27 November, 2012

Discussion with a Jehovah Witness about the authority of the Church versus the authority of the Watchtower to teach

(Linda) “Jehovah's witnesses believe in and follow the teaching of the bible. We worship Jehovah, the creator of the universe and we acknowledge Jesus as our king and leader.”

(Cristoiglesia) As Christians we believe that God is the creator of all things. I am aware that you deny the fundamental belief of Christianity that Jesus is God and as a result deny the Gospel of our Lord and Savior who came to save all men so that they can share in the beatific vision. He was the perfect Lamb of God as prophesied by the prophets and fulfilled every prophecy.

(Linda) “I do not understand when you speak of the Watchtower contradicting the scriptures. The WT is a study aid and teaches only what is in the bible. Almost every sentence in it is backed up with scripture.”

(Cristoiglesia) The Watchtower is much more than just a “study aid”. It is the governing body of the JW sect. I will agree that it uses the Bible to teach but it eisegetically uses the Bible to promote their man-made doctrines.

 The hermeneutic principal I see used by Jehovah Witnesses time and time again is the proof text method. In almost all cases that is a methodology that results in eisegesis and not exegesis.

The proof text model employed in interpretation ignores context and results in simply an anthology of verses that support unorthodox doctrines like soul sleep, denial that Jesus is God, the Gospel and to a lesser extent Sola Scriptura. Ignored is the fact that without their context they have no meaning. In other words, one takes a theme to support and search for verses with certain key words that epigrammatically coincide with the doctrine and not for their contextual contribution to understanding. Consequently, as we see in this use of Scriptures, there is an allegorization as an adjustment to the plain meaning within context creating a usage of the text foreign to its intended meaning. This almost always results in eisegesis.

Systematic theology deals with the teaching of the Bible as a whole body of work instead of individual books or individual verses. This is why one should consider not just those verses which support one’s views but how one deals with those that are contradictory to one’s teaching or understanding. Can the doctrine one believes pass the test or scrutiny of a systematic study of the doctrine?

There seems to be an evolution of Catholic hermeneutics. It started with the Alexandrian school and is apparent in the writings of St. Titus Flavius Clement. He believed that the Scriptures hid the sense, and that the holy mysteries and prophesies were hidden in parables. Origen was a disciple of St. Clement and coined the threefold sense of Scripture: corporeal, psychical and the spiritual in his work “On First Principles”. This was the first written work on hermeneutics.

Around the end of the third century there was the Antiochian school founded by Lucian of Samosata or Diodorus. It produced two of the greatest theologians of the Church, Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. This school expands the teaching of the Alexandrian school to include “theoria” which comes from a Greek word meaning “to see”. This method of interpretation contended that the spiritual sense is inseparable from the literal sense. There was a concern in this school of being overly literalistic or going too far in allegory as to lose the plain meaning of the Scripture. To the Antiochians Scripture had only one meaning which possessed the attributes of literal, spiritual, historical and typological. They believed that the aim of exegesis involved spiritual as well as doctrinal enlightenment in conjunction with historical and philological facts.

The third school in the patristic period was the Western School which had elements of the two previous schools. This school included St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose and St. Hilary. Most of what we know of this school is contained in St. Augustine’s work ”De Doctrina Christiana”. St. Augustine introduced the idea of “regula fidei” or the rule of faith which are the collection of doctrines of the Church. The proper use of the regula fidei presupposes that the meaning of Scripture has already been decided sufficiently in order to recognize that the passage does belong to the doctrine being used as a “rule of faith’ to measure it. Otherwise St. Augustine said that there was an enormous chance of eisegesis. Eventually in the Western school there were four terms that won out in their hermeneutical approach which were: literal, allegorical, tropological, and analogical. This was illustrated in John Cassian’s “Conferences:

Jerusalem literally means city of the Jews, allegorically Jerusalem means Church, tropologically Jerusalem is the soul, and anagogically Jerusalem is our heavenly home. He emphasized that the literal sense is always the precedent.

 (Linda) “What would be the point of it teaching anything else when no witness would accept that?”

