Does the Bible have a theme? If so, what is it?
Ask this of any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and you’ll get this answer:
The entire Bible has but one theme: The Kingdom under Jesus Christ is the means by which the vindication of God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of His name will be accomplished. (w07 9/1 p. 7 “Written for Our Instruction”)
When forced to acknowledge that we’ve made some serious doctrinal mistakes, I’ve had friends grasp hold of this security blanket saying that ‘whatever errors we’ve made are just due to human perfection, but what’s really important is that only we are preaching the kingdom good news and the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. To our minds, this preaching work excuses all past blunders. It sets us up as the one true religion, above all the rest. It is a source of great pride as evidenced by this WT reference;
With all of their learning, have such scholars really found “the very knowledge of God”? Well, do they clearly understand the theme of the Bible—the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by means of his heavenly Kingdom? (w02 12/15 p. 14 par. 7 “He Will Draw Close to You”)
This might be a valid viewpoint if it were true, but the fact is, this is not the Bible’s theme. It is not even a minor theme. In fact, the Bible says nothing about Jehovah vindicating his sovereignty. That will sound like nonsense to many of my JW brethren. Worse! It will sound like blasphemy. But hold on just a minute. Hear me out.
If the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty were the Bible’s theme, then wouldn’t it be reinforced through repetition throughout its pages? Would not Jesus, who came to reveal the truth to us, have made mention of it? Would he not have taught us to pray for it? Surely Matthew 6:9, would read, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your sovereignty be vindicated.”
Do you know how many times the Bible speaks about the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty? It’s easy to check using the Watchtower Library program. Here are the results of a search:
As you can see, there are hundreds of hits in our publications, but not a single mention in the Bible. In fact, even the word “sovereignty” by itself does not appear in the Bible.
What about the other half of the theme pairing? How often does the Bible speak about sanctifying the name of God?
Since the search matches on words, we are looking at about three dozen phrase matches. Obviously, the sanctification of the name of God is a theme that runs through the Bible. Whether it is the central theme or not is beside the point at the moment. What is germane to our discussion is that while the Bible does talk about sanctifying Jehovah’s name, it makes no mention whatsoever of vindicating his sovereignty.
Why is this? And of more importance, why do we make such a big thing about something the Bible makes no mention of at all?
Making the Sovereignty Issue Central
It is a position of Jehovah’s Witnesses that, while the Bible makes no explicit mention of vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty, the theme is implicit in the events that precipitated the fall of man.
“At this the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.”” (Ge 3:4, 5)
This one brief deception spoken by the devil through the medium of the serpent is the primary basis for our doctrinal interpretation. We have this explanation from The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, page 66, paragraph 4:
THE ISSUES AT STAKE
4 A number of issues or vital questions were raised. First, Satan called into question the truthfulness of God. In effect, he called God a liar, and that with regard to a matter of life and death. Second, he questioned man’s dependence on his Creator for continued life and happiness. He claimed that neither man’s life nor his ability to govern his affairs with success depended upon obedience to Jehovah. He argued that man could act independently of his Creator and be like God, deciding for himself what is right or wrong, good or bad. Third, by arguing against God’s stated law, he in effect claimed that God’s way of ruling is wrong and not for the good of his creatures and in this way he even challenged God’s right to rule. (tr chap. 8 p. 66 par. 4, emphasis in the original.)
On the first point: If I were to call you a liar, would I be questioning your right to rule or your good character? Satan was defaming Jehovah’s name by implying that he had lied. So this goes to the heart of the issue involving the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. It has nothing to do with the issue of sovereignty. On the second and third points, Satan was indeed implying that the first humans would be better off on their own. To explain why this created a need for Jehovah to vindicate his sovereignty, the Truth book goes on to provide an illustration often used by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
7 Satan’s false charges against God may be illustrated, to a certain extent, in a human way. Suppose a man having a large family is accused by one of his neighbors of many false things about the way he manages his household. Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true. But what a fine answer it would be if he permitted his own family to be his witnesses to show that their father was indeed a just and loving family head and that they were happy to live with him because they loved him! Thus he would be completely vindicated.—Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 43:10. (tr chap. 8 pp. 67-68 par. 7)
This makes sense if you don’t think too deeply about it. However, it falls apart completely when one considers all the facts. First of all, Satan is making a completely unsubstantiated allegation. The time honored rule of law – unless you subscribe to the French system of jurisprudence – is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, it did not fall to Jehovah God to disprove Satan’s accusations. The onus was completely upon Satan to prove his case. Jehovah has given him over 6,000 years to do so, and to date, he has failed utterly.
In addition, there is another serious flaw with this illustration. It ignores totally the vast heavenly family that Jehovah could call upon to bear witness to the righteousness of his rulership. Billions of angels had already been benefiting for billions of years under God’s rule when Adam and Eve rebelled.
Based on Merriam-Webster, “to vindicate” means
- to show that (someone) should not be blamed for a crime, mistake, etc. : to show that (someone) is not guilty
- to show that (someone or something that has been criticized or doubted) is correct, true, or reasonable
The heavenly host could have provided the exculpatory evidence necessary to completely vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty at the time of the rebellion in Eden, were he to call on them to do so. There would be no further need for vindication. The only thing the devil had in his bag of tricks was the idea that humans were somehow different. Since they comprised a new creation, albeit still made in the image of God as were the angels, he could reason that they should be given the chance to try government independent from Jehovah.
Even if we accept this line of reasoning, all it means is that it was up to humans to vindicate – prove correct, true, reasonable – their idea of sovereignty. Our failure at self-rule has only served to further vindicate the sovereignty of God without him having to lift a finger.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty by destroying the wicked.
Above all, we rejoice because at Armageddon, Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty and he will sanctify his holy name. (w13 7/15 p. 6 par. 9)
We say that this is a moral issue. Yet, we claim it will be settled by force when Jehovah destroys everyone on the opposing side. This is worldly thinking. It is the idea that the last man standing must be right. It is not how Jehovah works. He does not destroy people to prove his point.
The Loyalty of God’s Servants
Our belief that the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty is central to the Bible’s theme is based on one additional passage. Some 2,000 years after the events in Eden, Satan alleged that the man, Job, was faithful to God only because God gave him everything he wanted. In essence, he was saying that Job only loved Jehovah for material gain. This was an attack on Jehovah’s character. Imagine telling a father that his children don’t love him; that they only make believe they love him for what they can get out of him. Since most children love their fathers, warts and all, you are implying that this father is not lovable.
Satan was slinging mud on God’s good name, and Job, by his faithful course and unwavering loyal love for Jehovah, cleaned it off. He sanctified God’s good name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses might argue that since God’s rule is based on love, this was also an attack on God’s way of ruling, on his sovereignty. Thus, they would say that Job both sanctified God’s name and vindicated His sovereignty. If that is valid, one must ask why the vindication of God’s sovereignty is never brought up in the Bible. If every time Christians sanctify God’s name by their conduct, they also vindicate his sovereignty, then why doesn’t the Bible mention that aspect? Why does it only focus on name sanctification?
Again, a witness will point to Proverbs 27:11 as proof:
“Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, So that I can make a reply to him who taunts me.” (Pr 27:11)
“To taunt” means to ridicule, mock, insult, deride. These are all things one does when one is slandering another. Devil means “slanderer”. This verse has to do with acting in a way that sanctifies God’s name by giving him cause to reply to the slanderer. Again, there is no reason to include vindicating his sovereignty in this application.
Why Do We Teach the Sovereignty Issue?
Teaching a doctrine not found in the Bible and claiming that it is the most important of all doctrines seems like a dangerous step to take. Is this simply a misstep by servants overeager to please their God? Or were there reasons that were outside the search for Bible truth? We all know that when starting off on a journey, a slight change of direction at the onset can lead to major deviation down the road. We can get so far off track that we become hopelessly lost.
So then, to what has this doctrinal teaching brought us? How does this teaching reflect on God’s good name? How has it affected the structure and leadership of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are we seeing rulership the way men do? Some have suggested that the best rulership is that of benign dictator. Is that essentially our view? Is it God’s? Do we view this topic as spiritual persons or as physical beings? God is love. Where does God’s love factor into all this.
The issue is not quite so simple as we paint it.
We will attempt to answer these questions, and to identify the Bible’s real theme in the next article.
 So it was a moral issue that had to be settled. (tr chap. 8 p. 67 par. 6)
[…] For more on this topic, see the articles Vindicating Jehovah’s Sovereignty and Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach the Vindication of Jehovah’s […]
[…] [i] To learn more about this topic, see “Vindicating Jehovah’s Sovereignty”. […]
I see God’s dealings in the garden of Eden from a parent’s viewpoint. It’s like the time when the children wish to ‘fly the coop’ because they can’t stand living with their parents any more. While all parents have made mistakes, the parents may be ‘vindicated’ in some instances because the children have realized how hard life is and, in certain cases, may handle a given situation just like their parents would have. The parents are thereby ‘vindicated’.
God is not a dictator. He gives mankind enough rope with which he can hang himself and almost has.
A good point, Richard.
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Correct wild O! The whole schematics of the way the Bible is read & interconnected would be comprimised 2 say the least. From the Genesis 3 prophecy forward. Theoretically, because only 2 entities ( the serpent & woman) are directly being addressed by God, notwithstanding the fact that only 1 woman was in existance @ the time, it becomes quite plausible that those 2 short verses of Gen 3:15, 16 takes on a whole new, more literal meaning.*Disclaimer* (Just a possible outcome, not a patented speculation …):)
A couple of weeks before this post, i ran this illustration past a friend of mine: If a teacher had 100 students in a class, told them all such rules as raise your hand before you speak, study for tests, & stay seated till the bell rings. Then a third of those students led by a rebellious 1, chooses 2 walk out because they dont like the rules. The teacher wouldnt waste the rest of the school yr trying 2 get the remaining students 2 vouch 4 the teacher having the right/authority or credentials 2 set up & enforce those… Read more »
@whereisenoch, yes how can Jehovah be the almighty sovreign when one of his rebel sons was able to manipulate him with a legal technicality? Hardly sovreignty ? And really what is the difference of God sitting back watching all his creation suffer at the hands of satan and not step in for the sake of sovreignty? How is that different from suffering in hell? It still makes God out to be a manaichal over lord who is obsessed with his reputation at the expense of his creation suffering? Yes once you think a bit the universal sovreignty is another misrepresentation… Read more »
Something else on the sovreignty issue.
