My JW Friend and I Share a Laugh

I called my JW friend Mark the other day, and we talked for quite a long time about a lot of different topics, some related to the Watchtower and some not. At one point he asked me to tell him again about my experience of getting in trouble at the local kingdom hall when I had mentioned that no donkey is mentioned in the biblical accounts of Mary and Joseph’s travels. (See my previous post, “Warning: You Might Get Kicked Out of the Kingdom Hall by a Donkey,” 7/7/16.) That story led to my questioning of the governing body’s claim to be God’s only authoritative interpreter of scripture. I brought up that the teaching about the name of Jehovah came some decades after the 1914-1918 time of Jehovah’s supposed approval of the organization. Which led us to the organization’s mis-translation of the “I Am” statement in Exodus 3:14. Which led to my claim that Exodus 3 was the first revelation of the name Yahweh to humans. Mark questioned this, because Watchtower teaches that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God as Jehovah before Moses. Which led to me sharing with him Exodus 6:3, “And I used to appear to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but with regard to my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.”

That was a stumper for Mark. But I resisted the urge to gloat. Instead, I gave him an out. “It’s late, and we’re both tired. See what you can find out about that verse, would you?” I asked him. Then I changed the subject, sort of. I brought up that I thought the apostles in the book of Acts seemed to be all about the name of Jesus, not the name of Jehovah. “It was all about Jesus for them,” I said.

Then Mark said, “But Jesus can’t be God, because he said ‘The father is greater than me.'”

To which I responded, “Aha! I knew you were going to bring that up!” And we both laughed. And that was precious. Here we were, debating, but not arguing, because we have come to know each other so well that we both know how the other thinks, and what the other is going to say. We both realized that at the same time, and it made us both laugh. After our laughter, I said that of course we could talk about that some more when we had more time and weren’t so tired, to which he agreed. Then, laughing some more, I added, “Oh, I love you, Mark. And I so like talking with you.”

And he replied, “I love you too, ________.”

That was a shocker for me. A Jehovah’s Witness, saying that he loves a non-JW. That’s huge. God is definitely at work. And it was like a gift to me from Yahweh.

After we hung up I cried a little, I confess. I still get misty thinking about it.

Advertisements

64 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

64 responses to “My JW Friend and I Share a Laugh

  1. TJ

    I’m assuming you’re not purposely misinforming people, but a simple reading of the Genesis account demonstrates that you have misunderstood what is being said at Exodus 6:3.

    “Abraham said to his servant…’I will make you swear by Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth…'”(Genesis 24:2-3)

    “So [Isaac] named it Re·hoʹboth and said: ‘It is because now Jehovah has given us ample room and has made us fruitful in the land.'” (Genesis 26:22)

    “‘I am Jehovah the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac’…Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said: ‘Truly Jehovah is in this place.'” (Genesis 28:13, 16)

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It sounds like you’re a careful student of scripture.
      Yes, there are a number of scriptures before Exodus 6 that mention Yahweh (my preferred pronunciation of God’s name, it being more accurate than the 13th century Roman Catholic Latinized version “Jehovah”). But I think of it this way: If I were to write a biography of Marilyn Monroe, I might mention in chapter 1 someone who knew Marilyn from when they were young children. I might even quote them in an interview saying, “Yes, Marilyn and I were very close.” Then in chapter 2 I might say that Marilyn Monroe’s given name from birth was Norma Jean Baker, her name being changed to Marilyn when she was an adult. I think this is essentially what Moses did. I call it “retroactive reference,” but there’s probably a more scholarly term for it. I think that Moses was indeed the first to hear the name Yahweh, and that he interjected it into his narrative of the earlier patriarchs. I think that Moses’ purpose in doing so was to highlight the distinct characteristics of the different names for God, using “Elohim” for the creative God of the universe, and “Yahweh” for the God who interacts intimately with individuals and his people. So then, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob met God in a way characteristic of Yahweh, even though at the time they didn’t know Him by that name.
      That’s my take on it. So now I would like to ask you, if the earlier patriarchs did know of the name Yahweh, then how do you explain what’s going on in Exodus 6:3?

      • TJ

        Thanks for your reply! I think it’s helpful to look to other scriptures in order to better understand Exodus 6:3. For example, Moses mentions people living prior to him as specifically ‘calling on the name of Yahweh’ in several instances (see Genesis 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21:33; 26:25). Moreover, at Genesis 22:14, Moses records Abraham as naming a place “Jehovah Jirah” or, when translated, “Jehovah Will Provide” and follows this by reporting even the saying that had been handed down as a result: “This is why it is still said today: ‘In the mountain of Jehovah it will be provided.'” It is difficult for me to reconcile that with the idea of God’s name being an anachronistic insertion.

        It’s also worth considering that at that time names weren’t merely labels, but they carried real meanings with them. So when Abram was instructed to take on the name Abraham, meaning “Father of a Crowd”, his contemporaries may have heard or used that name but it would have had little real meaning to them at the time since Abraham certainly was not then the father of a crowd. It would only be when his progeny began to multiply rapidly that people would truly *know* him as Abraham in the fullest sense that his name conveys.

        So too with Yahweh. God’s name conveys the idea of him ‘causing to become’ reality things that have been promised. Though God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, both he and his sons had to camp in the land as foreigners; it never belonged to them (Exodus 6:4). But in the time of Moses, the foretold 400 years of affliction and living as foreigners was coming to an end (Genesis 15:13) and Yahweh was now prepared to deliver on his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by finally giving the land to their offspring (Exodus 6:5). I firmly believe that this is the reason why God says at Exodus 6:3 that he is now making his name *known* to them. In other words, he is making his promises ‘become’ reality for the Israelites.

        In line with that, we have similar statements elsewhere in scripture. For example, at Isaiah 54:4-6 it says:

        “For this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: ‘At first my people went down to Egypt to live there as foreigners; then Assyria oppressed them without cause. What, then, should I do here?’ declares Jehovah. ‘For my people were taken for nothing. Those ruling over them keep howling in triumph,’ declares Jehovah, ‘and constantly, all day long, my name is treated with disrespect. For that reason my people *will* know my name.'”

        The Israelites *already* knew God’s name, but just like in the case of their ancestors in Moses’ day that were oppressed in Egypt, they are about to experience the true meaning of God’s name when he delivers them from their oppressors. They will know his name in a truly awe-inspiring way.

        P.S. – I’m curious if you object to other theophoric names that happen to contain elements of the anglicized ‘Jehovah’, e.g. Jehoiakim, Jehoshaphat, Elijah, Jesus? What about James (which would more accurately translate as Jacob)?

  2. You have some excellent points, especially the fact that “at that time names weren’t merely labels, but they carried real meanings with them.” With this I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I would go even further and say that names don’t carry just a meaning, but a reputation. In many of the Old Testament passages, we could substitute in the concept of reputation, and it makes sense. So in Isaiah 52:4-6, which you quote, we could read “my people will know my reputation” rather than “my people will know the meaning of my name.” They learned something about Yahweh’s character, that His presence was with them, defending them and overcoming for them. They experienced relationship with Him, not just that they learned some technical content about the name “Jehovah” meaning “I will become,” or something like that.
    This is the point that I’m trying to make with my friend Mark, that it matters less (if at all) whether or not the ancient Hebrews got the pronunciation of God’s name right. What was most important was that they experienced His presence, character, and reputation. If this is what is meant in Exodus 6:3, that the early patriarchs did not know Yahweh like Moses did, that He was their deliverer, and that’s what the Hebrews were then finding out during Moses’ time, then I’m okay with that. There are actually evangelical scholars who defend the integrity of the passage using that argument. But in either case, the specific label they used was not the central issue. And that’s how I live, free to call him Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Jehovah, God, Father, and Papa (based on Romans 8, “Abba”). It is not a law that we must always, or even mostly, call Him Jehovah. If there were a law about using the correct name for God, it would be something closer to Yahweh, the most accurate pronunciation we have, rather than a pronunciation that didn’t even exist until about 600 years ago (Jehovah).
    And no, I do not have a problem pronouncing the Old and New Testament names (Jehosaphat, Jesus, etc.) with the “J” sound. Even though I know that they wouldn’t have said “Jesus” back in Jesus’ time, I am still free to pronounce his name “Yeshua” as my middle eastern brothers do, or “Jesus” as my English-speaking brothers do. What’s more important is that I know him personally as my redeemer and friend, and that I can join my friend Thomas in saying (in John 20:28) “My Lord and my God.”

    • TJ

      Thanks for your response. Certainly God’s name’s meaning and reputation are wrapped up together. And I would agree that the pronunciation of that name is not the important thing, but rather that we use it and make it manifest even as Jesus did. (John 17:6)

      In harmony with this, I fully agree with Jesus’ prayer to his God and Father that we come to *know* Jehovah, the only true God, as well as his representative that he sent to us, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3)

  3. I’m very impressed that you say that “the pronunciation of that name is not the important thing,” given what I think is your religious affiliation. If you started regularly using the pronunciation “Yahweh” instead of “Jehovah” among the people in your congregation, what do you think the response would be?

    • TJ

      Well if you’re speaking of *English-speaking* Jehovah’s Witnesses, they wouldn’t be opposed to “Yahweh” (it’s often cited as a valid form of God’s name in JW publications), but it would obviously be something they’d be unaccustomed to using often. That’s because the form “Jehovah” is, as the NWT glossary describes it, “[t]he common English rendering of the Tetragrammaton.” In different languages, Jehovah’s Witnesses use different pronunciations of Bible names, including the Tetragrammaton (YHWH/JHVH). Thus, for example, Italian-speaking Witnesses use “Geova”, Swahili-speaking Witnesses use “Yehova”, Chinese-speaking Witnesses use “Yehehua”, Ateso-speaking Witnesses use “Yawe”, etc.

      The primary issue that I personally have when someone comes along and insists on using the reconstructed “Yahweh” pronunciation on the basis that it’s a more accurate Hebraic pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is that, 9 times out of 10, they don’t implement that same reasoning *consistently* with other Bible names. So for example, they have no intention of insisting on the ‘more accurate’ pronunciations of “Elijah”, “Jesus” and “James”. So why the inconsistency? And the 1 times out of 10 that the Hebraic pronunciations are consistently insisted upon across the board, you end up with something along the lines of ‘The Scriptures’, produced by the Institute for Scripture Research, which is, in my opinion, exceedingly difficult for an English-speaker to read. Here’s just a small sample:

      “Again there came a division among the Yehudim because of these words…At that time the Hanukkah came to be in Yerushalayim…And a certain one was sick, El’azar from Beyth Anyah, the village of Miryam and her sister Martha.” (John 10:19, 22; 11:1)

      Here are the same verses in the NWT:

      “A division again resulted among the Jews because of these words…At that time the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem…Now a man named Lazarus was sick; he was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.”

      Which text would you prefer reading? I regularly use the form “Jehovah” over “Yahweh” because I consistently use the commonly-accepted *anglicized* forms of Bible names that don’t confuse people.

      • I don’t think using “Yahweh” is going to confuse people. When they ask, “What’s that about?” all you have to do is tell them “That’s the proper name for God. It’s God’s name.” (Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses are now doing with the pronunciation “Jehovah.”) If “Yahweh” is something they’re “unaccustomed to using often”, then we simply need to encourage them to use it more often, just like JW’s encourage their folks to use other new terms like “governing body,” “circuit overseer,” “faithful and discreet slave,” “theocratic,” etc.
        If I’m in a room with people of various nationalities, I try to pronounce each of their names as well as I can, using the correct pronunciation of their names in their own language. If I have several friends from different nationalities all having the name “John” in their language, I’m not going to call each one of them John, but rather Juan, Giovanni, Jean, Ioannes, Jan, John, etc. Similarly I try to pronounce the biblical names with their Hebraic and Greek pronunciations as well as I can, and I like the translations that have the pronunciation guides right in the text.
        I agree with you that the ISR translation is not helpful, because it’s imposing a Hebrew pronunciation on the Christian Greek Scriptures. Why would we do that? I wouldn’t insist on Hebraic pronunciations “across the board.” Nor would I insist on English pronunciations across the board. Why would I do that? In the case of God’s name, insisting on using “Jehovah” is either (1) using a Latinized corruption of the Tetragrammaton invented in the 1400’s by the corrupt Catholic church, or (2) using a pronunciation simply because it’s what is popular in the corrupt world system of things. I consider myself free in Christ to the extent that I can use “Jehovah” without guilt, since the pronunciation has lost those connotations by common usage (like we use wedding rings in spite of their pagan origins). But I’d rather use the more correct “Yahweh.” Or more often, I use Father or Abba when addressing my heavenly father. I wouldn’t address my earthly father as Arnold (his first name), but rather “Dad.”
        My concern is that in their zeal about the pronunciation “Jehovah,” the Witnesses are overlooking an emphasis in the Christian Greek Scriptures on Jesus rather than Jehovah. A simple perusal of the Name of Jesus in the book of Acts will illustrate what I mean. The July 2010 Watchtower (article “The Challenge of Knowing God by Name”) quotes an essay by David Clines: “One result of the absence of Yahweh from Christian consciousness has been the tendency to focus on the person of Christ.” Isn’t that what the believers were doing in Acts? It was all about Jesus for them.

  4. TJ

    Thanks again for your reply. I’m curious where you got the impression that JWs have a special “zeal about the pronunciation ‘Jehovah'”. In my experience, their zeal is on the importance of using God’s name and not on using only one specific pronunciation of it (which is why the 800+ languages in which JW media/literature is currently published uses many different pronunciations of the divine name). This is in full harmony with Jesus’ mission to ‘make [God’s] name manifest’, is it not? (John 17:6) Moreover, “Yahweh” is acknowledged in JW publications as a valid form of God’s name.

    But if you’re going to say that we need to encourage JWs to use “Yahweh” (in effect insisting on a particular pronunciation), I would ask if you’re currently encouraging the same of evangelical protestants (who usually use Bible versions with ‘LORD’ throughout)? Are you likewise encouraging them to use Yeshua/Iesous instead of Jesus?

    Again, it’s my position that the particular pronunciation used is not what’s of importance, so I don’t share your “need” to encourage people to use whatever I may feel is a closer approximation of the original pronunciations. And no, not all agree that “Yahweh” is the correct Hebraic pronunciation.

    You said: “If I have several friends from different nationalities all having the name ‘John’ in their language, I’m not going to call each one of them John, but rather Juan, Giovanni, Jean, Ioannes, Jan, John, etc.”

    That’s fine, but this isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison of how Bible names are used in practice. Take a look at the different language versions of the Bible that the evangelical churches use. They most certainly do use John, Juan, Giovanni, Jean, Ioannes, etc. That is why I’m saying that using the form “Jehovah”, “Jesus”, “John”, “James”, etc, is right in line with the accepted practice of using the English forms of Bible names.

  5. I get the impression from three things:
    First, from the meetings, assemblies, and conventions I have attended. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone use Yahweh, but just Jehovah only.
    Second, from my extensive reading and viewing of Watchtower materials at jw.org. Case in point: The video “Does God Have a Name?” where the Tetragrammaton and the pronunciation Yahweh is discussed, but the conclusion arrived at is “God’s name IS Jehovah.”
    Third, in talking with my JW friends, when I use Yahweh, they seem to be uncomfortable with any pronunciation other than Jehovah. They’re polite with me about my preference, but their body language tells me they’re not comfortable with it.
    To answer your question about protestants, yes, I do encourage them to use Yahweh. I also model to them in my prayers the use of Yahweh, Father, and Abba. I don’t INSIST that anyone use any particular pronunciation. That’s my point. My experience is that an outsider coming in to the JW congregation would get the impression that the organization INSISTS on using the name Jehovah, or at least that they’re fixated on it.
    I find it interesting the watchtower claim that Jesus would have used God’s name. I agree, he would. But he would NOT have said Jehovah. That translation did not exist until about 600 years ago. So what name do you suppose Jesus and the apostles used?
    I want to ask again my question from a while back: If you started regularly using the pronunciation “Yahweh” instead of “Jehovah” among the people in your congregation, what do you think the response would be? I realize that it’s not your priority to insist that others use any particular pronunciation. I’m only asking as a hypothetical. If you or someone were to start using Yahweh in your congregation, what would happen?

  6. TJ

    Hello again! Well yes, attending English programs and reading/watching English JW media you will primarily hear/read the English pronunciation of God’s name. In other words, they use the very same convention of pronunciation as they do for all other Bible names precisely because they do not insist on any particular pronunciation. The emphasis is merely on using God’s name in your own language. You can easily confirm this by watching that same video, Does God Have a Name?, in other languages besides English. Have you done this? You may get different conclusions. 🙂

    I guess I got the impression from your previous message that you were quasi-insisting on the pronunciation “Yahweh”, in a roundabout sort of way, from where you said:

    If “Yahweh” is something they’re “unaccustomed to using often”, then we simply need to encourage them to use it more often…” (emphasis added).

    I guess I’m left wondering why you feel the “need” to encourage that if you don’t think the particular pronunciation matters.

    As for Jesus, he no doubt used the pronunciation in common use in his day. But keep a couple of things in mind. First, the Bible was written over a period of about 1600 years, so there’s little doubt that the pronunciation of God’s name would have varied over that time. Even in the first century alone there was variation among the Jews in their manner of speaking, e.g. Peter’s identity was given away by his particular Galilean dialect (a dialect that Jesus would have likely shared). (Matthew 26:73)

    Second, we have biblical precedent for using different pronunciations of the same name. For example, among the apostles there’s Peter/Cephas and Paul/Saul. Neither form of those names was ‘more correct’, they were simply the same name in different languages. So Jehovah/Yahweh should be no different. JWs that attend different language programs will use different pronunciations of God’s name. Though if one isn’t bilingual, of course they’ll be more unaccustomed to using other language forms of names.

    As to your question, what I think would happen if I attended congregation meetings and used “Yahweh” is that people would find it odd–just as if I started randomly using…let’s say “Matthaios” instead of “Matthew”–but they would act exactly as they’ve acted towards you when you’ve used it, i.e. very politely.

    So I’m wondering if you do in fact regularly use a name like “Matthaios” (taken directly from the Greek scriptures) and do you encourage others to do so as well? If not, why not? (I’m genuinely interested in this.)

  7. If he were an English speaker, I would use Matthew, or Matt, or his preference. If he were a Spanish speaker, I would use Mateo, unless he indicated another preference. If he were an exchange student from Greece, I would likely be calling him Matthaios.
    But I think I haven’t clearly communicated my main point. I see addressing God differently, and I liken it more to addressing my earthly father than addressing one of my peers in the congregation.
    I wouldn’t call my earthly father Arnold, unless I were introducing him to someone nearly his age. With younger people, I would introduce him as “my father, Mr. ___________.” And when in conversation with him directly, I would be calling him Dad, not Arnold. For those reasons I don’t insist, or even encourage, others to call God Yahweh or Jehovah. I believe we are free to do so, but giving God proper respect has nothing to do with using his proper name. In fact, when addressing him in prayer it would be more respectful to address him as Father, as Jesus taught us to do, or as Abba (Dad) as taught in Romans 8. A child would not be honoring his earthly father’s name by addressing him by that name. Quite the opposite. He would be honoring his earthly father by calling him Dad, Daddy, or similar. When scripture speaks of giving honor to Yahweh’s name, that’s about giving honor to his reputation and who He is, not making sure we use His proper name.
    My concern is when a group becomes fixated on the use of a certain name, so that it becomes a mark of who is orthodox, and who is part of the “apostates.”

  8. TJ

    I was asking if you use “Matthaios” over “Matthew” specifically when referring to the gospel account and Jesus’ disciple. If not, why not?

    I’ll address the rest of your comments when I have some time. Thanks!

  9. Sometimes when I’m reading aloud publicly from scripture, I do use the Greek or Hebrew pronunciation for people and place names. I confess that my reasons for doing so are silly. They are: (1) it’s fun for me. (2) I imagine it lends a bit of authenticity and vividness to the narrative, although I may be a bit deluded in thinking that it enhances anyone’s experience of the passage but my own. (3) I secretly enjoy sounding like I’m knowledgeable about scripture and biblical languages, which reveals my intellectual pride.
    I should probably just stop showing off. But that’s going to be difficult–I really like saying Beyt-Lechem (using the Hebrew pronunciation with the guttural -ch sound, from the back of the throat) instead of the English pronunciation Bethlehem. Once you start, there’s almost no going back.

  10. TJ

    Interesting. Do you actively encourage others to use the pronunciation “Matthaios” rather than “Matthew”?

      • TJ

        Thanks for your patience. I would guess that for many of the same reasons that you don’t actively encourage others to use the pronunciation “Matthaios”, I don’t actively encourage them to use the pronunciation “Yahweh”.

        I don’t have any issue with calling God our Father, as that emphasizes our relationship to him. But I don’t think that God should only be defined by our personal relationship and that the personal name that he chose for himself should be hidden behind such titles. If Jesus made his name manifest, why shouldn’t we? I mean, would you ever say that the Bible writers are too “fixated on the use of a certain name” because they use God’s name about 7,000 times, far more than any other name in the Bible?

        It seems to be a common theme in scripture that using God’s name and faithfully making it known is a primary way of honoring Jehovah: “May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18) “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Joel 2:32)

  11. You say “If Jesus made his name manifest, why shouldn’t we?” quoting from John 17:6. How did Jesus make Yahweh’s name manifest, or reveal Yahweh’s name? Did he preach “Hey people, I have come to tell you that God’s name is Yahweh! Start calling God Yahweh, and not just Lord!”
    I think that the context, found in John 17:8, explains what Jesus meant. He says “I have given them the sayings that you gave me.” What do you suppose Jesus meant by that? And what does that say about making Yahweh’s name manifest?
    Yes, it does seem that the Bible writers in the Hebrew scriptures are fixated on God’s name. But there seems to be a shift when you get to the book of acts, isn’t there? What name do the believers there seem to be fixated on? And what name do they call on? In Acts 9 Ananias sees Jesus in a vision and expresses his reluctance to visit Saul (Paul), saying that Saul was arresting “all who call on your name.” (See verse 17 where Ananias explains that it was Jesus whom he had conversed with.) Later in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul speaks of “all those everywhere who are calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    • TJ

      Hello again. You asked, ‘Did he preach “Hey people, I have come to tell you that God’s name is Yahweh! Start calling God Yahweh, and not just Lord!'” The first-century Jews were evidently still using God’s name, so no. This is similar to the scripture in Exodus 6:3. When Jehovah said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not ‘know’ his name, he meant that they didn’t fully understand its meaning. So Jesus’ work making God’s name manifest similarly has to do with revealing more about Jehovah and his purpose. It’s not just about the literal name…but you cannot leave the literal name out of it altogether either. The name and its meaning are inseparable.

