by Matt Slick
On the CARM discussion boards a Jehovah's Witness that goes by the name "jonniel" (for some reason he wants to remain anonymous) posted a response to the paper, "Has Jehovah performed the greatest act of love?"1 His response is not very good, and I'll show you why; but before I do, I can't help wondering if this Jehovah's Witness is following the admonition of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, his governing theocratic organization.
- "Theocratic ones will appreciate the Lord's visible organization and not be so foolish as to put against Jehovah's channel their own human reasoning and sentiment and personal feelings."2
- "Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible."3
I point out these quotes because I'm curious. I want to know if the Jehovah's Witness is using his "own human reasoning" to "interpret the Bible?" Is he attempting to refute the CARM article on his own, or is he representing the Watchtower organization? If the former, then he is going against the Watchtower. If it is the latter, I would like to see him produce documentation from Watchtower publications on how to interpret John 15:13 (the subject matter of the article in question). After all, shouldn't this Jehovah's Witness be representing what the Watchtower says and not his own reasoning and Bible interpretations? You bet. The Watchtower says that the JW "cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave' organization."4 So, jonniel the Jehovah's Witness needs to think in accordance with Watchtower teachings. Maybe this is why he doesn't use his real name on the boards when he offers us his interpretation.
John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this . . .
The article the Jehovah's Witness attempted to refute deals with the statement made by Jesus in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." The Jehovah's Witness view of Jesus is that Jesus is not divine; but Jesus performed the greatest act of love by dying for others. This means that according to the JW view, Jesus did a greater work than God because it wasn't God who laid his life down for his friends. Yet, in Trinitarian theology God is the one who performs the greatest act of love because Jesus is divine. Therefore, God is not outdone by a created thing in Trinitarianism; but he is according to Jehovah's Witness teaching. This is a simple argument. Nevertheless, the Jehovah's Witness has attempted to answer the paper.
"Now we can see where Matt Slick errs. He thinks that Jesus spoke of "the greatest" act of love one can do as if there was no other that can equal it. But Jesus did not say this! Jesus said there was no "greater" act love that one could do for one's "friends." Not that there was not or could not be other acts of love that could be as great! Can you, our reader, not see this and see then how Matt Slick has misinterpreted Jesus' words? In fact Matt Slick even misquotes Jesus it seems by his "Jesus said that this self sacrifice is the greatest act of love" compared to what Jesus actually said "There is no greater act of love than someone should surrender his soul (life) in behalf of his friends." There is a difference in what Matt Slick thinks Jesus said and what Jesus actually said! The Greek word John used at John 15:13 is the comparative form of MEGAS, MEIZWN, meaning not "greatest," which would require the superlative form MEGISTOS, but "greater."5
Alright, this Jehovah's Witness' argument is based upon the difference between the words "greatest" and "greater." He argues that if Jesus had said "greatest," then there can be no act of love equal to that; but since Jesus said "greater, there can be other acts of love equal to what Jesus is stating. He then tries to illustrate it with an example:
"Say there are three runners Tom, Dick and Harry, (this analogy with three has nothing to do with the Trinity by the way!) who have all run the 100m in 9.5 seconds. No other runners have but these three. Based on this fact one could say that "There is no greater 100m runner than Tom." This would be correct, true. But it would not mean that Tom was the "greatest" 100m runner! Both Dick and Harry are equally as great as they too have run the 100m in 9.5 seconds." 6
Jonniel compares Jesus' comment about self-sacrifice on the cross having no greater love to a track meet where three people run with identical times. Okay, so how does this equate to Jesus saying that no greater act of love can be offered than laying down ones own life for another? It doesn't. Still, he tries to make an argument based on an analogy. The Jehovah's Witness later says in the same discussion board post that
"Jesus is God's Son and as the Father, God, did as great an act of love by sending this own only begotten son down to die it does not have to then mean that God's Son is God also for God to perform the greatest act of love!"[Ibid.]
I know, his sentence is difficult to follow; but, where does it say in scripture that the act of God sending his Son to die on the cross is as great as laying down ones own life? I can't find any such statement, and the JW hasn't produced one--but it hasn't stopped him from using his own human reasoning to interpret the Bible.
However, what we do have is the clear teaching of Christ in John 15:13 saying there is no greater act of love than self-sacrifice. In contrast to Jesus' words, we have the opinion of the Jehovah's Witness to counteract it--not very good and not very convincing--but let me put some flesh and blood to the JW's argument with a short dialogue.
