[From the Editors: this content is not strictly about JW doctrine, but includes questions about Bible belief in general. We do not recommend it for those who come to this site for information about how JWs differ in doctrine from other Christian-oriented religions. It questions the Bible, and therefore Christianity, in general. To some extent it is also related to the JW claim of being the “faithful slave” and “God’s only channel of communication” in our day. Most links within this article refer back to corior.blogspot.com]
- How Did Mankind Become Inherently Sinful?
- Is the Ransom Sacrifice a Reasonable Idea?
- Did Adam Try to Become Independent of God?
- God’s Love, Justice and Mercy
The fundamental doctrine of the Bible is that Jehovah is the creator of the universe and he is to be worshipped for his superlative qualities. These include love, justice and mercy. A major requirement of those who want to worship God is faith. The Reasoning From The Scriptures book says concerning faith:1
Definition: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1) True faith is not credulity, that is, a readiness to believe something without sound evidence or just because a person wants it to be so. Genuine faith requires basic or fundamental knowledge, acquaintance with evidence, as well as heartfelt appreciation of what that evidence indicates. Thus, although it is impossible to have real faith without accurate knowledge, the Bible says that it is “with the heart” that one exercises faith. — Rom. 10:10.
One of the faculties God has given to man is intelligence and the ability to reason. It is clear the Bible expects a believer to use these faculties to observe what God has done so as to establish faith in him. A person would be foolish not to scrutinize evidence that came before him, as regards his faith. If one does not understand the basis for one’s faith, how can one in good conscience teach it to others? This is the point of the argument the Society uses concerning the integrity of all God’s creatures, as discussed on page 54 of the Life Does Have a Purpose book:2
The rebellion of the earthly son of God raised the question: Would anyone within God’s earthly family, using his free will, choose to be loyal to God’s rulership….?
Of course, one cannot exercise free will apart from using one’s intelligence.
The second most important doctrine is the ransom sacrifice. This doctrine depends on the notions of sin and imperfection. The ransom sacrifice is often stated to be the primary example of God exercising love, justice and mercy toward mankind.
The Bible and the Society indicate that Adam sinned and became imperfect, thereby becoming needful of God’s help, which God provided through the ransom sacrifice. However, there is a major gap in the chain of reasoning that leads from Adam’s original act of sin, through his offspring’s inheriting physical imperfection and sin, which is the inability to always do what God expects, to the need for a ransom sacrifice to relieve mankind from its burden. The balance of this discussion shows where this gap is, and points out the implications.
A basic summary of these doctrines, based on the Society’s publications, is as follows:
1. Adam was created perfect.
2. God gave Adam a reasonable test of his devotion and obedience — to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.
3. Adam deliberately disobeyed God and ate from the tree.
4. God therefore sentenced Adam to death.
5. Adam became imperfect due to his sin and passed that imperfection on to all mankind, his children.
6. Due to the sinful state it inherited from Adam, all mankind is in need of help from outside its own ranks to get back into God’s good graces and regain perfection.
7. God himself provided that outside help, in the form of the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.
8. Christ’s sacrifice was a means of canceling out what Adam lost, by providing like for like: a perfect human life was lost and a perfect human life was used to buy it back.
9. The ransom sacrifice provided by God is the ultimate example of God’s absolute standards of justice.
10. Adam’s rebellion raised serious moral questions about man’s ability to keep integrity to God, and raised the more serious question of the rightfulness of God’s rulership.
All this sounds reasonable until one looks closely at three key points. How did Adam’s act of sin turn into the inherent sinfulness that became part of his genetic makeup and was therefore passed on to his offspring? Is it truly reasonable that the death of a perfect human could cancel out the effects of Adam’s sin? Did Adam really try to become independent of God? We will now examine these points in detail.
I’ve discussed this question with several elders over the years and have not found a satisfactory answer. A letter I wrote to the Society about twenty years ago expressed my misgivings about the doctrine of the ransom sacrifice, but the issues were not as clear to me then as they are now. I discussed this question with two circuit overseers in the late 1980s. They both gave similar answers: the question as to how mankind became inherently sinful is not understood by the Society — in their words, it is a mystery. At first I was extremely surprised to hear this, because I had never seen any published information stating such a thing. But the more I thought about it, the more reasonable the idea seemed. I finally found a statement in an Awake! article, that came fairly close to admitting the Society does not know how mankind became inherently sinful. The October 8, 1988 Awake! article “Wonderfully Made to Live, Not Die” said:3
Sadly, the first man and woman rebelled and ate the forbidden fruit. Being a God of truth, their Creator was impelled to keep his word, and thus he sentenced them to death. The Bible does not contain the biologic details of how God did this. [italics added] What we do know, however, is that Adam and Eve passed on their sinful state to their offspring. As the Bible explains: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” — Romans 5:12.
The problem, of course, is that the Bible does not explain this most fundamental of doctrines, but rather, states it as a given. It does not explain how mankind came to be inherently sinful, in a manner that is understandable to those who would have faith based on accurate knowledge. This means there is no basis for saying one understands the working of God’s absolute justice in this matter. The best that can be said is one accepts on faith what the Bible says — and that God is exercising absolute justice. This means the ransom sacrifice cannot logically be used as an example showing God’s justice and mercy toward mankind. But the Society uses this example all the time.
The idea that mankind will be healed of its deficiencies in the new system is based on the concept of inherited sin. That the Society considers this a key point can be seen from the following statement on page 174 of Life Does Have a Purpose:4
…. in the new system of things Christ will administer the full benefit of His sacrifice so that the inherited weaknesses, the genetic “misinformation” received from a person’s ancestors, will be corrected.
The lack of a clear and full explanation of these doctrines leads me to make two claims: (1) God should make the second most fundamental doctrine of the Bible understandable to his intelligent creatures so they may say they understand why they ought to worship him. (2) God’s “channel of communication” should clearly explain what is understood completely, and what must be accepted purely as a matter of faith. The Society never explicitly states it does not understand how mankind came to be inherently sinful, but invariably uses language that avoids the need for such explanation. This has often left me wondering if I was stupid for not being able to follow the argument. Every Witness I’ve ever talked to, except the two circuit overseers I mentioned, thinks he and the Society understand the ransom doctrine. I will now fully explain how I arrived at these conclusions, using references from the Bible and from the Society’s publications.
A fairly typical explanation, which comes closer to the heart of the problem than most, but not nearly so straightforwardly as the aforementioned October 8, 1988 Awake! quotation, is from “Questions From Readers” in the August 1, 1988 Watchtower:5
Our common ancestor Adam burdened all his descendants with sin. Adam had been created perfect, sinless…. When he disobeyed Jehovah’s basic instructions, Adam became imperfect. To sin means basically “to miss the mark.” Adam truly did that. So by violating God’s command, Adam became a sinner.
All of us have been affected because all of us came from Adam. You could illustrate it this way: A man who was born with a dominant genetic defect would pass it on to all his offspring; they would inherit the same defect. Modern scientists can determine whether certain chromosomal defects exist in an embryo of a newborn, but Jehovah goes beyond that. He reveals that a grave defect did come to exist in Adam and that it has been passed on to all of us. This defect is sin. “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”…. This sinful state has put humans out of harmony with the Creator, in addition to bringing upon them sickness and death.
This explanation is a good example of the reasoning the Society usually uses to avoid having to explain its imperfect understanding of inherent sinfulness. It comes closer to the heart of the issue than most because it mentions a genetic basis for passing on inherent sinfulness. But it obscures a critical link in the chain of events. Note how the writer uses6 the passive voice, “a defect came to exist in Adam,” avoiding the necessity of explaining how the “grave defect came to exist” in Adam. Adam wasn’t created with any defect, as he “had been created perfect, sinless.” The illustration is thus misleading — Adam did not come into existence with any sort of “dominant genetic defect.” So a clearly evident event — “by violating God’s command, Adam became a sinner,” — is not shown to be connected with the crucial event that Adam’s genetic makeup was changed so that he was thereafter not just a sinner, but inherently sinful. Thus it is not shown how Adam’s offspring came to be inherently sinful. The Bible is clear and forthright in simply stating without explanation that this is so. The Society gives the impression it understands the events.
In the course of my research I’ve come to realize there is some confusion among the Society’s writers about the terms “imperfection” and “sinfulness.” Some writers use the terms interchangeably, but this is incorrect.
According to the Insight book,7 under the subheading “Perfection,” the basic idea of perfection is completeness. All notion of perfection, except in the case of God, is relative. To borrow a phrase, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. God is the ultimate beholder. Sin, on the other hand, is “missing the mark,” or any action contrary to God’s will, according to the Insight book, Vol. 2, under the subheading “Sin.” The original Hebrew words translated as “perfect” and “sin” are different. Clearly the terms are related but mean different things. A creature such as Adam, whom God views as perfect in a stringent sense, can become a sinner by an act of sin. Likewise a creature whom God might view as perfect in a less stringent sense, such as any human today, is expected to be “perfect as [his] heavenly Father is perfect.” The Bible speaks of different standards of perfection, but only one standard of sinlessness. So it is improper to talk about perfection without first making it clear what the standard is. This view is further confirmed by the discussions on page 151 of the March 1, 1974 Watchtower and pages 497-500 of the August 15, 1971 Watchtower. Also, the term “perfect,” with respect to man’s physical makeup, is rarely used in the New World Translation.8Only in James 3:2 and (possibly) Hebrews 7:11 is it used in this sense. All other uses of “perfect” and words derived from it are with respect to God or Jesus, or imply relative perfection, or are unrelated to a person. The term “imperfect” is not found. So using the two terms interchangeably is not correct. Sinlessness implies an absolute standard and perfection a relative one.
Now let’s look at a few examples of how the Society usually explains how mankind became inherently sinful. The October 15, 1989 Watchtower said on pages 4-5:
Testing Adam’s obedience, God there commanded him not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. If he and Eve ate of the fruit, God said, they would “positively die.”…. they disobeyed God and failed in that crucial test. Death resulted…. They were no longer perfect, and God passed sentence of death. Yet, God has arranged for that just sentence to be reversed for descendants of Adam.
