Tuesday, 26 February 2008

No Independent Study

In a Kingdom Ministry towards the end of last year the Question Box was:

“Does ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ endorse independent groups
of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate? -
Matt. 24:45, 47.”

The answer began very simply, “No, it does not.”

It then goes on to explain that not heading this advice there are, in various parts of the world, a few members of the organisation have actually formed groups to do independent research on Bible-related subjects. Some have even had the audacity to pursue an independent group study of Biblical Hebrew and Greek so as to analyse the accuracy of the New World Translation. Still others we are told have explored scientific subjects relating to the Bible and have then created websites and chat rooms for the purpose of exchanging and debating their views. They have even held conferences and produced publications to present their findings and to supplement what is provided at our Christian meetings and through our literature.

I know many churches that would be delighted that their people were searching the Scriptures. Indeed the very Bible that the Governing Body is said to feed people with tells us to check all things out carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that it was noble people in Berea that investigated what Paul had said to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

The answer went on to say:

“Under the guidance of his holy spirit and on the basis of his Word of truth,
Jehovah provides what is needed so that all of God's people may be ‘fitly united
in the same mind and in the same line of thought’ and remain ‘stabilized in the
faith.’ (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 2:6, 7) Surely we are grateful for Jehovah's
spiritual provisions in these last days. Thus, ‘the faithful and discreet slave’
does not endorse any literature, meetings, or websites that are not produced or
organized under its oversight.”

If we examine this carefully we will note the contradiction in what is said. The guidance comes from the Holy Spirit and if each person is seeking the Holy Spirit he or she will come to the same conclusion because the Holy Spirit only teaches one thing. However, it is not whether the Holy Spirit approves or not it is whether they approve or not. This is not leadership but control. They go on:

“It is commendable for individuals to want to use their thinking ability in
support of the good news. However, no personal pursuit should detract from what
Jesus Christ is accomplishing through his congregation on earth today. In the
first century, the apostle Paul warned about getting involved in exhausting,
time-consuming subjects, such as ‘genealogies, which end up in nothing, but
which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God
in connection with faith.’ (1 Tim. 1: 3-7) All Christians should strive to ‘shun
foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for
they are unprofitable and futile.’-Titus 3:9.”

Now we have the red herring – when you check out God’s Word and what the original text means you are not spending time in genealogies that end up with further questions nor are you engaging in unprofitable actions – you are allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal to you richness and as it were breathe into you the very sayings that were God-breathed (1 Timothy 3:16) out in the first place. Rather than encouraging people to grow in God and seek His revelation, they are condemning them to second-hand information that may or may not be true.
Finally the answer gives some clear advice:

“For those who wish to do extra Bible study and research, we recommend that they
explore Insight on the Scriptures, All Scripture Is Inspired of God and
Beneficial, and our other publications, such as those that discuss the
prophecies found in the Bible books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation. These
provide abundant material for Bible study and meditation, whereby we can be
‘filled with the accurate knowledge of [God's] will in all wisdom and spiritual
comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing
him as [we] go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the
accurate knowledge of God.’-Col. 1:9, 10.”
So there we have it; our words are as rich and fulfilling as the Lord’s Word. Study what we have said and you will get light and revelation but study the Scriptures themselves and you might end up disagreeing with us. I wonder why?

One Former Witness sent the article in with the following comment:

“An excellent example of the extent of the information control the Society now
insists on. Even studying Biblical Greek and Hebrew is frowned upon. It is
presented here as something wrong because the motive of those pursuing such a
study is to highlight inaccuracies in the NWT.

“I can remember a few
years ago thinking about studying Biblical Greek. My motive was never to
criticise the NWT, it was purely to have a better understanding of Scripture,
unfortunately as an elder I was on a treadmill of activity that didn’t allow
time to do this anyway.

“Surely others too have studied Hebrew and Greek
with the motive of having a better understanding of Scripture; I can’t imagine
that it’s too much of a wild guess to say that brothers have done this and then
found the inaccuracies of the NWT. Presenting such study here as wrong, the
Society obviously wants to prevent others from discovering these inaccuracies.

“Interesting too, the Revelation book and others are described as
'accurate knowledge of God’s will’, even though they keep having to change it
because it’s wrong, as seen with the recent alterations.”

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Mormonism 101 » GetReligion

It seems that "Mormon studies" is becoming popular in American educational establishments. Endowed chairs have already been established ate Claremont Graduate University and Utah State College. Now Harvard is offering a course on, "Mormonism and the American Experience". Much has been written about this development and the link below takes you to a very good commentary on the GetReligion blog, where a lively and interesting discussion is going on and where I posted the following comment:

This is a very interesting development. First of all, it does seem inevitable because, no matter which way you cut it, Mormonism is an integral part of American history and to exclude it from serious academic study is not a serious option. However, I wish they would stop repeating the ridiculous claim (in the original article) that this is one of the fastest churches in the world. Then of course there is the fiction that they have 13m “adherents”. Adherents suggests people who take the faith seriously enough to adhere to its tenets and actively involve themselves in its programmes. This is patently not the case.

