Monday, April 26, 2021

Facebook Fact-checks Easter Meme

Usually, censorship is considered to be a bad thing, stifling freedom of speech. The popular social media giant Facebook though has utilized a fact-checking system to impede access to media considered to be ill-informed, thus stifling the spread of bigotry fueled by blatant misinformation, to “curb the spread of false news.”[1] This was first seen with social and political issues. I wondered if it would eventually include religious issues, and recently it has—to my exquisite delight.

In my previous blog entry “Easter Ishtar?”[2] I expressed great caution and disdain over connecting those two words Easter and Ishtar together because they may sound similar. Every year during Springtime too I had to endure an incredibly obnoxious meme posted on Facebook that was loaded with historical errors and propaganda. It is this meme that has now felt the fury of Facebook fact-checking.

Its fact-checking system justifies blocking that meme by referring to this article: “Easter not derived from name of ancient Mesopotamian goddess.”[3] Indeed, adding insult to injury for ones spreading that meme around is that it may not even be depicting Ishtar. Currently that goddess is called “The Queen of the Night,” but her specific name remains elusive.[4]

Good riddance! (This also includes all other similar memes spreading the same deceptive propaganda of Easter=Ishtar.)


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Did Russell Want Followers?

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) expressed a number of times if he wanted to start a following around himself. Significantly, he is reported to have said: “Take your eyes off me, dear friends, and fix them on the Lord.”[1] There is documented corroboration for this statement. For instance, he wrote in 1896 under the subheading “Worshipping Fellow Messengers”:
while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name. … Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures.[2]
Some fourteen years later in a 1910 convention discourse, he declared:
Another thing: Some of the dear brethren seem to find as much about Brother Russell in the Bible as they find about the Lord Jesus, and I think that is a great mistake. I do not find it there. Some of them say that I am blinded on that subject, that they all can see better than I can. Perhaps they can, I do not know, but I think, dear friends, that there is a danger in that direction, and I would like to put you all on guard. … And yet I think there is a danger of some dear friends preaching Brother Russell. Brother Russell would like for you not to do so. He thinks it would not be to the glory of God. … But let us not go into anything that would be at all like man-worship, for I am sure that would be displeasing to the Lord and injurious to ourselves. … but [Brother Russell] does not want any worship, he does not want any undue adoration, he does not want any praise. He is glad to have the love of all those who are brethren of the Lord and to be considered a fellow-servant with all.[3]
Thus Russell made it very clear—just six years before his death—that he saw great spiritual danger in having a following, was in obvious opposition to it, and wanted no part of it. He warned against it. Thus, viewing him as a spiritual ancestor is to reduce religion and spirituality to superficial lines on a chalkboard—where the line connecting followers to him is as relevant and thick as the layer of chalk is.

[1] James Parkinson, Troubled Waters, Bible Student Fragments 1917-1967, page 6 n. 11. This states specifically that:
Edith Hoskins testified in 1929 that Pastor C.T. Russell “used to say, ‘Take your eyes off me, dear friends, and fix them on the Lord.’”
This testimony was given at “The Pittsburgh Reunion Convention” which “was held at the old Bible House 1929 November 1-3, with at least 150 attending.” (page 6)

[2] December 15th, 1896 Zion’s Watch Tower, “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness.” NO. 2., R2080; 306.

[3] “Church Federation—Part IV,” Convention Report Sermons, 124.

Does the Governing Body Want Followers?

An immediate response to the above may be: Do the men taking the lead among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body, want followers of themselves?

Two quotes from them immediately come to mind:
In order to avoid misunderstandings, Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be careful about how they express themselves. Instead of saying, “the Society [or Governing Body] teaches,” many Witnesses prefer to use such expressions as, “the Bible says” or, “I understand the Bible to teach.” In this way they emphasize the personal decision that each Witness has made in accepting Bible teachings and also avoid giving the false impression that Witnesses are somehow bound to the dictates of some religious sect.[A1]
Are you ready to defend your beliefs? For example, if someone wants to know why you do not take part in some unscriptural custom or practice, do not be satisfied with saying, “It’s against my religion [or the Governing Body].” Such an answer may suggest that you let others [the Governing Body] make your decisions for you and that you must therefore be a member of a cult. It might be better to say, “God’s Word, the Bible, forbids it” or, “It would displease my God.” Then give a reasonable explanation as to why.—Romans 12:1.[A2]
So on one hand, we follow the basic, principle teachings disseminated by them in order to function as Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the other hand, we are not bound to the Governing Body as their followers, but make Bible teachings our own (we do not robotically say “my leaders told me so”).

