When the Governing Body Called on Socrates. Part 2

Socrates convinces the Watchtower’s Governing Body that they’re not a Faithful and Discreet Slave.

Part 2: “That Faithful and Discreet Slave”

Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot

Steven Lot, Anthony Norris III (Slaves), and Socrates
Steven Lot, Anthony Norris III (as the Slaves, soon to be freed), and Socrates

Norris: I have a Return Visit to make at this house on a, let’s see — a Mr. Socrates.

Lot: Oh, yes, I was with you on the initial call. I remember the gentleman well. Dressed rather oddly, I thought.

Norris: [Ringing the bell.] At least he wasn’t wearing tight pants.

Socrates: [Answering the door] Gentlemen! How glad I am to see you again, please come in! [They walk in, and he has them sit down on his couch.]

I obtained some Jameson Scotch for you in anticipation of your return visit. [Offering them a couple of tumblers full.]

Norris: Oh, thank you. But not while I’m “on duty!”

Lot: I’ll try some! [Gets dirty look from Norris, so sets the glass down on a coaster without sipping.]

Socrates: You know, gentlemen, I really must tell you how honored I am by your presence in my humble home once again. Since your last visit I have read the literature you left me, and have used the Internet to research your organization. I even obtained a Watchtower Library disk with all of your literature, searchable back to the 1950’s.

Norris: We’re very glad to hear of your interest.

Socrates: Yes, but more importantly, I learned that you two represent one fourth of the Governing Body: the “Faithful and Discreet Slave!” Isn’t that true?

Lot: We have that  privilege.

Norris: And responsibility.

Socrates: Yes, and that responsibility, as I understand it from your writings, is to dispense the truth from God to the world! Is that right?

[Lot and Norris smile and nod.]

Socrates: Marvelous! Again, I am honored, but, a little confused as to why you are here today.

Lot: We are spreading the good news of the kingdom.

Socrates: Yes, but today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Aren’t you required to be in church today?

[Lot and Norris laugh.]

Norris: No, we don’t practice Mariolatry.

Nor do we believe that Mary ascended bodily into heaven. The Bible, at First Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 50 tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom.”

Lot: [In a quiet aside to Norris.] But I thought Jesus and Elijah both ascended bodily into heaven. [Norris ignores him.]

Socrates: But, how can this be? Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith in 1950, this was considered to be an ex cathedra declaration, and hence an infallible teaching which all believers must accept.

You’re saying the Pope made a mistake, but being infallible means that it’s impossible to make a mistake.

Heck, they’ve even got physical evidence: Mary’s girdle, which she dropped, while ascending heavenward, into the hands of Doubting Thomas himself! Or so the story goes. [Shows them the images he has found on the Internet.]
maryassumptiongirdle

Lot: Man, that bishop is a dead-ringer for you, brother Norris. You haven’t been moonlighting, have you?

[Aside to Norris, in a whisper] Boy, if I had been Thomas I’d have been tempted to take a peek up her robe once that girdle came off; a vantage-point better than an escalator!

Norris: [After giving Lot a sly smile.] You see, Mr. Socrates, that is all from the Catholic Church: part of what the Bible calls Babylon the Great: Satan’s empire of false religion. From what I hear, there are several of these “authentic girdles of Mary” held in various churches. And they all made sudden appearances in the Middle Ages. Whenever they wanted to raise money to build a church, some monk or priest would whip off his belt and put it on display as “Mary’s girdle,” and their gullible members would pay good money to see it.

They manufacture ridiculous “evidence”: fake “relics,” and tell people the Pope is infallible just to get them to believe such nonsense as this, enslave them to their organization, collect their tithes, and distract them from The Truth.

assume_orgLot: [Laughing] Yeah, you could say that they’ve made a very big, and very wrong assumption. And we all know what happens when we assume.

[Aside to Norris.] Hey, we can maybe use that in our act!

Socrates: But as someone with a “pipeline to God,” mustn’t the Pope by definition be infallible when he’s instructing the faithful on matters of doctrine?

Norris: The fact is, the Popes have contradicted themselves many times, proving that they can’t be infallible.

Socrates: Well, I guess that would follow if you say that they are a false religion. But the true religion would have to have infallible leadership, don’t you agree?

Norris: No. The Faithful Slave is not infallible. God uses imperfect men [with a meaningful look directed at Lot] to accomplish his purposes.

Socrates: Imperfect men: sure. But of course they’d still be infallible when declaring doctrine. The Catholics don’t claim that the Pope is perfect (or “impeccable,” as they put it.) But they argue convincingly that God wouldn’t allow his “channel” to mess up his message, or tell the faithful to believe untruths as if they were “The Truth.” Surely you can see that this would make no sense. Therefore, you men — when acting as part of the Faithful Slave in its role of dispensing the truth from God — must be infallible!

Norris: We’re not. We’ve made some mistakes in the past.

Lot: [Aside.] That’s an understatement!

Socrates: Minor, doctrinal issues, I’m guessing. Surely not anything that could lead to physical or spiritual harm to your followers.

Lot: Oh, yes. Between 1967 and 1980 we taught that organ transplants were forbidden by God’s law. And this caused some harm and even death to those who listened to us.

Norris: Not to mention our former ban on vaccinations and blood fractions.