Note how seamlessly the writer has mankind passing from perfection to imperfection, and then to needing the death sentence to be reversed. He touches none of the above points. The writer uses the passive voice, “death resulted,” to avoid explaining how death resulted and who caused it.
The September 15, 1989 Watchtower said on pages 4-5, after quoting Romans 5:12:
Why did Adam’s sin cause death to spread to all men? Really, this was because of the natural outworking of things.
When Adam sinned, he was condemned to death in accord with divine law. This was both just and necessary. It was just, for life is not a right but a gift from God. By sinning deliberately, Adam forfeited all claim to that gift…. Adam’s condemnation to death was necessary because nothing imperfect can be permitted to survive and pollute the universe indefinitely. Thus, when Adam sinned, he began to die and no longer possessed perfect, sinless life to hand on to his children as an inheritance. He could only give them life tainted with imperfection and sin.
This paragraph contains several unstated assumptions and inaccuracies. For example, it contradicts itself when it says, “life is a gift from God,” and then says Adam could not pass on perfect life to his offspring, because if life was a gift from God, then the question of Adam’s passing it on is irrelevant — he couldn’t even if he had it. The paragraph also says Adam “began to die.” Why did he begin to die? Because God pronounced a death sentence upon him. How did this become part of his genetic makeup, so that it could be passed on to his children? The paragraph does not say. Not one of the key issues I’ve pointed out is touched upon.
The writer appears thoroughly confused about the notion of inheritance. Legal inheritance is one thing, and genetic inheritance is another. No one can bequeath property to his offspring if he does not own it. But genetic makeup is not property, and because of the way genetic inheritance works one may pass on what one does not “possess.” A father may have no limbs; his offspring will not be limbless. A man may give his sperm to a sperm bank and then die; he no longer possesses even life itself, but his sperm can still produce completely healthy offspring. Thus, we may say a man can pass on to his offspring what he does not possess, if we are not too precise about what we mean by “possess.” But with serious matters such as we have here, one should be precise. One should not become confused or play word games with the type of inheritance one is considering. But the Society always misses this point, and does not seem to know that since life is a gift from God, no one can pass it on. At least, not in the sense the Bible is talking about.
The August 1, 1989 Watchtower said on page 26, concerning inherited sin:
Would Adam’s children be able to keep God’s law perfectly, as he himself in his human perfection had once been able to do? By the operation of the laws of heredity, would he not transmit to his children his weakness and tendency to disobey God’s voice and listen to some other voice? Factual history supplies the answers to these questions.
Again nothing is said about how Adam went from his original perfection to weakness and a tendency to disobey God’s voice. The writer simply ignores the issue.
The book Reasoning from the Scriptures9 was written to help people to “reason from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references” various points, in order to help “others to understand the Bible.” But it too, never touches the issue of how mankind became inherently sinful. On page 372 it says:
How could such perfect humans become selfish, leading to acts of sin? Although created perfect, their physical bodies would not continue to function perfectly if not provided with proper food. So, too, if they let the mind feed on wrong thoughts, this would cause moral deterioration, unholiness…. Instead of rejecting…. wrong thoughts, [Adam and Eve] nourished selfish desires. Acts of sin resulted.
Not a word is said here about inherited sin, and how it resulted from “acts of sin.” Where is the “reasoning,” and how is “understanding” being imparted to believers?
The Insight book, under the subheading “Adam,” tries to explain matters in a similar way on page 45:10
With full knowledge Adam willfully and deliberately chose to disobey and then as a criminal he tried to hide…. So Adam was cast out of Eden…. Outside the garden, awaiting death, Adam fathered sons and daughters…. To all of his children Adam passed on hereditary sin and death, since he himself was sinful.
Again it is not explained how an act of sin, which made Adam sinful in a moral sense, became the inherent sinfulness that implies a change in Adam’s genetic makeup.
On page 307 the Reasoning book brings up other pertinent issues:
Why did God not simply decree that, although Adam and Eve must die for their rebellion, all of their offspring who would obey God could live forever?
Because Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.” So, the way he dealt with the situation upheld his righteousness, met the demands of absolute justice, and, at the same time, magnified his love and mercy. How is that so?
(1) Adam and Eve had produced no children before they sinned, so none were born perfect.
Note the free interchange of the concepts of “perfection” and “sinlessness.” This avoids the necessity of explaining issues such as I’ve raised.
All of Adam’s offspring were brought forth in sin, and sin leads to death. If Jehovah had simply ignored this, that would have been a denial of his own righteous standards. God could not do that and so become a party to unrighteousness. He did not sidestep the requirements of absolute justice; so no intelligent creature could ever legitimately find fault in this respect….
This excerpt raises another point: God’s absolute standards of justice are invoked but are not defined. It seems to be assumed the reader already knows that God, as creator, establishes the standards of justice. Whatever he says is “justice” is by definition justice. Therefore it is useless to say that God conforms to any standards of justice — otherwise one would have to say there are standards of justice apart from God, and if one makes such claims then one cannot claim God is the ultimate standard. So saying God “did not sidestep the requirements of absolute justice, so no intelligent creature could ever legitimately find fault in this respect” is a tautology and therefore nearly meaningless. Saying God is “just” is the same as saying God does whatever he wants, which because he is the creator, we already know he does and has the absolute right to do. But whatever God wants is, by definition, just. The circular reasoning should be obvious. The only way the statement can be taken to have any information content is to claim mankind has an inbuilt sense of justice, and that he is able to use it to see and understand God’s standards rather than blindly accepting without question that God is just. But this point is not addressed.
Another explanation in which the key issues are unclear appears in True Peace and Security — How Can You Find It?, page 49:11
Eve allowed herself to be drawn along by selfish desire. She ate what God had forbidden. Afterward, under her urging, her husband Adam also ate. He chose to cast his lot with her rather than with his Creator…. What was the outcome?
The entire human family was plunged into sin and imperfection. Now Adam and Eve could not pass on to their offspring the perfection that they once had. Just as copies produced from a defective pattern all have the same defect, so all of their offspring were born in sin, with an inherited tendency toward selfishness.
Note again, how the writer uses the passive voice in saying the “human family was plunged….”, and freely interchanges “sin” and “imperfection.”
The November 1, 1980 Watchtower explained things this way, on page 7:
…. many things cause us to sin, but especially does the weakness of our own flesh.
Why should this be? It is a matter of inheritance. Originally, our first parents, Adam and Eve, did not have this problem. They were perfect and could make balanced, reasonable decisions as to sin. But they made a wrong choice, decided to rebel against God, and, hence, fell from perfection to imperfection. Because of this, they left to all their children a legacy of sinful, wrong tendencies. The apostle Paul explained it this way: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”
This does not address how Adam and Eve’s making a wrong choice and rebelling against God resulted in their becoming thereafter incapable of always making right choices, or how this inability became incorporated into their genes. It is left to the clear statement of the Bible that it is so. That the Bible does not explain the connection is not addressed.
The book Is This Life All There Is? puts a slightly different twist to matters. On pages 34-35 it says:12
By their rebellion against God, Adam and Eve cut themselves off from a good relationship with [God]. They did not possess an indestructible, immortal life…. They were dependent upon God for continued life.
By refusing to submit to God’s law, Adam and Eve deprived themselves of his sustaining power. Moreover, alienated from God, they were without his divine direction and guidance. In time, then, the sin that had alienated Adam and Eve from God brought about their death…. God sentenced Adam to death….
Through his disobedience, Adam, as the progenitor of the human family, brought death, not only to himself, but also to his unborn offspring…. Having forfeited perfection, Adam could not pass it on to his offspring…. The outworkings of sin in his body made it impossible for him to father offspring without limitations and weaknesses.
This explanation of inherited sin again misses the key points, and does not show clear reasoning. It does not even refer to how a bad relationship with God, and being cut off from his sustaining power, turned into an inherited incapability to always do what is right. It again mistakes the gift of life from God as something that can be passed on through the genes.
The final example of an explanation of inherited sin is from Life Does Have a Purpose.13 This will be an extended example, so that I can fully comment on a number of issues related to the ransom sacrifice doctrine, and God’s love, justice and mercy. The book contains one of the most detailed attempts the Society has made to address some of these issues. Chapter 5, “Why Has God Allowed Suffering on Earth?” says on page 48:
…. Adam and his wife, Eve, were created perfect, as are all God’s works…. How, then, did imperfection and its accompanying troubles, sickness and strife, come to be the lot of the human race? The Bible explains14 that, through no fault of their own, all humans since Adam and Eve have been born with imperfections15. It declares: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”….
According to the laws of genetics, children inherit tendencies and characteristics, as well as defects, from their parents. But how did perfect Adam become defective, imperfect, a sinner?….
The book relates how Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed God’s prohibition not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. Skipping to paragraph 13 on page 60, we find:
Adam thereby became a sinner.
This is clear enough. An act of sin, by definition, makes someone a sinner. But how does this become inherited sin? Paragraph 13 continues:
According to the meaning of the Hebrew word for “sin” he ‘missed the mark.’ He could no longer measure up to perfect standards.
God defines the standards, and since Adam violated them, God could declare that Adam was morally imperfect.
He died spiritually and also began to die physically in that day.
The notion of dying “spiritually” is really a rhetorical device to say the same thing as has already been said — Adam was no longer morally perfect in God’s sight and God would no longer have dealings with him. The issue I’m emphasizing here, though, is: Why did Adam begin to die physically that day?
Adam now had a lack, a moral weakness that also affected him physically, for “the sting producing death is sin.”….
A mental disturbance can produce physical illness, but a person’s moral status is defined by how God views him. A change in God’s viewpoint alone cannot change a person, but a direct action on God’s part, as a result of that changed viewpoint, will. The writer also implies that Adam’s death came about, not as a result of God’s pronouncing the death sentence upon him, but automatically, as a result of the act of sin, as if there were some built-in mechanism that caused Adam to die with no action16 on God’s part. The writer entirely misses these points.
Adam’s spirituality being ruined, his mental workings were unbalanced,
Certainly he was upset, but why would his mental workings become “unbalanced,” whatever that means?
and this contributed toward unbalance and deterioration of his physical body.
Another link in the chain of logic is missed. How did Adam’s spiritual condition affect his physical condition? The writer is clearly aware he does not understand what he is writing about, as he has lapsed into generalities disguised in vague rhetoric.
