November 26, 2012

Knock, knock. (part 1)

by Clint Archer

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?” comes the Pavlovian response. But instead of a quippy reply I encountered a rehearsed sounding question: “Do you have time to talk to us about the future?”

An intriguing enough request. Life insurance broker? Fortune teller? Eschatologist? I opened the door and was accosted by the glazed smiling faces of two middle-aged men, donned in cheap black suits, each holding a book. Not salesmen–per se. They wanted to talk to me about Jehovah. I confessed apologetically that I already believed in God, and would not be swayed. Instead of a gracious rebuff, they took that as an invitation to keep proselytizing: “Me too” one of them said, smiling.

“Oh, I mean I believe in the God of the Bible,” I clarified.

“Me too.”

“No, I mean I believe in Jesus.”

“Me too.”

“I mean I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

“Me too.”

Ok, time to bust out the seminary training here.

“I believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, uncreated, pre-existent God, incarnated in human flesh, the second person of the Trinity, co-equal in essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit,” I rattled off, grateful for that quiz on creeds I crammed for in Theo 101. I know I left out about six points, but I was confident that this clip of ammo would be enough to shut off the dripping faucet of “me toos.”

Silence…they’re regrouping…I’m gloating (inwardly only, mind you).

I thought I had stumped them. But then, like a gatling gun came a rapid fire flurry of retorts I was not prepared for:

“The doctrine you articulate is a common misconception, not taught in the Bible, but was actually a later development which emerged out of early Christianity as adherents added deity to Christ’s nature in order to guard his teachings and prolong his influence  and the Bible never uses the word Trinity, the Bible never posits that Jesus is God, and nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever claim to be God.”

Now I’m regrouping, and they’re gloating inwardly (presumably).

You know how you freeze up in those moments? All your Sunday school lessons evaporate from your memory bank, and suddenly you cling to some faith somewhere in you, but you honestly have to admit that you don’t know why you believe what you believe. You just know Jehova’s Witnesses are a cult, and your pastor is right about most of the important things, so surely the Trinity is one of those things.

But as Christians, we should all be ready with a defense for the hope within us (1 Pet 3:15).

So, I admit I was rattled by the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rehearsed accusations about the inauthenticity of the biblical claims to Christ’s deity. You know when someone asks you your cell number and you go blank? (or am I the only one these things happen to?) This post is meant to hopefully get toward some resources to stockpile in your memory.

The thing that’s annoying about JWs (and if you think “annoying” is ungenerous of me, please note the magnanimous generosity implied in in the word “The”), is that they are far too agreeable in areas where its ingenuous and duplicitous to be agreeing with you.

They say they believe in what you believe, but they keep trying to convert you to their belief. Can you imagine a White Supremist Neo Nazi telling a Black man, “Essentially you and I believe the same thing”? Well, welcome to the JW MO.

For the record: JWs and Christians do not believe the same thing.

We don’t agree about the most important aspect of Christianity, namely Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-3 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

But JWs teach…

The true Scriptures speak of God’s Son, the Word, as ‘a god.’ He is a ‘mighty god’ but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah, (The Truth Shall Make You Free, WTBib&TtracSoc 1943, pg 47).

By the way, “the true Scriptures” refers to their own customized Greek version, which CT Russell (who didn’t know enough Greek to complete the alphabet in a court case) gratuitously edited by changing the wording of John 1:1 to read “was a god” instead of “was God.”

This conspiracy theory JWs cling to is not unique to trained devotees. It is a popular notion which has crept like an earwig into Hollywood. One offering of the silver screen, which most overtly articulated this idea was “The Da Vinci Code.”

Author, Dan Brown, (who claims no theological credentials whatsoever) in the Da Vinci Code (2003) preaches this idea with gusto. In interviews he admitted that he believed his facts to be historically accurate, and it was not intended to be part of the fiction. The story is a vehicle for the doctrine. And what a first class vehicle it is; a veritable limousine of impressive shuttling back-and-forth between fiction and history, sometimes so smoothly it leaves one logically jet-lagged and confused as to which part was posited as fact and which as fiction.

Brown asserts that Jesus was not God, but that the Deity of Christ was a fabrication of the early (chauvinistic, homophobic, megalomaniacal) disciples. He puts his serpentine doctrine in the mouth of an opinionated but articulate character, one Sir Teabing:

The Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 2003, pg 328).