Socrates: I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I’m confused. I thought for sure that you would say that the Slave, charged with feeding God’s people their spiritual food, was infallible when performing that duty.

Lot: What made you think so?

Socrates: Well, don’t you claim that the Governing Body goes all the way back to the Apostles of Jesus, and the elders who issued the edict against blood in Jerusalem, according to the book of Acts?

Norris: Absolutely!

Socrates: And their edict must be infallible since it is included in the “inspired word of God”?

Lot: Yes.

Socrates: So there you have an incidence of the Governing Body being infallible.

Plus, didn’t Jesus tell them that he would “always be with them,” and that he would send holy spirit to “teach them all things”?

Lot: Yes, he did say that.

Socrates: And neither Jesus nor the holy spirit would ever steer you wrong, correct?

Norris: That’s right, they wouldn’t steer us wrong, though we might not always fully understand their direction, being imperfect men.

Socrates: So, here you have divine guidance leading you, but due to your imperfection you don’t follow that guidance, and lead your followers astray. Is that a fair statement?

Lot: It’s fair.

Socrates: You are the weak link in the chain?

Norris: Exactly.

Socrates: So you’re telling me that God had the foresight to implement a perfect heavenly channel to communicate his Truth to humankind, but he slipped up on the bottom part: entrusting the message to human incompetents. Although all-powerful, God can’t manage to guide these hand-picked men sufficiently in order to get them to repeat his vital messages properly to those who yearn to obey him!

WtHierarchyWT19711215p749Revised
From the 1971 Watchtower, 12/15 p. 749.
Revised to reflect latest understanding.

Yet, even knowing all this, what you proclaim as The Truth must be accepted by your followers, correct? For instance, if I say “I am a Jehovah’s Witness, but I don’t believe in the Two Witness Rule“; or “I don’t believe in shunning family members“; or “I don’t believe that all non-Jehovah’s Witnesses are about to be killed in horrible ways by a loving God (with the assistance of you very gentlemen),” if I said any of those things —

Norris: If you said any of those things you wouldn’t be a Jehovah’s Witness, and you’d be disfellowshipped for apostasy.

Socrates: What if, between 1967 and 1980, I had said “I don’t believe organ transplants are against God’s law”?

Norris: Disfellowshipped for apostasy.

Socrates: Even though I would’ve been right, according to the “New Truth” on the matter since 1980? I would’ve had the truth and rejected the lie: the “mistake” of the Slave. Yet you say I would’ve been disfellowshipped.

Norris: Absolutely! We have to have unity of belief in God’s organization.

Socrates: So you think it’s better to have everyone believing a lie than to have anyone think for themselves.

Lot: As long as the instruction comes from the Slave, yes. We are self-correcting. If something is wrong, we just have to “wait on Jehovah” to make it right, eventually.

Socrates: Everyone believing a lie told by their religious leader in order to have one catholic faith (because, as you know, the word catholic simply means universal.) That’s a strong clue as to what this sounds like to me.

But let me ask you this, in our hypothetical situation: After 1980, after the Slave realized I had been right about organ transplants, and they had been wrong — I’d automatically be reinstated, correct?

Norris: Absolutely not! You committed the sin of not “listening and obeying.” You had engaged in independent thinking: questioning God’s channel of Truth!

Socrates: Sort of like being excommunicated from the Catholic Church for heresy if I say that I don’t believe what the Pope says about the Assumption of Mary?

Norris: Very much like that, yes. Though you could be reinstated if you repented, and fully came back to our way of thinking on all matters, and committed to agreeing with whatever ideas we come up with in the future. We stress the unity of belief. Jehovah’s Witnesses must believe what the Slave tells them is True, even if it makes no sense to them.

Lot: [To himself.] And even if it isn’t true.

Socrates: So then, you see, you expect your followers to treat you the same way Catholics treat the Pope: exactly as if you were infallible! It makes no sense to expect this from them if you can later turn around and say, “Oh, sorry; we were wrong: that wasn’t God’s message at all. We were in error.”

So, you might as well claim infallibility; no other stance makes sense, given the claims you make, and the obedience you demand.

Lot: Well, we can’t claim infallibility because, uh —

Socrates: Is it for the same reason that you say the Pope is not infallible: that Popes have contradicted each other?

Lot: Well, yes. We could hardly be infallible when we keep changing our minds — and doctrines.

Norris: We’re not “changing our minds” so much as gaining better understanding of The Truth as time goes by, and we come closer to the end of this system of things. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light that grows brighter and brighter until full daylight.” 

Socrates: Isn’t that talking about a righteous person’s deeds shining forth, as when Jesus said to “let your light shine,” rather than to misunderstanding one’s own doctrines?

Lot: Some think so, but we don’t.

inthedarkvoicesSocrates: So, how do you apply it? At first you were in the dark, stumbling about, and trying to describe what you could but dimly see or guess at. Then as the light got brighter you were able to clarify what you were seeing?

Lot: You’ve got it!

Socrates: And, being “discreet” means not blurting out half-baked ideas, or the first thing that comes into your head, but making sure that something is true before declaring it as The Truth to others. So, you would have to wait until the light was bright enough to make things out clearly before opening your mouth, correct?

Lot: That’s right.

Socrates: So, being the Discreet Slave, how could you possibly have ever told your followers that vaccinations and organ transplants were against God’s law, when you now admit that they never were against God’s law?

