A little critique/commentary on the first of the new Public Watchtowers (No.1 2018) - Corrections and additions welcomed
“All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.”—2 Timothy 3:16.”
What/which Scripture was Paul referring to? How is it possible to know with any certainty without being speculative or dogmatic? Without being able to determine for sure, of what use is this statement?
Does “all” mean ALL? If so, then why is so much of theology based on a few dozen key passages while large swathes of the text are routinely ignored or avoided?
“This issue of The Watchtower examines the Bible’s claim that it can guide us in every aspect of life.”
Of course the Bible's claims about itself are meaningless. They are not independent proof of anything, they are just an assertion. Its no more valid than if J.K.Rowling had written a postscript in her Harry Potter books claiming that the lessons in them could guide people in all aspects of their life.
“Is the Bible's guidance relevant today? Some say no. One doctor compared using the Bible for guidance to using a textbook from the 1920’s for teaching a chemistry class.”
"Some say no" is a pretty meaningless statement. It is saying some people are of this opinion. Well, so what? Is their opinion valid? Is their opinion based on evidence or expertise in the subject?
Which doctor? Why is his opinion relevant? Being knowledgable about medical matters does not make him an expert on the Bible does it?
So obviously the author of this article is disagreeing with this doctors point of view, but they have not demonstrated why this comparison is invalid. A few cherry picked verses from the Bible later on in the article, that appear to be still relevant today, are in no way a solid argument that this comparison is false, especially when so much else of the Bible that is not relevant is ignored.
This is also a straw-man argument - the doctor is not claiming that ALL of the Bible is out of date, just that much of it is. No doubt even a chemistry textbook from the 1920’s would still contain some useful information that is correct, even if much of it wasn’t up-to-date anymore.
“TV pundits and talk shows feature a stream of knowledgeable psychologists, lifestyle gurus, and authors.”
What makes these lifestyle gurus and authors knowledgeable? Some may be, others are probably not. It has no bearing on wether the authors of scripture are any more or less knowledgeable on a particular subject. The only things we can say for sure is that they were ignorant of much science that has been done since their time.
“With all that up-to-the-minute information available, why turn to the Bible—a book that was completed almost 2,000 years ago? Would not sceptics be right in saying that using such an ancient book for guidance is like using an outdated chemistry book or computer manual?”
Good questions that were not adequately answered. Only very superficial arguments, shallow research, and religious apologetics were offered in answer.
“Science and technology change rapidly, but has human nature changed?”
Yes it has. Society and human values have changed enormously since the Bible was written. Morality has evolved. We are less violent, we legislate for human rights. We no longer tolerate slavery, racism, abuse, subjugation of women. Society has worked hard to greatly reduce levels of poverty, famine, disease etc.
“People still want to find meaning in life as well as to have a reasonable measure of happiness and security, good family relations, and rewarding friendships.”
I think this is inarguable and generally true. However millions of people are able find happiness and define meaning in their life, as well as enjoy good family relationships and rewarding friendships without the help of the Bible.
“What is more, it claims to convey counsel that is timeless—advice that never becomes obsolete!”
It is true that some of the so-called “wisdom texts” of the Bible offer fairly universal and timeless advice.
However most of those parts of the Bible are not unique to the Bible, and are in fact found in common with many other religious texts from Zoroastrianism to Buddhism to Confucianism etc.
Also, the claim that EVERYTHING in the Bible is timeless advice has been disproven many times and to claim that it never is obsolete only works if you again cherry pick the wisdom literature.
“Is it out-of-date, or is it really the most relevant and practical of books”
Again, the author fails to make the case that it is the MOST relevant book. 3 or 4 pages of cherry picked data are not a thorough enough examination of the subject, let alone a subjective and balanced comparison with other book that claim to be relevant and practical to make that assessment.
“It is a very ancient book—older than most.”
That may be true, but it is not the oldest. It is a quite meaningless statement. What is the point?
“But like eroded old monuments, most old writings have been badly damaged by the passage of time. Their statements on science, for instance, have been contradicted by new knowledge, provable facts.”
In this respect the Bible is no different from these other ancient books - there are many examples of statements the Bible makes that have been contradicted by current scientific knowledge and provable facts.
The author refuses to acknowledge this of course, but can only do so by using a fallacy called special pleading. The argument goes like this: When the Bible says something that contradicts science it is not actually making a scientific statement; it is merely being poetic or metaphoric and is to be interpreted in a theological way. No doubt the same could be said for these other ancient books, but a false comparison is made.
The other way to deny the contradictions is to simply deny the quality of the science. In other words any science that does not harmonise with the Bible is simply deemed to be science that is for some reason not supported by “provable facts.” This claim is made by people who usually have no knowledge or expertise in the science in question. They therefore have no basis to make that claim.
“Their medical counsel often seems more dangerous than helpful.”