But there is the problem of the Boyd K Packer (Mormon apostle) approach to historical research:

“I have come to believe that it is the tendency for many members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and leader-ship, present and past, by the principles of their own profession. Oft-times this is done unwittingly, and some of it, perhaps, is not harmful... There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher Of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful...

It is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to measure the Church using the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his standard. In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extensive academic studies, to judge the professions of man against the revealed word of the Lord."

The Mormon Church is not "The Church of Jesus Christ". That title goes to the body of believers in all legitimate denominations (and non-denominational believers) across the world, of which Mormonism keeps claiming to be a part. In any event, they will find it impossible to censure non-Mormon scholars with such heavy-handed methods as excommunication. And they will have to get used to having a lower level of control on what academia has to say about Mormon history, beliefs and praxis than they are used to insisting upon. This is not going to be easy for an institution built on paranoia and, surprised to find itself “respectable”, a parvenu spirit.

Further, how will academia respond to a church that guards its historical documents as jealously as governments guard their secrets? It will be interesting to see a) how far the church will co-operate with those showing an interest b) how non-Mormons will respond when they are frustrated in their attempts to arrive at historical truth and c) how successful the Mormon Church will be in insinuating their correlated version of their faith and it's history into people's minds. Will these studies find the Tanner’s lifetime’s work of collating and recording Mormon documents useful? If so, what then?

Mormonism 101 » GetReligion

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

I'm Against it But...

Some time ago a Moscow court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses activities in the city should be banned. Grounds for the ruling were said to have been “inciting religious discord, breaking up families, violating individual citizen’s rights, inclining people to commit suicide, and luring teenagers and minors”. The Witnesses have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. The Russian Orthodox Church has said it welcomed the decision.

The result of this is that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and other parts of Russia have already experienced problems due to publicity surrounding the ruling in the Russian press. Apparently the Russian press omitted to inform readers that the ruling was not yet law and so not enforceable. As a result Witnesses’ freedoms have been hindered on the basis of what amounts to no more than a legal opinion. Human rights activists are watching developments and have warned that it is a measure of religious freedom in Russia.


A JW spokesman has also said, “It sends a signal through Russia that this is what we need to do”.

This highlights the paradox we face in ministry in that we, like the “official” religious leaders in Russia, are concerned about the activities of those whom we regard as counterfeits of the true Christian faith. On the other hand, the freedom that allows us to express our concerns and bring them to the attention of the public is also afforded to those whose teachings we question. They have a right to knock doors and tell people how they see it. This is democracy and, until Jesus comes again and sets up the true theocracy, this is the best system we have. You see, restrictive regimes that appear to allay our deepest fears by outlawing those elements of society which concern and worry us, may seem to serve our best interests – until someone with influence expresses concern about us and our activities.

Pastor Niemoellor, a political prisoner of the Nazis, expressed it best when he wrote:

First they came for the communists
And I did not speak out –
because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out –
because I was not a trade unionist.

Next they came for the Catholics
And I did not speak out –
because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Everyone puts their truth claims “out there”, even if it is the indolent claim that truth claims are not worth the paper they are written on. It is a basic human right, we feel, to be wrong, just as it is a basic human right to argue for the right, to try and influence people’s thinking and outlook, to persuade them to your point of view – to tell them the truth. The problem comes when we feel we are so right that we go beyond words and persuasion and inflict and impose our “truth”.



Of course, the ultimate sanction is the one Jesus will bring when He comes again and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Until then there needs to be a degree of humility in our truth telling as we seek to help people realise before that day that He is, indeed, Lord and it would be better to bow willingly and confess readily to the true Jesus than to the counterfeit. After all, if it is God’s truth we are proclaiming we must believe that it will prevail by God’s power and in God’s time. We are called simply to proclaim it and should be glad for the freedom we currently have to do so.

