After the talk, me and Daniel went out for lunch. Yes, I was told that I should bring my lunch. Why I didn't I have no idea. It wasn't a big deal, but we could have very easily lost our seat. At any rate, we went out, brought back our lunch, and sat down next to the building. Since we stuck out like a sore thumb at this convention, we were hoping that some people would come and talk to us. No one did. I'm not saying this because i'm accusing the JW's of being rude. I"m only saying this because we wanted an opportunity to share our beliefs with them.
As we finished up our lunch we went inside to find our seats. As we approached the aisle, a family that we had been briefly introduced to earlier began talking to us. They asked us what we thought of the program thus far. I replied with "interesting" and "educational." I didn't want to say "Yeah, it was great!" That would be completely untrue. We talked very briefly about some aspects of JW beliefs, but didn't get very far before they started asking us about our personal lives. This led to a good conversation about my and Daniel's music careers. The mom told us all about how her father was a huge music producer and all this stuff. They seemed really interested in our lives. This was really refreshing because I was feeling a bit awkward at the conference. Anyways, we exchanged contact information and went back to our seats.
The next event that took place was the drama. This is the part of the entire convention that all the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to look forward to the most. So let's just say I was expecting something spectacular. The entire play was pre-recorded. The only thing that was "live" was the motions. I'm sure there were reasons for this, but I wasn't exactly impressed. Hopefully I didn't just offend any JW's. The drama just didn't do it for me.
The next talk was, quite honestly, one of the worse talks i've ever heard. It was titled "Why All Suffering is Soon to End." It was based on the May 15, 2007 Watchtower, pg. 21-25. And what was this talk about? Predestination. Let me just sum up for you how I feel about JW's talking about predestination. First off, they couldn't be more against it. Secondly, they have no idea what they are talking about. I've said it before and i'll say it again; don't criticize something that you know nothing about. Would it be fair for me to criticize JW beliefs if i've never read any of their publications? Of course not; at least not publicly in front of 9,000 people!
Anyways, the presentation was so rampant with errors and strawmen that I hardly know where to begin. The gist of the talk was that the suffering we see in the world is not God's fault and will soon end. Of course, all Calvinists will agree with this. But read how the Watchtower portrays the "predestination" perspective:
"Third, we may need to help the person to see that God is not responsible for the wickedness so prevalent in the world. Many people are taught that God is ruling this world that we live in, that God long ago determined everything that happens to us, and that he has mysterious, inscrutable reasons for inflicting misery on mankind. These teachings are false. They dishonor God and make him out to be responsible for the wickedness and suffering in the world. So we may have to use God's Word to set such matters straight. (2 Timothy 3:16) Jehovah is not the ruler of this corrupt system of things; Satan the Devil is. (1 John 5:19) Jehovah does not predestine his intelligent creatures; he gives each one freedom and opportunities to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. (Deuteronomy 30:19) And Jehovah is never the source of wickedness; he hates wickedness and cares for those who suffer unjustly. -Job 34:10; Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Peter 5:7" (pg. 22)
So there you go! Apparently the Watchtower is not trying to convince anyone who is actually informed on the subject. If you are a Jehovah's Witness, do you actually think that the WT has actually read and studied reformed theology? In fact, if I were a betting man, I would be willing to bet that the WT has not studied any writings of the reformers. Why do I say this? Because the position they are arguing against doesn't belong to reformed thinkers! Sure, there are people on the streets who might believe these things. But why not argue against the best that the other side has to offer?
If the WT knew anything about reformed theology, they would understand that Calvinists teach something called "primary" and "secondary" causes. In other words, we teach divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Is this acknowledged? Of course not. Its the typical arminian strawman argument that goes, "those Calvinists just blame God for everything!" I'm not sure if the WT is even aware of these verses, but they should definitely check out Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10:12, and Acts 4:27-28. It will definitely shed some light on the subject and conclusively prove that God is sovereign, predestines all things, and still holds man responsible.
But the most disturbing aspect of the quote above is in regards to the admission that "Jehovah is not the ruler of this corrupt system of things." What? Is the WT saying that there are things in this world that are beyond his control? Thats right. According the the WT, Jehovah is not all powerful; at least not right now anyways. On the contrary, JW's believe that Satan is in control of this world. And their proof? 1 John 5:19, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."
Not very convincing. Just like Arminians, JW's refuse to deal with the semantical range of the word "World." Its as if "world" always means "everything, including all men, women, and children along with everything that exists under the sun." Is this the case? Hardly. Get out your trusty Strong's concordance and see for yourself. Look up the word "World" and check out every instance where its use. You'll be suprised with what you'll find. For example, you'll read in John 17:9, "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom you have given me." In other words, the "world" that Jesus speaks of is a separate group of people than "those you have given Me." Thats right. "World" in John 17:19 doesn't mean "the entire planet."
So what does 1 John 5:19 mean? Notice the contrast between "we are of God" and "the world." It is a separate group of people. It is speaking of unbelievers. Yes, unbelievers are in control of Satan. 2 Timothy 2:26 confirms this. But keep in mind that all those who are in control of the Devil are there because they want to be. The reformed position in no way teaches that unbelievers are robots and Satan is controlling them with a remote. No. The unregenerate willingly submit themselves to their master, Satan. Does this mean that Jehovah isn't in control? Of course not! In fact, Jehovah is so in control of the "world" that he is active in supressing their unbelief! Want proof? Check out John 12:39,
For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, "He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them."
Wow. That is powerful! Jehovah hardens their hearts so that they wouldn't be converted! Could statements like this really be true if Jehovah weren't in control? I'll let you be the judge of that. But what really got me was that the speaker constantly said that "Predestination is of the Devil." For a while I felt like I was listening to a sermon from an Arminian Southern Baptist!
At this point, some might be thinking that i'm being too harsh. And maybe I am. But keep in mind that the Watchtower makes claims for itself that demand such a treatment. Think about the following quotes in light of how I responded above:
"Q. Didn't you state that on October 15, 1931, the Watch Tower discontinued the naming of an editorial committee and then Jehovah God became the editor? A. I didn't say Jehovah God became the editor. It was appreciated that Jehovah God really is the One who is editing the paper, and therefore the naming of an editorial committee was out of place. Q. At any rate, Jehovah God is now the editor of the paper, is that right? A. He is today the editor of the paper." (Olin Moyle v. The Watchtower, 1943, sections 2596-2597)
"But you don't make any such statement, that you are subject to correction, in your Watchtower papers, do you? A. Not that I recall. Q. In fact, it is set forth directly as God's Word, isn't it? A. Yes, as His word. Q. Without any qualification whatsoever? A. That is right." (Olin Moyle v. The Watchtower, 1943, section 4421)
*if photocopies of these documents are requested, i'd be more than happy to provide them.
Because the Watchtower makes such claims (there are ones more amazing than this, believe it or not), I have no choice but to hold them to the highest possible standard. Although I am going to continue in my research, the Jehovah's Witnesses have not thus far made a good impression as an organization with full academic and scholarly integrity.
To conclude, the District convention was a great experience. It allowed me to see first hand how the organization operates. Many have read about the organization, but few have given consideration to attending their services and meetings. And when you do, you'll truly see for yourself what kind of organization these millions of people are a part of.