Monday, August 18, 2014

"The Mighty God": Jehovah's Witnesses Betrayed by Their Own "Bible"

"For a child has been born to us, 
A son has been given to us; 
And the rulership will rest on his shoulder. 
His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,  
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

This is Isaiah 9:6 in the New World Translation (2013 revision), the Bible published by the Watchtower Society, or, as they are commonly called, the Jehovah's Witnesses. Why am I quoting their version? Have I suddenly converted? No, of course not.

I am quoting it because  the Watchtower has accidentally made an important confession here.

If you discuss this verse with a Witness, he will agree that it refers to Jesus Christ. However, they claim that it only teaches that Jesus is a "mighty god" (note lower case), just as they say about John 1:1. He is not the Almighty God, Jehovah.

Their problem is that they forgot to amend the next chapter of Isaiah. In Isaiah 10:21, the NWT refers to Jehovah as "the Mighty God." So, if their interpretation of 9:5 is correct, then they must also teach that Jehovah is not "the Almighty God," but just "the mighty god." In other words, their interpretation of the their own version requires them to say that God is not God!

Why do they insist so strongly in this particular heresy? I have thought long on that question. The Watchtower won't give an honest answer to it, of course. But I think it is that our God, the incarnate I Am (John 8:58), is powerful for the complete salvation of all His people. But, by hiding that great salvation, the Watchtower Society keeps its members in bondage, looking to Brooklyn for salvation. The Catholic Church uses a similar strategy, not by denying the deity of Christ, but by denying the infallibility and perspicuity of the Bible. Different roads to the same goal!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Is It True that the New Testament Doesn't Mention Infant Baptism?

"For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ."
- I Cor. 10:1-4

I have heard it repeated by Baptists, over and over, ad nauseum, that the New Testament never mentions the baptism of infants, as if that would settle the question. But, as often as it is stated, is it true? No, it's not!
Look at the passage quoted above, I Corinthians 10:1-4, referring to the people of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt. This is a familiar story. The Israelites had been given permission by Pharaoh to leave their bondage in Goshen. However, Pharaoh had had a change of heart, and set out in pursuit, intending to retrieve his unpaid workforce. When the Israelites approached the Red Sea (Hebrew, "Sea of Reeds"), their God, Jehovah, made a way for them, dividing the sea to the right and to the left. After they passed through, the Egyptians attempted to follow, but God sent the sea back, crushing the Egyptian troops between two walls of water. The account can be found in Exodus, chapter 14.

Paul uses this experience as a metaphor for baptism. Who was baptized? Adults? Believers? That's what Baptists would have us believe. But what is the actuality? Everyone among the covenant people, men, women, elderly, and children! And this is exactly the case that Presbyterians make. We do not advocate the baptism of those foreign to the covenant, the equivalent of the Egyptians. That is the red herring argument of baptists. Rather, we advocate the baptism of those with a relationship to the covenant, i. e., adult believers, if they haven't been previously baptized, as well as the children within their household. That is, the same that Paul described to the Corinthian Christians.

So, what is the answer to the question in my title? Is it true that the New Testament never mentions the baptism of infants (or children)? Obviously, the answer is no. And, though it isn't the subject addressed here, this text also undercuts the Baptist insistence that baptism must be by immersion. Who got immersed in the Exodus? The Egyptians!

It must be noted that the case I make here only applies to the Presbyterian (or Reformed) view of baptism. It isn't intended to support other views, such as that of the Catholic Church.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Who Are the Sons of God?

Before I start, I want to say that nothing I am about to say should be taken to refer to the only-begotten Son of God (John 1:14). That is a class that belongs to Jesus alone, and cannot be shared with any other human being.

This matter comes up because of a discussion I had recently over the issue of Hell. This was part of the same discussion that inspired my prior post on annihilationism. This Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine stated that she thought that it was a violation of the Fatherhood of God to believe that He would consign some of His sons and daughters to eternal punishment. My friend was stunned when I objected that the damned are not the sons of God, for only believers can bear that title.

In the same hymn of the Incarnation that I quote above, we read (John 1:12), "To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God" [emphasis mine]. These believers are contrasted with those who "did not receive Him" in the verse before. So, the Apostle John clearly portrays the relationship of son to Father as the result of faith, not birth or creation.

The Apostle Paul adds his own authority to this definition (Romans 8:14-15): "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... [Y]ou have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" And in Galatians 3:26, "in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." And in II Corinthians 6:18, "'I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty." So, again, we see that the relationship of human sons to the divine Father is based on faith, not nature. Only Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature.

Often we see this "fatherhood of God" discussion, when liberals try to turn everyone into an implicit Christian. That isn't the problem with my friend. Rather, she was trying to justify a doctrine which I can only call a heresy, a misunderstanding of the status of unbelieving men and women.

In his book, A Theology  of the New Testament, Fuller Seminary Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Theology George Eldon Ladd says on this issue (p. 86), "It is not as Father that God cares for the birds [Matthew 6:26], and it is not as Father that God bestows His creaturely blessings on those who are not His children [Matthew 5:44-45]. The Fatherhood of God belongs to those who have responded to the divine seeking love and have submitted themselves to God's Kingdom. God seeks men, not because He is their Father, but because He would become their Father" [emphasis added].