More recently, the Governing Body said: “The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible. Therefore, it can err in doctrinal matters or in organizational direction.”[A3]

So at this point these statements make it blindingly obvious that they do not want followers of themselves, but are directing our primary teachings and the ministry.

Therefore this claim that they want followers betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of their intent, and collapses under its own weight.

[A1] The Watchtower 1998 3/15 “Living Up to Christian Dedication in Freedom” page 19

[A2] The Watchtower 2002 8/15 “Follow Me Continually” page 18

[A3] The Watchtower 2017.02 4:12, page 26. Or, as the Simplified Edition put it: “The Governing Body is neither inspired nor perfect. It can make mistakes when explaining the Bible or directing the organization.”—page 24.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

A surprising eye-witness?

A nightmare text for the “Biblical Unitarian” Christological prehuman-existence denier camp would be where someone who was privy to the happenings of God’s Court before Jesus’ birth saw him (the one who would become Jesus) there in God’s Court before his earthly sojourn, and then spoke of that during his earthly sojourn, which was then recorded in the Gospels. In other words, if someone said something along the lines of: “Hey when I was in God’s Court, I saw you there before you left to be born on earth!” That would be a fatal blow to denying Christological prehuman-existence.

But we may indeed have such a text in Mark 1:23-24 and Luke 4:33-34, where a demon-possessed man identified Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Here it was the demon speaking through one of the Synagogue congregants identifying Jesus that way, calling him by a title previously applied to the prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 4:9) Now, it may be significant that he did not identify him as the Messiah of God,[1] but as “the Holy One of God.”[2] Jesus in a prehuman, pre-Christ-existence would indeed fit that description.

In response, a popular Biblical Unitarian, Dr. Dale Tuggy, in a podcast was confronted with this case from Mark 1:23-24, and rejoined:
What? (ha ha) That’s an interesting claim, I mean, is the presupposition that Jesus in his prehuman existence is like hobnobbing with the demons somehow? So like “Oh I remember that guy!” How did the demons have their special knowledge of his identity as the son of God, as God’s messiah? I don’t know. I don’t think the text tells us, and I don’t know why you would assume that this requires preexistence either.[3]
Well, first, it’s evidence that the angel who became that demon was associating with “the Holy One of God” before his birth as Jesus. Dale is being overly skeptical and dismissive here. At least acknowledge that it can be interpreted to allow for the demons being angels witnessing prehuman-existence. His presupposition is that “the demons were always demons.” But that begs the question, why would God create demons? Clearly they were angels at one point as seen in Jude 1:6.

Consequently, with that objection being deflated, it appears that we have support for Christological prehuman-existence from a surprising source, from a demon who as an angel was an eye-witness of it!

[1] Contra Anthony F. Buzzard, footnote for Mark 1:24 in The One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation.
[2] In another incident with the Gadarene demoniac, the demon(s) called Jesus the “Son of God” (Matthew 8:29) and “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28). Mark (NWT) adds that the demon(s) replied to Jesus with “I put you under oath by God not to torment me,” (present tense, not past tense) whereas Matthew records: “Did you come here to torment me before the appointed time?” Luke similarly has: “I beg you, do not torment me.” The NET Bible for Mark 5:7 has: “I implore you by God—do not torment me!” Its footnote here cites the question in Matthew 8:29 and explains: “There was an appointed time in which the demons would face their judgement, and they seem to have viewed Jesus’ arrival on the scene as an illegitimate change in God’s plan regarding the time when their sentence would be executed.” So, this is not a reference to Jesus’ prehuman existence, but the reference to Jesus being the “Son of God” might be. (See also Mark 3:11 and Luke 4:41) While not explicitly identifying him as the Messiah, Luke adds “they knew him to be the Christ” regardless.—Luke 4:41.
Lastly, regarding how they “seem to have viewed Jesus’ arrival on the scene as an illegitimate change in God’s plan” for their final judgement, I imagine it is possible they had in mind a “prophecy” in 1 Enoch 10:12-13, which states that the demons would be restricted for “70 generations” from the time of the Flood until their final “torment and the prison in which they will be confined forever.” According to Luke’s genealogy in Luke 3:23-38, Jesus was the 70th from Enoch, but they may have had anticipated counting 70 generations from Noah.
[3] Trinities Podcast 307: Two Readings of Mark – popular or esoteric? – Part 3, 55:1.

Picture from: The Truth About Angels