Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
About That Presentation on the Jehovah's Witnesses....
12/05/2012 - James WhiteFor Robert who called yesterday and asked about Jehovah's Witnesses, monty over in the UK tracked down these videos of my presentations back in March at Central Baptist in Honolulu. Hope this helps!
Testimony from a Former Jehovah Witness
01/03/2011 - Alan KurschnerMatthew Fenn is a former Jehovah Witness saved by God's grace through the reading of Philippians chapter 3.
Read his edifying story, here.
"But when I read this passage, I read that was talking about “not having a righteousness of his own”. That blew me away. It blew me away because it was so different from what the Watchtower teaches. The Watchtower teaches that God only saves the godly. The Organization says that Jesus helps us but we also need to help him. He isn't enough to save us, we need to do something as well. Their version of salvation is Jesus giving the sinner the same chance as Adam had. Jesus needs us to participate and contribute to our own salvation. As a result it isn't humble, it's proud. It isn't joyous, but very angry, critical, and mean. It's isn't grace, it's nothing but pure law."After Fenn's conversion, he would meet with the JW Judicial Committee, which was very telling. So read the whole story!
Here is video of his story: http://ponderingchrist.blogspot.com/2010/11/heres-my-story.html
An Excellent Review of Truth in Translation
12/07/2009 - Mike Porter···Dr. Thomas Howe is Professor of Biblical Languages and Director of the Apologetics Program for Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is in the process of writing a scholarly response to Dr. Jason BeDuhn's work Truth in Translation. This is a link to an early draft of his review. It is very good but it is not the complete response. The complete response will be available early 2010.
···Some quick words about the linked version:
- As mentioned earlier, it is partially done. Fuller work is being done to it, so consider this a (very in-depth and worthwhile) preview.
- The contrast is stark from the two works. In fairness to Dr. BeDuhn, his work is intended to be for general consumption and Dr. Howe's is intended to be more technical. Of course, that does not shield BeDuhn from critique, but the reader should simply note the difference in writing and detail.
···I'll post another link of where one can get hold of the response when it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy Dr. Howe's work.
Truth in Translation: Evaluating Dr. BeDuhn's Treatment of Granville Sharp's Rule
12/03/2009 - Mike PorterSome time ago I began what was intended to be a series of articles addressing translation issues raised by Dr. Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University. It certainly was not my intention to take so long to return to the articles, and some of our readers have gently, but consistently reminded me (not to mention a certain elder at my church) that such a work beckons a response if for no other reason than to dispose of some of the erroneous arguments and conclusions put forth by BeDuhn. Considering the rather high standard he set for himself in his work and considering the amount of play his name is getting by Jehovah's Witnesses as a neutral Greek scholar, it seems important to address.
But, first, I would like to make a correction from my first post. There I mentioned that Dr. BeDuhn's doctoral studies were in Manichean studies. That is incorrect. His doctoral degree is in Comparative Religion. His doctoral dissertation was on Manicheaism. Indeed, that is where his specialty lies. It is important to point this out because Dr. BeDuhn denigrates the qualifications of many Old and New Testament scholars of various translations by stating that they were theologically trained and possess some adequate training in the biblical languages. When one considers the considerable weight of scholarship that was on the original translation committee of the NASB, for example, one must acknowledge that there is a significant imbalance to the words Dr. BeDuhn gave in regards to the scholarship of such projects. Dr. Moises Silva, for example, is a well-known scholar with many significant works relating to biblical linguistics and translation, hermeneutics and exegesis (some which have been standard textbooks for colleges and seminaries such as Biblical Words and their Meanings: And Introduction to Lexical Semantics). Men such as Dr. Bruce Waltke were on the original translation committee as well. Dr. Waltke still has the standard 2nd year textbook for Hebrew Syntax. Many other recognizable names are here: (and let's not forget that certain highly recognizable name for the textual consultants of the NASB Update - something of a household name for readers of this blog).
Such dismissals did not serve Dr. BeDuhn well since it positioned him to a higher level of scholarship than men such as these who have written significantly on and contributed greatly to the biblical scholarship Dr. BeDuhn claims to uphold. As I have mentioned earlier, I am willing to assign Dr. BeDuhn the status of scholar, but there is nothing in his writings that have persuaded me that he is a biblical scholar, and that distinction is significant to this conversation.
