This Watchtower review was written by Andere Stimme

[From ws15/06 p. 20 for August 17-23]

 

“Let you name be sanctified.” – Matthew 6:9

 No Christian can find fault with the counsel to “live in harmony with the model prayer”. The lessons to be learned from any portion of scripture, however, will have the greatest value if the passage in question is understood as its Author intended. In the following review, we will attempt to separate the wheat of inspired instruction from the chaff of the speculative reasoning of men.

After the introductory paragraphs, the first subheading seeks to answer the first of the three review questions: What can we learn from the expression “our Father”? And this is where the article first runs into problems. While Jesus’ model prayer makes it clear that his followers were to view God as their Father, the article imports the concept of two groups of Christians that have two very different types of relationship with their heavenly father. Paragraph 4 says:

The expression “our Father,” not “my Father,” reminds us that we belong to an “association of brothers” who truly love one another. (1 Peter 2:17) What a precious privilege that is! Anointed Christians, who have been begotten as God’s sons with heavenly life in view, rightly address Jehovah as “Father” in the fullest sense. (Romans 8:15-17) Christians whose hope is to live forever on earth can also address Jehovah as “Father.” He is their Life-Giver, and he lovingly provides for the needs of all true worshippers. Those with this earthly hope will in the fullest sense become God’s children after they have reached perfection and have proved their loyalty in the final test.—Romans 8:21; Revelation 20:7, 8..

 The scriptures cited do nothing to back up this convoluted notion of dual sonship, unless taken within a larger theological framework that is based on human interpretation. The contradictions continue in the next paragraph where a brother speaks of how his children, now grown, “recall the atmosphere, the sacredness of communicating with our Father, Jehovah”. Apparently, there is some ‘sanctity headroom’ left for the long-awaited day when the atmosphere of communication with our heavenly Father will be sacred “in the fullest sense”.

Let Your Name Be Sanctified

The lead-up to the this subheading mentions the need to ‘learn to love God’s name’. The following paragraphs use the term “name” in the sense of “a distinguished, famous, or great reputation”[1]. We wholeheartedly agree that the name to be loved and sanctified is not just a proper noun, however lofty, but rather a description of the superlative qualities of the Most High.[2] Asking for God’s name to be sanctified, paragraph 7 tells us, “may move [us] to ask Jehovah to help [us] to avoid doing or saying anything that would dishonor his holy name”. This is excellent counsel, and the timing – right after the sessions of the Australian Royal Commission – is as poignant as it is ironic. We are reminded of Jesus’ admonition to “practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example”. (Matthew 23:3.)

Let Your Kingdom Come

By far the most tendentious material of this article is found under this subheading. We will focus on three problems:

1. Acts 1:6, 7, where Jesus plainly stated that it did not belong to his disciples to know ‘times and seasons’, does not apply to us, and it hasn’t for about 140 years

The August 15, 2012 Watchtower says that “We can now grasp the meaning of prophecies that remained a “secret” for ages but are now being fulfilled in this time of the end. (Dan. 12:9)   These include….the enthronement of Jesus.” The angel’s words to Daniel that “the words are to be kept secret and sealed up until the time of the end” are taken to mean that special knowledge would be available in the time of the end. The logic here, however, is circular: We have special knowledge because we’re in the time of the end; we know we’re in the time of the end, because we have special knowledge.

2. Prayers for the kingdom to come were partially answered in 1914, but we should still pray for it to come in a complete sense.

Nowhere in the scriptures do we find the idea of two “comings”. Once again, doctrines of men are imported to muddy up a clear scriptural truth, namely, that the benefits to be reaped under God’s kingdom begin when it comes, and it only comes once.

3. 19th Century Christians received a revelation (“were helped to understand”) that the end of the Gentile Times had drawn near.

The publications have often admitted that they are not inspired (see g93 3/22 p. 4). But what practical difference is there between being “helped to understand” something that is not explicit in scripture, and receiving a revelation from God? However, not only is the premise false, the statement itself is deceptive. Paragraph 12 says:

 When the time approached for God’s Kingdom in the hands of Jesus to start ruling from heaven, Jehovah helped his people to understand the timing of events. In 1876, an article written by Charles Taze Russell was published in the magazine Bible Examiner. That article, “Gentile Times: When Do They End?,” pointed to 1914 as a significant year.

‘God’s people’, until the late 1920s, thought that Jesus’ invisible presence had begun in 1874, and that he had been enthroned as king in 1878. The passage above, however, gives the impression that in 1876 Jehovah helped his people to understand that Jesus would “start ruling from heaven” in 1914. The authors seem to endorse the philosophy that “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.” (See Awake! 2/8/00 p. 20 Lying—Is It Ever Justified?)

Let Your Will Take Place…on Earth

The final subheading encourages us not only to make that request in prayer, but also to live in harmony with it. That is, indeed, excellent counsel. However, we are left scratching our head at the example they give: “In line with this part of the model prayer”, a sister is quoted as saying, “I often pray that all sheeplike people will be contacted and helped to come to know Jehovah before it is too late.” Without questioning our sister’s sincere intentions, one wonders what she is afraid of. That the God of Justice will destroy “sheeplike” ones because they didn’t meet the deadline? We are then encouraged to imitate her example and ‘pour ourselves out in doing God’s will’ in spite of our limitations.

It is certainly good advice to do our utmost to preach the true gospel. It’s a shame that this article, devoted as it is to Christ’s model prayer, so often deviates from it.

[1] Definition #5 at dictionary.com

[2] Examples of Bible characters whose names were changed to better describe their qualities or roles are Abraham, Israel and Peter. Names given at birth often were descriptive as well, such as Seth, Jacob and Manasseh.