Does the Bible have a theme? If so, what is it?
Ask this of any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and you’ll get this answer:
The entire Bible has but one theme: The Kingdom under Jesus Christ is the means by which the vindication of God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of His name will be accomplished. (w07 9/1 p. 7 “Written for Our Instruction”)
When forced to acknowledge that we’ve made some serious doctrinal mistakes, I’ve had friends grasp hold of this security blanket saying that ‘whatever errors we’ve made are just due to human perfection, but what’s really important is that only we are preaching the kingdom good news and the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. To our minds, this preaching work excuses all past blunders. It sets us up as the one true religion, above all the rest. It is a source of great pride as evidenced by this WT reference;
With all of their learning, have such scholars really found “the very knowledge of God”? Well, do they clearly understand the theme of the Bible—the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by means of his heavenly Kingdom? (w02 12/15 p. 14 par. 7 “He Will Draw Close to You”)
This might be a valid viewpoint if it were true, but the fact is, this is not the Bible’s theme. It is not even a minor theme. In fact, the Bible says nothing about Jehovah vindicating his sovereignty. That will sound like nonsense to many of my JW brethren. Worse! It will sound like blasphemy. But hold on just a minute. Hear me out.
If the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty were the Bible’s theme, then wouldn’t it be reinforced through repetition throughout its pages? Would not Jesus, who came to reveal the truth to us, have made mention of it? Would he not have taught us to pray for it? Surely Matthew 6:9, would read, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your sovereignty be vindicated.”
Do you know how many times the Bible speaks about the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty? It’s easy to check using the Watchtower Library program. Here are the results of a search:
As you can see, there are hundreds of hits in our publications, but not a single mention in the Bible. In fact, even the word “sovereignty” by itself does not appear in the Bible.
What about the other half of the theme pairing? How often does the Bible speak about sanctifying the name of God?
Since the search matches on words, we are looking at about three dozen phrase matches. Obviously, the sanctification of the name of God is a theme that runs through the Bible. Whether it is the central theme or not is beside the point at the moment. What is germane to our discussion is that while the Bible does talk about sanctifying Jehovah’s name, it makes no mention whatsoever of vindicating his sovereignty.
Why is this? And of more importance, why do we make such a big thing about something the Bible makes no mention of at all?
Making the Sovereignty Issue Central
It is a position of Jehovah’s Witnesses that, while the Bible makes no explicit mention of vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty, the theme is implicit in the events that precipitated the fall of man.
“At this the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.”” (Ge 3:4, 5)
This one brief deception spoken by the devil through the medium of the serpent is the primary basis for our doctrinal interpretation. We have this explanation from The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, page 66, paragraph 4:
THE ISSUES AT STAKE
4 A number of issues or vital questions were raised. First, Satan called into question the truthfulness of God. In effect, he called God a liar, and that with regard to a matter of life and death. Second, he questioned man’s dependence on his Creator for continued life and happiness. He claimed that neither man’s life nor his ability to govern his affairs with success depended upon obedience to Jehovah. He argued that man could act independently of his Creator and be like God, deciding for himself what is right or wrong, good or bad. Third, by arguing against God’s stated law, he in effect claimed that God’s way of ruling is wrong and not for the good of his creatures and in this way he even challenged God’s right to rule. (tr chap. 8 p. 66 par. 4, emphasis in the original.)
On the first point: If I were to call you a liar, would I be questioning your right to rule or your good character? Satan was defaming Jehovah’s name by implying that he had lied. So this goes to the heart of the issue involving the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. It has nothing to do with the issue of sovereignty. On the second and third points, Satan was indeed implying that the first humans would be better off on their own. To explain why this created a need for Jehovah to vindicate his sovereignty, the Truth book goes on to provide an illustration often used by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
7 Satan’s false charges against God may be illustrated, to a certain extent, in a human way. Suppose a man having a large family is accused by one of his neighbors of many false things about the way he manages his household. Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true. But what a fine answer it would be if he permitted his own family to be his witnesses to show that their father was indeed a just and loving family head and that they were happy to live with him because they loved him! Thus he would be completely vindicated.—Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 43:10. (tr chap. 8 pp. 67-68 par. 7)
This makes sense if you don’t think too deeply about it. However, it falls apart completely when one considers all the facts. First of all, Satan is making a completely unsubstantiated allegation. The time honored rule of law – unless you subscribe to the French system of jurisprudence – is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, it did not fall to Jehovah God to disprove Satan’s accusations. The onus was completely upon Satan to prove his case. Jehovah has given him over 6,000 years to do so, and to date, he has failed utterly.
