Saturday, 31 May 2008

When Shall we Meet Again

Below is a copy of a letter, from the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, that was read to all Watchtower Congregations at the end of the Watchtower Study during the week of April 21 - 27, 2008.

It gives an insight into the way that the Society change policy so easily and wrap it up as new light instead of just an administrative decision. What was looked upon as a very serious issue and an indication that you were not a loyal member of the Society - not regularly coming to the Book (sorry Bible) Study - is now not an issue at all. In fact they will have put three meetings together and they will be 75 mins than the 3 individual ones used to be.

Maybe it shows that Jehovah Witnesses were not attending as many meetings as they should or that because they were attending the meetings it was was affecting the reaching out on the doors.

Reading it though I cringed when they say they are fully aware of the mounting pressure on YOU precious sheep. Really? Then why are they still putting so many non-Biblical 'musts' upon them and disfellowshipping them when they cannot give up smoking or want to save a life by giving blood? At such time they are no longer precious sheep to be followed an to ensure the one lost one returns safely, being carried by the shepherd; instead of being kicked out into the wilderness and left to the wolves!

However, please note that this does not come into action for another 7 months; they can't be that concerned to make them carry on for that time. Also see that they are piling on the pressure of 'family heads' maybe because so many family members are leaving and they have to put the responsibility somewhere and anywhere other than the leadership.

Maybe I am making too much of this but I do get angry with these elderly men in their 'watch towers' piling pressure on the flock the very thing we are told not to do. When will we get true shepherding in the Society?


"Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of
the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be
revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not
under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for
sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted
to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock." - 1 Peter 5:1-3.

___________________________________

Dear Brothers,

At 1st Corinthians 7:31 the bible tells us that “the scene of this world is changing.” The truthfulness of these inspired words is felt by each of us on a daily basis. As we draw ever nearer to the Great Tribulation Satan’s anger against us is intensifying.

The Governing Body is fully aware of the mounting pressures that YOU, the Lord’s precious sheep, are experiencing. Like the first century Governing Body we wish to add no further burden to you, except what is necessary. Therefore, after prayerful consideration we have decided to take steps to lighten your load by adjusting the weekly schedule for congregation meetings.

Commencing January 1, 2009 the Congregation Book Study will be held at the same time as the Theocratic Ministry School and the Service Meeting. The name of the Congregation Book Study will be changed to the Congregation Bible Study. After a song and prayer the Congregation Bible Study will be conducted for 25 minutes in much the same way as it is conducted now. Qualified elders will conduct the study on a rotation basis. It will be followed by a 30 minute Theocratic Ministry School. After another song there will be a 35 minute Service Meeting. The three meetings will conclude with song and prayer. The total time for these three meetings including songs and prayers will be 1 hour and 45 minutes.

We will continue to follow the same patterns for meetings for field service including arrangements in smaller groups. In time you will receive further information relative to the Congregation Bible Study and meetings for field service.

This adjustment in our weekly meeting schedule will be beneficial in many ways. For example, in many lands the cost of fuel is escalating, and much time is expended in travelling to and from congregation meetings. However, there will be even greater benefit!


The importance of personal and family bible study cannot be overemphasized. This adjustment in our weekly schedule will provide each of us with an opportunity to fortify the spirituality of our families by scheduling a specific evening each week for family worship. Family heads must shoulder the responsibility before Jehovah to ensure that a meaningful, regular, family bible study is conducted. Single brothers and sisters with no family responsibilities will be able to use this time for personal bible study.

It is vital for all to buy out the opportune time and to strengthen themselves for what will shortly take place. The “great day of Jehovah” is fast approaching. How urgent it is for all of us to seize and use the time remaining to build ourselves up in this most holy faith! May we be determined to benefit from these adjustments as we continue to follow our Great Shepherd who leads us to grassy pastures of peace and refreshment. We send along an expression of our warm Christian love, praying that Jehovah will continue to watch over you and strengthen you in these difficult times.

Your Brothers,
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Mormon Jesus - and Satan

At the back end of 2007 there was a flurry of interest in the media in Mormons and Mormonism because of Mitt Romney's involvement in the race for the presidency. In the ongoing debate over what Mormons really believe and what Mitt Romney will admit to believing the following was reported:

"On Tuesday, December 11, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee would, in an upcoming article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, ask "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

By the end of the following day, Wednesday, December 12, Huckabee had already begun back-pedaling and apologizing for the remark. Earlier on Wednesday Mitt Romney had appeared on NBC’s Today show criticizing Huckabee for “attacking” his religion."

