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My local Jehovah Witnesses recently came by for a follow-up visit to an earlier one (which I wrote about here on the blog – “When the Arians came calling“).  During their most recent visit I was asked: “Other than your disagreement with our view of Jesus being a preexistent angel, what else would prevent you from being a Jehovah Witness?”.  My response was that there were several other views that I did not agree with (e.g. their view of the 144,000, and some others), but it was their prohibition against blood transfusions that I thought was not only wrong, but just plain dangerous and insidious.

And that is what I wanted to bring to the table here on the forum this week.  Do the Jehovah Witnesses have a leg to stand on? Or is their blind adherence to the Watchtower Organization’s decisions, causing the senseless death of numerous Jehovah Witness followers?  Let’s begin with an example I found on another blog site (A Thinking Man) article entitled “Bad Faith”.

In the early hours of October 25, 2007, 22 year old Emma Gough, a shopworker from Telford, UK, died.  She had recently given birth to twins, and held the babies as her life ebbed away.

She died, despite being in hospital with a team of doctors and nurses around her.  She died, even though her life could have been saved.  She died because she refused to have a blood transfusion which would enabled her children to have a mother, and would have enabled her to continue to be a wife to her 24 year old husband.  She died because she was a member of a religious organization that prohibits the eating of blood.  She died in the twenty-first century because of health regulations relating to a near stone age society.  She died because she was a Jehovah’s Witness.”

Where do the Jehovah’s Witnesses come up with a biblical prohibition against having a modern day medical procedure- one that can and does save human life? They get it from both the Old Testament and a key verse in the New Testament.

Genesis 9:3-4 “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—YOU must not eat.

Genesis 4:10 “And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

Leviticus 17:14 “Consequently I said to the sons of Israel: “YOU must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood”.

Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain form things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you will keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

Acts 21:25 “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

It seems ironic that like most of us here on Kingdom Ready they too don’t believe that man has a soul, but IS a soul that completely dies at death.  Yet their blood argument is that man’s “soul” is in the blood, and that blood is the biblical symbol of life from God and the sacredness of that symbol has to be maintained according to God’s instructions.

The “athinkingman” blog article goes on to make several other good points.

“Interestingly this Watchtower Society requirement that Jehovah’s Witnesses must refuse to accept any blood transfusions dates back only to 1945.  Misinterpreting the Old Testament prohibition against eating animal blood as a routine food item, the Watchtower Society began teaching in 1945 that receiving a blood transfusion was “eating human blood”. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that receiving an infusion of human blood into their body’s circulatory system is scientifically the exact same thing as eating or ingesting blood into their body’s digestive system.

“A patient in the hospital maybe fed through the mouth, through the nose, or through the veins. When sugar solutions are given intravenously it is called intravenous feeding. So the hospital’s own terminology recognizes as feeding the process of putting nutrition into one’s system via the veins. Hence the attendant administering the transfusion is feeding the patient through the veins, and the patient receiving it is eating through his veins.” — The WATCHTOWER magazine, July 1, 1951.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to acknowledge that when human blood is transfused into their body’s circulatory system that the transfused human blood remains to be human blood and continues to function as human blood.

Sadly, the lethal Jehovah’s Witness argument illustrates two things so common to religious fundamentalism: an ability to select parts of the sacred book and ignore others; a perverse logic that defies rationality.

First, the Old Testament scriptures permitted the eating of unbled animal meat, which is regarded exactly the same as eating animal blood itself. In isolated occasions, when humans needed to eat unbled meat in order to sustain their own human life, the Mosaic Law permitted such, but then required the eaters to fulfill the requirements of being “unclean” for a few days. Thus, the Bible recognized that the sustaining of human life was more “sacred” than maintaining the sacredness of animal blood.

Secondly, the argument goes something like this.  God created human life.  Human life is sacred.  Blood is the symbol of life.  People who refuse blood transfusions are sacrificing their lives in order to preserve the sacredness of the symbol.

The tragedy is that the above argument makes the symbol more important than the thing is represents, and the Bible itself recognized the absurdity of that.  The irony is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are showing contempt for life and allowing people to commit suicide.  It could also be argued that in encouraging others to stand by without taking action to save life, Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraging people to be accessories to murder.  And the Bible is quite clear that God hates murder.

Emma Gough died because of bad hermeneutics, bad logic, and bad faith.  Sadly, many others have preceded her, and many others will follow her.  What a tragic waste of life.”

I have to agree with the article writers above points.  Human life is sacred.  Blood is a symbol of that life. We shouldn’t value the symbol of something in greater value of what it represents.

Also when looking back at what the early church wrote in the New Testament concerning blood, it seems to have had much more to do with maintaining harmony between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians than making didactic new laws or rulings.

Of course even if “eating” blood is totally prohibited by God, does receiving a modern day blood transfusion equate to eating blood? An article by Gary F, Zeolla sees it as not being the same thing at all:

“But even if the New Testament did forbid the eating of blood, would this then mean that receiving a blood transfusion is wrong? Several points need to be studied.