In addition, there is another serious flaw with this illustration. It ignores totally the vast heavenly family that Jehovah could call upon to bear witness to the righteousness of his rulership. Billions of angels had already been benefiting for billions of years under God’s rule when Adam and Eve rebelled.
Based on Merriam-Webster, “to vindicate” means
- to show that (someone) should not be blamed for a crime, mistake, etc. : to show that (someone) is not guilty
- to show that (someone or something that has been criticized or doubted) is correct, true, or reasonable
The heavenly host could have provided the exculpatory evidence necessary to completely vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty at the time of the rebellion in Eden, were he to call on them to do so. There would be no further need for vindication. The only thing the devil had in his bag of tricks was the idea that humans were somehow different. Since they comprised a new creation, albeit still made in the image of God as were the angels, he could reason that they should be given the chance to try government independent from Jehovah.
Even if we accept this line of reasoning, all it means is that it was up to humans to vindicate – prove correct, true, reasonable – their idea of sovereignty. Our failure at self-rule has only served to further vindicate the sovereignty of God without him having to lift a finger.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty by destroying the wicked.
Above all, we rejoice because at Armageddon, Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty and he will sanctify his holy name. (w13 7/15 p. 6 par. 9)
We say that this is a moral issue. Yet, we claim it will be settled by force when Jehovah destroys everyone on the opposing side. This is worldly thinking. It is the idea that the last man standing must be right. It is not how Jehovah works. He does not destroy people to prove his point.
The Loyalty of God’s Servants
Our belief that the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty is central to the Bible’s theme is based on one additional passage. Some 2,000 years after the events in Eden, Satan alleged that the man, Job, was faithful to God only because God gave him everything he wanted. In essence, he was saying that Job only loved Jehovah for material gain. This was an attack on Jehovah’s character. Imagine telling a father that his children don’t love him; that they only make believe they love him for what they can get out of him. Since most children love their fathers, warts and all, you are implying that this father is not lovable.
Satan was slinging mud on God’s good name, and Job, by his faithful course and unwavering loyal love for Jehovah, cleaned it off. He sanctified God’s good name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses might argue that since God’s rule is based on love, this was also an attack on God’s way of ruling, on his sovereignty. Thus, they would say that Job both sanctified God’s name and vindicated His sovereignty. If that is valid, one must ask why the vindication of God’s sovereignty is never brought up in the Bible. If every time Christians sanctify God’s name by their conduct, they also vindicate his sovereignty, then why doesn’t the Bible mention that aspect? Why does it only focus on name sanctification?
Again, a witness will point to Proverbs 27:11 as proof:
“Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, So that I can make a reply to him who taunts me.” (Pr 27:11)
“To taunt” means to ridicule, mock, insult, deride. These are all things one does when one is slandering another. Devil means “slanderer”. This verse has to do with acting in a way that sanctifies God’s name by giving him cause to reply to the slanderer. Again, there is no reason to include vindicating his sovereignty in this application.
Why Do We Teach the Sovereignty Issue?
Teaching a doctrine not found in the Bible and claiming that it is the most important of all doctrines seems like a dangerous step to take. Is this simply a misstep by servants overeager to please their God? Or were there reasons that were outside the search for Bible truth? We all know that when starting off on a journey, a slight change of direction at the onset can lead to major deviation down the road. We can get so far off track that we become hopelessly lost.
So then, to what has this doctrinal teaching brought us? How does this teaching reflect on God’s good name? How has it affected the structure and leadership of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are we seeing rulership the way men do? Some have suggested that the best rulership is that of benign dictator. Is that essentially our view? Is it God’s? Do we view this topic as spiritual persons or as physical beings? God is love. Where does God’s love factor into all this.
The issue is not quite so simple as we paint it.
We will attempt to answer these questions, and to identify the Bible’s real theme in the next article.
 So it was a moral issue that had to be settled. (tr chap. 8 p. 67 par. 6)