Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Were Jehovah's Witnesses Chosen By God?

Jehovah's Witnesses often try to defend their religion against various charges by comparing themselves to the Israelites and then saying, "Well, the Israelites were God's chosen people even though they made mistakes. And even though we make mistakes we are still God chosen people today."
Well of course that argument simply doesn't cut it. The Israelites, according to the Bible, came into existence as a result of a promise that God made to Abraham. God caused Abraham's descendents to multiply profusely and grow into a populous nation. They existed because God said he would cause them to come into existence, and that he would make them his special people because of his promise to Abraham. Their being a chosen people had nothing to do with their conduct as individuals or as a nation -- their relationship with God had little to do with them, and everything to do with God.
Eventually God made himself known to the Israelites as "Jehovah", caused the Israelites to worship him, and gave them the Law. However, people outside of the Jewish nation could also worship Jehovah, as did Job and his friends. And as we know, God eventually abandoned the Israelites for their unfaithfulness, and formed "the Christian congregation".
The Christian congregation was different in principle from the Israelite congregation. In the latter, people had no choice whether to belong; they were Jews by birth. On the other hand, people had to make a conscious decision about joining the Christian congregation. They became or remained Christians because of their conduct and their relationship with God and Christ.
The Israelites remained Israelites no matter what bad things they did. But a Christian might no longer be a Christian for any number of reasons. In fact, the standards written by various New Testament writers were a litmus test for Christianity. Anyone violating certain standards of conduct was by definition not a Christian (of course, one can split hairs no end about the details, but we're talking about gross violations of what virtually all professed Christians agree on). Anyone who repudiated the Christian faith was no longer a Christian, whereas a Jew who repudiated his religion remained a Jew.
Jesus instituted the Christian congregation, meaning the entire body of faithful Christians, and said that he would be "with" them until he returned. Assuming that that holds true today, the entire body of faithful Christians on earth would constitute the Christian congregation. Here is where Jehovah's Witnesses get into serious trouble.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that they and they alone are real Christians and therefore that "the entire body of faithful Christians on earth" is composed exclusively of Jehovah's Witnesses. Oh, a few individuals will allow that a few outside their organization might be true Christians, but that is not what the Jehovah's Witnesses organization that "speaks" through the printing presses of its Watchtower Society teach. The leaders have stated quite explicitly that salvation for Christians cannot be obtained outside the Jehovah's Witness organization, that it is in fact exclusively the "ark of salvation". By such teachings, Jehovah's Witnesses condemn all other supposed Christians as fakes, imposters, as members of wicked "Christendom". Therefore one should expect that Jehovah's Witnesses, both as individuals and as an organization, would be a cut above others who claim to be Christian and would always have been so. After all, no one becomes a Christian by birth, but by choice.
Jehovah's Witnesses also teach that there were no real Christians on earth until the 1870s, when the Watchtower Society's founder, Chares Taze Russell, began his Bible studies. They teach that Russell was the first modern-day member of "the anointed", of the "faithful and discreet slave class". However, this conflicts with another teaching that "one generation of the 'slave' class fed the next succeeding generation". JWs have never explained this contradiction.
At any rate, Jehovah's Witnesses teach that somehow God brought them into existence in the 1870s as "the Bible Students" under the leadership of C. T. Russell. After Russell died and J. F. Rutherford became their leader, they teach that in 1919 Christ made an inspection of all of the Christian religions on the earth, found all of them except one -- the Bible Students -- wanting, and chose their leaders "to be over all Christ's belongings." Thus we find that JWs teach not only that their religion was instituted by God himself in the 1870s, and their leaders appointed as "the faithful slave", but that Christ reaffirmed it and gave these leaders great spiritual authority over the entire body of Christians in the world in 1919.
What do Jehovah's Witnesses actually base all this reasoning on, beyond their arguable interpretations of the Bible? Why, on their claim that they and they alone were so much better than all other Christian groups that Christ specially appointed their leaders in 1919 to have spiritual authority. In other words, they base these claims on their claims that their conduct was and remains a cut above that of everyone else, and that their teachings are virtually identical to those of the early Christians.
To sum it up, Jehovah's Witnesses teach that they are God's chosen people today because of their conduct and their teachings, whereas the Israelites were God's chosen by virtue of birth. The two situations cannot be compared.
This naturally leaves the Witnesses open to criticism. What if their claims of being such good Christians are not true? What if their leadership has proved itself unfaithful to God by, say, telling lies in God's name? Making false predictions in his name? Allowing pedophiles to roam freely in the congregations? Teaching their members that salvation lies not in Christ but in attending meetings and going in field service? Not allowing Christians to think for themselves but dictating to them what their faith is? Would these disqualify them from being "God's chosen"? Of course they would! The truth of the base claim of Jehovah's Witness leaders to speak for God relies on whether they in fact speak for God. But since God doesn't answer questions of this sort, people must observe Jehovah's Witnesses and judge for themselves whether they measure up.
On this blog and other internet websites it quickly becomes evident that many Jehovah's Witness teachings, and their most fundamental one of all, cannot stand up to criticism. They have no means at all of proving that they are "God's chosen". The best they can do is compare themselves to the Israelites and whimper, "well, they were God's chosen despite their faults, and so are we". Jehovah's Witnesses, as individuals, have been so heavily indoctrinated with the fundamental teaching that theirs is the true religion they cannot fathom the fact that it is not. Their faith in the Organization is based on mere claims, not demonstrable facts -- and all Jehovah's Witnesses know this, even though they will not admit it. That's why many of them become so angry when their basic doctrine is challenged.

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