First, why was eating of blood forbidden in the first place? Randall Watters writes, “In the Old Testament, the blood of man or beast is equated with its life, and the LOSS of blood is equated with death…. Blood was therefore considered sacred, and not to be used in a profane way” (Defending, p.13; Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11).

Watters writes elsewhere, “The WT confuses the issue by pointing out that blood acts as a kind of ‘food’ in transfusions … whereas the REAL issue they should be concerned with is whether or not the use of blood is PROFANING it.” He also points out, “It is important to note that orthodox Jews today, while STILL OBEYING the OT [Old Testament] laws against the eating of blood, believe there is nothing wrong with taking a blood transfusion” (Refuting, p.15).

Furthermore, David Reed correctly emphasizes, “… the Scripture is still talking about DIET, not blood transfusions. To take a dietary regulation and stretch it to the point of denying a lifesaving medical procedure to a dying man is reminiscent of the Jewish Pharisees who were furious when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11)” (p.89; All emphases in above quotes were in the originals).

And lastly, whether eating and receiving a transfusion are equivalent or not, Jesus’ words would apply in either case, “There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man” (Mark 7:15, and see verses 18-23; also 1Cor 8:8).”

I would add that Jesus’ own words concerning the Pharisees super-strict interpretation of the Sabbath should carry the greatest weight in the matter of  what is really important – God’s instructions for man’s well being (or worse – man’s incorrect, legalistic interpretation of it) or the well being of God’s people?

Mark 2:24-27 “The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

Luke 13:14-16 “But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus’ point was that the critical needs of man carried more weight than God’s instructions that were designed to benefit man.  And as such we should never put a symbol or any instruction designed to benefit humanity in a position of greater value than human life itself.  After all, humanity is unique in all of creation in that WE bear the very image of God Himself.

For additional reference on this matter, the following article also has many good points and highlights the MANY changes the Watchtower Society has made over the years to their stance against blood: “Blood and the Law of God”.

27 Responses to “Dying for God – or dying for a man-made error?”

  1. on 25 Oct 2008 at 9:12 pmJohnE

    Interesting article, thank you.

    One note though: everybody on this website seems to equate Jehovah’s witnesses with Arians, which is inaccurate. Although Arians believed Jesus was a creation of God, they worshiped him, and this was one of the main points on which the “Orthodox” were turning the tables on them saying: “if Jesus is a creature of God, why are you worshiping him? Aren’t you worshiping the creature instead of the Creator? You are idolatrous.”

    To my knowledge, JWs do not claim to worship Jesus, a huge disagreement with the real Arians.

    Calling them “Arians” is equivalent to calling them “Orthodox” or “Evangelicals” or “Catholics” because these groups all share the belief in preexistence, isn’t it?

  2. on 27 Oct 2008 at 11:15 amRon S.

    JohnE,

    I don’t think equating Jehovah Witnesses with Arianism is inaccurate at all. When you examine JWS Christology – their core beliefs about Jesus, it is nothing but Arian. They believe that Jesus is not the eternal God (or an eternal person in the “Godhead”), but God’s first creation – a secondary, lessor “god” (as seen in their attempt with the NWT intepretation of John 1:1) that existed with God since before the creation and in fact did the creation for God.

    Certainly there are some differences between them and Arius’ initial concepts (e.g. Arius didn’t identify Jesus as being the archangel Michael), but the core belief about Jesus being a secondary divine being created before anything else – is exactly what Arius and the original Arian movement believed.

    And where do you get that the worship of Jesus was “one of the main points on which the “Orthodox” were turning the tables” the Arians? From everything I’ve ever read there was no true “Orthodoxy” until the battle between Arius and Athanasius had gone back and forth a few times and Athanasius’ viewpoint eventually won out (more for political reasons than purely theological ones).

    Not to mention I don’t think the issue of worshiping Jesus was that much of a main point of contention in their “epic fight”. The main issue was that Arius believed that Jesus was not God, but the first divine being created by God (the pagan, Greek view of “logos” as a SECONDARY divine being whose purpose was to intercede between the main God and man). And his opponent Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria firmly believed that Jesus was fully God and was Gods personal incarantion to restore God to fallen mankind.

    And this is a point I bring up to Jehovah Witnesses that agree that the Trinity belief is born out of Greek paganism instead of the Hebrew Scriptures. They themselves are guilty of the SAME THING. The very idea of a secondary divine being preexisting with God and then going through an incarnation, is just as pagan and alien to Hebrew thought as it being God himself (or a person of the Godhead – a difference Trinitarians will make but makes no real sense when it comes right down to it).

    So while Jehovah Witnesses are not identical to the Arians of the 4th century, their core Christology is indeed Arian. And since they are the only members of Protestent Christianity with this Christology, it is fair and fitting to term them as “Arians”.

    BTW, in addition to the Jehovah Witness, their is another Christian group out there that is Arian – The Arian Catholic Church! Check out their website here: http://arian-catholic.org/.