Adam had to die….
Yes, as a result of God’s sentence. But the writer ignores this, obscuring the point and assuming the reader will in some vague manner figure out the impending death is a result of something that has been somehow incorporated into Adam’s genes. Most readers who are able to realize they do not understand what was said will just chalk it up to their own stupidity. I did for years.
He could not pass on full strength morally or physically to his children, for he no longer had it to give.
Whatever the writer means by Adam’s “moral strength,” it would appear he lost it as a result of an act of sin, and God’s thereafter viewing of him as morally imperfect. Where has it been shown how he lost physical strength, and how these losses became incorporated into his genes?
Consequently, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which Adam had once reflected in his perfection.
This merely goes back to the scriptural declaration (not explanation) again.
Being a sinner, Adam had no right to enjoy communion with Jehovah God….
What did all of this mean for the human race? The result was inherited weakness.
This, of course, has not been shown by a continuous chain of logic. The writer arrives at this conclusion only after a most tortuous circumlocution of logic and ignoring of facts. What are the facts he has ignored?
Acquired characteristics are not inherited — otherwise the Lamarckian mechanism of evolution would be true. A man will pass on to his offspring all the characteristics he was born with, even if he no longer has them, so long as his genes are intact. If Adam’s genes had changed it could only be because God himself changed them by direct action. It does no good to argue that God designed man so that if he disobeyed him, his genes would automatically be changed in accordance with his “moral imperfection” — God would still be the designer of the mechanism that changed the genes. Then God could be accused of “booby-trapping” mankind, in a sense. If this is the way God actually built mankind, then all the statements the Bible and the Society have made with respect to man’s free will are meaningless.
The Society occasionally seems to allude to the idea that God sentenced Adam to death by means of changing his physical and genetic makeup. This has dire consequences of which the Society seems aware and studiously avoids: by direct action God himself would have made mankind inherently sinful. Why would God do this? Why would God make it impossible for Adam’s offspring to always do what is right? This is clearly unjust and contradictory to God’s purpose of having righteous men on earth.
These ideas are supported by the fact that since inheritance can be either legal or genetic, the one is fundamentally different from the other. If Adam no longer had the capability to do what is right, so that he passed the lack on to his offspring, but he had the capability when he was initially created, then something must have removed that capability by changing his genetic makeup. The only logical means is that God himself made the changes. How else could it have been done? The mere act of eating a piece of fruit certainly could not have. Adam’s realization that he was now estranged from God could not have, otherwise you’re back to the booby-trap. This is the key to my argument: What, other than God’s direct action, could have changed Adam’s genes? And if God did this, he is directly responsible for mankind’s inherent sinfulness and all its effects.
Based on the foregoing, I see no other conclusion than that God took away Adam’s physical perfection when he became morally imperfect in his sight, and then changed his genes to match. As to why that included making Adam and his offspring inherently incapable of obeying him, I can come to no conclusion.
This view is further strengthened by God’s words to Eve in Genesis 3:16:
“I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.”
The Society usually says this scripture merely states what would happen, not what should happen as regards pregnancy and the relationship between men and women. Such claims notwithstanding, God’s direct and forthright statement “I shall do thus and so….,” clearly indicates direct action17 by him. There is no way a gradual deterioration in physical state or in the marital relations between Adam and Eve could account for the immediate effect on Eve of greatly increased pain of her pregnancy. And from where else could such a change come, other than God’s direct action in changing both her current physical makeup and her genes?
The March 1, 1976 Watchtower said on page 159 regarding this:
It does not appear that Jehovah directly brought these conditions into existence as a punishment on Eve and, by inheritance, on all her daughter descendants. Rather, by cutting off the woman as well as the man from divine favor, Jehovah was pointing to the consequences and abuses that would result. Childbearing would be very difficult under imperfect conditions.
As usual the writer speaks in sweeping generalities. He does not say why it does not appear Jehovah did these things, he only assumes it. Nor does he explain how cutting off the woman from divine favor would cause immediate difficulty in childbearing. Does this mean that God originally designed women so they could not give birth easily without his direct intervention? And that this was to be the normal way of giving birth, i.e., with God’s intervention, for all time? This is unreasonable. God, as a master designer, would design women to easily give birth on their own, just as all other life does. If you want to push this point, then you must also explain why it is the Society claims that even though all animal life was severely affected by mankind’s fall, to such an extent that many animals became carnivorous after having been designed to be vegetarians, they still give birth with far greater ease than mankind. In either case, whether Jehovah directly changed Eve, or indirectly caused her and all her female descendants’ suffering by refusing to help them give birth, it is still his action that greatly increased the pain of pregnancy.
Similarly the Insight book says on page 186 about Genesis 3:16:18
God expressed to the first woman, Eve, after she had sinned, what the result would be as to childbearing…. But now, as a general rule, the imperfect functioning of the body would bring pain. Accordingly, God said (as often the things that he permits are said to be done by him): “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy….”
But this is again not explained. It is, rather, stated as a conclusion, to avoid ascribing to God actions that are unpleasant to contemplate.
There are other issues related to how man came to be sinful. The Life Does Have a Purpose book says on page 53:19
So man went in a way independent of God…. Moreover, there was more to the issue than the mere rebellion of Adam and his wife. The rebellion of the earthly son of God raised the question: Would anyone within God’s earthly family, using his free will, choose to be loyal to God’s rulership, and would any stay loyal to God under pressure, or under the temptation of gaining something for himself by disobedience? So the integrity, the faithfulness, of every man and woman to be brought into existence would be a matter of doubt in the minds of all God’s creatures in heaven and on earth.
Perhaps God wanted to add to man the burden of inherent incapability to keep his laws, as well as other burdens, to really test out this issue. This is not so far fetched. Remember, God said to Adam, “cursed is the ground on your account,” and the curse was not lifted until after the Flood. Why would God curse the ground except to give Adam a hard time? A related problem is seen in the natural disasters that overtake men. Of course, God does not cause rivers to overflow their banks, volcanoes to erupt, or earthquakes to occur. But by creating a world in which these things do occur, and, as the Bible and the Society intimate, allowing them to happen to man by refusing to prevent them, God adds to his burden.
This is a problem many argue is clear proof there is no God. Earthquakes, for example, occur as a consequence of forces deep within the earth that cause the movement of tectonic plates that cover the earth. Earthquakes kill people, and it is clear that a loving God would not make the world his creatures inhabit in such a way that it would be destructive to them. Now, there are only a few choices as to why and how long earthquakes have existed. If they have existed since the world’s creation, then God must have had in mind to someday ease their effects so they would not kill people. If they have not existed since the world’s creation, God must have started them up sometime later. Arguments about man’s fall into sin would put that startup time coincident with the fall. Another alternative is that earthquakes have existed since the world’s beginning, and God eased their effects in the vicinity of Adam, but no longer did so after the fall. But do not these alternatives lead to serious problems with the idea of a loving God? Do you have any better alternatives?
At any rate, Life Does Have a Purpose continues:
This question was, however, subsidiary or secondary to a far greater one — a challenge regarding the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty or rulership…. An illustration of the issue involved is found in what happened in real life to the man Job, a record of which was preserved for our benefit….
God let Job be tested, knowing that he would remain faithful. And Job did not actually lose by suffering for a while. For, at the end of the test, God rewarded Job beyond anything he had formerly enjoyed, including 140 more years of life….
The story of Job recounts one of the worst abuses of human rights and feelings one could possibly imagine. The Society does its best to avoid mentioning this, since at all costs, one must say God is just. But think about what the above paragraph left out. Job’s entire first family of ten children was allowed to be murdered, to satisfy someone’s challenge to God. The writer claims that Job did not actually lose anything. If all ten of your children were murdered, would you think that you had not actually lost anything? Do you think of your children merely as property — one is as good as another? That was a common attitude in the days of the patriarchs, but it is incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. And what would the children and all the others that were murdered think of what God permitted? Do you think for one minute they would agree they didn’t lose anything? I can’t believe they would. Life Does Have a Purpose doesn’t mention any of this. I really think one has to abandon all feelings of mercy and compassion to believe what the book is saying.
If someone told me I was bad, and I let my daughter be tortured fiendishly to prove I wasn’t, then virtually everyone would condemn me as a wicked father and I would have proved that I was bad. What of God, and Job’s test? What of God and all mankind? Are intelligent, feeling humans mere pawns in a cosmic chess game? I cannot help but conclude that if the story of Job is true, then as flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. [Shakespeare: King Lear IV.i.]
Life Does Have a Purpose says on page 61:
Happily, because of God’s undeserved kindness and his love for the human race, he did not abandon mankind so that they would go permanently into extinction.
Given everything I’ve discussed, I cannot see God’s love in the matter. In addition, it was God’s expressly stated purpose to populate the earth with humans. Sticking to his purpose in spite of difficulty can hardly be construed as an example of his being loving, especially in view of the way he appears to have gone about it. The appearance of being loving can be construed as merely a side effect of God’s sticking to his purpose, and would then mean no more than if his purpose was to populate the earth with bacteria.
The idea that mankind inherited sin from Adam is inconsistent with the admirable principle stated in Ezekiel 18:20:
A son himself will bear nothing because of the error of the father, and a father himself will bear nothing because of the error of the son. Upon his own self the very righteousness of the righteous one will come to be, and upon his own self the very wickedness of a wicked one will come to be.
Moses and Aaron showed they recognized this principle when God said he was about to kill the entire nation of Israel, in Numbers 16:22:
O God, the God of the spirits of every sort of flesh, will just one man sin and you become indignant against the entire assembly?
Did God really mean to kill all the Israelites, or was he just toying with Moses and Aaron, to see what they would say?
One final point on this subject. The Life Does Have a Purpose book further says on page 62:
If God had put Adam and Eve to death immediately, none of us who have lived on earth would ever have been born.
So what? If God populated the earth in some other way — one that did not involve all kinds of suffering — there would be no problem. Potential descendants are not something anyone need worry about. Otherwise you have to ask, What about the potential descendents that didn’t come into being because God chose to do things the way he did, rather than some other way? Are we more valuable than they? You can see Life Does Have a Purpose presents a meaningless argument.
