An examination of Reasoning from the Scriptures on “Born Again”

In responding to other article on Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs, I ended up examining a section from a publication,Reasoning from the Scriptures, from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, . The section was on being “Born Again” and what that means to them. While I did not tackle every single paragraph in the section, I covered what I considered the major points and in so doing learned quite a bit myself. I wanted to post this on my page so you guys can see the problems I have with their theology and reasoning. Also, for all of those who study with Jehovah’s Witnesses or are one yourself, pay attention to what you read. Always read with a critical mind and test what someone is telling you no matter how much you believe in them.

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To delve into this subject a little deeper I would like to examine the reasoning that forms Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs laid out in the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s (WTB&TS) publication Reasoning from the Scriptures (RftS). This may shed some extra light on why they believe what they do and where they are getting it from.

 

On page 77 of RftS we come to a section about “Only persons who have been “born again,” thus becoming God’s sons, can share in the heavenly Kingdom” (WTB&TS). Further RftS says that John 1:12,13 teaches that it was the Jews who can only be born again. To illustrate this the reader is told “(As many as did receive him” does not mean all humans who have put faith in Christ. Notice who is being referred to, as indicated by verse 11 [“his own people,” the Jews]. The same privilege has been extended to others of mankind, but only to a little flock.”)” (WTB&TS,77)

 

First John is not even talking to a Jewish crowd, it is a narrative to open his Gospel, and nowhere does it imply that only the Jews could be born again. As a matter of fact, grammatically all kinds of assumptions or interpretations could be drawn from the insert from RftS. Was it the supposed crowd, the Jewish reader, or any reader for that matter. Were there only Jews in the supposed crowd? What about proselytes and gentiles who put faith in him. I believe there is a little deception or very bad theology being presented here. John 1:11 does state “his own people”, but if we read John1:11 in its entirety we will see something completely different. John1:11 reads, “He came to his own home, but his own people did not accept him.” (NWT,1426). Then verse 12 continues, “However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children,e because they were exercising faith in his name.f” (NWT, 1426). This seems to imply at the very least that his own people, the Jews, did not receive him but there were others that did, Jews and Gentiles. Notice in John1:12 it says, “to all who did who did receive him,” (NWT,1426). Interestingly enough the WTB&TS still quote the 1984 version of the NWT, “However, as many as did receive him.” Yet the NWT 2013 version says, “to ALL”. (More than likely the WTB&TS has yet to simply update RftS, but still worth of notation.)  John 1:12-13 doesn’t say to any Jew or to all Jews and I find it deeply disturbing that the WTB&TS use verse 11 in the manner that they do. In conclusion I ask, is the WTB&TS trying to reason with us by saying the ones who are going to be born again are “his own people” that rejected him(Yahshua)?

 

For better context, we are going to look at the NWT’s own references and John chapter 1.

In John chapter 1, we are led to believe that the speaker is talking to only the Jews when the author is narrating up to verse 15. Verse 12 seems to indicate that anyone could receive this authority, not just a Jew. If we back up to verse 7 we see that “the light” was meant so that “people of all sorts might believe through him.” (NWT,1426). So, the context in John Ch.1 1-14 talks about men, the world, peoples of all sorts and only in 11 do we see Yahshua’s people referenced, which would make verse 12 see a bit odd in contrast to the previous verse if it was only about the Jews since they were just referenced in a negative way. I want to return to RftS p. 77. When the WTB&TS quotes John 1:12,13, they add in, “The same privilege has been extended to others of mankind, but only to a “little flock.” (WTB&TS,77). Where does John 1:12-13 say this in anyway. It doesn’t. John 1:12 says “all who did receive him”, not the Jews and some other gentiles. This is just inserted and we the reader or listener are supposed to accept it. Let us test it though and see if the same standard the WTB&TS put on John 1:12-13 stands up to the little flock teaching.