    It is interesting that on their site, their very first descriptive paragraph reads:

    “In this site you will find many references to “Arian Catholicism,” which is the ecumenical ideology and theology of the early Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, upholding the doctrine and teaching of Jesus Christ (Jeshua the Messiah) and his apostles through the early Church and following the guidance of St Arius of Alexandria, teaching that Jesus was a man to be followed not worshipped, whom was the spiritual Son of God and therefore God the Father and the son were not co-eternal nor of the same substance, seeing the pre-incarnate Jesus (known as Immanuel) as a divine being (though not a god or demi-god but more like an Archangel (Messenger of God), see LXX Isaiah 9:6: “The Angel of Great Counsel”) but nonetheless created by (and consequently inferior to) the Father at some point, before which the son did not exist.”

    Ron S.

  3. on 29 Oct 2008 at 3:40 pmTim

    Do we really know what Arius believed? I have heard that all of his writings were destroyed and that all we know about him is what his opponents said about him (which should be taken with a skeptical eye).

  4. on 29 Oct 2008 at 3:44 pmTim

    This may not be a direct answer to your post. But I think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a true cult in the sense that if you disagree with their official dogma, you are out of the organization. The JWs that I have come in contact with are truly automatons – reflexively regenerating the “party line” on any issue.

    In this sense, many Christian denominations are cults with respect to the trinity (or whatever the “distinctive” doctrine of that denomination is) – if you question it, you are out of the fellowship.

  5. on 29 Oct 2008 at 6:15 pmJohnO

    Tim,

    True comment about Arius. Some of his songs are apparently written down by his enemies (which are faithful, because they go on to criticize). But yes, most of what we know about his is from his enemies. It does require reconstruction. But, it is the same reconstruction we have to do when we reach Josephus since he also has his own slant, to vindicate the Saducees and regain Roman trust, while blaming the common people and Pharisees (if I am remembering my reconstruction correctly).

    And one comment I’d make towards cult – the definition generally includes some form of suppression of outside knowledge and contact. Therefore the orthodox churches would be dogmatic – but not cultic. While the JW’s could be considered cultic because it approves the cutting ties of family and the inability to read and access outside literature.

  6. on 29 Oct 2008 at 9:13 pmWally

    My humble view about this discussion: JW’s interpretation about the biblical citations that they claim pertaining blood transfusions or “ not eating blood” have come to one sole literal interpretation for them without considering the meaning of such utterances of the author’s intentions to his audience or circumstantial reasons. What I mean is that when the law prohibited not eating defiled animals was for a main reason to the people of Israel. Since not every Israelite was literate about being receptive of scientific explanation or rational explanations. Moses as well- educated in Egypt had to come up with better ways to make the people of Israel understand the danger of eating defiled animals “like pigs in that region” who were causing deaths due to their meat type growing a (worm-parasite) causing a disease in their intestines. Moses had to make certain things part of the Law. Needless to say that God in tandem approved such things. Because God knew was good for them. I agree with Ron with the examples about the Sabbath and Jesus. The observation of the Sabbath was a Law. But, what was the interpretation that Jesus gave it to? He conveyed the thought of common sense doing what is good and displaying Love with one another. It is noteworthy to see what 1 Corinthians 10; 23-30 and 18-20 says about….when Paul saying that not all Law was expedient for him unless all things were edifying to one another. He also regarded as our conscience to partake on this matter. Then, it is a “conscious matter” sometimes what we think is right may not be right for other people’s conscience. Making somebody stumble from the truth is a sin due to a resolution of a “conscience matter” or being judgmental. That is why Paul made that exhortation – to be careful with good judgment. That is to say that men should never judge or dictate what we suppose to eat or drink accordingly to our conscience sake. He did make it t clear though. Christians shall not eat something that was offered to idols or demons. Colossians 2: 16, 17 1Corinthians 8:4 also tell about the same matter of eating or drinking of certain animals. 2 Corinthians 1:12 Conscience does matter! What JW’s have done with this blood observance is that they have confused the meaning of Love and Godly devotion with men-made burdens just like Jesus said to the Pharisees. It looks quite a parallel with them! JW’s members only follow what the governing body of their organization deem correct as an interpretation. When we compare (as individuals with a free will) the only authority the- Bible about this counsel of “blood abstinence” mentioned in the OT an NT, it is evident that they have two different applications at a given time with different circumstances. Jesus proved that point already. ( Luke 6:6-11) However, JW’s rather keep a literal way of interpreting “blood abstinence” than practicing what Paul said. Obedience by acts of conscience and acts of Love! Blood is considered the life of the individual accordingly to the Scriptures and Science. So then, how do we understand when Jesus said “Nobody will be a better friend than somebody giving his own life on behalf of his friend.”? I understand this as an act of Love. John 5: 42 Luke 9:24 ; 2 Tim 1:7 ; 2Thessalonians 3:5 When Jesus came to earth, he fulfilled the Law of Moses by teaching how to love others not just merely by following the Law as raw material of what God wants from us. I remembered when the young rich man approached Jesus ‘someone who really followed the Law of Moses methodically’. The young rich man asked Jesus what did he have to do to enter God’s Kingdom? Jesus simply said to him – ‘leave all the material things and come after me’. Obviously the man did not expect that answer. He walked away from God’s Kingdom, because he showed more love for material things than God’s Kingdom? Perhaps somebody might do all what the Law requires but if he forgets what Love is all about, in vane is all his devotion to the Law. Those who practice the Sabbath Day such Adventists also do not understand this concept as well. Adventists and JW’s have many similarities as a religion. Not to mention that JW’s founder Charles T. Russell studied with Seven Day Adventist Church in his early Bible’s learning quest and even just few years before his death. But that is another whole conversation. I believe, the Scriptures have Principles, Laws, Conscience Matters, Acts of Judgment, and Acts of Love, to take in consideration carefully according to Jesus’ interpretations. Was he called the Great Teacher? Absolutely! Each one of them ( the acts) has validation but with no greater weigh than when applied accordingly with the Love of God. Therefore, what I noticed about JEHOVAH WITNESSES RELIGION as an entity or ( the governing body) is that they love to manipulate their members’ minds, conscience, vulnerability, lack of education, more importantly their free will ( right to choose) with their questionable beliefs and imitated-misleading dispensationalist knowledge to influence their members. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments! God Bless!
    Wally Folgar,

