These days, apart from my personal examination of the Bible and what plenty of people who believe themselves Christians say the Bible says and how I should take it, I refuel from the likes of Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers’ Love Worth Finding, my friend Robert King, and more recently David B. Curtis of the Berean Bible Church in Virginia.
But as far as finding a congregation to associate and fellowship with, I haven’t been interested in doing that since being excommunicated 14-some years ago by an organization that believes itself to embody “Jehovah’s visible organization.”
In short, I learned too much for my own good about the religious organization.
All the while that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was teaching me how all the other sects of Christianity— Baptists, Lutherans, Adventists, Methodists, and on the list goes, all daughters of the Roman Catholic Church, as far as their interpretation is concerned out of Biblical prophecy… all that while, I was being prepared to apply the same methodology to the teachings which “Jehovah’s Witnesses” hold to be true and inarguable and thus mandatory to be preached on doorsteps and streetways around the world as “the Truth.”
As I said, I learned too much for my own good.
To borrow a tired expression: I had come to learn the truth about “the Truth.”
Here had been what I had been led to accept was, to the exclusion of all other groups claiming to be Christian, the body of true Christians.
And over the last 14 years since they threw me from their synagogues, I’ve been given an outsider view of what sort of Christianity had been in my future.
A Christianity that protects child molesters, especially those who held positions of appointment within the organization.
That right there is a deal-breaker as far as I’m concerned— but especially considering all the finger-pointing that “Jehovah’s Witnesses” do when it comes to Catholic priests buggering children and the Church protecting the priests.
Never mind the eschatology which I’ve long since come to question and dispute as valid when placed under the light of additional references, context, and original language usage.
It is preposterous for me to consider that a group of people who carry out the same gross sins as those who they declare false on the basis of gross sin can call themselves the true Christians.
And there are other aspects of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society with its “Jehovah’s Witnesses” moniker and membership that only twist their noose.
Besides, there’s that impasse where, since I’m an “apostate” of the organization, even if I did wish to continue to attend meetings, to demonstrate my contriteness and desire for reinstatement as a member… I’d find myself sitting in isolation and restricted from fellowshipping with my “fellow” believers. No exchanges of faith and encouragement, no handshakes, no nothing until the elders were convinced that my act of penance had sufficiently paid for my apostasy.
The thing is, I have never heard of someone declared as an “apostate” by the Watchtower organization ever being reinstated. And I’m pretty sure they’d cover it in an Awake! Article.
No, being declared an “apostate” of “Jehovah’s earthly organization” is a sentence of death minus the blood.
Disfellowshipped, is the Watchtower’s term.
In the Roman Catholic Church, it’s called excommunication.
So, since then I’ve had no real yearning to go to another church or meeting hall or anything of the sort.
The foremost reason: doctrine, of course. I’ve researched and examined to excess and found doctrines including that of the Trinity to be contrary to first century Jewish Christian beliefs.
Mind you, I said at the outset that I listen to the podcasts from Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers (deceased but they re-run his podcasts), as well as David B. Curtis. They are all Trinitarians, through and through— so I have to roll my eyes whenever they slip a creedal thought into a subject being podcast.
But I’ve learned to appreciate other observations and thoughts they share, rather than “throw the baby out with the bathwater” simply because since they are confessed Trinitarians anything else they have to offer is tainted and useless and false.
If that’s the measuring gauge I’m supposed to use, then that pretty much throws out anything the Watchtower has to say; it certainly doesn’t have clean hands and a spotless record when it comes to doctrine and interpretation.
In any case, since I’m able to “filter the noise” as far as those podcasts are concerned, then the next logical step is finding a church or Christian group for purposes of fellowship and encouragement.
I have, in fact, visited a couple area Baptist churches, but what I found was very different from when I attended Baptist churches during my youth.
More concert than content.
It was a culture shock, for sure, after being away from the church-going / meeting-going scene for the last 14 years— longer as far as attending a Baptist church before I even met a member of the Watchtower organization.
Needless to say, I haven’t been back to either one.
The people are nice, and I had the sense that they were sincere and happy in the goings-on there, but it didn’t feel like home in any way whatsoever.
Apparently, you don’t even get on your Sunday’s best clothing— which reminds me of the slogan used by the Mount Hope Bible Church in Lansing: they were the “come as you are church” and I remember mocking them with my fellow believers in the Watchtower organization.
Still, I had expected to see the men in the traditional suits with jackets, even though everyone there was dressed clean and neatly.
And apparently, one no longer needs to turn in their Bibles to look at a point that the speaker was discussing: just look up on the big-screen TV. Same with the hymnals, which evidently are obsolete.
Similarly, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” have turned to the convenience of electronic media, with iPads and Android tablets and cellphones becoming the preferred form for Bible access, and big-screen TVs in Kingdom Halls flash the appropriate scriptural citation from the New World Translation of the Holy Bible, a translation unique to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
I did discover another church in the area, one that’s far more traditional and without the hoop and the la that I’ve witnessed so far… a Trinitarian group of believers… with the added doctrine of KJV-only. As far as they’re convinced, the King James Version is the only God-ordained English-language translation. Inerrant and infallible.
Once again, I’ve come to know too much for my own good— so that one’s out, too.
I do wish there was a group of preterists attending reasonably close. I’d brushed up against preterism some years back and dismissed it wholesale as ridiculous without a further thought or consideration.
After all, my eschatology was the true one, right?
Just like every church’s members are convinced they’re the true church: Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bible Students, Episcopalians, and on the list goes.
And the thing is, I don’t think I would have appreciated the perspective embodied within preterism, not years ago. I wasn’t ready to really challenge what I’d come to believe and accept as inarguable, unassailable, ineffable truth as far as the Bible is concerned. And I certainly have questions as I’ve been examining the conclusions and perspective.
But I’ve discovered very quickly how difficult it is to even discuss preterism with non-preterists. I get it, because I was the same way. Prejudiced, unreasonable, and biased through a lifetime of indoctrination by Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Armstrongism, and Watchtowerism.
If the majority of modern-day Gentile Christians get offended at your dismissal of the doctrine of the Trinity— they all get offended when you start wanting to discuss even the possibility that that second coming we’ve all been told to keep watching and waiting for happened in the first century.
All sorts of alarms and bells start going off, drowning out any conversation.
Why, that’s about the stupidest thing someone could say— right up there with claiming the Earth is flat, and not globe-shaped. And for the record, I’m convinced the Earth is a globe-shaped planet, not a larger-scale version of Dark City.
Why SHOULD I fellowship and worship alongside others who, more and more, seem to part with me in the Hope I’m discovering as I re-read the Christian Bible as a first-century Jewish Christian would have experienced it? And why should I, when discussions have to fall within pre-determined boundaries of precept? Why is it impossible to entertain a possibility without being accused of accepting it?
Why SHOULD I be a part of a Christianity that’s more concert than content, or insists that the KJV is the only trustworthy translation, or claims to be the true Christians while protecting molesters and obstructing the legal justice due the molested?
Why SHOULD I be a part of a Christianity that imposes creeds that were unheard of by first-century believers as doctrine— insisting that I have no hope and can have no expectation of salvation unless I believe this, believe that?
Is this what has become of the Christianity inherited by Gentiles from Jewish Christians, some 2,000 years ago?
In the meantime, it looks like life continues out here “in the wilderness,” for me.
—Timothy B. Kline, September 27, 2019