A Knock at the Door
|The Bear just loves JWs|
There can be no doubt the Bear is Catholic, what with the statue of Mary in the yard and home shrine in the corner of the dining room, so they probably felt the Bear would be an easy mark. So much the better.
The Bear hopes you will not be too disappointed that the visit did not end in a grisly scene of jawbone-ripping. The Bear had a twin mission: inject reasonable doubt about their particular heresy, and project the image of a contented, well-educated Catholic. He will nonetheless try to make the account as entertaining as possible, and offer some thoughts on counter-proselytizing.
If there is interest in apologetics, the Bear could run more articles, zeroing in on different topics.
They each had their New World Bible, which the Bear knew to be bogus. It purges scripture of any hint of Christ's divinity. Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Holy Trinity, nor do they believe in Hell.
Over the next hour and a half, they tried to stick to a memorized program of daisy-chained proof texts, while the wily Bear led them on, circled around and kept them off message. As long as they were permitted to deliver their canned presentation, they were confident. However, the Bear quickly spotted their weakness. Their understanding of scripture and familiarity with history was shockingly inadequate. They had obviously worked hard memorizing proof texts and talking points. But they were unable to handle anything they hadn't prepared for.
The Bear chose his copy of the New American Standard Bible, respected by most Protestants for its literal translation. (Sixty-six books was plenty for the Bear's purpose, and they would have nothing to complain about.) They smiled to each other and assured the Bear that whatever Bible he had was just fine. (Aw, a Catholic with a Bible, isn't that cute!)
They opened with a couple of proof texts from Ecclesiastes. If ever a book of the Bible cried out for context and discernment, it is Ecclesiastes, whose message seems to be "life sucks, and then you die." They were just looking for out-of-context statements, however. Bizarrely, they had no idea of how to actually read the Bible.
The first point they were trying to make was that planet Earth was eternal. (The Bear could not tell you why this was so important, but it was the first point on their program, so they would not let it go.) Indeed, the verse said that generations of men come and go, but the earth remained. The Bear politely asked them to consider that the point was really that human life was transitory. (They missed the point of every verse they used, by the way.) They insisted, however, that that verse must be literally interpreted as saying the earth was eternal.
Then the Bear pointed to the next verse, about the sun rising in the east and going down in the west. "Do you interpret that literally, too?" They said they did. "Would you agree that the sun is in the center of the solar system and only appears to move through the sky? Just as the earth -- from our point of view -- appears to last forever. Don't you think it is important to try to understand what the inspired writer was trying to say, rather than just looking at the words out of context?"
They seemed flummoxed by this, but they had a program to run through, so they skipped through some more proof texts as the Bear followed along in his Bible.
The Catholic Counterattack
After about ten minutes, it was time to derail the Jay Dub Express.
"I see you rely on that Bible a lot. But did you know Jesus didn't write any of it, and fewer than half his apostles wrote anything at all, as far as we know? If Jesus had wanted to leave us with a book, do you think he could have written one? But you know what Jesus did leave us with, though? He founded a Church in history. You can read all about it in Matthew 16. The great thing about being Catholic is that I can read my Bible and know that I have 2000 years of Church guidance to keep me from making mistakes. Without that authority, you wind up with the 30,000 different sects we have today. I think you would agree with me that all those folks are wrong on a lot of things."
"Well, we know there was a great apostasy," the pro asserted confidently.
Now they were off-message and winging it. Big mistake. Now, all Protestants have to believe there was some "great apostasy," so you can expect it. But it's a gimme for our side.
"A great apostasy?" Butter wouldn't melt in the Bear's jaws. "That's interesting. Can you give me the date, and just a summary of it?"
"Umm... Constantine, well, he was the emperor, and... umm..."
"Do you know where you got that Bible?" the Bear asked, lunging from a different direction while the pro was on his back foot. "Can you show me in your Bible where it tells you what books should be in it? It didn't come with a table of contents, did it? The Catholic Church established the canon of scripture. The Church sifted through all the manuscripts floating around, and chose those sixty-six books in your Bible. I bet you didn't know that you have the Catholic Church to thank for your Bible!"