  7. on 29 Oct 2008 at 10:10 pmJohnE

    Tim wrote:

    Do we really know what Arius believed?

    Yes, it’s true that virtually no Arian writings are known today. But if that means we don’t really know what Arius believed, how come we know Jehovah’s Witnesses are Arians? It would mean we don’t know whether they’re Arians or not, since we don’t know what they really taught.

    But some things we do really know, like the fact that they were praying and worshiping Jesus. Here’s what Jaroslav Pelikan says in “The Emergence of Catholic Tradition”, p. 199:

    From the attacks of orthodox writers like Ambrose it is clear that the Arians refused to abandon the practice of worshiping Christ; “else, if they do not worship the Son, let them admit it, and the case is settled, so that they do not deceive anyone by their professions of religion.” – Ambrose: De Fide I.II.69

    So are Jehovah’s witness Arians?

    JohnO wrote:

    And one comment I’d make towards cult – the definition generally includes some form of suppression of outside knowledge and contact. Therefore the orthodox churches would be dogmatic – but not cultic.

    If these are the criteria for labeling a group “cult”, then the ortodox churches are definitely cults.

    1. Suppression of outside knowledge

    I’ve read somewhere (I can provide a reference if needed) that in a certain early century – maybe 5th? – people caught copying “heretic” literature by the “Orthodox” were having their arm cut-off. No wonder so few “heretic” writings are available today 🙂

    2. Suppression of contact

    Here’s an extreme of suppression of contact: physical extermination of the “heretics” by the “orthodox”. I’m sure I don’t have to give examples here.

    Ron S. wrote:

    When you examine JWS Christology – their core beliefs about Jesus, it is nothing but Arian.

    Nothing but Arian? Really “nothing”? I already presented a major difference between the two.

    Certainly there are some differences between them and Arius’ initial concepts (e.g. Arius didn’t identify Jesus as being the archangel Michael), but the core belief about Jesus being a secondary divine being created before anything else – is exactly what Arius and the original Arian movement believed.

    Would you say that “worship of Jesus” is a “core belief”? So it is not “exactly what Arius and the original Arian movement believed”. Of course, they share some beliefs. That doesn’t make them the same though. Are you a Jehovah’s Witness because you don’t believe in Hell?

    And where do you get that the worship of Jesus was “one of the main points on which the “Orthodox” were turning the tables” the Arians?

    Please see above.

    From everything I’ve ever read there was no true “Orthodoxy” until the battle between Arius and Athanasius had gone back and forth a few times

    Of course there was a “true orthodoxy” – the trinitarian ideas were not invented at Nicea. Also, the Arians did not disappear after Nicea.

  8. on 30 Oct 2008 at 7:18 amJohnO

    JohnE,

    Of course there was a “true orthodoxy”

    There was never a true Orthodoxy. If there was you wouldn’t have needed the councils to create orthodoxy (keep in mind, the “winners” of Nicea were the minority position).

  9. on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:24 amRon S.

    Tim,

    Hey amigo!

    I agree with you that history is certainly written by the victors and we may not know everything about Arius and ALL of his beliefs and teachings – since some are sure to have been destroyed. But I think there exists enough information from both the victors and from various 3rd party sources (e.g. as JohnO pointed out – Josephus) that we can know (with some level of confidence) his primary theology – espeically in the area of “Christology”.

    On the issue of “cultic” behavior, I absolutely agree with you. I have heard the stories of too many “ex-Jehovah Witnesses” that all tell how they were blatently “shunned” once they disagreed with the party line of their church and the Watchtower Organization. Now that’s not to say that this kind of behavior doesn’t happen in other more mainstream Protestant denomination – because it does. It just means that the Jehovah Witnesses are KNOWN for being very controlling and freedom to deviate from party lines is non-existent. A true cult is any group that tries to have its members break ties with family, friends, or former group members that speak out against the organization or resist its control.