Read the full story here.

In response the Mormon Church issued a statement to 'clarify' the Mormon position on the subject. Here are the main points in the statement:

Mormons believe that God is the Father of all.

Other Christians believe that God is the Father of all.

Paul wrote that God is the Father of all.

All beings were created by God and are his spirit children.

Christ was the only begotten in the flesh.

Mormons worship Christ as the son of God and the Saviour of mankind.

Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.

This statement, designed to 'clarify', is actually a classic exercise in Mormon obfuscation and is controversial to say the least. Let's look at it and take each element in turn:

"Mormons believe that God is the father of all.

Other Christians believe that God is the father of all.

Paul wrote that God is the father of all.

All beings were created by God and are his spirit children. "

Christians do not believe that God is the Father of all as Mormons mean that. To say that Mormons and "other Christians" believe that God is the Father of all mankind is desperately misleading, suggesting a concord between the two faiths that just isn't there. To a Mormon, we are the literal offspring of God, begotten in the same way men and women are begotten in their human condition. In Mormonism God is an exalted man, who has a physical body, and who produces his children in the way a man produces children, i.e. by sexual intercourse. Lest we get sidetracked by a discussion about what exactly is wrong with sex, after all it was God's idea, let me say that there is nothing wrong with sex. It is just that this is not how the Bible portrays God and not what Christians believe of him and of his creation.

The Bible does say that we are "the children of God" but this is in the sense that we are all created by God. Malachi 2:10 clearly links creation and the fatherhood of God "Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" God is the Father of humanity in the sense that he created humanity. Acts 17:24-26 speaks of God "giving all men life and breath" teaching that "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." The statement that "we are his offspring" is clearly set in the context of creation. Romans 8:16 is again dealt with properly in context for in verse 15 we read "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption. And by him we cry Abba, Father".

In Acts, then, we have a reference to God as our Creator/Father, while in Romans we have a reference to God as our Father by adoption, through faith in the saving work of his Son and the leading of the Spirit. Matthew 5:48 takes on a wholly different meaning as we consider our creation and subsequent adoption into God's family, i.e. "even as your Father (who made you and adopted you into his family) is perfect".

"Christ was the only begotten in the flesh."

Christians believe what the Bible tells us, i.e. that Christ is God's "only-begotten Son" - period. There is no distinction of "in the flesh" to be found in the Bible. In fact, this is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches, as shown above, since it is men who are God's children because of being created "in the flesh" and Jesus who is God's "only-begotten Son" from eternity. The Greek in John 1:14 is monogenace and literally means "only born". Modern translations say "one and only" although this is for many not entirely satisfactory but the sense is there of the only one.

"Mormons worship Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind."

The only way that Christ can receive worship is if he is God. This brings us to a discussion about the Trinity of course, which is too big to address in full here but there is an article on the Reachout web site addressing the issue. However, if Jesus is only different from us in magnitude and not in nature then what Mormons describe as worship is creature worship, forbidden in Scripture.

"Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for."

This is where the obfuscation in the statement is strongest because it avoids the obvious truth, obvious to those who understand Mormonism, in that Satan is exactly like Jesus in Mormon doctrine inasmuch as they are both the literal offspring of God; brothers in fact, and he only differs in that he has gone bad, and is the black sheep of the family, but family he is and all this dissembling to avoid the plain truth, leaving to so-called "anti-Mormons" to clear away the fog of Mormon disingenuousness is a shame. The Bible, however, portrays Satan (or Lucifer) as a fallen angel, a created being, while Jesus is God's only-begotten Son, uncreated, the Word of God from eternity passed.

