Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter: August 16th, 2016

August 15th, 2016

Dear ,
Recently, I was considering what the most important thing that can be known is, and I arrived at one of two options: (1) that God exists, or (2) God himself. That is, a fact about a person, or the person himself. One is a means to and end, the other is an end in itself. Given that, I asked a question that yields an obvious answer: Which is preferable in the sight of God, that we merely add another proposition about reality to our set of beliefs, or that we form a relationship with Him, as his graciously offers?

Of course, the latter. For, when the Scriptures speak of the restoration of all things, it does not merely say, 'And all will believe that God exists,' or, 'And God will dwell with men in order to make them know that he exists.' Rather it says that, 'God will be all things to everyone,' and, 'God will dwell with men, and he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, pain or mourning; the former things have passed away.'

Mere factual knowledge does not bring such joy. It is the fullness of joy that we await, being described as that which 'eye has not seen, nor ear heard,' and which 'God has prepare for those who love him.' The former knowledge is easily to imagine; even atheists know what that kind of propositional knowledge would look like. But we can only get a meager glimpse at the coming glorious age, toward which Scriptures have just directed our hope.

And what will it mean to know God, and to thus be known by him? Truly, it is the fulfillment of our lives and the greatest state of affairs. It is not merely going to be subjectively great (as even delusions can feel), but it is going to be objectively great, for we will live forever and enjoy many goods, and, above all else, a relationship with God, the greatest good forever. Our (very good and objective) purpose will satisfied as we perfectly mirror the One in whose image we are created, expressing wondrously creativity, goodness and rationality. Forever we will love Jehovah, the only true God who is love.

Is this not the oneness with him, his Christ and all worshippers that which we hope for? (For what else could possibly be worthwhile if we miss out on it?) Or do we keep ignoring it and becoming distracted by trivial concerns which are of no benefit? I fear that in my own case the latter.

That is why it is good to realize that all else that are goods are inferior goods which cannot stand up on their own as places to lay our heart. Take for instance what is perhaps the second greatest relationship one can have apart from God, namely, marriage, a complete bodily, mental and emotional union. It cannot fill the void left by not having that which we can jointly have with the Most High. For no spouse can replace Jehovah and be a God surrogate. And in the end, marriage is a symbol of the union that Christ has with the Congregation; that is, a still higher union, which is what we yearn for, being as it is the unity between ourselves, all other believers, the Son and Jehovah the Father.

Is any token worth as much as that which it typifies or signifies? Or would you trade something of infinite worth for something of merely finite worth? The sensible answer is plain, yet in practice we might act contrary to it. (I know that I have.) In that case, we would be like a parched man, reading the word "water" written on a piece of paper and thinking that his thirst is now quenched; surely, however, he will perish without water. Likewise, anything other than God, who is revealed to us by Christ, in whom all are being built up as one, is not enough to quench our need for spiritual fellowship; only that which Christ, who said, 'I have true drink, and the one drinking will never get thirsty again,' and, 'Come take life's water free,' has can, for he reveals to us the Father, who blessed forever. Amen.

Beyond full comprehension, Jehovah sits enthroned in glory; above the highest heights and lofty angels, he reigns as the Creator Almighty, enduring forever. Yet from long ago he has said, 'I dwell with the lowly.' Yes, most amazingly, he is interested in us; he cares for us. We can know Jehovah. How awe-inspiring! Let this realization never become mundane or worn out. In stead it must be an exalted lodestar, more sure to us than the north star, more radiant than the sun, and more wondrous that the star-lit heavens. God says, 'Seek my face,' let us respond, 'Seek you face, I will' and praise his holy name, for we are assured that 'the pure in heart will see God's face.' And we can trust him, for there is no one else like him, 'not forsaking those trusting in him.'

Sean Killackey

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Letter: April 16th, 2016

Bellow is a letter I wrote back in April to some of my friends. I figured that I'd post it here for you all.