If the overriding theme of scripture is not Jehovah’s sovreignty, then prophetic books like Ezekiel,Daniel and Revelation take on a completely new meaning ,if collecting and assisting heirs of the kingdom is the real theme of the bible,it all changes.
Mark1:14,15 “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the goods news of God. The time has come he said, The Kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe the good news!” Luke 4:43 “But he said, I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Acts 28:31 “He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!” John 3:3 “Jesus replied, Very truly I tell you, no one can see the… Read more »
Meleti, Thank you for this article which has got us all thinking. For those who have already exited the Organisation and those in the process of leaving, being able to “think” for ourselves rather than being controlled by the WT is vital in order to be able to see all the falsehoods we have been programmed to believe. It is possible to break the spell of the WT.
That’s always been the battle : truth vs lies (die or not die) ; the final battle in this ongoing war is Armageddon .. IF we think of the weapons Paul mentioned, it is obvious that this war is a spiritual one .. NOT against the world and it’s lies but against the lies against THE TRUTH : ‘I’m the road, the truth and the life. In the Scriptures there is no other truth or no other life: TRUE mankind is a healed one! Just now, it’s about whom the firstborn is going to be generated from: the Anointed One… Read more »
Satan wanted what belonged to Christ his inheritance.
Yes this sovreignty thing is another GB stuff up,it has forced them to say contradictory things such as Jehovah has always been sovreign but has had to step aside and let man run his futile race and then take up sovreignty again in a more complete way and say I told you so. Quite childish really. When I really studied Jobs account the question that kept coming into my mind was that if the whole incident involving Job was a precedent,then why doesn’t Jehovah deal with us the same way he dealt with Job? Why don’t we get to have… Read more »
And if the tree of knowledge of good and evil wasn’t about God’s rulership in the way JWs have been taught; but rather by making the choice to disobey God resulted in Adam and Eve “knowing” evil in the sense that they would now know sin, sickness, suffering and death. If that is the case, then it certainly shows us the ability and power that Satan has to “deceive” people, and salvation therefore depends on our obedience to God otherwise we too will be deceived.
It seems to me that satan has slandered gods character hence let your name be sanctified . However the battle for rulership seems to be between jesus and satan and in a lot of ways seems to be mostly about control of this world we live in . It seems satan does not want to be subject to god hence he is the resister . We have one son that wants to do the will of his father and one that does not .hence the prayer let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . The… Read more »
Reblogged this on agapeheartvisions.
According to the “Concise Oxford English Dictionary 11th edition”, the word, Vindicate: Clear of blame or suspicion, show to be right or justified. I simply don’t see how or why Yahweh would have to clear his name, or justify Himself in any way to beings, (including humans) that He created. Yahweh is ABOVE all. He is Almighty God. To be sure, the Most High’s word, the Bible shows his dealings with mankind and show Him to be loving, merciful and ALWAYS have our best interest in mind. I also do not believe that most rank and file witnesses really understand… Read more »
I find in this issue a staggering contradiction in the matter of “sovereignty” which you have alluded to but not spelled out explicitly. First, the quotation from the Truth book: “Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true.” Yet consider this passage further on in… Read more »
just a typo … the only firstborn in the Cain/Abel story was Abel, not Cain.
So if Satan wasn’t challenging God’s sovereignty, then when he told Eve they would be like God knowing good and evil and they would not die, did his statement have more meaning? Perhaps he was showing that being human just wasn’t good enough. If so then that lie has resulted in the fear of children being rejected by their Father/Creator, never being able to measure up, producing sibling rivalry and all the bad traits we see in people resulting the dysfunctional human family which has brought man to the brink of extinction. But, of course, as has been said, the… Read more »
Thanks for that meleti..I am starting to see why they would make a big issue of the point of god vindicating his soveriegnty . looking forward to part 2 and its going to be interesting to see if we have the same theory . Im sure we have . Kev
“My view has been for some time now that Satan is not the theme. And I do not see Satan is after sovereignty but he is jealous of Jesus.”
This has been my view also for awhile now, their is so much sibling revelry in the OT, I have also noticed that that heirs the oldest sons have usually always failed.
There is a lot more I could say about this but will leave it for now.
For years I have been struggling with the JW view on the theme of the bible: Vindicating Jehovah’s Sovereignty”. Like you indicated, there is not one shred of proof to be found in the scriptures to support this. And yes, I did accept this view at first too. Mostly because I did not bother to really read and form my own views first. Anyway, Satan is not challenging the sovereignty of the Father. Referring to the events described in Job, you can read that Satan asked permission and God allowed Satan to act but with a limitation. If Satan would… Read more »
And I, your poetry
find myself looking forward to your “sunday talks”