      Yes, in the book of Acts, there is emphasis placed upon Jesus’ name. But this is precisely because of all of the authority that Jehovah has invested in him, described at John 17 and elsewhere. When Paul was preaching to Jews in the diaspora, they already recognized Jehovah, and so the focus was naturally on getting them to put faith in the one that God made to be their Lord, so that “every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11; Acts 2:36)

      Yet this doesn’t somehow ‘replace’ the importance of God’s name. After all, the name “Jesus” is itself theophoric, meaning “Salvation of Jehovah” (this again is why I find your usage of “Yahweh” and “Jesus” together, as in your post above, so jarring; the first part of JE-sus comes from JE-hovah!). And both Peter and Paul quote the passage I cited in my last post regarding the importance of God’s name, Joel 2:32, “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) So I don’t think the first-century Christians shifted focus to Jesus’ name alone as you seem to imply, but instead lifted it up alongside God’s name as the anointed king that Jehovah had selected to deliver his people.

      • First, I want to see if I understand your view correctly. If I may attempt to sum up: The patriarchs before Moses knew the name Jehovah, but what they were missing was knowledge of God’s purpose, which was what Moses revealed, bringing out the “I will become what I will become” aspect of the name. It was then basically the same for the Jews during Jesus’ ministry. They knew the name Jehovah, but didn’t understand and/or accept Jehovah’s purpose at the time. Fast forward to present day, where people know God’s name, Jehovah (because it’s popularly accepted), but don’t know his purpose, that is, that Jehovah’s dormant kingdom came back to life when Jesus was enthroned in 1914, and that Jehovah’s physical kingdom will soon be restored to the earth. So it becomes critical to understand Jehovah’s purpose, or plan, at any given time. Use of the literal name is secondary, because in the past, someone using the literal name was no indication of them being in cooperation with God’s purpose. That’s your point #1.
        Then, your point #2 is that you cannot separate the literal name and its meaning, so that inclusion of the literal name for God is a critical and necessary component of one’s repentance and faith for the obtaining of redemption, with the exemplary formula given from Joel 2:32 (as quoted by the early Christians): “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
        I agree that we cannot separate names from their meanings. But my concern is twofold.
        First, I think that Watchtower misunderstands the meaning of the name. The correct translation of the Hebrew at Exodus 3:14 is not “I will become,” but “I am.” The message is not that God is adaptable, but that He is self-existent, a non-contingent eternal being, not dependent on anybody or anything else (as opposed to the pagan gods of Egypt and other nations). So then his name is not about purpose, it’s about character and reputation. So the concern is not about separating the name from the meaning (your view), but rather it’s about separating God’s character and reputation from his name, which is what the prophets, Jesus, and the early Christians were about. They weren’t saying “God’s name is Jehovah; get it right.” They were saying “You’re using the correct name, but you’re acting like you don’t give a (bleep) about his character and reputation.”
        My second concern is found when we get to the message to the pagan gentiles. That’s where we would expect to see the early Christians telling them about the correct name for God. But in Acts 17 Paul addresses pagan gentiles, telling them about their “unknown god.” But does he announce to them that God’s name is Jehovah or Yahweh? No. Does he manifest God’s name to them? Yes, he tells them about God’s character and reputation, and the one that God has sent, who rose from the dead.
        Throughout the book of Acts, then, the literal name that is proclaimed is not Jehovah, but Jesus.
        Acts 2:36, God made him both Lord and Christ.
        Acts 4:12, Jesus is the one name whereby we must be saved.
        Acts 8:12, Philip declares the good news (gospel) of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (to both Jews and pagan gentiles).
        Acts 9:15, Paul was to bear Jesus’ name to the nations as well as the sons of Israel.
        Acts 9:21, Christians were the ones who call on Jesus’ name.
        Acts 19:17, It is the name Jesus that is magnified among Jews and gentiles.
        All this is based simply on my personal study of the book of Acts, where I listed all the occurrences of the word “name,” which is used of Jesus 25 times in Acts, of Jehovah 3 times, and indeterminate twice. (It would be a great study for any reader of this post to do themselves.) Watchtower loves to point out how significant the number times YHWH occurs in the Hebrew scriptures. Isn’t it also significant how many times “name” is used referring to Jesus in the book of Acts?

  12. TJ

    BTW, a sincere ‘thank you’ for the open discussion and allowing me to express my view on your blog. It’s refreshing!

    • You’re very welcome. It is my pleasure. My hope is that it will benefit not only you and me, but also others who may be following along. My desire is that they will then, like the Bereans, search the scriptures for themselves to discern what the truth is, using their own critical thinking, with guidance from the Holy Spirit.

  13. TJ

    I think you’ve slightly misunderstood me. ‘Knowing’ God’s name, as used in the scriptures, means knowing his literal name, his reputation, his purpose and even seeing firsthand his will being accomplished. The latter is a more dynamic understanding of God’s name. So, for example, throughout the book of Ezekiel Jehovah issues prophesies and says that when they see these things happen (or ‘come to be’), then they “will have to know that I am Jehovah”. They already know God’s name, but now they’re going to see its meaning in action.

    While the patriarchs used God’s name, they didn’t actually see his purpose fulfilled in delivering them the promised land of Canaan. That is why God tells Moses that his people will understand or come to know his name in a new way. That promise ‘will become’ reality. He defines his unique name to Moses with the Hebrew words ehyeh asher ehyeh; this cannot be a message of static self-existence, as the verb ehyeh is in the imperfect form which is never present tense. It means “I will become”. Check how virtually all translations render the same word just two verses earlier, at Exodus 3:12, “He said, ‘But I will be with you.'” (ESV) Thus, God’s answer to Moses has to do with his assurance to the Israelites of what their God will do for them, not what he is. Their God ‘will become’ their deliverer.

    Jesus made God’s name manifest by not only preaching it, but by carrying out Jehovah’s will. During Jesus’ ministry he acted as Jehovah’s primary representative, speaking his words, doing the actions he commanded, and fulfilling his prophesies. Thus Jehovah’s name became known to his people in a new way, in that they were actually seeing the things promised by the prophets now ‘becoming’ reality in what Jesus was doing. Jehovah’s name was therefore manifested.

    You reference the account found in Acts 17, where Paul addresses the (non-Jewish) men of Athens, and yes, he does explain the reputation of the God of the Jewish peoples to them. It may be that they already knew his name, given their proximity to the synagogue, or Paul may be using a type of rhetorical device building up to it (think Paul Harvey’s “…and now you know the rest of the story”). After all, Paul’s speech gets shut down and he doesn’t mention Jesus’ name either. But notice that Paul speaks primarily about Jehovah God here, and not so much Jesus. Why is that? Couldn’t the reason be that for one to accept Jesus as their Lord they must first know and accept the one who made him Lord? This was my point last time that when you read through the book of Acts, where Paul is preaching primarily in the Jewish synagogues of the diaspora, of course the emphasis is on Jesus Christ. His audiences usually already worshipped Jehovah and so Paul is telling them to put their faith in the one Jehovah has appointed as their King.

    If you are essentially making the argument that the Old Testament was “fixated” on Jehovah, but that’s ‘old’ and so no longer very relevant, and Christians today should primarily focus on Jesus instead, I can’t follow you there. I totally agree that we should preach Jesus and make his name known among the nations, but when this emphasized to a degree where Jehovah is forgotten, and his name is taken out of the Bible, that is a problem. Jehovah is the very foundation of Jesus’ authority and power and the New Testament reflects this. Jesus’ rule is meant to glorify his God Jehovah, not himself!

  14. To say that the form of the “to be” verb used at Exodus 3:14 can never be understood as present tense, and must be taken as future, is mistaken. The same form is used in the following verses:
    Ruth 2:13, “I AM not even one of your servants.”
    Job 12:4, “I HAVE BECOME a laughingstock to my companions.”
    Job 17:6, “I BECAME one in whose face they spit.”
    Psalm 50:21, “You thought that I would BE just like you.”

    The references in Ezekiel where God says repeatedly “you will have to know that I am Jehovah,” these are statements about impending judgment, on all the nations surrounding Israel, and then upon Israel themselves. These are not just statements about seeing prophecies fulled (God’s purpose), but are in a bigger way about God’s character that they have scandalized. They’re about to learn about God’s righteous character and reputation, so that his name will no longer be “blasphemed among the nations” because of the behavior of the Israelites, the ones who were supposedly representing his name (i. e. reputation). Exekiel wasn’t saying, “You will see these things happen, and then you will what Jehovah is like in action.” He was saying, “When this happens, you will know what God is really like, and then you will die!” (Or at least lose their lives in terms of being carried off into exile to be slaves.)

    Concerning Acts 17, true, Paul does not mention Jesus’ name, nor God’s name. But he does get to the subject of Jesus before being cut off (verse 31). And yes, they needed to become monotheists before coming to Jesus, rather than polytheists, hence the teaching about God’s character. Paul had to use the grammar school primer with them, before getting to the high school textbook. (I’m using these terms figuratively; he was only using scripture, not other published material.) And did the diaspora Jews “already worship Jehovah”? They gave his name lip service, but their hearts were far from him. To both parties Paul preached “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus,” (Acts 20:21).

    Were the Old Testament writers “fixated” on Yahweh? Yes! You make it sound like it’s a bad thing. Fixated means passionate, obsessed, attached, centered on. The Old Testament writers were fixated on Yahweh. And the New Testament believers were fixated on Jesus. They preached and healed “in the name of” Jesus, and they were willing to be abused and killed “in the name of” Jesus. I aspire to be as fixated on Jesus as they were. Paul later says, “For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him executed on the stake,” (First Corinthians 2:2).

    Have I forgotten Yahweh? No. I think we should restore the name Yahweh to our translations of the Old Testament. Yes, Jesus’ rule is meant to glorify Jehovah (as you say), and part of that includes Jesus saying “Father, glorify me,” (John 17:5).

  15. TJ

    Thank you for your reply. You said:

    “To say that the form of the ‘to be’ verb used at Exodus 3:14 can never be understood as present tense, and must be taken as future, is mistaken. The same form is used in the following verses:”

    I took that point from Charles Gianotti’s “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH” (Bibliotheca Sacra 142:565) where he states that the present tense “is unjustified in light of the imperfect form, [ehyeh], used in Exodus 3:14. Bernhardt notes that the imperfect form of this verb never
    expresses the present tense; for this, the perfect form is used.” The footnote there says, “Bernhardt admits to a possibility of the present tense rendering in Ruth 2:13, but agrees that otherwise the meaning is always future.” The NET Bible renders Ruth 2:13 with a present tense but then says in its footnote: “The imperfect verbal form of הָיָה (hayah) is used here. F. W. Bush shows from usage elsewhere that the form should be taken as future (Ruth, Esther [WBC], 124-25).”

    So it seems that there are indeed possible exceptions where the future tense rendering is debated, though that is definitely the preferred rendering of that imperfect Hebrew verb throughout the scriptures. In light of that, I fully agree with Gianotti’s next sentence: “Significantly, most interpreters translate [ehyeh] in Exodus 3:12 as future (i.e., “I will be [ehyeh] with you”). Yet, two verses later, why should not the same translation suffice?” Indeed. We see the same verb expressed as future in Exodus 4:12, and 15 as well. So in this string of imperfect ‘ehyeh‘s appearing in Exodus 3-4, why not render them consistently? (I do think there’s an underlying extra-biblical source for the static, ‘ontological view’ of God’s name that you and others have adopted, but I’ll hold off on that for now).

    Regarding God’s repeated statement in the book of Ezekiel, ‘you will have to know that I am Jehovah’, you said, “He was saying, ‘When this happens, you will know what God is really like, and then you will die!'” To be honest, I’m not sure how that’s really any different from what I said. Seeing God “in action” is also knowing “what God is really like” through…his actions, isn’t it? So it would seem that we agree here. My point was that they were not literally learning God’s name for the first time (like you had inferred from ‘knowing’ God’s name in Exodus 6:3), but rather that they were going to know it in a very real, firsthand sense by seeing what God does.

    I don’t disagree with anything you said concerning Acts 17. My point is that the emphasis on preaching Jehovah or Jesus seemed to vary based upon the understanding of the audience. In the synagogue, where they regularly read from the scriptures emphasizing Jehovah and his name, Paul naturally spoke to them on the ‘new’ identity of the messiah that Jehovah had sent them. And yet Paul’s ‘primer’ lesson to a non-Jewish audience focused mostly on Jehovah. Another possible example: why do you think that Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus only goes back to Abraham whereas Luke’s goes all the way back to Adam?

    You said, “I think we should restore the name Yahweh to our translations of the Old Testament.” I’m very glad you agree! But this will likely not happen. Here’s what the Executive Secretary of the NIV’s committee frankly admitted about the subject when asked about the omission of God’s name from their translation (I give him points for being so honest):

    “Here is why we did not: You are right that Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James, than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh…It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you.”

    We’ve seen other translations aimed at widespread usage among the churches also drop God’s name, like the NASB (a revision of the ASV) dropping “Jehovah” in the thousand of instances where the ASV had it and the NKJV dropping “Jehovah” in the few instances where the KJV had it. Why do you think God’s name is so toxic that the mere use of it in the Bible is “a sure way” that ‘nobody would use it’?

    Given how Paul seemed to shift the emphasis of his teaching based upon his audience’s knowledge and understanding, do you think the emphasis for a modern audience, both among the churches and in secular society, should be on Jesus or Jehovah? (That’s a genuine point-of-view question.)

    • Regarding the imperfect form of the Hebrew verb, see the basic Hebrew grammar books and/or websites that say things like:
      “The imperfect conjugation is used to express incomplete action and is usually translated as present tense (I walk) or future tense (I will walk). The imperfect also denotes habitual or customary action – past, present, or future tense. The imperfect may also be rendered as one of several modal values (would, should, can, etc.) which are suggested by context and syntax. The Hebrew imperfect does not have tense apart from context and syntax – just like the Hebrew perfect. The Hebrew imperfect denotes incomplete action, whether in the past, present, or future.”
      Becomingjewish.org
      Or:
      “Whereas English verbs indicate tense by means of spelling changes or through the use of “helping verbs” (e.g. I talk. I talked. I shall talk), Hebrew verbs are not marked for tense. You cannot tell – just by looking at a verb form without context – when the action occurs.”
      Hebrew4christians.com
      My impression as an intermediate student of Hebrew (at best), is that the imperfect form is kind of a generic, default form, similar to the aorist tense in Greek.
      While you do address the context by referring to verse 12, we cannot determine the tense of the root verb of someone’s name based on the context of when the speaker would be addressing his audience. There’s no real connection there. If the narrative were about Moses introducing someone named Mr. Songer to the people, and Mr. Songer said, “Don’t be nervous, Moses. I will be there too.” We then couldn’t say that Mr. Songer’s name necessarily means “I will sing” rather than “I sing,” just because the planned action in verse 12 is future.
      Concerning the NIV translation, I don’t take the opinion (and resulting decision) of one man, the executive secretary of the committee, to be representative of all of Christiandom. I for one disagree with his decision, and there are many others. His quote mentions that “many of our translators agree with you.” Obviously there are many among “the churches” who don’t feel that the name Yahweh or Jehovah is “toxic.” I think it’s disappointing that the one exec caved in and compromised with the popular opinion of the culture. It’s also disappointing to me that the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have also caved in to popular culture, compromising with the pronunciation “Jehovah,” the Latinized corruption of the tetragrammaton contrived by the Roman Catholic church in the 14th century.

      • TJ

        Hello, I’ll have more to say on your other points when I have the time, but really quick I just wanted to say that your last remark confuses me again on what exactly you’re trying to say. You have maintained throughout this discussion that the particular pronunciation of God’s name is not important, but then you keep saying things like this that imply that the chosen pronunciation most defintely is of importance to you.

        I use the English pronunciation “Jehovah” just like we both use the English pronunciation “Jesus”. Are you ‘disappointed’ in me? Why is using one “disappointing” to you while the other is not? Why do you believe we “need” to encourage others to use a different pronunciation of “Jehovah” but apparently do not “need” to encourage them to use another form of “Jesus” or “Matthew” or any other English form of a Bible name? Could you please clarify?

      • I’m not disappointed in you. I hardly know you!
        I’m enjoying our conversation.
        Let me back up to the beginning and (hopefully) make things clearer.
        Rewind to my original ongoing conversations with my friend Mark who is committed to an organization that “by the late 1920’s . . . understood that the primary issue was, not personal salvation, but the sanctifying of God’s name. (Isa. 37:20; Ezek. 38:23) In 1929, the book Prophecy summed up that truth, stating: “Jehovah’s name is the most vital issue before all creation.” (God’s Kingdom Rules, p. 45.)
        My disappointment, or rather concern, is that this group affirms that we “need” to use God’s proper name, insisting that their members do so, under threat of disfellowshipping (shunning), and yet they don’t actually use the proper form of his proper name, but instead use a (much) later corrupted version of the name.
        To be clear, I do not “insist” that anyone use any particular name for God. I believe we are free to use any of the following: God, Lord, Jehovah, Yahweh, Father, Abba, Dad, and others I am not thinking of. I have not been able to tell whether or not you agree with that belief, attitude, and practice. That’s why I have asked that if you attempted to use an alternate name for God within your fellowship (perhaps the more accurate form Yahweh), what would be the repercussions of you doing so. If you are in a JW congregation (which I’m guessing you are), I am skeptical that you would get only raised eyebrows and nothing more.
        I have also expressed my support for the idea that translators translate the tetragrammaton in the Old Testament more accurately, by using Yahweh. But I don’t insist they do so. If they believe that using Yahweh would alienate readers, then I believe they are as free to use that strategy as the Watchtower is free to use Jehovah because they think using Yahweh will alienate their readers.
        I don’t believe anyone’s personal salvation or status within a congregation does or should depend on it. I just think it would be better scholarship, and would be encouraging to believers as they become more intimate with God who is so personal with us that he has revealed to us his name, rather than being a nameless, impersonal “force” in the universe.
        I’m not saying, “Watchtower, you need to be using Yahweh.” What I’m saying is, “Watchtower, you need to lighten up about God’s proper name. Or, if you choose not to lighten up, and insist on being legalistic about it, then you should consider using Yahweh so that you don’t look foolish to the rest of Christendom, whom you are trying to win over.”
        What I have been expressing to Mark is that the organization that he is committed to comes across as strict, legalistic, patronizing, and having a “my way or the highway” attitude. In contrast, the God I find in scripture comes across as a loving Father who encourages his kids to call him Father, and even “Dad.”
        Laying aside all the scholarship on the subject, I hope that makes more sense.

  16. TJ

    One additional comment. You said, “Yes, Jesus’ rule is meant to glorify Jehovah (as you say), and part of that includes Jesus saying ‘Father, glorify me,’ (John 17:5).” Absolutely, Jesus should receive a measure of glory as the appointed Lord and King. But how many are remembering where Jesus says, “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:28)

  17. TJ

    Thank you for your continued responses. I understand that you dislike ‘the Watchtower’ :), but I’m not so sure that you directly addressed my question. I’m asking why you view “Jesus” as a proper form to be used…but not “Jehovah”? Why does it look foolish to you for someone to use the English form “Jehovah” and yet it evidently does not look foolish to use the English form “Jesus”?

    I see this passive-aggressive type of stand on “Jehovah” as a wholly inconsistent position to take, for if the English form of God’s name is not proper, than none of the English forms of Bible names should be considered proper. Hebrew professor Francis Denio makes the same point: “Jehovah misrepresents Yahweh no more than Jeremiah misrepresents Yirmeyahu.”

    As to the tense of Hebrew imperfect verbs, I believe what Bernhardt, Bush, et. al., are saying is that the specific verb ehyeh in the imperfect form is always future (with a possible exception of Ruth 2:13). But I’m not prepared to go tracking down their arguments at this time, so for now, I concede that that’s a debatable point.

    With regard to the same verb being used just two verses earlier (and translated in the future tense by virtually all translations), you said: “we cannot determine the tense of the root verb of someone’s name based on the context of when the speaker would be addressing his audience.” I don’t think this is quite parallel to what’s going on here. For one thing, God’s name doesn’t appear until verse 15. For another thing, I think this misses God’s parallel answers to Moses’ two objections. Consider the context:

    In verse 10, God says he’s sending Moses to Egypt to go before Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In verse 11, Moses expresses his concern for his own inadequacies. God answers this in verse 12 with the promise of action on his part: “I will be [ehyeh] with you”. In verse 13, Moses expresses his second concern for the Israelites asking about God’s name. God answers this in verse 14 with a similar answer: “I will be what I will be [ehyeh asher ehyeh]”. So your view would totally disconnect what seems to be purposefully similar phrasing that God uses in each of his answers to Moses’ objections.

    Regarding my quote of the Executive Secretary of the NIV, you said: “Concerning the NIV translation, I don’t take the opinion (and resulting decision) of one man, the executive secretary of the committee, to be representative of all of Christiandom.” The problem is that this isn’t really the opinion of just one man, is it? Almost all mainstream Bibles in Christendom have removed God’s distinctive name, have they not? I even provided you the accompanying examples of the NKJV and the NASB, both of which actively removed God’s name from the text they revised.

    Commendably, there are a few that do retain God’s name, like the Catholic New Jerusalem Bible and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (the latter of which has it in only select places, but better than nowhere!). Yet these are certainly the exceptions. In your post above you repeatedly single out Mr. Palmer as if he’s in the marginalized minority. I just think he was simply being upfront about what we see most of the mainstream translations actually doing with God’s name. After all, if they didn’t use a similar rationalization, why wouldn’t they retain some form of God’s name?

