Before Christmas, the Jehovah's Witnesses called round. They left me one of their little booklets entitled What does the Bible Really Teach?
It turns out that this is one of their main publications. On their publications page, it is the second listed title, second only to the New World Translation of the Bible. Indeed, the full text of the booklet is available online. It would seem that it is one step up from a tract - it is designed to lay out the entire Jehovah's Witness system of thought, albeit briefly, and albeit with a prosyletising intent.
I suspect that I am not the only person locally to have been given one of these. So that I can answer questions that people may ask me about the Witnesses, and because of the opportunity to learn about their entire system as they choose to present it, I decided I would read the booklet.
I will blog, over the next few weeks, on the various chapters of the booklet. I will summarise what the chapter says (not that the chapters are that long), and then offer my reflections on how Scripture evaluates the teaching in that chapter. I offer this, not because I believe that my own interpretation of Scripture is the benchmark against which something should be measured. God forbid! Rather, Scripture itself is the benchmark against which anyone's teaching should be evaluated. Part of my work as a pastor-teacher in the church is to study the Scriptures and then use them to evaluate what is and is not taught. So, provided anyone reading this remembers that Scripture is the judge for the Witnesses' teaching, I hope that what I will write will help them assess that teaching against the Scriptures.
The booklet starts with an introduction talking about suffering, and making the point that this is not what God wanted for his world. God promises better and it’s not a dream. So read the Bible. Enjoy reading it through. Why not read the whole Bible through in a year?
It is commendable to get people to get into their own Bibles. They don’t attempt to suggest that you read their translation either. Great! One of the great good things to come out of the protestant reformation was the conviction that people should have access to the Bible in their own language. So, let's do it. Grab a Bible - in English you will understand. And start reading. Let it speak for itself. For what it's worth, I'd recommend the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, or the English Standard Version for a fine balance between accuracy and readability.
Furthermore, to invite people to do so on the basis that God is good is a good way in. The Christian message is one of grace from start to finish. We want people to discover God because God is good to discover. I can't think of a better introduction.
Mind you, the content needs to deliver on the introduction. That is to say: The fact that someone says they are about to tell you the answer to the fact that the world is full of pain and suffering does not mean that they are about to do so. It should, and it does, make us sit up and pay attention. And let's note: The exhortation here is not to discover the teaching of the Witnesses, but to read the Bible. For, truly, there the answer to all the world's problems will be found.
So read on - the Bible, that is. I'll read on in What does the Bible Really Teach?, but I'll be sure to have my Bible to hand as I do so.
There follows below a table of contents for all the blog posts that summarise and evaluate this book
- Chapter 1: What is the truth about God?
- Chapter 2: The Bible – A Book from God
- Chapter 3: What is God’s purpose for the earth?
- Chapter 4: Who is Jesus Christ?
- Chapter 5: The ransom – God’s greatest gift
- Chapter 6: Where are the dead?
- Chapter 7: Real hope for your loved ones who have died
- Chapter 8: What is God’s kingdom?
- Chapter 9: Are we living in “the last days”?
- Chapter 10: Spirit creatures – how they affect us
- Chapter 11: Why does God allow suffering
- Chapter 12: Living in a way that pleases God
- Chapter 13: A godly view of life
- Chapter 14: How to make your family happy
- Chapter 15: Worship that God approves
- Chapter 16: Take your stand for true worship
- Chapter 17: Draw close to God in prayer
- Chapter 18: Baptism and your relationship with God
- Chapter 19: Remain in God’s love