The problem of course is that the Mormon starts from a position of thinking that these issues are obscure to Christians, hence the need for Mormonism, while the truth is that we understand full well what the Bible teaches about God and man. The Mormon, on the other hand, begins from a position of ignorance of what the Bible actually teaches and what Christians understand, counting it not worth consideration, preferring to bring to the Bible their Mormon preconceptions. I suggest a course in basic Christian apologetics for any Mormon aiming to 'clarify' Mormon doctrine or 'correct' what Christians have always believed based on sound biblical theology.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Preparing for That Knock at the Door

The Barna Group is a Christian organisation founded by George Barna in 1984 which, among other things, provides important primary research, especially in service of the Christian Church and is described on their web site:

“The Barna Group provides primary research (through The Barna Research Group); printed resources (through BarnaBooks, an imprint of Tyndale); leadership development; spiritual training; and church facilitation and enhancement. We seek to use our strengths in partnership with Christian ministries and individuals to be a catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States. We accomplish these outcomes by providing vision, information, strategy, evaluation and resources.”

They have just produced some very interesting research examining the faith of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, comparing them with each other and both with Evangelical Christianity. The full report can be read here.

After looking at each respective group’s attitude to God, Jesus, Satan, Salvation, the Bible etc. the report’s author, George Barna, noted that in the religious world seemingly small matters can make a big difference and that, “there are huge difference related to central doctrines such as the means to eternal salvation or the reliability and authority of the Bible. Millions of adults, however, shut the door when Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come visiting without having any real idea what they or we believe - or caring enough to pursue such insights."

It is both sad and a constant cause of frustration that this is the case and we at Reachout have always advocated Christians being prepared to talk to people on at least a basic level and in a civilised and loving way to people from other faiths and worldviews. This is especially important, and we have always known this, because, as Barna points out:

Such front porch interactions could stimulate unexpected benefits. "It’s no secret that Americans spend little time thinking through the deeper applications and implications of their beliefs. In a society confronted with challenging issues such as immigration rights, gay marriage, war, and environmental crises, our positions on such matters should come from a well-conceived and deeply embraced theology of life. Sadly, most Americans react on an emotional level rather than from a worldview that is based on thoughtful convictions. Perhaps having a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness ringing our doorbell and pushing us to explain or defend our beliefs could be a catalyst for an even deeper process of discovery - especially if we enter the conversation knowing that we probably have some substantial disagreements on core elements of faith."

Is yours a considered position on issues of faith, coming from a worldview that is based on thoughtful convictions? Or is yours a knee-jerk, emotional reaction based on long held but only cursorily considered beliefs? One way to judge is the volume and tone of your conversation. Shouters tend to be those who need to compensate with volume for what they lack in depth of understanding. A brusque tone often betrays an ill-thought-through position and bluster often replaces carefully explained arguments.

Those who have been involved in ministries like Reachout Trust find themselves driven back to the Bible time and again and are usually better prepared to reason from the Scriptures as a result. This is because they have faced the challenges to our faith that these groups present and experienced that catalyst that initiates a deeper process of discovery. There are those who need to reconsider how they react to that knock at the door, prepare better for what they will meet when they open it and learn to welcome the opportunity to explain intelligently why they feel so strongly about their faith. If Reachout Trust can help in that preparation we feel our efforts are worth it. After all, that is what we are here for.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Evangelical/Mormon Dialogue

Bob Millet is a professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at the Mormon Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He is especially known to us as a distinguished Latter-day Saint author and speaker and apologist whose prolific work includes more than 60 published works on virtually all aspects of Mormonism. He appears frequently in the media and as Manager of Outreach and Interfaith Relations for Church Public Affairs. In these efforts at interfaith he is especially successful in selling Mormonism as a Christian church and in promoting dialogue with Evangelicals.

In an April 2008 email to Mormons working on interfaith initiatives with Evangelicals he wrote about the highs and lows of such dialogue, observing:

Its hard work
Its about understanding, not converting people
Trust and respect are paramount
People who disagree with you are not necessarily anti-Mormons
LDS leaders are getting involved
Attack/defence discussion is not good
Gordon B Hinckley set a good example of how this kind of dialogue can help bring the Mormon Church out of obscurity


Note the last item, i.e. the aim of bringing the church out of obscurity. It makes sense, of course, otherwise why would they want to have anything to do with apostate Christendom? Yes, this is all very chummy and I don’t wish to rain on anyone’s parade – but:

Mormonism teaches that all other churches are apostate, that Mormonism represents a restoration of sound Christian truth and alone has the authority to speak for God. The mandate for Mormons is to convert everyone else to their faith, either in this life or the next (this last in itself an unbiblical teaching). Truly, the rest of us are not “those other Christians” as is so fondly believed by some involved in this deceptive initiative, but those apostates who teach and profess “creeds that are abominable to God” (JSH 1:19). We, like the pitiful preacher in the service of Satan once portrayed on the temple film, teach things that are muddled and incomprehensible and need to turn from our futile and apostate ways and believe Mormonism. If Mormonism was true, frankly, I would be glad to hear such a message and be saved from my folly!