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Constructive Curmudgeon: The Man Who Would Be God is Dead

A very good piece on the passing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi by Douglas Groothuis, the original constructive curmudgeon

The Constructive Curmudgeon: The Man Who Would Be God is Dead

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Ayatollah of Canterbury

We all know by now that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have turned native and proposed the adoption of Islamic Sharia law as an "enlighted" move that all reasonable people are bound to applaud. It's the kind of thing that makes you shocked though not entirely surprised and causes you to ask "what is the Archbisop of Canterbury for exactly?" Here are some links to key articles that sum up what the man has said and help us cut throught he spin his office has put on this story in recent days, as well as useful information about the exact implications of what he is suggesting. It really is important to know what is being proposed, sometimes even already accomplished in our name in the UK and to make our feelings known. In an excellent article in the Mail on Sunday Peter Hitchens comments:

"I know of nowhere else where those most richly rewarded by a free society are so anxious to trash the place that gave them birth and liberty. "

http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/mailonsunday.html?in_page_id=1791&in_article_id=513284&in_author_id=224

An article in the Wall Street Journal carried the comment:

"Mr. Williams appears to be suggesting some form of "Shariah lite," as if one could pick the bits of Islamic jurisprudence that might be acceptable in Western democracies and reject the rest. That's an awfully slippery slope. The best guarantee for social cohesion and religious freedom is the primacy of secular law that's blind to anyone's faith."

http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120277071333660405.html

While Melanie Phillips, author of the alrmingly revealing book Londonistan (Gibson Square, 2006), in a Daily mail article pulled no punches, calling Rowan Williams an "arch-muddler, cynical, disingenuous to the point of being downright misleading". In the article she gives "seven dealdy reasons why the Archbishop shouldn't be allowed to get away with it" and ends:

"Don't forget Dr Williams is the head of a church whose members, in countries such as Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere, are being persecuted, harassed, attacked, forcibly converted and murdered in large numbers at the hands of the enforcers of sharia law.

By proposing to entrench sharia law in Britain, he has both betrayed his besieged flock worldwide and weakened Britain against the danger that it faces from the same Islamist enemy that threatens Christians around the world.

That, disgracefully, is what the Synod rose to its feet to applaud when it gave Dr Williams its standing ovation.

No, there was no public misunderstanding over the Archbishop's remarks. People understood precisely what he was saying.

But now he has compounded that gross misjudgment by spinning it as cynically as any venal politician. For shame. "

Read her "Seven Deadly Reasons":

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/dailymail.html?in_article_id=513981&in_page_id=1790&in_author_id=256&expand=true#StartComments

But perhaps most importantly are the words of Christians who deal with this issue on the ground every day. The Barnabus Fund has issued the following response to the Archbishop's speech:

http://www.barnabasfund.org/news/archives/article.php?ID_news_items=386

Final Comment

We live in a multicultural society, that is an established fact. It is very like the world into which the gospel was taken by the apostles and we need to take to heart the words of Paul:

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be carefulto do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone" (Ro.12:17/18)

But we must never forget that Christ is the only way, that we are called as Christians to take the good news to everyone, and we are instructed to, "Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3).

If the Archbishop had made this his sole aim, to know only Christ and him crucified, and speak for the faith he purports to lead then maybe he would have drawn plaudits instead of criticism, and gained a better reputation for an already beleagured Christian Church in the UK.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Awake! to the Watchtower

The following is a sample chapter from the Reachout Trust Book – Awake! to the Watchtower. It is an in-depth look at the Watchtower Society especially in Britain and a valuable help to get us ready to communicate with the Jehovah’s Witnesses we meet.

The full product can be ordered direct from the Reachout Trust website at:

http://shopping.reachouttrust.org/Shopping/reachout.nsf/(ProductsByCode)/A001

5. The Godhead — Jesus

Summary

Jehovah’s Witnesses Teach:

1 Jesus is a created Being
2 He is the same person as the Archangel Michael
3 He is ‘a god’ but not Almighty God.

Evangelical Christians Teach:

1 Jesus is eternal
2 Jesus cannot be an angel
3 Jesus is God

See: Heb.7:3, 1:7, 8 and John 1:1

Who Is Jesus?

The Watchtower belief can be seen in the Watchtower publication, The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, 1991, and it is different from the Jesus in the Bible:

“But more than that happens as Jesus is baptized. ‘The heavens are opened up’ to him. What does this mean? Evidently it means that while he is being baptized, the memory of his pre-human life in heaven returns to him. Thus, Jesus now fully recalls his life as a spirit son of Jehovah God, including all the things that God spoke to him in heaven during his pre-human existence.” - Section 12, p.2.

“However at his baptism, Jesus enters into a new relationship with God, becoming also God’s spiritual Son.” - Section 12, p.3.

“‘Unless anyone is born from water and spirit,’ Jesus explains, ‘he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ When Jesus was baptized and holy spirit descended upon him, he was thus born ‘from water and spirit’... Later, at Pentecost 33 CE, other baptized ones will receive holy spirit and will thus also be born again as spiritual sons of God.” - Section 17, p.2.

The Watchtower Jesus:

1 Is only a spirit Son of God.
2 Only became God’s spiritual Son at baptism
3 Needed to be born again to see God’s kingdom.

Is this the Jesus portrayed in the Bible?

Is Jesus A Created Being?

The Watchtower says that Jesus is a spiritual son because Jehovah created Him. In this regard they quote Rev.3:14. In the NWT this reads that Jesus is “the beginning of the creation by God”, which seems to confirm the Watchtower belief that Jesus is the first one to be created by Jehovah. But does this verse say that?

