Category Archives: Christianity

A COGENT CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.

 

Introduction

To faith there is no substitute, unless one is speaking of blind faith. One is of the opinion that blind faith has limited growth potential. However, reasonable faith—which Anselmof Canterbury called “fides quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding)—encourages growth, and provides greater evangelistic tools. It is the Lord himself who says, “Come now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).[1] It is the Lord who calls his followers to walk by faith, but not blind faith. Based on this conviction, it is proper to make use of philosophical and scientific venues in support of one’s closely held Biblical revelation.

The most foundational belief of Christianity is the existence of one God. A being that chose to create all things, and has chosen to reveal himself to mankind in nature, and through special revelation such as the Bible. In light of this belief, it is expected that as redeemed-men reflect upon natural revelation, God becomes apparent. The Cosmological Arguments are an example of such a posteriori reflections. That is, knowledge gained from empirical evidence, or experience. While there are many versions of the cosmological argument, one will present the most commonly recognize versions; the Al-Ghazali Cosmological Argument and the Thomistic Cosmological Argument. One proposes that, from these arguments, inferences can be made that points to a personal mind behind the first cause, or as some would call it, an uncaused-cause.

 Al-Ghazali Cosmological argument

 Al-Ghazali’s Cosmological argument was a response to Aristotle’s philosophical conclusion that the universe always existed[2]. His argument is widely recognized as the Kalam argument. The basic structure of the Kalam argument aims to prove that the universe has a cause, and it is best summarized in three premises;

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.[3]

While the Kalam argument does not explicitly argue for the existence of God, it does argue for a first cause to the universe. The argument is made complete when one analyzes the required characteristics of this first cause, but first the premises of the argument have to be engaged.

The first premise states that whatever began to exist has a cause for its coming into being. This premise, for the most part, is intuitively true. That is, human faculties affirm it, and it is constantly confirmed in human experience. People and things just don’t pop into existence without a cause. However, there are those who appose this first premise such as the empiricists who demand physical evidence for everything before they believe it. In response, one has to reiterate that the common sense belief of “every effect has a cause” is constantly rewarded. In fact, the burden of proof lies in the hands of the empiricists.

A more serious objection to this premise is based on quantum indeterminacy, which suggests that subatomic events have no cause. However, it also has to be recognized that physicists disagree about quantum indeterminacy. For indeed, a quantum event is set to be indeterminate in relation to a set of possible events, and within certain specific conditions. Thus, causation still holds within that set of possible events. Moreover, the field of quantum physics is still full questions, and there is not enough knowledge to make any claims with certainty.

Another thoughtful objection to this premise asks of the apologists, “doesn’t God fit into whatever begins to exist category since he ‘began to exist in time’ when time began to exist?” This objection finds its response in a gloss developed by Dr. William Lane Craig. He, just as all the proponents of the Kalam argument, understand the phrase, “begin to exist” in the following manner (where ‘x’ ranges over any entity and ‘t’ ranges over times, whether instants or moments).

  1. x begins to exist at t if x comes into being at t.
  2. x comes into being at t if:
  • i. x exists at t, and the actual world includes no state of affairs in which x exists timelessly,
  • ii.         t is either the first time at which x exists or is separated from any t’ < t at which x existed by an interval during which x does not exist, and
  • iii.         x’s existing at t is tensed fact.[4]

In other words, Craig’s gloss highlights that God does not fit as a being who began to exist because he finds his existence logically-prior to time. He is basically saying the we can easily conceive of a timeless being who comes to exist in time, but it is the uncaused cause of time. There is no reason to believe that if x began to exist in time than x must begin to exist as such.

The second premise of the Kalam argument declares that the universe began to exist. The evidence from this premise will come from the field of philosophy and science. However, before engaging into the philosophical arguments in favor of this premise, some definitions of terms are required. In order to understand the Al-Ghazali’s Kalam argument, the distinction must be made between a potential infinite and an actual infinite. He was not against the idea that a potential infinite exists, but he was against the ideal that an actual infinite exists. A potential infinite is perhaps the most familiar, it represents an ideal limit, which does not actually exist, and can be endlessly approached. For example, a measurement of length can potentially be divided by half an infinite number of times. However, you will never arrive at the final possible division. This is considered a potential infinite. Serving only as an ideal limit, but one will never actually get there. One may add that this is simply a mathematical tool.

Conversely, an actual infinite is not growing toward an infinite potential limit, but rather it is an infinite in itself. In other words, the actual infinite claims that a complete set or collection can be infinite. Al-Ghazali was against it because it creates a vast amount of absurdities. In his perspective, it is impossible to have an infinite number of table, an infinite number of books, and for that matter an infinite number of events.

Philosophical Evidence

Impossibility Of An Actual Infinite Set

The first philosophical evidence relies on the impossibility of an actual infinite set. The argument is set up as a reductio ad absurdum. The best example was developed by David Hilbert was one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century. He posed that one will imagine a hotel with a finite-number of rooms, which are all occupied. In the event a new guest arrives, the hotel manager simply says that there is no vacancy and turns-away the customer. He continues, suppose now that there is another hotel with an infinite-number of rooms, all which are occupied. In the event that the same guest presents himself to the manager of say hotel the response would be, “there is no vacancy, welcome to our hotel.” The manager will simply move guest in room one to room two and the guest in room two to room three, and so forth. Thus making room for the new guest. Furthermore, suppose that the guest is so happy that he comes back with hundreds of his friends while the hotel with an infinite number of rooms is still full. The hotel manager simply moves guest in room number one to room number two, the guest in room number two to room number four, the guest in room number three to room number six, and so forth until all the odd number rooms are empty. Now the manager simply allows his new guests to occupy any of the odd number rooms. A hotel like this will always maintain a sign that says, “no vacancy, guests are welcome.” It seems to me that Hilbert’s Hotel is absurd. Since nothing hangs on the illustration’s involving a hotel, you could substitute any sort of physical reality for it. In light of this absurdity of a hotel, David Hilbert was able to prove that an actual infinite set is impossible, and thus a universe, which is suppose to be a set of an infinite number of events, is impossible.

Impossibility of Traversing an Actual Infinite

The second philosophical argument in support to the second premise “the universe began to exist” is an argument on the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite in the spacio-temporal world. There are several examples of reductio ad absurdum has been brought forth. Imagine that it takes an infinite number of tasks to build a house; the house would never be completed. That is because there are an infinite number of steps in every task, even between a hammer and a nail. In other words, if one were to freeze-frame the hammer striking a nail, there would normally be a set number of frames. However, if there were an infinite number of frames, the hammer would never reach the nail.

