Thursday, October 19, 2006

Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door...

Huzzah! The Witnesses came to my door this morning and left a fantastic little brochure for me to poke holes in and maybe even laugh at a little. Oh the joys. I was actually out of the room when they came but I heard them drop off the pamphlet. It sounded like mid-20s women possibly with another little girl along for the ride.

The pamphlet is so kindly titled:

A WORLDWIDE MESSAGE
THE END OF FALSE RELIGION IS NEAR!

I'll admit its scared me a little but probably not for the reasons they hoped. (1)The brochure goes on to define false religion by attempting to show faults of those who practice other religions as if Jehovah's Witnesses have no sin whatsoever amongst them. (2) It also claims that if your religion says the soul does not die then it is false. (3) Later it goes on to explain that in the end times, which we apparently are in without any kind of doubt, all of those who do not practice their religion will be obliterated.

Response to #1:

Their brochure claims you know the true religion by the fact that it "practices love, trusts God's word, and strengthens families and upholds high moral standards." I cannot speak for Protestant Christians but I can explain the Catholic point of view. The way you tell a religion is true or false is not by judging those who practice it. They give three points in which to tell how other religions are false. Apparently, a false religion will "meddle in war and politics", "spread false doctrine", and "tolerate immoral sex." Many of the examples they give are sins perpetrated by individual members of religions and not the actual doctrines themselves. By their definition Jesus would actually not be allowed into heaven because he forgave sinners, even the sexual kind. Remember the Pharisees scorned him when he tolerated Mary Magdelene.

On the flip side, a Catholic would say the way you can tell the true religion is by asking if it bears the marks of the true Church. Even many protestants will agree with these points though the nuance in meaning is a little different.

From the Nicene Creed in 325AD, which was written to protect against heresies (like this one):
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam, et apostolicam ecclesiam. Confiteor unam baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the remission of sin.


The Church is One. An example of how we know this is that Christ, on the night of his arrest prayed "Lord, let them all be One." One God, One Faith, One Baptism, One Church.

The Church is Holy. This we see at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit comes into it. God keeps his Church in existence. Even Christ said to Peter "I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the gates of Hell shall not prevail it." The Church is not Holy because of the perfection of its members, but the perfection of God, its creator and benefactor.

The Church is Catholic. Catholic of course means "universal". Christ came that everyone, Jew and Gentile could attain the happiness of heaven. Salvation is not dependant on what country you come from or how much money you have. It is irrelevant if you are king or pauper.

The Church is Apostolic. This means it is sent forth to do the work of God. The disciples became Apostles when they were sent forth by Christ to fullfill his mission. As Christ said to Peter, "Feed my lambs." Today we, along with the Orthodox faithful continue the apostolic tradition. We can trace our bishop's line back to the apostles themselves. This is known as Apostolic Succession. Protestants will believe that all Christians are sent to do God's work and evangelize. Of course in a sense they are correct. It is the difference between who has authority and who does not which unfortunately separates us.

Response to #2:

This is an easy one. Even their misrepresentation of the Gospels seems to deny their very doctrine. I'll quote from their New World Translation to prove my point. In the brochure in order to prove the soul dies, they quote "The soul that is sinning - it itself will die" (Ezekiel 18:4) This is a bad translation, but nonetheless... They ask the question, "Does your religion teach that the soul does not die?" Implying that if it does, yer sitting in the wrong pew.

Their does too though. Move ahead to John 3:16, from the NWT: "For God love the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life." So if the soul dies after the body does then how are you not destroyed? Theologically this does not stand the test. They teach that both body and soul are dead until the end of the world and then you get resurrected. But if you believe in Christ then you aren't destroyed, even though you are...hrm...whatever.

Reponse to #3:

Its a little more difficult to respond to their eschatology since I am not an expert in this myself. However I do know that Christians believe the Bible when it says those who are not saved will suffer eternal punishment. Not punishment for a time and then obliteration. Obliteration would actually be an overly merciful act to some. While God is merciful, he allows us free will - which is an ultimate act of Love. He loves us so much that he allows us to choose our own destiny.