Again, the bible is no different in this regard. Its medical knowledge is just as flawed, sometimes just as dangerous, and sometimes just bizarre, especially is dietary restrictions. What does God have against pigs and shellfish?
“The Bible, though, stands out as different.”
Simply false - it does not. No matter how forcefully you make the claim.
“Yet the Bible is intact.”
Intact in what way exactly? This is a false and misleading 20th century viewpoint that is unsupported by any evidence.
There are many apocryphal books, gospels and letters. There are many lost Jewish & Christian texts (some of which are even mentioned as reference material in the Bible itself). There are many different extant versions (both longer and shorter) of the books we do have in our current canon. So how can one possibly claim to know that the collection of writings that make up the Bible we have today is EXACTLY the book some divine being intended it to be. If we had the original manuscripts and an original catalogue from this divine being listing which books he actually “inspired” we perhaps could make this claim, but we don't.
“If people lived by these values, would the world be a better place?”
Probably, but they are universal values that do not originate from the Bible. The problem is that while the Bible may espouse these values in select passages, in many more passages in demonstrated the opposite.
“Happy are the peacemakers,”
God is not a peacemaker. Though he claims to abhor violence, the Bible is full to the brim with God’s violent acts. It is preferred solution to everything. From punishing children with wild bears to ethnic cleansing of the Promised Land, to the complete genocide of the whole human race at the flood.
“Jehovah* freely forgave you,”
Where was Gods patience, mercy & forgiveness of Lots wife? Of Uzzah? Of the thousands of Israelites who accidentally saw the ark etc etc?
“God is not partial,”
Tell that to the Midianites, Amalekites, and Ammonites etc etc. Explain it to the millions in the East (Asia) and the Americas, whom God apparently chose not to reveal himself to for the first 5,500 years of man’s 6,000 years existence! And when he did reveal himself to them it was by the sword of Christian missionaries…
“We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”
Where was that honesty in Abraham and Jacob?
“Really, then, Bible principles are more relevant and timely than ever!”
Again, these are not exclusively Bible principles. They are universal principles. The fact that they happen to be in the Bible does not make it more relevant than any other book, even if it does make it culturally significant.
“Delphine turned to the Bible in her hour of need. What it did for her is remarkable.”
That’s great that Delphine found help in the Bible, but millions of other examples could be quoted where people coped with or survived the same things Delphine did by finding comfort in other religious texts or merely through their own resilience.
“Leading scientists once felt strongly that the answer was no. Now they generally accept that there was a beginning to the universe. The Bible said that clearly all along.”
Which scientists? Leading in what way?
The question of whether the universe had a beginning is a 50/50 proposition. Either it did or it didn’t. How remarkable is it really to have guessed one way and happen to be right? This is not evidence of divine wisdom ahead of its time, it's just evidence of luck.
What would be more remarkable (and perhaps even constitute evidence of divine inspiration) is if the Bible had explained HOW the universe began. Instead it presents a new version of older reaction myths, which admittedly happens to be slightly closer to reality. But it is still in no way harmonious with modern science. Examples: Claiming it was all made in 7 days. The order is wrong - it claims seed bearing land plants appeared before marine life - it is the other way around. It claims God placed the sun and moon in our atmosphere below a heavenly body of water etc.
“In the fifth century B.C.E., Greek scientists suggested that it was a sphere. But long before that—in the eighth century B.C.E.—the Bible writer Isaiah referred to “the circle of the earth,” using a word that may also be rendered “sphere.”
This is really stretching things to breaking point to try and make it fit. If Isaiah meant to say the earth was a sphere, why didn’t he use the actual word for sphere? (It is a separate word that he actually uses in Isa 22:18) And why does the NWT not translate the word in that way? Because the word just means “circle.” The only evidence the author provide here that it can mean something else is their own footnote! The fact is the author of Isaiah was not ahead of his time. He believed the earth was a flat circle.
“Greek scientist Aristotle, of the fourth century B.C.E., taught that decay happens only on the earth, while the starry heavens could never change or decay.”
I'm guessing this is a reference to Aristotle’s theory of the persistence of Material Substance. I’m not sure this is an accurate representation of Aristotle’s ideas?
“Lord Kelvin noted that the Bible says about heaven and earth: “Just like a garment they will all wear out.”
But he failed to note the other Bible verses that say the opposite that the earth will endure?
Does this poetic text really anything to do with the scientific concept of entropy?
“But in the book of Job, of the 15th century B.C.E., we read that the Creator is “suspending the earth upon nothing.”
Firstly, in the same book of Job we read about the earth’s socket pedestals and foundations? So which is it? The Bible seems to be confused on this issue, not ahead of it’s time! Job’s explanation of the earth was no clearer that Aristotle’s.