 

In Luke 12:32 we are told that the little flock are only those 144,000 that are born again. If we apply the same standard Reasoning from the Scriptures puts on John1:12-13 will we see what the little flock is? In RftS we are told to pay attention to who the audience is, so let us look at who the audience is in Luke 12:32. In Luke Ch. 12 Yahshua is talking to a Jewish crowd and his disciples. Where are the gentiles? How is it that John1:12-13 is said to only refer to Jews or Israel when there is no audience present, and the little flock are the others of mankind, but when we read Luke 12:32, Yeshua is only talking to a Jewish audience and that is somehow supposed to be gentiles or “the others” he is referring to. There is no mention or even context of two separate peoples. There is not even a differentiation between those being born again from the Jews and the “little flock” gentiles. It is not even in the context.

 

Next I want to turn our attention RftS p. 77-78. On page 77 there is a section called “Can a person who is not “born again” be saved?” (WTB&TS, 77). In the second paragraph on p. 78 I find their reasoning very interesting. RftS states:

“After listing many pre-Christian persons of faith, Hebrews 11:39,40 says: “All these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us, in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Who are here meant by “us”? Hebrews 3:1 shows that they are “partakers of the heavenly calling.” The pre-Christian persons who had faith, then, must have a hope for perfect life somewhere other than in heaven.)

Now there is a lot to digest here, but we will start by reasoning, does did not get the fulfillment mean that they never will get it? This is a huge problem if one stops and thinks about it. When does God ever promise something that he will not deliver? He doesn’t, Father Yahweh never fails his people. To get a better understanding let’s go back a few verses to see what is going on. Hebrews 11:13-16:

“13 In faith all of these died, although they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises;a but they saw them from a distanceb and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.14 For those who speak in such a way make it evident that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. 15 And yet, if they had kept remembering the place from which they had departed,c  they would have had opportunity to return.16 But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven….”(NWT,1611)

Verse 13 says they didn’t receive the fulfillment which means the promises were not complete. Nowhere does it say their promises were taken away. It goes on to say they saw them from afar off and said they were strangers in this land. How are they going to be strangers, when they going to be resurrected right back to Earth? Verse 14 says they would even return to that land if they kept dwelling on it. Now if we apply the same standard RftS applies to 1 Peter 1:3,4(as you will see in the next paragraph) does verse 16 mean they are going to heaven?  Verse 19 we have Abraham reasoning that if he offers up his son, God will still resurrect him to the promises that they were seeing in verse 13. Why would you kill your son for a promise he would never see? Especially if that promise was meant for someone else, i.e. the future Christians. Also, where is the replacement or other promise that Abraham and the rest of the “pre-Christians now have to rely on? I submit that they are all one in the same, just viewed from a different point in time. I also want to bring up the glaring question of why did they not receive the promise and what was it replaced with? Does chapter 11 talk about heaven being the promise that is being taken away from

 

Last I want to cover how the born again go to heaven. On page 77 from the “Only persons who have been “born again,” thus becoming God’s sons, can share in the heavenly kingdom” (WTB&TS, 77), 1 Peter 1:3,4 is quoted, and it is the last part that is used to say the born again go to heaven. 1 Peter 1:4 “to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (NWT, 1621). Does something being reserved in the heavens mean you or the born again are going there? Let us look at James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, coming down from the Father of the celestial lights, …” (NWT, 1616). Does James 1:17 mean that all good gifts we get in this world literally fall from heaven above like Santa dropping gifts, or does it mean that it is willed from the Father in heaven. With this in mind 1 Peter 1:4 does not explicitly teach the born again are going to heaven. More likely this verse is saying that the born again’s faith of a better life is just that, reserved in a future plan awaiting to be given to them, the righteous.

 

The key when examining any JW belief is follow the references and verses meant to support a particular belief and more times than not the verse(s) used are not even in the context or realm of what is being taught.

 

  1. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Reasoning from the Scriptures.