    And the “automoton” descriptor is pretty darn accurate too. The door-to-door Witnesses that I’ve encountered really try their best to stay on script to their Watchtower publications (why I’ve been studying them myself – to know the limits of those).

    Of course we must always keep in mind that many within mainstream Christianity will label anyone with different beliefs as a “cult”. The old saying goes something like “What church/denomination is a cult? – The one down the street from MINE!” LOL.

    And certainly those of us of the “unitarian” Christological persuasion would be labeled by the Christian masses at large to be a “heretical” cult! 😉

    Ron S.

  10. on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:51 amJohnE

    JohnO wrote:

    There was never a true Orthodoxy. If there was you wouldn’t have needed the councils to create orthodoxy (keep in mind, the “winners” of Nicea were the minority position).

    Nicea did not create “true Orthodoxy”. As I already said, the doctrines that came out of it were not invented at Nicea. Nicea was convoked exactly because there already was such a thing as “orthodoxy” (notice the quotes surrounding the word).

    This “orthodoxy” wanted to make it clear that THEY were the ones “orthodox” and not the other parties. As far as I’m concerned, Jesus’ disciples in the 1st century were the real Orthodox, if we go by what “Orthodox” means.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter: the disputes between the “orthodox” and arians continued well after Nicea, and that was the period I was referring to.

  11. on 30 Oct 2008 at 12:42 pmJohnO

    JohnE

    As far as I’m concerned, Jesus’ disciples in the 1st century were the real Orthodox, if we go by what “Orthodox” means.

    You mean the ones who didn’t agree whether or not they are going to follow the Law of Moses? Who didn’t agree (until a council in Acts 15) if Gentiles should be included? That is a pretty divisive “orthodoxy”.

    Nicea was not invoked to protect Orthodoxy. It was invoked, by Constantine, to stop infighting throughout his empire. Yes a single group (which at the time of Nicea was a minority) wanted everyone to know the other groups were wrong. And after Nicea for eighty years council decisions went to the Arian camp (overseen by Constantine’s heir). So it seems that “orthodoxy” is merely who has the resolve or cunning to win a debate, without or without the majority position.

  12. on 30 Oct 2008 at 1:17 pmRon S.

    JohnE,

    I think you and I may not be on the same track here. I am not saying that the Jehovah Witnesses of today are fully of same belief in all ways as Arius. I am saying that Jehovah Witness core “Christology” is the same as Arius’. Yes both the Jehovah Witnesses of today and even the Arian Catholic Church (gave a link to them above) don’t worship Jesus as or in the same way as God. And I bet there are quite a few other differences if we truly could examine them all. But both share the same Christological core construct that Jesus was a secondary, pre-existent, divine being created by God – not an uncreated always existing part of God himself as Athanasius (and those that eventually codified the Trinity position) believed. So to call the Jehovah Witnesses “Arian”, for me is a valid categorical description of their Christology. If you have a better name to use to describe that category, then I’m certainly up for a suggestion. Right now though I choose to use these general category names to describe the four main Christological belief categories of Protestant Christianity – Trinitarian, Arian, Oneness, & Unitarian.

    And JohnO’s latest comments above are spot on regarding who was the controlling “Orthodox” party. The Trinitarian position won control at first. Then the Arian position did for awhile. Then eventually the Trinitarian view came back to regain control. It could have easily been the reverse, or the Arian position could have maintained their contorl and what was “mainstream” today would have a Christology much like the Jehovah Witnesses. Though they themselves would probably still be viewed as cultish if they still had all their other Watchtower controlling issues. 😉

    Ron S.

  13. on 30 Oct 2008 at 10:05 pmJohnE

    JohnO,

    As far as I’m concerned, Jesus’ disciples in the 1st century were the real Orthodox, if we go by what “Orthodox” means.

    You mean the ones who didn’t agree whether or not they are going to follow the Law of Moses? Who didn’t agree (until a council in Acts 15) if Gentiles should be included? That is a pretty divisive “orthodoxy”.

    No, I meant his real disciples, in general, the ones whose doctrine is presented in the NT. The ones that were trying to impose the Law are called by Paul “false brothers” – Gal 2:4

    Nicea was not invoked to protect Orthodoxy. It was invoked, by Constantine, to stop infighting throughout his empire.

    That might have been Constantine’s intention. That doesn’t mean that the bishops who attended wanted “to stop infighting throughout the empire”, they had their own agenda. They obviously believed some were teaching false doctrines and were probably aware that a council will not eliminate disputes, and it didn’t. They just wanted to officialize themselves as the only orthodox.

    Ron S. wrote:

    I am not saying that the Jehovah Witnesses of today are fully of same belief in all ways as Arius. I am saying that Jehovah Witness core “Christology” is the same as Arius’. So to call the Jehovah Witnesses “Arian”, for me is a valid categorical description of their Christology.

    Oh I know you didn’t say that. But I disagree with you when you say their “core Christology” is the same. AFAIK the only thing they have in common is the belief that the Word was the first creation of God. As I said earlier, they otherwise fundamentally disagree in their Christologies: JW Christology does not allow prayer and worship of the Word of God, contrary to real Arian Christology. That is why I think referring to JWs as Arians is highly inaccurate.