    • Good day, my friend!
      I didn’t say it looked foolish to me for someone to use the name Jehovah. What I meant was that Watchtower looks foolish to the rest of Christiandom by being legalistic about it, especially when they insist on using the corrupted pronunciation Jehovah instead of the most accurate form, namely Yahweh. To me it’s foolish when Watchtower says that the Latinized form Jehovah is preferred; Yahweh is okay, but suspect; and the most common English title for God, namely Lord, is to be avoided.
      Am I being passive-aggressive? I hope not. But I don’t think it’s any more P-A than the Watchtower’s legalistic insistence on using the pronunciation Jehovah, and then making that practice the identifying marker of the one and only true church.
      Concerning again the verb tense of the “to be” verb in Exodus 3. If we consider the larger context, beginning with verse 6, God says to Moses “I AM the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” I see this as a “timeless present” tense; more about that later. Then God uses a mix of past, present and future (“I have seen,” “I have heard,” “I will come down,” etc. Then Moses asks what he should say when Pharoah asks him “You and who’s army?” (my paraphrase) to which God replies “I will be with you.” It’s a promise of God’s presence, more than a promise of his action. Then Moses asks how he should answer the Israelites when they ask “Which God are you talking about?” Then it becomes an issue of identity more than of action. That’s when God provides for Moses a name to use, clarifying that it’s this particular God, not one of the provincial gods of Egypt or somewhere else. It would be Yahweh, the self-existent one over all of creation, who has no boundaries or limitations with regard to space, time, strength, authority, or ability.
      I believe that Jesus confirms this when he expands this understanding to include God’s authority over life and death, when he quotes Exodus 3:6, and says that Yahweh is not the God of the dead, but of the Living. (Matthew 22:31-32, Mark 12:26-27, Luke 20:37-38) There Jesus is emphasizing the present verb tense of “I am,” which I called “the timeless present” above.
      In addition to Jesus’ confirmation, we have the words of the prophet at Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12, where God says “I AM the first and the last,” again using the timeless present. This is then quoted by John at Revelation 1:11, 1:17, 2:8, and 22:13.
      Finally, concerning Mr. Palmer. While I recognize his self-confessed profit motive (although I doubt he benefited directly, likely heading up a non-profit entity and receiving minimal compensation, my tendency of thought being “innocent until proven guilty”), this does not mean that the rest of the mainstream translators used a similar rationalization. Another possible motive could be that they wanted to stick with the most commonly used and familiar English expression at the time, namely “Lord.” They then do attempt to indicate when the tetragrammaton is in the text by using the all-caps form, “LORD.”

  18. TJ

    Hello again! Thank you again for your willingness to entertain my views here.

    I guess we’ll have to disagree on the Jehovah/Yahweh pronunciation issue. You seem to insist on holding JWs to a special standard of pronunciation for just this one name that you do not hold yourself or anyone else to for quite literally any other Bible name. In my view, that’s a weak complaint to make. JWs simply use the English form of God’s name in English publications just as you use the English form of every other Bible name. I say pick a pronunciation policy and stick with it; either it’s “Jehovah” and “Jesus” or it’s “Yahweh” and “Yeshua”. Using “Yahweh” and “Jesus” together (as you did again in your post) is inconsistent and just sounds odd to me.

    You said:
    Then Moses asks what he should say when Pharoah asks him “You and who’s army?” (my paraphrase) to which God replies “I will be with you.” It’s a promise of God’s presence, more than a promise of his action.

    It’s a promise that God will be present…to take action in Moses’ behalf.

    You said:
    Then Moses asks how he should answer the Israelites when they ask “Which God are you talking about?” Then it becomes an issue of identity more than of action.

    I disagree entirely. Your paraphrase of the assumed question that the Israelites would be asking is turning God’s name into a mere label in order to sort out one god from another. Moses wasn’t worried that they might think that he was coming as a prophet of Baal or whatever. Both Moses and the Israelites already knew the distinctive name of the true God; they already knew his identity just as their forefathers had. But they had been living in slavery all of their lives, so they had never seen Jehovah actually do anything to help improve their sad situation. So it’s only natural that they would question God’s desire/ability to help now. That’s why yet another promise of action is repeated and emphasized as the very meaning of the name ‘Jehovah’. This is what would give the Israelites courage, just as the previous answer gave Moses courage. Jehovah will act.

    Here’s a sincere POV question that I promise is related: Do you believe that one could reason his/her way to understanding the very identity of God without any revelation (i.e. scripture) at all? In other words, do we need the Bible to know God or can we deduce that knowledge by other means?

    You said:
    Finally, concerning Mr. Palmer…this does not mean that the rest of the mainstream translators used a similar rationalization.

    But it does mean that the intended customers’ preference can play a role in what is produced by a competitive, multi-million dollar publishing industry. Let’s take another example. The New King James Version (NKJV) is a revision of the KJV. The KJV of 1 John 5:7 contains the spurious insertion: “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”. The NKJV left this in even knowing full well that these words were added to the Bible! Why? Dr. Robert Stein quotes one of the editors of the NKJV as saying: “the editorial staff really felt that we shouldn’t include it, but the publishers said that if we don’t include it the translation won’t sell.” (See https://www.biblicaltraining.org/hermeneutical-issues/hermeneutics – found in the audio lecture at 17:14-17:52.)

    So when I also see that the NKJV removed God’s name ‘Jehovah’ from even the few places where it appears in the KJV (nevermind the thousands of other places where it appears in the source text), I’m not exactly optimistic that it wasn’t done for more noble reasons.

    You said:
    Another possible motive could be that they wanted to stick with the most commonly used and familiar English expression at the time, namely “Lord.”

    Well yes I’m sure they did, but I’m not sure why you’d think that this motive is necessarily separate from wanting the translation to sell better. After all, Palmer said that if the NIV had used God’s name nobody would have used that translation because of the prevailing familiarity with the KJV’s “LORD”. That’s actually why they didn’t use God’s name even though many of the translators wanted to! The preface to the American Standard Version (ASV) has this to say on the subject:

    The change first recommended in the Appendix – that which substitutes “Jehovah” for “LORD” and “GOD” – is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced. But the American Revisers, after a careful consideration were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament, as it fortunately does not in the numerous versions made by modern missionaries. This Memorial Name, explained in Ex. iii. 14, 15, and emphasized as such over and over in the original text of the Old Testament, designates God as the personal God, as the covenant God, the God of revelation, the Deliverer, the Friend of his people; — not merely the abstractly “Eternal One” of many French translations, but the ever living Helper of those who are in trouble. This personal name, with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.

    The NASB, which is a revision of the ASV, removed and replaced the thousands of occurrences of “Jehovah” found in the ASV text. I guess that in spite of the above statement, the NASB revisers felt that they had some reason to question the name’s “unquestionable claim” to the scriptures…….

    • Wow, you cover a lot of territory here. I appreciate your attention to detail.
      Let me see if I’m understanding your view correctly.
      First, you are contending that God’s name should be translated as a name, rather than as a title (e.g. Lord, God, etc.).
      I agree.
      Then, you’re contending that there needs to be consistency in the translation of names, whether we’re talking about the name for God or for people and places. In other words, consistently use Hebrew and Greek pronunciations/translations, or consistently use English pronunciations/translations.
      Also agreed.
      Then finally, you’re contending that for readability and acceptance within our current culture, we should use the English translation/pronunciation for God’s name, as well as for other names in scripture.
      This may surprise you, but again I agree.
      But, my view goes on to say that we should use the CORRECT English translation/pronunciation for God’s name, which would be Yahweh. Jehovah is the inauthentic, corrupted, Latinized pronunciation which was invented by the Roman Catholic church in the 13th century A.D., obtained by combining the vowels from “Adonai” (Lord) with the Hebrew consonants YHWH, and using the Latin letter J. If you look at the consonants YHWH, how would an English speaker normally sound that out? Something like Yahweh, yes? So then that’s the correct English pronunciation. Thus we would not be capitulating to the 13th century Roman church (whom the Watchtower views as corrupt), nor the current popular culture (whom the Watchtower views as corrupt).
      Regarding reason vs. revelation, there’s a distinction between general revelation (as described in Romans 1), which can include observation as well as reason, and special revelation, which would include the words of the prophets and of scripture. Gen rev will only get you so far. Through gen rev, one can learn about some of the characteristics of the creator. In fact, enough truth about God is evident through gen rev to make all mankind accountable before God. Learning specifics about God, however, is impossible without Special Revelation, so that apart from special rev we cannot know specifics about God, e.g. his goodness, omnipotence, unchanging nature, omnipresence, omniscience, and personal identity (name). Also revealed in special rev is God’s plan of redemption through the Messiah, Jesus. Finally, it must be said that neither learning the content of gen rev nor special rev are sufficient for salvation (i.e. redemption applied). A further work of God is required within the individual, by God’s Spirit, to accomplish salvation. (John 6:44, Ephesians 2:8-9)
      So when you ask “Do we need the Bible to know God or can we deduce that knowledge by other means?”, I believe the answer is neither. We can know some things ABOUT God apart from the Bible. We can know more things ABOUT God, including his name, from scripture. But we cannot KNOW God personally until (1) God draws us to Jesus by his Spirit, and (2) we receive the gift of eternal life and a relationship with God by the gift of grace (undeserved kindness), through faith (a transfer of trust) in what Jesus did for us.
      Now concerning translations (again), I find it interesting that the ASV that you so rightly affirm as a solid translation, translates Exodus 3:14 “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” You (and other readers) may ask what point I am making here. Please refer to previous comments about God’s name and his being and reputation rather than his actions on behalf of his people. And yes, the Israelites needed his identity made distinct from the idols and regional gods of the surrounding nations. How soon after the exodus from Egypt did they fall into idolatry?
      You say you’re “not sure why you’d think that this motive [popular usage] is necessarily separate from wanting the translation to sell better.” Of course it is. Otherwise, why would the Watchtower Society translate YHWH as Jehovah, and claim that they were doing so to accommodate popular usage? In your view, it would automatically indicate that they, just like everybody else, are doing so out of a profit motive.
      What I find most interesting about your last comment is your avoidance of the issue I brought up about the Watchtower Society being legalistic. From some of your past comments, language, and terminology, I get the impression that you’re associated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (aka Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), or are at least sympathetic toward that organization. I purposefully made that potentially volatile statement because I am highly interested in your response to it. Are you interested in defending them on that point that I addressed? How committed are you to the Watchtower organization at this point?

  19. TJ

    Thanks for your reply! I apologize for the length of my response. Your words are in italics, with my comments beneath them.

    But, my view goes on to say that we should use the CORRECT English translation/pronunciation for God’s name, which would be Yahweh.

    This might be where the disconnect is. ‘Yahweh’ is not the English pronunciation of the tetragrammaton; the English pronunciation is ‘Jehovah’. ‘Yahweh’ is a reconstruction of the original Hebraic pronunciation.

    Jehovah is the inauthentic, corrupted, Latinized pronunciation which was invented by the Roman Catholic church in the 13th century A.D.

    You keep repeating this line, which I’ve previously seen stated almost verbatim elsewhere, so I want to be clear about this. The form ‘Jehovah’ is a linguistic corruption, not some moral corruption (the repetition of this line makes me now think that you’re implying the latter). I really hope that you appreciate the difference. After all, the English form ‘Jesus’ is a corrupted version of the Greek ‘Iesous’, which is in turn a corrupted version of the Hebrew ‘Yeshua’. Even still, you seem to have no qualms with using ‘Jesus’ and I haven’t seen you ever go out of your way to note that it is a corrupted version of that name.

    And just as one counterexample to your narrative, an article published in The Harvard Theological Review states that: “Although most scholars believe ‘Jehovah’ to be a late (c. 1100 CE) hybrid form derived by combining the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai (the traditionally pronounced version of יהוה), many magical texts in Semitic and Greek establish an early pronunciation of the divine name as both Yehovah and Yahweh.” (Vol. 88, No. 3, p. 318) As I said before, I tend to think that there was never one Hebrew pronunciation uttered from Moses to Malachi. It no doubt varied in how it was pronounced over all of those centuries.

    If you look at the consonants YHWH, how would an English speaker normally sound that out? Something like Yahweh, yes? So then that’s the correct English pronunciation.

    To be honest, that’s just a bizarre argument to make. One would have to know how many syllables there are, and there’s even debate in the scholarly community if God’s name was originally pronounced as two syllables or three.

    Regardless, that has nothing to do with the English pronunciation! If I write out ‘IESOUS’ and ask an English speaker to sound that out, does that make it the “correct” English pronunciation over ‘Jesus’? Of course not! You keep trying to make up these special rules that only apply to how we should handle God’s name. Why?

    Again, I say select your pronunciation policy and be consistent with it. Either it’s the English ‘Jehovah’ and ‘Jesus’ or it’s the Hebrew ‘Yahweh’ and ‘Yeshua’. If you want to use the Hebrew ‘Yahweh’ and the English ‘Jesus’ together, that is of course your prerogative, but you are most definitely treating one name differently than the other.

    Learning specifics about God, however, is impossible without Special Revelation, so that apart from special rev we cannot know specifics about God, e.g. his…unchanging nature

    I generally agree with your assessment. The problem with your line above is that the Church Fathers (from the second century onward) argued the exact opposite on this point. It was often their contention that the Greek philosophers had come to understand God’s unchanging and perfect nature from their brilliant reasoning. But this ‘conversion’ of Greek philosophy into Christian theology had the side effect of making Jehovah distant and impersonal (which is what the philosophers’ notion of God was); and I tend to think it also contributed to the removal of his personal name in order to match that impersonal God. From Justo Gonzalez’s The History of Christianity:

    “When the first Christians set out to preach their message throughout the [Roman] empire, they were taken for ignorant atheists, for they had no visible gods. In response, some learned Christians appealed to the authority of those whom antiquity considered eminently wise: the classical philosophers…..Appealing to such respected authorities, Christians argued that they believed in the supreme being of the philosophers, and that this was what they meant when they spoke of God. Such an argument was very convincing, and there is no doubt that it contributed to the acceptance of Christianity among the intelligentsia.

    “But this was also a dangerous argument. It was possible that Christians, in their eagerness to show the kinship between their faith and classical philosophy, would come to the conviction that the best way to speak of God was not in the manner of the prophets and other biblical writers, but rather in the manner of Plato, Plotinus, and the rest. Since those philosophers conceived of perfection as immutable, impassible, and fixed, many Christians came to the conclusion that such was the God of scripture…..

    “…..the church was based on the faith that it was possible to have a direct relationship with a personal God, and the supreme being of the philosophers was in no way personal.”

    It is my belief that the obsession with “I AM” as a statement of static, immutable, eternal ontology is a meaning that was imported into the words of scripture to match the Greek conception of perfection. In other words, it’s not what the scriptures themselves meant originally. Gianotti’s comments on the Septuagint’s paraphrased translation of Exodus 3:14 (“I am the Being”), seem to support this:

    “How then does one account for the Septuagint translation ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ́̓Ων? It must be remembered that the Septuagint was compiled in Alexandria for Greek-speaking Jews. With Alexandria being thoroughly Helenized, the Septuagint was probably influenced by a Greek ‘ontology.’ Maclaurin suggests possibly that this view of God, which is also found in the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, was an attempt to commend Hebrew thought to Greek thinking. It is relatively easy to imagine the backslidden Jews, a few hundred years after the Exile, having lost touch with the character and nature of their God YHWH. In such a condition they would have easily been influenced by a popular view of the nature of deity as propagated in their environment.”

    Thus it seems to be the influence of Greek philosophy, with its emphasis on God’s immutable, perfect (in the Greek sense) nature, that caused Jehovah to become impersonal over time. If, as the philosophers surmised, God literally cannot change in anyway, then he cannot interact with his creation. He therefore came to be viewed as the cold and distant “I AM”, with Jesus being elevated to the role of the more personal God with whom one can have a direct relationship. Recall how the ASV Preface said that using God’s name helped readers to see him as “the personal God…..not merely the abstractly ‘Eternal One’ of many French translations.”

    More could be said, but I just wanted to introduce this line of thought to you.

    You say you’re “not sure why you’d think that this motive [popular usage] is necessarily separate from wanting the translation to sell better.” Of course it is. Otherwise, why would the Watchtower Society translate YHWH as Jehovah, and claim that they were doing so to accommodate popular usage? In your view, it would automatically indicate that they, just like everybody else, are doing so out of a profit motive.

    To be clear, the JWs do not sell Bibles (or any publications) for profit. So that doesn’t seem to be an apt comparison to make. But I’ve provided now two examples of two of the best-selling Bible translations actually going against their translators’ better judgement in order to satisfy their customers’ expectations and therefore sell more Bibles. That outcome was explicitly mentioned as being the reason to accommodate the popular usage/expectations in these cases. So I certainly see a connection between the two aims.

    What I find most interesting about your last comment is your avoidance of the issue I brought up about the Watchtower Society being legalistic…..I purposefully made that potentially volatile statement because I am highly interested in your response to it.

    And I suppose the reason why I didn’t respond to that was because it was an empty assertion. That’s the buzzword that Calvinists throw out in most discussions towards most everyone they disagree with (including other evangelicals). And in my experience, Calvinists tend to be just as legalistic as everyone else, if not more.

    Put simply, there’s nothing legalistic with saying that Christians should use God’s name and there’s nothing legalistic with using the English form of his name when communicating in English. I’m not sure what else you were hoping for as far as my response!

    • Thank you for your patience. I was taking some time to research the scholars you quoted. I could find very little information on each; for example, I found almost nothing on Justo Gonzalez other than his being known as a contributor to the development of Hispanic theology. (I did find one of his books available on Amazon, but the title was slightly different from the one you cited.) I didn’t find anything at all on Gianotti or Maclaurin, so I don’t feel that I can fairly respond to their claims. I would need to see those quotes in their context. (I’m a bit skittish about scholars being quoted out of context, thinking for example of the gross misrepresentation of Phillip B. Harner, Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85-87, in the “Jesus Christ” section of the Insight book.)
      The theory that the church fathers developed a syncretistic hybrid of Christian theology with paganism or Greek philosophy or both, is one that is interestingly shared by the Watchtower society and liberal theologians, the one difference being that the liberal theologians usually posit that the changes took place much sooner, even beginning with the New Testament writers themselves. There may also be other differences in terms of what each scholar feels are the specific elements imported from paganism and/or Greek philosophy.
      While I can’t claim to know people’s motivations, I imagine the assumptions behind these theories to be (1) that we must know God’s name in order to have a relationship with him, and (2) not knowing God by name gives him the characteristics of being “immutable,” “impassible,” “eternal,” and “static,” (to quote the terms used in your comment), and therefore cold, distant, and impersonal.
      I see several flaws with this theory. First, I find the testimony of scripture itself which speaks of God’s unchanging nature (James 1:17, Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 1:12, 13:8, Malachi 3:6, First Samuel 15:29, and Numbers 23:19). Granted, there are also scriptures that speak of God sometimes relenting in his decisions to judge people, especially in the context of a believer’s pleading, but I do not consider those to be necessarily contradictory with God’s immutability. I find particularly disturbing the quote by Gianotti that finds fault with the scriptural concept of God’s “eternal ontology.” Wouldn’t we both grant that God is eternally existent, with no beginning or end? Wouldn’t we both consider that to be a scriptural truth?
      The second flaw I find is the assumption that either there is no truth found in Greek philosophy, or that human reasoning cannot play a part in knowledge about God. Every religion and philosophy, no matter how bizarre or idolatrous it may be, contains at least a tiny bit of truth, as Paul acknowledged in his Mars Hill speech. While he was appalled at their Greek pagan polytheism, he commends them for at least being theists. The question remains whether the early church adopted Greek philosophical concepts, or whether the Greek philosophies happened to contain some ideas in common with Christianity. We have to make that judgement call based on the evidence found in scripture, not our preconceived assumptions.
      Finally, I find the concept that we must know God’s name to have a relationship with him, to be baffling. Any dad knows that his children have a relationship with him for years before they learn that he has a proper name, and what that name might be. In fact, it could be possible for someone to never learn their earthly father’s name, having a vibrant relationship their whole life, knowing him only as “Dad.” When that dad interacts consistently with a child, that child feels safe in the arms of their unchanging dad. When a dad acts inconsistently, changing the rules and expectations daily, the child is stressed, anxious, and disturbed. So it is with God. His unchangeable nature is our safe harbor. The gods of the nations are capricious and changeable, producing anxiety in their followers.
      Concerning legalism, here’s the definition from dictionary.com:
      1. Strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
      2. In theology
      a. The doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
      b. The judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.
      Perhaps I should have been clearer in my use of the term. I’m sure it has indeed been used as an attempted discussion-stopping buzzword. My use of it was not with that intention. This being a blog with the subject matter centered on the Watchtower organization, my assertions are primarily formulated with that specific group in mind. By their own admission, theirs is a system whereby salvation is made possible by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but the obtaining and maintaining of that salvation (and thus one’s relationship with God) is based on the individual believer’s works. Perhaps you personally are not part of that legalistic system, and you have put your trust solely in the finished sacrifice of Christ for your forgiveness of sins and relationship with God. I hope that is the case. If, however, your commitment was to an earthly organization rather than to Jesus (as per the Watchtower baptismal questions), then the words of Jesus would apply: “You are searching the scriptures because you think that you will have everlasting life by means of them; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me. And yet you do not want to come to me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) The distinction of Christianity among all the religions of the world, is the reliance on the work of Jesus rather than one’s own works. Everything else is some form of legalism.

  20. TJ

    Thanks for your response; I’m enjoying delving into these matters. 🙂 I apologize, but I’ll have to break my comment into multiple parts.

    Part 1
    You didn’t respond to what has been the primary focus of our discussion for awhile now. If you agree that 1) God’s name should be used, and 2) that the standard convention of using the English form of a Bible name applies, then there should be no cause for complaint for using the English “Jehovah” just as you freely use the linguistically-corrupted English form “Jesus”.

    I’m hoping we found some common ground in that area. The objection to “Jehovah” on the grounds of it not being the ‘correct’ pronunciation has always appeared to me as a form of special pleading, given that I never see the same thing mentioned for any other Bible name.

    I could find very little information on each; for example, I found almost nothing on Justo Gonzalez other than his being known as a contributor to the development of Hispanic theology.

    Dr. Gonzalez is a renowned Protestant (Methodist) theologian and historian. His 2-volume series of books, The Story of Christianity (which I accidentally typed up as The History of Christianity last time), are standard works used in evangelical seminaries. I quoted the better part of 3 paragraphs from his book, but you’re free to read it for yourself to ease your contextual concerns. My quote comes from pages 182-4 of volume 1. In fact, because I cut some parts of his point for space, it evidently led you to a misunderstanding on the Greek concept of immutability, which I’ll explain further below.

    I didn’t find anything at all on Gianotti or Maclaurin, so I don’t feel that I can fairly respond to their claims.

    As I cited previously, that quote came from the article “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH”, appearing in the journal Bibliotheca Sacra (Vol. 142: No. 565), which is published by the evangelical Dallas Theological Seminary. There, Charles R. Gianotti is described as the pastor of Hillside Bible Chapel located in Orillia, Ontario, Canada. From that church’s website, it appears to be evangelical. Gianotti, on a particular point, referenced E. Colin B. MacLaurin’s article “Yhwh: The Origin of the Tetragrammaton” from Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962): 440. MacLaurin was the founder of the Department for Semitic Studies at the University of Sydney.

