Friday, October 03, 2008

Discussions that will likely not be heard at the September Ministry Schools

Kingdom Ministry
Sunday, September 28
The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.—1 John 5:19.
We may need to help a person to see that God is not responsible for the wickedness so prevalent in the world.

As one who is Reformed in his theology, I can agree with this as long as we define our words carefully. Of course, if we neglect human responsibility, then it would be incorrect to believe that God is solely responsible for evil. But is there anyone who neglects human responsibility? This may be a long shot, but I have a feeling that the Watchtower is misrepresenting reformed theology here.

Who knows, maybe the WT is speaking of a fringe cult who believes that God is an angry monster who controls robots? But I sense that this is not the case ;-)

Many people are taught that God is ruling this world that we live in

Indeed they are. And it’s a good thing that they are being taught something that is explicitly affirmed in the Scriptures. If the WT teaches otherwise, then they are going directly against what Jehovah has revealed in His Word:

“O YHWH, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” (2 Chronicles 20:6, ESV)

“Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more; that men may know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 59:13, NASB)

“He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.” (Daniel 5:21, ESV)

(It is very interesting that I found these texts by simply entering “God” and “rule” into my Bible software search engine)

I think we need to qualify what we mean by “world.” Grab your concordance, look up “world,” and you will find a variety of ways in which kosmos is used. Obviously, in 1 John 5:19, “world” is speaking of those who are not in Christ. They do not have the Holy Spirit in them, and therefore are in “control” of the evil one (see 2 Tim. 2:26 for more on this). Although God is sovereign over all things, He has decreed that Satan be in “control” of those who are not being led by the Spirit. But even Satan is operating within the bounds of God’s sovereign decree, which is why the Scriptures cited above can say what they say without contradicting 1 John 5:19.

Unfortunately, the WT doesn’t care to enter into a discussion of these things, but instead wants to make its followers believe that there is no dispute or argument against their position.

that God long ago determined everything that happens to us

Another statement that goes against explicit statements in Scripture:

"For YHWH of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:27)

"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." (Isaiah 46:10-11)

"I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass." (Isaiah 48:3)

"Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." (Psalm 139:16)

"In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will." (Ephesians 1:11)

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.

Nothing like some good ole’ emotion-starters to make the God of the reformers into an uncontrollable monster. Nothing is mentioned in-so-far-as the fact that God has a purpose in His sovereign decree. Instead, God is presented as one who inflicts pain and suffering for no reason at all. I, too, would find such a thing repulsive. But the WT may not have thought things through as much as they should have.

No one denies that there is evil in this world. But what should we think of a God who wants love and peace, but allows evil to happen anyways; and with no purpose whatsoever? Am I supposed to feel comfort when my loved ones die with no purpose involved? Its certainly of no comfort to me! Nonetheless, the WT’s statement, again, goes against the Scriptures:

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." (Romans 9:22-23)

"See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39)

"The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am YHWH who does all these." (Isaiah 45:7)

"YHWH has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil." (Proverbs 16:4)

So we may have to use God’s Word to set such matters straight. (2 Tim. 3:16) Jehovah is not the ruler of this corrupt system of things; Satan the Devil is.

I see where the WT is going with this, but I think that it is an over-simplistic and naïve way of viewing the so-called “problem” of evil. It is an attempt to brush off the issue in order that JW’s not really think this issue through. If this were not the case, I would expect a lot more interaction with the reformed position and its view on primary and secondary causality. What do I mean? Here’s a few examples:

“YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away; blessed be the name of YHWH.” (Job 1:21)

Jehovah took away? What did this “taking away” involve? Pain? Sickness? Violence? Death? Yep, all of these things. But did Job have any idea what was really going on? Nope. All he could see was what happened before his eyes; his family murdered, his possessions stolen, and his health brought to ruin. Why didn’t he say, “YHWH gives, and Satan takes away?” Why didn’t he say, “YHWH gives, and evil men takes away?” Because he said, “YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away,” is he not attributing evil to Jehovah? Is Job neglecting to hold Satan and evil men responsible for their actions? These are things that deserve an explanation by the WT.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

This is in reference to Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers in addition to their lying to his father. Was this not an evil action? But what did Joseph say? “They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” What? God meant evil for good? How can this be? Were Joseph’s brothers not held responsible and punished for their evil actions? Certainly! But what about God’s intentions and actions? How can God intend something that he supposedly has no part in (according to JW’s)? Yet a few more questions that the WT has to answer to.

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." (Acts 4:27-28)

This is a good one, for it specifically speaks of God “predestining” something evil; the death of Messiah. Were Herod, the Roman soldiers, and the Jews not held responsible for their actions? But how could they be held responsible for an evil event that God “predestined?” Or is there more to it than this? Sounds like there is a lot more to it than what the WT makes it out to be!

Jehovah does not predestine his intelligent creatures; he gives each one freedom and opportunities to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. (Deut. 30:19)

Again, in complete contrast to the Scriptures:

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (Romans 9:18-19)

This is alluding to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. If God were trying to leave it completely and totally up to us, why would he invade our “free will” by hardening hearts? It is very interesting that Paul presents a hypothetical “objector” who objects in the same way that many would today:

“If God is hardening hearts and having such control over men’s wills, then how can he turn around and punish them for doing what He wants them to do?”

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Is He not the potter, and we the clay? Its amazing how men will stop at nothing to preserve free will, but neglect God’s will in the process.

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of YHWH; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Proverbs 21:1)

Need I say more? No one is suggesting that no one has a choice in the matter. Everyone has the option for choice, but certainly not the ability for choice (otherwise, why would God need to harden anyone at all?).

And Jehovah is never the source of wickedness; he hates wickedness and cares for those who suffer unjustly.—Job 34:10; Prov. 6:16-19; 1 Pet. 5:7. w07 5/15 1:8

Anyone who is reformed in their theology will give a hearty “amen” to this. But we must be careful to define our terms. What do we mean by “source” of wickedness? Was God the “source” for the wicked act of crucifying Jesus Christ; the only truly innocent man who has ever lived? Was God the “source” of Job’s afflictions, even though he claimed that, “Jehovah took away?” What about Joseph being sold into slavery, which he claims that “God meant for good?” Was God the “source” of that evil action? Again, the WT is providing an over-simplified approach and not allowing its followers to really think this issue through.

If I am off on any of this, I would be happy to look at any literature that the WT has published that really deals with the points raised; things that Reformed thinkers have been publishing for hundreds of years. So its certainly nothing new. If you are a JW reading this, I ask that you open your mind and really try to tackle these issues head on and not view the WT’s word as the be-all-end-all on the subject. And I pray that you view Jehovah as the sovereign God of the universe just as the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar affirmed in Daniel 4:34-35:

"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘what have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35)

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