    That said, Unitarians share more doctrines with JWs then do JWs with Arians: no trinity (and the Holy Spirit not a person), no tormenting hell, no immaterial soul, no life after death before resurrection, etc. So if you designate JWs as Arians, would an “orthodox” labeling Unitarians as being Jehovah’s Witnesses be an accurate designation?

    and even the Arian Catholic Church

    Hehehe, if they are not worshiping Jesus, they are neither Arians nor Catholics 🙂 I think we should call them what they call themselves, Arian-Catholics, but they are so only as far as their official designation goes.

    If you have a better name to use to describe that category, then I’m certainly up for a suggestion.

    I’m not trying to make you change your mind 🙂 I’m just trying to make you see this label is in fact unwarranted. Or, it is as warranted as it is “Jehovah’s Witness” to designate Unitarians,

    You can call them “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, or JWs if you think that’s too long. Or if you want to emphasize their Christology you could call them pre-existentialists. I know, it’s a mouthful, but at least it’s actually accurate 🙂

  14. on 31 Oct 2008 at 7:19 amJohnO

    JohnE,

    No, I meant his real disciples, in general, the ones whose doctrine is presented in the NT. The ones that were trying to impose the Law are called by Paul “false brothers” – Gal 2:4

    So you mean James and Paul then, who were on opposite sides of the argument to begin with? And James who kept on keeping the law out of a zeal for God even after the council?

  15. on 31 Oct 2008 at 10:21 amMark C.

    James and Paul do not contradict each other. Their views are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. There is a difference between trying to get saved by works, and doing works as a demonstration of faith.

    And those who kept trying to keep the Law did so because they were still learning, as with Peter and the confrontation by Paul referred to in Galatians. James’ epistle does not endorse keeping the Law of Moses, but the Royal Law, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” as Jesus also taught. If it endorsed the Law of Moses, why would it have been included in the Bible?

  16. on 31 Oct 2008 at 10:40 amSean

    I agree with you Mark that the epistle of James was divinely inspired and as such does not contain erroneous doctrine about Torah observance. At the same time I see where JohnO is coming from with the divergence of Torah observation between James and Paul as ably demonstrated by the meeting reported in Acts that Paul had with James in Jerusalem just prior to his arrest:

    Acts 21:17-26 17 ¶ After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21 and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 “Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 25 “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.

    James apparently believed that Gentiles were not to be burdened with the Law (a la Acts 15) but that Jews should keep the Law as they always have (in addition to accepting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah). Paul, we know, from Galatians, Colosians 2; Ephesians 2; etc. does not believe that anyone (Jew or Gentile) needs to keep the law. He goes so far as to say that even circumscision has been done away with and at one point compares the Law to Ishmael in an extended allegory, the conclusion of which is clearly that because Messiah has come we not under the “tutor” (Torah), etc. etc. I’m sure some of our Sabbath keeping friends will take issue with those last few sentences. (I don’t mean to be controversial here). Even so, James requested Paul to pay the expenses for some men who were under a vow (part of Torah observance) so that everyone who see that these rumors about Paul (that he is teaching that the Law of Moses is no longer required of Jews) are false. Paul consents and then is arrested while in the Temple.

    Mark, I’m curious what your take is on this account.

  17. on 31 Oct 2008 at 11:30 amJohnO

    I only bring it up to counter the idea that there was ever a true solidarity called “orthodoxy”. It certainly didn’t exist in Second Temple Judaism. And it doesn’t seem to exist in the book of Acts either.

  18. on 31 Oct 2008 at 12:40 pmSean

    I think that what you advocate really comes down to a matter of definition. If we define orthodoxy narrowly (like the Westminster Confession) then, of course, you are right. There was no orthodoxy in the 1st century. However, if we define orthodoxy more in line with kerygma (the agreed upon basics of the primitive Christian faith) then we can say there was orthodoxy. For example, there was unified agreement on Jesus’ death for our sins, his resurrection, his second coming, and most moral issues.

  19. on 31 Oct 2008 at 2:51 pmJohnO

    Yes, there was certainly common belief. But I hope we’re not looking for the Kerygmatic Church (also very elusive).

  20. on 31 Oct 2008 at 3:01 pmSean

    what do you mean by “Kerygmatic Church?”

  21. on 31 Oct 2008 at 4:07 pmBill

    This subject came a few years ago on a JW yahoo groups site. This site has sense shut down. I saved the post. See below.

    Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Arians?

    Recently, a list-member has submitted information to
    intimating (even explicitly claiming)
    that there is a close theological tie between
    Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses and Arius (a fourth
    century presbyter deemed a “heretic” by the fourth
    century church). Do the facts support this notion? Are
    Jehovah’s Witnesses Arians?

    Before we hastily judge and condemn Arius or his
    alleged followers, it is important to remember that
    the information that we possess concerning this
    presbyter has been primarily transmitted by his
    enemies. Therefore, the overall portrait that we
    currently possess of Arianism contains a certain
    element of obscurity. Nevertheless, the available
    documents we have seem to demonstrate that
    the Arian controversy started over the exegesis of
    Proverbs 8:22-31.