Inevitably tied up with the issue of man’s sinfulness is the question of how he might get out of that sinful state. The Bible declares that God’s provision for this is the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I am not arguing about what the Bible says concerning the ransom doctrine, as it could hardly state the matter more clearly. The ransom doctrine is declared as an accomplished fact. What I am saying is that I do not understand it, and the Bible does not provide much help. Nor does the Society understand it, although it certainly gives the appearance it does.
The Look! I Am Making All Things New brochure sums up a few of the main points about the ransom on pages 18-19:20
…. how could man be released from the bonds of death? Jehovah’s perfect justice required ‘soul for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’…. Hence, since Adam brought inherited death to all mankind by willfully disobeying God and so losing perfection of human life, another perfect human had to substitute for Adam in paying over his perfect life, to buy back what Adam had lost.
The just principle of paying ‘like for like’ has been widely accepted throughout history. The expression commonly used is “paying a ransom.” It is “a price paid to recover a person or thing from one who detains that person or thing in captivity. Hence prisoners of war or slaves are said to be ransomed when they are liberated in exchange for a valuable consideration…. Whatever is substituted or exchanged in compensation for the party is his ransom.” Since Adam’s sin, all mankind have been like prisoners of war or slaves, bound by imperfection and death. To release them, a ransom had to be provided. To avoid any controversy now or later as to the fairness of the ransom price, it would be necessary to sacrifice one perfect human life, that is, the exact equivalent of Adam.
I am very uncomfortable with this explanation, as it does not address many key issues. For one thing, it carefully avoids being specific about who will receive the ransom price. The writer tries to make it seem as if “imperfection and death” are the things holding mankind ransom, but this is mere sophistry. Sentient beings hold other sentient beings for ransom — immaterial concepts do not. One should not confuse rhetorical device with reality. A price is paid to an entity, such as a person or an organization. People who hold other people for ransom are called kidnappers. The brochure obviously would not raise issues such as this and such as I am about to, because of the inexperienced audience for whom it was written.
A second major problem with this explanation is that it plays fast and loose with the idea of “like for like.” This principle cannot be invoked without at least some qualifying explanation. The doctrine of the ransom sacrifice requires much.
The March 1, 1989 Watchtower is not so obscure as the Look! brochure about who receives the ransom price. It says on page 22:
God’s perfect law given to the nation of Israel stated: “Soul will be for soul.”…. Hence, after Jesus laid down his perfect life in death and was resurrected by God’s power to ascend back to heaven, he was in a position to present the value of his perfect human life to Jehovah in exchange for Adam’s life rights.
Clearly Jesus was to pay the ransom price to God in heaven and receive Adam’s life rights in turn from God, and so God is the one holding mankind captive. This is born out by Matthew 20:28 which says:
The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.
This is further indicated by scriptures that say Christ is a repurchaser of mankind. He must repurchase mankind from the one who holds their value, namely, God.
This is an important point: an immaterial concept such as sin cannot hold anyone for ransom. Saying it can is nothing but a rhetorical device. Illustrations based on rhetorical devices must be viewed with suspicion, and can almost never be used as logical proof.
There is a general lack of understanding in the Society’s publications of this point. For example, Life Does Have a Purpose21 said on page 52 that Adam sold his offspring into slavery to sin and death. This is based on Romans 7:14 which says:
For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am fleshly, sold under sin.
All this really means is that mankind is inherently sinful. The term “sold under sin” is a descriptive device. There is not any selling involved. The idea is merely a way of viewing the situation. Life Does Have a Purpose elaborates this idea on page 67:
Adam had sold his future offspring, without their consent, into slavery to sin and death. The price he received for the “sale” was the selfish doing of what he wanted to do, stepping out in rebellion against God.
A somewhat similar explanation is found in the Insight book on page 735:22
Mankind’s need for a ransom came about through the rebellion in Eden. Adam sold himself to do evil for the selfish pleasure of keeping continued company with his wife…. He thereby sold himself and his descendants into slavery to sin and to death, the price that God’s justice required.
This appears to be saying that Adam sold himself to “sin and death,” and received as a price “the pleasure of keeping continued company with his wife.” This is thoroughly confusing. Whenever selling occurs there must be a real buyer and a real seller, and something of value must change hands. If Adam received a price, then someone must have paid it. Who would that have been? Clearly the symbolism is breaking down, which points to the fact that we should be talking about concrete actions on the part of specific persons.
As to the statement that “giving like for like” is the legal basis for the ransom, the Insight book says under the subject “Atonement:”23
Man is in need of sin covering, or atonement, due to inherited sin…., responsibility for which rests, not with God, but with man himself.
According to the conclusion I reached earlier, that only God could have changed Adam’s genes so that his descendants would inherit sin, so that it must have been by God’s direct action and is therefore God’s responsibility that mankind has inherited sin, I cannot agree with that statement. God could have carried out the death sentence on Adam in any number of ways, and it has not been shown why his changing Adam’s genes is the only way or even the best way it could have been done. The Society simply takes the Bible’s statement that this is the way it is, and then tries to justify what the Bible says. But this leaves no basis for saying that one understands God’s doings, only that one accepts them. This is fine as far as it goes, but one cannot subsequently use this uncomprehended doctrine to prove God’s love, absolute justice and mercy toward mankind. And God’s “channel of communication” should explain these matters clearly.
Moreover, the choice the Bible says God made, that only a perfect human sacrifice could cancel out the effects of Adam’s sin, is arbitrary. The principle of “like for like” cannot be blindly applied, or ridiculous situations will occur. For example, if a man commits suicide, how would the principle be applied? Would someone else have to die, because God’s justice demands “soul for soul?” Of course not. The principle must be applied with discretion.
The idea of arbitrariness is further seen by examining the Israelite laws concerning sin and atonement, where animal sacrifices were required for the Jews to continue to have the acceptance and approval of God. There is no reason any number of other things couldn’t have been done to maintain God’s approval. The only reason animal sacrifices were required was God said so. Similarly, as the one holding mankind ransom, he could demand any price whatsoever to redeem them. Neither the Bible nor the Society show why animal or human sacrifices were necessary, beyond God’s simple demand.
Similarly, the Insight book makes a point about the concept of redemption in the laws of Israel:24
Well illustrating the sense of a redeeming exchange is the law regarding a bull known to gore. If the owner allowed the bull to go loose so that it killed someone, the owner was to be put to death, paying for the life of the slain person with his own life. However, since he did not deliberately or directly kill another, if the judges viewed it proper to impose upon him a “ransom” instead, then he must pay that redemption price. The sum assessed and paid was viewed as taking the place of his own life and compensating for the life lost. On the other hand, no ransom could be accepted for the deliberate murderer; only his own life could cover the death of the victim.
So the law given to Israel recognized that a certain amount of discretion should be exercised by judges. The rule of “like for like” was not blindly applied — there was leeway, because the value of a life could be viewed as identical to the value of a sum of money. The viewing of Jesus’ life as equivalent to Adam’s life involves a similar degree of arbitrariness. The fact God is doing the viewing does not change anything. It is not at all clear to me the necessity he should take this view. This is made all the more clear by the fact the ransom price is to be paid to God. A slave holder can release his slaves by just declaring them free. Why could God not do the same? All the more since it appears that God put mankind into his inherently sinful state to begin with. And in keeping with the illustration on goring, Adam did not murder anyone. He committed a crime and was sentenced to death by God. You may argue that Adam murdered his unborn offspring, but this would again be a mere rhetorical device, as it is not possible to murder someone who does not exist. So in keeping with the law on goring bulls, something else of value could have been viewed as equivalent to Adam’s life, something other than another human life. The choice is not restricted by any justice that exists apart from God, and so the choice is entirely God’s. It could have been anything he wished.
The idea of a ransom sacrifice is inconsistent with portions of the Hebrew scriptures that condemn human sacrifice. This is exemplified by Jeremiah 7:30,31:
‘For the sons of Judah have done what is bad in my eyes…. they have built the high places…. in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.’
However, the ransom sacrifice doctrine is consistent with the many examples where God is said to handle justice according to the needs of the moment.
One example of this is shown by what God did in the case of David’s sinning with Bath-sheba. David committed adultery with her, and had her husband killed to cover it up. He
broke commandment after commandment, against coveting, stealing, adultery and murder.25
Bath-sheba was also guilty of adultery, and both came under the clear sentence of Deuteronomy 22:22:
In case a man is found lying down with a woman owned by an owner, both of them must then die together, the man lying down with the woman and the woman. So you must clear away what is bad out of Israel.
God gave no exceptions to this law.
But Jehovah chose to handle their case differently, which “the Judge of all the earth” certainly had a right to do.26
The above Awake! and Watchtower articles proceed to explain how God handled the case. God did not blindly apply the letter of the law and “like for like,” but tempered justice with mercy, as well as taking into account other considerations. The above cited Awake! article said one of these considerations was that
David was shown mercy because of the covenant God had made with him for the kingdom.
What was in the covenant? 2 Samuel 7 says God told David:
…. I shall certainly make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones that are in the earth…. I shall certainly raise up your seed after you, which will come out of your inward parts, and I shall indeed firmly establish his kingdom. He is the one that will build a house for my name…. When he does wrong I will also reprove him…. As for my loving kindness, it will not depart from him the way I removed it from Saul…. And your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.
To keep these promises to David, God was willing to sidestep the Law he gave to the Jews. Really, he wanted his word fulfilled, and if David died according to the Law, that would be impossible. Also, the Bible says God had special affection for David. So God was willing to adjust the application of principles such as “like for like” when he wanted to.
That God could have handled Adam’s sin in a manner different from what the Bible and the Society say he did is further shown by the fact that God did whatever was necessary to Jesus’ physical makeup, presumably including his genes, to be able to view him as perfect and inherently sinless, even though Jesus was born of an inherently sinful human. If he could do it for one human, why not the human race? If not all humans, then why one? The scriptural idea of God’s “declaring righteous” further shows that God can do it, if he wants to.
Because of the foregoing I am unable to agree with the reasoning in the answer to a question Reasoning from the Scriptures poses:27
Why did God not simply decree that, although Adam and Eve must die for their rebellion, all of their offspring who would obey God could live forever?
Because Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.”….