Lot: We “got ahead of the light.”

Norris: We made a mistake; we’re imperfect humans.

Do you understand?

Socrates: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen, for making it as bright and clear to me as that “path of the righteous” we spoke of. I now see your evidence as tangibly as if it were one of Mary’s girdles.

And I must tell you that the “we’re imperfect humans” excuse is perfectly valid — for anyone not claiming to be a divinely led Faithful and Discreet Slave.

[Long silence as the Slaves try to come up with some way to respond to this.]

Norris: Well, we haven’t always been as discreet as we are now. Over the years Jehovah has helped ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ to become steadily more discreet.

Lot: We know that we’re the Faithful and Discreet Slave because Jesus judged us to be so in 1919.

[Norris rolls his eyes.]

Socrates: And how do you know Jesus made this judgment?

Lot: Because I read all about it in the Watchtower.

Norris: Let me clarify that. [Giving Lot yet another dirty look.]

On our first visit with you we proved that 1914 was the start of the Last Days, when Jesus became invisibly present and assumed kingly power in Jehovah God’s kingdom.

Lot: Oh, yeah, and corresponding to Jesus’ earthly ministry of 3 years, it was 3 years later that Jesus examined the religions of the world, and found only our organization to be faithful [we called ourselves the International Bible Students back then.] So he judged us to be his Faithful and Discreet Slave, and put us in charge of the spiritual food, in the year 1919. A position we have faithfully held ever since.

Socrates: Wouldn’t three years after 1914 be 1917?

Norris: Oh, it was three and a half years, and brother Lot skipped a step or two in there somewhere.

J-F-Rutherford-Prison-CardLot: Oh, yeah, I remember: the 3 1/2 days of Revelation chapter 11, which we say symbolizes 9 months, give or take, and we add that to the 1,260 days of that same chapter, and, I think by starting in December of 1914, we come real close to the date of Rutherford’s release on bail from prison in March of 1919: proving that Jehovah and Jesus favored our organization.

Norris: [Frowning, with a puzzled look.] Yeah. Well, we don’t recall offhand exactly how we get to the 1919 date, but you get the idea.

assume_buttonSocrates: I’m not sure that I do. In fact, it sounds a bit like “manufactured ridiculous evidence” to me. So, let’s leave the 1919 date for the moment as an assumption, and get back to discretion.

You’re saying that the Slave has improved its level of discretion since the time it got God’s law wrong regarding organ transplants.

Norris: That’s correct.

Socrates: So, if we could assign a score, would you agree that announcing a ban on organ transplants — a literally fatal error — would have to get a score of zero on the discretion scale?

Norris: Not necessarily. The Slave just made a mistake on this one policy. They still had a lot right, and that shows they were more discreet than the religions of Christendom.

Socrates: But the Slave is guided by the holy spirit in its announcements of God’s laws, is it not?

Norris: Of course.

Socrates: And the holy spirit is infallible, is it not?

Norris: Of course.

Socrates: So, the ban on transplants could not have been due to the holy spirit’s guidance.

Norris: You’re right.

Socrates: So, did the Slave feel that they were being guided by the holy spirit when they announced and enforced the ban? Or did they just make this law up on their own?

Lot: I’m not sure what they felt; it was before my time as a member of the Governing Body.

Socrates: Well, if they weren’t 100% sure that this ban was being mandated by the holy spirit, it would be the height of indiscretion to announce the ban, and place the lives of its members in danger.

Norris: Certainly they felt that they were being guided by the holy spirit, or they would never have announced the ban.

Socrates: But they were wrong?

Norris: In this instance, yes: they were wrong.

Socrates: But didn’t they know what it feels like to have the holy spirit’s guidance? I mean, they supposedly had felt this guidance in all these other instances where you said “they had a lot right.” So, they had to know what that guidance felt like, or else they had never really felt it, and all of your doctrines become suspect.

Norris: Yes, of course they knew what it felt like.

Socrates: But in this case they must not have felt it.

Norris: Correct.

Socrates: And yet they went ahead and declared that transplants were against God’s law without having felt the spirit’s guidance. Not very discreet, was it?

Lot: Okay, we grant that it wasn’t very discreet.

Norris: But, again: the Slave’s level of discretion has been steadily increasing.

discreetChart2
The Slave’s level of discretion over the years.

Socrates: Okay, so here’s my problem: if the Slave’s level of discretion has been “steadily increasing,” and we found it to be at zero in 1967, then it must’ve been below zero prior to 1967.

Norris: I admit that, logically, that follows.

Socrates: And you tell me that Jesus declared your organization to be the “faithful and discreet slave” before 1967 — in fact, way back in 1919.

Lot: In 1919, that’s correct.

Socrates: But in 1919 the organization would’ve had a negative discretion score: they would not have been discreet. So, how could Jesus judge them to be discreet when they weren’t discreet?

Norris: Uh, because, even so, they were still the best thing going.

Socrates: Actually, the Christadelphians were much closer to your current understanding of “The Truth” back in 1919 than were your International Bible Students of that time.

Lot: [With a worried, disappointed look at Norris] So, we’re not the Faithful and Discreet Slave?

Socrates: Sorry to burst your bubble.

slaves
Genuine Slaves

But, really, no one in their right mind should want to be a slave! I just looked up the definition of slave, and it says:

“A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey him.”