(Cristoiglesia) The way the teaching is presented in the Watchtower publications like “Awake” and “Watchtower” is to isolate proof texts from their context to prove Watchtower doctrines. Using this method the followers of the publishing company being predisposed to accept the teaching and the authority of the publishing company accept the most implausible of interpretations used to support their doctrines. It is in these incidents that the Watchtower creates contradictions in the Scriptures by their implausible conclusions and connections with Scriptures. The end result is that the “Witnesses” do accept what would be incredulous to a Bible scholar.  

(Linda) “All witnesses know the bible backward and forward. They have to, to become a witness in the first place. If someone were to tell us anything that was not in the bible we would know it. We would not be deceived.”

(Cristoiglesia) That is not been my experience with Jehovah Witnesses. What I have found is that they know these out of context isolated verses that support their doctrines of devils. I have found that when they are presented with contradictory Scripture teaching the opposite of  their teaching that they are dumbfounded and were obviously unaware of these contradictory teachings. It seems to me that they are really quite easily deceived as they are lulled into a mindset that regardless of any contradictions to the Watchtower doctrines that the Watchtower must be right. So, I deduced from this that they must think that the Watchtower has some teaching authority from some source and that is why I ask questions of Jehovah Witnesses about where they get the authority to teach anyone. From the Bible the only authority recorded was when Jesus gave that authority to His Church. But it is that Church that you reject and Jehovah Witnesses cannot endure the sound doctrines of the Church with that authority from Christ. The only reason from Scriptures that I can think of to explain this is that Jehovah Witnesses have decided individually and corporately to follow false doctrines and teachers that satisfy their own itching ears for such false teaching and prophecies. After all, the Bible prophesied such a departure from orthodoxy.  What greater heterodoxy can be found but that among Jehovah Witnesses and the false teacher of the Watchtower.  

2 Timothy 4:3-4

King James Version (KJV)

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

(Linda) As for the authority of the guidance of our organization - you need to read the parable that Jesus taught at Matthew 24:45-47 or Luke 12:32-48.

(Cristoiglesia) Well, let us see what they say:

Matthew 24:45-47 (King James Version)
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

These verses teach us to be vigilant and in preparation for the Parousia. Perhaps you could explain how this has anything to do with any authority or guidance of the Watchtower. Where can the Watchtower be found in these verses understood in context.

Luke 12:32-48 (King James Version)

32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

Again Luke is speaking of being prepared for the Parousia in which Jesus will come like a thief in the night and that no man will know when this will be but that we must be prepared at every point in our life to do the will of God and to protect our eternal souls from losing faith.  

(Linda) When Jesus was crowned king of the kingdom of heaven in 1914 (according to the bible) who did he find on earth dispensing food at the proper time to his servants?

(Cristoiglesia) Jesus became the King when He instituted His Kingdom from the cross when He drank the cup of consummation from the cross. That was 2000 years ago and not in 1914.

 (Linda) In other words, who did he find teaching the truth of the bible? To answer that of course, you would have to know the truth of the bible. Perhaps you don't. If this is the case, then to have an answer to this question, you would have to learn the truth.

(Cristoiglesia) I do not know of this so-called truth which you claim. But I do know that the Bible teaches that His Kingdom was established from the cross by His own words. He said that He would not drink again the cup of consummation which was the last cup of the Passover until His Kingdom come. From the cross the next day he said “I thirst” and was given the sponge dipped in the sour wine and lifted to His lips by a hyssop branch which was the same instrument that was used to spread the blood of the Lamb upon the lintels of the Israelites to be passed over by the angel of death. When He drank this cup of consummation, consummating the Old Covenant and instituting the New Covenant and His Kingdom with the sacrifice of Himself to the Father as the Lamb of God; this sacrifice replaced the imperfect sacrifice of the Temple. This is the self-same sacrifice that we in the Church militant, suffering and triumphant share with Him to the Father. We do this in anamnesis of Him as He commanded His faithful to do.  He said the words “It is finished” meaning the Old Covenant and then completed His divine mission of atoning for the sins of our original parents and allowing the forgiveness of our actual sins.

(Linda) It was this group of people he put in charge of all his possessions. The desirable things of the earth.

(Cristoiglesia) Nothing happened to give the Watchtower any authority in 1914. His Kingdom came 2000 years previously on the cross of Calvary at a place called Golgotha. His enduring Church remains as He promised to wait anxiously for Him to come again and is still as the Bible promised “the pillar and foundation of the truth”. (1 Tim. 3:15) Just as Jesus promised the “gates of Hell” has not nor can it ever prevail against the Church.  

