Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review: The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life. New York: International Bible Students Association, 1968.

Reading this book was surreal. Every chapter started out well, and then veered deeply off course. Whether by mistranslation, selective quotation, or failures in logic, this book was mistaken from beginning to end. This post isn't going to be a true fisking, because I'd be writing more than the book itself. I'm going to restrict myself to one major problem per chapter (okay, maybe per section for long chapters).

Chapter One: Grand Blessings from God Near at Hand!

I don't have a lot to say about this first chapter (an appeal to read the Bible is hard to argue with), except that 1 Timothy 2:4 does NOT say that God wants "all sorts of men" to be saved. It says that he wants "ALL" men to be saved. Why the difference? For starters, ALL is a heck of a lot more than 144,000.

Chapter Two: Why it is Wise to Examine Your Religion.

"Knowledge of the Bible and of God's will is essential for God's approval. But, as Jesus said, it is doing of that will that counts. One must have works that are consistent with what one has learned."

As my father would say, "Close but no cigar." It is faith alone that saves, though faith is never alone. That is why Isaiah 64:6 says, "And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." Measured on its own, doing counts for nothing.

Chapter Three: Who is God?

This chapter depends on willful ignorance of the Scriptures. They ignore other titles which God takes for himself, and other names which are used, to focus on the exclusive use of Jehovah. It is obvious, for example, that "The Angel of the Lord", is God, for he accepted worship, which no angel elsewhere in Scripture would permit.

Chapter Four: Why We Grow Old and Die.

It is actually refreshing to hear someone blame our problems on sin. I have grown to detest hearing, "God works in mysterious ways" as an explanation for suffering. It is so roundly misunderstood as to be counter-productive.

Chapter Five: Where are the Dead?

The thrust of this chapter is based on poor translation. They took poetical works concerning the dead--in the case of a quotation from Ecclesiastes, a portion which was rejected as a false hypothesis later in the book--and made it the sedes doctrinae. They've got a real problem explaining Matthew 22:23 "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

Chapter Six: Jesus Christ, The One Through Whom God Blesses Mankind.

They've got another real problem in this chapter. You can't have Christ be the sinless Son of God who is not divine, and yet have him blaspheme by describing himself as God. How does John 14:6-9 fit in with there interpretation: "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?" Or again in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."

Chapter Seven: Are There Wicked Spirits?

Yes. They agree, though they misinterpret the section in Genesis shortly before the Flood that describes the sons of God and the daughters of men. By context, you can clearly see it is a reference to intermarriage between the Sethite and the Cainite branches of humanity. I think the reason the other interpretation survives is that "touched by an angel" in that sense appeals to our prurient interest.

Chapter Eight: Why Has God Permitted Wickedness Until Our Day?

Once again, with selective quotation, they take the account of Jesus being tempted and expand it into an entire doctrine--that all governments are creations of the devil. I wonder how they deal with Romans 13:6 "This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing."

Chapter Nine: The Reason Why a "Little Flock" Goes to Heaven

This chapter had one of the strangest misinterpretations I've ever run across. It is based entirely on moving a comma, which changes the English meaning, but not the original Greek (yet another reminder why you need to return to the original languages). In their interpretation, Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in Paradise." See how that differs from the real version: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise." They needed to move that comma to (a) support that those who die remain in the grave, and (b) as part of their theology of heaven, of which more could be said, but I'm long-winded already.

Chapter Ten: God's Kingdom Comes to Power in the Midst of Its Enemies

1914 was the beginning of the end times. Good to know. I'm sure it'll end in 2012 when the Mayans predicted too.

Chapter Eleven: The Last Days of this Wicked System of Things

Elsewhere in the book, they describe Hell as a myth. I wonder where exactly they think that God is going to banish Satan.

Chapter Twelve: Righteous Rule Makes Earth a Paradise

Meh. Eschatology doesn't really interest me, so I'll leave this one alone.

Chapter Thirteen: The True Church and Its Foundation

As a good Lutheran, I must give credit for their assault on the primacy of the Pope and their support of the priesthood of all believers. However, they then went to an unsupportable extreme in emphasizing the unity of the faith. I won't quote the whole thing, but go read 1 Corinthians 12 if you want to see for yourself that they're wrong.

Chapter Fourteen: How to Identify the True Religion

Oh! Oh! Oh! Call on me! Call on me! I know it! It's Matthew 7:15-20! Really? It's a question about ecclesiastical organization? Well, I'll know better next time.

Chapter Fifteen: "Get Out From Among Them."

I'll try again with this one. Are they going to cite Matthew 13:30, "Let both grow together until the harvest." Nope. They cited 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. However, selective quotation is once again their downfall. Let's go one better--1 Corinthians 7:12-16--if you are not supposed to sever yourself from an unbelieving spouse, why should a much less important relationship be severed? You have to balance the risk with the rewards. If an unbeliever would lead you astray, by all means sever that relationship; yet if you can save that person, severing the relationship is sinful.

Chapter Sixteen: Popular Customs that Displease God

Third time lucky, you know? How about Colossians 2:16-17? Oh shoot, I missed it again.

Chapter Seventeen: How to Pray and be Heard by God

John 14:6? I guess not coming to the Father except through Christ means something different than actually coming to the Father through Christ.

Chapter Eighteen: Christian Obedience to the Law

I'm not going to cite any verses, because there are far too many. How can they claim that participation in government is contrary to the will of God, when the kings of Israel and Judah served God in government? And in the New Testament, we have guards, soldiers, scribes, etc., all in the employ of a pagan government. It does not compute.

Chapter Nineteen: Godly Respect for Life and Blood

Then he asked them, "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out? Luke 14:5. But if that son needs a blood transfusion after you pull him from the well, oh darn. Guess you broke the Sabbath for nothing.

Chapter Twenty: Building a Happy Family Life

I can't really object to the building a happy life, now can I? I will say it'd be an easier task if you ignored much of what they said thus far.

Chapter Twenty-One: Your Decision to Serve God

Ephesians 2:8-9. It's not a decision.

Chapter Twenty-Two: True Worship - A Way of Life

1 Corinthians 10:31 In other words, I agree, your excellency.

In conclusion, I wonder how long this book would be if I cut out all the distortions, mistranslations, selective quotations, and misinterpretations. Would I even need chapters?



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