Month 12:03, Week 1:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year 5935:319 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 24 February 2012
Right & Wrong Reasoning with Scripture
An unexpected visit by a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses yesterday got me to do some serious thinking about the way we judge people. I have had visits from many people from this group over the years and have always admired their missionary zeal even if I have not thought much of their doctrine. The blindness and arrogance of many of them has both saddened and irritated me though this is by no means a fault unique to only them. Most of them are so brainwashed that they don't have an original thought in their head and even if they did, they wouldn't be allowed to retain it. If ever there was a cult, the 'Witnesses' qualify not because they are docrinally wrong (who isn't) but because there is little evidence of the joy of redemption. They are the prisoners of a system which, like Pharaoh, will not let them go.
"To such a one I look: on him who is poor and bruised of spirit, and who trembles at My Davar (Word)" (Is.66:2b, ISRV).
However, it would be quite wrong to simply categorise every single Jehovah's Witness in such a general way simply because the organisation they belong to is keeping them mentally enslaved to their every whim and error. My two visitors yesterday were elderly gentlemen and had they not told me their religious affiliation or doctrine I would have had a hard time marking them down as 'cultists'. Simple-minded, perhaps, but in not 'dangerous' in any obvious way. They treated me with respect, did not attack my beliefs, were warm-hearted and considerate.
They were surprised, I think, that I knew so much about their teachings, the way they approach people, the logic and reasoning they use. I could tell that these old gentlemen had read and memorised their training manual, Reasoning from the Scriptures, just as Mormon missionaries know their missionary lessons word-for-word and repeated verbatim to investigators. After all, these old gentlemen had been doing this for over 40 years and 'practice makes perfect', even in untruth. I knew they would never read literature other than Watchtower material so did not bother giving them anything of our own. They are forbidden by their organisation from receiving anything from anyone else. There is therefore no free enquiry, no freedom to honestly search, and no love lost if any 'apostatise' from the organisation. Indeed, they treat their own families like the plague if they abandon their faith and won't even talk to them. These are, in my view, the worst aspects of this religion, issues surrounding the deaths children because they are forbidden blood transfusions aside.
Many Christians simply harrange Jehovah's Witnesses as though they were untouchable lepers, forgetting that they are people just like themselves and children of Elohim (God) by creation. My hope was to plant a few seeds and trust that the Ruach (Spirit) would somehow work on their unconscious for they have been trained not to allow anything supernatural impact them in their conscious state. This is indeed a tragedy. But they are at least open to the Scriptures, even if it is their own doctored New World Translation.
I met the Jehovah's Witnesses early on in my spiritual journey and I learned much from them and especially their passion for studying the Scriptures. Their 1,696 page-long Aid to Bible Understanding was a book, and its twin-volumed successor (Insight on the Scriptures), I much enjoyed studying in my early Bible exploration days, whilst hopping over the 'iffy' teachings. Their missionary book, Reasoning from the Scriptures, correctly states:
Of course, this has to be seen within the context of of the time when everyone was religious and the main audience of the apostles was - at least at first - Jewish, people who were rooted in the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures). Obviously Paul reasoned with these scriptorians, not the pagans who had no knowledge of them, approaching the latter principally from another angle, namely, telling about the resurrection of Messiah (something the Jehovah's Witnesses deny, one of their cardinal errors) and what it meant to be spiritually regenerated in terms of receiving a new life. Like the Pharisees before them, who had totally missed the way and were not serving the Elohim (God) of their forefathers but the devil himself, the Witnesses "search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life" (John 5:39, NKJV) and yet completely miss the Derech (Way). There are many unsaved Messianics whom I would bracket in the same category, who believe that Torah is their salvation instead of Torah and Elohim (God) Incarnate, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
"The pattern to follow helping others to understand the Bible is that provided by Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah) and his apostles. In answer to questions, Jesus (Yah'shua) quoted scriptures and at times used appropriate illustrations that would help honest-hearted persons to be receptive to what the Bible says (Matt.12:1-12). The apostle Paul made it a practice to "reason from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references" what he taught (Acts 17:2-3)" (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985: p.7).
For our two Jehovah's Witness friends their approach to me, a minister, was wholly appropriate. These days, though, and particularly here in Sweden which is one of the most secularised countries in the West, such an approach is rarely fruitful. Even they were struggling with a tiny congregation of only about 35 souls and found it hard to make converts in a land blinded by its own secular brainwashing. Theology may be of primary interest to other believers but to sceptical atheists, who have had plenty of time to assemble their anti-Christian and anti-Bible 'missionary manuals', it is pretty ineffective unless you are an accomplished scriptorian and know the Davar (Word) thoroughly and in depth. They too have their equivalent of Reasoning from the Scriptures such as Richard Dawkin's anti-Christian diatribes or the massive online Skeptics Annotated Bible, with its extensive commentaries, that seeks to pull the Scriptures apart verse by verse. (There are plenty of good websites exposing their errors and dishonest methodology, incidentally). Yes, there are many 'evangelical atheists' around these days, people zealous to convert believers to their own nihilistic Darwinist fairy-godmother religion.
