Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How Many Branches Does the Olive Tree Have? (Romans 11)

In Romans 11, Paul compares the Kingdom of God, or the Israel of God, to an olive tree. Just as Christ said, the Kingdom had been taken away from (most) Jews. Paul describes this as their being branches that are broken off from the Kingdom, which he envisions as an olive tree. Now, this much Jehovah's Witnesses will agree to. However, what this implies undermines their claim that the Kingdom of God is limited to only 144,000 members. Why? Because, Paul entertains, at least as a possibility, that all Jews could be grafted back into the Kingdom, the Israel of God. He writes:
Therefore I ask, Did they stumble so that they fell completely? Never may that happen! But by their false step there is salvation to people of the nations, to incite them to jealousy. 12 Now if their false step means riches to the world, and their decrease means riches to people of the nations, how much more will the full number of them mean it! - Romans 11:11,12 
They also, if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. - Romans 11:23
Now, the Jews who rejected the Messiah number in the many millions. If they become part of the Kingdom of God, then that Kingdom will be composed of more than 144,000. And if they can be, why can't all Gentiles, at least in principle, be grafted in to the tree as well? Indeed, why think that the Gentiles and Jews who have come to be in Christ are not, in fact, grafted (or re-grafted) into this tree: the Kingdom, the Israel of God?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How Many Children Does the "Desolate Woman" Have? (Galatians 4:22-31)

The relevant passage, Galatians 4:22-31, reads:
For example, it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; 23 but the one by the servant girl was actually born through natural descent and the other by the free woman through a promise. 24 These things may be taken as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Siʹnai, which bears children for slavery and which is Haʹgar. 25 Now Haʹgar means Siʹnai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 
27 For it is written: “Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; break into joyful shouting, you woman who does not have birth pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of her who has the husband.” 28 Now you, brothers, are children of the promise the same as Isaac was. 29 But just as then the one born through natural descent began persecuting the one born through spirit, so also now. 30 Nevertheless, what does the scripture say? “Drive out the servant girl and her son, for the son of the servant girl will by no means be an heir with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.
Those literal Jews who rejected Christ constitute the children of the earthly city of Jerusalem, which corresponds to Hagar, and number in the millions. On the other hand, the children of the "Jerusalem above" are the anointed, which number 144,000, according to various Watchtower publications. 

Now, which is greater: a 144,000 or many millions? The latter, of course. 

Why then does Paul say that there will be more anointed ones than there are fleshly Jews?

More on this in a future post.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Goodbye and Yet Hello

Goodbye and Yet Hello

I'm no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses. There are several factors that have moved me toward this decision. Among them was the realization that the Governing Body and their predecessors have made many failed predictions, which show that they are unable to interpret prophecy. But they argue for their doctrinal authority in large part because of the prophecies that they, and the Organization generally, are said to fulfill. However, if they were wrong about 1874, 1878, 1914, 1925, 1975, as well as who the Faithful and Discreet Slave - Russell? all the anointed? just the Governing Body? - and what "Generation" means . . . If they were wrong about this, why think that they are right this time around, or when they say that they fulfill biblical prophecy and hence are God's unique spokesman?

Now, I have been aware of these predictions for many years, since around the time I was baptized as a Witness, which was May 1st, 2011. But the implication I briefly explained above didn't become fully apparent to me until more recently. 

Also, note that the veracity of this inference is not dependent on the distinct claim that they are false prophets. And this point is something I haven't seen any Witness apologist adequately address. So concerned are they to defender their leaders against the charge of being false prophets that they don't recognize that such a task is vain unless one can refute the implication that, at best, they are unreliable interpreters of prophecy. In any event, I've recently put up three posts on this topic over at my new blog: herehere and here.)

Anyway, as doubts or disagreements came up (or rather reappeared), I couldn't reason: 'The Faithful and Discreet Slave says X, so I will believe X'. Basically, to do so would be to reason in a circle. Instead, I had to deal with the arguments on their own merit, and in many cases I ended up changing my mind. (For example, I believe that all Christians are born again and will reign with Christ, and also that they, like Christ, will be raised up human.) And this is the immediate cause of my no longer being one of Jehovah's Witnesses; I came to the conclusion that they get several important doctrines wrong, or were in other cases perhaps right, but far too dogmatic, and certainly not the only genuinely Christian group, and not a group in which I could obey the command to love God fully.

My new blog (as of 12.7.2017)
Wait, you have a new blog? Yes, I have a new blog, Witness Seeking Orthodoxy, which I started in late September 2017; I post weekly there (Sundays at 8:30 am). It's a journal where I write my religious, moral and philosophical thoughts, often as they relate to my decision to no longer be a Witness. Join me on my journey; I welcome comments!

I may continue to blog here with some regularity, perhaps resuming my erstwhile hobby of answering supposed biblical self-contradictions. However, for now and the next few months (at least) my blogging energy is devoted primarily to Witness Seeking Orthodoxy; and more generally, I'm focused on more substantial matters of faith (right doctrine and how I should worship God), so that I don't have as much time to focus on this hobby.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

On Believing in God and His Miracles

If one belives in God, and him (as he is) the cause of all things, who, in his love toward created things and persons, upholds all things in being, and that he willed them into being ex nihilio - he should have no problem believing that God can work miracles. For these are not so great after all to God who works all things wonderously. If he can call all things into existence, then it is no trouble to him at all that he then water into blood or part the Red Sea or Jordan.

January 16th, 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Epistemic Antinomies and Their Solution

Man is, on his own, doomed by either his stupidity - for if that be all he have, he could not grasp the arguments required for belief, or appreciate half of what he experienced - or his ingenuity - for if that be what he have, it is as much an agent of falsehood as it is of truth; and if he should style himself an independent thinker, he might be freed from the tyranny of those who would urge falsehood upon him, but he would also be without aid when confronted with other falsehoods that eyes more skillful than his would have warned him of.

Fortunately we are not on our own devices, and that which is needed for salvation is that which can be given to wise and foolish, intelligent and stupid - and all things wise are foolish to God, and all intelligence is but the grunts of animals to Him. For it is said by the Son: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) And he says elsewhere: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7,8) That so many do not find is to be expected for men are intent on evil and do not seek. However, for those who do seek, assurance is given. But in seeking, let us do so humbly, and without pretense.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Can Science Explain Anything?

It can, but you can't prove that scientifically!

And this this is because science presupposes certain things, and thus can't explain them, and thus any ultimate explanation of reality is going to be something which science has little to say. Thus to suggest that science is competent to adjudicate the debate over God's existence is like saying that physics can tell us what Moby Dick is about.

What are some of the things science presupposes, and hence can't explain? That there is a physical world external to our minds, is one, mathematics and logic is another. Even laws of nature don't explain anything, for they are merely shorthand descriptions of what things do given the kinds of things they are. They presuppose the existence of things that operate according to them, and hence can't be used to explain why anything exists at all that adheres to them.

Obviously science can't explain morality. Not that it might not say something relevant to morality. But it certainly can't explain why morality has the objective and binding force that it does. (And surely right living is more important than most of what science does say.)

So what to do we have? Science is a valuable resource, a fruitful avenue for gaining knowledge about the physical world. But it cannot justify itself, and leaves much of reality - even physical reality -  out of its description of the world, and hence unexplained; for it is not suited to explaining these things. And it can't show that God does not exist. (Though, God's existence can be shown by examining some of the things that science presupposed. And so while God's existence might not scientific, it is hardly anti-scientific or irrational. 

And this concludes my meandering remarks on science, at least for now.