Friday, April 10, 2009

True Religion From God’s Standpoint

At the conclusion of the Watchtower Society's version of commemorating the Lord's Evening Meal and remembering the sacrifice of Jesus, an announcement was made regarding a "Special Talk" which will be delivered on Sunday, April 26, 2009 throughout every single Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The title of the discourse is “Is There A True Religion From God’s Standpoint?

Here are some of the main points taken directly from the Watchtower Society's outline for that Public Talk.

From the section entitled, 'Inspecting the Fruitage of Religious Beliefs' it makes the statement:

"We must examine religion by its fruitage; if a religion allows or promotes practices that the Bible condemns, is it measuring up to God’s standards?"

The Bible condemns adding to the Word of God. This is emphasized in such scriptural passages as: Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6 and Revelation 22:18-19.

What does the Watchtower Society allow and promote?

The December 15, 2008 Watchtower on page 28 states:

“Our coming to know “the truth” – the entire body of Christian teachings that has become part of the Bible – and adhering to it are essential for salvation.”

Yes, "the truth" (Which is the interpretation and beliefs as taught by the Watchtower Society) has become part of the Bible according to the Watchtower magazine which is promoted and reviewed by the Governing Body, serving as spiritual food for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Another statement we will examine is from the section, 'Practice Religion That Is True From God's Standpoint' which is taken from the same outline. It states:

"True religion encourages everyone to examine the Scriptures and prove to themselves the perfect will of God (Ro 12:2)"

While it may seem at times, even often the Watchtower Society encourages Bible Reading (Especially with their New World Translation of the Scriptures), what also do they tell Jehovah's Witnesses?

From Our Kingdom Ministry, September 2007, page 3, Question Box:

"Does the "faithful and discreet slave" endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate?

No, it does not."

Indeed, the Watchtower Society does not want Jehovah's Witnesses doing Scriptural research on their own. What the organization is really doing is encouraging examining the scriptures with the influence, meetings and publications of the Watchtower Society.

And why would that be the case?

According to the Watchtower, August 15, 1981 issue, page 29, paragraph 14:

"They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such ‘Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago..."

Does it not make sense that if Jehovah's Witnesses are a "true religion", reading the Bible would bring you to the conclusion of Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine as set by the Watchtower Society and not the doctrines typically found in as the Watchtower Society likes to call it, Christendom? The Watchtower Society in no uncertain terms states that if you read the Bible either alone or in small groups exclusively, it brings you to the teachings and doctrines of Christendom.

Finally, as the last statement made in the talk outline stresses:

"Examine the evidence for yourself..."

Please do so. The "true religion" standard the Watchtower Society sets for others, it cannot even meet itself. Make sure too when examining the evidence you don’t miss the false prophesying, false interpretation of prophesy, and the flip-flopping of doctrine by the Watchtower Society presented as “the truth” to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

1914 - Part II: Worst of Times

One of the lines of reasoning Jehovah's Witnesses are taught respecting 1914 being the start of the end times or last days, concerns the notion that starting in 1914 world conditions continue to worsen undisputedly on an unprecedented scale like never before in human history.

Is this true? Has society and people in general as well as world conditions been increasing worse since 1914? Does 1914 and onward prove to be the worst time in human history?

For someone unfamiliar with history, it may appear to be the case. However, let's take one slice of history – The 14th Century -- to see how bad things could be today.

The Black Death (aka Black Plague) struck the world earlier in the 14th century. That one plague alone wiped out between 40-50 percent of the entire population of Europe. For something even just equivalent to strike today, the death toll in Europe would be somewhere between 300-350 million deaths from one disease.

Some years during the 14th century were worse than others. For instance, England had a population of five or six million in 1348. Within a year Black Death killed half of them. Could you imagine in a year, Europe losing half of its population to disease?

Parents would abandon their children once they were ill and showing what was called "God's Tokens" which were red rings on the skin where the blood vessels were leaking into tissue. Imagine parents by the dozen, even hundreds abandoning and leaving their children. If the equivalent was to occur today, it would mean hundreds to thousands upon thousands of parents abandoning their sick children. Again, it wouldn't make these times worse just equal to the 14th century.

Furthermore, during the 14th century if disease didn't strike you, dying on the battlefield could be a likely result for you. The most infamous of these battles was the Hundred Years War; a war which spanned decade, upon decade, upon decade, and still continued, living up to the title it earned. More people died as a proportion of the population as a result of that war than during World War I and World War II.

In other words, the numbers of deaths reported in WW I & WW II are staggering, but compared to how many people were alive on the Earth during that time, it pales in comparison to the number of deaths due to war during the 14th century relative to the amount of people alive on the Earth then.