    According to Prov 8:22ff, Christ–as divine wisdom
    personified–was “created” and ‘brought forth’
    by Almighty God Jehovah (YHWH). Of course, the bishop
    Athanasius interpreted this passage differently and
    tried to make a distinction between the terms
    “begotten” and “created,” but clearly Prov 8:22ff
    declares that Christ–in the figure of divine
    wisdom–was “created.”

    Earlier, Origen had termed the Son “a thing
    created.” It was therefore nothing novel when Arius
    posited his interpretation of Prov 8:22-31
    (See Origen, De. Prin. 4.4.1). Arius’ interpretation
    was simply more “provocative” as Robert Grant
    observes when he writes that before Nicea:

    “Christian theology was almost universally
    subordinationist. Theology almost universally taught
    that the Son was subordinate to the Father .
    . . but Arius expressed this kind of Christology in a
    provocative way” (Grant (160). Arius’ doctrine of the
    LOGOS was thus not a total theological novum as
    some moderns would like us to think. In fact, Robert
    Wilken writes in The Myth of Christian Beginnings:

    “They [the pre-Nicenes] seldom addressed prayers to
    him, and thought of him [Jesus] somehow as second to
    God—divine, yes, but not fully God” (179).

    JH Newman also thinks that the language of the
    pre-Nicenes: “may be far more easily accomodated to
    the Arian hypothesis than the language of the
    Post-nicene” (398). He notes that it is only from
    Augustine onwards that the fathers began to think that
    the “Omnipotent Son” manifested himself through angels
    and not directly to humanity (398). But we now return
    to Arius.

    It seems that Arius was accused of being a heretic
    when he claimed: “before he [Christ] was begotten or
    created or ordained or established, he did not
    exist.” More inflammatory was the claim that the Son
    had been “begotten timelessly by the Father and
    created before ages and established” (Arius, Ep. Alex.
    4). What led Arius to draw such conclusions? Why did
    he think that the Son of God was a creature, brought
    forth *timelessly* by the Father? Jaroslav Pelikan
    relates:

    “The fundamental idea in the Arian doctrine was ‘one
    and only [MONOS].’ God was ‘the only unbegotten, the
    only eternal, the only one without beginning, the only
    true, the only one who has immortality, the only wise,
    the only good, the only potentate.’ Even ‘one and
    only’ was not absolute enough; it had to be raised to
    a superlative, so that God was ‘without beginning and
    utterly one [ANARKOS MONOTATOS].’ God was ‘a monad
    [MONAS].’ There had always been a divine monad
    [according to Arian theology], but a dyad had come
    into being with the generation of the Son and a triad
    with the production of the Spirit or wisdom. Therefore
    ‘the triad is not eternal, but there was a monad
    first.’ No understanding of the Logos as
    divine could be permitted in any way to compromise
    this arithmetical oneness of God, who ‘alone’ created
    his ‘only’ Son. Originally and fundamentally, then,
    ‘God was alone’ (The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav
    Pelikan. Vol. I:193-4).

    This information from Jaroslav Pelikan gives us a
    brief overview of the Arian belief system concerning
    God qua God. Helpfully, Pelikan also writes: “[the
    LOGOS] is not Son of God by nature and in truth, but
    is merely called Son, he too, by adoption, as a
    creature. Indeed, it seems from some of the
    evidence that in such statements as these, Arian
    theology drew a distinction between the
    Logos and the Son, identifying the Logos as the one
    through whom God had also made the Son. Whether or
    not this latter distinction was actuallly a consistent
    Arian tenet, the creaturely status of the Logos (and
    of the Son) was a cardinal doctrine. The Logos was
    ‘alien and unlike in all respects to the
    essence and selfhood of the Father’; he was ranged
    among the things originated and created, all of which
    were fundamentally different from God in essence. In
    the ontological distinction between Creator and
    creature, the Logos definitely belonged on the side of
    the creature _ yet with an important qualification.
    Other creatures of God had their beginning within
    time,
    but the Logos began ‘before times . . . he was not as
    one of the creatures’ (Pelikan 1:195-200).

    As we summarize Arius’ view, it is important to take
    heed of the fact that the early Arians worshiped
    the LOGOS and prayed to him. Ambrose reported that the
    Arians refused to stop worshiping Christ, even though
    they thought he was a creature. Furthermore, the
    Arians vigorously sang hymns to the LOGOS and assumed
    there was a special type of divinity in him. For these
    reasons, Pelikan concludes:

    “It is misleading to speak of “the two” as though
    Arianism and orthodoxy were such obvious alternatives
    throughout the controversy” (Pelikan 195-200). Indeed
    the Arians and the members of orthodoxy were not that
    far apart in their THEOLOGIA. Only later historical
    developments made things seem that way.

    This information points to one very important fact:
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Arians. We will build on
    this statement below.

