Is time your master?
Are you bound to a set schedule? Do you dread the early-morning tyranny of your alarm-clock? Worse: do you find yourself perpetually waiting for someone or something?
I must admit that time is my master. Someday, when I retire, it will be less so. But this seems to be the common lot of humankind: we are all subject to the never flinching dictates of Chronos.
Waiting On Jehovah
The most frustrating experience I’ve had with time was when I was “waiting on Jehovah.” This is something in which Jehovah’s Witnesses excel. I’m not talking about “waiting on” Jehovah in the sense of serving him–as in our cartoon (though Witnesses also imagine they are doing that.) No, when Witnesses speak of “waiting on Jehovah” they really mean “waiting for Jehovah.”
The Watchtower has been waiting for Jehovah to start Armageddon for over a hundred years. At first they even thought that Armageddon had already begun, and would be all over with by 19141.
But even earlier they had been waiting on Jehovah (still respectfully called “The Lord” back then.) I wonder how many Witnesses know that Russell and Rutherford journeyed to Jerusalem in 1910: the year they expected that all the “faithful” would be gathered to heaven2. The photo below (from the Sept. 1910 Watchtower, page 282–click to enlarge) shows them posing on a fitting spot: the Mount of Olives (where Jesus supposedly ascended into heaven.) This seems to suggest that they were expecting to be carried bodily up into heaven. But Russell was not a believer in a physical “rapture” into heaven (made popular in recent times by other Christian fundamentalists and the Left Behind series of books): he thought the faithful had to die first in order to be “instantly with the Lord.”3
I wonder how long they waited before they dejectedly returned to America; depressed that they were still alive on Earth: their hopes dashed. At least they didn’t take matters into their own hands and kill themselves–as some cults have done en masse in more recent times.
The Watchtower’s impatience with Jehovah’s time-table has been evident in several other mistaken calls of “Here he comes now!” Ranging from the “certainty” of 1925 through the “most likelihood” of 1975, to the not-so subtle hints of a multitude of dates in-between and on both sides. There have been some very good lists of the many dates the Watchtower announced, so there’s no need to replicate this information here.
The Watchtower excuses its prophetic excesses and its indiscreet naming of dates by attributing it to their “eagerness” for God’s kingdom to come4. That’s very understandable; when someone is late we begin mentally setting times for their arrival: “Let’s see, Godot said he’d be here by now. I’ll give him another ten minutes: surely he’ll be here by then…” After ten minutes go by, one is tempted to extend it another ten minutes, and this process can be repeated ad infinitum (though a sensible person will at some point come to the realization that whoever they’re waiting for is simply not coming.)
Of course, the Witnesses have not just been killing time while waiting for the killing time of Armageddon. They’ve been busy preaching about the end being near. They’ve also been preaching the “vindication of Jehovah’s name.” How do they do that?
In Watchtower theology, God has “permitted evil” for a time, in order to “vindicate his name” by proving just how bad things can get on this planet without his leadership. How did such a strange turn of events transpire? You may well ask. It seems Jehovah got offended when Eve listened to a talking serpent rather than His Lordship. So he went off in a huff, saying in effect: “All righty, then: you can all have Satan for your leader, and we’ll just see how well that goes for you!” Then he chuckled to himself all the way back to his bed of chubby cherubs in the clouds, where he’s been resting ever since (except for occasional temper tantrums resulting in the hurling of fire and boulders, and the visiting upon us of deadly plagues, pestilence, and rap music.)
Basically: God has given humankind a “time-out” in which we have been left to squabble amongst ourselves. But he didn’t just make us go sit in the corner or go to our rooms. No; like Elvis, he has “left the building,” and locked us in with only a mischievous slithering serpent for a baby-sitter!
In consequence, some of us have said some bad things about Jehovah, which has just served to piss him off all the more. So now, when he comes back he’s coming back with his son: General Jesus along with his army! They’re going to hack to pieces the serpent, and all of us bad boys and girls who haven’t joined in praising him during his absence by singing those inane songs in the Kingdom Songbook. Then the good boys and girls will get to live under his leadership [won’t they be happy!?]
As every Witness knows, it was in the year 1914 that Jesus was crowned King of Heaven–which, of course also made him head of the angelic army. So, why didn’t he march in and start lopping off limbs and heads? It has been 99 years and counting! What is he waiting for?
The answer, of course, is that he’s waiting on Jehovah: just like the rest of us.
So, it’s all just a matter of time before Jehovah (and the Watchtower) is vindicated. Right? Well, not so fast: Can time really vindicate the deliberate permission of evil? I’m going to say No here. Here’s why: Nothing can justify the deliberate permission of evil, not even time.
Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say that you see the following scene unfolding at your nearest public park: A huge, uniformed police officer, built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, with a fully loaded duty-belt consisting of: taser, pistol, baton, handcuffs, etc., calmly walks over to a park-bench, sits himself down, and yawns.
“So what?” You say. Well I left out an important detail: on his way to his favorite bench this police officer walked right past a woman being raped. The woman is now being strangled to death by her attacker as the officer sits there nonchalantly watching whilst munching on his Twinkies.
You shout out to him: “Hey! Do something to stop this! Help her; he’s killing her!”
The officer frowns at you and points at his watch: “I’m still on my break for another ten minutes.”
When someone sees evil and has the power to stop it, but does nothing to stop it (using “time” or any other excuse) that person is not “all good” or “loving.” Quite the opposite. So time cannot vindicate an all-seeing all-powerful God’s permission of evil.
Who, then is the ALL Mighty One?
Our philosophically-minded readers will contend that, within our physical universe, God is subject to time just as much as the rest of us, and so is as “good” as this limitation allows him to be.
But I thought Jehovah God was supposed to be the only true God: the all-powerful master of the universe. How can time (as personified by the Greek God Chronos) be Jehovah’s master? Something is very wrong here: right at the very core of the Watchtower theology! If Jehovah is “subject” to time, then he’s not at the top of the heap of Gods; Chronos is! Have Witnesses been worshiping the wrong God all this time? We’d better hurry and make up for lost time: let’s all sing along:
1. “Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A. D. 1878, and that the “battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14.), which will end in A. D.1914 with the complete overthrow
of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced.”–Studies in the Scriptures (aka Millennial Dawn) Vol. 2: The Time Is at Hand, (1902 ed.), p. 101 [Changed from “A.D. 1914” to “A.D. 1915” in the 1911 edition, and remained at “A.D. 1915” even in the 1927 edition, which anyone should’ve been able to see as a false statement in retrospect: yet the Witnesses continued bringing this lie door-to-door in their never-ending task of “spreading the truth!”]
2. “…we may well accept as correct the testimony of the Great Pyramid, that the last members of the “body” or “bride” of Christ will have been tested and accepted and will have passed beyond the vail before the close of A. D. 1910.” [sic]
Studies in the Scriptures Vol III: Thy Kingdom Come (1898 ed.) p. 364
3. “They die as men and like men, but in the same instant they are made like their Lord, glorious spirit beings. They are caught away from earthly conditions, to be forever with the Lord-“in the air “-in Kingdom power and glory.”
Studies in the Scriptures Vol III: Thy Kingdom Come (1898 ed.) p. 240
4. “In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.” –Watchtower March 15, 1980, p. 17