    The theory that the church fathers developed a syncretistic hybrid of Christian theology with paganism or Greek philosophy or both, is one that is interestingly shared by the Watchtower society and liberal theologians

    Well, as shown above, there are evangelicals involved in this ‘theory’ as well, although I think it’s more than a mere theory. Alvan Lamson, in his book The Church of the First Three Centuries (1880, p.65), gives us a bit of an ecumenical survey:

    “Few names stand higher in the Romish Church than those of Petavius and Huet, or Huetius: the latter, Bishop of Avranches, a learned man, and the original editor of Origen’s Commentaries on the New Testament; the former, a Jesuit, profoundly versed, as his writings prove, in a knowledge of Christian antiquity. Among Protestants, Cudworth, author of the “Intellectual System,” stands preeminent for erudition; and Mosheim, and many will add Horsely, the antagonist of Dr. Priestley, have no mean fame. Yet all these–and we might mention several others, all belonging to the ranks of Trinitarians–admit, in substance the charge of Platonism brought against the Fathers…..Brucker, the historian of Philosophy, also a Trinitarian, gives in his learned work the result of a diligent examination of the writings of Justin, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others. His conclusion, in which he is fully borne out by his citations, is, that the taint of Platonism strongly adhered to these Fathers; and that, through their writings, the whole Church, in fact, became infected.”

    The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo, sometimes called the Jewish Plato, lived in Alexandria (where Gianotti speculates that the Septuagint was influenced by a Greek ‘ontology’). Philo most certainly attempted to reconcile the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, and his writings (especially on his concept of the Logos) had a profound affect on the later Church Fathers. The The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge finds common ground with Dr. Gonzalez where it says:

    “Many of the early Christians, in turn, found peculiar attractions in the doctrines of Plato, and employed them as weapons for the defense and extension of Christianity, or cast the truths of Christianity in a Platonic mold. The doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity received their shape from Greek Fathers, who, if not trained in the schools, were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy, particularly in its Jewish-Alexandrian form.”

    The third-century church father Tertullian, seeing firsthand the deliberate fusion of Greek philosophy with the gospel, made his famous quote, ‘What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?’ After this he says, “Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition!”

    Interestingly, in his second-century work The First Apology (chapter 10), Justin Martyr (also known as Justin the Philosopher) says that God “is called by no proper name.” So with whom does Justin agree here? Jesus, who said, “I have made [God’s] name known to them and will make it known,” or Philo, who said, “It was, therefore, quite consistent with reason that no proper name could with propriety be assigned to him who is in truth the living God.” (John 17:26; On the Change of Scripture Names, Chapter 2)

    • TJ

      Part 2
      First, I find the testimony of scripture itself which speaks of God’s unchanging nature (James 1:17, Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 1:12, 13:8, Malachi 3:6, First Samuel 15:29, and Numbers 23:19)…..I find particularly disturbing the quote by Gianotti that finds fault with the scriptural concept of First, I find the testimony of scripture itself which speaks of God’s unchanging nature (James 1:17, Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 1:12, 13:8, Malachi 3:6, First Samuel 15:29, and Numbers 23:19)…..I find particularly disturbing the quote by Gianotti that finds fault with the scriptural concept of God’s “eternal ontology.” Wouldn’t we both grant that God is eternally existent, with no beginning or end? Wouldn’t we both consider that to be a scriptural truth?

      This is the misunderstanding of the Greek concept of immutability that I mentioned earlier. The philosophers essentially meant that in order for God to be perfect, he cannot interact with his creation in any way, for that would be mutability in their understanding. To them, God has to sit there for an eternity and just be perfect. Thus, the God of the philosophers is not personal in any way whatsoever. Here’s a fuller explanation from Dr. Gonzalez:

      “But this was also a dangerous argument. It was possible that Christians, in their eagerness to show the kinship between their faith and classical philosophy, would come to the conviction that the best way to speak of God was not in the manner of the prophets and other biblical writers, but rather in the manner of Plato, Plotinus, and the rest. Since those philosophers conceived of perfection as immutable, impassible, and fixed, many Christians came to the conclusion that such was the God of scripture.

      “Two means were found to bring together what the Bible says about God and the classical notion of the supreme being as impassible and fixed: allegorical interpretation of scriptural passages, and the doctrine of the Logos. Allegorical interpretation was fairly simple to apply. Wherever scripture says something ‘unworthy’ of God–that is, something that is not worthy of the perfection of the supreme being of the philosophers–such words are not to be taken literally. Thus, for instance, if the Bible says that God walked in the garden, or that God spoke, one is to remember that an immutable being does not really walk or speak. Intellectually, this satisfied many minds. But emotionally, it left much to be desired, for the life of the church was based on the faith that it was possible to have a direct relationship with a personal God, and the supreme being of the philosophers was in no way personal.

      “There was another way to resolve the conflict between the philosophical idea of a supreme being and the witness of scripture. This was the doctrine of the Logos, as developed by Justin, Clement, Origen, and others. According to this view, although it is true that the supreme being–the ‘Father’–is immutable, impassible, and so on, there is also a Logos, Word, or Reason of God, and this is personal, capable of direct relationships with the world and with humans. Thus, according to Justin, when the Bible says that God spoke to Moses, what it means is that the Logos of God spoke to him.”

      The second flaw I find is the assumption that either there is no truth found in Greek philosophy, or that human reasoning cannot play a part in knowledge about God….The question remains whether the early church adopted Greek philosophical concepts, or whether the Greek philosophies happened to contain some ideas in common with Christianity.

      Well certainly human reason can be used to ascertain some knowledge of truth and even confirm some revelation. But it can also cloud and distort revelation. For instance, I think when such human reasoning turns a personal God into an impersonal one, it can safely be considered counterproductive. That’s why Gonzalez said that it was “dangerous” to be arguing scripture in the language of the philosophers; the effect was that extra-biblical ideas were actually imported into biblical concepts.

      Finally, I find the concept that we must know God’s name to have a relationship with him, to be baffling.

      I suppose this is an issue to take up with Jesus: “I have made your name known to them and will make it known.” Why is that mission so important to Jesus? He answers: “so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:26)

      To be straightforward, I find it just as baffling that God’s name, which is specifically revealed to his people and emphasized over and over as being of extreme importance, even to the point that Jesus says it’s the very first thing that we should pray for (cf. Matthew 6:9) and that one must ‘call upon it’ in order to attain salvation (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), can be so casually dismissed as not very important. Indeed your analogy is an apt one, a very young child might not know their own father’s personal name. And so what would that say about the spiritual maturity and knowledge of a Christian who is unaware of his/her heavenly Father’s personal name? Jehovah wants us grow spiritually and to come to know him, and a fundamental aspect of really knowing someone is learning his name!

      By their own admission, theirs is a system whereby salvation is made possible by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but the obtaining and maintaining of that salvation (and thus one’s relationship with God) is based on the individual believer’s works.

      The glaring problem of course with your extreme Calvinistic view of God is this: if it is completely up to God that a person is saved (i.e. they can do nothing in themselves to either obtain or lose the salvation he gives them), and yet not all people are saved, that necessitates that Jehovah purposefully chooses to condemn other human beings (which again is a fate that they can do nothing to escape) to death and, most likely in your view, eternal, torturous hellfire. What kind of a God is that? Have you really taken time to meditate on that necessary conclusion of your belief? Would you actively choose that fate for one of your own children?

      Contrast that with scripture: “[God] does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) There’s a God that I can understand and relate to. But you are arguing for a God that absolutely does desire for some to be destroyed. If you take nothing else away from this entire post, please dwell on that one point!

      Going with the theme above, the New Encyclopedia Brittanica makes this point regarding St. Augustine, the innovator and champion of what would eventually become the Calvinistic view: “[his] mind was the crucible in which the religion of the New Testament was most completely fused with the Platonic tradition of Greek philosophy; and it was also the means by which the product of this fusion was transmitted to the Christendoms of medieval Roman Catholicism and Renaissance Protestantism.”

      The apostle Paul said, “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you…and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things.” (Acts 20:29-30)

      • Once again I want to make sure I clearly understand your claim. (I believe that in order for us to have a meaningful dialogue, we must understand what the other is saying; otherwise we run the risk of arguing against something the other is not saying at all.)
        If I understand correctly, your main point is that the early church fathers were guilty of assimilating the “Greek concept of immutability,” that is, Platonism, so that “the taint of Platonism strongly adhered to the fathers,” and thus “the whole church became infected,” resulting in a “mottled Christianity.” This, in effect, turned “a personal God into an impersonal one.”
        Your description of the Greek concept of immutability is that “in order for God to be perfect, he cannot interact with his creation in any way,” and “God has to sit there for an eternity and just be perfect.” In short, “The God of the philosophers,” and hence the early church fathers, “is not personal in any way whatsoever.”
        Your two sub-topics then have to do with how the church fathers justified this view. This they first accomplished by using allegorical interpretation, that is, “whenever scripture says something unworthy, such words are not to be taken literally.” Secondly, they utilized the Greek doctrine of the logos, that is, the “reason of God,” which could communicate with humanity.
        To look at just one of the church fathers you cited, Justin Martyr: While he does mention in chapter 10 of his First Apology, “as many virtues as are peculiar to a God who is called by no proper name,” (with which I would disagree, if I correctly understand his point, but I would want to study his view further in some of his other documents), he goes on to say in chapter 20:

        If, therefore, on some points we teach the same things as the poets and philosophers whom you honour, and on other points are fuller and more divine in our teaching, and if we alone afford proof of what we assert, why are we unjustly hated more than all others? For while we say that all things have been produced and arranged into a world by God, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of Plato; and while we say that there will be a burning up of all, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of the Stoics: and while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence, we shall seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers; and while we maintain that men ought not to worship the works of their hands, we say the very things which have been said by the comic poet Menander, and other similar writers, for they have declared that the workman is greater than the work.

        And in chapter 28:

        And if any one disbelieves that God cares for these things, he will thereby either insinuate that God does not exist, or he will assert that though He exists He delights in vice, or exists like a stone, and that neither virtue nor vice are anything, but only in the opinion of men these things are reckoned good or evil. And this is the greatest profanity and wickedness.

        In other words, Justin Martyr acknowledges that some of his (and his colleagues’) points of view may resemble Greek concepts, having some similar qualities, but that they go on to a depth that is more scriptural, not seeing God as “existing like a stone,” as per the Greek concept of immutability.
        This is one example of why I have a concern that people, whether ancient or contemporary, be not quoted out of context, and used as proof-texts to support one’s point.
        Regarding allegorical interpretation, I am in full agreement with you about the dangers thereof, and the imperative of avoiding its usage. I was recently pleasantly surprised that the Watchtower organization, contrary to its consistent historical practice, has a new policy of avoiding allegorical interpretation (Watchtower March 15, 2015). I am still highly concerned, however, with their failure to recognize their ongoing adherence to the methodology in Daniel 4 and Matthew 24:45-51. One could also cite their treatment of the 144,000 in Revelation as a textbook example of the practice of “whenever scripture says something unworthy, such words are not to be taken literally.” It is a selective literalism to say that the number 144,000 is to be taken literally, while all other aspects of the description of the group are to be taken figuratively. And who does the selecting of what is literal and what is figurative? Oh, that would be the self-appointed “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24. Isn’t that convenient?
        Another of your claims that I want to make sure that I understand is this: I believe you’re saying that one cannot know someone else deeply, or in a mature way, without knowing that person’s name. As you say, “a fundamental aspect of really knowing someone is learning his name.” I would offer in retort the example of a sports fan. I could be a big fan of Joe Montana. I could know his name, and additionally a whole lot of technical stats about him: His pass completions, number of wins and losses, etc. But do I know him personally? Not at all. I’ve never met him. But I know his name, doesn’t that count for something? No, that’s the point. Jesus will say of many, “Depart from me. I don’t know you.” And a good many of those will know his, and Jehovah’s, name.
        Concerning your Calvinism rant, I never claimed to be a Calvinist. While I do agree with some of what Calvin taught, I do not believe all of what he taught. For example, I do not believe in Calvin’s concept of a limited atonement. I do believe in salvation by grace through faith, apart from works, as taught in Ephesians 2:8-9. I do believe as you say: “it is completely up to God that a person is saved (i.e. they can do nothing in themselves to either obtain or lose the salvation he gives them),” which I find expressed in John 6:33, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” And I agree with the fact, as you expressed it, “not all people are saved.” I also agree with the scripture you quote: “[God] does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). You then go on to say that I am “arguing for a God that absolutely does desire for some to be destroyed.” I wouldn’t say that my beliefs necessitate that God desires that. That is a misunderstanding of not only my view, but Calvinism as well. You have set up a straw man, arguing against not a Calvinist, but rather something resembling a fatalist. Concerning the destruction of some, I do say that such an outcome is inevitable. We both agree (I think) that some necessarily will be destroyed. Does the inevitability of that terrible day of destruction necessitate that God desires it to happen? I believe you and I would both agree that answer to that is no. I explain the inevitability by bringing in human free will.
        In researching the Watchtower’s view of God’s unchanging nature, I was pleased to find myself in agreement with their view as expressed in Awake, 6/8/00, p. 16-17, where both James 1:17 and Malachi 3:6 are quoted, and the conclusion is given:

        The differences in his personality seemingly demonstrated in various parts of the Bible are in reality different aspects of the same unchanging personality. These result from the differing circumstances and persons dealt with, which called for different attitudes or relationships.
        Hence, the Scriptures show clearly that God’s personality has not changed over the centuries and will not change in the future. Jehovah is the supreme embodiment of constancy and consistency. At all times he is dependable and trustworthy. We can always rely on him.

        I express the concept in terms of God showing different facets of his character to different people at different times, while his essential nature remains unchanged. So I think we may agree more about God’s unchanging nature than we realized before now. As you have been describing God’s willingness to change (contrary to the Platonic view of God as stone-like), is this what you have been trying to express?
        What still concerns me, though, is the Watchtower organization, in an attempt to explain human suffering, compromises God’s omniscience, calling it “selective foreknowledge.” (See Watchtower, July 2014.) A harsh critic would label this “an extreme Arminian view.” Do you share such a view with them?
        Finally, regarding the name of God, and Jesus’ statement about “making your name known.” Considering the context of Jesus’ words, I would ask, to whom did Jesus make God’s name known? The answer from the context is the disciples. We read in John 17:26 “I have made your name known to them, and will continue to make it known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Surely the disciples knew God’s name already, just as I already know Joe Montana’s name. The multitudes and the Jews also knew God’s name. Even “those who will believe in me through their message” (verse 20) would know God’s name, especially if, as Watchtower teaches, the Christian Greek scriptures originally contained that name at least up to 300 C.E. (See New World Translation, Appendix 5, “The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures.”) I don’t believe that Jesus was talking about literally teaching people what God’s proper name was. Otherwise he would have taught the disciples to pray to “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” rather than “Our Father.” And First Corinthians 1:1-3 would have looked very different, reading perhaps something like:

        Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of Jehovah, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of Jehovah in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of Jehovah—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from Jehovah our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

        Rather than the actual:

        Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God (theos), and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God (theos) in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God (theos) our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

        Upon whose name did the believers call, according to the book of First Corinthians? Have you done that?

  21. TJ

    Hello again and thank you for your reply. This discussion seems to be going into some big-topic tangential directions and I’m concerned that this has sidetracked an important point.

    You again did not respond to my very first point concerning what you called the “correct” pronunciation of God’s name. Perhaps we can reach agreement on that before I respond to the other issues, because I certainly agree that, as you say, “in order for us to have a meaningful dialogue, we must understand what the other is saying.”

    You had stated previously that “my view goes on to say that we should use the CORRECT English translation/pronunciation for God’s name, which would be Yahweh.”

    Do you recognize now that “Yahweh” is not an English translation of the tetragrammaton, but rather what is believed to be the Hebraic pronunciation?

    Do you recognize that the English form “Jesus” is itself a corrupted form of the Greek “Iesous”, which is in turn a corrupted form of the Hebrew “Yeshua”?

    If those two points can be conceded, I see no reason left for any complaint to be made against using the English “Jehovah” just as freely as you use the English “Jesus”. Thoughts?

  22. I think our disconnect has to do with a misunderstanding of what my view is regarding God’s name, and I hope I can clarify my view once and for all.
    As I said in my 1/23 comment, I don’t INSIST that anyone use any particular pronunciation for the name of God, or any other biblical name for that matter. I don’t consider any of the pronunciations to be technically more or less correct than any other, whether we use Hebraic, Greek, English, Latinized or currently accepted English pronunciations. Nor would I regard it any more or less correct for someone to inconsistently mix any of them either in their speech, or in their translating work. I believe that as believers in God, we have freedom in Christ to address God as Yahweh, Jehovah, God, Lord, Dad, Papa, and perhaps others that I’m not thinking of. And we are free to pronounce and/or translate other biblical names in the way we choose to. My personal preference would be to translate biblical names of humans in a way that makes sense to contemporary North Americans, which would be, for example, Matthew, John, Jeremiah, etc. For God’s name, my opinion is that using LORD (all caps) to designate the tetragrammaton would be acceptable, with an appendix or preface explaining what that designates, for those who are interested. Perhaps even with an asterisk at each usage, accompanied by a brief explanatory footnote and another pathway to the preface or appendix. Using the name LORD would be a familiar form to English speakers, and would be as appropriate as Jesus’ disciples calling Jesus “Lord” now and then. Even more preferable to me would be to use Yahweh, with a similar explanatory system provided. Less desirable to me, but still acceptable, would be to use Jehovah for God’s name, but again with explanatory notes.
    All along my argument has been an expression of a beef I have with the Watchtower organization, who insists, yes I say insists, on their members using the particular pronunciation Jehovah, and also using the practice as a litmus test for orthodoxy. (See again my citation of the video “Does God Have a Name?” where the Tetragrammaton and the pronunciation Yahweh is discussed, but the conclusion arrived at is “God’s name IS Jehovah.” to cite just one example among others.) The hypocrisy of their legalistic practice is compounded by their claim to be the only organization leading God’s people today, while all others are “Christian leaders [who] have regularly revised their teachings to match the beliefs and opinions gaining support among their members and in the larger society. If those of the Governing Body allow God’s Word rather than popular opinion to guide their decisions, who is really leading God’s people today?” (Watchtower February 2017, “Who Is Leading God’s People Today?”) This they say while allowing “popular opinion” to dictate their acceptance of a form of God’s name unknown to the world, and thus to Jesus and the early church, until about 600 years ago. The hypocrisy is further displayed by their legalistic avoidance of cultural, pagan, and Roman Catholic references to the extent that they cannot use the terms “bulletin board” or “hymn,” or celebrate Easter, Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Mother’s Day.
    To sum up my diatribe (aka rant), what I’m saying is that if they’re going to insist on a particular pronunciation for God’s name, which they so highly regard, then they should use their own criteria to determine the correct pronunciation for that name. It seems that instead they have an inconsistent “my ball, my rules” attitude.
    As an illustration of my view, I want to talk about tacos. I love tacos. Recently I heard a Brit pronounce the word “tack-oz” rather than the more authentic pronunciation “tock-oz.” (The “a” should have an umlaut sound rather than the short-a sound.) The Brit then justified his pronunciation by stating that the correct pronunciation of the word, in the Queen’s English, is “tack-oz.” Thus for him it was settled. What do I think about that man? Other than this issue, I greatly respect his character. And I would even argue that he has the right and/or privilege to pronounce the word the British way (especially in America). But I cannot help but point out that his opinion and practice make him look foolish. If he were then to press the issue, claiming that his pronunciation was the one that should be the accepted norm in all of the English speaking world, then I would think of him as either tyrannical or just pathetically deluded, depending on how much power he had to impose that rule on others. If he would also criticize some who wanted to avoid the debate, using the label “Mexican wraps” rather than “tacos,” I would think him to be a legalistic gourmet indeed. For those who call the delightful dish Mexican wraps do not love them any less than those who call them “tack-oz” or those who call them “tock-oz.” If we’re going to be strict, we should say “tock-oz” rather than “tack-oz.” But let’s not be strict, okay?
    Perhaps to further clarify my view, I should retract my previous use of the term “correct pronunciation” as an inaccurate expression of my true view. It would have been better for me to say that Yahweh is a “more authentic pronunciation,” rather than the “correct pronunciation,” which I believe Yahweh to be, much like the pronunciation “tock-oz.” You are free to use other names and pronunciations for God (or tacos), and I won’t think any less of you. But Watchtower, or anyone else, do NOT judge me or others based on how I address God, without expecting a strong objection. No one can claim that I love God, Yahweh, The LORD, Jehovah, Dad, or Papa, any less than they do. When they do so judge, it’s all I can do to refrain from shouting “Scribes, Pharisees, and Hypocrites!”
    End of rant.

    • TJ

      Part 1
      Thank you for replying to my last post before we continue on. It seems to me that there’s currently 3 main topics going on here for me to address (I’m really trying not to get bogged down in following every tangent).

      1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
      Perhaps to further clarify my view, I should retract my previous use of the term “correct pronunciation” as an inaccurate expression of my true view.

      I appreciate that, but just to be clear, you had said that “Yahweh” is the ‘correct English pronunciation’, though it is actually an Hebraic pronunciation. “Jehovah” is the pronunciation that is consistent with “Jesus”, i.e. it is the modern English form of the name. If you want to continue to characterize “Jehovah” as incorrect/inauthentic/corrupt, then to be consistent (and intellectually honest) you should equally characterize “Jesus” (and most all other Bible names in common usage) as such. I have yet to see you acknowledge this.

      It would have been better for me to say that Yahweh is a “more authentic pronunciation,” rather than the “correct pronunciation,”

      I can agree with that, if by “more authentic” you mean that “Yahweh” is meant to be the Hebraic pronunciation. But I would point out again that your preference here for the ‘authentic pronunciation’ is one that you seem to hold for just this one name. You evidently hold a different preference (or standard) for the names Jesus, Matthew, John, Jeremiah, etc. I suspect that this is why people look at you funny when you actively encourage the ‘authentic pronunciation’ for just this one name. I see no reason to hold a special preference for a reconstructed Hebraic pronunciation of God’s name while using modern English pronunciations for quite literally all others, and you really haven’t provided any reason for such a preference (other than it evidently being a means for you to stick it to the JWs).

      2. Justin the Philosopher and the Amoral Stone
      I appreciate that you looked into Justin Martyr’s First Apology, but I think you may have misunderstood what he’s saying in chapter 28. You said that Justin was “not seeing God as ‘existing like a stone,’ as per the Greek concept of immutability.”

