Saturday, June 20, 2009

JW Study Meeting #21

Our next meeting was today, and so Sarah was around for it as well. The reason we skipped a week in there is that Uriah had to cancel because a Bethel speaker was coming to the Kingdom Hall. I couldn't make it to that, unfortunately.

The first thing we did was a bit of small talk, and after I mentioned that my mother and her friend from North Ireland are in New York City today, Uriah mentioned the one time when he was eight years old and in the scouts, and in New York City their leader accidentally took a wrong turn and led their troop into a topless bar. I imagine that required quite a bit of explaining to parents! I mentioned how a couple times when I was in NYC, I often walked past Bethel, and he said that he thinks they might eventually actually move their HQ increasingly out of the city to places like Patterson and some other town starting with "W", the precise name of which I forget.

We then got to talking about the convention, which will be from the last day in July to the first two days in August, and he'll be glad to give me a ride if I don't mind being there an hour or so after it ends each day--which is fine with me, because come on, where better for me to hang out than after hours at a JW convention? Also, I mentioned how I'd heard that one of the books released will be a commentary on Acts, and we both agree that that'd be sweet.

Next Uriah mentioned his research into the Sodom and Gomorrah bit, and his conclusion was that some people from Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected, but most will not. He gave me an article from the 15 August 1982 Watchtower, so I'll have to read through it, look up some of the conflicting opinions, and ask him to look into them.We then got to Romans 8:11 and had some fun discussion in circles (which was a pattern that was to mark the remainder of the day). I got him to agree that "make YOUR mortal bodies alive" (Rom 8:11, NWT) has reference to the resurrection, and he agrees that Paul is addressing the anointed. Uriah pointed me to Ephesians 2:4-6, and I then explained how resurrection was historically used both literally and metaphorically--in the Old Testament as a metaphor for Israel's return from exile, and in the New Testament as a metaphor for the current transformation in life that takes place upon acceptance of Christ. I pointed out that Paul talks here in the past tense about our being raised up, which clearly must be metaphorical, and he agreed; so then we returned to Romans 8:11, which I pointed out appears to refer to literal resurrection, not metaphorical. Ultimately, Uriah isn't sure why Paul said "mortal bodies" instead of "mortal lives".

Uriah then asked me to turn to 1 Corinthians 15, esp vv. 35-40, 50-53. (We oddly had no discussion of the "flesh and blood" thing, which is surprising considering how prominent that argument is in JW literature.) So first he asked me my opinion about corruptibility, which he interestingly identifies with physicality--not a mere association, but actually identification. (Note to self: Ask Uriah whether Satan is incorruptible.) We got into a discussion of everlasting life and immortality, and here I sort of fumbled; I opted to defer the question of whether the sinless angels have immortality, and I'll have to look more into that.

We returned to 1 Corinthians 15:53, a verse that was to dominate our discussion for quite a while. I asked him what he thinks "this which is corruptible" means, and he answered the physical body; I asked him what "incorruption" is, and he answered that it's a state of existence as a spirit-being; and I asked him what putting on was, and he pointed me to Paul's description of spiritual armor. So then I asked whether this verse was about literal resurrection, and he said yes; I then asked what it means for the physical body to put on a state of existence as a spirit-being, and here we went for a loooong spirally ride. He kept wanting to explain the passage in terms of 'putting on' God's principles of right living; I pointed out that this would be an apt description of conversion or sanctification, but not of resurrection. He said at several points that a physical body actually cannot put on incorruption, and when asked about the verse in question, where Paul says flatly the opposite, he continually attempted to default to the godly principles explanation, which finally culminated in a statement that the physical body (that is, the person as a physical body) must accept godly principles so that one day the person--not the body itself--can be renewed in the resurrection by putting on incorruption. (But, it will be noted, in this explanation the physical body never itself puts on incorruption, contra Paul--and I will return to this with Uriah sometime in the future to hammer this point home more.)

We then discussed some earlier verses (vv. 43ff.-ish), and Uriah attempted to point me to the metaphor of sowing and reaping. I quickly asked him what "it" is, and he considered for a moment and said the body--specifically, the physical body. So then I read through verse 43 with substitution of "physical body" for "it", and he said that it wasn't the body, it was the "life-force". I then asked if the sowing was burial, and he said yes. I pointed out that we bury bodies, not life-forces; and I believe somewhere in here he attempted to say that "it" changes referent within the verse, which clearly doesn't work. I may be imagining that, though. At any rate, he sorta gave up on this one and then asked me some questions about physical resurrection, like how God can raise up the same body after thousands of years. Thankfully I'd recently glanced at an old Christian document--where somebody used the analogy of iron filings hidden in sand and drawn out by a powerful magnet, so I used that analogy to explain it. I initially thought I might've just read the quote in Robert L. Wilken's The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, but after re-checking my sources, it turns out that I was referencing Abdisho bar Brika's Marganitha 5.7:
But, now, should any doubtingly inquire how bodies can rise again which have been destroyed, and which have mingled with the dust, which have been eaten of wild beasts, or consumed by fire, or drowned in water? we reply : Should a piece
of iron be broken into impalpable powder, and be mixed with dust and sand, the hidden power of a magnet will at once separate the atoms from the dust and sand, and from whatever other heterogeneous bodies with which they may have been mixed; and if such virtue resides in the magnet, how much more possible is it for the power of the Creator, in His wisdom, to separate, bring together, and remodel the bodies of men at the resurrection!
The conversation never really got controversial again from there. I think I may have thrown some serious wrenches in his exegesis, but I'm not really sure whether he realizes it or not. So next time (which will be July 11th, since he isn't free on the 4th and I'll be lounging on the Atlantic City beach a week from today) we agreed to get into Christ's resurrection and the issue of the anointed and unanointed, and eventually I'd like to start circling back to some of these topics and pick up some pieces. Should be interesting.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

