Monday, December 04, 2006

There’s been other lessons I’ve learned since meeting with my Jehovah’s Witness friends and joining them for their book studies at their Kingdom Halls.

One thing that is painfully sticking out to me is how theologically shallow most evangelicals are as individuals and how shallow our churches are. Where it not for the fact that Jehovah’s’ Witnesses were working against God Himself and that the Lord preserves all that are His unconditionally, we’d be in real trouble I believe. I have a feeling that the average Jehovah’s Witness could have the average evangelical twisted up like a pretzel, using the evangelicals own Bible and a common lexicon.

Do you even know what a lexicon is? The Jehovah’s Witnesses do and they know how to thumb through one and find what they are looking for, do you?

And therein lies a significant problem. First of all, we have done almost no theological training in our evangelical churches in the last 20 years so now an entire generation of people can talk about how God “has a wonderful purpose for my life” yet can not in the most elementary of terms begin to define the doctrine of the Trinity or even the deity of Jesus Christ! We confess both truths, but most people raised in an evangelical church wouldn’t even know where to start if pressed to defend the doctrine of the Trinity.

And beyond just that, because our churches have done such a terrible job with teaching doctrine and theology the natural result is that people simply assume that theological issues are just not important…if theology was important then why doesn’t the church treat it as if it were important? I don’t know how many people I’ve met, including evangelical pastors…even one or two Southern Baptists pastors…who have come right out and told me that they don’t view a denial of the Trinity means one is not saved. “They believe in Jesus and that’s all that matters…” so they say. “Which Jesus?” is always my response which is usually ignored or causes stumbling of the mouth syndrome. Then again, I’m a nit picky fundamentalist in their eyes I’m sure. ;^)

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to stop worrying about other pastors and other churches and how they approach “ministry”. Look at what the average evangelical approach has assured in the last 20 years or so.

This is the bottom line. Evangelism. The theological ignorance bred in the average evangelical church in the last 20-25 years has caused such impotence in our evangelism that the vast majority of “evangelicals” could not kick themselves out of a wet theological paper bag. Our view of evangelism will flow out of our theological understanding, after all, evangelism is a doctrine of the Bible.

There is only two options when those nice people knock on your door. You can either politely or impolitely say “I’m not interested, I have a church” and quickly before they can ask a follow up question begin to shut the door or you can engage those people. What do you do? What honors God? 1 Peter 3:15 says “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”.

Are you prepared to give an answer to a Jehovah’s Witness if they were to respectfully ask you to defend, from the Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ? What if they ask you to dig with them into a lexicon to study the meaning and uses of specific words (such as “firstborn” and “image”)?

For most people it’s just easier and takes less time to say “I’m not interested” than to study and learn. But understand the dynamics of what is happening…a sinner just knocked on your door and is asking you to dialog with them about God, salvation and Jesus. If that Jehovah’s Witness dies in their sin, rejecting the deity of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the real Jesus alone…they’ll perish forever in hell. When you say, “I’m not interested” you might as well finish the statement by saying “I’m not interested…in you or your soul”. If that doesn’t make you comfortable thinking that way about the soul of those Jehovah’s Witnesses then the only other option is to dialog with them…and if you are going to keep up with the a “JW” you had better be prepared to take the time to study…to do as Peter instructions and be prepared to give the answers to the questions they’ll have for you.

Christ has not called us to simply focus on those who are satisfied with pat answers and easy to understand “spiritual laws”. We are called to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks…those Jehovah’s Witnesses at your door are not nearly as confident as they may seem and are, like any other sinner, not satisfied with what they have. God can penetrate their heart, like He does with any other sinner, when His truth is made known.

The main reason sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses are growing so rapidly in the last 20 years is because true Christians are not the least bit equipped to counter false doctrine. Think about that. One of the elders at the Kingdom Hall I attend has remarked to me in several conversations, “I became a Witness in the early 60’s. Back in those days and all the way up till about the mid 80’s we would frequently have the opportunity to engage in good theological discussion with people. Not anymore. And I’m not talking about people who don’t claim Christendom…I’m talking about churched people. I can’t imagine what is being taught in their churches, it’s not theology I know that for sure…” You can imagine my shame as he was telling me this and I could say nothing in our defense…he’s right.

So here is another lesson from the Kingdom Hall…if we are going to be taken serious by people with real, hard hitting questions then we must be deeply rooted in sound theology and apologetics…or we say to people at the Kingdom Hall around the corner, “you kooks can all go to hell…don’t bother me and I won’t bother you…”

14 comments:

crystal said...

Good thoughts. I agree with your opinion of the theological deficiency of Evangelical Christians these days. However, most people who come to a church, or even come to Christ, don't come for theological reasons; they come for practical reasons. In my experience arguing the gospel has never been profitable; I think experience is the best teacher...experiencing Christ! It's undeniable.

irreverend fox said...

thanks crystal.

here's the thing to keep in mind. Peter admonishes us to "give a reason" for the hope that lies within us.

Sometimes those reasons are easier to give than others...it really depends upon the question and the sincerity (or sarcasm/cynicism) of the one asking.