    For example, Arius taught that the Son of God
    originated “before times and before ages, fully God,
    only begotten, immutable . . . before he was begotten
    or created . . . he was not” (Grant 161). True,
    Jehovah’s Witnesses and Arius share a common belief
    with Arius since we believe the
    Son is a creature; but that appears to be where the
    similarity ends. Jehovah’s Witnesses do
    not believe that the LOGOS was “begotten timelessly”
    nor do they think that he came to be part of a triadic
    Godhead. More importantly, Arius worshiped Jesus and
    considered him “fully God” (Karen Armstrong). His
    beliefs, as noted above, did not differ that much from
    “orthodoxy.” However, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not
    believe that the LOGOS is the Son of God by adoption.
    Conversely, they refuse to sing hymns to Jesus and
    they only worship the Father as they recognize only
    Him as “fully God.” Those who want to
    posit some type of identification between Arius and
    Jehovah’s Witnesses have the burden of proof on their
    shoulders. The historical record, however, shows that
    the modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah are not followers
    of Arius.

    =====
    Edgar Foster

  22. on 31 Oct 2008 at 6:19 pmJohnE

    Interesting comment Edgar, thank you!

    JohnO wrote:

    So you mean James and Paul then, who were on opposite sides of the argument to begin with? And James who kept on keeping the law out of a zeal for God even after the council?

    John, I’m not sure where did you read in the bible that James and Paul were on opposing sides. I’ve read quite the contrary:

    Galatians 2:9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    I also do not see where would you get the idea that “James kept on keeping the law out of a zeal for God even after the council”.

    On the contrary, when some were trying to impose the law on some Gentile Christians (Acts 15:1) he personally disagreed with that, recommending only a minute part of the Mosaic Law to be respected. Why? “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”. In other words, because they didn’t want these Jews to stumble.

    It’s the same reason why, as Sean already quoted, Paul purifies himself according to the Law, with those four men. He obviously did not think that God requires such a thing anymore, the Law ending with Christ, but

    “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law” – 1 Co 9:20

    and “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble” (1Co 8:13)

    When the brothers ask Paul to get purified in public, their motives are clear: not because they think it’a requirement in the eyes of God, that a Law is something that is necessary to be followed in order or one to be considered righteous by God , but with the purpose of being seen by the Jews as respecting and keeping the law (Acts 21:24); if possible and reasonable, stumbling others should be avoided.

    Being purified according to the law was not wrong at all, the law and its practices originating from God, and required by Him in the past. What was wrong for a Christian, was to demand others to keep the Law in order for them to be considered righteous by God.

    If James would have kept the law as you say, because of his zeal for God, he would have been certainly zealous enough to require the same thing from his Gentile brothers. which he did not. As far as I know, there’s no instance in the Scriptures where James requires anybody to keep the law of Moses.

    So I agree with what Mark C. said, James and Paul do not contradict each other.

    And yes, there was an orthodoxy in the 1st century, in the sense which Sean already mentioned above: the ones who “agreed upon basics of the primitive Christian faith”. Clearly, there were disciples of Christ that were worshiping God and teaching about Him as He required, in line with the truth.

  23. on 31 Oct 2008 at 6:28 pmJohnE

    Just noticed, it was Bill who posted Edgar’s comment, thanks Bill 🙂

  24. on 01 Nov 2008 at 1:05 pmJohnO

    JohnE,

    Gal 2 was written after Acts 15 occurred – so James and Paul did eventually agree that Gentiles are only called to follow a certain amount (what would later be termed in Rabbinic Judaism the Noachic laws). That wasn’t what I said they disagreed about, just as Sean agreed with me and pointed out that James did in fact think that Jews should keep the law (not out of necessity for salvation) while Paul did not think it should be kept (or should only be kept in certain situations of opportunity). That conclusion is standard fare and has been held for dozens of years on solid biblical evidence.

  25. on 01 Nov 2008 at 2:15 pmJohnE

    JohnO,

    James and Paul did eventually agree that Gentiles are only called to follow a certain amount

    “Eventually” agree? When did they disagree before Acts 15 happened?

    James did in fact think that Jews should keep the law (not out of necessity for salvation)”

    Pardon my ignorance please, how do we know what James “thought”? I suppose it’s written somewhere?

    That conclusion is standard fare and has been held for dozens of years on solid biblical evidence.

    I guess the age of a conclusion doesn’t confirm its validity, but I’m certainly interested to find out more about this “solid biblical evidence”, that James thought “the Jews should keep the law” of Moses. Could you please elaborate?

  26. on 03 Nov 2008 at 2:29 pmJohnO

    A reply is still forthcoming – life is busy and rewarding 😉

  27. on 08 Nov 2008 at 1:24 pmJohnO

    Please see the newest post “Diversity Within The Early Church” for my reply. And I mis-stated that Gal 2 after Acts 15 – it was before, but my point still follows. Peter was pressured in Gal 2 to siding with the Judaizers, yet stands up with Paul at the council agreeing with Paul on the place of the Gentiles in “Israel” without becoming Jews – according to the power of God he witnessed with Cornelius.

  

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