Kreeft and Taccelli posed the argument in light of the theory of an infinite universe. If the universe never began then it is infinitely old, and if it is infinitely old and an infinite amount of time has elapsed before today. However, if it took an infinite sequence of history to reach the present day, then one must conclude that the present day would have never been reached. Nonetheless, the present day has been reached, and thus one is led to the deduction that the process of reaching it was not infinite and the universe had a beginning.[5]

Scientific Evidence

Big Bang Theory

 The first scientific evidence is based on Edwin Hubble’s observation of an expanding universe. He theorized that, at some point in the finite past, the universe was contracted down to an infinitesimal point, which marks its beginning. This theory is popularly recognized as the big bang theory. The theory is perhaps one of the strongest evidence against a self-existing infinite universe.

Recognizing the implications of the big bang theory, scientists have suggested alternative theories. In 1948 Hermann Bondi, Fred Hoyle, and Tom Gold proposed the continuous creation/steady state model.[6] The model suggests that as galaxies move away from each other, matter in the form of hydrogen is always being created from nothing, creating new galaxies. Dr. Robert Jastrow founder of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies explains that the opposite is true. The moment a star is born, it begins to consume some of the hydrogen in the universe, and there is a continual dilution of both hydrogen and the heavier metals in the universe today. He concludes that the theory of an eternal universe is untenable.[7]

The second explanation proposed by scientists is the oscillating model. This theory states that the universe is like a spring expanding and collapsing, and proposes that we are in the expanding stage and in the future will go into a collapsing stage. This phenomena, is suggested, has always occurred since the infinite past. The theory is based on the idea that the universe is closed with not energy being added to it. However, all evidence is pointing to the universe losing density with no evidence that it has ever repaired or will ever reverse this persistent expansion.[8] These alternative theories do not seem to fit the facts of observable cosmology, and hence the big bang theory stands as the best candidate.

Laws of Thermodynamics

The second scientific evidence for the premise “the universe began to exist” is based on the laws of thermodynamics, more specifically the second law of thermodynamics. The law states that processes taking place in a closed system always tends to a state of equilibrium. As an illustration one can imagine a hot cup of tea in a room. The cup will eventually cool down to room temperature. It will not get hotter, for no energy is being added to it. The second law of thermodynamics declares that, in the same manner, the universe is heading to a maximum state of disorder; and uniform energy distribution. An infinite universe would have already reached such a state.

At this point of the argument, some might suggest that if the universe cannot possibly be infinite, how can it be said that God is infinite. This objection would hold true if the statement, “God is infinite” means that he is a collection of actual infinite number of infinite things. However, when theologians refer to God as infinite, it is not a mathematical concept for God himself is not a collection of events. The use of the word infinite in this case is not a quantitative concept, but rather a qualitative concept. The infinity of Gods means that he is eternal, necessary, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Indeed, he as all these incomparable attributes, but they are not a reference to a quantitative/mathematical infinity. So it does not fall under the category of an actual infinite number of things.

In light of this evidence, it can be concluded that the second premise, the universe began to exist, is valid. Being that the two premises are valid the conclusion is also valid, the universe has a cause. This conclusion leads to make inference in regards to this initial cause. The Kalam argument sets the stage for a transcendent, personal, timeless, powerful, and intelligent being as the first cause of the universe. One will make the argument that this first cause is indeed God. However, before going into the attributes and personhood of this cause, one must first develop the cosmological argument as developed by Thomas Aquinas.

 Thomas Aquinas Cosmological Argument

 The cosmological argument as presented by Thomas Aquinas is commonly known as the argument from contingency. His argument is based on the observations he made of the world. It focuses on individuals as contingent beings in a concurrent sequence of contingencies. His argument has three basic premises with a final conclusion.

  1. What we observe in the universe is contingent (dependent).
  2. A sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite.
  3. The sequence of causally dependent contingent things must be finite.
  4. Thus, there must be a first cause in the sequence of contingent causes.

Each one of these premises must be briefly analyzed and explained. Keeping in mind that the distinguishing factor between the Thomistic cosmological argument and the Kalam cosmological argument is that Thomas focuses on the individual and his or her dependency to another individual for his or her existence.

The first premise states that what we observe in the universe is contingent. Things and people owe their existence to something or someone else. This premise is self attested by experience and common knowledge. Furthermore, it is observed that these causal relations are transferable, not initiating, that is A is caused by B, but only as B itself is caused by C. There has not been any observable data to the contrary, and thus there is nothing in this universe that by itself spontaneously initiates causal activity.

The second and third premise of this argument must be taken together, for the third follows logically from premise two. The second premise states that a sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite. The premise proposes that regardless of the complexity of this sequence of casually related things, it can never be infinite. Dr. W. David Beck suggests the following illustration. If one were to imagine a train passing by, seeing that the one prior to it moves each boxcar, one would immediately assume that the motion of the boxcars could not be explained apart from the engine that initiates that motion. Furthermore, an infinite number of boxcars fail to explain the motion of the boxcars. Therefore, the number of boxcars has to be finite ending at a point of initiation. Some of the objections to this premise come in the form of modification of the aforementioned illustration.

This is the most hotly debated premise, and some of the objections ought to be mentioned. There are those who propose that the cosmos is a great circle of being, and suggest that the boxcars are simply connected into a circle. However, this still doesn’t account for the motion of the boxcars. Without an initiator, the boxcars will simply stand still in a circle. A second objection proposes that the cosmos evolved into an intricate ecosystem in which everything is casually related to everything else. Proponents of this view modify the illustration stating that the boxcars are part of an intricate network of railroads. Moreover, the network allow for every car to be in some way connected to, and at the same time pulling the first car. The problem with this view is the same as the first one; it does not explain the motion. Moreover, in light of existence of living beings a cosmos operating under this principal will open the question of why anything exists at all.

A final objection states that an infinite series is indeed possible, and thus the cosmological argument fails. The proponents of this objection highlight that the sequence of cardinal numbers is infinite, and thus and infinite series is possible. However, these critics overlook four characteristics of the sequence of cause in the cosmological argument. First it is a sequence of causes to effects. Second, each cause is itself contingent and needs a cause. Third, the cosmological argument discussed is concurrent not chronological, and it depends upon concurrent dependency relations of cause and effect. Fourth, the specific relation to which the generic cosmological argument refers is the causing of existence itself.[9] As mentioned before, the third premise follows logically from the evaluation of the second premise. If the series of contingent beings is not infinite, then it must be finite.