Brooklyn: WTB&TS, 1985. Print

  1. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Wallkill: WTB&TS, 2013. Print

 

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A Jehovah’s Witness publication “Mankind’s Search for God” and a case for intellectual dishonesty.

mksfgAs I have stated in my first post, I have a passion when it comes to honesty regarding religious matters. I have spent a considerable amount of time studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their literature. While I have come across many instances of incorrect information I want to jump into a specific one that has a lot of implications in my personal view. We will however delve into the specific implications of this in later post.

Mankind’s Search for God  is a Watch Tower publication which summarizes the major religions of the world in a somewhat chronological order. For the most part the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society(WTBTS) takes a more scholarly approach in describing each religion and its origin. Obviously they disagree with each religion according to doctrine in comparison to the Scriptures, but for the most part that is how they present it. When we come to Christianity, we immediately see a shift in gear. Instead of starting off with the origin of Christianity from a historical view, they start off attacking the morality.

So lets jump into the issue at hand. In the very first paragraph of Ch.10 we see the claim that Christianity has fallen into moral bankruptcy. To validate this they state, ” The standards of Christianity were different from the permissive mores of today is attested to Professor Elaine Pagels in her book Adam, Eve, and the Serpent wherein she states: “Many Christians of the first four centuries took pride in their sexual restraint; they eschewed polygamy and often divorce as well, which Jewish tradition allowed;  and they repudiated extramarital sexual practices commonly accepted among their pagan contemporaries, practices including prostitution and homosexuality.””(Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society[WTBTS] 235-36). Just as a side note, it does not escape my attention they do not correctly cite Dr. Pagels or provide a page number. To drive the point home they follow it up and ask is it fair to say that Christians today are the true followers of Christ (WTBTS 236). I of course have many questions that pop into mind, because of the assumptions they take.One such question is where is the empirical data, what does this have to do with the history of Christianity, can the JW stand up to the same standard and many many more.

What I want to focus on though is the quote from Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. Their proof is a quote from Dr. Pagels from the above citation. First, if you just read what is being said Dr. Pagels never says anything about a comparison between modern day Christians and our 1st and 4th century ancestors. The quote they are citing actually comes from the forward of Dr. Pagels’ book and she actually states the opposite. Dr. Pagels view is that modern day Christians and their sexual practices come directly from those same 1st and 4th centiry Christians that the WTBTS says were so different from the ones of today. As a matter of fact Dr. Pagels book has nothing do with sexually immoral Christians and everything to do with how the Bible shaped modern western culture and she does make a distinction from modern day society and modern day Christians.

Now at this point I have plenty of issues with this, but two I want to mention is this. This is a case of bearing false witness, as well as dishonestly quoting a scholar in a related field to make it look like their claims are valid. I simply ask, how is this from Jehovah? If you are led by Jehovah, why would He lead you to use deceptive methods to prove a point? I know I am being blunt, but I doing that on purpose.

I personally am highly offended by this. Not in a personal way because I know what is going on and why they are doing this. I am offended that Jehovah’s Witnesses are using modern day media of public cases such as the Catholic Church child molestation scandal or any other preacher or high profile Christian that messes up in the public eye to PROVE that all Christians are morally bankrupt therefor proving Christianity is false. How can they say this. I cannot tell how many Christians that I know that do take pride in their sexual morality and take their vows to God very seriously. Yes I know there are many Christians today that do not practice sexual morality, but that is not the majority. I ask, can Jehovah’s Witnesses stand up to the same scrutiny? I will tell you that the more that I get involved into the Jehovah’s Witness community, I meet many people who are honestly trying to please Jehovah, but I also see more and more evidence that they are plagued by the same problems. Lets not even bring up the charges of child molestation and cover up within the organization of these same individuals. Does their own standard prove they are in the same category as the rest of Christianity?

Again, I am keeping it short in this post only to set up for more in depth questions and discussions that arise from the intellectual dishonesty that they practice in relation to this specific case. Do believe me we will be covering many more, but we will have to start somewhere. Right now I just want to bring attention to this and begin a dialog about my concerns that I have and what Jehovah’s Witnesses need to see.

