This is a continuation of the conversation starting here.
We weren’t having a discussion, we were arguing. JW1 brought up another verse, Mark 10:18.
JW1: Jesus said, why do you call me good? Only God is good. Why didn’t He say He was God if He Himself was God?
KW: That is interesting because I look at this from a completely different perspective. I think Jesus was challenging the man because we only have two alternatives. If God alone is good and Jesus wasn’t God, then Jesus wasn’t good.
JW1: Compared to us He was pretty good.
KW: He wasn’t pretty good, He was perfect! I understand a lot of what you are saying, but what I am trying to do is understand Isaiah 44:24 from your perspective and I don’t get it. I really don’t get it.
I pointed back to the two statements I wrote.
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: One of these reflects what you’ve told me about your view and one of them reflects what is actually written in scripture. Jehovah either created one thing or He created everything. He either stretched out the heavens by Himself or He didn’t. He was either by himself or Jesus was with Him.
This is what I don’t understand about your view of this verse. As a Trinitarian, I don’t have any problems with the verse you are bring up in this discussion.
JW1: As a non-Trinitarian, I don’t have a problem with Isaiah 44:24.
KW: That is what I want to understand.
He again spoke about how God was telling Israel these things and challenging Israel. I showed him from the context how although God is speaking to Israel, He is challenging the existence of other Gods.
Isaiah 44:6- I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me.
Isaiah 44:8- Is there any God but me? No, there is no other Rock; I know of none.
Isaiah 44:9-17- Describes how men create their own gods.
Isaiah 44:18-20- Shows Jehovah mocking the idea that these gods are real.
Isaiah 44:21-24- Speaks of God’s special relationship to the nation of Israel and how He has redeemed them. He alone did this because there are no other gods.
He kept going in circles and brought up Job 38:7 and Donald Trump again. I responded that he couldn’t say he did it by himself and then ask the rhetorical question” who was with me?” because all the construction workers would raise their hands and answer, “We were!”
He completed ignored my answer and then switched to yet another verse speaking of how Jesus is subjected to the Father. I reminded him that if we are going to claim that subjection means less worth, then we have to say that wives are worth less than husbands because they are subject to them according to 1st Corinthians 11:3. Neither of us believes that we are better than our wives, but we both agree that there is a hierarchy within our relationship. Although the people in the relationship are equal, both willingly accept their roles.
I explained to him also that because Jesus has two natures, fully Deity and fully Man, there are going to be two sets of verses which talk about Jesus. Some verses will speak of His humanity and some will speak of His Deity. The confusion comes in when we try to apply the wrong sets of verses to the wrong nature. For instance, we cannot disclaim the Deity of Christ because Jesus was tired (John 4:6) as this is a verse speaking of him as a human. We also cannot discount His humanity because there are verses which speak of Him as being eternal (Isaiah 9:6) which is a characteristic that only God possesses. Jesus is uniquely the God-Man and that is what verses like John 3:16 mean when He is called the “only-begotten.” The Greek word means, unique or one of a kind.
JW2 asked some clarifying questions and understood where I was coming from. I think that scared JW1 who then excused himself to go to the restroom. While he was there, I felt led to explain a few things to JW2 about my relationship with JW1. He said that some times in his personal study he likes to challenge himself.
KW: I am so glad to hear you say this.
I took the opportunity to explain how JW1 and I focus on understanding each other instead of refuting each other because you can’t refute or even agree with a belief you do not understand. I talked about how I appreciate JW1 because we challenge each other and really try hard to understand the view of the other person first.
When JW1 came back he dropped the bomb.
JW1: Honestly, I don’t see a basis to continue our conversations.
KW: Why? JW2 and I were just talking about how good it is how you and I talk with each other.
JW1: No. You see, from this point on in the book when it refers to Jesus, we don’t even agree on who He is. We believe that He had a beginning and you don’t.