The KIT shows that the Greek is “of God” not “by God” and this puts a different light on the verse. The KIT also shows that the Greek word translated ‘beginning’ is arche. In some versions this word is translated ‘source’ or ‘origin’; which one is right? Think of the English word ‘architect’ and you see that they are all right; it means beginning in the sense of source. The architect is the source and designer of the whole building.

Put these two things together and we see that Rev.3:14 says that Jesus is the source of all God’s creation, not the first one to be created.

“Arche means a beginning. The root arch - primarily indicated what was of worth. Hence the verb archo meant ‘to be first’ and archon denoted a ruler. So also the idea of a beginning, the origin, the active cause, whether a person or thing.” -Vine, Vol. 1, p.111.

The Witnesses also make much of the phrase ‘firstborn’ and retranslate it in their minds to read, ‘the first to be created’.

In Col. 1:15, the Greek word translated ‘firstborn’ is prototokos whereas the Greek for ‘first-created’ would be protoktistos. Prototokos means the first-begotten and can never mean the first one to be born. Its meaning is priority to, or pre-eminence over; therefore Jesus is the pre-eminent one over all creation and not a created being Himself.

Whichever English word is used, we must discover what the Greek means. For instance, does Col. 1:18 mean that Jesus was the first one to be born from the dead? That would not be true because Lazarus rose from the dead before Him, as indeed did others in the Old and New Testaments. Is the Scripture wrong? No, because the Greek word has the meaning of position, place, or ranking. This is seen in the Old Testament, where on two occasions the first to be born lost the position of firstborn to the second to be born.

Firstborn, in the Hebrew tradition, has always had to do with place and pre-eminence over. The context of Colossians makes it clear that the word is used in the same way. That ‘He might come to have first place in everything’. (v. 18)

Jesus the Messiah

The Society has no problem about calling Jesus the Messiah:

“The Bible states that Andrew rushed to his brother and said: ‘We have found the Messiah [or, Christ].’” - WT, 15 September 2005, p.4.

The significance of this fact has not dawned on the Society because in the same article they conclude that:

“Jesus today is neither a man nor God Almighty. Rather, he is a mighty spirit creature…” - Ibid., p.6.

However, there are more than 300 predictions concerning the Messiah in the Old Testament and if you accept Jesus is the Messiah, He cannot be a spirit creature with a beginning. We only need to look at one of the places in the Old Testament to show the proof of this statement:

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." - Micah 5:2

This prophecy indicates that, as a man, Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, but He already existed “from the days of eternity”. By acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the Society has acknowledged that Jesus was eternal - no beginning - and so could not be a created spirit creature.

Is Jesus An Angel?

The Watchtower teaches that Jesus, the first creation of Jehovah, is also a special spirit creature, called Michael the Archangel in Scripture. What does the Bible show?

Dan. 10:13 says that Michael is one of the princes. When we compare Dan. 8:25 we find that Jesus is the Prince. Jesus is unique, Michael is not. How can they be the same person?

In Jude 9 Michael says, “the Lord rebuke you”. However, when on earth, Jesus rebuked Satan and the demons directly and they fled before Him. How can this be the same person?

Heb.1:7 & 8 shows beyond doubt that Jesus is not an angel. Verse 7 has Jehovah speaking, ‘to the angels’. The ‘but’ at the beginning of verse 8 shows He is talking to someone different; ‘to the Son’. The angels are on one side and the Son on the other, with a dividing line down the middle.
The Son, Jesus, cannot be an angel, not even an archangel because He would still be by nature an angel.

An article answering the question, “Michael the Archangel - Who Is He?” can be found in the WT, 1 March 2005, p.30. Also the WT 15 January 2006 has an article about angels and boldly states on p.6:

“The angel foremost in power and authority is Michael the archangel, or Jesus Christ.”

This is interesting because starting on p.21 of the same issue is an article about the Devil who, of course, was an angel, Lucifer. Jesus and the Devil, according to the Society, are of the same substance - the Bible shows differently.

What Was Declared At Jesus’ Birth?

The Watchtower teaches that at baptism Jesus enters into a new relationship with Jehovah. Yet the Scripture says:

“... for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:11.

Today He is, not in thirty years, He will be the Christ!

Who Does The Bible Declare Jesus To Be?

John 5:16-23: If the Jehovah’s Witness believed these verses, even in the NWT, they would know who Jesus is. However they do not believe their Bible, but what the Society has told them their Bible says. We need, therefore, to understand these Scriptures and then explain them to the Witness.

From verse 16 we know that Jesus was being persecuted for healing on the Sabbath. In verse 17 Jesus makes a simple statement - ‘My Father’. From this the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God (v.18). This is clear but the Witness is taught that it is the unbelieving Jew calling Jesus ‘God’ and we should not believe them!