 The Biblical God as First Cause

 Given that the cosmological argument establishes a first cause to the universe and to all contingents, an analysis of this first cause ought to be considered. What are some of the necessary features of a fist cause, is a first cause in itself necessary being, or could it have ceased to exist? What evidence does one have, to draw the conclusion of a personal God? After all, even Christians have suggested that the cosmological argument only takes us as far as deism. Nonetheless, one would argue that a first efficient cause must be Personal, Unique, Simple, and Necessary being.

Personal

The only explanation to a first cause is either scientific or personal. Scientific justifications explain the phenomena in terms of natural laws, observable and measurable data, and/or specific initial conditions to create the phenomena. Conversely, a personal justification explains the phenomena by means of an agent with free will and volition. Case in point, If one where to walked into a certain lady’s kitchen, and find a pot of boiling water on the stove; one may ask Why is the water boiling? The lady may reply, the kinetic energy produced by the coils is transferred to the pot which in turn causes the water molecules to vibrate faster until it is thrown from the pot in the form of steam. This would be a scientific explanation to the phenomena. Equally, she could have answered, I put it there to make some pasta. This is a personal explanation for the same phenomena.

In light of these possible explanations, the scientific explanations are eliminated. As J. P. Moreland states it “Science cannot start explaining things without objects, space, and time already existing. The laws of nature govern changes in things that exist in space and time. Thus, science cannot explain the existence of the thing that exists before objects, space, and time.”[10] To this statement one will add that since the universe contains beings who are rationale, moral, social, and free the first cause has to have the same characteristics. In other words, it cannot be less than a person.

Some recognizing their dilemma concede that, although the universe is finite, the first cause is infinite scientific conditions from which the universe came about. However, this creates another set of problems. A finite effect cannot logically proceed from infinite conditions; that is, conditions that have always been there. Case in point, as it is well known water freezes at zero degree centigrade. Suppose that the infinite condition of the universe is below zero degrees, any water existing would immediately freeze. Thus, the effect would also be in the infinite past, for it would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze a finite time ago. In this scenario, the cause and the effect would both have to be infinite. In the same manner, a finite universe cannot proceed from infinite conditions. As William L. Craig stated in his interview with Lee Strobel, “So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from eternity past. The effect would be co-eternal with the cause.”[11]

At this junction one is left with only one explanation for the first cause, for only a personal explanation is capable of producing an effect without prescribed conditions. Furthermore, in light of the magnitude of the universe this personal cause must be fully transcendent from time, space, and matter. It must also be powerful enough to create. It is not far fetched to recognize that the characteristics of this first creating cause are the same as the ones described in scripture as God. They both point to an all powerful, volitional, rational, all-transcendent, creative being. R. Douglas Geivett adds, “The production of a physical universe out of nothing implies un-imaginable intelligence and power. It’s difficult to say whether a being that is not quite omnipotent and/or not quite omniscient could do such a thing.”[12]

Once established that a personal being known as God is the first cause of the universe, critics often post the question, “who caused God?” However, this question is simply an example of a category fallacy. First cause must be uncaused and self-existing. It is not necessary to make the assumption that God exists in order to recognize the fallacy, but simply and understanding of the category “God.” By way of example, suppose that someone asks, “What size are the unicorn scales?” One understands that a unicorn does not exist, but regardless of its existence the question is still a pointless categorical fallacy because one understands that a unicorn is a one-horn horse that (even if it existed) it is not the sort of animal that has scales. Fish have scale unicorns do not. The question, “who caused God?” is ascribing the wrong feature to the wrong category.

Unique

The cosmological argument leads to the understanding that there can only be one first cause to the universe. In other words, there cannot be two gods fulfilling the characteristic of a first cause. In order to understand this conclusion, a sub-argument must be brought to light. This argument runs based on the logical principal that two things that do not differ in any way must be the same thing. With this in mind, suppose that there are two first causes (FC1 and FC2). The only way that FC1 could differ from FC2, or vice versa, is for one of them to have some characteristic that the other does not posses. However, this causes a limitation on one of them, for they do not have what is already available (since the other one has it). If it is limited then something caused it to become limited, but a first cause cannot be caused in any way; hence a logical contradiction. There are only two solutions to this contradiction:

a) recognizing that one of them (the one with limitations) is not a first cause, and that in fact, there is only one first cause or

b) accepting that FC1 and FC2 do not differ in any way and are identical in the strict sense of the word, and thus are the same.

Either solution leaves a unique singular first cause.

Simple

An understanding of the immaterial simplicity of God is crucial in both the Christian understanding of the biblical God and the philosophical understanding of God as the first cause. When Theologians refer to God as simple they are saying that, first God has no parts, and is therefore, not material in his essence. Second God does not change and therefore does not add or subtracts parts to his being. Third God is all one being (there are no parts of him distinguishable from other parts of him). These elements of simplicity of God serve as further evidence that only God fits the requirements for a first cause. All material things are part of the universe, so the first cause must be immaterial. Furthermore, first cause must be a singular being without parts to itself for a being with multiple parts will imply that these parts can be differentiated and distinguished from each other. The difference between these parts will imply a lack of something in some of these parts. As was developed in the uniqueness argument, a lack would be a limit due to some cause, but this is impossible on a first cause. Therefore, there is only one first cause without internal parts; which points to the biblical God.

Necessary

Jordan Howard Sobel concluded his chapter against the cosmological argument that the number one objection to the cosmological argument is “the apparent possibility that first generating and moving causes should no longer exist.”[13] A challenging inference, after all it is plausible that such being does not longer exist; that God ceased to exist after he created the universe. One truth atheist and theist can agree on is that humanity has no use for a dead God. However, before mourning the demise of the almighty consider that the Kalam argument requires a personal being who transcends (physical) time and space, and is the cause of all the mass-energy in the universe. One is puzzled on how any created thing could bring about his untimely death, or how a timelessly self-existing being should—all of the sudden—expire of its own. At most Sobel’s concern should motivate believers to seek for evidence of the personal Creator’s further revelation of himself in the affairs of human history.

Finally, for those who accept that God only existed as a first cause, and maintain that now He is dead, theirs is the burden of proof. The Cosmological argument does not answer all questions that may arise in regards to the nature and existence of God; for two reasons. First, it is only a part of a cumulative case alongside the ontological, moral, teleological, and the information-theoretic design argument. Second, only special supernatural revelation can move the heart of the unbeliever, and only the experience of God’s grace can leave a human free of doubts in regards to his existence. A believer knows God intimately, not merely academically.

