Friday, May 3, 2013

Jehovah's Witnesses - Some very recent, significant changes


Over the last few days I have had little time for the internet (guests over the weekend, followed by fantastic weather). Today, I finally did a bit of online browsing, finding a couple items of interest. First, I discovered (thanks to Ken Temple), that James R. White has written a new book on the Qur'an (link), which I ordered. Second, I downloaded the most recent issue of the Jehovah's Witnesses The Watchtower magazine (study edition): July 15, 2013 - pdf

As a former JW (4th generation), I have maintained an interest in the movement, keeping my extensive library of Watchtower literature up to date. For those who share this interest, the latest Watchtower issue is a must read, for it details some significant changes in JW thought. I was going to take the time to document those changes, but discovered online that a gent by the name of Doug Mason (another former JW), had already done so in the following 36 page, online pdf article:


Now, the changes that were made did not come as much of a 'surprise' to me, but the timing did, for over the weekend I had an interesting discussion with my oldest daughter concerning JW chronology/doctrine; more specifically, that in a very real sense, the movement had a "shelf-life", that their interpretation of the Bible and history (and certain aspects of their theology directly derived thereof) could not reasonably extend for more than another 20-30 years without some significant changes. So, I think most will understand why had a bit of a 'WOW' moment earlier today...


Grace and peace,

David

6 comments:

ali khan said...

Hi David , iam a frequent follower of your blog , your blog has some really good information specially the part dealing with quotations of the early Church fathers
. Your short articles on Islam are also commendable .

This is the first time that iam commenting here . The reason for my comment here is the book by James White ' what every Christian should know about the Quran '.

What i want to say concerning the book is ...it is rather amusing to me that people want to learn about the Quran from a Christian apologist who is neither a scholar nor a academician on Quranic studies and is pretty naive on it by all standards . It is like Muslims reading a book on Biblical textual criticism written by Ahmed Deedat or reading a book on historical Jesus studies by Zakir Naik !

According to me this is the problem Christian apologetics is facing today in their outreach to Islam , they hardly have any scholarly information on Islam , their major source on Islam is the internet or some books written by people like Ergun Carner , James White , Ibn Warraq etc none among them having any scholarly credentials . On the contrary Muslim apologetics is marching ahead from a similar situation to really good scholarly approach , you will frequently find Muslim apologist quoting from scholarly sources and quoting scholars like James Dunn, E.P Sanders , Richard Baukham , Bart Ehrman , D.C Parker , Eldon Epp , James Tabor , Dale Allison etc all top scholars among their respective fields . So , according to me if Christians really want to reach out to Islam they should be reading good scholarly books .

There are tons of academic work on the Quran , for a good overall scholarly view i want to recommend

1) The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'an by Jane Dammen McAuliffe

2) The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by
Ingrid Mattson

Kind regards

David Waltz said...

Hi Ali,

Thanks much for taking the time to respond—you wrote:

==Hi David , iam a frequent follower of your blog , your blog has some really good information specially the part dealing with quotations of the early Church fathers
. Your short articles on Islam are also commendable .==

Me: Thanks Ali; it is always good to learn that someone is appreciating my efforts.

==This is the first time that iam commenting here . The reason for my comment here is the book by James White ' what every Christian should know about the Quran '.

What i want to say concerning the book is ...it is rather amusing to me that people want to learn about the Quran from a Christian apologist who is neither a scholar nor a academician on Quranic studies and is pretty naive on it by all standards . It is like Muslims reading a book on Biblical textual criticism written by Ahmed Deedat or reading a book on historical Jesus studies by Zakir Naik ! ==

Me: Since I have not read the book yet, my comments will be based on the articles, debates, and audio/video contributions by Mr. White that I have taken in, and those efforts strongly suggest that your take is an accurate one.

==According to me this is the problem Christian apologetics is facing today in their outreach to Islam , they hardly have any scholarly information on Islam , their major source on Islam is the internet or some books written by people like Ergun Carner , James White , Ibn Warraq etc none among them having any scholarly credentials .==

Me: I think for the most part (there are a few exceptions) that you are correct here. Back in April 2010, I blogged on a book by Dr. Kate Zebiri which offered a detailed look into contemporary Christian and Muslim apologetics (LINK).

==On the contrary Muslim apologetics is marching ahead from a similar situation to really good scholarly approach , you will frequently find Muslim apologist quoting from scholarly sources and quoting scholars like James Dunn, E.P Sanders , Richard Baukham , Bart Ehrman , D.C Parker , Eldon Epp , James Tabor , Dale Allison etc all top scholars among their respective fields .==

Me: If you have the time (and interest), could you provide some links to such contributions?

==So , according to me if Christians really want to reach out to Islam they should be reading good scholarly books .==

Me: Agreed.

==There are tons of academic work on the Quran , for a good overall scholarly view i want to recommend

1) The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'an by Jane Dammen McAuliffe

2) The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by
Ingrid Mattson==

Me: I have the first work (it is quite good, but some of the contributions included are better than others), and will look into the second.

In my own personal studies on Islam and the Qur'an, I have sincerely attempted to provide myself with the best scholarship available to the English reader, and this from a wide range of perspectives—conservative, moderate, liberal, Muslim and non-Muslim. I think most will find that my threads on Islam reflect my broader readings, such that it will be difficult for one to 'label' my efforts.

Anyway, thanks again for your comments. Sincerely hope to see you posting here on a regular basis!


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Very interesting Dave.

By the way, you may not recall, but you touched on this looming difficulty for Jehovah's Witnesses in our last phone conversation a few weeks ago.