To that end, I wish to discuss some of the chapters of his work Truth In Translation. It is not my intention to address every issue he raises, but merely to demonstrate that Dr. BeDuhn seems to lack either the information or the neutrality he claims to have in order to approach this subject.
For this article I have chosen Chapter 8: Words Together and Apart. Here, Dr. BeDuhn addresses Granville Sharp's Rule looking at certain passages of Christological significance. Dr. BeDuhn cites Titus 2:13 as evidence of theological bias inserted into the translation. He cites numerous translations to make his point, but two will suffice for this discussion.
KJV Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the
great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
NASB Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of
our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
Immediately you may notice that there is a distinct manner in which the two nouns 'God' and 'Savior have been translated. The KJV translates the two nouns as referring to two distinct persons, presumably of the Father and of Jesus Christ. The NASB, however, translates the two nouns as both referring to Christ. Why the difference' Dr. BeDuhn explores this question by citing what he believes are parallel passages within Titus (Tit 1:4) and 2 Thessolonians (2 Thess 1:12). ...
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Witnesses Now for Jesus (Live)
10/16/2009 - Jeff DownsEvery year, Personal Freedom Outreach put together a convention for former Jehovah's Witnesses in New Ringgold, PA (what a beautiful place this time of year*). If you are a Jehovah's Witness, a former JW, or simply interested, you can watch many of the sessions live online (this is the first time they are broadcasting live).
I am not familiar with all the speakers, so I can not account for everything you will hear. I do know some of them (e.g. Don Veinot, Bob Anderson, Dick Fisher, and others), who have been in Countercult ministry for quite some time.
Here is a brochure with all the sessions and speakers, and if you want to listen live go here (I believe you need to create an account, which is easy to do).
*Funny thing is, when we were living in PA I would travel up Saturday (with my wife) to the retreat center, stop in and say hello to a few folks, then leave. It is such a beautiful time of year in Mountains of PA, we couldn't resist simply driving around looking at the trees.
I do know that many are encouraged during this weekend. Last time I went, there were former JWs who traveled from Japan to attend the convention.
He Who Sits on the Throne and the Lamb
03/25/2009 - James White
Reflections on a Two and a Half Hour Conversation with a Witness Elder
03/22/2009 - James WhiteI have really missed having the opportunities I had back in the 80s and 90s to spend time meeting with Jehovah's Witnesses. I used to have many opportunities to go to homes and meet with Witnesses. Most of these came about when the Witnesses came by someone's home and asked to have a meeting with them. I would be invited and we would have a great time of discussion. Well, it was a great time for me, anyway! On a humorous note, the only time I've been physically accosted was during one of those meetings, and that by a little old Jehovah's Witness lady! I was kneeling next to her as she sat on a couch, showing her where the NWT had deleted the word "me" from John 14:14. When she had nothing to say in reply, she slapped me across the face, sending me sprawling in the middle of the floor! From the look on her husband's face, I got the feeling this wasn't the first such incident!
Anyway, it has been a number of years since my last encounter with JW's. They skip my house these days. My last conversations were on my front porch with a woman who insisted that she could, in fact, read my book on the Trinity. So when a member of my church (Bill) told me he had talked to Witnesses last Saturday, and that they wanted to come back to talk, I pulled out my NWT and my Kingdom Interlinear, dusted them off, and made the appointment.
We met for 2.5 hours on Friday afternoon. The gentleman, an elder in his congregation, is named Albert. He has been a Witness for over thirty years. I began by introducing myself, letting him know that I teach apologetics, and asking if I could summarize my understanding of his beliefs. I have found this to be a useful approach in the past, as most Witnesses have never encountered anyone who showed them enough respect to accurately study their faith. This normally gives me at least some time to present the "other side," as they generally do not know how to respond to a fair, accurate representation of their own views, replete with the use of their own "in-house" language. Of course, you have to emphasize that you have never been associated with the Watchtoewr Bible and Tract Society (as they will assume anyone who "knows the lingo" has been).