Also, I should note they have edited the Bible (specifically Revalation) to fit their own theology. You can find more here from Catholic Answers:

Are They Awake on the Watchtower
Distinctive Beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses
The God of the Jehovah's Witnesses

And of course, you can learn about Jehovah's Witnesses from the source. If something I wrote misrepresented them then I apologize, but go to their site and you can check out what I said. I think from their pamphlet (which they advertise on the front of their site), I got the gist pretty well. Here's the Watchtower website.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note that your comments regarding the tract you received from the Witnesses reveals a couple of things about yourself, such as (1) you really don't have a clue about what the Witnesses actually believe, (2) you can't see the mistranslation in your own Bible, including the editing of the actual Bible to fit your erroneous theology, thus making it so much easier for you to try and point it out against theirs, and (3) you don't use a single Bible verse to try and refute what their tract had to say, you simply refer to what men say. Let's look at your responses to the message in the tract:

(1) The Bible makes it very clear who are the true followers of Christ. As it says "all will know you are my disciples if you have love among yourselves". Love. Now tell me how many Catholics refrain from going to war in which they would be killing Catholics on the other side? As history has shown, it's a great number, and it grows every day. While some of the sins are indeed committed by individual members, such as immoral sex, and not the entire faith, what does the faith do, however, when it is done? Simply look the other way, or take action to remove the unrepentant ones from the congregation (a practice solidly based on the Bible)? Jesus' forgiveness of sinners including those who formerly (note that word, formerly) lived a life of sinful debauchery was completely just, as God forgives those who are repentant and make the necessary changes in their lives to be acceptable to him.

(2) If you'd actually do ANY kind of research before giving the blanket statement that the Jehovah's Witness Bible is "a bad translation" (which it isn't since it adheres probably THE closest to the original Greek and Hebrew texts as possible....thus making it extremely accurate and reliable), you'd see that even ONE teaching that is outside of what the scriptures say (i.e. the immortality of the soul) makes for a false religion. There's no denying that. If a religion teaches incorrect doctrine such as that, then it's false. It's really simple as that. Your comments regarding John 3:16 simply make no sense, mainly because you ignore what the Bible says about the creation of man in Genesis 2:7 that when Adam was created he BECAME a soul, it doesn't say he was GIVEN one. So with that in mind, then John 3:16 comes clear that by our exercising faith in Jesus' sacrifice, we have the hope for a future of everlasting life, rather than a future in which very shortly many in this world will be destroyed. And by "destroyed", it simply means just that, killed and put out of existance. So your entire comment on that was taken without the basic simple Bible understanding that we are souls not that we're given them.

(3) It's always interesting that those who disagree with Jehovah's Witnesses make the ridiculous claim that they "change the Bible to fit their own theology". Such a claim is as ridiculous as it is wrong. You would be wise to do research on Bible translations before going along with ridiculous claims like that. The Bible stands on its own merits, and the Jehovah's Witnesses stand by the Bible. Websites such as the mentioned "Catholic Answers" do nothing but falsify the teachings and beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The ONLY accurate information regarding a religion's beliefs would be found on that religion's website (if they have one) or from one of their own members.

Matt said...

If the ONLY accurate information regarding a religion's beliefs can be found on their website, then I encourage you to go to www.vatican.va to learn about true Catholic teaching.

As for the rest of your post, my response is this:

I will let it stand upon its own merits and let my readers judge for themselves. This blog isn't meant to be an exercise in Biblical theology or exegesis but about my own experiences and views. There are plently of resources out there for people to retrieve information.

Chrissy Joy said...

"The ONLY accurate information regarding a religion's beliefs would be found on that religion's website (if they have one) or from one of their own members."

All this time, the secret to all the religious answers could be found on the World Wide Web! I can't believe I've been decieved by my entire seminary education.

I don't really understand where this person is coming from, but they posted anonymously and since I know Matt personally I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Peace people.

Stefan Kraan said...

Hi Matt,

I've got some information on the "soul" for you.

