Monday, 16 July 2012

The twists, tricks and tragedy of Watchtower indoctrination

I was intrigued to listen to a debate on the Unbelievable? radio show over the last couple of weeks on “Jehovah’s Witness” doctrine.  I found it quite striking that they had to get a disfellowshipped American to defend the Watchtower beliefs because no one from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in the UK was prepared to participate.  Anyway...

The JW defender (Robert) made the same usual errors and employed the typical JW strategy, i.e. fire out as many “proof texts” as possible knowing that they all can’t be dealt with, and not knowing the first thing about the context of any of them (I assume ignorance on their part because otherwise the only other option is blatant dishonesty).  For example, Robert was asked if he was saved.  Now for any Bible believing Christian this is a question that we can immediately and gladly answer “Yes!” because, as Paul said in Ephesians 2 v 8-9 it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  We can be sure we have been saved because it is provided by the unmerited favour of God, and is received by faith apart from works. 

Rather than answer yes or no, Robert had to hesitate and say no one can be saved now.  He then went on to assert that Paul wasn’t sure because he said he was still following after it, so he didn’t have it, and he said we are to work out our own salvation.  Sadly those quotes were wrenched out of their context and the fast flowing current of the debate didn’t permit them to be put back in context again.  Paul was not talking about pursuing salvation in Philippians 3 (Robert never mentioned what passage he was citing).  He was certain of his salvation, as the first part of the chapter shows, because he had abandoned all confidence in his own efforts, and had put his trust entirely in Christ, and thus had been given the righteousness of God by faith.  What he was pursuing was perfection, Christ-likeness.  He says he hasn’t got there, and won’t get there this side of the Lord’s coming, but he will get it at the Lord’s coming.  Just read the passage!

As regards working out your own salvation, that is from the previous chapter.  Many Christians make the point that you can only work out what God has worked in, and so it is merely talking about living out your salvation.  That is a good point, but I have to say, I don’t even think Paul is speaking about personal salvation from sin and judgment in this passage.  I think he is talking about the assembly at Philippi working out their corporate salvation from the problems that were threatening to divide them, and they would do that by following the example of Christ’s self-humbling given earlier in the chapter.  Just read the passage (a passage by the way which tells us that Christ is in nature God)!

The other thing I wanted to mention in this post is Robert’s understanding of the phrase “the Son of God”.  He said that a son is younger than the father, comes from the father, and is subordinate to the father.  Unfortunately Robert just completely misses the point in the way the Bible uses the term.  When the Bible talks about Christ being God’s Son, it is not saying He is God’s male child.  The term “Son of God” means that He possesses the same nature and all the attributes of God.  Think of the term “the Son of man” as used of Christ.  The Lord Jesus was not the son of any man, but He had the nature and attributes of true and perfect manhood.  Think of Barnabas – the son of encouragement – is he younger than encouragement?  Did he come from encouragement?  Is he subordinate to encouragement?  No, no, no!  He is the embodiment of encouragement – it is what characterises him.  The Bible says about us that we are (without salvation) sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2 v 1-3) – the point is disobedience is our very nature and character.  When the Bible says Jesus Christ is the Son of God it is telling us He has the nature, character and attributes of God.  That is precisely how the Jews understood it, and the Lord did nothing to say their understanding was incorrect (e.g. John 5v 17-18)!

Who Christ is and how to be saved are just about the two most important things we need to get right.  Tragically Robert, and all JWs have got them wrong, and they therefore have no Saviour and no hope.