      Context. Justin is not making the comparison of God to a stone in order to disprove the Greek concept of immutability! Instead, he was saying that God is not amoral like a stone, i.e. completely disinterested in “virtue and vice” among humans. Justin says that this amoral argument for God (which is unrelated to the Greek concept of immutability), in effect relegates good and evil to a matter of man’s opinion, and as such is “the greatest profanity and wickedness” in his view. Interestingly, he goes on to employ the very same argument against those that say that God predestines who will be saved and who will not be in chapter 43.

      Nevertheless, Justin does begin to develop the philosophical “doctrine of the Logos” (of which Gonzalez speaks) as the ‘Reason of God’. Justin says that the Logos was among the Greeks and spoke through Socrates (evidently viewing the Logos as reason in some impersonal form, which later took form in Jesus Christ). (Ch. 5) And he even fits the Logos into the second place within Plato’s ‘trinity’ or triad. (Ch. 60) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says this:

      “Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165) describes the origin of the logos (= the pre-human Jesus) from God using three metaphors (light from the sun, fire from fire, speaker and his speech), each of which is found in either Philo or Numenius (Gaston 2007, 53). Accepting the Philonic thesis that Plato and other Greek philosophers received their wisdom from Moses, he holds that Plato in his dialogue Timaeus discussed the Son (logos), as, Justin says, ‘the power next to the first God’. And in Plato’s second letter, Justin finds a mention of a third, the Holy Spirit (Justin, First Apology, 60). As with the Middle Platonists, Justin’s triad is hierarchical or ordered. And Justin’s scheme is not, properly, trinitarian. The one God is not the three, but rather one of them and the primary one, the ultimate source of the second and third.”

      This all seems to jive with what I’ve previously asserted. You will of course not find Justin or any of the Church Fathers actually saying that they’re purposefully importing non-scriptural philosophical ideas into Christianity, but the evidence is that this is what happened gradually, over time, as they continued to speak of scriptural concepts within a philosophical framework.

      • TJ

        Part 2
        3. Predestined to Destruction?
        You then go on to say that I am “arguing for a God that absolutely does desire for some to be destroyed.” I wouldn’t say that my beliefs necessitate that God desires that. That is a misunderstanding of not only my view, but Calvinism as well.

        Of course most Calvinists will make this type of rhetorical point, but that does not at all change the fact that it is indeed the necessary implication of that belief system! If some are saved only by God’s desire, that means some are destroyed only by God’s desire (or lack thereof). There is no escaping this.

        The Calvinist will love to say how he is saved by God’s grace alone, having nothing to do with his own choice or actions to serve God (for he is ‘totally depraved’). But what that same Calvinist will almost never acknowledge or mention is that the flip side of this means that there is some other poor schlub out there to whom God purposefully withholds his grace! Both are deserving of destruction, and neither is more willing to serve God than the other. But for some unexplainable divine ‘mystery’, God chooses to save the one and not the other. Thus, contrary to scripture, God does not really desire for all to attain to repentance and not be destroyed–according to Calvinism.

        When confronted with this problem, both hard-line and quasi Calvinists come up with various coping mechanisms in an attempt to explain away that unloving conception of a loving God, which perhaps we can address later. But for now, let’s review what you do assert as true:

        1. I do believe as you say: “it is completely up to God that a person is saved (i.e. they can do nothing in themselves to either obtain or lose the salvation he gives them),”

        2. I also agree with the scripture you quote: “[God] does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

        3. We both agree…that some necessarily will be destroyed.

        This doesn’t add up! If a person literally “can do nothing” to either obtain or lose salvation–i.e. it is 100% “completely up to God” to save them–and yet we know that not all people will be saved, this requires that God chooses for some to be destroyed! There is simply no individual free moral agency in this picture.

        If you really believe that God “does not desire anyone to be destroyed”, and “it is completely up to God that a person is saved”, then why doesn’t God simply save all people?

        If I didn’t get to everything you wanted me to respond to, I apologize, but this discussion is getting a little too big (I keep having to break up my posts!).

      • Regarding Calvinism versus Arminianism, both sides have questions that need to be answered, and it’s not easy for either side. As Ricky Ricardo said, “You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” The challenge for the Calvinist is to answer the question, “How does human free will fit in to your system?” or as you put it, “There is simply no individual free moral agency in this picture.” The Arminian has to answer: “How does your system account for God’s soverignty?” Or as I put it, how does God’s sovereignty fit in?
        I would be very interested to have your comments on Paul’s view of the issue as expressed in Romans 9:18-24:
        “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
        Please comment on Paul’s very strong language, e.g. “He hardens whom he wants to harden,” “Who is able to resist his will,” “Why did you make me like this,” “some for common use,” “objects of his wrath,” and “prepared for destruction.”

      • Regarding my view of the issue of God’s name, you say:
        “you really haven’t provided any reason for such a preference (other than it evidently being a means for you to stick it to the JWs).”
        That would be similar, I think, to the Watchtower’s insistence on believers using God’s proper name, both indicatively (in 3rd person speech) and vocatively (in prayer), without providing adequate reason (other than it evidently being a means to stick it to Evangelicals and others).
        I am aware that both you and the Watchtower give reasons for the practice, but that has been my point all along, that I question those reasons and suspect that the real reason is to use the belief and practice as a litmus test for orthodoxy, and as a legalistic criterion for members’ performance.
        Regarding the name Jesus used for God, I find it interesting to observe the name for God that Jesus used six times in his prayer in John 17. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t Jehovah.)

      • Regarding Justin and the other early church fathers, you say:
        “they continued to speak of scriptural concepts within a philosophical framework.”
        This view goes both ways. One could accuse the Watchtower of speaking of scriptural concepts with the philolophical framework of William Miller and Nelson Barbour, especially in their early history. Much has changes since then, but the eschatological calculations and interpretations of Daniel 9 remain, as well as many other concepts as well.

  23. Sabrina

    I am just curious if TJ’s statement from Jan 26th “So Jesus’ work making God’s name manifest similarly has to do with revealing more about Jehovah and his purpose. It’s not just about the literal name…but you cannot leave the literal name out of it altogether either. The name and its meaning are inseparable. ” How is it we do not know the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton now?

    • For a long time orthodox Jews were so concerned about taking God’s name in vain that they did not say the name out loud, instead substituting the word Adonai, or Lord, for the proper name. That went on for so long that it ended up with no one knowing the original pronunciation.

      • Sabrina

        yes I have read about that. I don’t think they were using God’s holy name even at the time when Jesus was on the earth. They may have known the pronunciation but they definitely didn’t use it. I guess on a simple note, what I am thinking about while reading over all the above comments- and this is just my opinion of course 🙂 NOONE knows the correct pronunciation of God’s at this point in history. So why would we use an incorrect pronunciation? The God who inspired humans to write our Holy Book, who caused prophecies to be fulfilled, could have surely preserved the pronunciation of his name if he so chose. Perhaps it will be restored at some time, but in the meantime why would we use Yahweh, Jehovah or any other unverifiable pronunciation? Why not call him Father?- as we know Jesus did and set the example for us. How about forget this argument about God’s name and focus on his will? In my opinion using this name- Jehovah does not constitute proof of the only true religion that is acceptable to God. I have heard that reasoning from a lot by Jw’s, ” Which organization is using God’s name today?” they’ll say. That’s baloney to me. It is not proof of God direction, or God’s blessing or anything else to me but man’s folly at trying to be distinguished from other religious sects and probably much to the chagrin of CT Russell if he knew was in effect today with this organization. I grew up using this name, it hindered my ability to grasp the role of Jesus, it hindered my ability to accept God’s love for me and I am just grateful that I have been able to let go of this entangling concept that I need to use the name Jehovah to be heard by my Father in heaven. I am free in Christ and for that I am ever grateful. I know he opened the way for me. I am confident he will continue to show me the way to my Father.
        And because JWs are so dogmatic about the use of this name– it sends me far far away from the likes of them. Just saying God instead of Jehovah offends them- if you had already been using that name. I just don’t get how they could be so judgmental and not recognize how pharisaical that is. Most don’t even understand the true history of that name, yet they will look down on someone who chooses not to use it.

      • Well said. I value your words because you’re speaking as someone who has been on the inside.

      • TJ

        Hello Sabrina,

        I’m curious how you know that in Jesus’ time “they definitely didn’t use” God’s name?

        You said, “Why not call him Father?- as we know Jesus did.” As I’ve been trying to explain here about the folly of insisting on these theoretical ‘true’ pronunciations, even that statement is troublesome. After all, Jesus most definitely did not call God by the English term “Father”. Neither would he have called him by the Greek term recorded in the gospel account of the Lord’s prayer, “Pater”. So why should we only translate titles and not names?

        At some point we should just acknowledge that we are speaking English and thus use English pronunciations. The Bible itself gives us precedent in translating names into different languages. For example, the Bible refers to Peter/Cephas and Paul/Saul. It’s just so bizarre to me when I see a disclaimer given over and over for the English “Jehovah” that it’s not the original pronunciation of the the Hebrew name, or when it’s erased entirely from its rightful place in scripture in favor of a substitute title, when we all go ahead and use every other English form of Bible names with no qualms whatsoever. Why the special rule for God’s name?

  24. TJ

    One other point. You said, “I grew up using this name, it hindered my ability to grasp the role of Jesus.”

    As mentioned previously, “Jesus” is a theophoric name, i.e. it has a meaning that actually incorporates God’s own name; “Jesus” literally means “Jehovah is Salvation”. That being the case, I have always found using God’s name helps me to more clearly grasp Jesus role. God did not die to effect mankind’s salvation, nor did a human incarnation with which one of the hypostases of God share an hypostatic union die (mainstream Trinitarianism). Rather, Jehovah provided salvation by sending his Son to be the sacrifice, in the same model as Abraham ‘sacrificing’ Isaac. (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19)

  25. TJ

    Thanks Undercover for your 3 responses above to my 3 points. I’ll reply to each below:

    1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
    You didn’t really address the evident double standard you seem to hold regarding God’s name. Why is your preference to use an ‘authentic’/Hebraic pronunciation for just that one name, whereas for all other Bible names your preference is for the English form?

    2. Justin the Philosopher and the Amoral Stone
    Again, you didn’t really address any of points in my comment. And after your repeated accusations that others (I think you even implicated me above) have taken statements out of context, I was very disappointed to see that you weren’t willing to even tacitly acknowledge that you had actually taken Justin’s ‘God is not like a stone’ comment out of its context.

    He is clearly making the contrast of God to an object, a stone, that is totally disconnected to the concept of morality, i.e. virtue and vice. The stone is amoral; God is not. Justin is definitely not arguing against some “Platonic view of God as stone-like”, as you put it.

    With Justin, we see that he does in fact begin to identify the Logos with the Platonic conceptualization of the ‘Reason of God’, fitting it/him into the #2 spot in Plato’s hierarchical triad. This will of course begin to take on more significance over time…….

    3. Predestined to Destruction?
    I would be very interested to have your comments on Paul’s view of the issue as expressed in Romans 9:18-24:

    Sure thing. First, though, let’s understand one thing here. Of course all Calvinists will say that they believe the words of 2 Peter 3:9, that God “does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” It’s scripture, so they have to. But this is why initially I asked you to really give some contemplative thought to that passage. When you read Romans 9 (the Calvinist’s go-to chapter), does your understanding of it actually reflect a God that “does not desire anyone to be destroyed”? If it doesn’t, then you either have to adjust your understanding of 2 Peter 3:9 or (better yet) adjust your understanding of Romans 9.

    A little contextual information to set the stage. The book of Romans is essentially a treatise on Christianity that Paul is addressing to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. One of the big issues at the time was dealing with resolving the differences between Jewish and Gentile believers. The Jews were taught via scripture to believe that they were the favored ones of God, but now that the Jewish nation was rejected by God and Christianity was opened up to the nations, what did this all mean? Paul is attempting to explain these things.

    In chapter 9, he continues his discussion of God’s favored people, those that are chosen or elected. In order to give a solid scriptural foundation for a spiritual people (the Jewish and Gentile Christians) to be chosen over a natural or fleshly people (the Jews), he references how God gave his blessing to Isaac, the child provided to Abraham through a supernatural promise, rather than natural means (like Ishmael). And to give the scriptural foundation for a people chosen apart from works (as the Jews pointed to their works of the Mosaic Law as evidence of their right as heirs), Paul references God giving the blessing to Isaac’s younger son Jacob even before he or Esau did good or bad works.

    So yes, it is completely Jehovah’s right and privilege to give his blessing to whomever he chooses. That election is not based on a person’s earning it by righteous works, nor is it a right by birth. Jehovah is able to choose those that fit his purpose. This is Paul’s primary argument here, and it goes directly to establishing the scriptural basis for this new spiritual ‘Israel’ made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

    But here’s where Calvinists go wrong. Salvation is not given only to those that are chosen/elected! The whole point of having an ‘Israel’, a chosen people, is so that the God’s blessings could be made available to all people through them! Paul explicitly refers to this spiritual ‘Israel’ as ‘the offspring of Abraham’. Notice God’s prophecy to Abraham: “by means of your offspring, all nations of the earth will obtain a blessing for themselves.” (Genesis 26:4) Thus, Jehovah really does desire “all to attain to repentance”!

    I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ from the Old Testament listed out at Hebrews 11. Notice what is stated to the Hebrew Christians (who would’ve been very familiar with these figures from the Hebrew Scriptures) afterwards: “And yet all of these, although they received a favorable witness because of their faith, did not obtain the fulfillment of the promise, because God had foreseen something better for us, so that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Hebrews 11:39-40) What is the “something better for us”? Why do you think all of those faithful ones “might not be made perfect apart from us”?

    Please comment on Paul’s very strong language, e.g. “He hardens whom he wants to harden,” “Who is able to resist his will,” “Why did you make me like this,” “some for common use,” “objects of his wrath,” and “prepared for destruction.”

    Let’s look at the examples Paul gives us. When he says that God chose Jacob over Esau before they had done anything good or bad, did that mean that God ‘desired Esau to be destroyed’? No! He simply wasn’t going to receive the special blessing. The scriptures show that Esau, though he was a rough character in his younger years, significantly softened as he became older. (cf. Genesis 33:4; 35:9) Esau was not predestined to be destroyed and instead actually seems to have attained to some level of repentance.

    The other example is Pharaoh. Paul uses the same language as Moses, i.e. that God ‘hardened’ Pharaoh. But does this mean that Jehovah, contrary to his stated desire at 2 Peter 3:9, ‘desired Pharaoh to be destroyed’? Again, no. All this means is that God allowed Pharaoh’s already prideful heart to get him into a situation where he would dig in further into a position against Jehovah. He did this by sending a lowly messenger, Moses, in his name and then gave plagues upon Egypt that gradually ratcheted up in intensity. But it was still by Pharaoh’s own free will that he stubbornly hardened himself against God in the first place; Jehovah simply made that stubbornness manifest itself for the whole world to see. So in that way, God ‘molded’ Pharaoh into ‘an object for wrath–prepared for destruction’. At any time, Pharaoh could have humbled himself and God would have changed his course, like we see in the account of Jonah pronouncing destruction to the people of Nineveh, but instead he obstinately refused. (cf. Jonah 3:10)

    To drive home this point, we see the same type of ‘strong language’ used elsewhere where God is said to be actively doing something that, in reality, he is only enabling to take place or allowing to happen indirectly. For example, at 2 Samuel 24:1 we read: “And again the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, Go, number Israel and Judah.” (Note: The king was not supposed to take a census of Israel.) Yet at the parallel account found at 1 Chronicles 21:1, the story is slightly different: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” These accounts can be harmonized by recognizing that Jehovah ‘moved’ David to sin by allowing Satan (or an ‘adversary’) to incite him to such a course, which brought God’s punishment. Here again though, this did not mean David was predestined to destruction for being moved to this bad action. He later repented, taking full responsibility for his own choice (not blaming God), saying, “I have sinned greatly by doing this.” (2 Samuel 24:10)

    Jehovah can set matters so that what’s already manifested in a person’s heart can be drawn out into the open, and in that way he ‘molds the clay’, but this does not mean that the person has no free will in the matter and is predestined by God to either salvation or destruction. This is exactly why Paul tells the Christians in Philippi to “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence.” (Philippians 2:12) If God did actually predestine some people to evil conduct and, by consequence, destruction, that would require what the Calvinistic hyper-view of God’s Sovereignty implies, i.e. that God is actually the author of sin and evil. That is woefully misguided.

  26. I’m not sure where to go from here. I think I spelled out my view on God’s name pretty clearly in the last comment. But, here goes another attempt.

    Names of God Compared with Names of a Delicious Mexican Dish:

    Original Name:
    Mex Dish: Tacos (pronounced tock-oz)
    God: YHWH (pronunciation lost to the desert winds, but recent attempts have produced the generally agreed upon Yahweh, among English speakers)

    Ancient Name:
    Mex Dish: Tacos (pronounced tock-oz), same as above.
    God: Adonai (substituted by ancient Jews wanting to avoid using the divine name; less desirable than above, but still allowed by a loving, gracious heavenly father.)

    Recent Historic:
    Mex Dish: Tacos (pronounced tack-oz), Less than ideal English pronunciation used by Brits, criticized by some for its ties to former British imperialistic policies and recent origin.
    God: Jehovah. Less than ideal English pronunciation used by English speakers throughout the world, criticized by some for its ties to corrupt Latin-speaking Roman church and recent origin, and yet even still allowed by a loving, gracious heavenly father.

    Recent Modern Convention:
    Mex Dish: Mexican Wraps. Less than ideal substitution used to avoid the controversy between English speakers
    God: LORD. Less than ideal substitution, used to highlight occurrences of YHWH, while avoiding the use of “Jehovah” for reasons mentioned above. Again, allowed by a loving, gracious heavenly father.

    So that should explain my preference for using the Hebraic pronunciation for yes, that one name (God’s), rather than matching the English pronunciations for other names. Since I too believe that God’s name is significant and important, I believe that authenticity trumps consistency in this case.

    Concerning the early church fathers, I want to back up a bit and focus on the big picture. The concern shared by both of us is to recognize and reject any form of syncretism, or fusion of philosophy, paganism, or anything else, no matter what its source, with pure Christianity. Some liberal scholars have even accused the writers of the Christian Greek scriptures (or later redactors) of doing just that, saying, for example, that John himself fused Greek concepts with the new Christian sect. The Watchtower claim (and yours too I’m thinking) is that the dreaded syncretism came soon after the death of the original apostles, during what the Watchtower calls “the great apostacy.” During that time, it is claimed, the allegedly pagan concepts of trinitarianism, hellfire, eternality of the human soul, and perhaps others, were brought into Christendom. I disagree with this misrepresentation of church history, not because of particular quotes of early church fathers, but instead based on what I find in scripture. Space here (and my time) does not allow for listing the scriptural evidence for those doctrines mentioned above, and there are myriads of documents by more qualified scholars than I, available in support of them. While I would welcome further discussion of those doctrines, I think that would be quite off topic for this comment thread. I will consider posting new posts about some of those topics soon, as time allows. In fact, my desire to do so is swelling within me right now, since I think it would be a very good dialogue. Please keep an eye on my blog for those posts.

    Now about Calvinism, again backing up for the big picture. This is a debate not only between evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also AMONG evangelicals. There are many evangelical believers who are NOT Calvinists, believing exactly the view you have been expressing and arguing for here in this comment thread. On the one hand, the Calvinists are burdened with explaining how human free will (or that of fallen angels, or anyone else) fits into their belief system without creating logical absurdities. On the other hand, Arminians (including Jehovah’s Witnesses), are equally burdened with the avoiding of logical absurdities as they attempt to explain how the sovereignty of God fits into their system.
    I find it interesting that Arminians accuse Calvinists of compromising God’s goodness and/or human free will, to which the Calvinists respond with the verses in Romans 9, where Paul states and answers exactly those two very questions (see verses 14, “Is God unjust?” and verse 19, “Why does God blame us, for who resists his will?”). Calvinists usually accuse Arminians of compromising God’s omnipotence (power and control) and/or omniscience (see the Watchtower’s view of God’s selective foreknowledge); the Arminians in response tend to quote narrative passages, from which it is more difficult to plausibly support concrete statements of doctrine. You mention that Calvinists have a “go to passage” in Romans 9. I acknowledge that yes, they do, for good reasons. If those were questions frequently asked of Paul, (who we would agree had the right view), wouldn’t the questions being asked of you and me indicate which of us were more likely to have the correct view today?
    My other concern with the Arminian view is its failure to provide assurance of salvation to the believer. First John 5:13 says that “these things are written . . . so that you may know that you have eternal life.” While the Arminian may claim to believe in salvation by grace (undeserved kindness), apart from works, in their system the maintenance of that salvation is dependent on performance, so that assurance of salvation crumbles one minute after one’s commitment to Jehovah. As an Arminian, when can you know for certain that you have eternal life? For the JW’s I have talked with, they cannot have assurance of eternal life until after the final test, which is after the 1000 year reign of Christ. But I John 5:13 indicates that we can have assurance now.

  27. TJ

    Hello and thanks for your response.

    1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
    Since I too believe that God’s name is significant and important, I believe that authenticity trumps consistency in this case.

    Thank you for admitting that you’re holding two standards here: one preference for God’s name and another preference for all others. That’s your prerogative to do that, I just want it to be made crystal clear.

    Yet your appeal to importance as justification for a Hebraic pronunciation leaves me slightly confused, given that you also view Jesus’ name as “significant and important”. Why do you prefer to use the corrupted form “Jesus”, rather than the more authentic “Yeshua”? Or is his name not as important to you as Yahweh’s?

    2. Justin the Philosopher and the Amoral Stone
    Still no acknowledgement that you took Justin’s words out of their context? 🙂

    You’re right that this sub-topic is quite a ways away from where we started, but the whole reason we’re discussing Justin this in-depth is because you seemed to want to ‘get into the weeds’ of Justin’s teaching when you brought up the ‘God is not a stone’ comment and an area where Justin describes Christianity as superior to the teaching of the philosophers. But a closer examination demonstrates that Justin was in fact teaching that the pre-incarnate Logos was the same ‘Reason’ employed by the philosophers and that he even plugged that Logos/Reason into Plato’s triad. Would you subscribe to those views? Or do you believe that’s syncretism?

    Gonzalez, an evangelical, seems to view it as syncretism, saying that this type of argument was “dangerous”.