As discussed earlier, this is the same as saying Jehovah is a lover of whatever he does, because whatever he does is by definition just and righteous.
So, the way he dealt with the situation upheld his righteousness, met the demands of absolute justice, and, at the same time, magnified his love and mercy. How is that so?
These statements are devoid of meaning, for reasons discussed earlier.
(1) Adam and Eve had produced no children before they sinned, so none were born perfect. All of Adam’s offspring were brought forth in sin, which was due to God’s direct action in changing their genes, and sin leads to death. If Jehovah had simply ignored this, that would have been a denial of his own righteous standards. God could not do that and so become a party to unrighteousness. He did not sidestep the requirements of absolute justice; so no intelligent creature could ever legitimately find fault in this respect….
In other words, things would not have been done the way he wanted.
(2) Without ignoring the requirements of justice,
Again, without ignoring what he wanted,
how could provision be made to deliver those of Adam’s offspring who would demonstrate loving obedience to Jehovah?
Why did he make it so much harder for mankind to obey him, when he himself made mankind inherently sinful?
If a perfect human was to die sacrificially, justice could allow for that perfect life to provide a covering for the sins of those who would in faith accept the provision. Since one man’s sin (that of Adam) had been responsible for causing the entire human family to be sinners, the shed blood of another perfect human (in effect, a second Adam), being of corresponding value, could balance the scales of justice….
Does this mean two wrongs make a right? Does the fundamental principle of “like for like” boil down to “bad things must come in pairs”?
Illustration: A family head may become a criminal and be sentenced to death. His children may be left destitute, hopelessly in debt. Perhaps their kindly grandfather intervenes on their behalf, making provision through a son who is living with him to pay their debts and to open up for them the possibility of a new life.
But if the children are in debt to the grandfather, he can just forgive the debt, unless he is very hardhearted. Does it make sense to demand payment from a third party? If the third party is another son, is the grandfather not all the more hardhearted?
It should be clear why I say I do not understand and am confused about original sin and the ransom sacrifice. As a reasoning human being, I am not able to understand these doctrines as presented in the Bible and in the Society’s publications. Because I am not able to convince myself of God’s love, justice and mercy with respect to these doctrines, it is difficult to have faith in any other part of the Bible.
The Society says that a number of issues were raised by Satan in connection with Adam and Eve’s deliberate disobedience. These include:
1. The truthfulness of God (when God said Adam and Eve would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge, did he really mean it?)
2. Man’s dependence on God (could man decide for himself what was good and bad, and be happy in so doing?)
3. God’s sovereignty or way of ruling (was God holding back from man freedom that would contribute to his happiness?)
4. Did God’s creatures on earth or anywhere else love and worship him for his superlative qualities, or only for what they could get out of it (would or could they keep integrity under pressure)?
Of all the creatures watching and involved in the events, only Eve was deceived on point 1. Point 2 could have been solved for all non-human observers simply by a look at God’s design specifications for man. Since all man’s parts are “down in writing” and since spirit creatures had enough understanding of the design of the human body to materialize human bodies of their own before the Flood, this should have been no problem. Points 3 and 4 required an actual test to get an answer.
The Society says that when Adam and Eve were faced with the above questions, they chose independence from God. He let them have it, and much trouble has resulted. But did they really choose independence from God?
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge Eve said to God:
The serpent — it deceived me and so I ate.
What was Eve deceived about? Genesis 3:4 says concerning God’s warning of death for disobeying him:
…. the serpent said to the woman: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”
The November 1, 1985 Awake said on page 4 that Satan the Devil
deceived the first woman, Eve, into thinking that she could be happier if she were only free from her Creator’s guidance.
So Eve thought she would get independence from God by eating the fruit. But did Adam think he would avoid the death sentence and get independence from God? 1 Timothy 2:14 answers:
Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.
So Adam exercised his free moral agency with full intelligence and chose to rebel, knowing full well that he would die and therefore not be independent of God. He did not believe Satan’s lie to Eve that he could obtain independence. As progenitor and head of the human family,28 neither did he raise this issue with respect to his potential family. Eve’s actions may have raised the issue, and Satan did so explicitly, but neither one had the authority or position, as it could be argued did Adam, to choose for the human family independence from God.
So the Society’s usual charge, that “Adam chose human rule in order to try out independence from God,” is false, and the Society’s statements that
men have chosen independence from God and turned away from his rulership.29
They decided…. to grasp for independence from their Creator and thereby “be like God.” They felt that they could determine for themselves what was right and what was wrong.30
are incorrect. God rejected man after Adam’s sin, and that is why man is at this time independent from God.
Notwithstanding the above, the issue of whether man is capable of ruling himself has not been demonstrated unambiguously, because Satan “is the ruler of this world.” He advances a policy of rule or ruin31 and “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” While I certainly believe that the words of Jeremiah 10:23,24 are true, that “it does not belong to man who is walking, even to direct his step,” this has not been demonstrated by the events the Society describes.
Since Adam did not choose independence from God, it is unfair of God to treat Adam’s offspring as if they did choose it. It is also unfair to treat them as if they were pawns in a chess game.
Let me slightly rephrase a paragraph from page 67 of the Truth book to illustrate what I’ve been trying to get at. It well illustrates my misgivings.32
Satan’s false charges against God may be illustrated, to a certain extent, in a human way. Suppose a man having a large family is accused by one of his neighbors of many false things about the way he manages his household. Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true. But what a fine answer it would be if he permitted his own family to be his witnesses and be killed and tortured to show that their father was indeed a just and loving family head and that they were happy to live with him because they loved him! Thus he would be completely vindicated and have shown how much he loved his family.
If my change to the original wording is obvious and sounds ridiculous, please explain why God’s dealings with mankind and Satan in this regard are any better.
The issue of proving God’s rulership proper is simply a dispute between Satan and God. The issue is the same as that raised in the account of Job, but on a much larger scale. In the same way that Job was not given a choice, none of Adam’s offspring was asked to be part of the dispute. Since Adam did not choose to be part of the dispute, his offspring have been forced into it without any say in the matter.33 This seems to be clear proof that God views man as of little account, since he is willing to let Satan do as he pleases with him. We appear to be flies in God’s eyes.
This section illustrates several problems with the Bible’s claims about God’s love, justice and mercy.
The doctrines of original sin and the ransom are related to the question of why God has permitted wickedness to exist. I am quite familiar with all the Society says on this matter, but one important issue is never discussed. If everything the Bible and the Society say concerning the end of this system of things is true, then nearly five billion people are soon going to die, with no prospects of a resurrection. The Society claims virtually all these people have heard the warning message, as it has declared the work has been preached in every nation by now. But many individuals have never heard the message, and many have heard it but considered it no further than any number of trivial claims on their time.
I get lots of junk mail. I do not read every word of every piece that shows up. If I did I would waste much time. Likewise, why should God expect that each person should consider in detail every religion that comes along claiming to be the Truth? And if one doesn’t consider every religion in detail, how can one be sure one has found the true religion? It is only by a detailed study that one can make an intelligent decision as to which religion is the true one. To expect one to decide that a religion is true on only a cursory hearing, from strangers who show up at the front door, is to expect one to make correct decisions on life-or-death matters with incomplete information. This is a denial of the reasoning facilities God put into man and is clearly unreasonable.
What is the status of people who change for good or bad just before Armageddon? Because of certain Biblical statements, it has been said that a person will live or die when the end comes based on the state that “the Lord” finds him in “when he arrives.” I suppose this is reasonable if a person turns to doing good, as it errs on the side of mercy, but if a person turns to doing bad, what account is taken of all his prior acts? Do they account for nothing? If the end came just one year later, the bad person might have turned back to doing good, and the good person may have fallen away. And what if, instead of a year later, it was a month? A day? By this reasoning, it can be seen that judging a person on the basis of his state when the end comes is fraught with opportunity for injustice. But the Bible leaves no room for speculation.
Similarly, the idea that “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise…. but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance,” really is fraught with difficulty, because there will always be new people being born and new opportunities for someone to change one way or the other. Comparing the rate at which new people are born to the rate at which people become Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that waiting for more to attain to repentance is a losing proposition. The precise time when the end comes is surely based on other considerations. In view of the clear statements the Bible and the Society make on this issue, I don’t see God’s justice being exercised. I don’t see any way justice can be exercised, except that each person gets a full opportunity to hear the message, in the manner I’ve described above. People living when Armageddon comes should have the same opportunity as people will get in the resurrection.
What is this opportunity? The Bible says of the resurrection that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:28) The Society says this includes most of those who have died. It is obvious most of them never heard a message similar to the one being preached today, but after they are resurrected they will get an opportunity to fully learn all the doctrines of the Bible, and much new information besides. But this opportunity is not being extended to people today, according to the Society. Many people have barely heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses; it is certainly not true that most of these think they are rejecting a message from God. Their ignorance or prejudices prevent them from truly appreciating the message, and therefore they do not understand the message. But the Society says people today are being required to make life- or-death decisions based on this cursory and incomplete information. This is not in accord with any standard of justice I can understand.
Some have suggested that perhaps some of the people that die at Armageddon will be resurrected later and get a full and fair chance to hear the complete message. In this way they would get exactly the same chance as all the others who would be resurrected. But the Bible itself seems to preclude the possibility.
To illustrate what I mean when I say these things are not in accord with justice, you would probably acknowledge that someone who died 100 years ago, having lived a reasonably good life, would be in line for a resurrection, even if he had once heard Pastor Russell’s message and rejected it. The same would probably be true of someone who once heard Jehovah’s Witnesses’ message, and died ten years ago, or one year ago. The point is this: What is the difference between someone who died one year ago, and someone who dies at Armageddon, both of whom had identical opportunities and identical responses to the message? Is it loving, just and merciful that one would get another opportunity in the resurrection to fully hear the message, and the other would not?
What about the idea from the Bible that “no man can come to [Jesus] unless the Father…. draws him”? (John 6:44) What this scripture really means is that God makes a judgement about a person’s worthiness to receive the message before he has ever heard the message. If this scripture is taken literally, then everything the Bible and the Society have said concerning the preaching work, and the idea that God will make a judgement on people’s worthiness to receive life based on their response to that work, are so much baloney. If God chooses who is to receive the message based on prior heart condition, then the preaching work is irrelevant to saving people from everlasting destruction.
