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Ever heard of “The Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty”?

If someone asked you what the theme, or main message of the Bible is, what would be the first thing that you think of? Go ahead, think of your answer. Got it? Okay, good.

My immediate answer is something like “God’s relationship with humanity,” or “the salvation of mankind,” or simply “redemption.”

I have often wondered what the Watchtower’s answer to that question would be. My guesses were “God’s coming kingdom,” or “the end is near.” I have always wondered whether there was an underlying assumption or an over-arching theme that dictated and tied together most, if not all of the watchtower doctrine.

Recently I think I found what would be their answer. And yes, it does tie things together, if not perfectly, at least enough that it helps make sense of many of the WT doctrines that we consider quirky and disjointed. Here’s how I discovered watchtower’s answer to the Bible’s theme.

I was researching (on the internet) the watchtower’s view of God’s sovereignty as an attribute of God, and stumbled across an article critiquing the watchtower’s teaching about something called “The vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty.” Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“You are my witnesses,” declares Jehovah, “Yes, my servant whom I have chosen…” (Isa 43:10)

We are taught that we are like witnesses in a court case.  What is being judged is God’s right to rule and the righteousness of his rule.  We are told that we live under his rulership; that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a true theocracy—a nation ruled by God with a population larger than that of many countries on earth today.  By our conduct and by showing that life in our nation is “the best way of life ever”, we are said to be vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty.

by Meleti Vivlon | Apr 26, 2015 http://meletivivlon.com, “Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach the Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty?”

My immediate thought was, “I have never heard about this doctrine before, either in the WT literature, or in any of the talks at kingdom halls or conventions. Where is this coming from? Is this for real?” Well, I have come to find out that yes, it’s a thing. My suspicion is that the doctrine was something that was taught in the past, but now assumed to be true; part of the Watchtower mindset and culture, but not explicitly stated in current literature. I think it quite possible that modern JW’s have been operating under the assumptions of this doctrine for most of their history, but with few current JW’s being able to give a concrete expression of it. But now, I believe that someone at the WT headquarters has re-discovered the old expression of this doctrine, and is now bringing it again to the forefront.  When I searched “sovereignty” at www.jw.org, here’s what I discovered.

In the June 2017 issue of the Watchtower (study edition), there are two articles: First, there’s “Keep Your Eyes on the Big Issue.” (pp. 22-26) What is the Big Issue? It’s the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Surprise! A ghost from the past has been resurrected! The second paragraph alone uses the phrase three times, with variations of the phrase occurring throughout the article almost too many times to count. (It’s a good example of mind-numbing  repetition.) Here’s the main argument:

The action of Satan the Devil has raised the question of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty.

Of course, Jehovah knows that the Devil’s allegations are false. So why has God chosen to allow the issue to go on, giving Satan time to try to prove his point?

The first human couple rejected Jehovah’s rulership, and so have many others since then. This could lead some to wonder whether there might be validity to the Devil’s claim.

As long as the question remains unsettled in the minds of humans or angels, discord among nations, races, tribes, families, and individuals will exist.

The second article is “Uphold Jehovah’s Sovereignty!” (pp. 27-31.), which is the application of the doctrine, essentially saying that our everyday actions are needed in the great cause of vindicating the sovereignty of Jehovah:

“Now is the time to uphold God’s sovereignty by our integrity, our service, and our earnest endeavors to imitate him in all we do.” (Paragraph 20.)

There’s a third thing that I found that confirms that this old theme is being revived by the Watchtower. If you click on “The Message of the Bible” under “Bible Teachings” at jw.org, a page comes up reinforcing the theme as taught in the articles:

“The Message of the Bible: Jehovah God has the right to rule. His method of ruling is best. His purpose for the earth and for mankind will be fulfilled.”

Seven pictures give an overview of the Bible, beginning with “The serpent questions Jehovah’s right to rule and his way of ruling,” and ending with “Jehovah’s original purpose for the earth and for mankind is fulfilled, his name is cleared of reproach, and his way of ruling is vindicated.”

Essentially Watchtower is saying that God has been the defendant in an ongoing trial, beginning with the fall, and ending at Armageddon. I wonder then: Who is the judge in the trial? Who is the jury? (Apparently the unsettled minds of humans and angels, according to the WT article.) And why are the ranting accusations of Satan, the deceiver, the liar and father of lies, being taken so seriously?

The doctrine does, though, make sense of the whole Watchtower legalistic system. Humans, like character witnesses, are burdened with presenting the evidence for God’s right to rule. (As if the burden rested upon God, rather than Satan.) Nowhere in scripture is the doctrine of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty taught or even mentioned. The verse usually quoted is Proverbs 27:11, which is about a father imploring his son to be wise so that the father “may answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” Making this verse proof of God’s need for our witness of his sovereignty is an obvious stretch, similar to the “new light” verse of Proverbs 4:18 (used to “prove” the need for ongoing updated revelation).