    3. Predestined to Destruction?
    You seem reluctant to interact with my specific points; instead you keep ‘backing up’ to give your overall views of these topics. That’s fine, but I think it makes mutual understanding of each other’s positions difficult sometimes. I have no idea if you understood my points and have answers for them or not. Things like:

    1. If you adopt the Calvinist hyper-view of Sovereignty (where God predestines literally everything that takes place), wouldn’t this necessitate that God predestined every evil action?

    2. Though you say you believe that God “does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), doesn’t your interpretation of Romans 9 mean that God does desire for some to be destroyed and for only some to attain to repentance?

    3. Was it wrong for David to feel guilty after Jehovah incited him to sin? (2 Samuel 24:1, 10) After all, “who resists his will”?

    4. Do you believe that it is necessary to be of the elect in order to be saved?

    5. If we are assured of our salvation in that we can never lose it (i.e. once saved, always saved), why did Paul tell the Christians in Philippi to “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence”? (Philippians 2:12)
    Why would they have to ‘work out their salvation’ if they already had it and could never lose it?

    On the other hand, Arminians (including Jehovah’s Witnesses), are equally burdened with the avoiding of logical absurdities as they attempt to explain how the sovereignty of God fits into their system.

    Could you please list these logical absurdities for me? Thanks!

    • My Reply Part 2

      4. Do you believe that it is necessary to be of the elect in order to be saved?

      Yes, but we cannot tell who are the elect until God reveals who they are at the end of this age. The Christian Greek scriptures use the word “elect” synonymously with saints, saved, believers, brothers, church, and perhaps other words used for those who have put their faith in Jesus. At the judgment, those who have endured will be shown to be the elect.

      5. If we are assured of our salvation in that we can never lose it (i.e. once saved, always saved), why did Paul tell the Christians in Philippi to “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence”? (Philippians 2:12)
      Why would they have to ‘work out their salvation’ if they already had it and could never lose it?

      “Working out” your salvation does not mean earning it. Salvation cannot be earned, and it is not deserved. “The wages of sin is death,” says Romans 6:23, which means that we only deserve separation from God, no matter how hard we try to be good. “All our righteous acts are as filthy rags,” says Isaiah 64:6. The second part of Romans 6:23 says “The gift of god is eternal life.” Eternal life is a free gift that is not earned or deserved, so once it is received by faith as a free gift, there’s no more earning, performing, working, or striving that needs to be done to keep or maintain our salvation. Jesus said “It is finished.” Once we have received the free gift, all our good works are then “thank-you notes” from us to God. He places his spirit within us, motivating us to “work out our salvation,” in other words, making manifest, or demonstrating, our salvation that we have already received in full. We have it, so now we just need to show it.
      Like an orphan adopted by a king, my legal status as royalty does not change, whether I continue to live on the streets picking pockets, or whether I begin to live a lifestyle befitting royalty. The king never un-adopts me. I might even get arrested and thrown in jail. Then I would likely repent and begin to honor the king with my life. Later in life I might have a relapse, but I’m still the king’s son, and he continues to work on me. The more I live like nobility, the more my legal status is “worked out” into all aspects of my life.

      Could you please list these logical absurdities for me? Thanks!

      I mentioned them briefly in my previous comment, but to expand a bit on them:
      Selective Foreknowledge: The Watchtower Jan 1, 2011 is a good example of this view. “Jehovah wisely uses his ability of foreknowledge selectively. . . . the creator evidently chose not to see how things would turn out. . . . the all-wise God did not exercise his ability of foreknowledge to know in advance that our first parents would sin. . . . Jehovah chose not to know in advance that Adam and Eve would sin. . . . Clearly, Jehovah did not know beforehand that the first couple would sin.” This is used to explain the problem of evil (in this case the fall of humanity) by compromising God’s omniscience. This view is absurd and unintelligible, because in order for Jehovah to selectively cover some future events, he would also have to know ahead of time which events to cover, unless someone more knowledgeable than Jehovah did the selecting and covering for him. Here we have an attempt to explain sin and evil that ends up compromising God’s omniscience. It places God in a state of denial and/or avoidance of harsh realities.
      Another logical absurdity used by Arminians to account for God’s sovereignty in the light of free will, sin, and evil is the compromising of God’s omnipotence. The best example I remember is Harold Kushner’s Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The concept of that book was that God is doing the best he can, but he is not entirely in control of everything. The logical conclusion of this concept (unrecognized by Kushner and others) is that something or someone else is more powerful than Jehovah, whether that’s the universe, or fate, or inevitability, or luck, or mathematical probability, or time plus chance, or something or someone else. The other possible logical conclusion of this thinking would be dualism, where the good Jehovah is dukeing it out with the evil Satan, each with an equal amount of ability.
      The third logical absurdity that I think of has to do with the assurance of salvation. If I can lose my salvation, what sin is there that I can commit that will necessarily cause me to lose it? Murder? Embezzling? Some might mention “the unpardonable sin,” but that is the failure to come to Jesus and Jehovah in the first place, so in that case the person never had salvation to begin with. Jesus said in John 10 that “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” and “No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Sounds pretty secure to me; more secure than bedrock, and certainly more secure than my pathetic attempts at currying God’s favor.

  28. My Reply Part 1:

    Why do you prefer to use the corrupted form “Jesus”, rather than the more authentic “Yeshua”? Or is his name not as important to you as Yahweh’s?

    If I were to choose a more authentic name for Jesus, it would be the Greek form Iesous, which is what we find in the Christian Greek scriptures. It is laziness on my part to not prefer that one, since it would be some work to explain it to others. Preferring Yahweh for God the Father would take less effort, since more people have heard of that name. (Especially Reggae fans.)

    But a closer examination demonstrates that Justin was in fact teaching that the pre-incarnate Logos was the same ‘Reason’ employed by the philosophers and that he even plugged that Logos/Reason into Plato’s triad. Would you subscribe to those views? Or do you believe that’s syncretism?

    If upon closer examination we find that Justin taught that the Word was synonymous with Plato’s Reason, and part of the Greek philosophical triad, then I would say that yes, that would be syncretism, and would be incorrect. Justin is not infallible, which I imagine he would admit to, just as the Governing Body does. I’m sure we could find errors within the writings of each of the early church fathers, just as easily as we find errors that are being taught by the Watchtower, as well as by the current evangelicals that you quoted.

    If you adopt the Calvinist hyper-view of Sovereignty (where God predestines literally everything that takes place), wouldn’t this necessitate that God predestined every evil action?

    I agree that if one adopts a hyper-Calvinist view, that’s where they end up. But I don’t believe the hyper view to be biblical. I endeavor to stick with what scripture says, which is:

    For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30.)

    Does God predestine evil? I don’t see scripture saying that, so I don’t say it. Is God sovereign and in control of everything? Yes.

    The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

    Is there anything out of God’s control? No. This universe is not characterized by dualism, where God and Satan are wrestling things out. Satan unwittingly serves God’s purposes, which I cannot fully explain, just like I can’t explain why God allowed evil to exist in the first place. Neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian can fully explain that. We can only affirm: (1) God exists and is all-powerful (which includes omniscience), (2) God is good, and (3) evil exists. The Calvinist, along with Paul, strongly affirms the first of these, so their opponents claim that they are compromising on the second, God’s goodness, which would include God not honoring human free will. The Arminian emphasizes the second point, with a tendency to compromise on either the first or third point, or both. Thus the Arminian tends to end up with a God who either relinquishes some control or knowledge (or both); or waters down evil so that humans are able to overcome their personal evil (sin) by human effort; or all of the above.

    2. Though you say you believe that God “does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), doesn’t your interpretation of Romans 9 mean that God does desire for some to be destroyed and for only some to attain to repentance?

    This verse is challenging for both the Calvinist and the Arminian. The text says that God wants all people to repent and avoid destruction. The elephantine question in the room is, if that is God’s desire, why are all humans not saved? Both Calvinists and Arminians would say that there’s a difference between God’s desire (what God wants) and actual reality (that some are not saved). That’s the tension, which creates some discomfort for both sides. Even Paul expressed that his desire was that all Jews would be saved, even though he knew there would only be a remnant (Romans 10 and 11). How do we explain that not all will be saved? Calvinists say that it’s up to God’s sovereign choice, and so incur the criticisms from the Arminians that I mentioned above. The Arminians say that human free will is what accounts for those who perish. So the Calvinist then challenges the Arminian’s view as I also described above. So in response to your question above, a Calvinist would likely volley the question back to you: Doesn’t your view mean that God is powerless to save all that he desires to save? Is God stymied by human free will? Is he in heaven saying, “Oh shucks, I lost another one! Oh, how frustrating! Damn you, Satan!” Or does God selectively choose to not foreknow the uncomfortable truth about those who perish, thus avoiding the tension and discomfort that we humans, including Paul, have to wrestle with?

    3. Was it wrong for David to feel guilty after Jehovah incited him to sin? (2 Samuel 24:1, 10) After all, “who resists his will”?

    Compare this verse with its parallel verse in 1 Chronicles 21:1, where it says that “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”
    Was it God or Satan who incited David to take a census? My answer is that even though God allowed Satan to tempt David, Satan was again unwittingly acting as God’s pawn, so that God carried out his plan in spite of Satan’s efforts and David’s failure. When David sinned with Bathsheba, Satan is not mentioned, but the same issues are there—does David’s selfish act frustrate God’s plan? No, God still brings about the kingly line from which Jesus the Messiah comes. Was David’s sin God’s will? Not God’s desire surely, but something that became used by God to bring about his will. Can anyone fully explain that? No. But it doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s both/and. We step outside God’s will and sin, but God brings about his will anyway. Satan becomes an unwitting pawn. It was definitely true of Jesus’ crucifixion, where Satan plots to get the messiah killed, but it ends up bringing about God’s redemptive plan. So concerning David and the census, it was wrong for David to sin, and yes he is guilty of sin whether he feels like it or not. But God’s sovereign will is not frustrated, and even more so, the circumstances bring about God’s plan in spite of human and/or satanic rebellion.

  29. TJ

    Hello and thanks again for your response.

    1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
    If I were to choose a more authentic name for Jesus, it would be the Greek form Iesous

    You do recognize that ‘Iesous’ is the corrupted Greek form of his name, right? By that I mean nobody would’ve called Jesus ‘Iesous’ during his ministry (unless they specifically addressed him in the Greek language). The Greek Scriptures likewise translate the name of Moses’ successor, Joshua, as ‘Iesous’ at Acts 7:45.

    It is laziness on my part to not prefer that one, since it would be some work to explain it to others.

    Well if you’re already going out of your way to explain and encourage others to discard ‘Jehovah’ in favor of ‘Yahweh’, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to do the same for ‘Jesus’. Are you sure it’s just laziness that accounts for this inconsistency?

    2. Justin the Philosopher and the Amoral Stone
    If upon closer examination we find that Justin taught that the Word was synonymous with Plato’s Reason, and part of the Greek philosophical triad, then I would say that yes, that would be syncretism, and would be incorrect.

    Excellent! I actually think it’s fairly easy to demonstrate that Justin’s Jesus is not the same Jesus recognized by modern Protestant evangelicals.

    3. Predestined to Destruction?
    Does God predestine evil? I don’t see scripture saying that, so I don’t say it. Is God sovereign and in control of everything? Yes. Is there anything out of God’s control? No.

    You most certainly are saying that God predestined evil if nothing is out of his control! It’s a purely rhetorical cop-out to say that God controls literally everything and then act as if you can’t say whether or not he is responsible for evil.

    I get the quandary you’re in once you’ve accepted the premise, but there’s no escaping the conclusion.

    I can’t explain why God allowed evil to exist in the first place. Neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian can fully explain that.

    I believe it’s fully explained in the Bible. God gave man (and angels) free moral agency. They are not predestined in all their actions. God does not literally control everything that happens.

    For instance, when God put the life-and-death choice before Israel to serve him or not, that was a real choice for them to make, not some foregone conclusion that Jehovah made for them before they ever existed. The Calvinist hyper-Sovereignty view, which they think glorifies God, actually makes him into a deceiver in these types of accounts and the de facto author of all sin!

    My God, the God presented throughout scripture, is a far more powerful and loving God than the Calvinist’s Ultimate Micro-Manager. He does not arbitrarily predestine some of his children to hellfire/destruction. The God of scripture can give each of us real free will, the power to choose for ourselves, and he can still direct matters so as to ’cause to become’ the outcome that is in harmony with his overall purpose. The Calvinist God cannot abide anyone having any real choice in matters, that all has to be illusionary and deception.

    We can only affirm: (1) God exists and is all-powerful (which includes omniscience), (2) God is good, and (3) evil exists. The Calvinist, along with Paul, strongly affirms the first of these

    That’s a misunderstanding of Paul. Even in Romans 9, where Paul is speaking about the hardening of natural Israel (the Jewish nation) as an ‘object of wrath’ and God’s favor upon spiritual Israel (Christianity), Paul still believes that the fate of the individual members of natural Israel is not predestined. If he believed that it was, he would not have said that “the goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them [the fleshly Jews] are indeed for their salvation.” (Romans 10:1) The Calvinist view renders Paul’s prayers meaningless because salvation would be against God’s will for them!

    The proper view of God’s omniscience can be seen from your related assertion that he is omnipotent. If God is all powerful, why hasn’t he used that power to destroy the universe? Having the ability to do something does not necessitate that one use it! Obviously, God can choose to use his power in harmony with his own purpose. So why shouldn’t the same be true for God’s omniscience? Or was God being deceptive to Abraham when he said:

    “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20-21)

    Regarding 2 Peter 3:9, you said, This verse is challenging for both the Calvinist and the Arminian.

    I completely disagree! This is simple; if one doesn’t accept the misguided belief that God micro-manages the universe down to the action of every proton and electron, and evil is actual rebellion from his desired will by free moral agents, then the fact that God desires each of us to attain repentance and not be destroyed is something to which we can relate. For example, a parent cannot make every decision for his/her child, but they will certainly desire for the child to make good decisions and try to guide them to that end.

    The Calvinist view sees God as a parent that actually chooses each decision for his children, and for some, God chooses bad decisions that leads them to destruction! 2 Peter 3:9 does not present equal difficulty for each view.

    So in response to your question above, a Calvinist would likely volley the question back to you: Doesn’t your view mean that God is powerless to save all that he desires to save? Is God stymied by human free will? Is he in heaven saying, “Oh shucks, I lost another one! Oh, how frustrating! Damn you, Satan!”

    God is not powerless, God is love. That means that he doesn’t make the choice for us, especially the wrong choice for us! Because he gives us the gift of free will, Jehovah chose to limit himself in relation to what we choose to do with that freedom. He hopes that we will reflect the love that he gives us, just as any parent would hope. He provides all of us the means for salvation, but it is up to us as individuals to put faith in that means.

    Is your God not capable of limiting himself in any way? Is he ‘powerless’ to do so? Let’s see what God does say in heaven:

    “I, Jehovah, am your God,
    The One teaching you to benefit yourself,
    The One guiding you in the way you should walk.
    If only you would pay attention to my commandments!
    Then your peace would become just like a river
    And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17-18)

    That’s something along the lines of “Oh shucks, I lost another one! Oh, how frustrating!” 🙂

    I’m not sure how anyone can read through scripture, such as God’s dealings with Israel, and not see him constantly becoming frustrated with their disobedience. It’s everywhere! But the Calvinist would have us believe that God actually chose that course for them, and so purposely frustrated himself. That or he is putting on some kind of act that he’s upset with the actions they ‘chose’ (but not really).

    Was it God or Satan who incited David to take a census? My answer is that even though God allowed Satan to tempt David, Satan was again unwittingly acting as God’s pawn, so that God carried out his plan in spite of Satan’s efforts and David’s failure.

    Well I’m happy that you recognize here that God ‘inciting’ David to sin actually means that he ‘allowed’ it to happen. Perhaps we can eventually relate that back to how God ‘hardened’ Pharaoh, as referenced in Romans 9….

    But for now it’s worth noting that you seem to have actually moved closer to my view, with God limiting himself in some respect and yet still ‘causing to become’ whatever end furthers his purpose. It is my view that he can use his power and knowledge in any circumstances involving creatures endowed with free will to effect an outcome in harmony with his purpose. Certainly this was the case in Jesus’ sacrificial death.

    But again, if you subscribe to the view that God literally controls everything and does not limit himself in any way whatsoever, this God ‘allowing’ David to be incited via Satan is all a mere farce. David would have nothing to feel guilty about, and neither would Satan. They would be doing God’s will, which would encompass evil.

    I’ll stop here for now in the interest of trying to keep things manageable.

    • You do recognize that ‘Iesous’ is the corrupted Greek form of his name, right? By that I mean nobody would’ve called Jesus ‘Iesous’ during his ministry (unless they specifically addressed him in the Greek language).
      The Greek word is the one in the text of scripture, so that’s the one used by the authors of scripture. That’s why I would use it. When in doubt, go with what’s in the original text.

      You most certainly are saying that God predestined evil if nothing is out of his control! It’s a purely rhetorical cop-out to say that God controls literally everything and then act as if you can’t say whether or not he is responsible for evil.
      God does not literally control everything that happens.

      If God does not control everything literally, then how does he control everything? Figuratively? Partially? Kindof-Sortof? He either literally controls everything, or there are things that are out of his control. You are grasping for middle ground by adding the word “literally,” (purely rhetorically I might add) but there is no middle ground. Either God is sovereign over everything, or he is not. If there is anything out of his control, even the least bit, then he’s not in control. The question is whether human free will (and that of other beings) can exist within that sovereignty. I would say it can, and does, and that scripture bears that out. It doesn’t have to be either-or; it can be both-and.
      Science has discovered that light exhibits properties of both particles and waves. We don’t understand how that can be. One day maybe we will. But for now he have to acknowledge the both-and properties of light. Similarly we don’t understand how God’s absolute sovereignty and human free will can both exist compatibly, so we have to say it’s something that for now (and perhaps forever) is beyond our understanding.

      The Calvinist hyper-Sovereignty view, which they think glorifies God, actually makes him into a deceiver in these types of accounts and the de facto author of all sin!
      Was God the de-facto author of Job’s suffering? I think both you and I would say no. But there you have the account of God allowing Satan to take Job’s family, resources, and health. And you cannot say that God was only allowing Satan to do that, and so it was out of God’s literal control. God was in control of the whole situation. Satan did not trick God, or surprise God. Satan was being used by God as a pawn to bring (admittedly) unpleasant circumstances into Job’s life experience.
      My God, the God presented throughout scripture, is a far more powerful and loving God than the Calvinist’s Ultimate Micro-Manager.
      You say that like it’s a bad thing. Indeed, micro-managing is bad for a boss or parent. But God is ultimately neither of those. He is King of King and Lord of Lords. The universe is something that must be micro-managed, because the only thing greater than the universe is God. To say that God does not manage every detail, from the galaxies to the atomic level, is to become a deist rather than a theist.

      The God of scripture can give each of us real free will, the power to choose for ourselves, and he can still direct matters so as to ’cause to become’ the outcome that is in harmony with his overall purpose.
      Now you’re sounding like a Calvinist (but thankfully not a hyper-Calvinist).

      The Calvinist God cannot abide anyone having any real choice in matters, that all has to be illusionary and deception.
      I would say that may be true of the hyper-Calvinist, but not other kinds of Calvinists.

      The Calvinist view renders Paul’s prayers meaningless because salvation would be against God’s will for them!
      Or Paul’s prayer could be said to be meaningless for the Arminian, because if repentance is entirely up to human free will, and outside of God’s control, then the Arminian prayer is just as meaningless. You’re asking God to do something that he has relinquished control over, and he’s left shrugging and asking you, “Why are you asking me to do anything about it?”

      If God is all powerful, why hasn’t he used that power to destroy the universe? Having the ability to do something does not necessitate that one use it! Obviously, God can choose to use his power in harmony with his own purpose. So why shouldn’t the same be true for God’s omniscience?
      You’re redefining all-powerful. All-powerful doesn’t mean that one must do all possible things (which is a logical absurdity anyway—how could one both sustain the universe and destroy the universe at the same time?). All-powerful means one has the ability to do all things. God cannot perform a logical absurdity, e.g. committing sin. That doesn’t mean God is bound by logical conditions, for he is also the author of those conditions, and they are a part of his being, his nature. So he cannot, for example, create a rock that he cannot lift, because that’s absurd, and God by nature is not absurd.
      The conditions of omnipotence and omniscience are different. Whether someone has all power (like God) or some power (like us), one can selectively choose what actions to take, whether to sustain something, destroy it, protect it, damage it, or whatever. With omniscience, one cannot selectively choose what to not know, because one would have to know what to choose not to know, which means they are omniscient after all, making the selecting process absurd. Imagine that your friend has 10 identical boxes, and puts 9 tasty tacos in 9 of the boxes, but puts a rotten egg in one of the boxes, and seals them all up. Then it’s your job to open and eat the contents of 9 of the boxes, leaving one unopened. How are you going to accomplish that task successfully? Easy, you just use selective omniscience. You watch your friend load up all ten boxes, and you choose not to open the one with the rotten egg! So, what’s the flaw in that exercise? You watched your friend load the boxes. So you knew about the rotten egg from the beginning. How does God not know about the fall of Adam and Eve, as the Watchtower teaches? It’s impossible and absurd.

      This is simple; if one doesn’t accept the misguided belief that God micro-manages the universe down to the action of every proton and electron,
      This makes you sound like a deist.

      Because he gives us the gift of free will, Jehovah chose to limit himself in relation to what we choose to do with that freedom.
      Jehovah does not limit himself in terms of changing his nature, which is all-knowing and all-powerful. He chooses to allow things to happen, even bad things. He never gives up his omnipotence or control. He chooses to allow bad things to be part of his plan.

      He hopes that we will reflect the love that he gives us, just as any parent would hope.
      I do not find God hoping anywhere in scripture. That is a very deist concept, not a theist one. I don’t even know of other Arminians that would say that.

      Is your God not capable of limiting himself in any way? Is he ‘powerless’ to do so?
      He is indeed not capable of limiting himself, just as he is incapable of creating a rock that he cannot lift, and just as he is incapable of allowing himself to sin. To limit himself would change his nature to be something other than the God of the universe, and the universe would then be more powerful than God. He would be relinquishing control of the universe to something or someone else. On the flip side, is your God not capable of directing the affairs of men? Is he powerless to do so?