Here are some comments paraphrased from Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality, about a primitive religion.34
It may be instructive for us to consider some passages from the ancient religious documents of the Zaruba tribe of central Africa. The Zarubas are so ferocious that tales of their savagery appear even in the folk legends of their neighbors.
That the Zarubas have been guilty for centuries of dreadful slaughter is of course — while deplorable — nothing to mark them as unique among human tribes, for on every continent there is a more than ample record of battlefield and conquest atrocities. But the Zarubas do hold the dubious distinction of not only hating other tribes — an evil to which all are prone — but of glorying in such hatred. It is to be hoped that most men today, if moved to strong, sustained anger will not, except in the context of imminent military confrontation, attempt to justify their vindictive emotions; many will experience some guilt as a result of them.
There is scarcely any trace of such softening of heart in the religious literature of the Zarubas, however. They not only justify their anger, but they inculcate it through many centuries, from generation to generation, so that Zaruba children are trained from the cradle to despise those whose only offense is that they are born into non-Zaruba tribes. The Christian admonition to love the sinner, while hating the sin, to do good to those that curse us, to love the enemy, to turn the other cheek, would be an absurd heresy to the Zarubas, which is presumably why exceedingly few of them have ever been converted by Christian missionaries.
An unattractive mixture of paranoia and fawning subjection to their deity renders the Zaruba religious philosophy even less attractive to the modern mind, including the minds of young educated Africans of Zaruba ancestry.
The following excerpt from a Zaruba hymn of praise, which is typical, reveals this unedifying combination of emotions:
Oh Mbomu, do not hold your blessings from me.
For the mouth of the wicked and the lying speak against me.
They speak words of hatred and fight against me without reason.
I pray to Mbomu, but my enemies return evil and hatred for the good I do.
Oh Mbomu, set an evil chief over my enemy and let Kimba [the devil] stand at his right hand.
When my enemy be judged, condemn him. Let even his prayer be judged evil.
Let his life be shortened and let another man take his village.
Let his children have no father and his wife be a widow.
Let his children wander lost in the jungles, begging for their food.
Let thieves steal my enemy’s property and let strangers spoil his work.
Oh, Mbomu, let nobody help this man. Do not even let anyone help his father and his children. Let his children in generations to come be killed. Let their names be blotted out.
Let the sins of the fathers and the mothers harass the children down through the generations.
But let Mbomu remember the sins that he may stamp out the memory of my enemies from the earth.
But as for me, Mighty Mbomu, be good to me for I am poor and needy and my heart is wounded with a spear.
My knees are weak and I am thin.
This is hardly edifying prayer; it is cursing, invoking as it does the power of the Deity to bring suffering to those the Zaruba consider their enemy. It must be understood here that the word enemy is not interpreted in the personal, but rather in a corporate, military, or ethnic sense. It is as if the prayer were spoken by, say, a German and by enemy he means not only the soldiers but all inhabitants of France, male and female, children, and the aged. Clearly the emotions expressed are primitive, vengeful — what one might expect from at least some, though happily not all, primitive cultures.
The sentiments are particularly unattractive in the context of the fact that the Zaruba themselves are noted for their warlike behavior and for the ruthlessness with which they have, over many centuries, attacked and slaughtered their neighbors. A typical Zaruba prayer, for example, actually recommends, indeed blesses, the Zaruba tribe member who will capture the innocent infants of a neighboring tribe and dash their brains out against a stone. The exact quotation is:
Happy will he be that grabs ahold and does dash to pieces your children against the crag.
As scholars of the Old Testament may have perceived, I have attempted to bypass, temporarily, certain prejudices, pro or con, in the minds of at least some readers of the present study by changing the name of the tribe of Judah to Zaruba, which I now explain is totally fictitious. Let the reader who a moment ago was rightly contemptuous of what he assumed was primitive African tribal behavior ponder the ethical and theological significance of his or her reactions.
My purpose in inventing this fictional tribe was to aid the reader in forming an opinion of typical Old Testament literature. The “Zaruba” prayer is actually a paraphrase of part of Psalm 109, with the last line taken from Psalm 137. I do not see how any unprejudiced reader can fail to be struck by its combination of fawning sycophancy on the one hand and psychotic hatred on the other.
…. Why must we hear ancient libels? Why are psalms like this in the Scriptures?
I was taken in by the above piece until almost the very end of the “quotation” from the “Zaruban hymn,” when I realized that it sounded an awful lot like the Bible, and I skipped ahead. How about you? The Society has often said that God, as presented in the Hebrew scriptures, is every bit as loving, just and merciful as is God as presented in the Greek Scriptures. I always believed these statements, but I was sometimes uncomfortable with some of the primitive and violent stories of the Hebrew scriptures. Being taken in by the above piece demonstrated to me that there is more to this issue than I used to think, and certainly more than the Society ever talks about in print.
A Bible story that has long made me wonder about God’s intentions in dealing with mankind, or at least, wonder about the truthfulness of the account, is found in the Genesis story of how Jacob obtained the blessing of the firstborn from Isaac. Jacob and his mother Rebekah lied to Isaac in order to get the blessing for Jacob. All of this was done with God’s express approval, and Isaac was extremely unhappy about it. Here are parts of the story from Genesis 27:
Now it came about that when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see he then called Esau his older son and said to him: “…. make me a tasty dish such as I am fond of and bring it to me and, ah, let me eat, in order that my soul may bless you before I die.”
However, Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to Esau his son…. And Rebekah said to Jacob her son: “…. Go, please, to the herd and get me from there two kids of the goats, good ones, that I may make them up into a tasty dish for your father such as he is fond of. Then you must bring it to your father and he must eat it, in order that he may bless you before his death.”….
So he went on in to his father and said: “My father!” to which he said: “Here I am! Who are you, my son?” And Jacob went on to say to his father: “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done just as you have spoken to me. Raise yourself up, please. Sit down and eat some of my game, in order that your soul may bless me.” At that Isaac said to his son: “How is it that you have been so quick in finding it, my son?” In turn he said: “Because Jehovah your God caused it to meet up with me.” Then Isaac said to Jacob: “Come near, please, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob came near to Isaac his father, and he went feeling him, after which he said: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands proved to be hairy like the hands of Esau his brother. Hence he blessed him.
After that he said: “You are really my son Esau?” to which he said: “I am.”…. And he proceeded to bless him….
Now it came about as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob…. that Esau…. came back from his hunting. And he too went about making a tasty dish. Then he brought it to his father and said to his father: “Let my father get up and eat some of his son’s game, in order that your soul may bless me.” At this Isaac his father said to him: “Who are you?” to which he said: “I am you son, your firstborn, Esau.” And Isaac began to shake with a great trembling in extreme measure, and so he said: “Who, then, was it that hunted for game and came bringing it to me, so that I ate of everything before you could come in and I blessed him? Blessed too he will become!”
On hearing his father’s words Esau began to cry out in an extremely loud and bitter manner and to say to his father: “Bless me, even me too, my father!” But he went on to say: “Your brother came with deception that he might get the blessing meant for you.” At this he said: “Is that not why his name is called Jacob, in that he should supplant me these two times? My birthright he has already taken, and here at this time he has taken my blessing!” Then he added: “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” But in answer to Esau Isaac continued: “Here I have appointed him master over you, and all his brothers I have given to him as servants, and grain and new wine I have bestowed for his support, and where is there anything I can do for you, my son?”
Then Esau said to his father: “Is there just one blessing that you have, my father? Bless me, even me too, my father!” With that Esau raised his voice and burst into tears.
Now it should be obvious from the above account that Jacob and Rebekah were guilty of trickery and deceit. Isaac himself said so. It is certainly true that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob, and demonstrated his lack of appreciation for spiritual things. And it is true that God approved of the outcome. But that is precisely the problem! God approved of the results of deliberate trickery and deceit.
God, being all powerful, could easily have arranged matters so that Isaac was informed of the transfer of the birthright and could have told Isaac in a dream to bless Jacob instead of Esau. Isaac, being a good servant of God, would have done what he was told. But God did not do this. Instead he let his servants stoop to lying to achieve their ends. Not only did God permit this, but according to the September 15, 1964 Watchtower, he “directed matters.” This seems a most peculiar way for God to show his “absolute power, love, justice and mercy.” I think God could and would do better. This story is one more reason why I very much wonder if the God described in the Bible is really the same as the Creator of the universe.
Another problem with the account is the magical way the speaking of the blessing by Isaac is treated. It is as if the blessing were an invocation of magic which, once uttered, took effect on whoever happened to be standing before Isaac. If Isaac uttered words meant for Esau, then logically that is who the words should have applied to, no matter who was standing in front of Isaac. After all, Isaac’s words had no supernatural power. If Isaac had been in really bad shape and happened to utter his blessing to a goat that just happened to wander by, would the goat have gotten the blessing? If not, then why would Jacob receive it, when Isaac’s words were meant for Esau? And why was Isaac unable to give a blessing to Esau, or straighten things out afterward? Blessings are not tangible substances that can be poured out like water; they are spoken words. If you argue that God fulfills the spoken blessings in certain cases, and so gives real force to the words, then you are back to the problem of why God here condoned, or even directed, shockingly deceitful behavior.
A law of the Israelites concerning slaves is a good example of the sort of primitive violence the Bible occasionally condones. Exodus 21:20, 21 says:
And in case a man strikes his slave man or his slave girl with a stick and that one actually dies under his hand, that one is to be avenged without fail. However, if he lingers for a day or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is his money.
Concerning this the Insight book says:35
The Law protected slaves from brutalities…. Although a master could beat his slave, the slave, depending upon the decision of the judges, was to be avenged if he died under his master’s beating. However, if the slave lingered on for a day or two before dying — this indicating that the master had not intended to kill the slave but to discipline him — he was not to be avenged…. if a slave lingered on for a day or two, there would be reasonable question as to whether the death resulted from the chastisement. A beating with a rod, for example, would not normally be fatal….