According to what I read in the Bible, Christian leaders are not “forced to obey,” but are supposed to serve God willingly:

Therefore, as a fellow elder, a witness of the sufferings of the Christ and a sharer of the glory that is to be revealed, I make this appeal to the elders among you: Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; 1 Peter 5:1-2 (NWT)

Today I have freed you from your slavery. I guess the Bible is right when it states that “the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

So much for being a slave. Now we come to being faithful and wise. It seems to me that if you take Jesus’ words for the parable that they are [instead of as a convoluted prophecy about a 20th century ex-con and the equally error-prone group of egomaniacs that made up his successors], and if you pay close attention to Jesus’ words: “What I say to you I say to all,” (Mark 13:37) it turns out that we can all be “faithful and wise stewards” by performing our duties with integrity — as I hope I have done today, for your benefit.

breakingFree

Thank you for listening. All of you are now free to go.

 

You won’t want to miss: Part 3 in this Series of calls by Norris & Lot on Socrates.

To read about Socrates likewise deflating the Governing Body’s blood policies, please see my book: Layers of Truth

For further comparisons with the Catholic church, please see Cedar’s excellent article:

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a hierarchical religion? And does it matter?

When the Governing Body Called on Socrates. Part 3

Socrates rips apart the Watchtower’s core beliefs.

Part 3: Back to Basics.

Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot

Back To Basics
Steven Lot and Anthony Norris III getting back to basics with Socrates

Lot: Hey, Tony, I’ve got something on my mind.

Norris: [Under his breath] How unusual.

Lot: I think we should pay one more call on Mr. Socrates.

Norris: No; he’s a goat. We’ve wasted enough time on him. He’ll never “listen and obey,” like our sheep do.

Lot: But my conscience is bothering me. I don’t think we gave him a thorough enough witness.

Norris: What do you mean? We spent hours —

Lot: That’s just it. In our first two visits we went into the deep things of God: 1914 and 1919. I think there are maybe one in a hundred baptized Witnesses who clearly understand how we arrive at those dates.

Norris: More like one in a million for the 1919 date.

Lot: Yeah. But here we were boring an interested person with all those details! We should’ve just started with the basics: go back to the beginning: Adam’s sin, and Jehovah’s loving provision for forgiving mankind: the ransom sacrifice. For lots of Witnesses that’s really all they know and believe in; the rest they either ignore or put up with while waiting for new light.

Norris: Very well, let’s go see him. At least we can count our time. I’m a little short on hours this month.


Socrates: Gentlemen! So happy to see you again. I shan’t offer you anything to drink this time, knowing your penchant for refusing while “on duty.”

Norris: Quite right.

Lot: We wanted to get back to you because we got somewhat sidetracked in our previous visits. You seemed to confuse us with the Catholics. Let me assure you, we are nothing like them! They have all these mysteries that their followers must accept on their say-so. But our religion uses clear-cut logic, and is built on the backbone of common-sense.

Norris: We don’t ask anyone to ever believe anything that doesn’t make sense.

Lot: That’s right. And we want to prove this to you today by sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with you.

Socrates: You mean heaven?

Lot: Not just heaven; that’s only one part of God’s Kingdom.

Norris: Christendom is too wrapped up in heaven. Only 144,000 people are going to heaven.

Socrates: What happens to the other billions of people? Do they go to hell?

Norris: Yes and no. You see, hell is just the common grave of mankind. Death is, for most, an unconscious state where one waits for the resurrection: a resurrection to life on earth.

Lot: You see, Mr. Socrates, Jehovah God is perfect. He is all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-knowing, and loving.

serpentJehovah lovingly made the earth as a paradise for man to live on forever. That was his original plan. But our first parents, Adam and Eve, committed the sin of disobedience. They chose Satan — in the form of a talking serpent fruit-vendor — over God.

Socrates: I see. And your god Jehovah, being “all powerful,” is supposed to be the most powerful being that exists. Correct?

Lot: Absolutely! Nothing comes close to the power of Jehovah!

Socrates: So, anything he wanted he would be sure to get; nothing could prevent it.

Lot: Why do you say that?

Socrates: Because if someone or something could prevent Jehovah from getting what he wanted, then that someone or something would be more powerful than Jehovah: being able to put obstacles in his path that he wasn’t powerful enough to overcome.

Lot: Yes, that makes sense. And nothing is more powerful than Jehovah.

Socrates: Then if this god wanted humans to live forever on a paradise earth, that is what would be happening right now at this very moment. But, sadly, I fear this earth is less than a paradise, and we all die. So, either this god does not want what you say he wants, or he is not all-powerful.

Norris: No, it’s because of the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose not to obey Jehovah, and chose to follow the evil Satan instead. You see, Jehovah won’t interfere with our freewill.

Socrates: So this circumstance subverted Jehovah’s “original plan”; it prevented him from getting what he wanted.

Lot: Yes, it did.

Socrates: But we just agreed that this is impossible; what God wants, God gets.

Norris: Yes, but Jehovah wanted us to freely obey him. Our first parents didn’t do that; they chose a different path with their freewill.

Socrates: They chose the evil over the good?

Lot: Yes.

Socrates: But doesn’t your Bible say that they didn’t know good from evil until after they ate the forbidden fruit?