      That’s something along the lines of “Oh shucks, I lost another one! Oh, how frustrating!” I’m not sure how anyone can read through scripture, such as God’s dealings with Israel, and not see him constantly becoming frustrated with their disobedience. It’s everywhere! But the Calvinist would have us believe that God actually chose that course for them, and so purposely frustrated himself. That or he is putting on some kind of act that he’s upset with the actions they ‘chose’ (but not really).
      Frustrated with humans, yes. Disappointed, yes. Heartbroken, yes. But stymied, hog-tied, thwarted, or outwitted by them, or by demons or Satan? No. Again, with sovereignty and free will it’s both-and, not either-or. I imagine us entering God’s kingdom through a gate (although I don’t think it will be this way, but just for purposes of illustration). As we approach the gate, we that the gate is inscribed with the words, “Whoever will, may enter!” Then we pass through and look back, seeing the writing on the other side of the gate to be “Chosen from before the foundation of the world.”

      But for now it’s worth noting that you seem to have actually moved closer to my view, with God limiting himself in some respect and yet still ‘causing to become’ whatever end furthers his purpose. It is my view that he can use his power and knowledge in any circumstances involving creatures endowed with free will to effect an outcome in harmony with his purpose. Certainly this was the case in Jesus’ sacrificial death.
      Or, you seem to have actually moved closer to my view. Especially when you say “he can use his power and knowledge in any circumstances involving creatures endowed with free will to effect an outcome in harmony with his purpose.” That sounds like Calvinism (but not hyper-Calvinism). Or it sounds like Arminianism, but not hyper-Arminianism.

      But again, if you subscribe to the view that God literally controls everything and does not limit himself in any way whatsoever, this God ‘allowing’ David to be incited via Satan is all a mere farce. David would have nothing to feel guilty about, and neither would Satan. They would be doing God’s will, which would encompass evil.
      That’s funny. That sounds exactly like the argument that Paul’s opposers leveled against him. (“Who then resists his will?” in Romans 9).

  30. TJ

    Thanks for your reply above.

    1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
    The Greek word [Iesous] is the one in the text of scripture…That’s why I would use it. When in doubt, go with what’s in the original text.

    …Except that you don’t go with what’s in the original text. You use “Jesus” instead of “Iesous”, thus the double standard. You attribute this to mere laziness on your part, though I suspect there may be some other reason for such a glaring inconsistency, given that you certainly have not been lazy in advocating for the use of “Yahweh” over “Jehovah”.

    3. Predestined to Destruction?
    Either God is sovereign over everything, or he is not. If there is anything out of his control, even the least bit, then he’s not in control.

    This means that your version of God is directly responsible for every evil act that has ever occurred throughout history. Plain and simple.

    We call a king the “sovereign” of his kingdom, yet when do we ever insist that that means that he controls literally every act that occurs within that territory down to the minutest detail? There may even be a rebellion that breaks out! We expect that sovereign king not to be responsible for it, but rather to respond to it and overcome it. You have created a specialized meaning for “sovereign” here that is inconsistent with how we use the word elsewhere.

    Was God the de-facto author of Job’s suffering? I think both you and I would say no. But there you have the account of God allowing Satan to take Job’s family, resources, and health. And you cannot say that God was only allowing Satan to do that, and so it was out of God’s literal control.

    Wrong. I absolutely can and do say that God allowed it, just as you said that “God allowed Satan to tempt David.” Jehovah was not directly responsible for Job’s suffering, but he ceded control of the situation (albeit with certain restrictions) to Satan in order for Satan’s claims to be either proven true or false.

    If you are going to say that God predestined everything that occurs, every choice that we and all others make, good and bad, that means that God is directly responsible for every evil act that we make as well as the resultant suffering. If it’s in his control, then it is out of our control and there cannot be free will in any meaningful sense.

    Or Paul’s prayer could be said to be meaningless for the Arminian, because if repentance is entirely up to human free will, and outside of God’s control, then the Arminian prayer is just as meaningless….[God’s] left shrugging and asking you, “Why are you asking me to do anything about it?”

    It’s not at all meaningless, just the opposite in fact! If their fate isn’t already selected and sealed by God, that means that the situation can be altered, and then Paul’s prayer has practical effect. He says that those Jews “have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.” So what can be done? They can be taught that knowledge, which may persuade some. God can do something by blessing and supporting that preaching work. Therefore there is a reason for Paul to pray for God’s help in the matter.

    All-powerful doesn’t mean that one must do all possible things.

    Agreed!

    All-powerful means one has the ability to do all things.

    Agreed!

    Whether someone has all power (like God) or some power (like us), one can selectively choose what actions to take, whether to sustain something, destroy it, protect it, damage it, or whatever.

    Agreed!

    With omniscience, one cannot selectively choose what to not know, because one would have to know what to choose not to know,

    Hmm. Isn’t true that we, who hold “some power” and can “choose what actions to take”, can likewise choose what we learn? If you’re selecting a book to read or choosing your field of study or even asking a person more about themselves, aren’t you choosing what knowledge you’re learning? So I don’t follow you here. I noticed that you chose not to deal with my scriptural example:

    “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I [Jehovah] will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.”(Genesis 18:20-21)

    Are you saying that God is being deceptive here?

    I do not find God hoping anywhere in scripture. That is a very deist concept

    Nah, it’s a biblical concept:

    “[God] does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

    “Desire” is a synonym for “hope”. This again makes me think that you do not accept the straightforward meaning 2 Peter 3:9. And that makes sense given your belief, after all, how can God hope/desire for us to all attain to repentance if he has predestined some of us to destruction unconditionally?

    He is indeed not capable of limiting himself

    Then how is it that, in reaction to their repentance, God changed his mind about destroying Nineveh in the book of Jonah? (Jonah 3:9-10) If Jehovah ‘controlled’ that action of the Nivevites, does that mean he sent Jonah to lie about the city being destroyed?

    On the flip side, is your God not capable of directing the affairs of men? Is he powerless to do so?

    In accordance with what we agreed upon regarding his omnipotence above, he is certainly capable of influencing the matters of mankind when he chooses to do so, i.e. when it is in harmony with his purpose to intervene. This is why God’s name “Jehovah” means ‘he causes to become’ rather than some simple affirmation of his existence. But for the most part, he allows this world of mankind to exist in rebellion of him, under the control of Satan. (1 John 5:19)

    There is a stark contrast between God’s control and the control of others, which is why we have this account:

    “When Jehovah saw that [Israel] had humbled themselves, the word of Jehovah came to Shemaiah, saying: ‘They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, and in a little while I will rescue them. I will not pour out my wrath on Jerusalem through Shishak [the king of Egypt]. But they will become his servants, so that they will know the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.'” (2 Chronicles 12:7-8)

    Again we see that God allows others to rule independently of him on a temporary basis, for the purpose of demonstrating what that independent rulership leads to.

    Frustrated with humans, yes. Disappointed, yes. Heartbroken, yes.

    The obvious question here…why didn’t God just predestine us to not frustrate him? to not disappoint him? to not break his heart? Seems rather simple if he controls everything.

    Then we pass through and look back, seeing the writing on the other side of the gate to be “Chosen from before the foundation of the world.”

    Why did God not choose the others for that destiny? Why did he select them for destruction/hellfire? Was it his desire that they be destroyed?

    If we’re all chosen to our eventual destiny beforehand, why even have this all play out? Why not just cut to the chase and have the ones he desires to attain to repentance be in heaven and the ones he desires to be destroyed be in hell?

    • 1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
      My view of the Messiah’s name would be just the same as I explained for the name YHWH, as I expressed in my comment dated 2/24/17, using the analogy of how we pronounce “tacos.” (Yes, I’m a foodie.) We could substitute in the varying forms Yeshua, Iesous, Jesus for YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah, etc. My point is that while I have my own preferences, I do not make any certain form or pronunciation a standard for determining orthodoxy, holiness, acceptance before God or Jesus, or fellowship with others. In contrast, the Watchtower does just that. Do you? (I don’t think you have ever responded to that inquiry when I have asked it in the past.)

      3. Predestined to Destruction?
      You have created a specialized meaning for “sovereign” here that is inconsistent with how we use the word elsewhere.

      We need a specialized meaning for “sovereign” in God’s case, because God is a special being. He is God, not a human ruler. Or perhaps we need to use a different term. Perhaps it would have been more consistent of me to use “omnipotent” rather than “sovereign.” Or perhaps “absolutely sovereign” would have served the right purpose. We need to begin with the nature of God, rather than the conditions of the universe as perceived by someone from within that creation. Then we explain our perceptions in light of God’s nature, not the other way around. Matthew 10:29 says that not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge. Amos 3:6 says “If a calamity occurs in the city, is it not Jehovah who has acted?” And Hebrews 1:3 says that “He sustains all things by the word of his power.” There is nothing outside of Jehovah’s control. Such is the nature of the one who created all things, and stands outside of that creation directing all of its affairs. If what I perceive bumps up against God’s nature, then I need to explain what I perceive in light of God’s nature, rather than compromising God’s nature to accommodate what I perceive. Sometimes the biblical writers are expressing things from their perspective. When they describe God in human language, we call that anthropomorphism, and so we don’t take those passages absolutely literally.

      Jehovah was not directly responsible for Job’s suffering, but he ceded control of the situation (albeit with certain restrictions) to Satan in order for Satan’s claims to be either proven true or false.

      Your language here indicates acknowledgement of a great amount of control in the situation. He “ceded,” and “with restrictions.” That’s pretty controlling. Perhaps micromanaging?

      If it’s in his control, then it is out of our control and there cannot be free will in any meaningful sense.

      This is the either/or thinking again. A reading of scripture reveals both kinds of passages, some that speak of God’s absolute control, and others that speak of human free will. We must acknowledge both. One cannot swallow up the other. In the hyper-Calvinist view, sovereignty swallows up free will. In the hyper-Arminian view, God’s sovereignty gets swallowed up by free will. My view says that they are compatible, and that we must affirm both.

      So what can be done? They can be taught that knowledge, which may persuade some. God can do something by blessing and supporting that preaching work. Therefore there is a reason for Paul to pray for God’s help in the matter.

      The first part of your statement above (they can be taught) places all the effort on man’s part, so that prayer is rendered meaningless (God shrugs). The second part, saying that God “blesses” and “supports” brings up the questions: What does that mean, and how does God do it? “Bless” is perhaps the vaguest of terms one could use for God’s action or an answer to prayer. And what does his “support” look like? Cheerleading? How is God involved in the answer to prayer?
      The other problem with your statement above is that such actions are futile, apart from God being at work on the potential convert in the first place. Jesus said “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him,” (John 6:44). When I pray for my friends, neighbors, and family members who don’t know the Lord, I ask that God would draw them to him. What do you ask for?

      If you’re selecting a book to read or choosing your field of study or even asking a person more about themselves, aren’t you choosing what knowledge you’re learning?

      Yes, you are. But we’re not just talking about selecting one preference among many, but rather selecting the correct choice from among a number of hidden things. What if you were in the library, and you wanted to read a book with no bad language in it, because that would be unpleasant to you. Assuming that one out of every 10 of the books was free of cuss words, how do you choose one of those clean books? You would have to already know the entire content of all the books, if you wanted to guarantee selecting one of the clean ones. Similarly God, in order to choose whether to know about an unpleasant event, would first have to know which of the upcoming events were pleasant and which were not. Choosing what to know, or what not to know, implies complete foreknowledge to begin with.

      I noticed that you chose not to deal with my scriptural example: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I [Jehovah] will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.”(Genesis 18:20-21)

      A better translation of the Hebrew there is “If not, I will know.” Yes, I am aware that some translations render it “I want to know.” And I acknowledge that it may be a legit translation, but I would cite this as one of those anthropomorphism passages.

      “Desire” is a synonym for “hope”. This again makes me think that you do not accept the straightforward meaning 2 Peter 3:9. And that makes sense given your belief, after all, how can God hope/desire for us to all attain to repentance if he has predestined some of us to destruction unconditionally?

      “Desire” and “hope” are not absolutely synonymous. There are subtle differences of meaning, and you’re conflating the two. Desire indicates one’s strong preference for something. God desires, or wants, everyone to come to repentance, even though he knows that not everyone will. Hope, in contrast, carries the weight of uncertainty. Like a child who hopes that he will get to visit Disneyland one day, but has a 50/50 chance of getting it. He hopes he will, but knows he might not, and has no way of predicting the outcome. God knows the outcome, and that his will and desire will be fulfilled, even though the ones who reject him will cause him grief. To express it simply, I do not picture God saying, “I hope everyone repents. But, gosh, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Instead I imagine him saying, “The best possible situation, and the one that would please me the most, would be for all to repent. But I know not all of them will. Even so, my purpose will be fulfilled, and my plan will not be frustrated.”
      Having said all that, I must acknowledge that there are aspects of that verse that I cannot fully explain, and that is where I believe the anthropomorphism kicks in again. You ask (later in your comment), does God predestine us to frustrate him? That I cannot fully explain. But neither can the Arminian fully explain why God chooses to allow humans to frustrate him. Why did God allow the fall? Why did he allow evil to exist in the first place? What purpose does it serve? You will claim that it allows for free will. But at what cost? Pain, suffering, injustice, murder, rape, pedophilia, ethnic cleansing, etc.? Adam and Eve already had free will before the fall, so the fall wasn’t necessary for them to receive free will. They already had it, and could have lived their lifetimes having free will without falling. Why did God have to “cede control” in the case of Adam and Eve, and in the case of Job? “In order for Satan’s claims to be either proven true or false”? To stick it to Satan? This seems like a petty skirmish between God and Satan, making humans the “collateral damage” or “acceptable loss” in the battle. I don’t think that view has much scriptural basis.

      Then how is it that, in reaction to their repentance, God changed his mind about destroying Nineveh in the book of Jonah? (Jonah 3:9-10)

      Anthropomorphism again. Sometimes the original language used for God “changing his mind” is the same wording as is used for humans “repenting.” Do we consider God as one in need of literal repentance? No, based on his character, repentance is not an action befitting a pure, holy being. It’s describing God’s actions in human terms.

      In accordance with what we agreed upon regarding his omnipotence above, he is certainly capable of influencing the matters of mankind when he chooses to do so, i.e. when it is in harmony with his purpose to intervene.

      What do you mean by “influencing”? Does that mean actually directing and controlling, or does it mean laying out the choices, and then letting humans make their choices with little or no direct involvement on God’s part? What does that influencing look like? How much is God involved in that act of “influencing”? You’re using vague terms again.

      This is why God’s name “Jehovah” means ‘he causes to become’ rather than some simple affirmation of his existence.

      I think your translation of God’s name (YHWH ASHR YHWH) at Genesis 3:14 reveals your translation bias. I’m having difficulty finding translations other than the New World translation that render the phrase “I cause to become.” Can you tell me what scholars and/or translators are used to arrive at your translation?

      But for the most part, he allows this world of mankind to exist in rebellion of him, under the control of Satan. (1 John 5:19)

      While it’s true that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that control is not absolute, and is always, to use your words, “ceded” and “with restrictions.” In the story of Job, as well as the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, Satan’s plot, where he thinks he’s in control, ultimately serves God’s plan and purposes. As Jesus said of his impending death, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)

      There is a stark contrast between God’s control and the control of others . . . God allows others to rule independently of him on a temporary basis

      God allows others to rule, but never independently of him. Consider the following:

      Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

      He changes times and seasons;
      he deposes kings and raises up others. (Daniel 2:21)

      The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people. (Daniel 4:17)

      Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)

      This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
      to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
      to subdue nations before him
      and to strip kings of their armor,
      to open doors before him
      so that gates will not be shut
      (Isaiah 45:1)

      While there is a “stark contrast” between the rule of God and the rule of human kings, that contrast is in the perception of those being ruled. But in both cases, they both serve God’s purposes and are directed by him. God’s people could choose whether to be directly ruled by God (which would be a more pleasant experience), or to forfeit that and be ruled by foreign, even pagan kings (usually as slaves). But in either case, they could not escape the ultimate rule of God.

      Frustrated with humans, yes. Disappointed, yes. Heartbroken, yes.
      The obvious question here…why didn’t God just predestine us to not frustrate him? to not disappoint him? to not break his heart? Seems rather simple if he controls everything.

      My question to you is, why did God allow people to willfully choose to disappoint him? Why did he allow evil into the universe in the first place, then set up humans with the free will to choose between good and evil? The question is a problem for both Calvinists and Arminians alike.

      Then we pass through and look back, seeing the writing on the other side of the gate to be “Chosen from before the foundation of the world.”
      Why did God not choose the others for that destiny? Why did he select them for destruction/hellfire? Was it his desire that they be destroyed?

      Again, these are the questions presented to Paul in romans 9.

      If we’re all chosen to our eventual destiny beforehand, why even have this all play out? Why not just cut to the chase and have the ones he desires to attain to repentance be in heaven and the ones he desires to be destroyed be in hell?

      If we’re all given free will to choose between good and evil, and God does nothing to intervene with our choosing, why have that scenario play out? Why not just cut to the chase and have them all choose at some point early in life, some age of accountability, like 13, or 18, or whatever, and then send them to heaven or hell then? Why string us along through innumerable moral choices, allowing us to be tempted repeatedly, when at some point we will inevitably be tripped up by something? Why toy with us in that way? And how can we ever have assurance of salvation?

      As a sidebar off-topic note: I find your heaven/hell contrast in your last question to be an interesting one. Are you in agreement with evangelicals that the two ultimate destinations for humans are heaven and hell? Are you parting here with the Watchtower view that 144,000 go to heaven, while the rest of the righteous live forever in an earthly paradise?

  31. TJ

    Hello again and thank you for your latest response.

    1. The Pronunciation of God’s Name and Double Standards
    My view of the Messiah’s name would be just the same as I explained for the name YHWH

    Well, on the one hand you say that any pronunciation is acceptable, but then on the other hand you keep arguing for your preference of using “Yahweh” instead of “Jehovah”, even resorting to an admitted double standard as rationale for doing so. For example, you’ve repeatedly called the form “Jehovah” corrupt (evidently confusing linguistic and moral forms of corruption, which are two very different things), but I still have not seen you acknowledge that your preferred form “Jesus” is likewise a corruption of Yeshua/Iesous. So why is it that you’ll only call the form “Jehovah” corrupt but not “Jesus”? Is this a personal bias?

    My point is that while I have my own preferences, I do not make any certain form or pronunciation a standard for determining orthodoxy, holiness, acceptance before God or Jesus, or fellowship with others. In contrast, the Watchtower does just that.

    Here are some facts that disprove your assertion:
    1. You’ve agreed that Christians should use God’s name.
    2. It is the standard practice of virtually everyone, including yourself, to translate Bible names into their modern forms.
    3. “Jehovah” is the modern English form of God’s name.
    4. JW publications use “Jehovah” in English media and different forms of God’s name in media appearing in other languages (e.g. “Geova” in Italian, “Yehova” in Swahili, “Yehehua” in Chinese, and “Yawe” in Ateso).

    That last point is where your assertion falls apart. It is clear that JWs are merely using God’s name in a manner that is consistent with how they use all other Bible names. You have a double standard, they do not.

    3. Predestined to Destruction?
    We need a specialized meaning for “sovereign” in God’s case, because God is a special being.

    Thank you for recognizing that you are loading this term with certain assumptions that it does not connote under normal circumstances. So when the Bible calls Jehovah “sovereign”, you interpret this to mean “absolutely sovereign” over every minutest detail in the universe.

    The evident issue here is that you also say that there is human free will. Now if that is not just a rhetorical point (i.e. lip service), then you cannot harmonize God’s full and direct control over literally everything with any other being having real choice. It’s a contradiction. It’s seems that you’ve been able to develop a kind of cognitive dissonance to simultaneously maintain these contradicting views as well as a non-falsifiable argument against any scriptural text that conveys the idea of God’s knowledge being limited and human choice being real. On top of all this, I still don’t really understand how you interpret the straightforward statement found in 2 Peter 3:9. We’ll get more into these below.

    With regard to Jehovah’s role in Job’s suffering, you said: Your language here indicates acknowledgement of a great amount of control in the situation. He “ceded,” and “with restrictions.” That’s pretty controlling. Perhaps micromanaging?

    Just the opposite. Jehovah gave up control! That’s quite literally the whole point of the passage, to see what would happen if God removed himself from the situation, albeit under certain agreed-upon conditions. Would Job, who had the choice to serve God or not, remain loyal even without God’s blessings? Or was Job only loyal to Jehovah because of the things he got out from the deal? These questions could not be answered unless Jehovah allowed the situation to play out independent of himself.

    Micro-managing would be if Jehovah instead chose every action for both Satan and Job, and this would of course make the account totally meaningless. If it was all under God’s direct control, then all of it was nothing more than a farce, actors reading their lines that God wrote for them.

    “Bless” is perhaps the vaguest of terms one could use for God’s action or an answer to prayer. And what does his “support” look like? Cheerleading? How is God involved in the answer to prayer?

    This just strikes me as ironic. You’re asking me to explain specifically how God could help the Jews to attain salvation per Paul’s appeal as if God helping with the matter is some completely contradicting concept, while your view (when it is consistent with your interpretation of the previous chapter) would mean that Paul is actually praying for the salvation of those that God has already predestined to destruction! Do you see the irony here? Did Paul himself already forget his own answer to the question “Who then resists his will?” Or is it more likely you may have misinterpreted his meaning there?

    You would have Paul praying for something decidedly contrary God’s will, something that cannot be resisted, whereas my view sees Paul praying for God’s help (however that help might be manifested) in bring about something that is in harmony with God’s will; it is something that God himself desires!

    “Desire” and “hope” are not absolutely synonymous.

    You’re splitting hairs. No two words are “absolutely synonymous”! But this is why I’ve been harping on 2 Peter 3:9 from the beginning. Everyone will rhetorically ‘agree’ with the passage, but if you believe in “absolute sovereignty”, you can’t really agree with the straightforward meaning and implications of that passage. God desires/hopes for something, and yet we know that that thing will not happen. The only conditions that can account for this is a universe in which Jehovah has limited himself by giving humans real free choice.

    His relationship to us as our Father reflects that of human fathers; they do not control literally every aspect of their children’s lives, but they do their best to influence them to make the right choices and desire the very best for them. Again, your view would be akin to a father actively choosing life for some of his kids and actively choosing death for others. This makes God into a moral monster, IMO.

    I would cite this [Genesis 18:20-21] as one of those anthropomorphism passages.

    Why? Simply because it disagrees with your view of God’s omniscience? Please explain what is to be gained here by God making himself appear limited in terms of his knowledge of a particular situation? Why didn’t Jehovah just say that he is indeed aware of the situation if he was?