If you were still a faithful Witness, would you find this move to be a relief from troubles on the horizon? Or would it raise greater difficulties?

It is all the same to me if the Witnesses remain as such. What I would be concerned about is that if they leave the Witnesses, they will retain the prejudices against Traditional Christianity that they have learned.

It is one thing to leave a movement. It is quite another to re-evaluate the presuppositions which made the movement attractive in the first place.

Rory

Rory said...

Hi Ali Khan,

I am glad you posted your misgivings about learning about your faith (assuming you are Muslim) from outsiders. I have the same feelings about those who learn about my Catholic faith from those who are not Catholic. You have prompted me to some thoughts.

According to true Christianity as I understand it, the faith which alone leads to all truth and salvation is a gift of grace to be nurtured like a tender plant. Such a gift is not indestructible. Faith isn't guaranteed against willful or random curiosity about successful errors.

For a good reason, such as the desire to more effectively reach souls, I may study Islam or other erroneous religious systems. You are certainly correct if you observe that I should not expect to understand Islam the best by reading someone who has never even been Muslim. But my goal is only to be able to combat error without misrepresentation. Therefore, there is theoretically a proper place for good polemics (arguments against other beliefs) that begin from an outside perspective. I will wait for Dave to say if he has found one!

But to be good polemically, every "successful error" must be accurately presented. I would say that an error certainly "succeeds" if it has retained at least a million believers after a thousand years, or gained ten million believers after a hundred years.

There is a tension between telling the truth about error and building up welcomed walls that comfort the faithful against a perceived error. The faithful are always very receptive to believing that successful error is easily dismissed. Rare is the author who is motivated to write against a religious system who is equally committed to only saying what is true about the error. All too often, popular works are merely looking for a way to make error appear obviously absurd. The sad result is that most people of faith end up thinking successful error is for the stupid.

I hold it is axiomatic that "successful error" is never ridiculous. The essential successful error is usually deep-rooted, under the surface, presuppositional. Criticism of that which follows from the presupposition is ordinarily analyzed outside of that context, which is folly. That is what bad polemics does and Catholics have bad polemicists too, especially in our days. Bad polemics indulge the understandable but unrealistic desires of the reader. The sad result is that the misinformed reader become less respectful of that which is a more worthy and dangerous ideological foe than they realize.

So I appreciate your warning about these kinds of books. There is a sense in which true faith must have great respect before the successful error. When necessity arises to study, true faith should prayerfully fear successful error for its attractive qualities.

So from whom would I, a Catholic with the fragile gift of faith, become more deeply informed about Islam? Probably, and only after permission from a spiritual superior, from Muslims. Although I don't currently see the necessity of learning more (I have read the Qur'an twice), be assured of my continuing respect for Islamic claims and if the situation arises, reflection on books such as the two you recommend.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Hope you had a great weekend; the weather here was incredible for early May—mid 80s and blue skies. But, the clouds are back and the mid 60s is supposed to be the high for today...it was nice while it lasted.

On Saturday, you posted:

==Very interesting Dave.

By the way, you may not recall, but you touched on this looming difficulty for Jehovah's Witnesses in our last phone conversation a few weeks ago.==

Me: I did not until you mentioned it; I think we also talked a bit about Mormonism and their apocalyptic origins, and ramifications thereof.

==If you were still a faithful Witness, would you find this move to be a relief from troubles on the horizon? Or would it raise greater difficulties?==

Me: I sincerely doubt that the 'average' JW had/has the same type of concerns that I have expressed. As a faithful JW you spend 5 hours a week attending 'meetings' (i.e. church), at least 2.5 hours a week going 'door-to-door' (i.e. evangelizing), and a few hours studying WT material; add your job and family, not much time is left for reflection. And further, I remember that many JWs actually look forward to 'new light'; much of the mindset of JWs is that as the end approaches, 'the truth will become brighter'. When 'new light' is published, is does not take long for it to be assimilated within the JW community.

But, with that said, I am pretty sure the folks in power (i.e. the governing body) are fully aware of the concerns that I have mentioned. They are also aware of all the anti-JW sites on the internet which focus on the chronological and historical anomalies; I cannot help but think that this hampers their 'door-to-door' efforts, so I suspect that the recent changes are an effort to soften those chronological and historical anomalies. (There is one exception though, the limiting of the "faithful and discreet slave" to the governing body, which is a consolidation of authority.)

==It is all the same to me if the Witnesses remain as such. What I would be concerned about is that if they leave the Witnesses, they will retain the prejudices against Traditional Christianity that they have learned.==

Me: I cannot help but think that much of the anti-Traditional Christianity found among all the apocalyptic sects (JWs, Mormons, Adventists, et al.) mirrors the anti-Catholic polemic/rhetoric of conservative Protestantism; such polemic/rhetoric is so deeply ingrained that most who leave the JW movement do so for another form of anti-Traditional Christianity.

==It is one thing to leave a movement. It is quite another to re-evaluate the presuppositions which made the movement attractive in the first place.==

Me: So very true Rory...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

I am sure you knew my meaning Dave. But for the record to clarify on "It is all the same to me if the Witnesses remain as such."

Negative attacks on Mormonism, when "effective" doesn't usually make Catholics or even Evangelicals. It makes atheists. They retain their presuppositions. It seems to me like similar problems might be in store for JW's who find their faith kicked out from under them without attractive truth that makes them reevaluate everything. Of course I want everyone to be Catholic. But I'd rather a Jehovah's Witness remain one than to lose belief in God or religion altogether because of how convinced they remain that the rest of Christendom is false.