So how do we reply? What’s the clip of silver bullets we need to have locked and loaded for a cogent response? Tune in next week Monday for Part Deux.

[CA]

 

Clint Archer

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Clint is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. He and his expanding troop of Archers live near Durban, South Africa (and pity anyone who doesn't). When he is off duty from CGate, his alter ego blogs at Café Seminoid, clintarcher.com
  • Larry

    Hey Clint : (you’z a funny dude!) lol!

    But, excellent, thoughtful post, which will be of great help to many of us. Thanks

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Always a pleasure. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lbouligny Larry Bouligny

    The NWT (corrupted Bible of the JW’s) came out in 1950, but Russell died in 1916. I am not sure he taught that mistranslation from John 1:1, but I think it was a later distortion when the Watchtower Translation Committee decided that verse was too clear for them :)

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Thanks for that clarification. I had read that Russell used that argument, accusing the GNT of being wrong. But it makes sense that he wasn’t the one to alter it.

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ Rational νεόφυτος

    This is good. Seriously it’s John 1 that you can address them with the most easiest when they come to the door – even better if you have an interlinear handy.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Right. Just beware that they wil not be caught off guard by your explanation of John 1. They have been taught that we are all brainwashed and have a wrong version of the NT.

  • Karl Heitman

    Hey Clint, thanks for addressing this issue. I can vividly remember my first encounter with one of the cultic door-knockers (2 young Mormon “missionaries”). This is something that we all need to be educated about. I strongly believe that we must always be ready to defend our faith (I love apologetics), but is it possible that 1 Pet 3:15 may not apply in this situation, but 2 John 1:10 might? What’s your take on that? Is it wrong or “unloving” to warn the JWs that they are spreading a false gospel and then tell them to leave instead of trying to reason with them?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Different people have varying views on this. I definitely believe we should not offer our acceptance of them, e.g. “Let’s agree to disagree, now come enjoy some lemonade with me and my family.” On the other hand, it’s hard to get to evangelize cults. So when they knock on your door, it can be God’s mercy working in their lives by bringing them to the door of a compassionate, mature, knowledgable believer who will clearly share Christ with them in a loving way. If that gets rejected, then a somber, but compassionate warning is probably the only next step you can take. That’s my 2c.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.p.hurst Craig P. Hurst

    I remember my friend and I in college trying to walk through Hebrews 1 with two of these guys and got no where. I think my pastor has the best advice – talk about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and they will be speechless.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      That is exactly my experience. JWs are masters at the slippery argument. But Christianity is not about knowing your stuff, it’s about Christ. Knowing Him is what sets true believers apart.

  • Marla Beale

    BTW, the paragraph after “the annoying thing about..” should start with “They” instead of “The”. (They say…). I always enjoy your posts. For a while the JWs came around our neighborhood every 4 weeks or so, but after several lengthy discussions (including especially Hebrews 1), they now avoid our house. *sigh*

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      You’ve been blacklisted! That’s a good sign, it means they know you can’t be turned. Thanks for the free editing. I’ll at the “y” right now.

  • Marco Scouvert

    Clint,

    Thanks for addressing this as many of us are unequipped when it comes to knowing why we believe what we believe, as you noted. It seems like there were four parts to their response to your confession of who Christ is: 1) The Deity of Christ was a later doctrine manufactured by the early church; 2) “Trinity” is not a biblical word; 3) The Bible never refers to Jesus as God; and 4) Jesus never claimed to be God. Hopefully your upcoming posts will tackle these four, as that would be extremely helpful to clear the smoke they try to create in their assertions. Looking forward to them.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      You read my mind (or my part two post). Stay tuned.

  • csrima

    Very helpful! Thank you!

  • robertetozier

    Sounds much like Mormons – – had a pair of them at the door yesterday. Similar “agreement” with Christians; distortions of Bible texts, history; silly arguments (the word Trinity is not in the Bible, for example). My preference now (I have been addressing this sometimes poorly, sometimes better, I hope, for 30 years) is to warn young Mormon missionaries not to reject unmerited grace, faith, eternal life – – and the certainty and peace one can enjoy (Romans 5:1).

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Good point. And sharing your personal testimony; that can be helpful too.