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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Problem with "False Prophecy" Polemics

A polemic is a form of dispute, wherein the main efforts of the disputing parties are aimed at establishing the superiority of their own points of view regarding an issue. Along with debate, polemic is one of the more common forms of dispute. Similar to debate, it is constrained by a definite thesis which serves as the subject of controversy. However, unlike debate, which may seek common ground between two parties, a polemic is intended to establish the supremacy of a single point of view by refuting an opposing point of view. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - August 29, 2010

Suppose I had access to everything you had done or said since you were a little child, stored on a computer. It would be a simple matter for me to pick out a hundred or two hundred of the worst things you’d said and done over the course of your life, to write them up in a list with dates, times and places and then to proclaim, in the same way as a correspondent did in one of his emails to me: “The question is not what you have got wrong, but whether you got anything right.” On the other hand, by a similar process of selecting the 100-200 kindest, most generous, loving things you’d done, I could equally make you look like a saint. Both pictures would be true in a sense, but neither would be the whole truth. Why is this important?

In the last 125 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have published literally millions of words in publications such as The Watchtower. This includes powerful arguments against atheism and the theory of evolution, eloquent defences of the Bible as the inspired word of God, articles upholding the Bible’s stance on moral issues such as abortion, fornication, adultery and homosexual lifestyles. Watchtower publications have long exhorted their readers to display Christian qualities and imitate Jesus. They have shown how applying the Bible’s counsel can benefit family life. Through The Watchtower, millions of people have been comforted by the Bible’s message of hope.

You might expect that evangelical Christian organizations would happily applaud most of the above. After all, evangelical Christians believe in God and reject evolution, consider the Bible to be God’s inspired word, oppose sexual sins and abortion. They, too, speak of the need to imitate Jesus and display Christlike qualities. You would expect, then, that evangelical Christian groups could find a lot of positive things to say about The Watchtower. You’d think they’d congratulate Jehovah’s Witnesses for energetically spreading the above-mentioned views throughout the world and in literally hundreds of languages. But you would be wildly wrong.

An analysis of quotations from The Watchtower and other Jehovah’s Witness publications made by evangelical Christian writers - particularly on the Internet, but also in print - reveals that, far from commending Witness literature for all the positive material they publish, these writers consistently attack Jehovah’s Witnesses and actively seek anything that could possibly be used to discredit them - including many things published more than 100 years ago!

You could compare their attitude with that of a man who visits one of the world’s most beautiful cities - say Vienna. Instead of touring the most attractive parts of the city, though, this man visits the Municipal Garbage Dump and photographs the rubbish there. Then he goes to the industrial area and photographs the factories. Everywhere he goes he looks for the ugliest, most sordid parts of the city. Making copious use of close-ups to highlight the least attractive parts and using the most unflattering camera angles, he ensures his pictures give the worst possible impression. Then, on his return home, he shows the photographs to his friends, to convince them that Vienna is the most awful city in the world.

In resorting to similar tactics, critics of Witness publications immediately reveal their bias. The Watchtower Society is their ideological opponent, to be defeated at all costs. They comb through old Watchtowers, going back as far as 130 years. They take whatever suits their purpose and ignore the rest. They rip quotes out of their context, attempting to make it look as though they say much more than they actually meant. Why do they do it? They do it because it is their job to do it! In short, they are far from being an objective source of information.

Frankly, few Jehovah's Witnesses are likely to be taken in by such chicanery. It is easy to detect an agenda behind this type of mudslinging. Just about anyone who wanted to believe it has already done so. And as for the rest of us, what hasn't killed us has made us stronger.

But we should not reject a person’s criticism simply because we feel it is wrongly motivated. Prejudiced and hate-filled people can sometimes be at least partially right. As Christians, we should be discerning, remembering the admonition of the proverb, “anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word.” (Proverbs 14:15) With that in mind, let us examine the assertions commonly made in anti-Witness literature concerning the Witnesses’ alleged “false prophecies”.

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