I do demand an explanation AND an apology to Christians at large from the Governing Body or the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. I know there will be tap dancing on who writes JW literature and who authorizes it. I could careless, because they claim to be teaching all one message and if your organization is being led by Jehovah anyway how is this coming from him? How is he leading you in a lie?

 

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. “10.” Mandkind’s Search for God. Pennsylvania: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1990. 235-36. Print.

 

 

 

Searching for Religious Truth in today’s information age.

Searching for Religious Truth in today’s information age.

In an age of advancing technology and social media, we find an ever increasing availability of information and data at our finger tips. With this availability there also is no shortage of ideas and opinions that arise from this exposure. It is often said that society has become “smarter” than those before.  What I find in most cases is that the general public has not become smarter per say, but more informed or aware of subjects, but no more educated on said subjects. Many do not take the time to critique or look at the broader picture through an unbiased lense or even validate facts they digest. Having data available does not mean you have the faculties or expertise to interpret said data. The issue becomes more complex if the  observer of data or the provider of data do not have the intention of being honest in the first place.

When we take a look at the evolution of religion in our society today, locally and globally, we see how evident this is.  In a world that has generally opened its doors to open religious freedom and an overabundance of facts and opinions, we as a society have placed ourselves in front of a smorgasbord of beliefs from which to choose.  Most people, I find, change their views on religion or cement themselves in a belief based upon what they like rather than what is correct. This is not to say that there have not been positive advances as well. There have most definitely been positive advances alongside the negative, but that is a different debate for a different day.

As we delve into the world of religion, we find no shortage of those out on the street corners and on the internet who have fell victim to the over abundance of this information overload, claiming they have found some undiscovered truth. Many make vague connections throughout history to tie together this piece to that and show how they are right or someone is wrong.  Many Christians who surf the web have undoubtedly come across a webpage or YouTube channel that does this very thing, proving how Christians are evil or follow an evil religion in ignorance. Sadly there are many Christians that are guilty of supplying untrue information.

Among the many that are out there, one stands out to me above the others.  They claim, very boldly I might add, that        they are the only organization on Earth today that is the mouth piece of God. More specifically lead by his Spirit. They are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group most will be familiar with. In my time spent with them and the abundant literature they offer to supplement or help guild the reader in Scripture study or overall walk with God, I have noticed an alarming pattern of incorrect, dare I say even deceitful, information that is found in what they give out to members and nonmembers alike.

For an organization that claims to be “lead by the Spirit” I find this very troubling for obvious reasons. Now I want to clarify something up front. Usually when I dialog with a JW about this, ultimately  the answer I receive is that they are humans too and they learn and change as new information is brought to light. I am being very general to their response. The problem that I have with that answer is this, to claim that you are the only organization that is “in the truth” because you are the only organization is “lead by Jehovah’s Spirit” is no small claim and if you make that claim then you have to take on the responsibility that comes along with. What I feel gets mixed in the semantics game is a little bit of subtlety. They claim the wrong information is due to human error, with which I agree. Even those lead by God can make mistakes, but  that is not to be confused with the information that you are being given or lead to by Jehovah himself. There is where the issue is. We all will fall short in this life, but you cannot make apply your short comings to Jehovah himself when you make the claim that he is giving or leading you to the so called  information in question. It is a subtle difference but a huge one they juggle to tap dance around this problem.

Since this is my first post I want to wrap it up here, but I do want to set the tone because this is a huge passion of mine. Ultimately I do not care if Jehovah’s Witnesses leave their congregation or not, but I do want them to start critically thinking about what their organization publishes. This goes for all who read their material or anything for that matter. I want people to check what they read, and not blindly follow what man says. This is especially important when it comes to the matter of religion.

My next post will be on a very offensive claim on what I can only view as dishonesty in a publication of theirs called Mankind’s Search for God. This subject will more than likely be divided up into multiple post, because there are multiply angles that I want to approach and cover this from.