The conversation focused, properly, on Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father. Even more importantly, it focused on the text of Scripture. It was not, however, the normal game of Bible ping-pong, one verse cited on each side, back and forth. Though I was happy to respond to any texts he raised, for the most part I was presenting to him key texts demonstrating that the NT writers identified Jesus as Yahweh. Then I added in examples of mistranslation on the part of the NWT as well.
I would love to report that Albert abandoned thirty plus years of dedication to the Society in one meeting, but to be honest, I have never heard of that happening. Leaving the WTBTS is a long and often difficult process. In the vast majority of instances where someone leaves the Watchtower and embraces true faith in Christ, the process began when someone went toe-to-toe with them in the arena of the Bible, and cracked the cocoon of assurance that nobody out there knows the Bible as well as the Watchtower Society. I pray that is what happened in this instance. For though Albert would not take my book, or even my business card, he did walk out with...his Bible. It is my prayer that the discussions we had about the texts that identify Jesus as Yahweh, or the text in Revelation 5 where all the created universe worships He who sits on the throne and the Lamb (a fact he refused to acknowledge no matter how plainly it was explained), or the Carmen Christi, will remain clear and vivid in his mind.
I should note that the meeting did not just have one goal in mind. Those who observed and listened (Bill, two young people from our congregation) were able to see as well the clear testimony of Scripture to the truth of the Trinity. My hope is that they will be greatly encouraged to proclaim those truths in the future as well.
I pray that God will bring Albert into contact with many more solid believers who will re-enforce the things he was told during our encounter, and that God will glorify Himself by bringing another of His own to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Truth in Translation: Grading the Professor
05/29/2008 - Mike PorterNot too long ago, this ministry received some emails regarding a small work that had been handed or otherwise recommended to them by members of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The book was concerning to them for a couple of reasons: 1) It was written by a man claiming to be a biblical scholar who was, above all, a neutral observer and evaluated several translations to determine bias and fairness. 2) Among the translations he evaluated was the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses and, despite finding some flaws with it, determined that it was among the best translations he reviewed.
It is not surprising, then, that many Jehovah's Witnesses have been offering this book to their Christian friends and family members. Many believers have been told over and again by reputable scholars that the NWT is not a good translation and demonstrates theological bias rather than biblical and linguistic scholarship. So, when a biblical scholar claims neutrality for the sake of historical truth and judges in favor of the NWT, it is hardly surprising to find such believers requesting information on such a work.
The particular book is by Dr. Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University and is called Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. It is not intended to be a scholarly work, but rather a popular work which dispenses with the usual detailed argumentation and rigor demanded. He targets his audience those who have little to no knowledge of the biblical languages and culture.
This blog article begins a series where I will examine and review the claims of Dr. BeDuhn in his book and discuss his approach, methods, arguments, and conclusions. I am not intending on reviewing every chapter of the book as some of the arguments seemed to be peripheral to greater matters of theological import (although I am sure to touch upon some issues briefly, such as gender translation).
Dr. BeDuhn evaluates several translations and paraphrases of the New Testament intending to, in effect, grade their competency. He believes that he is qualified because he considers himself a biblical scholar and unbiased in his perspective. These are points he wishes to make abundantly clear in order to contrast himself with those who worked on the translations he reviews. The premise is that major translations are not made by biblical scholars but by reasonably competent committees with a vested doctrinal interest. Indeed, he states:
"With thousands of biblical scholars in America alone, you may think that biblical translation is mostly a scholarly enterprise. It isn't. Although biblical scholars have been the key players in identifying the more accurate Greek text of the New Testament, most have never been involved in a bible translation project." (BeDuhn, 9)Dr. BeDuhn then goes on to assert that the work of these biblical scholars is usually confined to specialist type projects focused narrowly on particular passages.
By contrast, he tells us, ""Bible translation is usually undertaken by people with theological training who also happen to be reasonably competent in biblical languages." (BeDuhn, 8)
Note that biblical translators are not necessarily biblical scholars. Just what is a biblical scholar according to Dr. BeDuhn? A biblical scholar must possess three qualities in order to be considered a true scholar: Knowledge of 1) the linguistic content, 2) the literary setting of the work, and 3) the historical and cultural setting (BeDuhn, xvi-xix).
