Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Biblical Standard for Evaluating the Jehovah’s Witnesses

If the Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to the true "congregation" (i.e., their preferred translation of ekklēsia, which is most often rendered as "church"), then there must be scriptural evidence that their particular ekklēsia is the one, true, and visible body of Christ, which has existed in unbroken continuity since its very foundation. I'll be using their own translation of the Bible to support this particular standard.

  • Christ himself built his ekklēsia (Matthew 16:18). 
  • The ekklēsia is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24) and is therefore one, since Christ has only one body.
  • The ekklēsia is “a” bulwark of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).[1] 
  • The ekklēsia is a visible body.  For "if your brother commits a sin," how can you "speak to the congregation [i.e, ekklēsia]" to resolve the matter if you can't even find it? (Matthew 18:15-17). 
  • The ekklēsia must be a permanent body since Jesus says that not even the “gates of the Grave” (Matthew 16:18) will overcome it.

With these points in mind, the Jehovah's Witnesses should be asked the following:

  • Where in history do we find anything remotely similar to the ekklēsia of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
  • If you believe that your ekklēsia was the original ekklēsia, but somehow went missing for a number of centuries (as is evidenced by the vast difference in beliefs and practices between you and Christians of the intervening period), shouldn’t we conclude that the “gates of the Grave” did indeed overcome the ekklēsia until Charles Taze Russel “resurrected” it in the 1870s?  In other words, did Jesus predict wrongly in Matthew 16:18?

[1] The NWT inserts the indefinite article “a” in this verse, presumably to imply that the ekklēsia is but one “pillar and support of the truth” among others.  However, among the 28 renderings listed on Bible Hub, the vast majority (93%) translated stylos to mean the pillar.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On the Shameful Defense of Trump's 'Sh--holes' Remark

"Well, the countries are sh--holes, aren't they?"

To this pathetic attempt at defending Trump's alleged remarks, we should reply with honesty: "Well, many of these countries are in terrible shape - rife with poverty, corruption, repression, war in some cases, etc. So, I suppose you could describe them as sh--holes, but is that term necessary? Is it becoming of a president? Of a self-described Christian? Of any civilized adult? Do you want your children to grow up speaking this way?"

That aside, the context of his alleged remarks points to something far more problematic than his characteristically churlish language. To be clear, I don’t believe that referring to countries as sh—holes, in itself, demonstrates racism. Is his parlance trashy? Obviously. Is it racist? Well, we can’t know until we examine the context in which he allegedly uttered these words.

But the context doesn’t help, does it? After all, Trump doesn’t say, “Let’s rescue these people from their sh--holes by lifting our lamp beside the golden door!” Rather, he proclaims, “Keep, ancient sh--hole lands, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” In doing so, he essentially equates the “sh--holes” with the peoples living there, drawing no distinction between those who would likely contribute to our society and those who would not. They’re all little sh—s to our sick and contagious president.

I’m unashamed to express this fact to my students. Am I politically biased in doing so? Only if you believe that calling countries s--holes is a Republican value.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The "I" Epidemic and Divorce

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One of the Biggest Challenges of Contemporary Christianity

Suppose a buddy pointed to a couple of really heavy metal bars, and said "Hey, why don't you grab these heavy things and lift them up, put them down, repeat these steps a couple dozen times, and consequently suffer some ridiculous soreness afterwards!" If I knew nothing about weightlifting and its health benefits, I'd probably reply, "Hey, why don't you go to hell?" If, however, my buddy explained how weight-lifting strengthens bone density, burns fat, improves sleep (among so many other things), then I'd realize that the benefits outweigh the costs.

The first scenario represents our current understanding of the many "rules" of Christianity, especially as they relate to sex. The challenge of contemporary Christianity isn't simply to enumerate its rules, but to explain why they're necessary. The problem in meeting this challenge, of course, is that many Christians, themselves, have forgotten how compliance with these rules prepares one for the ineffable joy that we all seek.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Modest is Hottest

Encouraging women to dress modestly doesn’t excuse sex crime any more than urging people to stay away from a dangerous street excuses mugging.

Academic research (not to mention common sense) points to the role that modest dressing plays in reducing - though not eliminating - the likelihood of falling victim to sexual crime. In Vali and Rizzo’s apparently well-cited 1991 study, a large majority of psychiatrists expressed the belief that revealing attire puts young women at risk of sex crimes. Numerous studies have shown that people infer (correctly or otherwise) sexual information about a woman from her dressing style (e.g., see Lennon et al. 2017). I do know of one study - a 2010 survey of Israeli college students - that seems to contradict what I’m arguing. Moor finds no significant relationship between dressing style and sexual victimization. However, setting aside the question of whether these findings hold relevance for Americans, it’s noteworthy that victims were evidently not asked about their attire at the time of their victimization.

Sex crime is one of many issues that highlights the frequent tension between freedom and safety, forcing each of us to decide which of these two should weigh more heavily. I personally choose a woman’s safety over her freedom to dress immodestly. In many regards (pornography being another example), "sexual freedom" endangers women, plain and simple.  

To put it boldly, I, a social conservative, just might be a stronger proponent of women's safety than today's feminists.