For example, the vast majority of English translations render John 1:1 "...and the Word was God". It is not correct to say that the New World Translation “inserts” or "adds" the word "a" in front of God. Why? Because in the Greek the article "a" is indeed found before the word God in that verse.

So what we have in fact is the majority or English translations omitting the word "a".

Sometimes English translations include "a" and sometimes not. They chose to omit it in translation of John 1:1. Why? Because of bias? Because it is most correct to do so? Why omit it here and not other times?

These are legitimate questions my Jehovah's Witness friends are asking and I need to be able to "give a reason" for the hope within me… that Jesus is indeed God Almighty. It would be neglectful of me to brush off their questions with a “I don’t want to argue…” No. I can’t do that…I have a responsibility ultimately to God and penultimately to my new friends to answer that question. After I have done so then arguing in circles is of no value at a certain point, obviously. But ignoring that question out of hand is wrong because it is a valid and reasonable question.

Salvation is the Lords. The only one who draws, gives faith and converts is God Himself. But we are called to understand and promote the gospel message to anyone willing to listen. I whole heartedly agree with you, there is no need to argue for the sake of debate...but at the same time let's be very careful that we don't let that idealistic view become an excuse to not be versed in theology...God has called us to worship in "spirit and truth"...

irreverend fox said...

oh...one more thing...every person comes to Christ for theological reasons...they just don't always know it... :^)

theology is the most practical of all science!

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm just surfing through, but I'm curious, how and when did you start attending meetings? I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Thanks,
TJ

Mark Jones said...

Amen and Amen. Christians have become so complacent and comfortable to live in there own little world avoiding dialogue that is culturally deemed "offensive". Let's just praise god with our lips and feel good songs. A motivational message is great to. "Seeker Sensitivity" drives me nuts sometimes. We avoid words like sin, hell, and MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ (Isaiah 8:3).

Just to keep the readers that are saying blah, blah, blah, words, words, words intact :).

We avoid "offensive" words. I hear many say that my friend is a "good" person, they just don't know Christ. That statement is as Steve brown would say, "That is from the pit of hell and smells like smoke..." But it doesn't matter what Steve says, so how about God...

as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." (Romans 3:10-18 NASB)

I love people enough to study and show myself approved a workman unto God...

The fastest growing religious groups are Muslims, Mormons, and JW's... Why? Because they dig deep and provide answers to questions everyone is asking. They deeply care about their cause and we Evangelicals help them because we could care less about ours.

It isn't about debating and arguing... It's about reaching a lost and dying world with the truth of Jesus Christ.

whew, I am worn out... You dig deep into the things that matter in your life...

irreverend fox said...

Hi TJ!

Well, let's see here, it was summer time. I can't remember the month, you could tell me better than I could tell you...it was the week before the big event in Cleveland. A very nice couple came to my door to pass out an invitation to the event the next week.

I actually attempted to go to that event, but our wires got crossed so I wasn't able to meet them there.

We started a study in my home a week or two later...focusing on the nature of Jesus Christ. About a week or two after that I asked them if it were ok if I came to the book study in their Kingdom Hall...which of course they said "sure!"

When were you baptized? Where you raised as a Witness or did you convert from something else?

irreverend fox said...

Mark,

I think the problem is that people don't know where you stand sometimes...

great comments! shouldn't you be resting? didn't you just have another treatment?

All who read this...please pray for Mark as he is at the tail end of cancer treatments. You can visist his blog at

http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/inputSiteName.do?method=search&siteName=markjones

Mark Jones said...

Even though we are chosen by God, that does not negate the command to GO and tell others of the gospel. We are to search the Scriptures for truth.

Just curious as to what you meant by, "sometimes people don't know where you stand?" Right now it is in my dining room. I can get a video feed and let people see me standing wherever I stand.

Something tells me that isn't what you meant. I am interested on where people might think I waiver... I want to straighten it out.

irreverend fox said...

Mark,

I'm just teasing you...you are not hard to figure out at all!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gary,

I was just recently baptized at the convention you almost attended, not at Cleveland though. It was not until college that I really started taking an interest in the Bible and subsequently began studying with Jehovah's Witnesses.

Did you get all of your questions concerning Jesus' divinity answered? This too was one of my main areas of study for several years.

TJ

irreverend fox said...

hey TJ,

well, yes sir, I am more convienced than ever that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God...God Almighty.

I'm glad that you have checked out my blog...it was my understanding that Jehovah's Witnesses are discouraged from reading the materials of what they deem to be "false" or "apostate" religion. But I'm glad you are reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

It's great that you have actually taken the steps to prove to yourself what you believe. Most people I speak with at the door, religious or not, are more apathetic than anything. It's rare that I get into an actual exchange of ideas.

If you don't mind my asking, what convinced you that Jesus is Jehovah? Obviously, I came to the exact opposite conclusion after looking into it.

Thanks,
TJ

irreverend fox said...

hey TJ,

not a problem, I'll tell you what. if you will e-mail me at asthedeer1@juno.com I'd be more than happy to share with you.

then maybe I can use our e-mails as rough drafts for the blog here!

Anonymous said...

Sounds great Gary; thanks again.

TJ