How I Answered a Jehovah’s Witness Couple

kingdom-hall-signI have prayed a long time for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to find my apartment, which is sort of hidden from the road. They found me, and so a married couple came to my house recently to discuss their Watchtower theology with my wife and me. Our conversation lasted two hours, and they went away with three major passages of Scripture to study. A week ago, the husband emailed me and asked me to reiterate my questions for them – and so I did just now. Below is the text of my email to them. I am publishing it in hopes that it will inform and bolster Christians who interact with the JW people. I also pray that any hungry JWs would read this and give it a fair reading.

I believe and know that there is no refutation for these Scriptures, I have demonstrated that the New Testament consistently reveals Jesus the Son of God to be Himself Jehovah God – one Person of three who are God, the only God. Check it out:

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Denial of the Resurrection vs. Reality: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Uncle AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

We found someone who says Jesus didn’t truly rise from the dead with His same body that He died on this cross. His name is Marcus Borg, and he seems to be a popular, intelligent theologian. Marcus Borg

Let me see what he said about the matter, kids.

OK, here:

Because of the common meaning of “physical/bodily” in modern English, I do not think the resurrection of Jesus means this. Physical/ bodily means fleshly, molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular existence.

But the risen Jesus is not in this sense a physical/bodily reality. The resurrection stories in the New Testament make that clear. The risen Jesus appears in a locked room (John 20). He journeys with two of his followers for a couple of hours and is not recognized – and when he is recognized, he vanishes (Luke 24). He appears in both Jerusalem (Luke and John) and Galilee (Matthew and John). He appears to Stephen in his dying moments (Acts 7). He appears to Paul in or near Damascus as a brilliant light (Acts 9). He appears to the author of Revelation on an island off the coast of Turkey in the late 90s of the first century (Rev. 1).

These texts are not about Jesus being restored to his previous life as a physical being. If such events happen, they are resuscitations: resuscitated persons resume the finite physical life they had before, and will die again someday. Whatever affirming the resurrection of Jesus means, it does not mean this.

Moreover, what would it mean to say that the risen Jesus is a physical/bodily reality? That he continues to be a molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular being existing somewhere? Does that make any sense? How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?

So Uncle Ath, what do you say to Dr. Borg?

Well, let me come at it like this:

Fitting indeed, then, and wholly consonant was the death on the cross for us; and we can see how reasonable it was, and why it is that the salvation of the world could be accomplished in no other way. Even on the cross He did not hide Himself from sight; rather, He made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker. Then, having once let it be seen that it was truly dead, He did not allow that temple of His body to linger long, but forthwith on the third day raised it up, impassable and incorruptible, the pledge and token of His victory.

It was, of course, within His power thus to have raised His body and displayed it as alive directly after death. But the all-wise Savior did not do this, lest some should deny that it had really or completely died. Besides this, had the interval between His death and resurrection been but two days, the glory of His incorruption might not have appeared. He waited one whole day to show that His body was really dead, and then on the third day showed it incorruptible to all. The interval was no longer, lest people should have forgotten about it and grown doubtful whether it were in truth the same body.

No, while the affair was still ringing in their ears and their eyes were still straining and their minds in turmoil, and while those who had put Him to death were still on the spot and themselves witnessing to the fact of it, the Son of God after three days showed His once dead body immortal and incorruptible; and it was evident to all that it was from no natural weakness that the body which the Word indwelt had died, but in order that in it by the Savior’s power death might be done away.

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior’s resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by sneer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?”

Who are you going to side with? A 20th century speculation artist who lives in posh academic comfort, or a fourth-century, hardscrabble father of the faith who could see back in history just a few generations to the people who actually knew and walked with, and died in witness to the bodily, risen Jesus Christ? I hear Marcus Borg is a perfect gentleman, and I know he is very intelligent. Yet here is an example of one having become wise in his own eyes – yet he has become a fool – missing the most plain reality in human history: Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

Thanks for those gracious words, Uncle Athanasius.

Grace to all those who love the Lord Jesus,

-Justin

A Grand Piece of Spiritual Yum – Gregory Nazianzen

You’ll want a fork, knife, and napkin for this one. From Gregory Naziazen, a fourth-century theologian from Cappadocia. In defending the deity and ministry of the blessed Lamb of God against the heresies of the Arians, he wrote:

Gregory-Naziazen

He was born—but He had been begotten:  He was born of a woman—but she was a Virgin.  The first is human, the second Divine.  In His Human nature He had no Father, but also in His Divine Nature no Mother.  Both these belong to Godhead.  He dwelt in the womb—but He was recognized by the Prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for Whose sake He came into being.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes—but He took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again.  He was laid in a manger—but He was glorified by Angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshiped by the Magi.

. . . He was driven into exile into Egypt—but He drove away the Egyptian idols.  He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews—but to David He is fairer than the children of men.  And on the Mountain He was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

He was baptized as Man—but He remitted sins as God—not because He needed purificatory rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water.  He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God; yea, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.  He hungered—but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that giveth life, and That is of heaven.  He thirsted—but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.

Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.  He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink. He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; yea, He is the King of those who demanded it.  He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac;—but He saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning.

He is stoned, but is not taken.  He prays, but He hears prayer.  He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.  He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood.  As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the Voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restoreth us; yea, He saveth even the Robber crucified with Him; yea, He wrapped the visible world in darkness.  He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.  Who?  He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is Sweetness and altogether desire.  He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise.  He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death.  He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead…

Catch your breath, and worship our Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Gregory Nazianzen, The Third Theological Oration: On the Son, NPNF2-7, sec. 19-20, http://www.ccel.org.