It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks lately. Hence, I’m late in getting this out but hopefully you understand as you read on. This is not going to be as detailed either but I want to get something in front of you as well. I was at work and had received a phone call from my dad prior to my July 29th meeting with my JW friends on Wednesday. Essentially my grandmother was due to end her earthly course in his estimation. I left work and headed from south central PA to Philadelphia for what I figured was going to be the last time I would see her.
I get down and my brother is already present. We sat and not say a whole lot. We (my father, brother, myself) had surmised she has had the onset of dementia for a few years. What we observed were:
- Continually repeating herself (I counted three times in the course of a two minute phone call)
- She’s made numerous negative comments about her sisters, my father, brother, and myself.
Both things are symptoms of dementia.
As I sat there with her and my brother, my mind went back to some conversations that we had had in the past few years. My mind did draw some parallels with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She has been under the faulty assumption that church membership was enough to get her into heaven. I’ve tried explaining to her Acts 4:12 (King James Version is what she reads) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has Four Requirements for Salvation that appeared in The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom in the February 15, 1983 issue on pages 12-13: A third requirement is that we be associated with God's channel, his organization. God has always used an organization. For example, only those in the ark in Noah's day survived the Flood, and only those associated with the Christian congregation in the first century had God's favor. (Acts 4:12) Similarly, Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish his will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.
So with that in mind, I left and headed back. Driving under the threat of a tornado didn’t help. As I left Philadelphia, I wanted to get a cheesesteak from a place I use to frequent weekly when I worked down in Philadelphia in 2014. However, not knowing Philadelphia compounds things as well. To help calm myself so to speak, I tried to take a scenic route and not the PA Turnpike (and save six dollars along the way. Raising toll rates with no visible results leaves me baffled but that’s another story).
As I drove back, there’s two exits for state routes that end in “72.” I got off at the first and not the second one. My mobile device had low battery (amazing how dependent I am on it) so I had to “wing it” a bit on my way home. It took a tad longer than normal. I was in the general vicinity of my normal route so it only took me an extra 40ish minutes about to get home.
I get home and changed. I was just about to eat a small snack when there’s a knocking at the door. I answer and immediately saw knew who it was-Mormons. Two were in white shirts/ties, there was another there who was in a tee shirt. A better course of action was to simply reschedule. However, I wasn’t thinking. Here’s a short gist of the conversation:
Me: I apologized but really wasn’t expecting anyone to show and gave a general state of my grandmother but they elected to stay and chat, I felt I had no choice but to continue.
Mormon 1: We had other missionaries who were out and we are here to invite you to read the Book of Mormon.
Me: When the other missionaries were out, we were really discussing Doctrine and Covenants.
Mormon 2: That’s nice, however, if you read the Book of Mormon and pray if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, you’ll find it to be true (the fallacy of circular reasoning).
Me: I’d really like to read and finish out Doctrine and Covenants.
Mormons: We are not here to discuss Doctrine and Covenants, we are here to invite you to read the Book of Mormon and pray.
So seeing where this was quickly leading I wanted to move to something else. One of my questions was this: You believe that God helped write the Constitution (discussed here ). They were not familiar with this teaching so I went on a little further, “why did God outlaw slavery yet take until 1978 to allow blacks into the priesthood?” The response, “Well God does everything in His time.” Interesting but didn’t work. So I continued, “I’ve come across some stuff that has got me questioning some things about Mormonism, would you be interested in going over it?” The second elder, “No, we refuse to do anything to challenge our faith. The Holy Spirit guides us so we won’t do anything to possibly be led astray.”
Seeing where that went I asked a simple question to which I received an affirmative, “do you believe the Holy Ghost helped write the Word of God being the Bible?” I received a “yes” from the first elder. From there I took them to II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” King James Version. The second Mormon was visibly angry and his arms were crossed, eyes that could burn through lead. Unfazed, I continued with I Thessalonians 5:21 (King James Version) Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
“Do you understand what those verses said?” First Mormon responded with a relatively nonchalant “ Yea so.” I continued, “Take a moment and look at this from my perspective. I’ve said I have questions, you had earlier said it is you’re job to teach. I ask questions, you have answers. Now what you are doing is you are refusing to answer questions. Another way of looking at this, if you’re parent says to do not to do something, then later on goes back on their word, would that make you’re parent good or consistent?” I did receive an answer of “no.” “That’s essentially what you’re telling me here” as I continued. You said, “the Holy Ghost who wrote the Bible said to ‘test everything’ but essentially went back on His word and said not to.”
As they spoke in reference to the video, they emphasized they will not watch something like that. I asked this question, “do you believe you have light and truth.” “Yes” was the response. I continued, “how is it then you cannot look at something simple like a video? If you have the truth as you say and I’m sure you agree light outshines darkness, the video will be unfazed by what the video presents.” No response. So I continued, “I asked to see a video more than once which raised a number of questions that I’d like to have answered since you’re here to teach and you’re refusing.” “Yes we are [refusing]” replied the second elder. As this is going on, the third Mormon just stood there. They tried to retort, “we are NOT going to let you tear down our faith!” I replied, “I’m not but I have things that need to be answered and how can I have a faith that’s built on ‘praying if something is true’ and not be able to test it.”
Trying to diffuse them a little bit I spoke about the process of putting a car together. The numerous tests that go into designing an automobile so when a rider gets in, they have full confidence. They are essentially “praying the car works.” Once done, they were trying to walk off and saying, “you need to pray that the Book of Mormon is true.” I responded by asking that they test as they walked away.