Lot: Yes. It was only after they had sinned that they learned what good and evil were:

Jehovah God then said: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad.
Genesis 3:22

Socrates: Well, then they couldn’t have made a moral choice prior to this. They could not meaningfully choose the evil over the good without knowing what good and evil were. Nor would it be justice to judge them and sentence them to a punishment when they did not know right from wrong. Our own human courts are at least that just: suspending a sentence in the case of someone incompetent to stand trial.

Norris: No, I must correct brother Lot here; Adam and Eve knew the difference between good and evil, but they hadn’t experienced making a moral decision between the two. So, in that sense they didn’t really know it.

It’s just like the Bible saying, “And Adam knew his wife, and she bore him a son.” Not that he didn’t know who she was before that; he just hadn’t known her intimately.

Socrates: So the Bible is wrong: the tree must’ve been named “the tree of the experience of choosing good or evil,” not “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

oranges-1117644_1920

Norris: Good point. I’ll mention that to our Bible translators for our next version of the New World Translation.

Socrates: And if they “became like God” in knowing good and evil by experiencing the choosing of evil, then your god must’ve experienced the choosing of evil at some point. But, if he ever chose evil, then he couldn’t be the “all-good” god that you claim him to be.

So, either Adam and Eve really didn’t know good from evil, or Jehovah is not all good.

Norris: Jehovah is all-knowing, so he didn’t need to experience choosing evil in order to know evil.

Socrates: Well, I’m not all-knowing, but even I know evil without ever having chosen it. So, I think brother Lot was correct: they didn’t know good from evil.

Lot: [Having looked something up on his phone] Oh, wait! I have to correct brother Norris! [With a victorious smile at putting Norris in his place for once.] The Insight book makes the same point as Mr. Socrates:

God’s words at Genesis 3:22 could not pertain to their now knowing what was bad by experience, for Jehovah said that they had become like him and he has not learned what is bad by doing it. (Ps 92:14, 15)

It goes on to explain exactly what it means for them to know good and bad:

Evidently, Adam and Eve got to know what was good and what was bad in the special sense of now judging for themselves what was good and what was bad. They were idolatrously placing their judgment above God’s, disobediently becoming a law to themselves, as it were, instead of obeying Jehovah, who has both the right and the wisdom necessary to determine good and bad.
Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p. 181

Socrates: So, according to the Watchtower, the Bible is wrong yet again! The Bible clearly tells us that Adam and Eve came to “know good and bad”. But the Watchtower insists that they didn’t; all that really happened is that they tried to exercise their freewill. They tried to determine for themselves which course of action was good and which was bad.

Lot: That’s right. They were never supposed to determine good and bad for themselves.  They were just supposed to obey Jehovah.

Socrates: How were they to know that obeying Jehovah was good, and disobeying Jehovah was bad, when they weren’t supposed to know good from bad?

Norris: They weren’t supposed to use their own human wisdom to determine what was good and bad. They were supposed to trust that Jehovah knew best, and obey him.

Socrates: Obeying Jehovah was good behavior, and disobeying him was bad?

Lot: Absolutely!

Socrates: How could they know that, without knowing good from bad?

Lot: Well — uh.

Socrates: Since that rightfully seems to stump you, let me ask you this: Do you gentlemen know good from bad? Or do you just obey Jehovah?

Norris: They are one and the same thing. When we obey Jehovah we are good.

Socrates: Previously you told me that Jehovah was “all-good.” How did you make that determination? Didn’t you have to use your own human wisdom?

You see, at some point it has to come down to that. An individual has to exercise their own judgment in determining what is good and what is evil. There is no way around it. Even judging Jehovah to be good, and obedience to be good: these are judgments that we make.

So your “insight” book is wrong. It’s saying that the sin was not that Adam and the woman used their freewill to disobey Jehovah. It’s saying that the sin was that they used their freewill!

Yet, you say that freewill was a precious gift that this god gave humankind. So precious, in fact, that you say he would never interfere with our freewill in any way!

So how could it possibly be that this god would sentence all humankind to die for the first couple’s having made use of the gift he had given them? (Especially when we realize that he expected them to make use of their freewill in deciding that obeying him was a good thing to do in the first place!)

What we are left with is the fact that the account in Genesis makes no sense if we take it your way. It only makes sense if it means that Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and bad prior to eating from the forbidden tree, because they only obtained this knowledge after eating from the tree.

So, prior to that, they didn’t know that obeying Jehovah was good or that disobeying him was bad. Therefore, it was unjust for Jehovah to condemn them.

Norris: Well, no matter their level of knowledge of right and wrong, Jehovah still expected Adam and Eve to be obedient.

Socrates: Then that was a stupid expectation on his part. Jehovah is not stupid, is he?

Lot: Jehovah is the most intelligent being there is!

Socrates: Then your interpretation of the Bible’s account must be wrong.

Who lied? Or was this all just a myth? Don’t miss the continuation of this discussion in Part 4!

When the Governing Body Called on Socrates. Part 4.

Part 4: Back to Basics ii.

Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot

Norris: [With an exasperated shake of the head, while looking at Lot. As if to say, “I told you he was a goat.”] The Bible is never wrong, and neither is Jehovah. He said Adam would die if he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam ate, and he died. Satan, meanwhile, was proven to be the “father of the lie” by claiming that Adam and Eve could disobey Jehovah and not die.

Socrates: But just a minute; what you just said is not at all what your Bible says.