JW Study Meeting #20

Today was fuuuuuun. I had mistakenly thought that we were supposed to meet at 1:30, but it was 1:00, so Uriah caught me by surprise while I was typing up this post at TheologyWeb. We chatted for a little bit--he brought me a couple of pamphlet-style publications, as well as the latest Watchtower and Awake!. (Regarding the back page of the latest Awake!, by the way, please watch this interesting YouTube video.)

It didn't take too long before we dove into the remainder of the chapter (paragraphs 12-25) from What Does the Bible Really Teach?. The first portion of it, everything until paragraph 20, was thoroughly unobjectionable, in my view. So we had no controversy until we reached that. Paragraph 20 asserts that some individuals will not be resurrected at all at the time of judgement:

Does this mean that ever human who ever lived will be resurrected? No. The Bible says that some of the dead are in "Gehenna." (Luke 12:5) [...] So Gehenna is a fitting symbol of everlasting destruction. Although Jesus will have a role in judging the living and the dead, Jehovah is the final Judge. (Acts 10:42) He will never resurrect those whom he judges to be wicked and unwilling to change. (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 73, par. 20)
We'll get back to that after a while, but see this post for more thorough coverage of the issue. The next couple of paragraphs (21-22) set forth the JW belief in a heavenly resurrection as spirit-beings for some, and the two paragraphs after that (23-24) dealt with the anointed.

During my brief rundown in delineating what paragraphs 21-22 were about, I explained a bit of my own view as well, and thoroughly managed to take Uriah by surprise. He'd never met anyone who firmly believes in the resurrection of the body and the new heavens and new earth while also not believing in the resurrection of the anointed class to a heavenly existence. You should've seen how perplexed he was. He had so much stuff running through his head after that, that he kept stumbling over the words for the next few paragraphs, and at one point he just randomly stopped in mid-sentence to think for about a minute or so....Aaaaaanyway, once we got to discussion time, I started out with the issue of whether all people will be resurrected. So first Uriah explained the three-part division of righteous, unrighteous (both of these are resurrected), and blotted out ([Soup Nazi]"No resurrection for you!"[/Soup Nazi]); I was surprised to hear Uriah state in his explanation that the third category wasn't really in the Bible.

So then we began discussing who might be in the third category, and Uriah stated that he really wasn't sure. He thinks Adam is probable, and he leans towards putting Judas and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah there as well. So then I asked him about Sodom and Gomorrah with reference to Matthew 11:24, and he thought for a moment and said he really didn't know, so he'd have to look it up. More specifically, we established that he tentatively thinks that, when judgment day rolls around, both the people of Sodom and the unrepentant hearers of Jesus' condemnation will be non-existent, and so he isn't sure how it can be better for one non-existent group than for another non-existent group in a time when neither of them exists. I also asked why Jesus spoke so universally of the resurrection in John 5:28, and he didn't really have an answer for that either.

I did get some clarification of some sort on one question I had regarding the anointed. For JWs, or at least for Uriah, only the anointed are sealed with holy spirit, but all believers can receive holy spirit, be guided by holy spirit, even described as indwelt by holy spirit. (I'll have to check my collection of JW literature to see if they contradict that.) This took a bit of sting out of an argument I constructed last night, but not too much:
  1. (1) Everyone indwelt by the Spirit will have life given to their mortal bodies. [cf. Romans 8:11]
  2. (2) the anointed are indwelt by the Spirit [premise]
  3. (3) the anointed do not experience resurrection of their bodies [premise]
  4. ergo, one of (1)-(3) must be incorrect
He's not entirely sure what to do about this either, but he's going to look further into JW exegesis of Romans 8:11. Looking at verses 12 and 13 didn't help him evade the argument too much, unless he interprets "make YOUR mortal bodies alive" (Romans 8:11, NWT) as meaning something other than resurrection, which in light of the passage's explicit reference to raising Christ from the dead seems to be pretty cut and dry.

That was basically as far as we got today. Next Saturday we plan to push forward in the discussion, and I already took puh-lenty of notes dealing with the whole 'spirit-resurrection' thing.