Part 3: Back to Basics.
Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot
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.
Jehovah 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?
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.”
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?
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!