IMPORTANT NOTE: I am NOT a theist and this is all meaningless of course from an atheist perspective, but this critique is written from a theistic perspective for those who are interested in picking apart JW theology or are still religious. If this is not you, please just ignore!
Comments, additions, corrections to my crazy ramblings all welcome.
Know Your Enemy - Watchtower May 2018
“We are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes*” - 2 Cor 2:11
The purpose of this enlightenment is mentioned in the first part of the verse which is not quoted - “that we may not be overreached by Satan”
If God feels it is necessary to warn us of Satan’s intentions and protect us from Satan’s schemes, why did he not feel it was necessary to warn and protect Adam & Eve in the same way? It cannot be because Adam & Eve were immune from being overreached by Satan - clearly they were not. If he had warned them perhaps the story of the garden of Eden would be different and he would have prevented 6,000 years of human suffering?
Was he not aware of Satan’s intentions? Was Satan able to hide what he was doing and fool God? Surely not!
Then this wasn’t just a test of obedience was it? It was a test of wits they were ill equipped to handle as they were pitted against a far smarter and more experienced being. It was also a test of whom to trust? Given no other evidence presented to them (that we know of in the story) it was just God’s word against Satan’s…
“Adam no doubt knew that serpents cannot talk. So he may have surmised that a spirit creature had spoken with Eve through the serpent.”
This is the first of many speculative statements - the article is full of them. The Society often warns the R&F against the dangers of speculation yet freely engages in it with articles like this one. Apparently speculation is only improper if you are not God’s chosen spokesman.
We have no way of knowing what Adam did or did not know about snakes OR spirit beings due to the lack of detail in the story. The statement might seem like a harmless and logical supposition, like common sense, but is it? If this was a true story then it would be logical to conclude that snakes do not talk, but if this was a morality fable there would be no problem. It was common in ancient fables to have talking animals. How do we know that God taught Adam about other spirit creatures? If he did, then we may ask again, why did he not warn Adam about the one who was out to deceive him?
“Adam and Eve knew virtually nothing about this spirit.”
How do we know that? If not, why not? Was not this a serious failing on the part of God as a loving parent? What parent does not warn their children of danger?
“Immediately, Jehovah began to reveal information about this enemy who had corrupted Adam and Eve, promising that this wicked one would eventually be destroyed.”
This statement is simply false based on the Biblical text, and shows a lack of comprehension of it. Promising to destroy the enemy is in no way revealing any useful information ABOUT the enemy. It reveals something about what God is going to do. Would not this have been a good time to actually reveal more about the enemy, like who he was, his motives, his tactics etc…
Furthermore, unless there is some other scripture we don’t know about, the fact is none of that was revealed immediately, it was only revealed 4,000 years later in Christian writings. The Hebrew scriptures say almost nothing about any particular being called Satan, the word is generally only used as a title for a position. “The Satan” is used 4 times and refers to anyone (spirit or human) acting as Gods protection or a resister. All of this is basically admitted to, though not explained very well, in paragraph 2.
“Apparently, Jehovah did not want to give Satan undue prominence by devoting large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures to discussing him.”
More speculation, and claims of knowing what God is thinking. There are better explanation than this. One is that the theology of a spirit being called Satan was not developed by the Bible writers until centuries later after they had been influenced by Persian and Zoroastrian belief regarding the duality of good and evil.
“A significant number of angels joined Satan’s rebellion. Prior to the flood, Satan lured at least some of them into having immoral relations with the daughters of men. The Bible symbolically portraying the dragon as dragging a third of the stars of heaven with him in his fall.”
How do we know this? The only so-called evidence provided is a spurious and vague story a few chapters later, and a highly cryptic and symbolic passage written 4,000 year after the event in a book that only barely scraped into the Bible canon and was by no means universally accepted as inspired. It is virtually impossible to claim with any certainty that any particular explanation of the symbolism is the correct one. The Society least of all can make such a claim as they have a proven track record of getting these sorts of explanations wrong by their own admission.
The story of the “sons of God” in Gen 6 is highly problematic. First of all it is not actually clear from the Hebrew text who that expression is referring to. While tradition has it that it is a reference to angels or spirit beings, it can equally refer to men. This would make far more sense. How could genderless and sexless spirit beings who do not procreate physically develop an “attraction” to human women. And if they could, why were they not equally attracted to human men? How could they be lured or tempted by something which was not tempting, that they had no natural desire or inclination to do? See paragraph 11 for more of this nonsense. The fact that these unions resulted in so-called giants called Nephilim is no proof either. Long after the flood the Bible still speaks of giants and the “Nephilim, so these are not necessarily anything to do with spirit-human sexual relations.
(On a side note, this so-called temptation makes about as much sense as the later temptations of Jesus in Matt 4. Only the first one could be said to be a real temptation. Jesus, as physical being at the time, may have gotten hungry after fasting, but as a perfect being he was hardly impatient enough to do an act of worship just to get power a little sooner, and it was hardly tempting to jump off a building was it, just because an idiot dared you to? Actually, if Satan and Jesus really were enemies why would Jesus be tempted to do anything Satan suggested, he would have been tempted to do the opposite!)
“Satan has set up an imitation of God’s Kingdom, with himself as king. In the invisible realm, Satan has organised demons into governments, given them authority, and made them world rulers.”