It says that Jehovah told Adam that “in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” Yet we read that, after eating from the forbidden tree, Adam did not die that day; he lived for more than another 800 years!

temptationOn the other hand, the talking serpent fruit-vendor said that the problem with eating from the tree was not that they would die, but as he told Eve: “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 3:4-5)

And, sure enough, the Bible reports that as soon as they ate from the tree, “the eyes of both of them were opened” (Gen. 3:7)  And Jehovah himself afterwards confirmed the truth of the rest of the serpent’s words, stating: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 3:22)

So, it seems that Jehovah was the liar, while the serpent told the truth.

Norris: No, the Bible tells at Titus 1:2 that it is impossible for God to lie.

The answer lies in 2 Peter 3:8, which tells us that a day is as a thousand years to Jehovah. Adam died some 800 years after eating the forbidden fruit; within the thousand-year “day.” So Jehovah was telling the truth.

Socrates: And had Adam read 2 Peter?

Norris: Of course not. That was written thousands of years after Adam had died.

Socrates: Then how would he have a clue as to a day being a thousand years?

Lot: He didn’t. But we do, and that’s what matters.

Socrates: Why did Jehovah tell him, “in the day you eat from it you will certainly die,” if, given the way Adam would understand those words, it was untrue?

If I tell you that I can ascend to heaven by just using my own will-power, would you believe me?

Lot: Of course not.

Socrates: Ah, but you see, what I said is true: using my will-power I can get online and book a flight right now, and within a few hours I would be ascending heavenward.

Lot: Well, you tricked me: using words in a different way then we commonly understand them.

Socrates: Yes, I did. Very godly of me, you might add, because this is exactly what you say Jehovah did to Adam: using the word “day” in a way that Adam would not understand. All the while it was very important that Adam understood the exact consequences of disobedience.

For instance, if I tell you that if you commit a moral crime — let’s say coming back here on another visit after I’ve told you that I never want to see you again — then you will be sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating a no-trespassing order.

Might you visit me again if I phoned you and said that I had a change of heart, and needed to urgently see you?

Lot: Certainly!

Socrates: Without even checking with the authorities first to verify that the restraining order had been canceled?

Lot: I probably wouldn’t bother taking the time for such legalities if my urgently coming to you meant bringing a new brother into the Truth. After all, 30 days in jail is a small price to maybe have to pay in Jehovah’s service.

Socrates: But here’s the thing: when I said “day” — unbeknownst to you — I meant a thousand days.

Now, if you knew that the penalty was 30,000 days (82 years) instead of 30 days, might it have made a difference in your actions?

Lot: Yes: I would probably take the time to double-check the status of the restraining order first, in that case.

Socrates: So, it would’ve been unfair of me not to accurately explain the full consequences up-front, in a way that you would understand. My words led you to a different course of action than if I had spoken to you in a way you would understand.

A god of “all justice” would not behave this way, would he?

Lot: Of course not.

Socrates: And, knowing that you would understand a “day” to refer to a literal 24-hour day, I really lied to you when I said the penalty would be 30 days, didn’t I?

Lot: You certainly did.

Socrates: Yes, because when we know that someone will take the meaning of our words in a way that renders them false, then we are deliberately lying to them.

So, either Jehovah never said “in the day you eat from it you will certainly die,” or Jehovah lied. And you already told me that it’s impossible for him to lie.

It seems we’ve arrived at an impasse: either the Bible is wrong, or Jehovah lied. Yet you tell me that neither is possible.

bible-shoveling

[Long pause, with looks of perplexity exchanged between Lot and Norris.]

Norris: You reached this dilemma because you are using human reasoning: worldly philosophy, instead of relying on faith in Jehovah.

Socrates: But Jehovah has not spoken to me directly. All I have to go by is the Bible, and your interpretation of it. I’m trying to follow the path you are leading me along. But, I’m sorry, maybe I’m dense, but the path seems to dead-end. I hope you can help me understand, because I really like the idea of a paradise earth.

Lot: Look, it’s really simple. Satan tempted the woman (she hadn’t even been given a name as yet), and she tempted Adam into the sin of disobedience. Jehovah had given them freewill, and so let them live with their choice of having Satan as the ruler of this old world. They brought sin and death into the world, which in turn brought about all the troubles in our world today.

But Jehovah rescued us via the Ransom Sacrifice —

Socrates: Excuse me for interrupting, but I have questions about what you just said, and I need to ask them before I forget.

Norris: [With a big sigh] Go ahead.

Lot: [With a big smile] We welcome questions.

Socrates: You keep bringing in this “Satan,” yet I don’t see him mentioned anywhere in Genesis — or in any of the first five books of the Bible for that matter. This account only mentions a serpent. And this serpent was “the craftiest of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made.

Yet you tell us that animals at that time were all herbivores. So, how was the serpent “crafty”? Did he sneak up on the plants he ate, or what?

Norris: No. Revelation 12:9 shows that this was all referring to Satan the devil. He was just using the serpent for his mouthpiece. Satan was a fallen angel: an opposer who had rebelled against Jehovah.

expulsionSocrates: It’s odd that the writers of Genesis never mentioned Satan, nor do the first five books of the Bible (which you say Moses wrote.) Seems like the authors didn’t know Satan existed.