Although many religions support various teachings about an immortal soul, it is strange to see that the Bible doesn't support this teaching at all. You only have to go back to the original text in Hebrew and Greek.

When Bible-writers referred to the "soul", they used the Hebrew word "ne'fesj" and the Greek word "psu'che". These two words appear more than 800 times in the original Bible text. In the New Worls Translation they are all uniformly translated with the word "soul".

If you investigate how the word "soul" should be understood, you'll find out that it mainly refers to 3 things:

1. People
2. Animals
3. The life that a person or animal has

Here are just a few examples of the usage of the Hebrew word "ne'fesj" and the Greek word "psu'che":

1. People. 1 Peter 3:20, Genesis 46:18, Joshua 11:11, Acts 27:37, Romans 13:1.

2. Animals. Genesis 1:20,24, Genesis 9:10, Leviticus 11:46, Numbers 31:28.

3. The life that a person or animal has. Exodus 4:19, Genesis 35:16-19, John 10:11, 1 Kings 17:17-23, Matthew 10:39, John 15:13, Acts 20:10.

Nothing indicates that the Hebrew and Greek word translated with the word "soul" refer to an immortal spiritual being inside a person that goes out after death.

Then we still have the word "spirit". In Bible context the word "soul" and "spirit" are not the same. Bible writers used the Hebrew word "ru'ach" and the Greek word "pneu'ma" if they were talking about the "spirit". These Hebrew words are used in scriptures like psalm 104:29, James 2:26 etc.

In these scriptures "spirit" refers to the force or energy that enables one to live. Without "spirit" the body is dead. In the Bible the word "ru'ach" is not only translated with the word "spirit", but also with "force" or "life-force". Just look up Genesis 6:17, 7:15,22.

The word "ru'ach" is sometimes also translated with the word "breath". Just look up psalm 146:3,4.

The "spirit" thus refers to the invisible life-force or 'breath of life' that enables a creature to live.

In Bible sense, the "soul" and the "spirit" are not the same. Our body needs "spirit" to live like a radio needs electricity to function.

When a creature dies, Ecclesiastes 12:7 says: "Then the dust returns to the earth just as it happened to be, and the spirit (ru'ach) itself returns to God."

If the "spirit" or life-force leaves a creature, the creature dies and returns to the earth from which it came. The life-force returns to the source of it: God. Just look up Job 34:14,15, Psalm 36:9.

This spirit also does not refer to an immortal soul or being inside us.

To say that the teaching of an "immortal soul" that survives after death and goes to heaven is NOT scriptural is completely correct and in line with the original Hebrew and Greek text.

The teaching of an "immortal soul" is a Greek concept that was used in old mysterie-cults and was worked out by Plato. (Presbyterian Life, 1 may 1970, page 35)

This teaching is absolutely NOT in line with Gods word the Bible. You can be confident that the true religion does not support the teaching of an "immortal soul".

Matt said...

Hey Stefan, thanks for the interesting information. Respectfully of course, I cannot agree...and here's why.

First off, I cannot speak to your definitions for the Hebrew and other languages. However, I also cannot necessarily accept them either. The Old Testament has been worked over many times by both Jewish, Christian, and non-religious scholars. I'm sure this would be a much bigger issue for all of us if the argument held any serious weight.

Secondly, it seems as though you believe the Bible to be the sole rule of faith. The Bible itself does not even say it has the authority you give it. Where did you get your Bible from? I'll tell you: the Canon was decided on by the Catholic Church. You might say that is a tradition of Men, but its probably even more true that using the Bible only is a tradition of men.

Many people use this...

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

...to prove the doctrine of sola scriptura. However I would point out that when St. Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, he did not consider what he was writing scripture. It was not until the Church which Christ founded accepted as Canonical his letter that this verse carried any merit.

Christ gave the keys to Peter, to which he said "For you are Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church." Not, "For you are Peter, go compile and write my Bible."


Either way, this is an interesting conversation. I appreciate the comments!

Chrissy Joy said...