April 16th, 2016

Dear Friends,
            I was considering the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ recently, and this moved me to write this letter. I hope that you are doing well and enjoy it. There is nothing I want more than this, that your joy might be full on account of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, and that your confidence in God might keep growing. If I could impart anything toward this end, then I shall be satisfied.
This good news of Christ, his coming, dying and being raised up to the right hand of Majesty, comforts me greatly. It is well attested, as I will go on to relate soon, and it alone is worthwhile. In it my heart rejoices, for I am compelled by the love of God, who, through Christ, reconciles me to himself, though, I was his enemy. Of what virtue shall I speak that Christ lacked? Or of what authority that Jesus did not have as God’s own Son? As a son of Korah said, “O you are the most beautiful of the sons of men and graciousness is upon your lips, and in your splendor and dignity abound!” Yes! he who was so rich became poor so that we who are poor might call on God in spirit and truth.
This good news is vivid in my mind, and its meaning deepens upon reflection; it excels me so much so at this time that I just have to write you, my friends. I must say, as did that son of Korah, “My heart is astir by a goodly matter, my words are about the King, so let my tongue be a skillful scribes stylus.”
Yes, he whose fondness was for the sons of men, he who always rejoices before Jehovah since before the world was, this is he who came for us. God sent his glorious Son to die a death of exceeding shame so that, by that death, we who were clothed in shame and apart from God, might come before the God and see his favor. Who can know this, yet remain silent; who dwells upon it, yet remains unmoved? Truly none, for ‘into all the earth the word has gone out,’ and my heart burns because of this, as did the hearts of those who talked to Christ on the road to Emmaus. Upon that road, Christ explained what the Scriptures said about him, which, if possible, I will try to note in passing in this letter.
Yes, put up with me a little while longer while I go on to express that which exhilarates me so much more than anything else. If only I could move your heart just as mine has been moved then I should be content. And if you find all the more pleasure in Jehovah, what more do I need? Now, let me go on to relate in brief some of the chief facts of the matter that give me the confidence in which I rejoice.
The Scriptures are right to speak of God’s great loyal love, which endures forever. For, in all things God reveals his love, but especially does Jah recommend his love to us in that he sent his Son to die. Even the righteous patriarchs had their errors, as did all of the righteous kings: David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. So how should we fare any better than them who were not saved by their works were it not for the death and resurrection of Christ? Paul informs us that if Christ had not been raised up, then we are still in our sins and have no hope, but if he was raised up, we are saved. How, then, can we know that Christ was raised up?
Because the tomb was empty, even as the Jews conceded when they said, ‘they came and stole his body.’ And we know that the Apostles were not deceivers; even if they were inclined to be, they wouldn’t risk death and great shame by proclaiming that “for a fact the Lord has been raised up.” However, this very end befell many of them. Additionally, the disciples had appearances of the risen Christ. These were too numerous, occurred to too many people (including non-believers and opposers) at such different times for them to be mere hallucinations; they must have been actual appearances of the resurrected Christ.
However, some try to explain the empty tomb by saying that the body was stolen, not by the disciples, but by thieves. However, this is unlikely on its face, since there were guards there, just as the Jews admitted. Additionally, if the body was stolen, the Jewish leaders would have found this out in order to discredit the followers of Jesus; this they did not do. Others suppose that tomb’s location was lost and the empty tomb was not really Jesus’, but this is not likely, since the women followed to see where Joseph of Arimathea buried him (in one of his own tombs). Further, if the Jews did not know the location of the tomb, they would have said, ‘The empty tomb is not Jesus’ real tomb.’ However, what they said was that ‘his disciples came and stole the body while the guards were sleeping.’ Similarly, while some have supposed that the tomb was not empty, if this was so, the Jews would have said, ‘His tomb is not empty,’ and the Christian response would have been, ‘That is another body.’ But this is not what happened. By these things (and more) we know that that the God of Israel did just as he foretold he would do.
He kept foretelling these things from Eden to Simeon of Jerusalem, who, was told that he would see the Christ of Jehovah before he died. Yes, he spoke in Eden and to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about a promised offspring. Jacob foretold that Shiloh (he whose right it is) would come through Judah; and Nathan foretold that he’d come through David. Ezekiel and Amos affirmed that, despite the destruction of David’s dynasty, God would fulfill this promise and give the throne to ‘he whose legal right it is.’
As it turned out this is David’s Lord, to whom Jehovah promised great things: that he’d be king-priest like Melchizedek forever, and that all things would be made subject to him. Moses similarly prophecies that a prophet like himself would arise. Daniel also speaks of this great King, who is the “Son of man,” who comes before God to receive a kingdom. This is the one, Gabriel says, who was born to Mary; in Bethlehem, Micah says.
Isaiah, David, Daniel and Jehovah all show that the Messiah would suffer and be crushed for the sins of other, just as Jeremiah affirms when he mentions a new covenant in connection with the doing away of sin, and then he would be raised up to glory. Which is what Jehovah showed would happen to his own Son, when he told Abraham, ‘please offer up Isaac your only son, whom you love so much,’ and Abraham reckoned that God could raise up from the dead.
Yes, this matter is attested to by many witnesses, so that we might be led to Christ. Therefore, we can hold with all confidence to that which was proclaimed since the beginning of the good news, that which Paul believed and which was spoken by the Apostles: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelves, then to James, and then to all of the apostles, then he appeared to upwards of five hundred brothers at one time.”
Additionally, though we see only a hazy reflection upon a metal mirror, we know that, whatever the meaning of God’s promises which have yet to take place, they are yes by means of Christ. This all was done by God, “so that those who live might live no more for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” And how readily we want to do this!