KW: I thought the whole point was to understand each other, not necessarily to agree. That is what I was just telling JW2. I’m really confused. I thought that was our point. We were trying to understand each other first. Did you want me to just agree with you?
KW: Do you want me to understand you?
KW: That is what I am trying to do.
That stunned him a bit, but he stuck to his decision.
JW1: Throughout our study we have just continued to agree to disagree.
KW: Then why do you keep saying that we are closer in our beliefs than I think?
JW1: Um… in the terms that God and Jesus are Divine, yes, but not that they are the same God.
KW: That is what I am learning from you.
JW1: We agree that God and Jesus are the same substance.
KW: I thought we didn’t agree on that. If God is eternal and according to your view, Jesus is not eternal, then they can’t be the same eternal substance because you believe that Jesus is of a created substance. Right?
My elder friend chuckled a bit and tried to defend his personal view, which by the way, is NOT what the Watchtower teaches.
JW: It is one thing to understand what someone believes, but it is another thing to agree or disagree.
KW: Right, but I can’t agree with you unless I understand you.
He chuckled again because he understood my point, but wanted to discontinue our meetings anyway. The truth of the matter is, he wanted me to agree with him and he was tired of trying to answer good, hard questions, but he didn’t want to admit that that all he wanted was my agreement. JW1 asked JW2;
JW1: Do you understand me?
JW2 nodded in agreement as if he had a choice.
KW: I don’t understand your idea of Isaiah 44:24. I understand some of the things you were bringing out in Revelation three, I happen to disagree., but the reason why I disagree is because of verse like this one. I think verses like that demand three coequal, coeternal persons. I don’t understand how your view can be reconciled with what the text plainly says. So I am trying to understand that. You said there is a whole lot more about this subject in this book, but we are only in chapter four paragraph 11. You also said there were other topic you wanted to talk about like the resurrection.
JW1: But if we can’t agree on this point, then we will not agree on the other points.
KW: Again, you are just looking for me to agree with you when all this time I was focusing on understanding. You’ve said it over and over again that you’ve never talked this in-depth with someone before about these issues. I am wondering what is behind your decision to stop meeting because if you have never talked with someone like this about these things, and you are learning more about what I believe and maybe that scares you.
JW1: No. I am learning what you believe and I see your point of view, but I still do not agree. My belief that there is no Trinity is stronger than it has even been. I actually appreciate that.
KW: Then why would you want to stop meeting if you appreciate strengthening your beliefs?
JW1: In order to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you would have to give up on that.
KW: Is that was this is all about? You are really not interested in learning, you are only interested in having me convert.
JW1: We leave it open and people can learn, but they make their own decisions.
KW: Why should someone commit to something if they don’t have all the information? You said it yourself, there is so much more you wanted to discuss, but you haven’t laid it all out.
Like I said, I am confused. I thought we were trying to understand each other, but now I am getting the impression that you just wanted to convert me and that was the only point in meeting.
JW1: Jesus said to go out and make disciples.
KW: Disciples who understand what they believe or disciples who are just going to believe everything you say? I feel like you want to end our friendship because you don’t see me becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.
JW1: But you are not accepting these points.
KW: I am trying to understand them first.
JW1: Well, there is a time limit too.
KW: Who says there is a time limit?
JW1: Like I said, I am not going to come here week after week and just continue to agree to disagree and be nice about it and that’s it. I could better spend my time looking for people who really want to know.
KW: So you are saying that I really don’t want to know?
JW1: That is the impression I get.
KW: Even though I’ve stated over and over that the object is to understand each other?
JW1: I see where you are coming from, but I don’t accept your point of view.
KW: I’m not asking you to. I am just asking you to understand it. That is what I have been doing with you. When I explain these things, I am trying to get you to understand it. If it is something you want to commit to later on, that is between you and God. My job is not to convert you.
My job is advertizing, not sales. I feel like you think that your job is sales. You are trying to give me a sales pitch to get me to become a Jehovah’s Witness even though I don’t understand some of the things you are talking about. Can you honestly say that you haven’t learned anything in these months that we’ve been meeting? I’ve learned a LOT!
JW1: I am not here to learn.
KW: You are not here to learn? Wow. That is scary because I was here to learn.
I was stunned. I’ve taught this point numerous times in Churches and even have articles on our web site about how Jehovah’s Witnesses are not interested in learning from people with other points of view, but is was shocking to actually here someone admit that they are not intending to learn. I know very well that they are trained to stay in the role of the teacher and expect the non-Witness to accept the role of the student, but if a teacher is not open to learning from their students, as well as teaching them, then that is a very poor excuse for a teacher. I fully expect to learn something whenever I teach, including my conversation with this Jehovah’s Witness elder. I think he realized how ridiculous his statement sounded because he immediately stated;
JW1: Oh, I learned a lot. I, uh… learned about this thing… and uh…
He was fumbling over his words because he could see the shock and disgust on my face. He managed to spell out a few things that he has learned about my beliefs, said they were interesting, but that he still didn’t agree.
KW: I’m not asking you to agree. If our discussion is interesting, then that is enough for me.
JW1: I’ve brought you all my arguments and you can either accept them or not.
KW: Which I will not so unless I first understand them.
JW1: I take comfort in the fact that not even Jesus Himself could convince everyone so what else can I say?
KW: Well, I’m disappointed.
JW1: Sorry to disappoint, but there is nothing I can do.
We sat there in silence for awhile. I think JW2 was just as stunned as I was. Obviously he was going to back up whatever decision JW1 made, but I know he found it as ironic as I did that JW1 discontinued our conversations immediately after I had just finished bragging about how JW1 was intent on understanding me and how much I appreciated that.
KW: I’ve told you that I am here to learn and you’ve admitted that you are not. I get the impression that you want me to agree with you and then hope that understanding comes later. I’ll never do that because that is how people get involved in high controlled religions and I have some friends who are involved in religions like that.
KW: High controlled religions where people are expected to believe because the authority said so and if you don’t agree with what the authority said, then something is wrong with you.
JW1: If you want to learn, you could come to the Kingdom Hall.
KW: I couldn’t have a conversation like this at a Kingdom Hall. If your meetings are anything like the one I went to when I met you, there is no venue for asking questions. That is the whole reason why you offered to have the Bible study with me so that we could talk because we couldn’t talk there.
JW1: That is what we usually do, yes.
KW: Do you really l think I would learn more at a Kingdom Hall than what I’ve learned here in our conversations?
JW1: What is the point if you don’t accept it?
I only said one word and I said it with emphasis.
Right then his phone rang. He quickly answered it and as he began talking to his wife, I muttered to myself, “This sucks.” I said it loud enough that he could hear me and definitely loud enough for JW2 to hear it as he was sitting next to me. JW1 was uncomfortable talking to me and I could tell he was uncomfortable making me wait for him to get off the phone too. When he finally hung up, he said;
JW1: I have to be honest about this. This is how I feel. This is how I see it. We’ve always been this way with each other. You’re the kind of guy who says what he thinks. That’s good.
KW: Evidently it’s not good enough because I’m just expected to believe.
JW1: No, not just expected.
KW: I’ll tell you what. I’ve got to be honest too, JW1. I knew, I knew when we got into chapter four, you were going to drop me. I knew it, because of your reactions to this particular doctrine the other three times you wanted to break up.
JW1: I didn’t count them. It was three times?
KW: Yep and each time we were talking about the deity of Christ, the Trinity or the false prophecy thing. That is why I thought it was good when you just wanted to move on in the book because there were other doctrines you wanted to talk about like the ransom, resurrection, the kingdom and the soul. There were a host of other things that you wanted to teach me. But I knew you didn’t like this doctrine so much, that I was never going to be able to get through chapter four.
I don’t know what to say about that. I think it sucks for one because I don’t understand why you can’t look at something, try to understand where I am coming from, teach it to me in a way where I understand where you are coming from and then move on to the next chapter.