 

[1] All scripture verses are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

[2]William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth And Apologetics. 3rd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 80.

 

[3]. Douglas Geivett, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” In To everyone an answer: a case for the Christian worldview, 61-76 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 62.

[4]William L. Craig, “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36, no. 4 (2006): 582.

[5]Peter Kreeft, and Ronald K Tacelli, Handbook Of Christian Apologetics : Hundreds Of Answers To Crucial Questions, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 59.

 

[6]Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 29.

 

[7] Rober Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 12-14, 116.

 

[8]Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 30.

[9]W. David Beck, “A Thomistic Cosmological Argument,” In To Everyone An Answer: A Case For The Christian Worldview, 95-107, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 105.

[10]J. P. Moreland, The God Question, (Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 64.

[11]Lee Strobel, The case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004), 136.

 

[12]R. Douglas Geivett, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” In To Everyone An Answer: A Case For The Christian Worldview, 61-76 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 75.

[13]Jordan Howard Sobel, Logic And Theism Arguments For And Against Beliefs In God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 200.

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May 5, 2014 · 2:21 am

REASONS WHY SOME ARE NOT HEALED BY GOD

Introduction

Jesus-heals-blind-manMany are the accounts of miraculous healing. They have filled innumerable pages of books encouraging others to seek after God for their own healing. Books like Craig Keener’s two volume work Miracles contain healings of every human ailment; mental and physical. From simple headaches, Downs-Syndrome, and to the very resurrection of the dead, God’s power to heal knows no boundaries. However, it seems that as many who are healed many more are not.

Believers are sometimes perplexed and confused when they recognize that God has the power to heal, and yet many go without receiving a miraculous healing. In the face of such seemingly contradicting realities, the church has divided itself into two camps. On one side, those who believe that divine healing is a first century phenomenon and thus today’s healings are fake. On the other side, those who believe divine healing is available today, but those who are not healed lack faith to receive it. One proposes that Christians do not need to accept either of these extremes. Truly, divine healing is available to all believers for God’s character has not changed. However, to say that the lack of faith is the only reason behind not being healed is naïve and discouraging to the body of believers.

It is one’s aim, in this short paper, to demonstrate alternative reasons behind why one might not be divinely healed. One divides this into three major categories, which are faith, relationship, and sovereignty. These major categories are not divided as such in scripture; they are simply tools that one is using to organize these Biblical truths. One hopes that this brings a balanced understanding of divine healing while preserving the integrity of God’s character and the testimony of modern day healings.

Biblical Proviso.

The doctrine of divine healing is properly established on the atoning work of Christ. The Apostle Matthew makes a strong connection between Christ’s ministry and Isaiah 53:4-5,

Surely he has borne our griefs good friday

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

(cf. Matthew 8:17)

Because of the connection between healing and the atonement, many proponents of divine healing have come to the conclusion that divine healing is parallel to salvation. As such, it is always God’s will to heal all (more on the validity of this later) faithful believers. Moreover, they argue that as Christ healed all, he continues to heal all. Hence, they must conclude that a lack of healing is indicative of some lack in the believer’s part. Some even contemplate whether they ought to be called believers at all.

There are two errors in this assumption. First, one must not conclude that all benefits of the atonement stands in par to one another. In fact, sanctification is also processed through the atoning work of Christ, yet it is an ongoing process. If sanctification stood parallel to salvation, then it would take effect immediately. Unlike salvation, which is a once and for all occurrence, sanctification is ongoing until the parousia, and healing is available until death is finally defeated at the second advent. Note, three benefits are drawn from the atonement, but the application of these benefits is distinct; one is immediate, one is ongoing, and one is available and recurrent.

Second, there is an assumption that Christ and the disciples always healed, and yet there is Biblical evidence to the contrary. Case in point, at the pool of Bethesda the text states, “In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (John 5:3), but Christ healed only one. It seems that He was selective in his healing ministry. One can even use circumstantial evidence from Acts 3:2, which states that as Peter and John approached the temple “a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.” Proponents of the “God is always willing” perspective may rejoice that this man receives a miraculous healing that day, but one also wonders why he had not been previously healed. Surely, being that he was laid there daily, he crossed paths with Jesus in one of his many visits to the temple complex. Therefore, the question remains to be answered; Why some are not healed?

Biblical Reasons

Faith

Faith is the first major category in response to this important question. Faith is also the most misunderstood element in divine healing. Countless times, one has heard the well-meaning sister or brother faulting fellow believers for not having faith or even for lacking enough faith to be healed. Often this misguided attempts to comfort causes more damage, and pain to the one who suffers. Therefore, a Biblical understanding of faith is crucial in preventing these mishaps. One must withdraw from the wealth of scripture a proper understanding of the relationship between faith and miracles; how much is needed, its importance, and whether it is a necessary element.

How Much is Needed?

Kathryn Kuhlman expressed in her book Never Too Late, “We know from God’s word that a faith that weighs no more than a grain of mustard seed will do more than a ton of will or a mind of determination.”

Truly, the scripture is very clear on the amount of faith one needs to be healed. The text suggested is found in Luke 17:6, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (cf. Matthew 17:20). The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to Jesus’ contemporaries, and the mountain was a symbol of stability; immovable (cf. Psalm 46:2; Isaiah 54:10).

The point was clear “the reason why ‘mustard seed’ faith can be so effective has to do, not with the adequacy of faith, but with the adequacy of God and the reality of what he is now putting into effect with Jesus.”

In Luke 9, a father brings his demoniac son to Jesus’ disciples, and they were unable to help him. After all the commotion, Jesus gets involved and asks the father if he believed that his son could be healed. The father’s answer reveals to the reader the nature of faith: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24b). Whatever the father’s motivation at the beginning of this interchange—for some suggest he was actually plotting alongside the Pharisees to embarrass Jesus and his disciples—at this point he recognizes that Jesus can help him. He also recognizes that faith comes from God. Faith is not a condition of the mind; it is a divinely imparted grace through the Holy Spirit. It is not some special effort on our part, and thus even faith as powerful and small as a mustard seed comes from God. Hence why Paul, in the context of diversity in the body, could state “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom 12:3).

 

Is it Important?