But, according to you, someone writing the book of Revelation, centuries later, makes the claim that the serpent was a front-man for Satan. And, for some reason, you believe him.

If your conjecture is true, then it’s even more odd that Jehovah hadn’t banned Satan from the garden for his sin of rebellion. Then he wouldn’t have had to later banish Adam and the woman for having listened to Satan.

Lot: I never thought of that.

Norris: We can’t second-guess God.

Socrates: Maybe. But we can certainly examine this ancient account to see if it makes sense and follows the “clear-cut logic” you spoke of.

You say it was referring to Satan, not the serpent, as “the craftiest of all the wild animals.” So, Satan was a wild animal?

Lot: No, the serpent was the wild animal. But Satan was the crafty one. He used a creature that is not endowed with the power of speech, by what might be called ventriloquism, to make it appear that the serpent was talking.

Socrates: Well, then the account is very poorly written: to refer to two different individuals in the same phrase with no indication of having changed subjects.

If Satan was so crafty, it occurs to me that he might’ve used a disembodied voice to deceive the woman, instead of dragging the serpent into the picture as a ventriloquist’s dummy. The Bible tells us that the couple “heard the voice of God as he was walking in the garden.” So, if I’m Satan, wanting to trick the woman, why not imitate God’s disembodied voice? That would be more likely to accomplish the goal of getting them to eat the forbidden fruit (since they had already been obeying God’s voice up till that moment.)

Norris: Now you’re second-guessing Satan.

Socrates: I’m just putting us in his situation, and seeing what would be the “craftiest” thing to do. If the Bible tells us he did something less crafty, then it calls the veracity of the account into question yet again.

But when someone commits a sin, I’m sure it’s similar to committing a crime: there must be means, motive, and opportunity.

Jehovah had given Satan the means by creating him as the craftiest one, with the ability to “throw” his voice. And Jehovah had given him the opportunity by not protecting his guileless latest creation from Satan’s wiles. But what was Satan’s motive? What did he stand to gain by getting the couple to disobey Jehovah? That’s what is missing here.

If he was so shrewd, he must’ve known that all he would get out of the deal was a curse. So, it doesn’t make any sense that Satan would’ve done this.

What does make sense of all of this is when we take the account as a corruption of a still  older myth: one that gave the serpent a comprehensible motive.

In Sir James Frazer’s Folklore in the Old Testament, chapter 2 delves into the ancient sources of this myth, which commonly relate that a snake was charged by God to deliver a message to the human couple: to eat from the tree of life in order to gain immortality. But the devious snake tells them to eat from a different tree, while the snake surreptitiously eats from the tree of life himself and so gains immortality (which snakes were believed to have due to the shedding of their skin, supposedly renewing their life.)

Sir Frazer concludes:

The story of the Fall of Man in the third chapter of Genesis appears to be an abridged version of this savage myth. Little is wanted to complete its resemblance to the similar myths still told by savages in many parts of the world. The principal, almost the only, omission is the silence of the narrator as to the eating of the fruit of the tree of life by the serpent, and the consequent attainment of immortality by the reptile. (p. 76)

This explanation fits the account, as written in Genesis, much better than taking the story your way. It explains why a serpent is involved in the story in the first place, and why the Bible calls the animal crafty. It also explains why such a minor infraction of a rule about fruit would garner the death penalty (which otherwise would suffer egregiously from the punishment not fitting the crime.)

Rembrandt_ass_of_Balaam
Balaam’s talking donkey

And, if what you claim is true regarding authorship, then Moses also wrote about a talking donkey. You don’t claim that the donkey was another ventriloquist’s dummy of Satan’s, do you?

Lot: No, Satan wasn’t involved that time. Jehovah granted the donkey the ability to speak, and evidently it spoke its own mind.

Socrates: But, don’t you see what’s plainly before you? The author or authors of these books were so naive that they actually believed that animals could speak!

In the end, the talking serpent story is just a tale meant to explain to the primitive mind why snakes seemingly live forever, while people do not.

Norris: Well, we’re not concerned with primitive myths. We only go by what the Bible says.

What about the other tree? And can sin be inherited? Don’t miss the continuation of this discussion in Part 5!

When the Governing Body Called on Socrates. Part 5.

Part 5: Back to Basics iii.

Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot

Peter_Paul_Rubens_Adam_en_Eva

Norris: So, if we can continue the story, what happened next is that Jehovah banished Adam and the woman from the garden —

Socrates: So that they couldn’t eat from the tree of life and live forever, right?

Lot: That’s correct. Their actions had condemned them to death, so Jehovah enforced that sentence by banishing them, cursing Satan and the earth.

Norris: Certainly you can understand this part, at least?

Socrates: No, I’m sorry, but this part makes the least sense of all.

Lot: [Astonished] How is that?

Socrates: Remember Jehovah’s “original plan”?

Lot: For mankind to live forever on a paradise earth.

Socrates: Yes. And now, due to his own negligence, humankind had become sinful and lost out on immortality.

Norris: They brought it on themselves.

Socrates: Partially. But, in any case, Jehovah had a simple, efficient, immediate way to restore everything and accomplish his purpose!

Norris: And what, pray-tell, might that have been?

Socrates: Why, to let them eat from the tree of life, of course!

Norris: I need that drink, after all.

Lot: Me too!

[Socrates pours them their drinks.]

