[From ws2/18 p. 18 – April 16 – April 22]
“May [God] grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5
In summary, this is another shallow examination of the Scriptures using eisegesis (having one’s own prepared interpretation and looking for support in the Scriptures for this however slim and out of context.)
As an extreme example, let us assume (very wrongly of course) for one moment that we wanted to prove Jesus was not humble and instead was proud. How could we support our erroneous idea? What about when Jesus was tempted by the Devil? We could quote Matthew 4:8-10 and say the following “Here Satan wanted a small favour in exchange for an extraordinary gift, something that Jesus’ Father had promised would one day be his. So instead of pleasing Satan, Jesus proudly refused and told him to “Go away”. “
Now we know that this is contrary to the rest of scripture and doesn’t even agree with the rest of the context, but everything above in quotes is accurate except for one word “proud” which is my eisegetical addition for the sake of illustration.
So now let us examine the following:
- Would we consider Noah a spiritual person? Yes. Why? Because Genesis 6:8-9,22 says Noah found favour in God’s eyes, was righteous and did all that God commanded him. The account in Genesis does not mention preaching, rather it focuses on his making of the Ark. 2 Peter 2:5 is often used to try and prove Noah was a preacher, however, it is interesting that God’s Word Translation says, “Noah was his [God’s] messenger who told people about the kind of life that has God’s approval.” This understanding fits well with the account in Genesis.
- Would we consider Abraham was a spiritual person? Yes. Why? James 2:14-26 discussing faith and works highlights, among others, Abraham as a righteous man due to his faith and works. Did Abraham preach? There is no record of him doing so. But Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that some faithful ones of old,unknown to them, entertained angels. In other words, they were hospitable even if they put their own family in danger as a result (e.g. Lot).
- Would we consider Daniel was a spiritual person? Yes. Why? According to Daniel 10:11-12, he was a highly desirable man to Jehovah, because he gave his heart to understanding and humbled himself before God. Also Ezekiel 14:14 links Noah, Daniel and Job as righteous people. But did he do God’s will as a door-to-door preacher? The answer is no!
There are many others we could mention. What was the commonality among them? They did God’s will as they were directed by Him, and put their faith in Him.
So in the light of these faithful examples, how would you understand the following statement? “Are we like Jesus, ever ready to show compassionate concern when we meet people who need help? In addition, Jesus devoted himself to the work of preaching and teaching the good news. (Luke 4:43) All such feelings and actions are marks of a spiritual person.” (Paragraph 12)
Did you notice the eisegetical conclusion? I am sure you would agree that it was the last sentence. We have just established by exegetical study (letting the Bible interpret itself) that what defines whether one is a spiritual person is doing God’s will, not whether one preaches or not. Both statements about Jesus are true but the conclusion is unsupported. To reason on this, all three faithful ones of old we considered (and we could have considered more with the same conclusion) are ones we all would consider as spiritual people, yet by the standards set in this article when discussing Jesus, no faithful ones before Jesus and his disciples would be counted spiritual since they did not preach. That clearly doesn’t make sense in the light of how Jehovah viewed:
- Noah (faultless among his contemporaries),
- Abraham (uniquely called God’s friend),
- Job (no one like him in the earth, blameless and upright),
- and Daniel (a very desirable man).
To illustrate: an ambassador follows the instructions of his country. If he does so, he would be considered loyal. Now, if he acted on his own ideas, he could potentially be disavowed and removed from his post as disloyal. He is considered loyal because he follows the will of his government which is the will of his country. So likewise “as ambassadors substituting for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) we would be spiritually minded if we follow the will of the Christ as he in turn follows the will of his and our Father. (Matthew 7:21, John 6:40, Matthew 12:50, John 12:49, 50)
There is no dispute that in the first century, Jesus gave his disciples a commission to preach. On this site we have discussed Matthew 24 in a video. By careful exegetical study we are able to establish that the sign of the preaching work was fulfilled in the first century, and there is no basis for projecting it to any future time period. (Mt 24:14) Furthermore the preaching work served to save those Jews who listened to the Good News of the Kingdom because, in putting their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, they also were able to heed his advice to flee from Jerusalem and Judea to Pella when the Romans all but annihilated the Jews in 70 CE. Whether or not we today are under that same commission to preach is a discussion for another day.
The article attempts to answer the following 3 questions:”
- What does it mean to be a spiritual person?
- What examples will help us to progress in our spirituality?
- How will our effort to have “the mind of Christ” help us to be spiritual people?”
So how does the article answer the first question?
In paragraph 3, we are encouraged to read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. But we would also encourage you to read the context particularly 1 Corinthians 2:11-13. These earlier verses indicate that they needed the spirit of God to be upon them to be spiritual, combining spiritual matters and spiritual words. God does not put his spirit on those without the right heart condition. Luke 11:13 reminds us “the Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him!” We would have to ask in humility and with a repentant heart. John 3:1-8 confirms this when it says, “What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit”, and that “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
“On the other hand, “the spiritual man” is someone who “examines all things” and who has “the mind of Christ.” (Paragraph 3)
This is the real crux of the matter: Unless we “examine all things” as to whether they are true or not, we may well be teaching others another sort of good news from the one that Christ taught. That would mean we would have forsaken the mind of Christ. How many Witnesses have ever truly examined all things for themselves? Or have the majority done like most of us did (including myself) and gullibly allowed others to claim they had examined all things on our behalf, trusting them?