Dr. BeDuhn believes that he is qualified because he considers himself to be a biblical scholar. Now, I am willing to grant Dr. BeDuhn the assumption of scholarship. I am a little hesitant to consider him to be a biblical scholar since I am not familiar enough with his works on biblical scholarship to be able to grant him such on his word. I did look into his background and his website to understand where he believes himself qualified.
Dr. BeDuhn has his doctorate in Manichean studies. It is neither specific to nor specialized in New Testament. However, he does have a Master's degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Thus, I am certain he has had at least two years of Greek training. And, I am aware of at least one Greek manuscript of Manichean writings that he may have worked on at the doctoral level. ...
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Greg Stafford on God's Ignorance: God As Man's Prophet
04/04/2008 - Jeff DownsRegarding the creation of mankind, the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q10) asks “How did God create man?” And it answers the question by stating “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures” (emphasis mine). And because we are made in the image of God, we are to image Him (as only man can), in all of our being. We tend to look at this section of Genesis (1-3) as man either obeying and disobeying God strictly in their ethic (how they live their lives).
But as God’s creatures, Adam and Eve were to be Yahweh’s servant with all their being. We are told that the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (emphasis mine). This commandment, although not stated in Genesis was certainly Adam greatest commandment. And just as we are not to love and serve God in our own strength, according to our own dictates, Adam, again, was no different.
It is clear from the NT that part of the image that is being restored has to do with knowledge. What we know, how do we know it, etc. One picture of the Christian, is that he is as priest, offering up to God our own bodies (including our minds) as living sacrifices, and in doing so our minds will be transformed, to know God’s will. We are told in other places that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor. 10:5). In Eph. 4:22-23 Paul states “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” and in Col. 3:10 Paul continues this line of reason stating “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
If one of the goals of our sanctification is that we are “think God’s thoughts after him” as Cornelius Van Til stated, we can safely assume that in the garden, prior to the fall, Adam possessed the knowledge Paul speaks about in the above verses. The difference being, that Adam before the fall did not have to “take every thought captive,” this was a given. Adam, prior to the fall, was thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
Being made in the image of God, man was to be God’s prophet, priest and king. He was to rule over creation, he was to subdue creation and he was to proclaim the works and mind of the mind of his creator to the creation. After all, if Adam failed in any of these before the actual fall, we would have a pre-fall. But we know this wasn’t the case.
When we look at the teachings of Mr. Greg Stafford, we see the roles of prophet exchanged from man being the prophet of God, to God being a prophet for man. Mr. Stafford has established for himself (with the help of Jehovah’s Witness publications) that there is knowledge God is not aware of and can not know until man reveals it. After man says what he says, it becomes revelation for God, and now God can speak forth what Adam, a part from his image-bearing, has made known. Remember, Mr. Stafford has told us in the past, that when God commanded Adam to name the animals, God himself did not know what Adam was going to name them. God’s knowledge was limited to the free choices of man. God, now thinks man’s thoughts after him.
One important point to recognize here is that built into in Mr. Stafford’s theology, is a place for man’s autonomy. He (man) is a law unto himself. Before the fall, he can do things and say things without thinking God’s thought after him. Man, apart from God, makes decisions, which in the end, bind God and instead of man being the prophet for God, God becomes the mouth piece for man. Man becomes the final reference point and the the creator-creature distinction is blurred.
I can not say it better than Van Til at this point when he states “It is only when this point is carefully noted that the Christian and the non-Christian points of view are seen in their right relationship to one another. The two positions have mutually exclusive views of the ultimate reference point in predication” (Christian Apologetics, 2ed., 43).
[Note: The thoughts in this post are being developed for a paper I am currently writing for an apologetics class. When finished, Lord willing, I will post the paper on the blog].