Matt,
I'm super impressed with your argument. =) Can we talk about something more interesting now?

catholicxjw said...

Hi:

I am a convert to the Catholic Church from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I have a podcast on the JWs' view of what happens at death. You guys might find it interesting as I show how the JWs' own Bible contradicts their teachings. Anyway, here is the link to the podcast:

http://catholicxjw.blogspot.com/2006/07/soul-is-immortal.html

Jeff S.

Matt said...

Jeff -

I'm honored to have you read my blog. I actually listened to two episodes already. Very insightful and interesting!

-Matt

Stefan Kraan said...

Well, as far as the New World Translation is concerned: Some people tend to be so prejudiced when Jehovah's Witnesses produce something. Fortunately there we also have people that really investigate and at least try not to be prejudiced.

Please visit this link

http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/newworldtranslation/beduhn_truth.in.translation.book.htm

Well, anyway, that's it for me folks! Surfing my way to other interesting discussions.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. You say:

"First off, I cannot speak to your definitions for the Hebrew and other languages. However, I also cannot necessarily accept them either. The Old Testament has been worked over many times by both Jewish, Christian, and non-religious scholars. I'm sure this would be a much bigger issue for all of us if the argument held any serious weight."

You know it doesn't really take a lot of digging to see that those definitions for 'soul' that he listed are actually corrected. But then again, you don't want to find out any truth that can change what you think you "know", is that right?


And then you contradict yourself starting off with this:

"Secondly, it seems as though you believe the Bible to be the sole rule of faith. The Bible itself does not even say it has the authority you give it. Where did you get your Bible from? I'll tell you: the Canon was decided on by the Catholic Church. You might say that is a tradition of Men, but its probably even more true that using the Bible only is a tradition of men."

That comment is pretty laughable, considering you go on to quote the very scriptures in the Bible that attest to its authority, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. The Apostle Paul knew full well that the Bible writers (including himself) were being inspired with God's holy spirit to write the things God wanted them to include in the Bible. 2 Peter 1:21 shows that even the Apostle Peter (just like Paul) knew that the Bible writers were "borne along by holy spirit", which directed their writing.

And then, last but not least, you take the scripture at Matt 16 out of context, as so many do who try and make Peter out to be the first "pope". The entire context of the discussion between Jesus and Peter was not on Peter, it was regarding Jesus. If Peter was the rock on which the church was built, he certainly would have known it; and if he knew it he would have made that powerfully clear in his own epistles. But even in his own writings Peter never calls himself pope or speaks of himself as the head of the church. Rather, he identifies Christ as the rock-mass foundation in 1 Peter 2:4-8.

Tony said...

I am one of Jehovah's witnesses. I just happened upon this blogg because of the special campaign we are doing. I figured that since we are handing out this pamphlet worldwide over the course of about 4 weeks, there should be quite a few people talking about it. Anyway, after reading the posts here, I felt the need to post myself.

I've been to many churches in my lifetime, Catholic, Lutheran, Free will Baptist, Pentecostal, and Church of Christ. I spent a fair amount of time in each (with the exception of Catholic) and do understand where many individuals are coming from with their thoughts on this matter. I do respect that.

While Jehovah’s witnesses are obviously imperfect and not without sin, as a group we do sincerely endeavor to live by the standards of the Bible.

The only way to know if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing though is by actively studying the Bible. Many people have a strong faith, but have no idea where in the Bible to find supporting scripture for their beliefs. It’s really quite sad. They can spend hours researching a particular vehicle their thinking of buying that will eventually be discarded in a junk yard, but can’t spare 10 minutes to read the Bible.

There is a very interesting article here that I would encourage everyone here to read:

http://www.watchtower.org/e/20020401/article_01.htm

It gives some food for thought.


Anyway, as I say, I respect that each individual has their own beliefs and I try not to come across too strong. However, because I do care about people, I feel a sense of urgency to talk to people about the Bible. In the end we all make our own choices though.

Regards,
Tony

p.s. I didn’t submit my full name or email address because there are some unscrupulous individuals who will likely find this site, and I want to avoid the flames.