“Similarly, someone who keenly values spiritual or religious interests is called spiritually-minded” (Paragraph 7)
This being the case, why is anyone who lessens their commitment to the Organization or leaves it called ‘spiritually weak’? Now that may be the case with some currently leaving because they have been stumbled and lost their faith or had their faith in God weakened as a result of the abuse of authority. However, many are leaving because they are spiritually stronger, having done for themselves what the Organization now recommends (and the Scriptures have always recommended): Examined many things for themselves using only the Bible. In doing so, they have realised there is a serious disconnect between what we once believed was the truth and what the Bible really teaches. Additionally, there is also a disconnect between what is taught by both the Bible and the Organization and the actual practices of the Organization.
Paragraph 10 discusses the example of Jacob saying “He obviously put faith in Jehovah’s promises to him and his forefathers and wanted to act in harmony with God’s will and purpose”. This confirms our scripturally based conclusion above that a spiritual person is one that strives to do God’s will, rather than the Organization’s artificial goals.
Similarly, when discussing Mary in the following paragraph, it says, ”Both of them [Mary and Joseph] were more concerned with Jehovah’s will than with satisfying their personal desires.”
Likewise, when discussing Jesus in paragraph 12, it states “Throughout his life and ministry, he showed that he wanted to imitate his Father, Jehovah. He thought, felt and acted like Jehovah and lived in harmony with God’s will and standards. (John 8:29, John 14:9, John 15:10)”
After a paragraph each of discussing Jacob, Mary and Jesus (yes, only 1 paragraph for the Son of God—on a par with Jacob and Mary) we are treated to two paragraphs of unverifiable “experiences” of how two individuals “became more spiritual”. One by changing her “immodest dress” and the other by giving up “hopes of further education and good employment”. Dressing modestly is a scriptural principle, to be sure, but it trivializes spirituality to focus on such a minor aspect. Indeed, many people dress modestly, but are anything but spiritual. As for how rejecting “further education and good employment” equates to being spiritual, we can only say this is a puzzle, because the Bible makes no mention of that requirement.
The last 3 paragraphs (15-18) try to help us “have the mind of Christ”. So out of 18 paragraphs only 4 even discuss Jesus’ example.
“to be like Christ, we need to know his pattern of thinking and the full range of his personality. Then we need to follow in his footsteps. Jesus’ mind is focused on his relationship with God. So being like Jesus makes us more like Jehovah. For these reasons, it becomes clear how important it is to learn to think as Jesus does.” (Paragraph 15)
We hear so much about being provided with the right spiritual food at the right time. Is this the best they can do? The provisions seem to be totally lacking in substance and more like water or skimmed milk. What if, in this quote, you replaced Jesus with Dad and Jehovah with Granddad. Then even a five-year-old could write something almost identical. ‘To be like my dad, I need to get him to tell me what he thinks about and what he does. Then I can copy him. Dad copies his dad. So if I copy dad, then I am like Granddad. Dad wants me to learn to be like him.’
Hardly a glowing endorsement for an Organization claiming to be the only channel of communication from God.
The next paragraph follows up with yet more simplistic statements. “By reading and meditating on the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we expose our mind to Christ’s mind. We thus can “follow his steps closely” and “arm [ourselves] with the same mental disposition” as Christ had.—1 Peter 2:21; 4:1.”
Not that we would want to follow Hitler’s mind, far from it, but it is like saying ‘By reading and meditating on ‘Mein Kampf’ we expose our mind to Hitler’s mind. We thus can follow his steps closely and arm ourselves with the same mental disposition as Hitler did.’
The implication of those simplistic statements is, just read the gospels (after working, household chores, and all the Organization requirements, ministry, meetings, hall cleaning and maintenance, assembly preparation, assignments, publications, and meditate on in the two minutes before you fall asleep with exhaustion) and you will be able to have the same mind as Christ. Simple, or is it the opposite?
Even our fictitious 5-year-old would know better than that. If you have kids why not suggest they try and copy something you do—like washing up, cleaning the car, pushing the shopping cart? Very soon they will say, Daddy, it’s too hard for me. Can you do it?
We, as adults, know how difficult it is to change a personality trait even when we want to. We might want to lose weight, but we don’t want to give up the food and drink that we enjoy so much. So where is the help to have the mind of Christ? It seems to have gone absent.
Finally paragraph 18 says “We have considered what it means to be a spiritual person.” Has the article really considered what it means to be a spiritual person? From the Organization’s view maybe, but not the Scriptures.
“We have also seen that we can learn from good examples of spiritual people.”
Yes, we can learn from spiritual people. But, if we follow the example of those who are spiritual as this article defines spirituality and become like them, have we really achieved spirituality? Or are we merely conforming to a code of conduct that gives the illusion of spirituality? The Bible speaks of those “having a form of godly devotion”, and then exhorts us, “from these turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5) In other words, we should not imitate those displaying a counterfeit spirituality.
“Finally, we have learned how having “the mind of Christ” helps us to grow as a spiritual person.”
We were told it would help us, but we didn’t learn how because no-one demonstrated how, or explained how.
Overall an article that comes over as volume over substance, with very little of use even as a feel-good factor.