JW1: Students don’t learn for one of two reasons. Either the teacher is not capable or the student is an under-performer, they don’t want to learn. I don’t know which one it is in this case, Maybe I’m just not getting it across to you, but in the end, you will have to do the convincing yourself.
KW: But you haven’t laid it all out because we are only in chapter four.
JW1: What I am saying is that if I can’t convince you by this point, then I am not going to be able to convince you.
KW: So you are giving up.
JW1: This is a pivotal point.
KW: Did you accept what these books teach right away?
JW1: I grew up as a Witness.
KW: But you’ve told me about your childhood. You weren’t always a Witness.
JW1: I hardly ever questioned it.
KW: Really? Hmm. Here is the way I see it. I feel like I am being punished because I am a Berean. I want to search the Scriptures to see what they say and I am trying to understand. I’ve told you that I will not convert unless I understand and there are some things I don’t understand, but that isn’t good enough for you because you just want me to convert regardless of whether or not I understand it. I guarantee you that we would meet next week if I told you that I don’t understand this, but I’ll believe it. Would you still break up with me? Or would you say, “That’s fine, you’ll get it later. Let’s just keep studying.”
I was angry now. I wanted him to see the frustration that is natural when someone is faced with either towing a line they do not believe in or losing fellowship with a friend. Countless former Witnesses feel this kind of frustration when they are kicked out of an organization and shunned simply for disagreeing with a doctrinal issue.
JW1: Even if you said you believed it, I wouldn’t believe you because you are not that kind of guy.
KW: Right, you are looking for somebody who is just going to accept it because that is what you did. I’m a Berean JW1. I’m a Berean and if that is too much for you, then I guess I agree that we shouldn’t be meeting. If my search and study of the scriptures is not enough to impress you to keep studying, then the only other option is blind obedience and you’ll never get that out of me. I wonder how many Jehovah’s Witnesses there are who blindly obey and who really aren’t Bereans.
JW1: Well, we’re all encouraged to be Bereans.
KW: Except, of course, when it comes to guys like me.
JW1: I guess you’re a tough nut to crack.
KW: Too tough, right? You don’t love me enough to try.
JW1: I’ve tried many months.
KW: Yeah, but I’m too tough.
JW1: I guess so.
KW: Well, I’m going to go home.
I got up from the table and went to the cash register to order some food. As I was standing there, both Witnesses came up to me and wanted to shake my hand. I shook them, but said, “Friends shake hands. I feel like you just broke up with me.
JW1: Friends shake hands? What are you talking about? What do you mean?
KW: Like I said, I feel like you’re breaking up with me, like you aren’t willing to be my friend any more.
My voice quivered a bit as I was genuinely sad. I was a bit embarrassed, but I thought it was good for him to see the raw emotion. Confusion. Frustration. Anger. All that was going through my mind at the same time.
JW1: That’s the way you feel? There’s nothing I can do.
KW: A friend would try.
JW1: Alright. Bye.
He turned around and walked out of the restaurant. The next morning I texted him and said, “Sorry about my anger yesterday. I was shocked and hurt. Still am.”
He replied, “No problem.” That is the last I have heard from him. I wasn’t sure if he would contact me and invite me to this year’s memorial or not, but I wasn’t shocked when he didn’t. I decided to go to a different Kingdom Hall and I ended up meeting another elder with whom I will be meeting.
Hopefully our discussions will be as productive and was this series. Even though it ended roughly, I still learned a lot and I know he has plenty to think about too. I have also received numerous positive comments from people who have learned a lot from reading my conversations. That has given me great satisfaction. It has taken awhile for me to post this last report because quite frankly, it was not something I was looking forward to reliving. Even though the chances are that this next set of conversations will end up the same way, I think it is worth it to try. A real friend would try.
Please continue to pray for my previous Jehovah’s Witness elder friend as well as the new one.