Regardless of how small the amount of faith, the Biblical text highlights the importance of faith to divine healing. Matthew 13:58 states that Christ was unable to perform miracles in Nazareth, because of their unbelief. This is a clear case where a community’s lack of faith hindered God’s work in their midst. Moreover, there are occasions where a lack of faith on the part of the miracle worker hinders the work of the Spirit and the life of the one who suffers. This was the case with the young demon-possessed man whom the disciples could not help. When they asked Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon, He replied, “Because of your little faith” (Matt 17:20b); a statement that seems to contradict the words that follow it in regards to having faith as small as a mustard seed. Hendriksen and Kistemaker explain, “They had not sufficiently taken to heart the comfort they should have derived from the assurances which their Lord had given them (7:7–10; 10:8), and had not persisted in prayer. When the demon did not immediately leave they should not have stopped praying.”

It seems that Christ was making a distinction between having faith and exercising faith. The disciples did not need more faith, they simply needed to uses that which they had.

It is clear that faith is an important element in divine healing. Countless times Christ spoke the words, “your faith has made you well,” which are not to be taken as faith enacting healing, but enabling healing. Faith is important not only from the perspective of the one who suffers, but also from the perspective of the community and from the perspective of the servant of God. To a certain extent, those who adhere to the “God is always willing” perspective, are correct in that lack of faith is a hindrance to healing. However, the point of disagreement lies in that one believes that lack of faith is not the only hindrance to divine healing.

 

Is it Necessary?

At this juncture, the scripture throws in the proverbial, “monkey wrench” into the whole equation. There is evidence that even though faith is an important element to divine healing, it is not always necessary for the one who suffers to have faith. In fact, Jesus healed both people who expressed faith and some who did not express faith whatsoever. Case in point, one of the clearest example of an unbeliever being healed is found in the narrative of Jesus’ arrest. While getting preoccupied by the zealous actions of Peter, who severs a servant’s ear, it is easy to overlook the fact that immediately after Jesus heals this unbeliever.

Other healing narratives, such as the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda, the ten lepers, and the man born blind, lack any evidence that the sufferers made a confession of faith. One gathers that God sometimes heals to forward His purposes even when the one who suffers lacks faith. This is just another act of grace from God, for the benefit of divine healing is reserved for His children alone. Moreover, it begins to open the door to understanding the place of God’s sovereignty in relation to divine healing. This brings comfort to those interceding for loved ones who are not saved.

Toxic Relationships

God

Based on what has been discussed so far, it should not be as surprising that a relationship with God is important to divine healing. Two points have been made clear, divine healing is provided through the atoning sacrifice through Christ, and this is made operative only on those who accept that sacrifice; His children. This is the foundation to a relationship with God. However, even His children hinder their own healing through unhealthy relationship with God.

One has found three detrimental attitudes toward God; namely, lack of submission, disregarding His Lordship, and an unyielding resolve. God the father is a loving father and does not want to humiliate His children, but He requires His children to humble themselves before Him. Peter reminds his readers, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6). Moreover, Proverbs 16:5 states, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (cf. Proverbs 21:4). Clearly, a believer does well to practice humility; that is, to see himself or herself no more or less than how God sees him/her.

Disregarding His Lordship is another attitude detrimental to one’s relationship with the creator. Not giving God a rightful place in ones life, or neglecting Him by attempting to live without Him. Perhaps, this is the most common form of hindrance in this category found in American culture. Far too many Christians attempt to live life independent of God, and treat God as a cosmic “sugar-daddy” which can be accessed only when needed. If a believer wants to receive divine healing, he must allow God to be Lord of his or her life not just of his or her health. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian church, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5), and then reminds them of Christ’s Lordship, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Finally, an unyielding resolve is a toxic attitude in relating to God. Reminiscent of the account of Naaman coming to the prophet of God seeking to be healed, many desire healing on their own terms, and with their own purposes in mind. God is a loving father, but He should not be expected to serve man. Again, He is God, and not man that He should serve according to mankind’s whims.

 

Community (Church/family)

Not only is a toxic relationship posture with God a hindrance to healing, but also ones relationship with the community. The Bible constantly exhorts the faithful to be reconciled to those they have offended; even at the risk of not receiving forgiveness from God: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25) One has always maintained that Christ—when establishing His church—created a community, and not a group of individuals. As such there are certain responsibilities to one another. John goes as far as to remind his reader that it is God’s commandment, and that it has an effect on the reader’s relationship with God: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21)

Self

The final subcategory on this larger grouping of “relationship” is toxic relationship with self. God designed our bodies, and gave us a stewardship over it. The Bible even calls it the temple of the Holy Spirit, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”(1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Believers should not expect God to intervene on their behalf, when they are actively destroying their own bodies. It is absurd to ask God to heal one’s emphysema while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Actions have consequences, and one should be aware of them. Truly God can heal these self-inflicted diseases, and he has, but He is not under any obligation to do so.

According to Cooper and Palmer Stress elicits “physical (e.g., headache, sleeplessness, breathlessness), physiological (e.g., increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration), or psychosocial (e.g., mood swings, anxiety, depression) reactions.”

Is it any wonder, that Christ exhorts us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). God has provided the means to live a healthy life. Sabotaging ones body is against His will, and it creates health issues. Believers undergoing self-inflicted suffering should repent, change their lifestyle, and then pray for healing.

God’s Sovereignty

The final reason in answering the question of why some are not healed is that God as sovereign has chosen not to heal. Those who propose that God is always willing to heal, fail to recognize His sovereignty. No amount of faith, prayer, and good deeds can coerce God into action. One proposes that the many Biblical passages that indicate that it is God’s will to heal are being misunderstood, and interpreted as if it is God’s will to heal all today. The scripture also indicates that it is God’s will that all would be saved, but it is also clear that not all are going to be saved. It is important to recognize that at times, the scripture simply describes the motivation and desire of God’s heart. Ideally, God desires for all His people to be healed, realistically this is not the case today.

Furthermore, it should be noted that God’s ultimate purpose for His children is complete physical and spiritual healing. At the parousia believers will receive a new body incorruptible, and sickness and disease will become lost in the past. Nonetheless, God’s promise for today is that He will be present in one’s suffering. In fact, Paul glorified God in his suffering. This is not to say that God caused suffering, but simply that He is capable of using it for His purpose and the sufferer’s benefit. Therefore, when a believer is not healed one must resist the temptation of always placing fault at the feet of the victim. Moreover, never forget that God has seen fit that some of His children can be trusted with suffering like Job.

Conclusion

It is one’s hope that a cogent case has been made. Indeed, some are not miraculously healed not only because of a lack of faith, but because of toxic relationships and God’s sovereignty. The Biblical evidence compels the reader to hold all these truths in balance. This is not to say that God is fickle or arbitrary, but that one must resist the tendency to place God into a neatly packaged box. No one answer can serve as the universal response, for God relates to His children personally and differently. In fact, one would not dare to claim that all the reasons for a lack of healing have been exhausted in this short treatise. This is simply a human attempt to understand an infinite God. Nonetheless, the scriptures are clear, His thoughts are higher than ours, and his way higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). At the end of the day, perhaps the best answer is simply, “I don’t know.” Ultimately all believers will receive their healing when they’re clothed in white garments with a glorified body. This is not pie in the sky, but an affirmation of God’s ultimate purpose for His bride.