Jesus could teach so that no one could understand Him (e.g. the parable of the Sower - Matt. 13). But here He spoke plainly so that the people understood. Jesus was a Jew and understood how the Jewish mind worked. He knew that when He said, ‘My Father’ the Jews would understand that He was claiming to be of the same substance as Jehovah, God.

If Jesus is not equal with God, who is at fault - Jesus for misleading them or the Jews for believing what Jesus said? Of course, in these circumstances, Jesus would be at fault and would be a liar and a fraud. This is not true; therefore, the statement must be correct. It is also clear that the Jews were not unbelieving; they believed what Jesus said but rejected it.

John 20:28: This is the second time that Jesus appeared to the disciples but the first time that Thomas saw Him. His immediate response is to acknowledge Jesus as “my Lord and my God”. Again this seems clear until we realise that the Witness has been taught that either Thomas got so excited he blasphemed or he said ‘my Lord’ looking at Jesus and ‘My God’ looking up to Jehovah in heaven.

It clearly says ‘Thomas said to Him’ (Jesus) both statements. Secondly, ask the Witness what the KIT shows for the words Thomas used. He said ho theos, the phrase that the Society uses exclusively of Jehovah God. Jesus is called not just ‘a god’ but ‘the God.’ Thomas literally says, ‘the God of me’. If this were not true, Jesus would have rebuked Thomas. However, in verse 29, He commends all those who will believe the same as Thomas believed.

In the midst of those who would go out to teach the early church, Jesus accepts the acclamation of God. What would the apostles believe and what should we believe?

Rev. 5:13 & 14: Here Jesus is in His heavenly ministry. Who is receiving this honour, glory and worship? The One on the throne (Jehovah) and the Lamb (Jesus). Are we not to do what heaven is doing?

A Witness might say something like, “only because Jesus was standing next to Jehovah does it appear that when they bow down to Jehovah, they are bowing down to Jesus”! But in verse 8 they bow down to Jesus without Jehovah. Also, ‘every creature’ gives this to Jesus, Who therefore cannot be a created being.

I cannot believe the Bible and the Watchtower; which one do I choose? The Society says that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, a created being. If this is true there is idol worship in heaven because creature is worshipping creature. No angels, except fallen ones, nor any other heavenly creatures, ever receive worship. Jesus, therefore, must be God.

Worship Or Obeisance?

The Witness seeks to make a distinction about the heavenly creatures, saying they were only doing obeisance to Jesus and that would be acceptable. In all the New Testament it is the same Greek word, but the Watchtower will translate it as ‘obeisance’ referring to Jesus, and ‘worship’ referring to Jehovah. But note the following:

“When the Gentile Cornelius bowed reverently to the apostle Peter, note what happened: ‘As Peter entered Cornelius met him fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Rise; I myself am also a man”.’ (Acts 10:25,26). Bowing worshipfully to a human was improper, and Peter would not accept it.” - WT, 1 May 1989, p.22.

One human doing obeisance to another human is bowing worshipfully and is wrong. In the same way one heavenly creature doing obeisance, bowing worshipfully, to another would also be wrong.

Is Jesus God?

No comparison of Jesus in the light of Watchtower teaching would be complete without a mention of John 1:1. This verse probably causes more problems than any other. To show that Jesus is not God the NWT translates it, “... and the Word was a god...” And appears to provide ample evidence to prove that this is the correct translation. Here we examine this evidence. Between 1962 and 1983 the WBTS quoted Johannes Greber to support its rendering of John 1:1, even though they knew in 1956 that his wife acted as a spirit medium to produce the translation. (For more detailed information see Reachout Trust’s booklet, The Truth Revealed). We will look here at the article from Reasoning and an article in KIT, p.1139.

Besides the attempt to find scholarly evidence, the Society’s main defence for its translation is:

“John 1:18 says: ‘No one has ever seen God.’ Verse 14 clearly says that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... we have beheld his glory’. Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was ‘with God’. Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as ‘the only true God’; so, Jesus as ‘a god’ merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities -Heb. 1:3.” - Reasoning, p.416.

This sounds convincing but it is not backed up with the facts. The Watchtower argues that because the first ‘God’ in John 1:1 is preceded by the Greek definite article ‘the’ it must have a big ‘G’ and refer to Jehovah. However the second ‘god’ does not have the definite article and so is translated ‘a god’, and refers to the ‘little god’, Jesus.

