A local brother I just met at one of our Christian gatherings told me that he had exchanged emails with Raymond Franz before he died in 2010.  I asked him if he would be so kind to share them with me and allow me to share them with all of you.  This is the first one he sent along.  His initial email was to the info@commentarypress.com address, which he was unsure was the direct line to Raymond or not.

I’ve attached the body of Kevin’s email followed by Raymond’s response. I’ve taken the liberty to reformat for readability and correct a few spelling mistakes, but other than that, the text is unaltered.

Your brother in Christ,

Meleti Vivlon

Initial email:

I have read the Crisis book and am now reading the Freedom book and I am now thanking God that I have them. I left the org in 1975 at 19 years old but my parents now 86 & 87 are still are devout. They also have brought my sister back after over 30 years of inactivity. You see I was not baptized so they still treat me mostly the same. I would love to write to Raymond Franz if the is some way to thank him for the yoke of guilt that has been lifted from me. 30 years of “why don’t you take a stand?”. I feel I just have to thank Mr. Franz that I am now able to thank both God and Jesus for my new found freedom.

Sincerely, Kevin

Raymond’s Response

From: Commentary Press [mailto:info@commentarypress.com]
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2005 4:44 PM
To: Eastown
Subject: <no subject>

Dear Kevin,

I received your message and thank you for it.  I am happy that you found the books of some assistance to you.

As of May 8, I am 83 and in the year 2000, I suffered what was diagnosed as a moderate stroke. No paralysis resulted, but it left me tired and with a reduced energy level.  So, I am not able to keep up with correspondence as I would like.  Crisis of Conscience is now in 13 languages, which brings in more mail.  My wife’s health has undergone some serious problems as well, requiring the giving of time in that direction. Cynthia underwent a heart catheterization process which revealed six blockages in her heart.  The doctors wanted to do bypass surgery but she opted not to do so. On September 10, I underwent a surgical operation on my left carotid artery (one of the main arteries supplying blood to the brain).  It took an hour and a half, and I was conscious during the operation since only a local anesthesia was applied. The surgeon made about a 5-inch incision in the neck and then opened the artery and cleared out the blockage in it.  My right carotid artery became totally blocked causing the stroke in the year 2000 and thus it was important to keep the left open and free of blockage.  I only had to spend one night in the hospital, for which I was grateful.  Now I have undergone a test of a nodule on my thyroid gland to determine if it is benign or malignant, and the results indicate it is not presently a problem.  The popular use of the term “golden years” certainly does not describe what old age really brings, but Ecclesiastes chapter 12 gives a realistic picture.

Many who write have expressed recognition that bitterness and anger only take away credibility from any discussion of the Witnesses.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the books and material put out by “ex-JW” sources on the subject are almost entirely negative. A man from England recently wrote:

I’m currently an “active” Witness from England, and I just wanted to say how absolutely relieved I was to read your books (Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom). I must confess, reading them was nothing like I expected. My only contact with ex-JWs has been through browsing the net, and to be honest, a lot of what’s written doesn’t merit much by way of consideration. A lot of sites are so absolutely blinded by bitterness that even the truth they do provide is soured and unpalatable.

I can sympathize with the adjustment you and others face.  One invests so much as regards relationships and the seemingly unavoidable loss of many of these is painful. As you evidently recognize, simply withdrawing from a system that one has found to be seriously flawed is not a solution in itself.  It is what one does thereafter that determines whether there has been progress and benefit or not. It is also true that any transition—even if only one in outlook—can require not only time but also mental and emotional adjustments.  Haste is obviously not advisable as it often only leads to new problems or to new errors. There is always need to exercise patience, trusting in God’s help and direction. – Proverbs 19:2.

It seems, however, that we can often learn as much from the “unpleasant” experiences of life as we can from the pleasurable ones—perhaps more that is of lasting value.  While separation from a large organization and former associates unquestionably produces a degree of loneliness, even that can have its beneficial aspects.  It can bring home to us more than ever before the need for full reliance on our heavenly Father; that only in Him have we genuine security and the confidence of his care.  It is no longer a case of flowing along with the stream but of developing a personal inner strength, gained through faith, of growing up so as to no longer be children but grown men and women; a growth achieved through our growth in love for God’s Son and the way of life he exemplified.  (Ephesians 4:13-16)

I don’t view my past experience as all loss, nor feel that I learned nothing from it.  I find great comfort in the words of Paul at Romans 8:28 (the New World Translation changes the meaning of this text by inserting the word “his” in the expression “all his works” but this is not the way the original Greek text reads).  According to a number of translations, Paul states:

“We know that by turning everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love him.” – Jerusalem Bible translation.

Not just in “his works” but in “all things” or in “everything”, God is able to turn any circumstance—however painful or, in some cases, even tragic—to the good of those who love him.  At the time, we may well find this difficult to believe, but if we turn to him in full faith and allow him to do so, he can and will cause that to be the result.  He can make us the better person for having had the experience, enrich us in spite of the sorrow we may undergo.  Time will demonstrate this to be so and that hope can give us courage to continue on, trusting in his love.

You will find that many of what are called “ex-JW ministries; have often simply exchanged their previous beliefs for what is known as “orthodoxy.”  Orthodoxy undoubtedly contains its measure of what is sound.  But it also contains elements that are the result of imposition of religious authority, rather than belief clearly set forth in Scripture.   It is difficult, for example, to find any reputable reference work that does not acknowledge the post-Biblical origin of the Trinity doctrine.  I feel that the main problem with the Trinity doctrine is the dogmatism and judgmentalism that customarily accompanies it.  That to me is but another evidence of the fragility of its foundation.  Were it clearly taught in Scripture, there would be no need for authoritarian imposition of the teaching and heavy pressure to submit to it.

So many former Witnesses are at a disadvantage when pressured by others to conform to views these have adopted.  Dogmatic assertions from sources that claim to base their arguments on knowledge of Biblical Greek often awe former Witnesses—even as they were previously awed by claims of a similar nature from the Watch Tower organization. So many points could be clarified if people were simply to read the same text in a variety of translations.  They would then at least see that where translation is concerned, dogmatism is greater evidence of ignorance than of learning.  I find this to be the case with many who adopt the Trinity doctrine.

Paul stressed that knowledge has merit only when it is expressive of, and productive of, love; that while knowledge often puffs up, love builds up.  Human language, remarkable though it is, is limited to expressing what relates to the human sphere.  It could never adequately be used to describe in detail and fullness things of the spirit realm, such as the exact nature of God, the process whereby He could beget a Son, the relationship resulting from such begettal, and similar matters.  At the very least, it would take the language of angels, themselves spirit persons, to do this.  Yet Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”—1 Corinthians 8:1; 13:1-3.

When I listen to some harp on a particular doctrine which professes to express in specific terms things which the Scriptures state in general terms, to set out explicitly things on which the Scriptures are not explicit, and define what the Scriptures leave undefined, I ask myself how much love this shows?  What loving benefit they think results from this? How it could possibly be of comparable benefit to discussing something that is presented straightforwardly and unambiguously in Scripture and the appreciation of which would have real meaning and benefit in the person’s life?  I’m afraid much of what many hear carries echoes of the noisy gong and clashing cymbal.

It reminds me of a statement found in the book, The Myth of Certainty, in which university professor Daniel Taylor writes:

The primary goal of all institutions and subcultures is self-preservation. Preserving the faith is central to God’s plan for human history; preserving particular religious institutions is not. Do not expect those who run the institutions to be sensitive to the difference. God needs no particular person, church, denomination, creed or organization to accomplish his purpose. He will make use of those, in all their diversity, who are ready to be used, but will leave to themselves those who labor for their own ends.

Nonetheless, questioning the institutions is synonymous, for many, with attacking God—something not long to be tolerated.  Supposedly they are protecting God . . .  Actually, they are protecting themselves, their view of the world, and their sense of security. The religious institution has given them meaning, a sense of purpose, and, in some cases, careers. Anyone perceived as a threat to these things is a threat indeed.

This threat is often met, or suppressed even before it arises, with power….  Institutions express their power most clearly by enunciating, interpreting and enforcing the rules of the subculture.

Having seen the truth of this in the Witness religion and its organization and creed, we should not nearsightedly fail to realize how equally true it is in the larger religious field.

As regards association and fellowship, I recognize the dilemma some face.  But I do feel that as time goes on one can find others whose association and companionship can be healthful and upbuilding, whether among former Witnesses or others.  In one’s daily course of life one meets a variety of people and over a period of time may find at least some whose association is healthful and upbuilding.  We get together with others for Bible discussion and though our group is quite small, we find it satisfying.  Naturally, there is a certain benefit to similarity of background, but it doesn’t seem as if this should be a major goal.  I personally have no interest in affiliating with a denomination.  Some have expressed that most denominations have more in common than the points on which they disagree, which has some truth in it.  Yet they still prefer to remain as separate denominations and affiliation with any of them does have at least some divisive effect, since one is expected to uphold and favor the growth and distinctive teachings of the denomination involved.

In a recent letter from Canada a brother writes:

I have started witnessing informally to people who have Bible questions or when I see it is an appropriate time to witness.  I offer a free discussion on the Bible, its theme concerning Jesus and the Kingdom, the main divisions and how to study it to profit personally.  No obligations, no church, no religion, just a Bible discussion.  I do not associate with any group and do not feel the need to really.  I also do not give personal opinions wherever the Scriptures are not clear or are a decision of conscience.  However, I do feel the need to let folks know that the Bible’s way is the only way to live and freedom, true freedom, comes through knowing Jesus Christ.  On occasion I see myself saying things that must be verified for the correct understanding, but I at least feel I know the basics to help someone profit from a personal study of the Bible.  It takes a long time to get out of the woods, and I sometimes ask myself if total eradication of WT influence is possible.  When it has been a part of your adult life for so long, you still find yourself thinking a certain way and then realize it is learned thoughts, not logically thought out sometimes.  There are some things you want to hold on to of course, but their programming gets in the way more often than you would like to believe.  

I hope that things may go well for you and wish you God’s guidance, comfort and strength as you face up to life’s problems.  Where are you living now?

Sincerely,

Ray