Here is what is taught in Scriptures about the Authority of the Catholic Church and its source:

[Isa. 35:8, 54:13-17 - this prophecy refers to the Church as the Holy Way where sons will be taught by God and they will not err. The Church has been given the gift of infallibility when teaching about faith and morals, where her sons are taught directly by God and will not err. This gift of infallibility means that the Church is prevented from teaching error by the power of the Holy Spirit (it does not mean that Church leaders do not sin!)

Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14,22 - the early Church is identified as the "Way" prophesied in Isaiah 35:8 where fools will not err therein.

Matt. 10:20; Luke 12:12 - Jesus tells His apostles it is not they who speak, but the Spirit of their Father speaking through them. If the Spirit is the one speaking and leading the Church, the Church cannot err on matters of faith and morals.

Matt. 16:18 - Jesus promises the gates of Hades would never prevail against the Church. This requires that the Church teach infallibly. If the Church did not have the gift of infallibility, the gates of Hades and error would prevail. Also, since the Catholic Church was the only Church that existed up until the Reformation, those who follow the Protestant reformers call Christ a liar by saying that Hades did prevail.

Matt. 16:19 - for Jesus to give Peter and the apostles, mere human beings, the authority to bind in heaven what they bound on earth requires infallibility. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit and has nothing to do with the holiness of the person receiving the gift.

Matt. 18:17-18 - the Church (not Scripture) is the final authority on questions of the faith. This demands infallibility when teaching the faith. She must be prevented from teaching error in order to lead her members to the fullness of salvation.

Matt. 28:20 - Jesus promises that He will be with the Church always. Jesus' presence in the Church assures infallible teaching on faith and morals. With Jesus present, we can never be deceived.

Mark 8:33 - non-Catholics sometimes use this verse to down play Peter's authority. This does not make sense. In this verse, Jesus rebukes Peter to show the import of His Messianic role as the Savior of humanity. Moreover, at this point, Peter was not yet the Pope with the keys, and Jesus did not rebuke Peter for his teaching. Jesus rebuked Peter for his lack of understanding.

Luke 10:16 - whoever hears you, hears me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. Jesus is very clear that the bishops of the Church speak with Christ's infallible authority.

Luke 22:32 - Jesus prays for Peter, that his faith may not fail. Jesus' prayer for Peter's faith is perfectly efficacious, and this allows Peter to teach the faith without error (which means infallibly).

John 11:51-52 - some non-Catholics argue that sinners cannot have the power to teach infallibly. But in this verse, God allows Caiaphas to prophesy infallibly, even though he was evil and plotted Jesus' death. God allows sinners to teach infallibly, just as He allows sinners to become saints. As a loving Father, He exalts His children, and is bound by His own justice to give His children a mechanism to know truth from error.

1 & 2 Peter - for example, Peter denied Christ, he was rebuked by his greatest bishop (Paul), and yet he wrote two infallible encyclicals. Further, if Peter could teach infallibly by writing, why could he not also teach infallibly by preaching? And why couldn't his successors so teach as well?

Gen. to Deut.; Psalms; Paul - Moses and maybe Paul were murderers and David was an adulterer and murderer, but they also wrote infallibly. God uses us sinful human beings because when they respond to His grace and change their lives, we give God greater glory and His presence is made more manifest in our sinful world.

John 14:16 - Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church forever. The Spirit prevents the teaching of error on faith and morals. It is guaranteed because the guarantee comes from God Himself who cannot lie.

John 14:26 - Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church (the apostles and successors) all things regarding the faith. This means that the Church can teach us the right moral positions on such things as in vitro fertilization, cloning and other issues that are not addressed in the Bible. After all, these issues of morality are necessary for our salvation, and God would not leave such important issues to be decided by us sinners without His divine assistance.

John 16:12 - Jesus had many things to say but the apostles couldn't bear them at that point. This demonstrates that the Church's infallible doctrine develops over time. All public Revelation was completed with the death of the last apostle, but the doctrine of God's Revelation develops as our minds and hearts are able to welcome and understand it. God teaches His children only as much as they can bear, for their own good.