    Just saying ‘anthropomorphism’ anytime the Bible places limits on God’s knowledge is a very weak argument, IMO.

    In response to Jonah 3:9-10, where the actions of the Ninevites changes God’s mind, you replied: Anthropomorphism again.

    Why??

    The Hebrew word used there (nacham) indicates a change made in response to the actions of the people; the word isn’t limited to repentance. I realize that this is an event for which your theology does not allow in any meaningful sense. And yet still, there it is.

    I must acknowledge that there are aspects of that verse [2 Peter 3:9] that I cannot fully explain, and that is where I believe the anthropomorphism kicks in again.

    So let’s be upfront about this. When a scriptural description of God doesn’t match your expectations, you just say “anthropomorphism”, with virtually no justification for it, and now we can simply disregard the meaning of the passage? I know you can’t be happy with that dismissive form of interpretation.

    This only makes your position non-falsifiable. In other words, I don’t believe that there is anything that scripture could even say that would constitute proof to you that God’s knowledge is or can be limited.

    If it’s God looking further into a matter to find out the truth, that’s anthropomorphism….just because ‘it has to be’. If it’s God telling people that he is putting a choice before them, in your view he still controls what they choose somehow (which makes the ‘choice’ deceptive, IMO). And if it’s God hoping that his children will make the right choices, that’s kind of shuffled away into the ‘mystery’ dust bin.

    But neither can the Arminian fully explain why God chooses to allow humans to frustrate him…You will claim that it allows for free will. But at what cost? Pain, suffering, injustice, murder, rape, pedophilia, ethnic cleansing, etc.?

    Yes, unfortunately. “The wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) That’s the cost of free will when individuals choose to rebel against God and his system of right and wrong. Jehovah gave Adam a real choice, and Adam chose to sin, thereby introducing suffering and death into his lineage. (Romans 5:12) The same principle is at work in 2 Chronicles 12:7-8; the Israelites chose to rebel against God’s rule and so for a time they would be ruled instead by a foreign king and experience suffering because of it.

    What do you mean by “influencing”?….You’re using vague terms again.

    Yes, I’m leaving it vague because biblical accounts of God’s interaction with mankind shows that it is manifested in different ways. Sometimes it’s very direct, sometimes it’s very subtle. There’s no one method that God uses and he certainly does not make everyone’s choices for them. Scripture shows that Jehovah is adaptable in bringing about his will.

    I look at it this way. Let’s say you decide that you’re going to drive to San Diego. You make a plan on the GPS map for the route you’ll take. Along the way, however, factors out of your control (construction, weather, traffic) may cause you to take a detour and change your route. Ultimately, however, you will still make sure to find your way to San Diego. That is how God works to bring about his stated purpose for mankind even though he has to deal with the unpredictable nature of human free will and adapt to the situation.

    I think your translation of God’s name (YHWH ASHR YHWH) at Genesis 3:14 reveals your translation bias. I’m having difficulty finding translations other than the New World translation that render the phrase “I cause to become.”

    I think you misunderstood me. The phrase ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ means something like “I will be what I will be”. The Hebrew word ‘ehyeh’ is related to the tetragrammaton (yhwh), which has been suggested to have the meaning ‘he causes to become.’ That definition seems to suit God very well.

    While it’s true that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that control is not absolute, and is always, to use your words, “ceded” and “with restrictions.”

    Agreed. For example, Jehovah would not allow Satan to completely destroy the earth and wipe out humankind, as that would completely undermine Jehovah’s purpose.

    God allows others to rule, but never independently of him.

    I think this is just splitting hairs again. All we have to do is look at 2 Chronicles 12:7-8. The scriptures themselves make a clear distinction between God’s direct rule and the independent rule of other kings. Yes, ultimately God can still direct matters to bring about his will when need be (e.g. how God manipulated Pharaoh in the Exodus account in order to free his chosen people and glorify his name worldwide), but the point of allowing humans to rule is to demonstrate how deficient and (often) oppressive their rulership is. God wasn’t even going to give Israel a human king until the people demanded one, which infuriated the prophet Samuel and led to countless problems for them later on. All of this goes back to the main issue in Eden, i.e. do we obey God or not? Do we recognize his sovereignty in the choices we make or not?

    My question to you is, why did God allow people to willfully choose to disappoint him?

    Evidently God wanted to create beings ‘in his image’ that are capable of real choices and not mere robots that are ‘programmed’ to obey him.

    Why did he allow evil into the universe in the first place, then set up humans with the free will to choose between good and evil?

    I think he set up humans (and angels) with free will, and then evil was introduced into the universe when some of those free moral agents decided to rebel against him. The existence of evil would always be a possibility when there is a standard of good and beings exist with freedom to choose to conform to that standard or not.

    This question presents significantly more difficulty for the Calvinist though, in my view. The Calvinist must explain why God predestined some of his creation to become evil.

    I had asked: “Why did God not choose the others for that destiny [heaven]? Why did he select them for destruction/hellfire? Was it his desire that they be destroyed?”

    To which you replied: Again, these are the questions presented to Paul in romans 9.

    And again, at Romans 10:1 we find that Paul is praying for those who are on the road to destruction to instead receive salvation. So did Paul already forget his own answer to the questions he listed in Romans 9 or is it more likely that there’s something lacking in your interpretation of what he is saying there?

    If we’re all given free will to choose between good and evil, and God does nothing to intervene with our choosing, why have that scenario play out?

    This is precisely my point in quoting 2 Chronicles 12:7-8. If we are indeed free moral agents endowed with the capability to make real choices, then we need time to see the consequences of those choices. God allows mankind to live in rebellion of him, for a limited amount of time, in order to learn the difference of living under his rule and under other forms of rulership (including our own, e.g. in establishing our own morality).

    So if we are endowed with real free will (meaning God does not literally control everything we choose), then there is a good reason for the current situation. But if God actually exercises “absolute sovereignty” over everything, I see no purpose for any of this.

    As a sidebar off-topic note: I find your heaven/hell contrast in your last question to be an interesting one. Are you in agreement with evangelicals that the two ultimate destinations for humans are heaven and hell?

    I agree with the scriptures, which contrasts life and death as the respective rewards of humankind, not life in heaven and life in hell. There are evangelicals that concur with this as well. Moreover, the earliest Christian hope for life was well summarized by Peter right after he let us know that God hopes for no one to be destroyed:

    “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13)

    • So why is it that you’ll only call the form “Jehovah” corrupt but not “Jesus”? Is this a personal bias?
      Two reasons. First, in creating the form “Jehovah” the 14th century Roman Catholics abandoned the Hebrew consonants, using J-H-V-H instead of Y-H-W-H, and combined their consonants with the Hebrew vowels for “Adonai,” the vowels that the Jews had used so that readers would say “Adonai” instead of “Yahweh” as they read out loud.
      Secondly, in calling the pronunciation Jehovah “corrupt,” I was attempting to show the logical conclusion of the above history of the pronunciation according to the mindset of the Watchtower organization, who explicitly expresses such a standard of evaluation for use of other words (e.g. “hymn,” “pew,” “bulletin board,” etc.) and practices (e.g. birthdays, Easter, Christmas, etc.). I was attempting to call the Watchtower society to a more consistent application of their own standards.
      Here are some facts that disprove your assertion:
      1. You’ve agreed that Christians should use God’s name.

      I didn’t say that. I said that Christians are free to address God using any name they want, including calling him “Lord,” or even “Dad” or “Papa.” It is not a moral imperative for me that Christians use God’s name. It is a privilege that we can use his name, or another term of endearment.
      Here are some facts that disprove your denial that the Watchtower organization makes any certain form or pronunciation a standard for determining orthodoxy, holiness, acceptance before God or Jesus, or fellowship with others:

      Thus, one thing is certain—the use of God’s name is of utmost importance to Christian faith. (Watchtower 9/1/08)

      Clearly, the name Jehovah belongs in the Bible. Knowing its meaning and using it freely in our worship are powerful aids in drawing closer to our heavenly Father, Jehovah. (Bible Teach, Appendix)

      That Jehovah allowed the Bible Students to adopt his name was more than just a great honor. It was also a reassuring indication of his approval. We are proud to bear his name and to be his obedient name people. (WT 3/15/13 )

      To be sure, Satan has waged war on the divine name, and he has cleverly used false religion in the process. However, the reality is that no power in heaven or on earth can stop the Sovereign Lord Jehovah from making his name known to those who want to know the truth about him and his glorious purpose for faithful humans. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be pleased to help you learn how to draw close to God through a study of the Bible. (WT 7/1/10)

      Why is it important to know and use God’s personal name?
      Do you have a close relationship with anyone whose personal name you do not know? For people to whom God is nameless he is often merely an impersonal force, not a real person, not someone that they know and love and to whom they can speak from the heart in prayer. If they do pray, their prayers are merely a ritual, a formalistic repetition of memorized expressions.
      True Christians have a commission from Jesus Christ to make disciples of people of all nations. When teaching these people, how would it be possible to identify the true God as different from the false gods of the nations? Only by using His personal name, as the Bible itself does.
      (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 191ff)

      Clearly, knowing God’s name and using it brings us closer to the approved way of worshiping him, the way he was worshiped in Bible times. This can be our first step in establishing a personal relationship with him, which is much better than simply knowing what his name is. (Awake, “The Fight Against God’s Name”, 1/22/04)

      Implicit in all these articles, and numerous others at jw.org, is the message that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones who can possibly have a relationship with God, all others who self-identify as Christians being part of the corrupt, apostate religious system, and can accomplish nothing more than “merely a ritual, a formalistic repetition of memorized expressions.”

      That last point is where your assertion falls apart. It is clear that JWs are merely using God’s name in a manner that is consistent with how they use all other Bible names. You have a double standard, they do not.
      The double standard of the Watchtower organization is to impose a strict anti-pagan set of criteria for some terminologies and practices, but not for others; and then to impose those as rules for their own members, as well as marks of distinction between themselves and those they perceive as part of Babylon.

      So when the Bible calls Jehovah “sovereign”, you interpret this to mean “absolutely sovereign” over every minutest detail in the universe.
      Yes, I do. Your view of sovereignty is a very American concept of sovereignty, where the ruler (president and other government) rules or leads with the permission of the people. In the old British concept (which no longer exists), the king is sovereign whether or not the subjects acknowledge his rule. Of course the subjects could rebel, but if they did so, then in the eyes of the British, the king would still be their sovereign ruler, and the subjects would be traitors guilty of treason. You’re making God’s sovereignty conditional upon the whims of the subjects. In reality, God’s sovereignty is absolute; that is, it is not dependent upon the acceptance or rejection of the ones ruled.
      If anything in the universe is outside of God’s control, then someone else controls it, and wields greater power than God. If one atom behaves in a way contrary to God’s will, then either that atom or another being controlling that atom, has gone over God’s head.

      The evident issue here is that you also say that there is human free will. Now if that is not just a rhetorical point (i.e. lip service), then you cannot harmonize God’s full and direct control over literally everything with any other being having real choice. It’s a contradiction.
      You see it as a logical contradiction. I see it as an apparent contradiction. In physics, light exhibits characteristics of both waves and of particles. It seems irrational and contradictory, but it’s actually an apparent contradiction, or we could say it’s trans-rational (above our understanding) rather than irrational. (It probably has to do with something that we don’t yet understand.) I could just as easily claim that your view (asserting that there are things outside of God’s control and/or knowledge) is a logical contradiction to the truth of God’s infinite knowledge and power as presented in scripture. Assuming that your affirmation of God’s power and knowledge is not just a rhetorical point (i.e. lip service).

      It’s seems that you’ve been able to develop a kind of cognitive dissonance to simultaneously maintain these contradicting views as well as a non-falsifiable argument against any scriptural text that conveys the idea of God’s knowledge being limited and human choice being real.

      It could also be affirmed that maintaining the contradictory views of God’s power and his relinquishing of control and knowledge develops a cognitive dissonance in those who hold that view. Then any scriptural text that affirms God’s absolute control and complete knowledge are dismissed with a similar non-falsifiable argument.

      On top of all this, I still don’t really understand how you interpret the straightforward statement found in 2 Peter 3:9.
      I don’t really understand how you would interpret the straightforward statements found in the following verses:

      “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)

      “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, 17:8)

      “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34

      “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:18)

      “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:22)

      I said: With regard to Jehovah’s role in Job’s suffering, you said: Your language here indicates acknowledgement of a great amount of control in the situation. He “ceded,” and “with restrictions.” That’s pretty controlling. Perhaps micromanaging?
      Then you said: Just the opposite. Jehovah gave up control! That’s quite literally the whole point of the passage, to see what would happen if God removed himself from the situation, albeit under certain agreed-upon conditions.

      I quote here what you say later on in your comment, so you can see the contrast between your two statements: “ultimately God can still direct matters to bring about his will when need be (e.g. how God manipulated Pharaoh.” What? God directing? God manipulating Pharoah? Wow, you’re reeeeeally sounding like a Calvinist now. Now you’re the one who’s splitting hairs. God gives up control, but then when things get hairy, he panics and grabs it back again!
      Interestingly, your arguments for God giving up control are some of the same arguments that evangelicals use for their doctrine of incarnation; that Jesus, being one person of the tri-unity of Godhood, emptied himself, taking on the form (morphe) of humanity. In so doing he used what Watchtower calls selective foreknowledge, except that rather than choosing to not foresee the fall or other events, he completely emptied himself of all knowledge, becoming a baby in Mary’s womb, having to learn everything. The difference between your view of God, and the evangelicals’ view of Jesus, is that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,” that is, he did not panic and grab it back, directing circumstances or manipulating anyone.

      Micro-managing would be if Jehovah instead chose every action for both Satan and Job, and this would of course make the account totally meaningless. If it was all under God’s direct control, then all of it was nothing more than a farce, actors reading their lines that God wrote for them.
      Rather than seeing it as actors reading lines, I consider it a matter of perspective. From our perspective, when I jump, I’m experiencing vertical movement, and within my perspective that’s true. But if I take into account the revolving motion of the earth, and its orbit around the sun, and our solar system’s movement within our galaxy, and our galaxy’s movement within the universe, then my movement looks quite different from that perspective, involving something much more than just simple vertical motion. And so it is with us and God. We make real choices, but always in context of God’s greater control of time, space, the universe, and his control of everything.

      You would have Paul praying for something decidedly contrary God’s will, something that cannot be resisted, whereas my view sees Paul praying for God’s help (however that help might be manifested) in bring about something that is in harmony with God’s will; it is something that God himself desires!
      You have not answered what specifically is involved in God’s “support” or “answer to prayer.” To now call it “help” does not add any more meaning. You’re still being vague.

      His relationship to us as our Father reflects that of human fathers; they do not control literally every aspect of their children’s lives, but they do their best to influence them to make the right choices and desire the very best for them.
      Please elaborate on the vague term “influence them.” What do you mean by this? It’s obviously something more than God “giving up control,” because he is controlling at least in part. You say he does “not control literally every aspect” of their lives, but that implies that he controls some part of their lives. What is he controlling? Or if it’s not “literal” control, what other kind of control is there?

      Again, your view would be akin to a father actively choosing life for some of his kids and actively choosing death for others. This makes God into a moral monster, IMO.
      Your “IMO” opinion is shared by Paul’s objectors, who say “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” In other words, they’re saying that God is to blame, i. e. he’s a moral monster. Paul’s answer is:
      But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
      Paul appeals to the nature of God, the potter, who has the right to make of his creation whatever he wants it to be, and it will not violate his righteousness, because he is by nature pure and righteous. If that creates cognitive dissonance in me or others, that’s our problem, not his.

      I said: I would cite this [Genesis 18:20-21] as one of those anthropomorphism passages. You said: Why? Simply because it disagrees with your view of God’s omniscience? Please explain what is to be gained here by God making himself appear limited in terms of his knowledge of a particular situation? Why didn’t Jehovah just say that he is indeed aware of the situation if he was?
      What is to be gained is what is gained by any use of anthropomorphism, the insight that God cares, and that he’s not just an impersonal, mechanical force, but that he takes time to interact with his people. He wants them to know that he will be entirely just and fair, and will hear out anyone who has concerns, rather than just zapping them without delay. The point of God interacting with people in these “negotiating” scenarios is just that, that God is interacting with people. He doesn’t need to do that, but he does it for the benefit of the one with whom he’s interacting.

      The Hebrew word used there (nacham) indicates a change made in response to the actions of the people; the word isn’t limited to repentance. I realize that this is an event for which your theology does not allow in any meaningful sense. And yet still, there it is.
      The context, not the word, indicates that God made a change in response to the actions of the people. The word is not limited to repentance, but that is one of its possible meanings, which we do see in other contexts. My theology does allow for the event, since I believe that we must affirm both human free will AND God’s sovereignty, and that they are not necessarily incompatible, either logically or practically.

      When a scriptural description of God doesn’t match your expectations, you just say “anthropomorphism”, with virtually no justification for it, and now we can simply disregard the meaning of the passage? I know you can’t be happy with that dismissive form of interpretation.
      I’m not trying to be dismissive. It just sounds redundant because you’re bringing up most of the passages it relates to. Take a look at my passages listed above, and on my previous comment. What would be your response to them? I suspect that your responses would form a pattern that would begin to sound redundant and dismissive.

      This only makes your position non-falsifiable. In other words, I don’t believe that there is anything that scripture could even say that would constitute proof to you that God’s knowledge is or can be limited.
      I’m basing my understanding of the character of God on passages that are clear about his character, rather than on passages that describe humans’ perspective of their experiences of God. By nature God is a being who knows all. He stands outside of time and space (the universe), because he created it all. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, knowing all. Passages that SEEM like God is giving up any of that must be explained in light of the THAT. If I had all the money in the world, I could not give away one dollar and still be He Who Has All the Money in the World. I could allow others to move my money from one location to another, but it will still be all my money. Some people could even purposely or accidently (by playing with matches) burn some of my money, but I’m still the one with all the money. And my desire is that all the money may be preserved, but I know that some will be lost.

      I said: But neither can the Arminian fully explain why God chooses to allow humans to frustrate him…You will claim that it allows for free will. But at what cost? Pain, suffering, injustice, murder, rape, pedophilia, ethnic cleansing, etc.? You said: Yes, unfortunately. “The wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) That’s the cost of free will when individuals choose to rebel against God and his system of right and wrong. Jehovah gave Adam a real choice, and Adam chose to sin, thereby introducing suffering and death into his lineage. (Romans 5:12) The same principle is at work in 2 Chronicles 12:7-8; the Israelites chose to rebel against God’s rule and so for a time they would be ruled instead by a foreign king and experience suffering because of it.
      I agree with this. I also claim that it fits within God’s complete omniscience and omnipotence.

      I said: What do you mean by “influencing”?….You’re using vague terms again. You said: Yes, I’m leaving it vague because biblical accounts of God’s interaction with mankind shows that it is manifested in different ways. Sometimes it’s very direct, sometimes it’s very subtle. There’s no one method that God uses and he certainly does not make everyone’s choices for them. Scripture shows that Jehovah is adaptable in bringing about his will.
      Please clarify and/or cite examples of both God’s “very direct” and his “very subtle” influencing. You’re still being vague. It does not help your argument to say that you’re being vague because the answer varies. If there’s “no one method” then give me examples of some of the methods.

      I look at it this way. Let’s say you decide that you’re going to drive to San Diego. You make a plan on the GPS map for the route you’ll take. Along the way, however, factors out of your control (construction, weather, traffic) may cause you to take a detour and change your route. Ultimately, however, you will still make sure to find your way to San Diego. That is how God works to bring about his stated purpose for mankind even though he has to deal with the unpredictable nature of human free will and adapt to the situation.
      Yes, factors such as weather and traffic are out of our control. So what factors are out of God’s control? What surprises God, causing him to have to adapt to situations? First Peter 1:20 implies that Jehovah had a redemption plan in place even before the fall, since the Messiah was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Nothing surprises God.

      I think you misunderstood me. The phrase ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ means something like “I will be what I will be”. The Hebrew word ‘ehyeh’ is related to the tetragrammaton (yhwh), which has been suggested to have the meaning ‘he causes to become.’ That definition seems to suit God very well.
      You’re basing your translation on your bias. Your opinion is that your desired definition for the Hebrew phrase seems to fit your preconceived description of God. You say the tetragrammaton “has been suggested to have the meaning . . .”. Who has suggested that definition? What’s your source, other than your own preference, or that of the Watchtower?

      I think he set up humans (and angels) with free will, and then evil was introduced into the universe when some of those free moral agents decided to rebel against him. The existence of evil would always be a possibility when there is a standard of good and beings exist with freedom to choose to conform to that standard or not.
      The existence of evil would be a possibility, but not a necessity. Some of the beings with free will did not fall (angels). God’s giving of free will does not necessitate the existence of evil, or justify its existence. God still allowed evil to exist, which has to be acknowledged by Calvinists and Arminians alike. To simply claim “free will” when presented with the problem of evil is (1) using a non-falsifiable argument and (2) being dismissive. You say “evil was introduced into the universe.” Introduced by whom? And from where? Who is holding that evil before it enters the universe?

      And again, at Romans 10:1 we find that Paul is praying for those who are on the road to destruction to instead receive salvation. So did Paul already forget his own answer to the questions he listed in Romans 9 or is it more likely that there’s something lacking in your interpretation of what he is saying there?
      Paul did not forget. He’s writing in terms of God’s perspective in chapter 9, and from his own perspective in chapter 10. Neither we nor Paul know which are predestined for salvation and which are not, so we pray on the basis of whether or not a person will repent and believe, because that’s our perspective. Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Then he said in verse 37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” It’s both/and, free will AND predestination. If you don’t believe in both, then Jesus and Paul sound schizophrenic. What’s your interpretation of what Paul is saying in Romans 9, especially verses 18-24? I think there may be something lacking in your interpretation of what he is saying there.

      I agree with the scriptures, which contrasts life and death as the respective rewards of humankind, not life in heaven and life in hell. There are evangelicals that concur with this as well. Moreover, the earliest Christian hope for life was well summarized by Peter right after he let us know that God hopes for no one to be destroyed: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13)
      So you actually believe that there are three final realities: Heaven for the 144,000 anointed believers, earthly existence for the “great crowd” believers, and annihilation for the unrighteous. Am I right?

      • TJ, Hello again my friend!
        Change of subject: What do you know about the “Vindication of Jehovah’s Soverignty”? See my posts related to that topic. It seems to be a doctrine that used to be held in prominence in the Watchtower system, faded into obscurity, to be recently revived again, but still a bit in the background. Is it something you’re familiar with?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s