What most Jehovah’s Witnesses have not seen, however, is that in John 1:18 there is no definite article connected with the first theon1 translated ‘God’, but the second theos1 is followed by the definite article ‘the one’ and yet it is translated ‘god’. Add to this the meaning of the term ‘only
1. Word endings do not change in English for male, female, neuter or for a different grammatical case but they do in many European languages. This is the same word with a different ending because of the different case it is in. (See confirmation of this in WT, 15 May 1977, p.319)
begotten’ (see p.82) and this verse says no man has ever seen God but now God the unique Son, clothed in flesh, reveals God in a way that can be seen by men..

The Society also uses an argument that speaks of Jesus being ‘with’ God and then asks ‘how can He also be God?’ This does not stand the test of comparing Scripture with Scripture.

The Father is God, and Jesus is God. Therefore, Jesus the Word was with God, but that does not make Him any less part of the Godhead. To check this out look at Heb.1:3.

The NWT translates that Jesus is the ‘reflection of’ His Father and argues that you are not the same as your reflection! The Greek word is apaugasma, literally translated in the KIT as ‘beaming forth from’. Joy beams forth from a face and that is not a reflection; it is what is in the person coming out. The AV uses ‘effulgence’, more modern translations ‘radiance’, and that is exactly what the word means: not looking at a reflection but a shining out from that which is within. Note the next phrase, ‘the exact representation of his very being’. Jesus is not a pale reflection but from His being shines forth that which He is; God.

Conclusion

How different is the Jesus of Scripture from the one portrayed in the Watchtower Bible and publications such as The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived. Which one will the Witness believe in, the one in the Bible or the one in the Watchtower publication? The answer is made clear by The Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This document, dated January 1945, includes as part of the purpose of the Society in Article seven,

“... and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Jesus Christ.”

The Watchtower knows about this document and tries to overcome the problem by misquoting its own official Articles,

“... and for public Christian worship of Almighty God [through] Christ Jesus.” - WT, 15 December 1971, pp.759-60.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Gordon B Hinckley, A Retrospective

It seemed that he would go on forever, his charm disarming us, his vigour in great age amazing us, his way with people impressing us but at 97 Gordon B Hinckley succumbed to “symptoms attendant to old age” and stepped out of time into eternity. He was born into the Mormon Church, served a mission, worked in the church all his life and has probably had more opportunities than anyone to become familiar with Mormonism and know it thoroughly. Yet his stock answer to so many questions put to him by the press and media, with whom he had a good relationship, was, “I don’t know”. Now he knows for sure.

I have already remarked that I think Gordon B Hinckley was probably the greatest Mormon dissembler since Joseph Smith. In responding to questions about the faith into which he was born, in which he grew up, and in which he worked all his life, he dodged the issues time and again. Ever the PR man, he knew what people needed to hear and what was best kept under wraps and anyone talking to Mormons today will know that this, too, is part of his legacy, i.e. the widespread Mormon instinct to put a face on things, highlight the acceptable and obfuscate the darker and more controversial aspects of the faith. Future presidents who want to take a more direct and forthright approach will have a hill to climb to overcome an ingrained habit of dissimulation.

Remembering these things, this is a look back at how the man became the greatest PR man Mormonism has ever had, the antithesis of Bruce McConkie you might say, why they will miss him so much, and how this man, who must have known where all the bodies lay hidden, successfully developed a reputation for innocence, sincerity and integrity.

The Hinckley Timeline

Gordon B Hinckley, Mormon Church president, held several distinctions and his life had been, understandably, celebrated by the Mormon Church. He served a mission in London in 1933, unusual in Depression Era Mormonism. On his return he accepted a job offer in 1935 to lead the new Mormon public relations department, bringing with him his college qualifications in journalism. This move effectively made him the first ‘career Mormon’ in the church’s history.

Later, as church president, he became the most travelled Mormon president ever, also having the distinction of being responsible for the largest temple building programme in the church’s history. More than two thirds of all currently operating temples were dedicated during his incumbency and he has brought the number of temples up from 27 to 124 in just 12 years, with 10 more announced or under construction.

He was the second oldest president after David O Mc’Kay and despite recent surgery for prostate cancer showed no signs of slowing down, let alone stopping, right to the end. Some would argue that he deserved the accolades laid on him and I am not about to deny the man his due. A question arises, however, as we look at his extensive and impressive history. The Hinckley time-line will help you see what I mean.

Early Years

23 June 1910 - born in Salt Lake City, Utah, he has been at the centre of Mormonism from birth. Just twenty years before, Mormonism had “officially” renounced polygamy. The president during Hinckley’s formative years, Heber J Grant (1918-1945), was a practising polygamist, fleeing the country in 1903 to avoid being arrested, finally convicted in 1906 and fined $300. Grant was born in 1856, when Brigham Young was teaching that Adam was God, was 21 in 1877 when Brigham Young, died, and became an Apostle in 1882, when the church was still teaching the Adam/God doctrine.