The Watchtower Tightens the Leash on "JW Apologists" Once More
08/04/2007 - James WhiteAlmost a decade ago I presented a paper at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Orlando, Florida, on the topic of Greg Stafford and the relationship that exists between the Society and those who seek, outside of her official publications, to give a defense of her beliefs. Back in the 1970s the Watchtower Society disfellowshipped an early "Jehovah's Witness apologist" for "running ahead of the brethren." I said then that how the Society dealt with Stafford, who was not only publishing materials on his own, but likewise citing from the very publications the Society forbids its followers from reading, would give us insight into how they were going to deal with the broader issues presented by the growing impact of the Internet, cable television, and the greater availability of information. The Society has had to attempt to keep control over what information individual Witnesses are exposed to for the simple reason that cults have to do that. They have so often changed their teachings, altered their views, and then tried to cover these changes up, all while claiming to be "Jehovah's only organization on earth," that having an open policy on access to information would be self-detrimental. So having folks like Stafford out there doing their own thing would only serve to incite other Witnesses to start looking into "things" that they would rather just keep out of the sphere of notice of their followers.
Since that time there have been conflicting signals coming out of Brooklyn. A few times they have "snapped the whip," so to speak, holding a hard line on the whole idea of doing "apologetics" and putting up websites, etc., in defense of the Society. I noted earlier this year that Stafford had gone on an anti-Calvinism crusade, and had ended a period of relative inactivity with a bang. At the time I wondered if he had been given the "green light" so to speak by a contact in Brooklyn.
Well, the September, 2007 Kingdom Ministry publication (known as the "KM" in Witness terminology) has tightened the leash yet once again. Here is the text that has just been distributed to all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses around the world:
QUESTION BOXIt did not take long for Greg Stafford to comment on it. He analyzes the commentary (as he well knows, there is something called "Society speak," and it has to be interpreted to be understood), and concludes,
* Does "the faithful and discreet slave" endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate?–Matt. 24:45, 47.
No, it does not. And yet, in various parts of the world, a few associates of our organization have formed groups to do independent research on Bible-related subjects. Some have pursued an independent group study of Biblical Hebrew and Greek so as to analyze the accuracy of the New World Translation. Others explore scientific subjects related to the Bible. They have created Web sites and chat rooms for the purpose of exchanging and debating their views. They have also held conferences and produced publications to present their findings and to supplement what is provided at our Christian meetings and through our literature.
Throughout the earth, Jehovah's people are receiving ample spiritual instruction and encouragement at congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions, as well as through the publications of Jehovah's organization. Under the guidance of his holy spirit and on the basis of his Word of truth, Jehovah provides what is needed so that all of God's people may be "fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought" and remain "stabilized in the faith." (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 2:6, 7) Surely we are grateful for Jehovah's spiritual provisions in these last days. Thus, "the faithful and discreet slave" does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that are not produced or organized under its oversight.–Matt. 24:45-47.
It is commendable for individuals to want to use their thinking ability in support of the good news. However, no personal pursuit should detract from what Jesus Christ is accomplishing through his congregation on earth today. In the first century, the apostle Paul warned about getting involved in exhausting, time-consuming subjects, such as "genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith." (1 Tim. 1:3-7) All Christians should strive to "shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile."–Titus 3:9.
For those who wish to do extra Bible study and research, we recommend that they explore Insight on the Scriptures, "All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial," and our other publications, such as those that discuss the prophecies found in the Bible books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation. These provide abundant material for Bible study and meditation, whereby we can be "filled with the accurate knowledge of [God's] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as [we] go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God."–Col. 1:9, 10.
Of course, I believe the Society is completely wrong in their views and in their application of texts to almost everything that they say in this Question Box, and I believe they are stifling growth and the defense of Jehovah’s name and other Bible teachings, or possibly attempting to insulate their followers from facts that they believe will create disloyalty to their organization. But Witnesses loyal to the Society cannot say that, and so those who go against their recommendations are running ahead or running along a different path than that recommended and walked by those whom they consider to be the anointed body of Christ, representing Jehovah’s will on earth today. Thus, such ones are not listening to those whom they consider Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave.”Stafford does not use a "normal" blog format, so you have to go here and scroll down to entry #925 for the source of this citation.
In any case, we will have to keep our eyes on developments in this area. The Society is really between the proverbial rock and the hard-place on this topic. They really cannot insulate their people as they once did, but at the same time, they struggle to explain their history and the objections to their beliefs. We will see what develops.