I am fully admitting regardless of how my day went, I should have been more patient which I normally am. However, that was not the day. The video which I’ve shared before is
Circling back, my grandmother did spend a few days in the hospital then went to rehab. I drove with my kids to see her. We spent some time with her and it’s not easy seeing someone who is mentally declining. However, she did get better physically but is no longer able to live on her own. She has now moved in with my father and it’s better for her. She has much more space, only one step inside the house along with easier access to my brother, his kids, myself, my kids (10 minute drive verses two hours), plus she’s no longer in Philadelphia but out enjoying fresh country air and surrounded by wildlife in south central Pennsylvania.
Shifting attention to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, my friends showed up pretty much directly on time. The elder had a bit of a limp. He was massaging his hamstring. This led me to ask what happened. He said, “I was running and I pulled my hamstring. My hamstring has been bothering me since then.” I said, “give me a minute and I have something that may help you feel better.” I went upstairs and bought these down (please don’t take this as an endorsement, I personally use it and it works for me). They are not as hard as a baseball/softball yet firmer than a tennis ball. I showed him some things to do with it. He started rolling it on his hamstring and there was nearly immediate relief which bought a smile. The custodian’s husband was present and he was complaining about his back. He started rolling with a ball as well. His issue was specifically lower back. As we chatted for about ten minutes on just life stuff, I took them out to my garage since I’ve had lower back issues as well. I showed and had him use my homemade reverse hyperextension machine.
There was a tad more weight than he’s used to (he’s in his 60s), but he got the idea and said he can just make one and place it into his home. His only relief is an inversion table at his part-time job.
Once we got back inside there was a question that the elder wanted me to find out about. His question from our previous session was "did Adam have a spirit." They said the Bible doesn't specifically say if Adam had one. To answer, I relied on the account of creation and the fall. Essentially we all inherit Adam's human sinful nature. Therefore, if verses specifically say man has a spirit, that was inherited from Adam. On the seventh day of creation, God was done, therefore man has a spirit. For this portion of the conversation, I had to re-explain about a spirit because Witnesses believe a person have a physical body and a soul. The two are directly connected and they misapply Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10. So the first step was to reintroduce other scriptures about a man having a spirit that lives on after death.
Once this was done, they explained that they felt if a man lived after death, God would have been a liar. I wanted to understand their perspective. Based off what they said, I explained to them about Lazarus and the rich man which the custodian's husband was very quick to say it's a parable. I had politely asked for them to let me continue (if it wasn't a parable, there goes a major component of their theology), which he did.
Continuing I had asked what was Stephen's last words in Acts 7:59, 60 which they didn't remember so I said it to them. From there I went over some other verses. They felt the spirit is just emotion within a person. From there we dialogued a bit and I had asked them at one point if when scripture says spirit if it's equated to "Holy Spirit" as they say. “Not always” was the response I received. However, they were adamant that it doesn't exist past a person who dies. They didn't want to accept what the Bible says but I asked for them to move on and that was the meat of the conversation.
They contend (like Mormons) that works are absolutely necessary and vital for salvation. They base this off of James 2:14-26 in particular verse 14 which says (New World Translation) Of what benefit is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it?
They said this passage proves one must work in part for their salvation. This is where in our previous session the death on Earth by Jesus bought man "back into balance." I said that this is where I see the difference in our respective theologies.
To clarify and delineate between faith and works I used the example of a marital relationship. One may love a spouse. That's one thing. Demonstrating the love is something associated but ultimately different. They were somewhat puzzled so I had to explain it a few times to them.
I asked what do they have to do then to be “justified.” The elder asked what I meant. I explained. I went on further by saying you have to do more whereas I do not. I explained that only God in the form of the Son could fully pay the penalty that the Father had imposed. As they were intrigued, I talked to them about salvation through faith alone. I bought some verses up. We read the following verses in the New American Standard and New World Translation (I’ll use the New World Translation here):
Romans 3:28-30-For we consider that a man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law. 29 Or is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also the God of people of the nations? Yes, also of people of the nations. 30Since God is one, he will declare circumcised people righteous as a result of faith and uncircumcised people righteous by means of their faith.
Romans 5:1-Therefore, now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Romans 9:30-What are we to say, then? That people of the nations, although not pursuing righteousness, attained righteousness the righteousness that results from faith;
Romans 10:4-For Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.
Romans 11:6-Now if it is by undeserved kindness it is no longer through works; otherwise, the undeserved kindness would no longer be undeserved kindness.
Galatians 2:16, 21-16 recognize that a man is declared righteous, not by works of law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be declared righteous by faith in Christ and not by works of law, for no one will be declared righteous by works of law. 21 I do not reject the undeserved kindness of God, for if righteousness is through law, Christ actually died for nothing.
The difference maker was when I had asked (I had them following along in the New World Translation) for them to reconcile Galatians 2:16 and James 2:14
“Crickets” ensued for a few minutes and I was quite content with this. They looked genuinely stumped for a bit because Romans and Galatians say it's faith alone and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society says they must have works for salvation. The custodian's body language (he crossed his arms) also showed he wasn't particularly happy.
The elder then said, "So it's a matter of who's right, Paul or James? Paul talked more so if we weigh it based on number of verses, Paul's right (not the answer I was hoping for but at least he realized there's more verses than what James addressed)." Further on he said, "well you need to realize who was addressed in each of the letters. The Jews by James, Paul worked with Gentiles (Full out watchtower mode now).
I let them go for a bit since the seed was planted and they were not able to verbally reconcile anything and these are verses that took them by surprise.
There’s not much more to say as we ended up wrapping things up after about two and a half hours total.
That's it for now. They are due to come on out next week. I ask that you keep praying for them. This upcoming week we should be able to get “back on track” and go over What Does the Bible Really Teach? afresh and anew.
Armageddon project update: I have finished all Watchtower magazines to 2015. With what I have thus far it’s just about 1,500 pages thus far. Progress is slow but steady for sure.