Christians, on the other hand, are warned frequently in Scripture to beware of, avoid, give warnings about and guard against “different gospels” (Galatians 1:6/9, c.f.) Just as Mormonism teaches that ours is an apostate and corrupted gospel, with no authority and abominable to God, so Christians regard Mormonism as no gospel at all because it is “a different gospel to the one we received”. It is our mandate to witness to those involved in the counterfeit religion of Mormonism and bring them to know the true gospel as preached by Paul to the Galatians. If Mormonism is not true then we cheat Mormons of an eternal inheritance by seeking dialogue of this kind instead of witnessing.

Mormons like to refer to us as “traditional Christians” but this, too, is misleading. We are not “traditional Christians” but Christians. Differentiating between Mormons and “traditional Christians” is itself a deception, leading people to think that there are two types of Christians, i.e. Mormons and “traditional Christians”. Christians who subscribe to this idea are lending their weight to this deception. Mormons are not Christians, only Christians are Christians.

Mormons are not Mormons in the same way that Baptists are Baptists, Methodists are Methodists or Pentecostals are Pentecostals. They are not a denomination and there are not merely denominational differences between them and Christianity. They are different from Christianity on every fundamental of the faith, i.e. the nature of God, the person of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, the purpose of God in Creation, the nature and Fall of Man, the nature of sin, the work of the Cross, the means of redemption, the fate of man - as well as the Bible which teaches us about these. In all this they challenge and reject Christian teaching.

It is hard to see what constructive purpose such dialogue as is being celebrated here can serve if we fail to recognise these things. Of course, on a personal level we must have dialogue if we are to get on with our Mormon neighbours and if we are to share the gospel with them. However, we must avoid giving the impression that because we can get along we can somehow find common ground of any sort, not least because that is not the agenda of Mormonism, no matter how they might protest otherwise. They wish to come out of obscurity not join with the faithful in Christ.

Gordon B Hinckley is cited as an example of one who sought dialogue with Evangelicals. He is famously quoted as saying that Mormonism doesn’t tear down other religions (a palpable untruth) and of offering all to come “bring what you have and see if we can add to it”. That, itself, should sound alarm bells for Bible-believing Christians. Nothing can be added to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and his continuing presence in his church. He is also famous for peddling the message that Mormonism, “seeks to make bad men good and good men better”. The gospel of Jesus Christ seeks to make dead men live! How on earth can this message of Mormonism add to that?

By all means let us work together with all kinds of people of all creeds and nationalities for the common good. There is much that can be gained from being co-workers in a common civic cause, co-belligerents in a war against injustice. But we must beware of any efforts at being co-religionists with those who preach another gospel. Christians must remember what God had to say to the Churches in Pergamum (Rev.2:14-16) and Thyatira (Rev.2:20-25). We need to be reminded of his words of commendation to those who “do not hold to Satan’s so-called deep secrets”; warnings to those who “pretend to be [believers] but are not” (3:9); encouragement to believers to “hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11) and especially his warnings to those who are “neither cold nor hot” (3:14/15). These last, I suspect, are the ones who will rub along with any fellow-traveller prepared to keep them company on the road and these we must avoid the most because they present the greatest danger to Christians with their message of “peace, peace”.

CNS STORY: Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons

The Catholic News Service reports:

"In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.
An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, obtained by
Catholic News Service in late April, asks episcopal conferences to direct all bishops to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained in those registers."

Certainly, the Catholic Church doesn't recognise ordinary Mormon baptisms as Christian, although neither do Mormons recognise baptisms from any other church, even though they insists that they are Christians too.

Now they face doors slamming in their face in the after-life as well as this one.

CNS STORY: Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons

Friday, 2 May 2008

The New World Mistranslation

The Watchtower Society claim that the New Testament Scriptures were tampered with and the name of Jehovah was taken out. The following quotation can be used to show this is false.