Secondly, Job’s statement is not in harmony with science. Neither the earth, nor any other heavenly bodies, is just hanging in a void, it is being actively controlled by the force of gravity.
Now if the book of Job had actually explained gravity and Newtonian laws of motion THAT would have been ahead of its time!
“Until late in the 19th century, physicians often worked on corpses and then on living patients—without washing their hands in between. That practice caused many deaths. Yet, the Mosaic Law stated that anyone who touched a dead body was ceremonially unclean. It even directed that water be used for ceremonial cleansing in such cases. Those religious practices surely had health benefits as well.”
If the Bible was ahead of its time in this area why did the “God of love” not enlighten humankind with the germ theory of disease? This would have saved millions of more lives over the centuries. Besides, simply washing with water is not what prevented medical deaths. It was the soap! Why did the Bible forget to mention that soap was a necessary component of the hand washing? It was only a ceremonial thing, was nothing to do with actual health.
“The Mosaic Law said that human waste should be buried, disposed of away from human habitation.”
Humans have no doubt been doing this from the dawn of time - ancient sanitation systems were much more sophisticate than we imagine. It doesn’t take a genius (or a divine being) to work out its better to keep that smelly waste away from your living area. Ever been camping?
“waiting for over a week before circumcision was a wise protection.”Would have been even wiser not to demand circumcision in the first place would it not?
Genital mutilation - What a bizarre and strange way of marking your people? Worse that branding your cattle with an iron.
“A joyful heart is good medicine”Not particularly outstanding medical insight really. You'll feel and be better if you're happy! Really?
So, all in all, considering their claim in the November broadcast to be writers and journalists of the highest standards and integrity, with every fact researched thoroughly and fully supported, I think this is a very poor start to the new series.
This scripture is right if rephrased: “ALL SCRIPTURES THAT ARE INSPIRED ARE BENEFICIAL FOR TEACHING.”
Genesis portion that says there was a paradise on earth, then it was lost when people began to act with selfishness—it makes sense.
Revelation 21:1, 5 says perfect condition would be restored at some time in future—it makes sense.
We are now in between where we find God’s established practice [“Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile”] (Revelation 22:11) which would mean that there is no intervention in the case of individuals and in each individual use of free-will. God, being the master of the universe, would need to act only on whole sale basis, hence would and must restore the original perfect condition. Law of increasing entropy would again set things into a downhill trend, which would mean God would renew system of things again.
This is in harmony with two opposing isms—Theism and Atheism: Theism says “From the more comes the less,” and atheism says “from the less comes the more” [as implied by Natural Selection which is “the process ultimately capable of generating complexity out of simplicity,” God Delusion, Richard Dwakins] Thus both agree that something comes from something. If something comes from something, it has always been true, and it has always been there—infinite into the past and infinite into the future.
It is in harmony with what we see in the nature. Nature has a rhythm and things happen in cycles such as cycle of night and day, cycle of season, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle… etc. We also see the principles of such cycles reflected around us: plants grow and die leaving seeds that ensure new lives are reborn continuously. There are cycles happening within us too—cells in our bodies become old and are being replaced with new ones at regular intervals! Even when we sleep at night, we typically go through several sleep cycles. And each one of these cycles consists of 4 different stages of sleep—awake, light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep. Those cycles show A MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE and purpose. For example, each season emerges from the previous and gently turns into the next. Winter snows feed the ground for Spring’s blossoms. Summer’s heat ripens the plants for Fall’s harvest. While in day, we desire for night and vice versa. While in hot Summer we wish it was Fall. While in cold Winter we wish it was Spring. This is true of the greater cycle of New World and old world alternating on earth.
Interestingly, Nietzsche has elaborated the above subject in his Eternal Recurrence. More and consolidated details are available in Nietzsche, The Will to Power (New York: Vintage Books, 1968)
What has any of that got to do with the OP?
Great post Doubtful1799!
Brilliant observations and summary!
d1799 - I agree with your critique of the watchtower propaganda.
“Yet the Bible is intact.”
what a valueless statement. It's a collection of doltish writings, bunged together by some religious fools who decided what to keep and what to bung in the bin. So, is the bible really intact as such? No! It isn't really valid as a book.
“A joyful heart is good medicine”
What nonsense. Joyfulness is nice but it won't cure cancer.
The Bible is a clusterf*** of scraps from a cutting room floor.
The list of 'E' numbers on a can of spaghetti is of more use than that artificial con book that people think god gave them.
The bible does have good advice such as being honorable, honest, moral and such and if you live by these standards you can save a lot of grief in your life. But there are hundreds of millions of people that live by this code that have not read one verse of the bible. Or are not christians
If the Bible is better than science, then I'd like to see JW's going to a "doctor" that claims to use only the Bible to heal. That'll be the day!
Excellent critique doubtful!
The bible is a load of crap, worth nothing more than a pile of fortune cookies.