Aside from being an absurd moral position, this sort of case would be cut-and-dried in any courtroom today. How likely is it that if a slave died within a few days of a beating it might not have been from the beating? If the slave had been so weak or sick that he might have died from something as “trivial” as a beating with a rod, should not the slave owner have seen that and refrained from beating him? If anyone died after injuries resulting from a beating, then until he had obviously recovered it should have been prima facie evidence that the beating was too severe, and the beater should have payed with his life as a deliberate murderer. If it could be determined that the beating had nothing to do with the death, then that should be taken into account, not the simple fact of how long it took the poor slave to die. Just put it into a situation one sees all too often today. If a parent beats his child, which he has a right to do, and the child is hospitalized and dies, are we not horrified that a parent would commit such a vile act? How is it any different with Israelite slaves? And note that the justification in the scripture for not avenging the slave if he died after a day was “because he is his money,” as if that has anything to do with the moral position. This law was an open invitation to brutality, because a slave owner was specifically permitted by law to beat his slave to within an inch of his life.
The Society deals with all questionable examples of God’s love, justice and mercy in a uniform manner: they are either ignored or said to be situations where we don’t have enough information to make a judgement. The Society starts with the premise that God is absolutely just and attempts to make all Bible accounts harmonize with this principle. This reasoning will not work if the Society truly wants to convince people of God’s justice. You cannot prove an argument by assuming a premise is true, and then turn around and use that assumption to prove the truth of the premise. You must prove the truth of a premise using ideas other than the assumption it is true. And you must provide compelling evidence in order to ignore or to disprove contrary examples.
For example, there is much evidence against the theory of evolution and much that supports it. Evidence disproving evolution would be the discovery of a single tooth from a modern human mixed in with dinosaur bones. An evolutionist would have to provide compelling evidence as to how such a discovery was consistent with his theory for it to remain credible among intelligent people. It does not matter that the discovery could be as small as a single tooth — evidence is evidence. The point is that it is extremely difficult to prove something true, but it takes only one counterexample to prove something false.
So it is with proving God is just. All potential counterexamples must be either compellingly disproved or it must be shown why they can be ignored. If counterexamples are not disproved, then one might still acceptthe assumption on faith that God is just, but then one may not logically prove it, and therefore one cannot say one understands that God is just. One can say only one believes God is just. Providing examples that show God’s justice, is necessary to prove the point, but is not sufficient. It has been said Satan will tell a thousand truths to get someone to believe one lie. There are indeed many accounts of God’s great justice to be found in the Bible, but it is hard to see how all Bible stories can be made to fit this ideal.
I would like to believe that the God of the Bible is truly the epitome of justice, but I cannot see it. The above counterexamples show a few reasons why. Note these are not examples where there is lack of clear statement from the Bible; on the contrary, the Bible is quite definite. I do not see the justice of the God of the Bible in these clearly stated things. I would like to think that my questionings in these areas are in the spirit that Abraham showed when questioning God on his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, when he said:
Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…. It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you. Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?
This is why in these essays I’ve sometimes said that while I’m convinced a creator exists, I do not see that he is the same as the God of the Bible. Just as many people cannot believe the doctrine of hellfire because it so strongly goes against their built-in sense of righteousness and justice, so I can’t quite believe many of the things the Bible says about God. I can agree in principle with one thing, which is that36
Jehovah does not expect us to show blind credulity. He does not want from us the kind of obedience that a trainer gets from a beast with a bridle or a whip. That is why he told David: “Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter.” (Psalm 32:9) Rather, Jehovah has endowed us with thinking ability and discernment so that, based on understanding, we can choose to obey him.
I have no intentions of acting as a mule. I desire understanding.
There are many other examples where it appears to me that the God of the Bible did not act justly. When he dealt with the forefathers of the Jews, many of the stories where he blessed them also showed very poor treatment of others. For example, Abraham twice passed off his wife Sarah as his sister, once to Pharaoh and once to Abimelech. In both cases, Abraham acted with treachery and cowardice, and yet had God’s approval. Abimelech acted far more righteously than did Abraham, and yet the Bible account puts Abraham in a completely favorable light. Isaac did virtually the same thing with another37 Abimelech. In any case, these stories are clear in showing that God did not act impartially, but showed favor to certain ones at the expense of others. By no stretch of the imagination did God deal with Abimelech the same as he did with Abraham. He did not treat Job’s children and servants the same as he treated Job.
In all these cases the behavior of God leaves much to be desired. If you take the position that these stories really are true and that they were “written for our instruction,” then the question immediately presents itself, What sort of instruction? I certainly can’t resolve the problem. What I’ve read in the Society’s publications often sounds like apologetic grasping at straws and is unconvincing. The usual argument is that we don’t possess all the details and so cannot make judgements on the stories. God must have acted justly, even though we can’t understand it. But if that is the case, then in what manner have the stories been written for our instruction? How can we conclude, based on his actions, that God always acts justly? You can use that argument just so many times before you use up all your silver bullets.
When God gave Satan permission to kill Job’s children and servants, was it showing love, mercy and justice to them? If God had personally put them to death, it would be quite clear that he had acted unjustly.38But is God’s giving permission to Satan any better? If a governmental authority gives his permission for someone to carry out a course of action, then that authority is responsible for the consequences of that course. This is a widely recognized principle of law.
Many individuals who are Jehovah’s Witnesses often cavalierly claim that after having prayed to God, something beneficial occurred. Whether the person’s prayer was answered, no one can say, but the person invariably believes that God personally answered his prayers. The Society does much to encourage this attitude. In most cases the truth is probably closer to what is illustrated by the following:39
There was a professional criminal in Brooklyn in the 1950s named Harry Gross, among whose various rackets and scams was one that was quite ingenious. He caused it to be rumored around the neighborhood that he could secure exemption from the draft at the cost of $1,000 per customer. The offer was accompanied by a money- back guarantee. Great numbers of anxious mothers and young men paid Gross thousands of dollars. Some of these were later drafted; in these instances Gross promptly refunded the payment. A number of others were not required to serve. The point is that Gross did nothing whatever, in any case. He was clever enough to perceive that a certain percentage of people would not be drafted; from each of these he made a very easy $1,000. The people who were not taken into the military naturally assumed that their good fortune had been produced by Gross’s exertions. Something like the same procedure — it is possible — may be involved with respect to supplicatory prayer. We later do receive some of the things we pray for, just as in other cases our wishes are not satisfied.
This, you will probably admit, is the usual case with people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it seems that many Witnesses have no conception that this may also apply to them. I’ve sometimes heard Witnesses say, with great wisdom, when they don’t seem to be getting any response, that God answers every prayer but sometimes his answer is No.
Among many major problems that the Bible says would befall mankind is what is stated in Revelation 6:8: “And authority was given them…. to kill…. by the wild beasts of the earth.” In these populous times it is certainly true that wars, food shortages, plagues, and other problems have hit mankind hard. But it can hardly be said that death from the wild beasts of the earth is in the same league. It is true that tigers kill several hundred people every year in India, and that possibly several hundred more are killed earthwide by shark and other animal attacks. But the probability of dying from animal attack is less than the probability of being killed by a tornado or lightning or any number of other causes. It is far more likely that one will be killed in an automobile accident, but even that is not something people live in fear of. Animal attacks are simply not an issue to most of the population of the earth.
There are other far more common ways people die that Revelation could have mentioned, such as floods. In the spring of 1991 well over 100,000 people died in floods in Bangladesh. In 1970 between 500,000 and one million lost their lives in the same area. In the 1930s the Yellow River in China overflowed its banks and killed possibly ten million people. Why does the Bible not mention flooding as a serious problem? It is many orders of magnitude more serious than animal attacks. What about the several hundred thousand people who die worldwide each year in automobile accidents? Doesn’t this problem deserve at least an honorable mention? It seems to me that trying to justify Revelation’s mention of animal attacks is an exercise in futility.
The book The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s?40 skips comment about such things and implies, but does not clearly state, that the reference to wild beasts in Revelation 6:8 actually is a reference to men who act like wild beasts. But the other three references in the scripture are to literal things. How can the Society so cavalierly interpret one part of the verse as literal and another part as figurative? Clearly, the answer is that the writer knows he is unable to address the question I raise above, and is only able to salvage the prophecy by implying part of it is figurative. So how is it that Revelation 6:8 is of any significance whatsoever? Indeed, since the reference to being killed by the wild beasts of the earth is clearly implied to be in the same category as the other problems, does not the lack of serious problems with wild beasts argue that the rest of the verse has no prophetic significance? And what do these things imply as to the significance of other prophecies that make similar predictions?
The Society has pointed to much scriptural evidence showing God’s view on the sanctity of the marriage arrangement and the responsibility of parents for their children. But Exodus 21:2-4 says:
In case you should buy a Hebrew slave, he will be a slave six years, but in the seventh he will go out as one set free without charge. If he should come in by himself, by himself he will go out. If he is the owner of a wife, then his wife must go out with him. If his master should give him a wife and she does bear him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will become her master’s and he will go out by himself.
So much for God’s view on the sanctity of the marriage arrangement. This also illustrates the Bible’s view that women are property, the Society’s apologetics notwithstanding.
I’ve always thought the Genesis account of Lot’s doings rather odd. The account of his daughters’ committing incest with him two nights in a row is awfully far-fetched. Steve Allen made some comments about this that put my own unease into focus. Speaking of the Genesis account he said:41
Chapter 19 is also infamous for one of the vilest incidents in the Old Testament.
30. And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the hills with his two daughters, for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31. And the firstborn said unto the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.”
For the reader who might not be familiar with the common Bible phraseology pertaining to sexual acts, it should be explained that “to come in unto” refers to sexual intercourse. Lot’s daughter was speaking nonsense when she gave the excuse that there was no other man on the entire planet with whom she and her sister could have physical relations, but whoever authored this absurd story was clearly not familiar with human sexuality. The woman urges her sister.
32. “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the seed of our father.”
33. And they made their father drink wine that night; and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
The author of this unedifying account is clearly deficient in knowledge about both alcoholic intoxication and sexual intercourse. If a man were falling-down-drunk, he would be incapable of having an erection. If we start with the questionable assumption that a man is able to have sexual intercourse although deeply intoxicated it would seem that he would at least be aware that he was engaged with a female. It is conceivable that a man in a dark room might not be able to identify the woman, but this cannot be the case with Lot, since he lived alone with his daughters in a hillside cave. If he had discovered a woman copulating with him in the night, he would have known that it could only be one daughter or the other.