“The Bible comes from... God... it was a simple thing for him to make certain that the integrity of what was written was preserved down to our day. Of this a leading authority on Bible manuscripts, Sir Frederic Kenyon, in 1940, said: ‘The last foundation of any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.’ ... a God-inspired, permanent written record is much less likely to contain errors.” - What is the Purpose of Life, WB&TS, 1993, p.15.

In this light, I wonder if the Society will add the following to their list of ‘J’ references [references regarding Jewish translations of the NT in their Kingdom Interlinear Translation.]

“In several places this approach brings into bold relief a key theological issue
separating Messianic from traditional Judaism, namely, whether the concept of Adonai can include Yeshua the Messiah and/or the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:10-11 informs us that the day is coming when ‘every knee will bow... and every tongue acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai.’ Since this passage quotes Isaiah 45:23, where it is explicit that every knee will bow to Adonai, kurios is here translated ‘Adonai.’” - Jewish New Testament, David H.Stren.

We read concerning their translation of John 1:1:

“What is it that these translators are seeing in the Greek text that moves some of them to refrain from saying ‘the Word was God?’ The definite article (the) appears before the first occurrence of theos (God) but not before the second... So the text is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was, but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god.” - Reasoning from the Scriptures, p.212.

We then read concerning John 20:28:

“There is no objection to referring to Jesus as ‘God,’ if this is what Thomas had in mind... All of this is in harmony with Jesus’ being described as ‘a god,’ or ‘divine,’ at John 1:1.” - Ibid, p.213.

No one can know what Thomas had in mind but what is clear is the statement is not in harmony with John 1:1. Here in John 20:28 the Greek reads ho theos - the God. According to their own explanation of John 1:1 this means Jesus is God!

In similar fashion, we should note the following two contradictory statements.

“Clearly, therefore, the Scriptures do not support the idea of the ‘divinity of Christ.’” - The Watchtower, 15 January 1992, p.23.

“Because in him (Christ) dwells the fullness of the divinity.” - Colossians 2:9, Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1985, literal English.
RULES OF TRANSLATION

RULE 1

“How is a modern translator to know or determine when to render the Greek words
kyrios and theos into the divine name in his version? By determining where the
inspired Christian writers have quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. Then he must refer back to the original to locate whether the divine name appears there. This way he can determine the identity to give to kyrios and theos…” - Kingdom Interlinear Translation, WB&TS, 1969, p.18.

Page 885 of the same publication contains Philippians 2:11 and we find that kyrios is translated Lord. However, applying the above rule of translation we discover that Philippians 2:11 is a direct quotation from Isaiah 45:23 [it was even cross-referenced in the original 1950 edition of the New World Translation]. According to their own rule of translation Philippians 2:11 should read in the NWT:
“and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus is Christ is Jehovah to the glory of God the Father.”

RULE 2

“Isaiah 1:24 - ‘the [true] Lord’ This is the translation of the Hebrew expression ha-A-don, this being the title A-don (“Lord; Master”) preceded by the Hebrew definite article ha. Although there are many lords or masters, this prefixing of the definite article before the title a-don limits the application of the title to Jehovah God.”
Taking this rule and applying it, according to the information supplied in the 1985 Kingdom Interlinear, Romans 10:9 should be translated in the NWT as:


“For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your mouth,’ that Jesus is Jehovah, and..."
The reason for this is that the footnote tells us that the Greek word kyrios is ha-A-don in several Hebrew translations.

RULE 3

“Consequently, religious traditions, hoary with age, have been taken for granted and gone unchallenged and uninvestigated. These have been interwoven into the translations to color the thought. In support of a preferred religious view, an inconstancy and unreasonableness have been insinuated into the teachings of the inspired writings . . . To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held that meaning as far as the context permitted. This, we know, has imposed a restriction upon our diction, but it makes for good cross-reference work and for a more reliable comparison of related texts or verses.” - The New World Translation, WB&TS, 1951, pp.6 & 9.

Using the Kingdom Interlinear Translation however we see:

In 1 Peter 1:17 we find that we can call upon the Father but the same Greek word in Acts 7:59 has Stephen making an appeal to Jesus.

Is there anything in the context that demands that this major word is translated in two different ways? No! It is simply a “preferred religious view.” The very thing they have accused others of doing and have indeed condemned as changing the meaning of the inspired writings.

A further example of this can be found in comparing the same Greek word in Revelation 7:11 where older persons worship God and Matthew 2:11 where the magi do obeisance to Jesus.