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Meeting with a Marine

As I was looking through my undergrad papers, I found one describing an evangelistic encounter for my evangelism class. This event happened in 2007, before I had felt a strong call to the military Chaplaincy. Today I realize that God was working/preparing me all along.

November 25, 2007
Personal Evangelism Encounter
On a Friday night, I decided to go out with Campus Mission Fellowship Streets.  .  Today was my first time going out with them, and Michael Krysty was leading the group.  My expectations were high I just knew God had something plan this night.  It would not be long before this was true.  God indeed did something that night.
When we first arrived we did a prayer walk.  Our group leaders separated us into three smaller groups, and we were to circle the downtown area until we meet at the square.  As we walked we silently prayed for the local businesses that God would use them for His glory, and we prayed for the residents of the community.  We arrived to the Square and realized out of the three groups only one had returned.  They told us that the third group was at the Mud House, so my group decided to go and get some coffee, also.  I really did not feel like going, but because the ones wanting to go were all ladies and needed a male presence, I went along.
While we were in the Mud House waiting for drinks, we had several conversations with some Baptist Bible College student.  It was great having a conversation with them, but I was expecting to have the opportunity tonight to reach the lost.  Once we got our drinks we walked back to the Square.
I noticed that some from the other groups were speaking to an older man; actually, he was doing most of the talking.  As I joined them, I realized that he was drunk and had not bathed in some days.  He was telling a story from his past about a war.  I realized that he was a veteran like me.  I wondered what branch of the military he was in, so I asked Mike if he knew.  Mike answered that he was a Marine and proceeded to tell the old man that I was in the Army.
The man turned to me and asked, “You were in the Army?”
 “Yes,” I answered.
“Eighty second Airborne or one hundred and first” He asked quizzically.
I smiled and said, “Neither, 62nd Medical Brigade.”
Jokingly he retorted, “Uhh, you were an Army brat.”
The fact he was drunk became more evident to me since I could smell his breath, and because that statement did not make much sense; an Army brat would be somebody whose parents are in the Army.  In order to drive the conversation forward, I told him I was a medic.
He looked at me and said in a more serious tone, “I like medics. Those guys really helped me.”
“I’m still trying to help you, not your body this time but your soul.”
He looked down as if something struck him, and said, “What is my purpose?” Before I could answer he asked, “What is your purpose?”
“To honor God and do his will,” I responded.
He again laughed and said, “So, now you are a soldier for Christ.”
“You could say that,” I replied.
“Maybe that’s my purpose,” he said .
At that point everybody responded with either a “maybe” or a “yes.”
Then I asked him, “You remember basic training?”
“yeah,” he said.
“It was hard, wasn’t? Running, preparing yourself physically to be a marine?”
He smiled again and said, “Ohh yeah! I was in Parris Island.”
I said, “In the same manner you have to prepare your body and your spirit in order to be a soldier of Christ; it takes hard work.”
“I have done many evil things; I don’t think God can forgive me.  That it’s why I drink.” he said, showing the bottle of Vodka under his coat.
I gently replied, quoting scripture, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” and continued “When we ran miles as a platoon and someone began to fall behind, what did we do?”
He stared at me looking for the answer.  I continued, “We go back and grab him, and we help our ‘Battle buddy’ keep up, and stay in the run.” He nodded in agreement and I continued, “In the same way we pray for each other to help us stay in the run.  Do you want us to pray for you?”
He looked down again and nodded.  We all surrounded him and began to pray out loud for him.  He knelt down as we continued to pray.  After this, we told him we would come back.  Other CBC students joined us, and we began to speak to other groups in the Square.
https://yandyleyva.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/marinepraying.jpg?w=260
image from: https://yandyleyva.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/marinepraying.jpg?w=260
Reflection
After this encounter I thought, “The Lord really used us.”  I would have never come up with the idea of using my Army experience for evangelism.  Come to think of it, Jesus did this when he spoke to the Samaritan woman by the well.  He used water as an illustration for what she really needed.  It was so easy that I knew it was God not me.  Many times I wonder how God can use me.  I have such a strong accent that many don’t have a clue about what I’m saying to them.  Surprisingly he understood every word I said.  Somewhere between me speaking and him hearing, God intervened.
I don’t believe that our conversations are over.  This is going to require more encounters, but at least he knows that God has a purpose for his life, and that in order to achieve this purpose it requires hard work.  I believe that someone else also told him that God loves him before I joined the conversation.  I should have made sure he knew this also.  I wish I would have been able to stay in the Square and be there from the beginning of the conversation.  I have such a bad memory that I cannot remember his name.  While there everyone called him “Gunny” after his rank in the Marines (Gunnery-sergeant).  Now when I pray to God on his behalf I call him “Gunny” or the “man in the Square.”  I have to write down his name next time I see him.  I pray that he will be there next Friday; it would be great if he is sober, too.
My only concern now is if he makes a decision for Christ where do I send him to get help and get out of his situation?  Maybe I should look into a local Teen Challenge program.  I have to be ready not only to answer his question, but also to encourage him to change and grow while being part of a local church.  I can’t help but to think that he would be a great Christian.  He was once a good marine; I know this because few make it to the rank of Gunnery-sergeant.  I know that if he puts the same passion and hard work into the service of the Lord, he will be a great soldier of Christ.  I’m excited about him joining the fold; God has done it before and He can do it again.  I just want to watch it happen.

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Filed under CBC, Central Bible College, Christianity, Evangelism

The Witness at Your Doorsteps: A Critical Analysis of Doctrines of the “Jehovah’s Witness” Cult

Sam is a Christian, his father was a Christian, and so was his father before him. Moreover, Sam was just elected as deacon of his church. Imagine that—thirty years ago he was a kid in the nursery, but today he is entrusted with the church finances. Sam is not known for being a power seeker, for most know him as a gentle, humble, and caring man of God. He is also known for his hard work; in fact, he has his own real estate business which he built from the ground up. He truly loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, and strength.

