[From ws15/09 for Nov 16-22]
“See what sort of love the Father has given us!” – 1 John 3:1
Before we begin our review, let’s do a little experiment. If you have the Watchtower Library on CD-ROM, open it and double-click on “All Publications” in the left panel. Below that, under “Section”, double-click on Bibles. Now double-click on “Bible Navigation” and select 1 John 3:1. Once you have that displayed, select the words of the theme text: “See what sort of love the Father has given us”. Right-click and select “Copy with Caption”, then open your favorite word processor or text editor and paste in the text.
Depending on your preference settings, you should see something like this:
“. . .See what sort of love the Father has given us. . .” (1Jo 3:1)
Do you notice a discrepancy between what you’ve just pasted and what is placed as our theme text?
The ellipsis (…) is a grammatical element used to denote missing text in a quotation. In this case, the first ellipsis indicates I failed to include the “3” of the chapter in my selection. The second ellipsis indicates I failed to include these words: “that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. That is why the world does not know us, because it has not come to know him.”
It is the prerogative of the writer to leave out words from a quotation, but it is not his prerogative to hide that fact from you. Doing so might be simply a matter of sloppy technique and poor editing, or depending on the circumstances, it could actually amount to intellectual dishonestly. It could also be that the writer is unaware of this grammatical element and its use, but such is not the case here. A quick scan of the theme text from last week’s study shows that the writers know how and why the ellipsis is used.
By omitting the ellipsis in this week’s theme text and ending the quote with an exclamation point, the writer is giving us to understand that this is a complete thought—the full contents of 1 John 3:1. Nothing more is said. One might excuse this as something other than a ploy were the entire text reproduced elsewhere in the article, or were we required to read it as part of the Watchtower Study’s mandated “Read” texts. Such is not the case.
Those of us who are still quick to jump to the defence of the Organization might suggest this is merely a typographical error, a simple oversight, or as we are wont to say, “the mistakes of imperfect men.” However, we have been told by these same imperfect men that great care is exercised to ensure the accuracy of everything that goes into our publications and that the study articles in particular are extensively scrutinized. These are reviewed by all members of the Governing Body prior to their approval. Then they are scanned and proofread by dozens of individuals before being released to the translators who number in the hundreds. Additionally, the translators can and do catch errors which are reported back to the writing department. In short, there is virtually no possibility for an oversight like this to go unnoticed. We must therefore conclude it was done intentionally.
So what of it? Is this much ado about nothing? How important can it really be that an ellipsis was omitted?
The Missing Message
Before answering those questions, we need to realize that the whole point of the article is expressed in its title: “How Does Jehovah Show His Love for Us?” Since the theme text supports this titular theme, there can only be one of two reasons for leaving out words from the theme text: 1) They are not relevant to the theme or 2) they would contradict what the writer wants to teach us.
In the first case, there would be no reason to leave out the ellipsis. The writer has nothing to hide and it serves him to demonstrate that by including the ellipsis. This is not the case in the second instance where the writer doesn’t want us to be aware of Bible truths that might contradict his message to us.
Given that we are now aware there is something there, let’s see what John has to say.
“See what sort of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. That is why the world does not know us, because it has not come to know him. 2 Beloved ones, we are now children of God, but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be. We do know that when he is made manifest we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.” (1Jo 3:1, 2)
John’s message is simple; yet at the same time, it is powerful and wonderful. God’s love is expressed to us in that he calls us to be His children. John says that we are now his children. All this indicates that this is a changed state for us. We were once not his children, but he has called us out of the world and now we are. It is this special calling to become God’s children that is in and of itself the answer to John’s challenge: “See what sort of love the Father has given us….”
The Article’s Message
With such a marvelous and encouraging message to transmit, it might seem baffling that the article’s writer should go out of his way to hide it from us. To discern why, we must understand the doctrinal burden he is saddled with.
“Although Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice….”
(w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7 “One Jehovah” Gathers His Family)
Throughout the Christian Scriptures, the unifying message is that Christians become children of God. There is no call for us to be God’s friends. The writer can only work with what is there; and what is there are repeated references to the “children of God”, with not a single one to the “friends of God”. The challenge therefore is how to turn the “other sheep…friends” into sons while continuing to deny them the inheritance that accrues to sons. (Ro 8:14-17)
The writer attempts to meet this challenge by misrepresenting the father/son relationship as it pertains to Christians. Next, to avoid focusing on the outstanding way God’s love is given to us—as John explains—the writer focuses on four lesser ways: 1) By teaching us truth; 2) by counselling us; 3) by disciplining us; 4) by protecting us.
“Yet, your feelings about God’s love for you might be affected by your upbringing and background.” – par. 2
An ironic statement to be sure, since this is precisely what has happened to all of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I know that my upbringing and background as a Witness trained from infancy was that God’s love for me differed from the love he gave to “the anointed.” I accepted that I was a second class citizen. Still loved, yes, but not as a son; only as a friend.
When Is a Son, not a Son?
A bastard is an illegitimate child. Unwanted and rejected by his father, he is a son only in the biological sense. Then there are sons who have been disinherited, thrown out of the family; usually for conduct that disgraces the family name. Adam was such a son. He was disinherited, denied the everlasting life that is the divine right of all God’s children, angelic or human.
The writer of the article would have us overlook this fact and pretend we are still God’s children by the genetic inheritance that comes with having Adam, the only man created directly by God, as our biological father.
“In what ways, then, does Jehovah love us? The answer to that question lies in understanding the basic relationship between Jehovah God and us. Jehovah, of course, is the Creator of all humans. (Read Psalm 100:3-5) That is why the Bible calls Adam a “son of God,” and Jesus taught his followers to address God as “our Father in the heavens.” (Luke 3:38; Matt. 6:9) Being the Life-Giver, Jehovah is our Father; the relationship between him and us is that of a father to his children. Simply put, Jehovah loves us the way a devoted father loves his children. – par. 3
Psalm 100:3-5 is used to prove that “Jehovah, of course, is the Creator of all humans.” That is incorrect. This Psalm refers to the making of the nation of Israel, not humanity. That is plainly evident from its context. The fact is Jehovah created the first man from the dust of the ground. The first woman was developed by using the genetic material of the first man. All other humans have come by means of a process that God created. It is that process, known as procreation, by which you and I came to be. In this we are no different from the animals. To say that I am God’s son like Adam because Jehovah created me, means that Jehovah is continuing to create flawed, sinful humans. All of God’s works are good, but I am not good. Good for nothing, perhaps, but clearly not good. Therefore, God did not create me; I was not born as a son of God.
The argument that we are his children and he is our father based on the fact that he made Adam ignores several significant Bible truths, not least of which is that no human was conceived while Adam and Eve were still God’s children. Only after they were thrown out of the garden, disinherited, and separated from the family of God did the family of humankind come into being.
The writer would have us accept that Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:9 apply to us because God created Adam and we are Adam’s descendants. The writer would have us overlook the fact that everybody on earth is a descendant of Adam. By this logic, Jesus words apply to all humanity. Well then, if we are all his sons, why does Paul speak of being adopted?
“For YOU did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but YOU received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Ro 8:15, 16)
A father doesn’t adopt his own children. That’s just plain silly. He adopts those who are not his children, and through the adoption process, they become his children. As a result, they become his heirs.
“If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (Ro 8:17)
This is what Jesus meant when he told his followers to pray, “Our Father in the heavens….” This type of Father/son relationship hadn’t existed till then. We do not find King David, or Solomon, or Abraham, Moses, or Daniel addressing Jehovah in prayer as Father. That only comes into being in the time of Christ.
Thus, I too was born as a spiritual orphan, fatherless and alienated from God. Only my faith in Jesus grants me the authority to be called a child of God, and only the holy spirit which comes by being born again has allowed me to be adopted back into God’s family. For me this realization came very late in life, but I’m thankful to the Father of tender mercies and comfort that he called me. This truly is the sort of love that God had given us. (John 1:12; 3:3; Ro 8:15; 2Co 1:3; 1 John 3:1)
Failing to Make the Point
The article stumbles on, going from one piece of bad logic to another. In paragraph 5 it tries to instruct us that Jehovah is a loving Father who provides by using the example of Paul’s discourse to the Athenians. Paul became all things to all men so that he might win some over. (1Co 9:22) In this instance, he was reasoning with pagans and using their own philosophy to bring them around to the Christian concept of being children of God. His message—in contrast to that of Jehovah’s Witnesses—was that his listeners could become adopted children of God. However, by taking Paul’s reasoning to pagan Athenians and applying it to the Christian congregation, the article’s writer is making us equivalent to pagans and non-Christians. The love he shows us is the same love that he shows to all wayward mankind. What then is the difference between Christian and Muslim, of Jew, or Hindu, of even atheist? Putting faith in Christ becomes irrelevant because all humans are already God’s children by virtue of being descendants of Adam. The only way we can still reconcile this with the truths the apostle John expresses at John 1:12 and 1 John 3:1 is to imagine two type or degrees of sonship. To quote Charlie Chan, the writer would have us accept the idea of a “Number 1 Son” and a “Number 2 Son.”[i]
The writer continues in this vein by using Psalm 115:15, 16. Perhaps he is basing his research on a simple word search, grabbing any text that contains the words “Jehovah” and “sons”, thinking this proves his point. Yes, the earth was a loving provision given to Adam and Eve. However, they brought ruin to it, as have we. The writer should have read on in the third chapter of 1 John to verse 10 where it speaks of the children of the Devil. All the sons of men possess the earth, but not all the “sons of men” are sons of God. In fact, the majority will be treated as sons of Satan. (Mt 7:13, 14; Re 20:8, 9)
The earth is truly a wonderful provision from a loving Father. It was given to Adam and will be returned to a state of grace by God’s Kingdom. All those who choose to rejoin God’s family will again enjoy what Adam and Eve threw away. That is easily established by a study of Scripture. However, the Organization seems intent on going beyond what is written. It’s not enough that God has given us this wonderful planet. We have to believe it is unique, one of a kind. Like the Catholics of old, the Organization wants to put the earth at the center of the inhabitable universe.
The scientific support for this conclusion is as follows:
“Scientists have spent vast amounts of money on space explorations to find other earthlike planets. Although hundreds of planets have been identified, scientists are disappointed that not one of those planets has the intricate balance of conditions that makes human life possible, as the earth does. The earth appears to be unique among all of God’s creation.” – par. 6
Scientists have searched nearby star systems and to date have confirmed 1,905 exoplanets. Of course, these are planets large enough to be detected. Comparatively tiny planets like earth are next to impossible to detect. So there very well may be an earth-like planet orbiting one of these systems, but as yet its presence is beyond our ability to detect. Be that as it may, it seems that planetary systems are the norm. Therefore, with 100 billion stars in our galaxy and hundreds of billions of galaxies out there, claiming that current findings appear to indicate the earth is unique is like saying that after exploring the beach outside your bungalow and finding 2,000 seashells, but not one that was blue, it appears there are no blue seashells in all the world. (Not a perfect analogy as there are far more stars in the heavens than there are seashells on all the beaches in all the world.)
Perhaps there is no other inhabitable planet in the cosmos; or perhaps there are thousands, even millions. Perhaps Jehovah only terraformed one planet for intelligent life; or perhaps there are many more. Perhaps we were the first; or perhaps we’re just another one in a long line. It’s all speculation and proves nothing one way or the other regarding Jehovah’s love. So why is the writer wasting our time and insulting our intelligence with fruitless speculation and silly science?
In paragraph 8 we are again dipping our toe into the irony pool with this statement:
“Fathers love their children and want to protect them from being misled or deceived. Many parents, however, are unable to offer their children proper guidance because they themselves have rejected the standards found in God’s Word. The result is often confusion and frustration.”
Would the standards found in God’s Word whose rejection leads to confusion and frustration include the injunction against following commands of men as doctrines? (Mt 15:8)
Next, we are told that Jehovah, on the other hand, is “the God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5) He loves his children and delights in letting his light of truth shine forth to guide them in every aspect of their life, particularly in matters of worship. (Read Psalm 43:3.) What truth has Jehovah revealed, and how does this show that he loves us? – par. 8
This statement is true as long as one divorces it from the context of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that is not the writer’s intention. It is his hope that the readers will overlook the fact that the organization, while claiming to be the channel for revealed truth, has misled us time and again about many Scriptural and prophetic matters. If we are to accept what paragraph 8 states as true of God, then Jehovah isn’t such a good father after all. Of course, that simply cannot be. Therefore, we have to acknowledge that he isn’t using this organization to care for his spirit anointed sons.
We cannot have it both ways.
Further evidence of this is provided unwittingly in the next study paragraph.
“He is like a father who is not only strong and wise but also fair and loving, making it easy for his children to have a close personal relationship with him.”
How does Jehovah make it easy for his children to have a close personal relationship with him?
“Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If YOU men had known me, YOU would have known my Father also; from this moment on YOU know him and have seen him.’” (Joh 14:6, 7)
“For ‘who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, so that he may instruct him?’ But we do have the mind of Christ.” (1Co 2:16)
If JW.ORG is the way Jehovah is using to draw us to him as his children, why was the writer not moved by the spirit to make reference in this article to Jesus as the only way to accomplish that relationship? Not a single mention of this is to be found in this entire article. How very telling!
Jehovah Counsels and Disciplines
Paragraphs 12 through 14 make no practical application of the points that are laid out. However, the implication is that the counsel and discipline from God is directed to us through the elders. Therefore, we should listen to them as we would to Jehovah and when disciplined by them, respond as we would to Jehovah’s discipline. The problem with this is that when an individual has stopped sinning and has repented, Jehovah does not wait for a year before deigning to permit the individual back into fellowship. He does not execute sentences of 12, 18, and 24 months on individuals just to be sure they are truly repentant.
The Scriptural points from these three paragraphs are valid, but it is in their practical application within the organization that fall short of God’s love.
Misapplying the Principle of Fatherly Protection
Paragraph 16 gives a misleading example:
“In our day as well, Jehovah’s hand is not short. A headquarters representative who visited a branch in Africa reported that political and religious conflicts had devastated that country. Fighting, looting, raping, and killing plunged the land into chaos and anarchy. Yet, none of our brothers and sisters lost their life in that case, even though many of them lost all their belongings and their livelihood. When asked how they were faring, everyone, with a broad smile, answered: “All is well, thanks to Jehovah!” They felt God’s love for them.”
What will most infer from this? Will they not conclude that Jehovah protects us in such circumstances?
Not long ago a busload of Bethelites was returning to Kenya from a Bethel dedication in a neighboring country. They were in an accident and some died while others were seriously injured. Where was Jehovah’s protection then? On December 1, 2012 in Miami, there was a fatal crash involving a bus carrying Jehovah’s Witnesses to an assembly. Twenty died in another accident in Nigeria. Eleven died and forty five were injured in yet another crash in Honduras. On February 21, 2012, twenty-nine Jehovah’s Witnesses died a bus crash in Quito, Ecuador. There were many who died in the Philippines during the recent typhoon there.
Why were all the brothers in this unnamed branch in Africa worthy of Jehovah’s protection, while these others were not? Is the writer misleading us into thinking we get some type of special protect as Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, why?
Statements such as this in paragraph 16 do create a false belief in how Jehovah protects his people. The Organization bears some responsibility for the consequences, though it is unwilling to assume any. For example, in Colombia in 1987 thousands died in a mudslide when a volcano erupted.
“Right on schedule, though, Nevado del Ruiz blew its top on the night of November 13, 1985. More than 20,000 people lost their lives in Armero, and there were thousands of victims from Chinchiná and other nearby towns. Among those who died in Armero were 41 of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their associates. Some inadvisably had fled to the Kingdom Hall, which was on lower ground. They were swept away and entombed with it. Happily, other Witnesses were able to flee to higher ground and were saved.” (w87 12/15 p. 24 Ignoring Warnings and Testing God)
Assertions based on anecdotal evidence such as what happened to our brothers in the aforementioned African nation only serve to bolster the belief in divine intervention in times of trouble. It is therefore highly objectionable when the Organization criticizes individuals whose decision was swayed by years of such indoctrination resulting in a tragic choice. To accuse such ones, after the fact, of ignoring warnings and testing God, while being unwilling to shoulder any responsibility whatsoever, is quite reprehensible.
One Final Misapplication
Under the subtitle “A Grand Privilege”, the article closes by again referring to 1 John 3:1, and reprinting its misleading quote as a full sentence, it ignores John’s point altogether and misappropriates the text for its own purposes:
“To comprehend and experience Jehovah’s love for us is one of the grandest privileges and blessings that we can have today. As was the apostle John, we are moved to declare: “See what sort of love the Father has given us!”—1 John 3:1.” – par. 18
Thus the grand privilege is to understand (as explained by the publications) and to experience (within the framework of the Organization) Jehovah’s love. Yet, is it not a far grander privilege to be called by God himself to be one of his children?
It is loving to hide that fact from the reader?
[i] My apologies to all the Generation Xers and Millennials for this reference, but you guys are all proficient with the internet so I trust you’ll just google it.