Last week, for the first time in years, 2 JWs came to my door:
Today was their first return visit.
The "original" JW brought another partner today. (I rather like to think I might infect a LOT of people .) The new girl reminds me of the young women in Japan: fashionable, very well-kept, polite, smiling. She was wearing an angora hat and scarf... and never took them off during the 2-hour period she was here! (My home isn't that cold!) The other gal is about my age, and very down-to-earth. I like them both. (Everything is friendly when you're a study; nothing is taken personally. It's an advantage.)
We discussed 607 BCE. The older gal gave me as "proof" all the notes culled from WT sources. She told me that she looked in an encyclopedia, and the date I gave was there... "...but 70 years had to go backwards from 539, a proven date!" (But both 586 and 539 draw from the same sources... so...?)
By the time I went over a great many dates of events given by historians, this gal admitted she was not a big history buff, AND that these dates didn't mean that much to her really. For her, it was enough that the JWs used the Bible to support their points, whereas in her experience the other churches she'd visited had not. She said that she just plain accepted everything then by blind faith. The younger gal seemed a little disturbed while I explained that since Nebuchadnezzar became king in 605 BC(E), he certainly hadn't taken out Jerusalem by then at any rate. (I likened this to claiming President JFK was assassinated in 1958; he was not president in 1958, nor was 1958 the year of the assassination.)
I mentioned that 70 years of captivity was not specifically mentioned; simply 70 years of desolation. (Also, that the word at does not appear in the text; '70 years for Babylon' is the translation, but many people read into it at Babylon.) And if 586 was the end of Zedekiah's kingdom (fall of Jerusalem) and the beginning of a 70-year period, one could expect to see a significant event at the end of that 70 years. And, oddly, there is an event: the temple was finally completed and dedicated in Spring of 516 BC. A month later, the first passover since the fall of Jerusalem was observed by the nation. So, if you need 70 years, it will fit, and fit with everything much better than 607 BC does.
We pulled out the Proclaimers book a little bit, but didn't get into it. I told them that I've read about 90 pages, so they know where I'm at. I will have a better platform for asking questions, rather than sound like I've just picked up info off the web.
I asked them what was the heart of being a JW. What doctrine or event made it unique? Why did it have authority?
At one point, they wanted to drag me into a rabbit trail of "Who is proclaiming the Name of God". I took a few minutes to show that this argument was not a strong one, since people's definitions of the name of God varied, and since there was no way to know for certain (even among scholars) how God's name was pronounced. Also, since God surely cared more about our reflecting His character than saying a simple word (as if magic). (They later tried to divert to the unitarian argument, but I pointed out that since this was not uniquely a JW doctrine, it should be left for later.)
They mentioned unity (uniformity) as evidence of their religion's truth. They challenged that since the doctrines of many churches were different, they were not united. I replied that particular views may be different (a la eating meat sacrificed to idols), but union in Christ was a higher thing: the thing that allowed them to be gracious to people that did not practice exactly like they did, but whom they knew truly served Christ. I mentioned birthdays, and how it seemed to be the perfect example for allowing grace between people. Unity can happen, even without uniformity. There were a lot of intricacies here; nothing is ever so cut and dried in life, of course. We all could agree that unity in Christ would yet mean that there were no "blank checks", because each was accountable to Christ. So, oddly(?), we managed to stay on the same page.
I asked the older gal what her reaction would be if the GB announced something she strongly believed was not Biblical. For example, if they introduced a clergy into the WT (not, of course, like it isn't already there! ). Both of them said they would consider the arguments. I replied, but what if their arguments were obviously not sufficient Biblically? "Too hypothetical," older gal replied. "The WT has ALWAYS been Biblical." ...I could not get them to where they could only imagine that they could hypothetically NOT agree with the WT. I think they finally got the idea after I mentioned Luther, and they said that if they were sure it wasn't Biblical, they would leave.
(This disability with examining hypotheses is a problem with my JW neighbor, as well. I propose to her, "If the WTS is wrong about xxx, then what does it mean?" and she replies, "But they're not wrong!"... No one feels safe even supposing that the WT could err.)
Before they left, I urged the younger gal (who has internet connection) to try to search for any information on 607 BC that would give support to the WT claim. I urged them to find the defining traits, events, or doctrines that would help show their authority. One of the main things I had been corralling toward, was for them to help clarify what was the crux of being a witness. We didn't quite get there completely, but brushed upon it a little. (clue: FDS)
We meet next Tuesday morning at 10. But I will call the one older gal, and ask her innocently if she can find the specific prophecy that is referred to in the Proclaimers Book, where Russell had predicted the great European war. "It would sure be interesting to read what he wrote.... " (See page 60 of that book, the insert. They imply WW1 fulfilled a European war prophecy by Russell, instead of the end of the world!)
I had made coffee, but somehow it just didn't get served. (Ah well, more for me!)