To flesh out this absurd fantasy the detail is added that both women become pregnant, — meaning that the drunken Lot was able to have at least two orgasms — thereby begetting the Moabites and Ammonites. Scholars now suspect that this story was put into Genesis to justify the Hebrews’ hatred for the Moabites and Ammonites, although these groups were related, Semitic-speaking tribes who lived east of the Jordan River.
This discussion touched on each part of the story I’d already concluded sounded far-fetched. Note what a Watchtower article said regarding the account:42
Why, then, does the account appear in the Scriptures? The narrative is not presented in the Bible to stimulate erotic thoughts. It is there for a purpose, revealing the relationship of the Moabites and Ammonites to the descendants of Abraham who became known as Israelites.
Note the Watchtower article says nothing about the problems raised above with the Genesis account, although it does partially agree with the scholars Steve Allen mentions on the reason it was included in Genesis. However the Aid book says concerning the account:43
Lot was evidently drunk enough to lose control of his good sense but not “dead drunk,” that is, not too drunk to have sexual relations. (Some ancient Jewish authorities claim that the original Hebrew text read, at verses 33 and 35: “he did know when she got up.”)
The best I can conclude about this account is that it presents serious problems for an apologist, and it certainly does not sound like an actual historical event. It is straining credulity to be asked to believe that not only were Lot’s daughters able to put over on Lot the act of incest two nights in a row without his knowing it, but that they both got pregnant. Has anyone calculated the odds against both women getting pregnant the first time they had sex, and that with a man so drunk he had no idea what was happening? It is not impossible, but the likelihood is so low as to throw the entire account of Lot into the realm of fairy tales. And if Lot actually did know what happened the first night, which is at least somewhat believable, then when the daughters began plying him with wine the second night, don’t you think that, as a righteous servant of God, he would have gotten suspicious and immediately put a stop to it?
It must be conceded that the Bible is often confusingly worded. Why would God, if he inspired it for man’s guidance and enlightenment, communicate so obtusely?
Jesus’ keeping integrity as a sinless man says nothing about the capability of mankind, who the Bible says has to contend with inherited sin. Therefore holding Jesus up as an example of what mankind should be like is unfair, as it is unattainable.
In Genesis 3:22 God says, “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad.” Since at that time God had not given to anyone else, including spirit creatures, the authority to determine for themselves what is good and bad, who is the ‘us’ the scripture refers to?
When God put Adam and Eve outside the garden of Eden, he put a “flaming blade of a sword” to guard the entrance. This shows that God invented the very first weapon of war, the sword.
If you came upon a story like that of Adam and Eve in, say, an old Hindu document, would you believe it? If so why? If not, you should be able to see why the issues I’ve raised in this essay about the ransom sacrifice are of fundamental importance to understanding the Bible.
Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” This scripture implies that the slate is wiped clean upon a person’s death, and other scriptures along with this imply that God gives the gift of everlasting life to those whom he will resurrect. Yet Matthew 12:32 implies the slate is not wiped clean by death, when it says: “whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.” How can these two contradictory messages be reconciled?
Psalm 145:16 says of God: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” At present, the falsity of this scripture is so self-evident as to hardly require comment. As for the possibility that this scripture applies to some future time, note the wording of the scripture is in the present tense.
Proverbs 10:22 says of God: “The blessing of Jehovah — that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” You have only to allow a small child to pick blackberries to see the falsity of this scripture.
Judges 11:30,31 says:
Jephthah made a vow to Jehovah and said: “If you without fail give the sons of Ammon into my hand, it must also occur that the one coming out, who comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, must also become Jehovah’s, and I must offer that one up as a burnt offering.”
An article in the Insight book says concerning this scripture:44
Did Jephthah have in mind human sacrifice when he vowed to present as a burnt offering the first one coming out of his house?
Some critics and scholars have condemned Jephthah for his vow, having the view that Jephthah followed the practice of other nations, offering up his daughter by fire as a human burnt offering. But this is not the case. It would be an insult to Jehovah, a disgusting thing in violation of his law, to make a literal human sacrifice…. When Jephthah said: “it must also occur that the one coming out, who comes out of the doors of my house to meet me…. must also become Jehovah’s,” he had reference to a person and not an animal…. Jephthah knew that it might well be his daughter who would come out to meet him…. How, then, would the person coming out to meet Jephthah to congratulate him on his victory “become Jehovah’s” and be offered up “as a burnt offering”?
The article then proceeds in the Society’s usual fashion to avoid answering the question it raised. It is shown how in one sense Jephthah’s daughter could “become Jehovah’s” by being devoted to exclusive sanctuary service, and words are said about animal sacrifices, but nowhere is it shown clearly how the daughter was offered up “as a burnt offering.” The article certainly dances around the issue, though.
Concerning supposed contradictions in the Bible, the Watchtower said:45
Another seeming contradiction is found by comparing Exodus 34:7 with Ezekiel 18:20. The first text states that God would bring “punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons,” while the latter states that “a son himself will bear nothing because of the error of the father.” Why do these texts appear to be contradictory? Because they are taken out of context. Examine the surrounding material and setting. It then becomes obvious that when God mentioned punishment as coming upon not only fathers but also sons and grandsons, he was speaking of what would result to Israelites as a nation if they sinned against him and were taken into captivity. On the other hand, when mentioning that a son would not be liable for the error of his father, he was speaking of personalaccountability.
That explanation sounds just fine until you read 2 Kings 5:27, which said concerning Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, after he had misappropriated property from Naaman:
So the leprosy of Naaman will stick to you and your offspring to time indefinite.
Additionally, Exodus 20:5 (JPS Tanakh translation) says:
For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me.
In this light it is clear that the Watchtower is just explaining away another problem. Even if the Society’s explanation of Ex. 34:7 and Ex. 20:5 is correct, God still has visited punishment upon innocent people, albeit via community responsibility.
1 Reasoning from the Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1985.
2 Life Does Have a Purpose, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1977.
3 Awake!, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY.
4 anonymous, op cit.
5 The Watchtower, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY.
6 New York Times writer William Safire said in his book Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage, Doubleday, New York, 1990, p. 72, that there are “good uses of passivity. However, the bad use of the passive voice is in obfuscation. Abraham Lincoln, to escape personal responsibility in a message to Congress, changed all the active voices to passive, and bureaucrats have been following that example ever since. Permission was refused is the classic trick in passive construction; it avoids the need for a perpetrator of the turndown. In the active voice, the writer would have to say, Joe Blow refused permission — but Mr. Blow may not want the responsibility. That’s why this device is favored in diplomatic documents.”
U.S. News and World Report said in its August 19, 1991 issue, on page 17, in an article entitled “No-fault syntax,” “‘Obviously, some mistakes were made,’ said John Sununu, referring to his travel adventures as White House chief of staff. This is a wonderful nonapology, which seizes the blame and casts it firmly into outer space…. ‘Mistakes were made.’ William Schneider, a political analyst for CNN, calls this usage ‘the past exonerative,’ a sharp phrase, quoted in William Safire’s language column in the Sunday New York Times Magazine…. All writing courses tell students to stick to the active voice as much as possible, partly because the passive voice is the natural home of limp and evasive writing. It is also a terrific screen to conceal choices, responsibility and moral conflicts. Mr. Sununu, could you please recast that for us in the active voice?” In the spirit of clarity of thought the Society should recast its statement, “a grave defect came to exist in Adam,” in the active voice.
7 Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1988.
8 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1984.
9 anonymous, op cit.
10 anonymous, op cit, Vol. 1.
11 True Peace and Security — How Can You Find It?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1986.
12 Is This Life All There Is?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1974.
13 anonymous, op cit.
14 The Bible does not “explain” this. Webster’s Dictionary says that “to explain” means “1: to make plain or understandable…. 2: to give the reason for or cause of…. 3: to show the logical development or relationships of….” Rather, the Bible declares or announces what happened.
15 The writer here uses “imperfection,” confusing the term with “sin”, and especially, “inherited sinfulness.” The scriptural quotation that follows shows his confusion.
16 I will have more to say on this shortly.
17 If one makes the claim that when the Bible quotes God as saying he does something, he does not necessarily mean exactly what he says, especially when he takes credit for something that is clearly unpleasant, then one has discredited the Bible as a reliable source. Either the Bible’s statements are to be accepted at face value, or they may be interpreted any way one sees fit. Which is the consistent position?
18 op cit, Vol. 2.
19 anonymous, op cit.
20 Look! I Am Making All Things New, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1986.
21 anonymous, op cit.
22 op cit, Vol. 2.
23 op cit, Vol. 1, p. 211.
24 op cit, Vol. 2, p. 733.
25 Awake!, p. 27, August 22, 1965.
26 The Watchtower, p. 31, March 15, 1986.
27 anonymous, op cit, p. 307.
28 Insight on the Scriptures, op cit, Vol. 2, p. 964.
29 Awake!, p. 9, February 22, 1986.
30 Life-How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, p. 190, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1985.
31 ibid, p. 193.
32 The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, Rev. 1981.
33 At a circuit assembly in Woodburn, Oregon, on Saturday, April 24, 1991, an illustration was given in which the audience was asked, “What would you do if you were locked up in a room with someone who was insane, murderous, treacherous, deceitful, and very intelligent. Would you be sleeping?…. Satan has been cast down from heaven to the vicinity of the earth and we are locked up with him….” It seems no one saw the point that God ultimately is the one who cast Satan down and put mankind in the position described. Do you think this is an expression of God’s love, justice, and mercy toward man?
34 Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality, pp. 356-358, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1990.
35 op cit, Vol. 2, p. 978.
36 The Watchtower, p. 30, April 1, 1988.
37 The details of these stories are so similar that one has to wonder if they are really true, or are actually several versions of the same original legend, with only the names changed.
38 The Watchtower, p. 341, June 1, 1976.
39 Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1990.
40 The Bible — God’s Word or Man’s?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1989.
41 Steve Allen, op cit, pp. 175-176.
42 The Watchtower, p. 319, Jay 15, 1972.
43 Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 469, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1971.
44 op cit, Vol. 2, p. 27.
45 The Watchtower, p. 6, February 1, 1988.