The 14th century was a time of turmoil, loss of confidence and an overall feeling of helplessness as the everyday person felt for the most part that God had abandoned them. There was also deep economic and social unrest. Additionally, environmentally there were drastic and perceived devastating changes. For example, during this time period in 1303, 1306 and 1307, Alpine glaciers advanced and Norse settlements were cut off, while grain cultivation ceased in Iceland.

Much more can be stated about the 14th century but we will stop here. Physically, morally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, economically and socially, the majority of people were in a dire, desperate and sad state. In fact, many call that century the worst century of human history.

Such devastation and conditions either does not exist or it does somewhat, but not affecting proportionally the amount of people and land it did back then. Our 'modern era' has not experienced anything equivalent to it.

We hear things, see things and experience things due to personal circumstance and all the technology and information available today. It's not worse, but may at times seem that way in part as a result of our limited life experience as well as other factors such as there are many more people on the planet (Both "good" and "bad") and we have communication and information on a scale unlike any other in history.

Could you imagine half of your neighbors or even a third of your neighbors dying in a year? How about a war lasting a hundred years affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people? What about social unrest and bleak economic conditions where the majority of people were suffering? Even if it did happen, it would only equal the devastation experience during the 14th Century.

Some people may feel and believe times are truly worse than when they were younger; for them individually, perhaps. Then again, as one gets older the carefree and freedom of youth leaves. Nostalgia may set in longing for a time in their personal life that was simpler and easier - Perhaps even healthier and happier. Their outlook on the world or people in general may become hard, cold or even pessimistic. One needs to look at the larger picture and overall scope of society to understand.

We're constantly learning as humans - still growing and understanding.

Are there changes in lifestyle in our modern era, including areas where doors and windows need to be locked which was not needed decades ago? Yes; it is the result of there being many more "bad" people in those areas today, but proportionately there are many more good individuals as well, when seen from a global perspective. Good people trying to do the right thing. We learn and grow as individuals and as groups of people.

As for the morality of people, for those under the impression that today’s society is the worst in human history, the Bible itself shows differently. Accounts of murder, incest, rape, killing innocent children, slavery, bestiality, and other horrendous acts and lifestyles are clearly stated; especially in the Bible books which are better known as the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, which are documented as events taking place thousands of years ago.

Here is one of the many examples that can be found - Judges 19: 16-29:

“Eventually, look! an old man coming in from his work in the field at evening, and the man was from the mountainous region of E´phra·im, and he was residing for a time in Gib´e·ah; but the men of the place were Ben´ja·mites. When he raised his eyes he got to see the man, the traveler, in the public square of the city. So the old man said: “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” In turn he said to him: “We are passing along from Beth´le·hem in Judah to the remotest parts of the mountainous region of E´phra·im. That is where I am from, but I went to Beth´le·hem in Judah; and it is to my own house that I am going, and there is nobody taking me on into the house. And there are both straw and fodder for our he-asses, and there are both bread and wine for me and your slave girl and for the attendant with your servant. There is no lack of a single thing.” However, the old man said: “May you have peace! Just let any lack of yours be upon me. Only do not stay overnight in the public square.” With that he brought him into his house and threw mash to the he-asses. Then they washed their feet and began to eat and drink.
While they were making their hearts feel good, look! the men of the city, mere good-for-nothing men, surrounded the house, shoving one another against the door; and they kept saying to the old man, the owner of the house: “Bring out the man that came into your house, that we may have intercourse with him.” At that the owner of the house went on out to them and said to them: “No, my brothers, do not do anything wrong, please, since this man has come into my house. Do not commit this disgraceful folly. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out, please, and YOU rape them and do to them what is good in YOUR eyes. But to this man YOU must not do this disgraceful, foolish thing.”
And the men did not want to listen to him. Hence the man took hold of his concubine and brought her forth to them outside; and they began to have intercourse with her, and kept on abusing her all night long until the morning, after which they sent her off at the ascending of the dawn. Then the woman came as it was turning to morning, and fell down at the entrance of the man’s house where her master was,—until daylight. Later her master rose up in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to get on his way, and, look! the woman, his concubine, fallen at the entrance of the house with her hands upon the threshold! So he said to her: “Rise up, and let us go.” But there was no one answering. At that the man took her upon the ass and rose up and went to his place. Then he entered his house and took the slaughtering knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her up according to her bones into twelve pieces and sent her into every territory of Israel.”

The above highlights the morality issue as well as provides the reader a large dose of sex and violence in very graphic terms.

Other scriptures and topics to examine are inclusive of but not exclusive to: Father-daughter incest (Genesis 19: 30-38), burning sacrifice of babies (Jeremiah 7:31), murder of family members (Genesis 4: 3-16), obtaining slaves including children (Leviticus 25:44-46), sex slavery (Exodus 21: 7-11).

