Friday, May 23, 2014

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society on Creation

To complete my recent series on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their governing organ, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, what could be more appropriate for this blog than a couple of articles taken from the March 2014 Awake! Magazine containing instructions from the Watchtower telling JWs how they should think about creation. Please find below photos of the articles concerned, and very revealing they are too.

The Watchtower tells JWs what to believe on creation (Click to enlarge).

Here are my comments:

ONE) Notice that the WT articles disparagingly refer to “creationists and fundamentalists” as if the WT and their followers aren't creationists and fundamentalists themselves!  The WT are every bit as fundamentalist, as say, Answers in Genesis and more: In fact, I would refer to them as fundamentalist++! The reason for the “plus plus” is that the WT and their followers constitute a cult in as much as the WT claims to have exclusive rights to the autocratic theocratic management of Christian observance. They carry out this management using the spiritual and psychological duress common to cults (See my first post of this series). As a rule you will find that fundamentalists are unable to see themselves reflected in other fundamentalist cultures and will completely disown these cultures as wilfully in error. They can do this without seeing the irony because they have a complete and unself-critical conviction that their brand of fundamentalism is set apart from all them others because, needless to say, they claim to have The Absolute Truth.
TWO) Notice that the WT accepts the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth. Is this a good thing or bad thing? Probably a bad thing because this will put them in an advantaged position as compared to the crackpot science of YECs like AiG:  JWs can smugly and plausibly claim that they are not anti-science! So anybody of a fundamentalist frame of mind can become a JW and perhaps feel a bit better about it. After all, it seems that the YECs are in an eccentric minority even in America: As YEC Ken Ham of AiG has recently admitted in one of his blog posts, old-Earth Christians have a position regarding Genesis [that] is the norm and not the exception among Christian academia today. So the WT can claim to be on the side of the broad swathe of academia in contradiction to dime store pundits like Ken Ham.

THREE) But the WT is not happy about evolution and only allows variation within “kinds”. Well, admittedly evolution’s power, when it is badly sold as a something-for-nothing process that “poofs” organized structures out of a huge sea of pure randomness is not only counter intuitive, but is actually wrong, so it's not surprising if the WT achieve some traction here. In fact, we find that like many of the writers on the “Intelligent Design” website Uncommon Descent the WT's reasons for rejecting evolution are dualist. Quoting from the Awake! article:
The theory of evolution is also embraced by many who claim to accept the Bible as the word of God. They believe that God produced the first burst of life on earth but then simply monitored, and perhaps steered, the process of evolution. That however, is not what the Bible says….According to the Bible, Jehovah God created all the basic kinds…..”
The foregoing is based on an implicit and false dichotomy between the actions of God and the processes of the natural order. These views of the WT are comparable to the views expressed by Uncommon Descent’s V J Torley. (See here)


Regarding creation, on the whole the JWs look a lot better (unfortunately!) than the panicked anti-science YEC fundamentalists who gained some ground during the 1960s when Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic started to face some strong intellectual challenges and a sense of alienation and marginalization set in. It is probably not a coincidence that the JWs date their restoration of “The Truth” back to the late nineteenth century long before the age of the Earth was noticeably on the agenda amongst Christians; in fact the original early 20 century fundamentalists did not by and large believe in a 6000 year old Earth.* In the late nineteenth century when the JWs were forming end time prophecy seemed to be the hot issue and not creation. However, it is interesting to note that the WT’s specialism on date fixing was something they “caught” from Adventist Jonas Wendell. Perhaps it is significant that today’s fundamentalist YECs also “caught” their views from an Adventist: George McCready Price.

* According to Wiki the Watchtower’s founder Charles Taze Russell’s production “The Photo Drama of Creation”:
….purports that the seven creative 'days' in the Book of Genesis equal 49,000 years, based on Russell's belief that each creative day lasts 7,000 years. It further claims that 48,000 years had already passed, such that the final thousand years were "near at hand".


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