The only text given in support of this is Eph 6:12, and this is really stretching that verse theologically. None of that is clearly stated in the text. It also raises more questions than it answers:
What point is this imitation kingdom if he also fools people into believing he doesn't exist? Why do the other angels, who are presumably equal to him in power, accept his authority over them? Why don’t they start their own kingdoms. If Satan can, why can’t they? How do we know the spirit realm is not divided into thousands of small fiefdoms that Satan has no control over?
If such an imitation kingdom exists in opposition to Gods Kingdom then where does it exercise authority and dominion? Can’t be in heaven as Satan has been cast out of there. Can’t be on earth because human governments have dominions here. If Satan rules by proxy using human governments as suggested by the next quote below then why are human laws so similar to God’s laws in many ways instead of in opposition to God’s laws?
Why do human governments go even further than God in doing what is good by providing laws that protect people from slavery, from discrimination, that protect fundamental human rights? What are the actual laws that Satan espouses that we would expect to see as part of his kingdom if it existed? Shouldn’t those laws be opposite to the ones God has written int the Bible? Shouldn’t they be anarchistic laws that promote violence and human suffering?
“Satan exerts authority over all human governments.”
If this is really the case then he has, to quote Jesus words, a “kingdom divided against itself.” He has one branch of his Kingdom, the Russian govt for example, persecuting Gods people and abusing their human rights, while at the same time many other branches of his kingdom, the UN for example, actively defending and fighting for their human rights!?
“Despite Satan’s evil influence, many governments do a measure of good for their citizens.”
Then he is not really in charge then is he? He may exert some small influence, but it cannot be said they are part of his Kingdom if they are not promoting the anarchy he apparently desires.
“Satan… misleads the entire inhabited earth… Through false religion, Satan promotes lies about Jehovah… as a result, sincere individuals who think they are worshipping God are deceived into worshipping demons.”
This is a variation of the Cartesian Demon problem, which has a long history in philosophy, and was first proposed as a thought experiment by Descartes I believe. Paul alludes to it in 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 while no doubt failing to see the dilemma in what he is saying. If such a demon really existed who has the superior power to literally blind peoples minds then it would be literally impossible to know what if anything was true in the real world as there would be no independent mechanism by which one could determine if he/she were one of the ones being deceived or not. If Satan can mislead anyone, surely he can mislead everyone!
A related thought experiment worth looking into is called “Morton’s demon” in which he shows how a demon could deceive people simply by using confirmation bias and controlling what information the demon’s victim has access to.
“The example of Adam, Eve, and the rebellious angels teach us at least two important lessons. First, there are only two sides, and we must choose one. Either we remain loyal to Jehovah or we place ourselves in Satan’s camp.”
This is a false dichotomy. Here we find explicit confirmation for the Society’s dogma and strict soteriology. But when you put this to most R&F JW’s they try to add a third camp by claiming there is a large group of people who neither know God or Satan’s camp and exist in a kind of limbo, at least for now. God is supposed to read the hearts of these ones on judgement day and put them in the appropriate camp at that time. (Apparently in an act that violated their free will, because they were never asked which camp they want to be in, or given the opportunity to demonstrate which one they want to be in.) If this choice is an absolute necessity right now, then why is the vast majority of the human population unaware of this choice?
“Similarly, we may have served for decades in the early part of God’s organisation. Yet, even in this spiritually clean environment, unclean desires can take root.”
If this is true, and even angels who have served in a perfect spiritual environment for eons can develop wrong desires, then how can God grant the anointed instant immortality just because they were faithful for a few decades on earth? Surely this would be unwise as they could just as easily do so. What if one of those decided to rebel, there would be no way to stop or destroy them if they were immortal and the universe would be placed in grave danger again.
“Satan cannot force people to act against their own will.”
Evidence? Actually the writer claimed just the opposite a few paragraphs ago! If Satan can trick people into worshipping demons when they think they are worshipping God, then he is in fact forcing them to act against their will.
“Satan and the demons have other limitations. For example, nowhere do the scriptures indicate that they can read the mind or heart of an individual. Only Jehovah and Jesus are spoken of as having that ability.”
How do we know this? Just because it is not explicitly stated that they have this ability does not mean they don’t. Again, we have pure speculation. An argument from ignorance. An assumption about something we do not have the facts to confirm or disconfirm. If Jesus can do it and he is just an angel too, why can’t Satan? Is this a skill all spirit beings naturally have, or was it a special skill God gave only to Jesus? The Bible doesn’t say. If Satan can influence a person’s thinking then it stands to reason he can also read their thinking… who is to say this telepathic process is only one-way? If he can put thoughts into their head, why can’t he take them out?
“If we are resolved to do God’s will, there is nothing Satan can do to break our integrity.”
This statement contradicts so many points in the whole study it is beyond ridiculous and meaningless. Surely one of the most defining attributes of a “perfect” creature” is that it would be resolved to do God’s will. If it did not wish to do God’s will surely it would not be perfect?
Yet, as we have been told in the article, Satan was able to break the integrity of such beings including Adam and many angels. And as we have also been told, Satan can trick and fool people to believe they are not breaking their integrity when they actually are, so it really doesn’t matter what they are resolved to do if they can be fooled.
“We can be confident that Jehovah will not allow the Devil to do us any lasting harm.”
This brings us back full circle to the opening questions. How can we have this confidence when he did allow Satan to do Adam & Eve lasting harm? If he allows Satan to influence us at all then he is in fact potentially doing us all lasting harm!