Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Meeting with JW's: Summary

I finally got together, this afternoon, with the Watchtowerites for a discussion over coffee. From our phone conversations setting up the meeting, I was let to believe that we would have at least 45 minutes, and possibly an hour.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been studying, as a refreshment and expanding of previous study, the topic of the Deity of Christ: that His title as the "unique Son of God" necessitates that He is "God the Son".

Well, we started the conversation by looking at the the Watchtower organization's "restoration of the name" to the New Testament. If you read the New World Translation, you will notice the name "Jehovah" popping up all over the New Testament, where it is not in the Greek. The Watchtower avers that the name was in the originals, but was written out of them in reverence for the name. They cite Hebrew Translations "from the 14th century onward" that include the Tetragrammaton ("YHWH"), which is where the name "Jehovah" comes from ("LORD" in the KJV Old Testament, or "JEHOVAH" in places).

Their NWT purports to have "restored" the divine Name JEHOVAH to the text, based on these Hebrew sources. I would have no problem with this, if they were consistent. However, there is scholarly evidence that they were arbitrarily selective in where they chose to "restore" the name or not, based on whether it seems to be supporting Christ's Deity or not.

I started with this evidence, and we looked at Hebrews 1:10 specifically.

Of course, they tended to interrupt me quite regularly, and barely let me finish any thought. But thankfully, the Lord allowed me to get them to look at the entire context of Heb. 1, see what was being said and why the OT was being quoted in v. 8-10, and about Whom. Then I showed them that the very Hebrew sources that the NWT relies on the restore the Name to the text use the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) in reference to the Son in v. 10.

They didn't like that at all. The following is, as best as I can remember, how the argument went from there:

The older fellow said, "I have a son. He is not me. How can the Son be God if there is only one God and that God is the Father?" I said, "It's the doctrine of the Trinity. God is One God in Three Persons. These persons are distinct Persons, yet One Being, of the same substance. It's as Jesus said, 'I and my Father are one.'"

He replied, "You are quoting John 10:30."

Me: "Correct."

Him: "Well, the Greek word there means 'one in purpose', not 'one in substance'."

Me: "Actually, it's 'hen', and it literally only means 'one', and has no shade of meaning except what is put on it through the context."

Him: "Exactly, but you have to look at how Jesus used it in other passages of the same kind. In John 17, He prays that the church may be 'one' as He is 'one' with the Father. He is not praying that the church be of the same substance with each other, or that they become God. He is praying that they be 'one' in purpose."

Me: "I do not disagree with your interpretation of the word in John 17. He does indeed use it to mean 'one in purpose' there. However, that is a completely different context, and He is saying a completely different thing."

Him: "But it's the same word!"

Me: "No, it's not. Let me give you an example. Let's say I say to you, 'Thanks!' [said very sarcastically, like 'thanks for nothing']. Then, James here comes over with the coffee (which he did), and I say, 'Thanks!' [said very sincerely and in a praising manner]. I, the same person, said exactly the same thing. But in two completely different contexts, and with exactly opposite meanings. That's the way language works. We cannot judge John 10:30 based on John 17, because they are two completely different situations. We have to judge John 10:30 based on the reaction and understanding of the people to whom He was talking, and whether He affirms their understanding to be correct or not."

We then read the passage.

Me (cont'd): "So you see, the Jews understood Him to be claiming to be God."

Him: "But they were apostate, and were wrong. They misunderstood Him."

Me: "Well, did they? Let's look at what His response is. The easy response to this, assuming you're right, is 'Hey, look, that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that my purpose is aligned with the Father's. I'm not God! That's preposterous.' Problem solved."

Me (cont'd): "But instead, He gives a defense from their own scriptures (Ps. 82 specifically) of His Deity."

Him: "That's not what He was saying. He was saying that other humans had been called 'gods', so what's the big deal calling Him a god?"

Me: "On the surface, it seems that way. However, let's look at their reaction to that, and see if they understood Him to be saying that. If so, they would have had no reason to stone Him, saying, 'Oh, ok. Sorry about the wanting to kill you and all. You're OK. had us worried there for a second, though.' Then they would all have a good laugh about it and go home."