It will be interesting to see renewed emphasis given to this old doctrine in upcoming congregation meetings, regional assemblies, and district conventions. I’m sure the catchphrase “vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty” will soon become part of the “theocratic language” of the common Jehovah’s Witness. The best way to use it as an opportunity for ministry will be to simply ask your JW friends, “Where is that phrase found in scripture?” Then, share with them what YOU see as the main theme of the Bible.

Alternately you could use the tactic of quoting Jesus, when he says “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), asking them to explain how different that is from being a character witness in a court case. You might also ask, “As a witness of Jehovah, are you a witness in the sense of announcing, or making known, the good news of the coming kingdom, or are you a witness like a character witness in the cosmic court case against Jehovah? I’m confused by the Watchtower’s two very different uses of the word.”



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Ongoing Favor With JW Friends

There have been a couple of incidents that have made me concerned about my relationship with my Jehovah’s Witness friends. First, some humorous but concerning experiences at the local Kingdom Hall, in which I was brought into the boardroom for questioning about my motives for “sharing my opinions” with congregation members. (See my previous post about that.) In addition to that, I received a phone call from my friend Mark, who early in our conversation said that his elders thought that I was “trying to influence” my JW friends. I was concerned whether the jig was up–perhaps my cover was blown, and they were all going to cease interacting with me. My response to mark was simply to ask, “They said that?” I was trying to prompt him to elaborate further, wondering what exactly had been said, and whether Mark had been advised to cut things off with me. I was very pleased that Mark continued talking with me, hardly addressing the situation at all.

I had planned to go to the local Kingdom Hall, as I normally do about once a month, but was apprehensive about what kind of reception I would receive. My Wifey prayed for me, specifically that God would give me favor with the JW’s. With that, I left to head to the Kingdom Hall.

God answered my Wifey’s prayer. Everyone at the KH greeted me enthusiastically, asking how I was, saying that they were glad to see me, and other expressions of friendliness. There was no sign of shunning or defensiveness. In return for their kindness, I refrained from “sharing my opinions” with the members, instead only engaging in friendly conversations about life in general. Okay, I did “share my opinions” a bit, but so subtly that it could hardly have been detected. And the elders were listening (that is, very creatively eavesdropping) on my conversations with people. I was definitely under scrutiny. I encouraged a young man to continue to pursue his singing classes and developing that talent. And I encouraged another young man to continue his efforts at writing (which he currently does on the staff of his high school newspaper). These were very, VERY subtle statements of encouragement of career paths not normally encouraged by the Watchtower. College education is frowned upon, and so any skill requiring further education beyond high school is suspect. Yes, their parents have encouraged their efforts in the writing and singing arts, so they too are pushing the boundaries as well, which was surprising to me. My enthusiastic encouragement included statements about those abilities being given as gifts by Jehovah. This may seem like small potatoes to us, but with JW’s, sometimes our small potatoes are Big Deals to them. I’m sure the message was not lost on the young people and their parents. What the elders thought, I don’t know, but they raised no objection, and remained friendly towards me.

Bonus: My friend Aaron invited me to his upcoming wedding! Sweet. I’m honored that he considered me enough of a friend to invite me and include me in on that part of his personal life. And I can’t wait to attend and have more opportunities to talk with JW’s.


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Quick Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are at your door. You don’t have time to talk for long (or you just don’t want to). What can you do? Here are some quick questions to ask them, to get them thinking “off track” from their usual rehearsed conversations.

1. If the anointed class of 144,000 are in the New Covenant, what covenant are the great crowd in? (See WT, Simplified Version, 10/2014)

2. If the foreign residents in the Old Testament were allowed to eat the Passover, why aren’t the great crowd allowed to eat and drink at the Lord’s Evening Meal (Memorial)? (See WT, Simplified, 11/2014 and Exodus 12:48-49.)

3. If, since 2012, Jesus’ presence or arrival in Matthew 24 is no longer interpreted as a present reality, but rather a prophecy about the future, what passage now supports his invisible presence since 1914? (See WT 7/15/2013)

4. If Jehovah’s kingdom began ruling in 1914, how could Jehovah’s rulership been “interrupted” before that? Has Jehovah not always ruled? (See WT 10/2014.)

5. If recent teaching says that “a bible account represents something greater only when there is a clear scriptural reason to do so,” (WT simplified 3/2015), what is the “clear scriptural reason” for a secondary interpretation of Daniel 4?

6. What part of Michael the Archangel was transferred to Jesus, if Jesus was a human and nothing more? (See “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” “Who Is Jesus Christ?” Paragraph 14.)

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