Sean Killackey

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Was the Fall Good? – Part One

Was the Fall Good? – Part One
By Sean Killackey
March 22nd, 2016
[Updated: April 23rd, 2016]

“Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection [all creation].” – Genesis 1:28 NWT

The scriptures say that “[t]he true God made mankind upright.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) When Adam was made in the image of God, Eve too was made perfect. They were given one command, to procreate and to subdue the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Further, they were given one prohibition, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Genesis 2:17) They transgressed this single prohibition, which brought sin and death into the world – the Fall. Mormons affirm this, however, instead of regarding this as a negative event, they say that the Fall was a fall upwards toward the goal of eternal progression. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says, “The Fall was not an accident, not an obstruction to God’s plan, and not a wrong turn in the course of humanity.” Is this teaching biblical?
This positive view depends largely on the plan of salvation, which was authored by God and agreed to by us in our pre-physical existence, and the supposed goal of exaltation, which necessitates the existence of a mortal and sinful world (to test us). The aforementioned work argues that “the Fall was a benefit to mankind. It was part of the Father’s plan, being both foreknown to him and essential to the human family,” and, “[t]he Fall was a necessary step in the eternal progress of mankind.” The purpose the Fall served was two-fold, to bring about a mortal state marred by sin, during which all mankind could come into physical existence and be tested, by enabling Adam and Eve to conceive to procreate, which they supposedly could not do in their pre-Fall state. We will refute these ideas.
Since the doctrines of premortal (or pre-physical) existence and eternal progression are wrong, the positive view lacks a strong foundation and telos. (See here, here and here for information on those teachings.) Because these needs no further elaboration here, we will begin by examining the absurdity of the command to procreate as it exists in the Mormon framework.[1] If I can prove that this command is absurd when viewed in the Mormon frame work, I can show the framework to be false, since Jehovah does not issue absurd commands. This is what we’ll do in this essay. In the second essay, we’ll examine why, despite the good that came about as result of the Fall, the Fall itself was still a wrong turn for humanity, so those who committed that evil act are not worth of the honor Mormons give them. In the third essay, examine what God’s purpose for the earth is, why the Fall was allowed to happen, and why the Fall was not necessary to achieve this purpose. Thus we’ll remove any remaining potential purpose for the Fall. Let’s begin.
Has God ever commanded an intrinsically unkeepable command? No. The idea, then, that he would command Adam and Eve to procreate in a state in which they could not procreate is absurd. When God commanded Israel to enter into Canaan, they were able to do so, which is why, when they did not, God punished them for their revolt. (Numbers 14:20-38) Further proof of God’s reasonableness can be seen in that he allowed the poor to give offerings of less worth that those of the rich; to demand otherwise would be to order something they couldn’t do. And, we recognize, the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad was likewise keepable. We also know that the command to subdue the earth, which was not meant solely for Adam and Eve, was startable by them, because they began to do their share of the work.[2] So why shouldn’t the command to procreate be anything but startable? Yes, all of these commands were intrinsically keepable; so it makes sense that the command to procreate also have been keepable. If it was, the Mormon theory fails. Let us consider some possible objections to this argument.
