians, but couldn’t find the one he was looking for. I took this as an opportunity to try an angle I thought about regarding Isaiah 44:24. As he was looking, I borrowed his pen again and bean writing.
Here is a witnessing tip. If a Jehovah’s Witness is looking for a Bible verse and you have a pretty good idea where he is going to go, unless you can use this verse to make your point, don’t help him out by telling him where the verse is located. I took advantage of this time of silence to prepare my next point by writing out Isaiah 44:24 and then re-wording it. I wrote out the following;
I am Jehovah Who created Everything.
I stretched out the heavens by Myself.
Who was with Me?
I am Jehovah who created one thing.
I didn’t stretch out the heavens by myself,
Jesus was with Me.
KW: Of these two statements, which one better reflects what you believe?
He stared at the sheet of paper for a full 30 seconds.
JW1: Neither of them.
KW: But the first one is what is written in the verse. From what I understand you to say, I would think that the way it is worded the second way is more reflective of what you believe. Jehovah only created one thing, Jesus. He didn’t stretch out the heavens by himself because Jesus was with Him.
He changed the subject and started asking why Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and not just claim to be God. He did not want to deal with Isaiah 44:24. He started bouncing around and bringing up unrelated verses. I kept trying to get back to the passage at hand, but he wasn’t interested in hearing me at this point. I think he was trying to avoid going back to Isaiah because of JW2. My point was solid and he knew it and didn’t want this 20 year old kid to start to question what the Watchtower teaches.
Surprisingly, JW2 jumped in a brought up a point.
JW2: Jesus was the representation of God while he was one earth. He is the representation of that wisdom that God has always had. There is a scripture in Romans 16:27 which says, “God alone is wise.” There is no wisdom except that which comes from God.
KW: So if God alone is wise and Jesus is the wisdom of God, then what would that make Jesus?
My Elder friend jumped in really quickly and directed the conversation back to Proverbs 8:22 saying that Jesus was created just like it says in the verse and that wisdom couldn’t be created because you need wisdom to be able to create.
KW: Right, which is why you can’t use this verse to say that Jesus was created. If this verse is talking about Jesus as wisdom and wisdom wasn’t created, then Jesus wasn’t created.
JW1: Jehovah was already all-wise before.
KW: Then he didn’t produce wisdom.
JW1: He did.
KW: But He already had it.
JW1: He produced Jesus.
I had two choices. I either had to laugh or choke him where he sat. I chose to laugh.
KW: This is what I am saying. I am trying to be consistent. If Jesus is created and Jesus is the wisdom of God, then the wisdom of God is created. But if the wisdom of God is eternal, and Jesus is the wisdom of God, then Jesus is eternal. It has to be one of those.
JW1: But what does eternal mean?
KW: Like when God says He is eternal, “From everlasting to everlasting, He is God” (Psalm 90:2).
JW1: In Jehovah’s case, yes, because He didn’t have a beginning.
JW2 jumped back into the discussion and took us back to Romans 16:27. I got the impression that he felt like he needed justify himself because he felt like he got spanked. He just dug his hole a little deeper so JW1 changed the subject again.
This wasn’t going very well. Usually JW1 tries to understand me instead of refute me, but I thought maybe JW2 must have been weaker in his faith or something because JW1 seemed like he was in protection mode. I’ll post the rest of the conversation tomorrow.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness elder friend.