Roger Johnson said...

Hi Matt. I just came across your blog. I can't believe some of the falsities that have been tossed at you. Especially the one about the Bible being reworked over and over. Anyone that has an interest in the old texts can just compare what was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the some of the books found in Qumran and they will see that what we read is not that much different. But I've done a ton of research into these topics that the JWs harp on. I lost my wife to these people but in the process I learned a ton.

Facts (religions and war)- the entire OT is filled with warfare. Neither Jesus nor the disciples turned away any of the Roman Soldiers that asked for their help nor did they tell them that their proffession was wrong.

Facts (afterlife) -
Mark 9:4 - 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. (funny how Moses and Elijah had an after life. I suppose they didn't know that they were being apostate.)

Revelation 6:9 - 9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
(Wooops!! How'd they get under there?)

So there are a couple of facts that deal with war and the afterlife. And on the issue that the NWT is a bad translation, it is. A horrible translation. It is nowhere near what the original Greek and Hebrew translations. Anyone can do some study into this and see and any compitent person would do so before taking up for it. It's the absolute worse translation out there. I've not come across a Witness yet that has any interlinear versions of either OT or NT.
A good example is John 1:1. The word was "a god". Yeah, I know that there is not definate article in front of the word "theos" so it means "a god" instead of "God". The definate article in question is the Greek word "ho". If you want to do some research grab an interlinear and see how many times the word "ho" doesn't appear before the word "theos" and have it still translate as the word "God" in the NWT, it's very, very inconsistant with the methods that are used to explain their translations. There are countless other horrible errors and inconsistancies in the NWT other than that particular one. You believe it's the closest because you don't know any better and can't do any research on your own. There are a ton of other mistranslations too, but way too many to go into it here.
Not to mention, if the Greek word for spirit means breath, why doesn't your NWT translate it that way? If stauros doesn't mean cross then what is the Greek word for "cross"? I'll bet you don't know because it doesn't appear in your literature and not to mention no one at the Watchtower knows ancient Greek.
Anonymous, you need to quit following something blindly and do some research on your own.

Oh, btw here are a few more quick verses since you need some to back up Matt's points:

Matthew 22:21 - They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (this includes all that the Gov may require of you, even military service)

John 15:13 - 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends (this is what soldiers do everyday)

Oh and don't forget that the Book of Revelations is filled with war and terror that are cast on the world by God. So all this talk about since Jesus came that makes us exempt from the war that was ok to do in OT is bunk. Oh yeah, not to mention the JWs down in Mexico a few years ago thought it was ok for the Mexicans to join the armed forces too.

Oh yeah, and if you'd do a little research into the actual Hebrew translations for the word "soul" you'll see that it is also interchangeable with their word for "spirit".

It's funny how well JWs know their literature but don't know either scripture or any Greek or Hebrew. And you really have no idea what the Bible means by "eternal punishment". So don't insinuate that you know what John 3:16 means.

Dude, you really need to look into interlinear translations and quit listening to what the Watchtower tells you these words mean. It makes you look extremely uneducated.

This idea too that all scripture is inspired of God does not mean that all translations are inspired of God. I'm tired of hearing that too.

Anyway, Matt, sorry if I seemed a little rough. I've lost a lot to these people and it's really gotten under my skin. Take it easy.
Roger

Matt said...

Roger -

Thanks for the comments. I'm not listening to them per say, but I did do some more research into their sect and it is wacky (IMHO).

I let anyone comment even if I disagree, with exceptions for the unusually crude, which I will remove.

Regardless, your comments didn't seem that harsh to me and it looks like you've had to deal with some unfortunate aspects of JWs (like losing your wife to them :-( )

Pax et bonum,
Matt

Matt said...

I appreciate valid and useful comments but please do not use this as a place to submit your propaganda. I am not a JW nor do I agree with their theology and practices, but honestly, I hate it when people such as "Anonymous" use my blog as a place for Google searchers to find dirt on people. No dice, comment deleted.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton