Thursday, December 20, 2007

Only God Can Judge?

A large majority of religions and their sects have a “we are the only ones” attitude. That is the belief system that they are the only correct religion in the world and if you reject that religion or refuse to join your automatically damned. Jehovah’s Witnesses also have this creed.

Growing up as a Witness I was taught a very confusing belief system when it came to this. It generally consisted of some teachings, which are as follows:

  1. God is love
  2. God is the only one who can judge
  3. If you are not a JW you will receive a negative judgment
  4. It’s not judgmental to assume judgment on one who refuses to believe what Witnesses say
  5. We are not playing Gob or “judging” merely speculating on what we believe will be the outcome

Now I am not saying that every JW is taught this, but in my opinion most are. What always got me is the logic behind numbers two thru five. Growing up I just could never justify this logic. I was often too lazy to really form a real opinion on this issue, instead deciding it was just easier to let it go. As I got older though I started asking more questions and thinking for myself. I would usually get the same response every time. The dialogue went something like this:

Me- “Hey Mom, how is it that God can only judge, yet my friend who is worldly can’t make it through Armageddon unless he becomes a Jehovah’s Witness?”

Mom- “God gives us all rules to follow Jon. Part of those rules is doing what’s right. If your not following what God says the bible says you will be destroyed”.

Me- “Yes, but Jesus also said the ones we think will be destroyed, will be the ones who are saved.”

Mom- “Well Jesus was talking about the other religions who claim to follow him. We will be the ones who shock them for being saved”.

- “Oh um..OK.”

This isn’t exactly how the conversation went, but it usually always ended the same way. “We are right they are wrong”. It’s OK for US to judge THEM but not for THEM to judge US. Now this isn’t relegated to only Witnesses, it happens in almost every religion but it’s the logic of it that just completely baffles me.

I almost feel like I don’t need to bring up anything biblical at all. Even my parents had to know this logic was extremely weak. It is something you can only get away with if it is explained to a small child or an apathetic teenager. I recently got in to a discussion a few months ago about this very subject with my Mom. I was explaining that the basis of being Christian is belief that the only salvation to be found is through Jesus. She agreed. I then asked why the Witnesses claim that if you are not a Witness when the end is foretold to come you won’t make it. She then said, “well only God can judge”. I knew this was a cop out. So the conversation went something like this (not word for word, this is just from my recollection):

Me- Mom do you believe Jenny Fakename is a good person?

Mom- Yes she is a good friend

Me- You studied with her right?

- Yes, and she decided it just wasn’t for her.

Me- So she had the “truth” and turned it down?

Mom- Yes she did.

Me- So will she make it through Armegeddon?

Mom- I can’t say

Me- But the whole point of you going door to door is to “save” people. If you can make it with out joining the witnesses what is the point of studying or going door to door.


Me- So will she make it?

Mom- I guess not (very reluctently)

Me- Then it isn’t God who judges, it’s individuals who are Witnesses?

Mom- ………

This shows just how easily the logic is dismantled. They want it both ways. On the one hand they claim their organization is a filter for God to do his “sifting” work. It is the only true religion and in order to be a true Christian you must join it. On the other hand God is the only one who does the “sifting”. He can save anyone whom he chooses only he can read hearts. It’s a quagmire of extreme proportion. If even one person refuses to listen to them, yet God saves that person the whole structure of their belief comes crumbling down.

If you get a chance to talk to a Witness and discuss this, watch as their face looks like their brain is ping ponging around. If God does the judging and him alone it makes their “preaching work” all but obsolete. If they do the judging they are clearly going against what they themselves preach. Again I think this works against most religions that claim theirs is the only way.

How do those who believe this line of thinking shake it off? Simple, it turns into a “standards” issue. It’s like when you get fired from a job for an unrelated job issue but your company doesn’t want to get sued. They have to figure out some loophole to let you go. They may say, “you spend too much time on the internet”. It’s just enough of an excuse to let you go. Likewise many Christians say things like, “well Jesus made it clear we have to follow what he says. If you don’t follow that you are damning your self”. Circular logic of course, and unfortunately they cannot read hearts, another hurtle they must get over. They then have to fall back on the “true” religion logic.

When writing this, a scripture came to mind. If only more Christians actually followed this scripture “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (ASV Jude 1:22,23). Notice the wordage used in this scripture, “to those who doubt”. It’s only natural to doubt what we don’t know but we shouldn’t judge those whom do doubt.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Apostasy and the Christian view....

“You are an Apostate I can not speak to you”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for having a very “your either for us or against us” approach to religion. If you leave and are happy, to them you are against them. They often quote certain scriptures to get away with ignoring you on the grounds of apostasy. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very tight knit social circle, one way they keep this “clean” is by their strict standards. One such standard is to not even speak to those who are claimed as Apostates. Many Witnesses will say something to the effect of, ”you are an apostate I can not speak to you:” This, is the kill all response to criticism. To them you are evil, and a enemy of them. The questions must be asked though, how do ones Biblically decide if someone is an apostate? Is ignoring apostates really biblical when claiming you are part of a group of true Christians? Lets look at some scriptures Witnesses quote on “apostasy”.

Apostasy, what is it and what does the bible say?

For a broader more in depth discussion please go to the Wikipedia page on the subject HERE. In short, for Christians it was a term adopted to explain those spoken of in the scriptures that would usurp true Christianity. A broader definition states it is simply leaving one's cause. Many times though, those that do leave a cause often have differing opinions. For example if someone believes in Democratic values they may have a falling out over an issue and join the Republican Party. Many would feel they are now directly opposed to their original values. The same thing often happens in religion.

There are three scriptures often used, Hebrews 3:12, 2 Peter 2:15-22, and 1 John 2:18,19 (please see the bottom of this blog for full text of scripture). Lets take a closer look at each scripture.

At Hebrews 3:12 we see Paul gives a good exhortation not to turn away your belief in God. In verse 14 Paul elaborates not to give up on Christ. We also see in the early verses the thrust of what Paul is speaking of is about Christ, even comparing him to Moses. He then shows how those who turned against Moses could not enter the promise land. In context we see that Paul is speaking about those rejecting Christ.

What of 2 Peter 2:15-22, we see here Peter pointing to those who “turn their back”(vs.21) on Jesus. In verse 1, Peter speaks of those “denying the sovereign lord”. Again it points towards rejection of Christ and not rejection of a certain religion or organizational membership.

What of 1 John 2:18 and 19? This one is even clearer; here John speaks of Antichrist. Who is the Antichrist? Well John gives us a clear definition in verse 22 and 23. He says it is anyone “denying” Christ.

From this we can see a clear theme, those who are truly apostate would be anyone accepting Jesus as savior then denying him and believing in someone else as savior. It clearly would entail more then just rejection of a religion, you would have to reject Christ, this is the only biblical basis for being a “anti-Christ” or apostate. Certainly you can not have carte blanche with sin and hate, but someone coming to your door can not know if you are living in sin, they can only judge you on how you react to them. If you merely left their ranks they have no right to call you an apostate based on biblical interpretation.

Does a true Christian have the right to ignore those no longer part of their organization?

When a Witness finds someone at the door who was a former Witness, often times a discussion will ensue. The Witness will usually say something along the lines of, “I am not here to debate”. Is this the right attitude to have? In my opinion this is a tricky subject. On one level or another I agree with the average witness, why waste time when neither of you will agree on something? On the other hand if you go to a door claiming to be a true Christian shouldn’t you follow the example of the Apostles and most of all that of Christ? What reasons are given for not “speaking” to those who are no longer Witnesses? Lets look at some Scriptures (all from New International Version):

Matthew 7:6- "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

This is often given as a reason not to debate or “argue” with someone for an extended period of time. It’s obvious what this scripture is saying. Swine or pigs would have no need for a pearl and it would be a waste of something valuable to allow them to own it. Much like giving gold to a dog or a house to your cat. JW’s and even some Christians will claim that to “debate” would be giving “pearls” or their knowledge to “swine” you or me. What is the underlying principle here though? Notice the operative word in verse six is “throw”. If you “throw” your pearls to a pig, do they have any choice in the matter? Of, course not. This would be like trying to force someone to accept your ideals. Just throwing out your principles to someone and not allowing any discussion or choice. There is a difference between debate and force. Often former members are more then happy to debate and discuss things logically with active Witnesses.

Webster’s defines debate as “a contention by words or arguments: as a: the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure b: a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides”. Here we see a debate would be between two matched sides. This is hardly throwing a pearl to a swine. When debating the person can accept the pearl then deduct rather or not it truly is a pearl. So from this scripture we can see that it has no relevance to the situation.

What example did Jesus set for his followers when it came to speaking to “apostates” or enemies? Well let’s look at a few scriptures:

Matthew 4: 1-11- Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:

"’He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Here we see Jesus speaking to the worst of the worst The Devil. He is the ultimate apostate. No doubt Jesus knew the devil was merely there to trick him. Did Jesus take the approach though that he would not even speak to the devil? No he did not. He answered his questions then informed him to leave. Let’s keep in mind Jesus was also perfect. He could read hearts and therefore had a definite advantage over humans. He did however allow the Devil to speak with him, and answered every question he had. What then are humans to do? How do we know if someone is trying to trick us? We don’t. Jesus though showed us how to deal with such situations. Again lets turn to a few scriptures:

Matthew 5:43,45- "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 18: 21,22- Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Luke 6:34-36-“And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Most interesting here is the passage in Luke. Notice Jesus says to go beyond what you would for a friend. Who would be our enemy? Would it not be someone who is “out to get us”, or who wants to hurt us in some way? Enemy is a strong word, in my opinion Jesus used this here because the Jews at the time were a people known for having God’s approval and power to go as far as killing their enemies. Yet Jesus was now saying to treat your enemy better then you would your friend! How then could you, when trying to follow Jesus example refuse to talk to anyone? You couldn’t plain and simple. As a follower of Christ you must assume the best and always work to help.

So as a true Christian you should not ignore or harp judgment upon those whom you believe to be “apostate”.

Let’s get back to debating though. Should Christians engage in debate? Many Jehovah’s Witnesses would probably say “no”. They would feel it is useless. What example did the Apostles show though? I will be short, as this blog is getting overly long. Lets look at a few scriptures though.

  • Acts 9:29,30- He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus
  • Acts 18:28-For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Here we see that Paul debated. Debated is also the word used in the New World Translation. In Acts it says that Paul stayed in the synagogues for days (Acts 17:12) that it was even his custom to do such a thing! So we can see that to debate is perfectly acceptable for anyone claiming to be Christian.


In conclusion I obviously do not agree with the Witnesses basis of not speaking to so called "apostates". Hopefully this helps anyone who is confused or looking for some answers on this subject.

Full verses of Scriptures used:


Hebrews 3:12-See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

2 Peter 2: 15-22-They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit, and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

1 John 2:18-19-Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Acts 17:12- As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,