At this time, and for some time to come, the Journal of Discourses, source of much of the controversy surrounding Mormon doctrine, was still regarded as authoritative, a “Standard Work” of the church. In 1913 James Talmage, an Apostle of the church, first published The Articles of Faith, a comprehensive look at church doctrine based on Joseph Smith’s famous creed. 1915 saw the first publication of Talmage’s magnificent work on the Saviour, Jesus the Christ. Both books have proved seminal works for generations of Mormons and are still key text books today.

1928 - Hinckley completed High School in Salt Lake City, going on to study at the University of Utah. His education was thoroughly Mormon-based.

1933 - After attending the University of Utah he was called to go on a mission to London. He would have built his presentation of Mormonism on long-established Mormon works such as Journal of Discourses, as well as more recent works like those produced by Talmage.

1935 - Hinckley returned to the United States and accepted a job offer to lead the Church's new public relations department. Hinckley's responsibilities included developing the Church's recently established radio broadcasts and making use of the era's new communication technologies, putting him, from an early age, at the centre of presenting Mormonism to the world.

1937 - He started serving on the Sunday school General Board, putting him at the centre of the Mormon teaching programme.1938 saw the publication of The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Joseph Fielding Smith, Apostle and Grandson of Hyrum Smith, martyred brother of Joseph Smith Jr.

1954 the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith himself, a man regarded as “the leading gospel scholar and the greatest doctrinal teacher of [his] generation” began to be published in three volumes. Doctrines of Salvation is, again, a comprehensive study of key Mormon doctrine and has proved definitive for generations of Mormons. The same year John Widstoe published the Discourses of Brigham Young.

1958 - After service in a stake presidency, Hinckley became a General Authority of the Church in the now discontinued position of Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, giving him experience in application and leadership at the highest level. This year saw the publication of Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R McConkie’s attempt at producing a definitive systematic theology of Mormon teaching. It is much quoted by the church to this day.

Mid-life

1961 - At 51, Hinckley himself became an Apostle and member of that Quorum, the youngest at that time. Being an Apostle from such a young age has given him more opportunity than most to study Mormon leadership, policy-making and doctrinal decisions at the highest level. Around this time America was in the middle of the great Civil Rights Movement and the Mormon Church came under a lot of fire for its policy of barring coloured people from holding the priesthood. Nevertheless, the church put up a robust defence of its anti-Black doctrine until it gave in to pressure and made a policy change in 1978. Hinckley was there, along with a handful of chosen men, when the decision was made.

In the early 1980’s the ill health of both Church President Spencer W Kimball and his ageing Counsellors N Eldon Tanner and Marion G Romney led the Church leadership to resort to the occasional practice of adding an additional Counsellor to the First Presidency. Hinckley filled this position on July 23, 1981. At the time of Tanner's death in 1982, Romney succeeded him as First Counsellor and Hinckley succeeded Romney as Second Counsellor. 1980 also saw the publication of Ezra Taft Benson’s famous Fourteen Fundamentals in following the Prophet, in which he makes clear that the prophet “speaks for the Lord in everything, is more vital than the Scriptures, can make Scripture, and that rejecting the counsel of the prophets brings suffering.”

During this time period, there were a number of questionable, new Mormon historical documents that began to surface, and Hinckley oversaw the purchase of some of these documents. Later, most of the newly surfaced documents turned out to be the forgeries of Mark Hoffmann, the Salt lake City Bomber, including the Salamander Letter. Because of his prominence in the Church and his responsibility n overseeing the purchase of historical documents, Hinckley became a key figure in the investigation of Hofmann, giving him vital experience in being at the centre of and dealing with controversies surrounding Mormon Church history.

By this time, however, Hinckley was largely shouldering the burdens of the First Presidency himself. Though he officially remained Second Counsellor, he was informally referred to in the press as "acting President of the Church."

1985 - Kimball and Romney remained largely out of the public eye until President Kimball died in November. Older Mormons will remember that, with the calling of a series of elderly men dogged with ill health, this made him de facto president of the church from this period. His official incumbency is twelve years, but his de facto incumbency is nearer 25 years. These twenty five years have given him unparalleled experience as a top church leader, and his lifetime of service, from missionary to president, a familiarity with church polity and doctrine unmatched by any other president.

Ezra Taft Benson became Church President, and named Hinckley First Counsellor. Romney succeeded Benson as President of the Twelve, though age and health problems effectively prevented him carrying out his duties. Thomas S Monson became Second Counsellor, and, for a while, all three members of the First Presidency were able to perform their duties. In the early 1990s however, Ezra Taft Benson developed serious health problems and, although the church kept up the pretence of his running things, his own grandson publicly denounced them for exploiting a sick old man. First Counsellor Hinckley again carried out many of the duties of the President of the Church until Benson died in 1994. Meanwhile, 1992 saw the publication of the Encyclopaedia of Mormonism in which much Mormon knowledge and doctrine was gathered and explained.

