Saturday, August 16, 2008

JW Study Meeting #6

Before today's meeting, my girlfriend Sarah and I got everything prepared and in order. After I had printed the latest edition of my paper, we sat and waited for Uriah and Shem to arrive. They showed up quite promptly at 12:40 PM, and we began with some small-talk. Uriah mentioned that he's preparing for an upcoming convention, and that he's been quite busy between that and work lately. Shem, in the meantime, had to transfer to another plant at work, and so his driving distance had doubled, and his neighbors were still as unpleasant as ever. I showed them the copy of Let God Be True that I'd managed to pick up at the booksale, and Uriah mentioned a DVD he'd wanted to bring to show me of a re-enactment sort of movie of the relationship between Paul and Timothy, called "Pursue God's Goals". From there, we eventually circled around to beginning the study with a prayer.

After that, I inquired of Uriah if he'd had a chance to look into the paper I'd given him. He said he had skimmed at least part of it, but that he took some issue with the title ("A Vindication of Trinitarian Christology Against the Neo-Arian Christology of the Watchtower"), as he generally puts down things that are "against", and from there he began to discuss his reflections. I agreed, incidentally, to change the title to something more moderate and to do the same to various apparently agressive remarks here and there throughout. In reality, the tone of the paper is extremely mild, especially in comparison to classic Watchtower rhetoric against "Christendom", but hey, if a few alterations that don't affect the substance will gain a better hearing, why not?

He first pointed to Matthew 24:45-46 and affirmed his belief in the Watchtower Society as the "faithful and discreet slave" who provides him with "food at proper time". This, he said, did not indicate that he was not to double-check their teachings with the Scripture (he says he does this) or that the Watchtower Society is inherently superior (he said that it was merely the obedient vessel that was doing best when God chose to entrust it with the fullness of the gospel), but nonetheless inclines him to accept its teachings as the truth of God. Uriah then turned us to Romans 16:17-18, concerning divisive people in the church, and then to 2 John 9-10, regarding the importance of remaining in the teaching of Christ.

When I had a chance to reply, I proposed a hypothetical scenario. After quoting a portion from Should You Believe in the Trinity? about the importance of having the right stance on this teaching, I asked whether, if some organization claimed to be the "faithful and discreet slave" yet got the matter wrong, they could still be the "faithful and discreet slave". Uriah's answer was that, perhaps 50 years ago when the "light" was not as bright, that could be a possibility, but that at this juncture in time, with the coming consummation of the age, such an organization would not be the "faithful and discreet slave". This should lay the groundwork for me to emphasize next time that a doctrinal analysis must be allowed to be logically prior to a judgment as to the Watchtower Society's status.

From there, we went on to a couple fairly unobjectionable paragraphs in the What Does the Bible Really Teach? book, and got to talking a bit about the incarnation. We then turned to Luke 1:30-35, and Uriah inquired as to how a Trinitarian could view this passage, because wouldn't God be giving the throne of David to himself? After a discourse on the distinction between ontological and functional subordination, I pointed out that on a modalistic reckoning, that would be the case, but that an orthodox Trinitarian reading would be God the Father giving the throne to God the Son. Uriah affirmed his previous remark that I'm essentially the only real Trinitarian he's ever met, because many can't hold that distinction in mind. We both lamented the fact that many Trinitarians in the churches don't have much idea about what Trinitarian doctrine really is. I sketched out the famed diagram of Trinitarian relationships, with the "is not" lines bordering the triangle and the "is" lines leading inward from the circles representing the three persons to the central circle representing the divine nature. I then showed with this diagram how various alternative views of the Godhead are really just removals of one or two central factors in the diagram. After my explanation of everything, Uriah asked if I knew other Trinitarians who would have this understanding, and I affirmed that I'm not the only real Trinitarian out there, and that (for example) a number of my associates at college would have given the same answer.

At this point, the conversation basically meandered off, and we agreed to devote the next session 100% to the Trinity. Uriah said that he'd be willing to discuss that one with me for as long as I'd like, even up to a couple years, in order for us to be satisfied with our pursuit of the heart of the matter, since he can sense my sincerity. I also told him of the plans I have for founding a new campus organization (Mars Hill) for discussion-based stuff, mentioned that we're going to have a Trinity discussion night, and asked if he could provide extra copies of their Trinity brochure and maybe even come to give a brief talk. He said that he can hopefully have the booklets in a few weeks, and he seems willing to come give an address. Should be a good experience for everyone. When they left, I realized that Uriah had forgotten his copy of my paper, and so I ran out quickly and returned it to him, saying that if he comes across a verse as he researches for the subject a bit more, he can check through the paper to see if I've already given some thoughts on it.

I'm thoroughly anticipating the next encounter on the 30th. I think that since we'll then be off of the text of What Does the Bible Really Teach?, we can focus on the various Scriptures I'd like to discuss, so perhaps I'll start us off with the Johannine Prologue. We haven't gotten to that text yet in anything, and so I'm looking forward to it very much.

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