On this Saturday morning, Sam is meditating on the Lord, but soon enough he is interrupted by the doorbell. He opens the door and behold! Two well dressed men are standing before him. Oh, no! Jehovah’s Witnesses! What is there to do? He forgot to use the peep hole! The thought of shutting the door crossed his mind, but the outback of a fish on his door and the wooden cross made in Israel around his neck identify him as a believer. There is only one thing left to do—give them five minutes and then excuse yourself to do some errands. What Sam does not realize is, five minutes is a long time.

“Hello!” said the older man. “My name is…” and that is all Sam could remember, for after this point a rapid fire of Bible verses followed in sequence, interrupted only by the occasional “yes or no” question. Even before Sam could make an objection, it seemed the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) was already answering his question. Conversely, Sam does not have a response to the JWs objections, leaving him helpless. At this point he is not sure what he believes.

Many believers have found themselves in similar scenarios. When comparing an average JW to an average Christian, they seem to have the lead on scripture knowledge; in fact, one suspects that, the main reason most believers refuse to open the door to a JW is that they are unable to refute them. Many sincere believers, like Sam, are sincere in their faith and they truly love the lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, but they fail to love him with all their minds. The scripture tells us, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV 1 Peter 3.15-16 emphasis added). The Church has failed to train believers in this capacity. So great is the problem of believers who do not know their own faith that many have said, “What’s the big deal? They read the same Bible we do! After all, Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, right?” Wrong; not only does one disagree with this statement, but one challenges, on the basis of their views on the Godhead (that Jesus is “a god” and the Holy Spirit “a force”), their view on salvation (by works), and their view on hell (as not a place of torment rather just the grave) that, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a dangerously heretical cult misrepresenting themselves as Bible-believing Christians.

Before believers decide to embrace the JWs in fellowship, let us first make sure that we are worshiping the same God and that they truly adhere to biblical doctrine. The Watchtower Bible and Track Society (WBTS) headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, is the official voice and leadership of the JWs. They published a summary of their views on a small book entitled Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life where it reads, “Therefore, those who accept the Bible as God’s Word do not worship a trinity consisting of three persons or gods in one. In fact, the word ‘Trinity’ does not even appear in the Bible,” (31). The WBTS has misrepresented the doctrine of the trinity as a belief in “gods.” There is not one mainstream denomination that holds this view. Christians do not equate three persons with three gods, for this is contrary to scripture. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6.4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Keeping this in mind, the Bible has more to say about this one-God. The book of 1 Peter 1:2 says, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). Here the father, that is Jehovah, is called God, in ones opinion not even the JWs would deny the fact that Jehovah is the one-God, yet there is more about this one-God. The Word of God also says, “And Thomas answered and said to Him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!’” (emphasis added), but wait, here Thomas calls Jesus God. Furthermore, in Acts 5:3-4 it says,

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (emphasis added)

Here Peter refers to the Holy Spirit as God. Now, we also know that Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are not three names for the same person, for

when Jesus was baptized immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending and coming to rest on him; and behold, like a dovea voice from heaven said,This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Be reassured: the Bible is not contradicting itself when it said there is only one God yet three distinct persons are called God. There is a better way to explain this paradox. Mainstream Christians have no difficulty in recognizing that God is three co-equal and co-existing persons in one being, for in the same manner God lives outside of time—since he is not bound by time—and God is not bound by the flesh, thus capable of being three and one at the same time. The JWs would explain these passages by saying that Jesus was not God (to them he was a god) and that the Holy Spirit is simply an active force of God, somewhat like electricity or microwave heat.

The JW belief that Jesus was not God is full of many biblical difficulties. When faced with the fact that Thomas called Jesus “My God,” the JWs have two explanations for the text. First, they say that Thomas simply said the equivalent to “Oh, my God!” when surprised by Jesus. The problem with this explanation is that Thomas, being a Jew, would not have used God’s name that lightly, nor refer to a man as God. So much was the respect of Jews for God’s name that they would not pronounce it during their reading of the scrolls; due to this tradition, today we are not sure how to properly pronounce the Old Testament name of God—the Tetragrammaton YHWH. The second explanation is that Thomas looked at Jesus and said “my Lord” and then looked towards heaven and said “and my God”. This simply is an attempt to make the scriptures fit into their doctrines, for the context of the test does not even imply such an occurrence; Thomas simply meant what he said.

Aside from misinterpreting verses, JW will go to great length to prove their doctrines, including making modifications to the Word of God. Most English Bibles translate the Greek text of John 1:1 as, “in the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emphasis added). The Watchtower’s translation known as The New World Translation states, “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). This of course, brings greater difficulty even within their translation. When they said Jesus was “a god,” it begs the question “What kind of god is He?” Most JWs will say a lesser god, that is, not the almighty God. If one was to open their own Bible (NWT) to Isaiah, one will find verses such as Isaiah 43.10 which says, “Before me [Jehovah] there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none” again in verse 46.9 it says, “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me.” Furthermore, the NWT states that all will bow before Jesus (Phil 2.10); if he is “a god”, then JWs would be bowing before another god. This would contradict Exodus 34.14 where they are commanded not to prostrate before other gods. In the same chapter of Philippians (chapter two) verse eleven, it says that every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, but if Jesus is another god besides Jehovah, then JWs are violating the command not to mention the name of other gods in Exodus 23.13. The truth is, the Watchtower change the Bible to fit their theology, and in the process caused their own translation to contradict how many gods are there and the manner in which to worship these gods. Fortunately for believers, these verses do not contradict in the original Greek text because Jesus is not “a God” but “the God”; more accurately, he is the second member of the Godhead of three persons. JWs are not allowed to pray to Jesus, those who do so are excommunicated from the church, and ostracized from their family.

Having dealt with Jesus deity as a member of the Godhead, it is fitting to discuss the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The Watchtower affirms, “God’s Holy Spirit is not a person. It is Jehovah’s active force” (Knowledge 31). But this is incorrect and not in agreement with scriptures. It is interesting that the watchtower—while making a case for the existence and personhood of Satan in opposition to those who believe Satan to be just an abstract symbol of evil—wrote on their Awake magazine, “Can an intelligent ‘force’ carry on a conversation with a person? Also, the Bible calls Satan a manslayer, a liar, a father (in a spiritual sense) and a ruler. Only an intelligent person could fit all those descriptions” (qtd. in Magnani 230). Using the same logic they have used, the Holy Spirit is a person. In Acts 13.2 the Holy Spirit converses with a person; He speaks and asks to set Barnabas and Paul aside for His purposes. Just as Satan’s personhood is proven by the fact he is called a liar and a manslayer, the Spirit is called teacher and comforter (John 16.7,13) thus proving He is a person. Additionally, the Holy Spirit is always referred to in the third person masculine pronoun—he, him or his—in the Bible. According to Herbert Kern in his Book Jehovah’s Witnesses , “in John 16 the The New World Translation refers to the Holy spirit (translated ‘helper’ or ‘spirit of the truth’) 10 times as a person (‘he,’ ‘his,’ or ‘him’)” (30). If one closely reads the scriptures one will find that the Holy Spirit possesses traits only a person can have. The Holy Spirit loves (ESV Romans 15.30), He intercedes (Romans 8.27), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4.30), and knows the future (Acts 21.11). The Spirit has knowledge, will and emotions, and a force cannot possess any of these qualities. It is safe to conclude that the person of the Holy Spirit is God, Jesus is God, and Jehovah is God, and not three gods but one God.