"Well, God used men --"
"Men in the Catholic Church, and nobody else!" the Bear said amiably. "Kind of weird, huh?"
The Bear Offers a Concession
"But let's talk about your particular Bible." Killer instinct had kicked in. "Now I know your version is different from mine. Look at John 1:1. Mine says the Word was God. What does yours say?"
"You're not going to like this," the pro answered, "but it says 'Jesus was a god.'" The Bear allowed them to direct him to several out-of-context verses that supposedly proved Jesus was not God.
The Bear briefly argued their anti-divinity verses in context, but knew that allowed them to direct the argument, so he went back on the attack, starting with a concession.
"You know," the Bear said affably, "I sort of get it. If I was just a guy with a Bible, doing my best, I might get the Holy Trinity wrong, too, although when you read everything in context, it's clear enough. But the great thing about being Catholic is that I'm not just a guy on his own with a Bible. The Holy Trinity is a mystery."
Here the pro actually smirked. "A mystery? It's illogical. And a lot of pagan religions have trinities."
"What, like the ancient Egyptians with Isis, Osiris and Horus?"
"I suppose that looks something like a trinity," the Bear pondered. "There's three of them, anyway. But those are really three different gods, aren't they? Now you don't believe in the Trinity, do you?"
"We believe in Jehovah God."
"That would be like saying Allah is one, so Jehovah's Witnesses are Muslims! You know, they don't believe in the Holy Trinity, either! You're not Muslims are you?"
The Big Question
They tried to get their programmed message out -- something about being resurrected and having a second chance to choose an eternity under a 144,000-member ruling class on this same earth. But the Bear was having none of it.
"I'd like for you to answer one question," the Bear finished. "You would agree that God desires that we worship Him in truth, right?"
"To know Him and to love Him?"
"Can you tell me why God would permit all Christians everywhere for 2000 years to be deceived? Because if Jesus is not God, then everybody but you is committing the sin of idolatry, aren't they? From apostolic times to the 1800s when someone came up with your religion, God was content to leave everybody in the dark. Why did God do that after sending his Son, starting a Church, watching Christians being martyred by the thousands -- all for a big mistake? Why would He let His whole plan instantly self-destruct and not bother to correct things?"
The pro stammered, but as with the previous challenges, had no answer.
As they were leaving, the Bear said, "Wait, I don't want to finish this great conversation without a blessing." The Bear stood and prayed sincerely that God would reveal His truth to everybody that had been brought together.
They couldn't get out the door fast enough. The Bear has to give them credit for going twelve rounds. But they were not prepared for a Bear fight.
Some Thoughts On Counter-Proselytizing
First of all, the Bear has some excellent, brief apologetics resources for JWs. Unfortunately, he had only browsed through them. While even that helped (like knowing about their bogus Bible, their rejection of the Holy Trinity, etc.) it would have been nice to be better prepared. But you can see how effective you can be with the Bear basics of apologetics. It is worth preparing for, because you know JWs and Mormons are going to come knocking.
Image is so important. Be genuinely courteous, and that means letting them make their points (some of them, anyway). You want them to leave thinking, "that was a nice guy who sure seemed to know what he was talking about!" You don't have to "keep score."
Know that all of these folks are bringing a canned presentation. As long as they're following their script, they don't have to think -- which is what you want them to do. You must pick your moments to derail them and press your advantage when you can. Let them lead you through a few proof texts, but remember, that's their strength. Don't be steamrollered by a long string of daisy-chained Bible verses.
Leave them with questions that might cause them to think later. That was the purpose of the Bear asking why God would let everybody, everywhere in every time be deceived into idolatry except for one tiny group that started in the 1800s. Get them to see the Church's role in creating their Bible, and witness to the positive benefits of being Catholic. You never know. Even cultists might have a moment of clarity at 3 a.m.
Finally, you don't have to be an apologetics whiz to be effective. You don't have to be able to explain the Holy Trinity to smile and say that Christians have always believed in it, right from the beginning, you trust your Church, and what a difference it makes in your life. In one sense, Pope Francis is right: you are the product offered for the other party's approval.