Me (cont'd): "But that's not what happened. They wanted to kill Him even more. They understood that His defense was not, 'Well, you know, I'm not actually YHWH, that would be blasphemy. I'm just a god, in the same sense you are.' They understood that His defense was, 'Yeah, I am indeed YHWH, and the Scriptures affirm that I exist, and I'm telling you that I'm here now. Get used to it.'"

Him: "But the Son can't be the Father!"

Me: "I never said He is. They are two distinct Persons, but one is substance and essence, as well as in purpose."

Him: "It just doesn't make sense. There is only one God. I agree that Jesus is the Son of God, but He is not God the Son, and He is not YHWH."

Me: "The two are synonymous. By every standard of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, you cannot deny one and affirm the other. To deny one is to deny the other. And we know that if you deny the Son, you deny the Father, and you dwell in darkness: there is no life in you — you do not have everlasting life."

Him: "....!"

Him (looking physically pained): "Um, I just remembered...I've got to be somewhere. I've got to go. Nice meeting you."

Then he got up and walked away. I'm not saying he was running away, but his body language screamed "fleeing". Since I do not see the heart, but only the outside, I cannot exactly know his reason for such a hasty exit. However, I pray that the Holy Spirit is working on him and bearing witness in his heart that Jesus is, not just "the Son of God", as they define that term, but also, as the Scriptures clearly indicate, "God the Son."

Please pray for him; his name is Lou. He told me his last name also, but I do not remember it. (To protect his privacy, I would not post it here anyway.)

After Lou's rather precipitous departure, James took over the conversation again — or rather I should say his wife did. About five minutes later (about 1:15), she mentioned that they had to leave for her doctor's appointment, which was, at most, about an hour away (I'm not going to say where, to protect her privacy). So I said, "Ok, so you have to leave by...oh...2:00?"

Their rather hasty response was, "Oh, no, we have to leave right now."

So we wrapped it up. I gave James the printout of the proof for the Name changing monkey-business that Watchtower was doing, including the actual Hebrew texts in question. I said, and he agreed, that we needed to do this again. I tentatively suggested Saturday. He said, "Call me."

I think next time, I'm going to suggest putting some official parameters in place for the conversation, to prevent us from getting into a zeal-based shouting match.

I have in mind, for example, that only one person at a time could be speaking, and they must indicate that they are finished speaking by a certain phrase or sentence. For example: "I yield the floor." or "Ok, I'm finished."

Another suggestion might be that, since only one person can be speaking at a time (see the first suggestion), all other parties would need to wait three full seconds before beginning their response, and that whoever wishes to respond raise his or her hand and be recognized by the person who just finished. If more than one wishes to speak, they both get to speak, but in the order that the one who is just finished talking chooses, if one doesn't submit to the other before the previous speaker can make his decision.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other potential "keeping it cordial" suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across the following page that I'm linking to while I was studying some about 7th Day Adventists and thought you'd be interested in reading it:

    One small side comment....good arguments on the Diety of Christ; here's another thought on the topic. Remember (and I'm sure you do; this is just for anyone who happen upon this blog) that, although we can definitely come to see the undeniable truths from the Scriptures that prove Christ and God are one, to actually understand it completely is not totally humanly possible. Our God is so infinitely more intelligent than we and His ways above ours, that we can't possibly understand everything about Who He is. (Though man sometimes falsely thinks he has a good understanding of Who God is and how He works. Here's a link to a sermon that speaks some on this subject, if you have the time: sermon file: Truth Misapplied. But now I'm getting off-topic). That's probably what was boggling the above individual's mind - he was trying to understand we weren't meant to fully be able to grasp. I am in no way discounting the arguments given; I endorse them. This, again, was just a little side thought I had while reading through the post.

    Hm. I thought I had more comments, but can't think of any. I guess this will suffice.

    ~ The "anonymous" W. Holmes


Hi! Feel free to comment. However, I was getting posts from different Anonymous people, and it's difficult to know who is who so I can keep the conversation straight in my head. So I'm requesting that you please bear with my weakness, and identify yourself. Even if you want to use a different name than your real name -- that's fine. But give yourself a handle for me, please. :) Thanks...