God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, which is unkeepable. So, what is so incoherent about him commanding the intrinsically unkeepable command to procreate? Nothing was intrinsically unkeepable about the Mosaic Law. Rather, every single command was keepable, but Israel as a people and as individuals chose to disobey it. For example, the command not to commit idolatry was keepable, which is why, when Israel repeatedly disobeyed it, God punished them.[3] (Would God have ever done so if Adam and Eve never procreated?) Thus a disqualifying difference exists between the Law and the procreation command which invalidates it as a counterexample to the notion that God does not command intrinsically unkeepable commands.
What of the commands for offering up sin offerings or to avoid ritual impurity? In the former case, one who didn’t sin would not be able to keep those laws, and in the latter one would undoubtedly transgress even if unintentionally, it simply would not be able to avoid getting ritually impure. Since God them commands things which were not keepable, there is no problem in him commanding an unkeepable command to procreate.[4] This fails, since the commands to offer up sin offerings were not incumbent on a person unless they first committed a sin that required that offering. They can be viewed as contingent commands, commands that are perfectly keepable. Ritual impurity is not sin. And we note that there is no unkeepable command to avoid impurity. If there was, we’d expect to see God command ‘you must not menstruate,’ but all he says is, ‘if you do, you must ritually cleanse yourself, if you don’t you will have sinned.’ Therefore, my argument holds.
What of the command to love Jehovah our God wholly? Or the command to be perfect since Jehovah is. They’re given to imperfect people and are therefore intrinsically unkeepable, so what is unthinkable that God would issue an unkeepable command to procreate? It is worth considering what Jehovah expected when he issued this command. Did he expect it to be fulfilled literally or absolutely? Take the example of David (before he sinned). Jehovah called him “a man agreeable to [my] heart,” but are we to conclude that David never sinned at all, never disobeyed his father or mother at all? (1 Samuel 13:14) Of course not. Yet Jehovah viewed him kindly nonetheless. Similarly, Jesus did not expect the Ephesians to be literally perfect in love or deed. He told them, “[Y]ou have left the love you had at first. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4,5) They simply were expected to have the zeal and love that they as imperfect people once obtained to. This was acceptable to God and Christ. We can still accurately call ourselves ‘those who love Jehovah,’ even if we fail him. (Psalm 97:10) Therefore this counterargument fails, but my point stands.
Perhaps the command was not meant to be obeyed until after the Fall; the prerequisite of a mortal state was not in place, so it was not yet applicable to, or incumbent upon Adam and Eve, so not absurd. This counterargument affirms that if it was obligatory when it was issued, it would be absurd and not keepable, and affirms the necessity and goodness of the Fall. The problem with this argument is that, as shown above, the command to subdue the earth was keepable was already incumbent on Adam and Eve, as was the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, so it seems most reasonable to say that this command was already in effect when issued. Consider the commission that Jesus gave his followers in Acts 1:8, where he said, “But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” The conditional aspect that is found in this command is exactly what is missing from the command to procreate. We ought to conclude that the command to procreate was incumbent upon them when it was given, to do otherwise would be ad hoc.
I think the point that the command to procreate is intrinsically unkeepable in the Mormon framework stands. Therefore, given that God doesn’t command the intrinsically unkeepable, yet commanded Adam and Eve to procreate, we must concluded that, any framework which makes this command intrinsically unkeepable is false; this means the unscriptural Mormon position.

[1] By “framework” I mean the teaching that Adam and Eve were unable to procreate in a premortal or Edenic state.

[2] Which, given the fact that Adam is shown naming the animals, we can presume he began. (Genesis 2:19,20) He and his wife probably did many other things in this regard that the Bible passes over.
[3] It was their choice that made the command unkeepable.

[4] I am unsure as to whether any Mormon would bring up this argument, since it seems very weak, but it is worth mentioning in case they do.