Howard W Hunter, who had succeeded Romney as President of the Twelve, became Church President and Hinckley and Monson became his Counsellors, In addition, Hinckley becoming President of the Twelve by seniority.

Latter-day Prophet

March 12, 1995 - When Hunter died after a presidency of only nine months, Hinckley was chosen to be president of the Church at the age of 84 and has led the church until his death in 2008.

Under his leadership, the Church has expanded the number of temples world-wide from 27 to 124. His involvement with Mormon temples, their purpose and operation would have given him key insight into temple doctrine.

23 September 1995 he announced and read The Family, A Proclamation to the World, a statement of belief and counsel prepared by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. He has had a key role in formulating and clarifying Mormon doctrine on marriage and the family.

He is the most-travelled Church leader-past or present, travelling hundreds of thousands of miles over the years. In spite of his advanced age, he continued to travel the world over as he dedicated temples and met with the Saints, making it vital that he brought a thorough understanding and clear presentation of Mormonism.

Questions for the Prophet

Adam/God

In an interview in the New Yorker Magazine, January 2002, President Hinckley confessed, “Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that.” Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, Hinckley said, “There he is, right there. I'm not going to worry about what he said about those things.”

Q. But the first prophet you knew, Heber J Grant, had sat at the feet of Brigham in his youth, the same Brigham, who taught this very doctrine until his death in 1877. The Journal of Discourses, considered a Standard Work of the church in your youth, clearly reports this teaching in some depth. Weren’t you paying attention?

The gods of Mormonism

The same article reported, ‘I asked whether Mormon theology was a form of polytheism. “I don't have the remotest idea what you mean,” Hinckley said impatiently.’

Q. But Talmage’s great works, The Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ, have been standard Mormon text books from the time you were three years old and they clearly teach a plurality of gods, otherwise known as polytheism. One example will suffice. Interpreting the plurality of Genesis 1:26 in the classic Mormon way, Talmage writes:

The Scripture specifies three personages in the Godhead…this fact is instanced by the plurality expressed in Genesis: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”;…From the words of Moses, as revealed anew in the present dispensation, we learn more about the Gods who were actively engaged in the creation of this earth…In the account of the creation recorded in Abraham, “the Gods”, are repeatedly mentioned (Jesus the Christ, Deseret Books, pp 32/3. The references to “Moses” and “Abraham” are to ‘modern revelation’, which speaks often of gods)

Didn’t you read Talmage? Were you not familiar with the authoritative work he references, The Pearl of Great Price? Didn’t you read Widstoe’s collection of Brigham Young’s discourses, in which is recorded, “Gods exist, and we had better strive to be prepared to be one of them”?

God an Exalted Man

In a 1997 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle the following exchange was reported:

Question: “There are some significant differences in your beliefs [and other Christian churches]. For instance, don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?”Hinckley: “I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now that's more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about.” Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, p 3/Z1

Q. Didn’t you take the time and trouble to study the teachings of your own founding prophet, published in 1938 by Joseph Fielding Smith? A volume in which can be read:

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!"

The Mormon Colour Bar

In another question and answer section from an interview Jan 29th, 2002 conducted by reporter Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF television, Germany, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Church Administration Building we read: Question: “Until 1978 no person of color (sic) attained the priesthood in your church. Why it took so long time to overcome the racism?”Hinckley: “I don’t know. I don’t know. (long pause) I can only say that. (long pause) But it’s here now. We’re carrying on a very substantial work on Africa for instance and in Brazil. We’re working among their people developing them.”

Q. Weren’t you paying attention in the sixties and seventies when the civil rights movement caused the Mormon Church to make a robust and defiant defence of church doctrine barring Negroes from holding the priesthood? Didn’t you understand the issues when, in 1978, church policy was so radically changed? By this time you were an Apostle of the church and at the centre of leadership and public relations – and you were in the room.

We have been here before, of course, but making the timeline makes this Mormon prophet’s public persona and official remarks seem even more disingenuous as we consider what unparalleled resources have been available in his 97 years. So my final question is:

Was the late Mormon prophet simply forgetful in his old age, or had a lifetime of public relations work robbed him of any capacity for truth telling?

His successor seems likely to be Thomas S Monson. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

“Long before he became a counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson was well-schooled in the way of Mormon prophets and well-known to the Mormon faithful.
Monson has spent his entire career in the service of the LDS Church, working alongside every president since 1963 when he was named one of the twelve apostles at the age of 36.”

We wait to see if this octogenarian’s considerable experience of the faith will produce more candour than did that of his predecessor. Apparently he worked for 30 years in Newspaper Agency Corp., the company that handles advertising, production and distribution of the Tribune and the LDS Church-owned Deseret Morning News. Monson represented the Deseret News and sat on the board. We wait, but we don’t hold out much hope.