Norris: Look, let’s finish the story so you can at last understand Jehovah’s love for mankind in giving the life of his son to ransom us. Then we’ll have discharged our duty.

Socrates: Please, enlighten me.

Lot: Well, now that they were sinners, they had lost their perfection. They were subject to death. And we all know that an imperfect parent can’t produce perfect offspring. So, Adam and Eve passed on sinfulness and death to all their descendants: including you and me. That’s why we die.

But Jehovah, in his infinite love and mercy —

Socrates: I hate to interrupt you again —

Norris: [Under his breath] Not really, you don’t.

Socrates: It’s just that we know that acquired characteristics are not inheritable.

Lot: What does that mean?

Socrates: Let’s say that I was raised well, by a loving family. But I turn to a life of crime, and I also learn to play the harmonica while in prison. Will my son be a harmonica-playing criminal?

Norris: Of course not.

dna-1903318_1280
DNA

Socrates: Correct. And this is because the characteristics I acquire during the course of living my life do not impact my DNA, which was fixed at my birth. I can only pass on to my offspring the DNA I was born with, and I can’t change that DNA no matter what I do.

So too, Adam and Eve could not pass on sinfulness to their offspring. If they were created perfect, as you tell me they were, then perfection is all they could possibly pass on to their offspring.

Norris: That’s just science talking.

Socrates: Well, forget about science for a moment, and think about justice. Does it seem fair to punish us with death for something our ancestors did?

Lot: You’re right—it doesn’t seem fair.

Socrates: And doesn’t your Bible itself say that the son will not be punished for the sin of the father?

Lot: Yes, but Jehovah gave us an out: in his infinite love and mercy, he sent his son to the earth, to be born of a woman and become a perfect man, and die for our sins: ransoming mankind from their sentence of death, and removing the curse upon the earth!

Socrates: Wait a moment. You’re saying that Jehovah had his son killed in order to forgive us for something we didn’t do!?

Lot: [Sheepishly] Well, yes.

Socrates: When he could’ve just let the first humans eat from the tree of life?! He chose to have his son killed instead?

Norris: He couldn’t have chosen to let them eat from the tree of life; his word is law. He was bound by his word to punish them.

Socrates: An all-powerful, all-knowing law-maker, who is powerless to change his own law!?

Norris: Correct.

Socrates: So, although you say freewill got us into this mess, Jehovah himself lacks freewill; he wasn’t free to act in harmony with his plan. He was a slave to his own law.

Norris: Yes, but the important thing is that he lovingly adapted his plan to allow for our freewill.

Socrates: So Jehovah regards interfering with a person’s freewill as a greater evil than the murder of his own son?

Norris: Evidently.

Socrates: Then why do we read in the Bible that Jehovah “hardened Pharaoh’s heart“?

Norris:  Jehovah didn’t interfere with Pharaoh’s freewill; his heart hardened because of the message declared to him by Moses and Aaron from Jehovah.

SaulAttemptedMurderOfDavid
King Saul attempting to murder David

Socrates: And what about King Saul? The Bible says that Jehovah not only “gave him a new heart” but changed him into a new man!

Norris: Jehovah was just amplifying Saul’s natural tendencies towards good.

Socrates: The same King Saul who later, despite Jehovah’s “amplification of his good tendencies,” tried to murder David? And who proved so corrupt that Jehovah replaced him with David as king?

Or, consider the builders of the tower of Babel. Jehovah violated their freewill when he messed with their minds in order to prevent them from completing their “sinful” construction project!

So, it seems that Jehovah was ready willing and able to interfere with a person’s freewill whenever it suited him. So, why not interfere with the first human couple in order to save them — and us, and his son — from death?

If it was okay in the case of King Saul, why not take Adam and “change him into a new man”? Was the leadership of the nation of Israel of more concern to Jehovah than the plight of every person ever born?

What parent would hesitate to interfere with a young child’s freewill by stopping them from running into a busy street? What loving parent would punish their young child with death the first time they heard the word “NO!” and failed to respond to it?

Finally, let’s say that I were to accept all that you gentlemen say, and joined your organization. Would I not then have to set aside “independent thinking” and do whatever you tell me to do, even if it made no sense to me?

Norris: Yes; Jehovah requires obedience of his subjects.

Socrates: But isn’t that surrendering my freewill?

Lot: In a sense, yes.

Norris: You freely surrender it, though.

Lot: And gladly, in Jehovah’s service.

Socrates: So the end result of all of this is that we give up the freewill that Jehovah regarded as of paramount importance that humans keep! The very thing that he sacrificed his son over!

As we’ve seen, Jehovah had at least five better, more sensible, courses to follow than the one you say he did follow:

  1. Ban Satan from the garden in the first place.
  2. Interfere with Adam and Eve’s freewill to prevent catastrophe.
  3. Change the law he had made.
  4. Forgive Adam and Eve on the spot, due to their naïveté and his beneficence.
  5. Have Adam and Eve eat from the tree of everlasting life after they’d sinned.

So, either your god isn’t as smart as this mortal man you see before you, who has come up with these five better solutions, or your story is false.

circularYou call your story “The Truth,” but I’m sorry, gentlemen; I just don’t get it. Your road seems to be filled with nothing but dead-ends, or switchbacks that turn 180 degrees back upon themselves so that we end up in circles going nowhere.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of this discussion in Part 6!