There are many, many examples of things the world today sees as horrendous and would be unacceptable by the majority, but was seen as fine, acceptable, and even commonplace respecting morality thousands of years ago. As well as morality issues which some perceive as relatively recent events or changes in some, perhaps even many people they encounter and know about, but actually took place as significantly or to an even greater extent hundreds to thousands of years ago.

Really examine the quality of life today. The luxuries many people share were not even fathomable years ago. Times have not become worse, but better. We are more educated and a more tolerant society than times before. Equality and human rights are put to the forefront in many cases, and while some countries may be worse than others regarding these areas, globally, society has become better not worse.

So where does this grim look on 1914 and onward begin? We won't go into the pyramids, mathematics hopscotch and doctrines the Watchtower Society promoted or promotes at this time. What we will do is encourage the taking in of information, including understanding Dispensationalism. Jehovah's Witnesses are clearly a group engrossed in Dispensationalist theology thanks to the teachings and doctrine of the Watchtower Society.

Nonetheless, perhaps your honest evaluation of human history leads you to believe we are living in the worst of times. We are all entitled to our own opinions on the matter. More importantly, knowledge is truly power; do not be ignorant or just follow the ideas, beliefs and teachings of men because they claim something is the reality or “truth” when evidence points to the contrary. Learn about history, science, and perhaps even psychology. Know people and life better and know yourself better. It could be the best of times for you right now.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Firstborn = First Created?

The biblical use of the word “firstborn” can have different meanings. The first born child in a physical family is one of its meanings. This is exemplified in Luke 2:7:

“And she gave birth to her son, the firstborn, and she bound him with cloth bands and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the lodging room.”

Another meaning of the word “firstborn” is pre-eminence (This in turn means to have paramount rank, dignity, or importance). For example, notice what Psalm 89:20, 27 states:

“I have found David my servant; With my holy oil I have anointed him...Also, I myself shall place him as firstborn, The most high of the kings of the earth.”

Furthermore, “firstborn” in the scriptures can also be a title which is transferable. This is indicated by the information from two set of scriptures. The first is Genesis 41:51-52, there it states:

"So Joseph called the name of the firstborn Ma•nas´seh, because, to quote him, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all the house of my father.” And the name of the second he called E´phra•im, because, to quote him, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my wretchedness.”"

In the above scripture Manasseh is the firstborn. The second is Ephraim. The firstborn title is transferred though to Ephraim as indicated in Jeremiah 31:9:

"With weeping they will come, and with [their] entreaties for favor I shall bring them. I shall make them walk to torrent valleys of water, in a right way in which they will not be caused to stumble. For I have become to Israel a Father; and as for E´phra•im, he is my firstborn."

With all of the above in mind, we come to the scripture in Colossians 1:15-17 which speaks of Jesus as being the firstborn of all creation and about creation in general:

(New World Translation) : "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist"

The above scripture with the addition of “[other]” in several places supports and leads one to conclude that firstborn in this scripture indicates first created. The logic being, Jesus was created first and then all “[other]” things were created by him as he could not have created himself.

This logic would be accurate if firstborn in the above scripture did in fact indicate first created. It does not. At the time in which Paul wrote the above scriptures, the Greek word for first created is proto with ktizo. This is not what Paul used when examining the Greek writings. Rather, Paul used the Greek word for firstborn with the indication of pre-eminence which is proto with tikto.

If Paul wanted to clearly indicate Jesus was first created he would have used the Greek word protoktizo; rather, it was not Paul’s intention to indicate such. Jesus is before all things in pre-eminence and Paul indicated that by using the Greek word prototikto.

The original writings of the scriptures did not contain the “[other]” placements as done by the Watchtower Society in their New World Translation of the Bible. Furthermore, it is not needed as Paul is speaking of pre-eminence and not of being first created. That is why other translations do not contain the “[other]” in the verses...

(New International Version) : "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

(New American Standard Bible) : "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

(New King James Version) : "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

(Young's Literal Translation) : "who is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation, because in him were the all things created, those in the heavens, and those upon the earth, those visible, and those invisible, whether thrones, whether lordships, whether principalities, whether authorities; all things through him, and for him, have been created, and himself is before all, and the all things in him have consisted."

Indeed, the Watchtower Society is adding to the scriptures to support its doctrine and teaching that Jesus was created. That is not what Colossians is stating. Jesus is the pre-eminent one of all things. The Watchtower Society should not be adjusting scripture to fit their doctrine and teaching. They should be adjusting their doctrine and teaching to fit scripture.