Yes, Paul reasoned using the Scriptures with those who believed in them, and won many converts that way, but such an approach with the pagans would have badly misfired. He even tried philosophy with the Athenian 'sages' and came to regret his error. What won the pagans was a combination of the supernatural in action rooted in the physical resurrection and baptism of the Ruach (Spirit) accompanied by incomprehensible, redemptive ahavah (love). Only then did they start to take an interest in the Scriptures.
Even with a mutilated New World Translation Bible (translated by men who had little or no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek with only a doctrinal axe to grind) and believing many theological errors, it was obvious to me that these two Jehovah's Witnesses had something that pagans and atheists do not, namely, a degree of spiritual truth and many good morals, but not enough to gain them access to either Heaven or their Millennial Kingdom, for it was apparent that they had not been born again and did not have an immersion in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Yet there was a sprinkling of the Ruach (Spirit) and these ones were, at any rate, nice people who would have made good neighbours. In that respect, they were not at all unlike many unregenerated Christians and Messianics who believe they are in the Kingdom because of what they suppose is their 'doctrinal correctness'. These are what I call mem-taw people, the 'good law-abiding neighbour' possessing many elements of the Besorah (Gospel) but missing that vital, saving component (see Christian Humanism: Is It Biblical?), not knowing - or wanting to know - about the Cross:
The complete believer cannot expect to be recongised by Yahweh and make shalom (peace) with Him until He has recongised the awful sinful condition of His soul, sought pardon at the seat of grace, and received the salvation of the Cross. Without this, everything we do is mere humanism, itself not bad but of no value as far as the eternities are concerned. This requires, as Isaiah teaches, "who is poor and bruised of spirit, and who trembles at My Davar (Word)" to surrender everything, including the Pharisaic belief that a knowledge and application of the Scriptures in human strength alone, is of no consequence. It requires that the soul own a humble, poor in pride, meek and gentle disposition - those devoid of racial or spiritual superiority and are willing to go the extra mile, without compulsion or threat, of his own free will. The Psalmist declared that Yahweh was near to those that are brokenhearted, saving those who are humble in spirit (Mt.5:3), being teachable and reprovable for error, whether moral or theological. The Witnesses, like Mormons and many others, are self-made and unteachable kings who commit the sin of idolatry, worshipping an institution of fallible men whose track record in so many areas - not least in prophecy and theology - is appalling.
Messiah came to introduce, for the first time, the weapons of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which the Witnesses and others like them reject, that would create a new lev (heart) and write a New Covenant, not on stone tablets or upon paper, but upon human levim (hearts). This fundamental emet (truth) and revelation the Jehovah's Witnesses have totally missed. They hide behind a wall of man-made doctrines and expose little, if anything, of their levim (hearts), for they have little or nothing to witness of in terms of spiritual renewal and what Yah'shua (Jesus) has actually done in their lives. Their witness is essentially Watchtower regurgitated gnosis or knowledge.
They say that there are those who keep people bound to the cradle but the great sin of the Jehovah's Witnesses is that they shelter their people from being spiritually conceived and subsequently born-again in the Ruach (Spirit) because that would set them free from dependency on the weakness of the human flesh in terms of their own organisation and system of religion (which they falsely call 'The Truth') and their own minds. The sad thing is that they are such prisoners, lacking even the counterfeit 'burning in the bosom' of the Mormons masquerading as the Ruach (Spirit). Theirs is a sterile spiritual life, consisting of slavishly going from door-to-door sharing their own version of Gnosticism.
I pray for these elderly gentlemen, as I do for all the Jehovah's Witnesses, that the scales may fall from their eyes and they be shown the liberating freedom of the Master in all Emet (Truth) - the Emet (Truth) that starts in the lev (heart) when a soul is convicted of sin, realises he can do nothing about it in terms of his own works, repents and surrenders his life unconditionally to the resurrected Messiah. Only after that is a zeal for the Scriptures and of Torah-obedience (which they reject, like Protestants) of any value. Only then should we start reasoning with others for our greatest witness will always be a changed life and not a theological dictionary.
The two old gentlemen who visited me yesterday did have some good, commendable things that the world absolutely needs to learn but they were fundamentally lacking in the essentials of the emunah (faith), and were not, therefore, true witnesses of Yahweh (Is.43:10,12; 44:8).