John 16:13 - Jesus promises that the Spirit will "guide" the Church into all truth. Our knowledge of the truth develops as the Spirit guides the Church, and this happens over time.

1 Cor. 2:13 – Paul explains that what the ministers teach is taught, not by human wisdom, but by the Spirit.  The ministers are led to interpret and understand the spiritual truths God gives them over time.

Eph. 4:13,15 – Paul indicates that attaining to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood is a process. We are to grow up in every way into Christ. Doctrine (which means “teaching”) develops as we understand God’s Revelation.

Acts 15:27-28 - the apostles know that their teaching is being guided by the Holy Spirit. He protects the Church from deception.

Gal. 2:11-14 - non-Catholics sometimes use this verse to diminish Peter's evident authority over the Church. This is misguided. In this verse, Paul does not oppose Peter's teaching, but his failure to live by it. Infallibility (teaching without error) does not mean impeccability (living without sinning). Peter was the one who taught infallibly on the Gentile's salvation in Acts 10,11. With this rebuke, Paul is really saying "Peter, you are our leader, you teach infallibly, and yet your conduct is inconsistent with these facts. You of all people!" The verse really underscores, and not diminishes, the importance of Peter's leadership in the Church.

Eph. 3:10 - the wisdom of God is known, even to the intellectually superior angels, through the Church (not the Scriptures). This is an incredible verse, for it tells us that God's infinite wisdom comes to us through the Church. For that to happen, the Church must be protected from teaching error on faith and morals (or she wouldn't be endowed with the wisdom of God).

Eph. 3:9 - this, in fact, is a mystery hidden for all ages - that God manifests His wisdom through one infallible Church for all people.

Eph. 3:20 - God's glory is manifested in the Church by the power of the Spirit that works within the Church's leaders. As a Father, God exalts His children to roles of leadership within the body of Christ.

Eph. 5:23-27, Col. 1:18 - Christ is the head of the Church, His Bride, for which He died to make it Holy and without blemish. There is only one Church, just as Christ only has one Bride.

Eph. 5:32- Paul calls the Church a "mystery." This means that the significance of the Church as the kingdom of God in our midst cannot be understood by reason alone. Understanding the Church also requires faith. "Church" does not mean a building of believers. That is not a mystery. Non-Catholics often view church as mere community, but not the supernatural mystery of Christ physically present among us.

1 Thess. 5:21 - Paul commands us to test everything. But we must have something against which to test. This requires one infallible guide that is available to us, and this guide is the Catholic Church, whose teachings on faith and morals have never changed.

1 Tim. 3:15 - Paul says the apostolic Church (not Scripture) is the pillar and foundation of the truth. But for the Church to be the pinnacle and foundation of truth, she must be protected from teaching error, or infallible. She also must be the Catholic Church, whose teachings on faith and morals have not changed for 2,000 years. God loves us so much that He gave us a Church that infallibly teaches the truth so that we have the fullness of the means of salvation in His only begotten Son.

1 John 4:6 – John writes that whoever knows God “listens to us” (the bishops and successors to the apostles). Then John writes “This is the way we discern truth and error. John does not say “reading the Bible is the way we discern truth and error.” But if listening to mere human beings helps us discern truth and error, God would have had to endow his chosen leaders with the special gift of infallibility, so that they would be prevented from teaching error.

Matt. to Rev. - we must also note that not all Christian doctrines are explicit in Scripture (for example, the dogma of the Blessed Trinity). However, infallibility is strongly inferred from the foregoing passages. Non-Catholic Christians should ask themselves why they accept the Church's teaching on the three persons of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ in one divine person, and the New Testament canon of Scripture (all defined by the Catholic Church), but not other teachings regarding the Eucharist, Mary, the saints, and purgatory? (http://www.scripturecatholic.com/the_church.html#the_church-II)]

God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this informative piece.

    Their Watchtower society message,in 180 languages, is the same: God is soon going to execute every living person on the planet, except Jehovah’s Witnesses. They also actively encourage people to reject life-saving medical treatment involving some common blood products such as plasma and red cells.
    The origin of all Watchtower teachings that makes them unique over all other religions is their creed of Jesus second coming 'invisibly' in the year 1914.

    For background critical information on Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and practices browse my blog.
    Danny Haszard FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com