Aside from their views on the godhead, JWs also have a different view of salvation than what is taught in the Bible. Many verses in the New Testament are quite clear on how salvation is obtained. Salvation by grace is the overarching theme of most of Paul’s letters. In Ephesians he said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2.8-9), and to the Romans he wrote, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”(10.9). While the Watchtower gives lip service to salvation by grace, their published materials say otherwise. In their Watchtower magazine dated February 15, 1983, they outline four requirements for salvation—“taking in knowledge of the Bible,” “Obey God’s law,” “Associate with God’s channel,” and “loyally advocating his kingdom rule to others” (qtd. in Magnani 242). To study the Bible means to learn from the materials which the Watchtower has published. “Obeying God’s law” is not a reference to the Levitical law, but to the rules set by the Watchtower, such as prohibiting blood transfusion and saluting flags. “To Associate with God’s channel” is to belong to the Watchtower organization as a Jehovah’s Witness, and finally loyally advocating Christ’s kingdom means going from door to door witnessing.

Their view of salvation stems from the fact that they do not believe Jesus to be God, for according to the Watchtower website, “Christ was first of God’s creations” therefore he was merely a created creature. A creature (lamb, bull) cannot cleanse your sins; if that was the case then the Levitical laws would have been enough. Once the JWs changed the nature of Christ, they were left with a creature as a means of salvation rather than God, thereby giving them no hope but to rely on salvation by works. Often a JW will quote James 2.14-26 as pointing to need of works for salvation. However, this is a lack of understanding of the text, for what James is trying to impart is not salvation by works but rather that faith is made complete by works. In other words, works is the natural result of faith not the cause of our faith (or salvation). Sadly this has left many of their adherents with a lack of assurance of their salvation. Many have asked themselves, how much work is needed to enter paradise, for as the Watchtower put’s it “Our salvation is not the most important reason for Jesus’ life and death on earth” (Knowledge 69).

Beyond their corrupted view of the Godhead and their tainted outlook on salvation, JWs hold to a doctrine on hell that, perhaps, is the most damaging. Simply put, they believe hell as place of judgment does not exist. The Watchtower arrives at this doctrine through the belief that the soul ceases to exist at death. Watchtower publication states, “Where do the dead go? To Sheol (Hebrew she’ohl’), the common grave of mankind. Our dead loved ones are not conscious of anything. They are not suffering, and they cannot affect us in any way” (Knowledge 83). To prove their view, they quote verses like Ecclesiastes 9.5 and Ezekiel 18.4, but once again they are guilty of bad exegesis.

Ecclesiastes 9.5 states, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward.” In context this verse is referring to the fact of life that at death no one can enjoy the pleasures of life (its reward); it is a reference to earthly rewards not rewards after death. In addition, the verse makes no reference to the soul ceasing to exist. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (emphasis added), is Jesus lying? Most Christians—a title claimed by JW—would shudder at the thought of a lying Christ.

Their second proof text Ezekiel 18.4 states, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die” (emphasis added). The Hebrew word used in this text is nephesh (vp,n</neºpeš) which can be translated as “soul, person, life, and being”. A better translation would be the one rendered by the Jewish Publication Society: “Consider, all lives are Mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child are both Mine. The person who sins, only he shall die” (JPS TNK emphasis added). Simply put, the verse is referring to a soul as an indication of a person not as the spiritual element of a human being.

As it was said before, a JW comes to the conclusion that hell does not exist as a place of torment because they do not believe the soul is separate from the body. Although Paul does make a distinction between body and soul when he said, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5.8). Whenever Jesus referred to hell or the lake of fire, He spoke of it as a real place where there is suffering (cf. Matthew 8.12; 13.42, 50; 22.13; 24.51). When the Watchtower defines hell as the common-grave, they are basically saying that all of us will go to hell (grave), and that’s okay.

In conclusion, JW concept of God is not in accordance with biblical revelation, and therefore, is not the God of the Bible, the God Christians worship. In good conscience, one cannot refer to a JW as a Christian, for a Christian is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, as revealed in scriptures. Christ taught hell was a real place of torment and punishment while JW simply the grave. A group that does not agree with Christ cannot be called His followers. Moreover, their teaching on hell is a dangerous deception, and has caused many to have a false sense of security. If there is no ultimate punishment for sin, or consciousness after death then who cares whether one accepts Christ or not.

Dedication, motivation, modestly well dressed, and being emphatic regarding scripture memorization are some of the characteristics of JWs we ought to emulate. Believers must step up to the challenge outline in 1 Peter 3.15-16 under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pastors and church leaders must equip the believers to be able to give an answer to those who would attempt to teach a different gospel. Let it be that when JW come to the doorsteps of a Christian, he or she becomes a witness to Jesus. Christians have a hope of salvation by grace that the JWs do not possess. One hopes that those who truly follow the teaching of Jesus Christ allow the radiance of the gospel shine on the darkness of heretic teachings.

According to David Reed a former Jehovah’s Witness elder and author of How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower, to a Jehovah’s Witness , “a church is a demon- infested building surmounted by a pagan symbol [the cross]…filled with immoral people who worship a three headed false god [trinity] and salute an idol made of cloth [the national flag]” (135). Keeping this in mind, some would say “what’s the big deal?” one is compelled to answer, souls are the big deal.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News, 2001.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses Who are they? What do they believe?” Watchtower.org. 2006. Watchtower Bible and Track Society. 15March 2008

The Jewish Study Bible: JPS TANAKH. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004

Kern, Herbert. Jehovah’s Witnesses. St. Louis: Concordia Pub, 1995.

Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Brooklyn: Watchtower, 1995.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Brooklyn: Watchtower, 1984.

Magnani, Duane and Arthur Barrett. The Watchtower Files. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985.

Reed, David. How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub Group, 1989.


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