JW: According to Jesus' words, I'm going to perform an act of love of which you can say there is none greater.
Tom: Really? How so?
JW: You know my son, Michael?
JW: I'm going to sacrifice his life to save someone else.
Tom: [pause] Why don't you sacrifice yourself instead of sending your son?
JW: Because I must send him since no greater act of love can be made than laying down my own life.
Tom: [pause and blank stare] Wait, Jesus said there was no greater act of love than to lay down your own life for others--not sending someone else in your place; but, you're not doing that. So how is sacrificing Michael a fulfillment of Jesus' words of laying down ones own life? How is that an equal act of love?
JW: You're missing the point. Sending my son to die is equal in love to dying myself.
Tom: You mean you're really being loving and sacrificial by having someone else die instead of yourself?
JW: Yes, by sending my son, I am doing an act of love that is just as great as Jesus laying down his own life.
Tom: So, let me get this straight. You're saying that sending someone else to die is just as good a loving act as dying yourself?
JW: No, sending my Son--not just anyone.
Tom: I see, so sending someone else, in this case your son, to die for someone is just as great a loving an act as dying yourself?
Tom: They are equivalent, right?
Tom: Did the Watchtower tell you to think like this?
The dialogue illustrates essentially what the Jehovah's Witness is saying, namely, that it is just as great an act of love for the Father to send the Son as it is for the Son to lay his own life down for others. What do you think? Are they equal? Is it just as great an act of love to send someone else to die instead of doing it yourself? Not as far as I can see.
There is a bit of a problem: subjectivity. How do you quantify which act of love is greater or equal than another? It would be difficult to do even though the Jehovah's Witness attempted just that. Still, I would think that loving my cat is not as great an act of love as is dying to protect my wife. Some comparisons are easy. So, in this category the best place we can go is Scripture where we see that Christ clearly states there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's own life--he didn't say someone else's life. Would it have made sense if the verse was rendered according to the Jehovah's Witness argument: "Greater love has no one than this, that he send someone else to die for his friends, yea, even his own Son." If, just if, this is actually what Jesus said, then the Jehovah's Witness would be able to appeal to Scripture for his position; but it isn't; and so he appeals not to Scripture but to an opinion and a track-meet analogy to make his point. He isn't convincing.
It is still true that according to the doctrine of the Trinity, where there is one God in three persons and each person shares the divine nature, that God (in Christ) has performed an act of love of which there is none greater. In Trinitarianism we can say that God laid down his own life for his friends. God shed his own blood to forgive us--not someone else's.
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood," (Acts 20:28).
Do you see what it says? It says that God purchased his people with his own blood - not the blood of someone else. So, who performed the greater act of love, God (in trinitarianism) or a created thing (as in JW theology)? To me it is obvious.
Thank you God for your greatest act of love.
Jan. 14, 2008. It is hardly worth dealing with this Jehovah's Witness since he has been so rude and demanding in posts on the board and in emails. Nevertheless, he's attempted to answer this paper--and did a bad job in the process. He only furthers his errors. One point that he's been trying to make (taken from the discussion board) is that John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8-10 together somehow demonstrate that, according to his interpretation, "it is God the Father who performed the greatest act of love."7 Of course, I've already addressed the equality issue above but let's take a quick look at these two verses to see if they support his opinion.
- John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
- 1 John 4:8-10, "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world. 1 John 4:8-10 tells us that God is love and that the love of God was manifested in sending his only Son to die for us. Okay, so how does this mean that sending the Son, sending someone else, is performing the greatest act of love which Jesus says is to lay down your own life? Jesus told us what the greatest act of love was, and he did not define it the way this Jehovah's Witness does. This JW continues to make absolutely no sense.
Jan. 15, 2008. The Jehovah's Witness just won't stop. He continues to e-mail me with accusations of incompetence, of twisting Jesus' words, etc. He said in an e-mail to me,
"Slick also continues with his twisting of Jesus' words at John 15:13 where Slick has Jesus speaking of the "greatest" love when Jesus actually spoke of a love there is no "greater" among "friends," amongst humans and which Jesus was saying his disciples should have for each other as he has for them!
Notice how he has emphasized the difference between greater and greatest but on the discussion board he said,
"However, 1 John 4:8-10 and John 3:16 shows us who performed the greatest act of love. God the Father. When one reads "God is love" the referent for "God" here is the Father, not the Son. If the Son loved us as much as the Father did then is it not strange that the Son is also not said to be "love"? This is then against the claim that in John 15:13 the love there is the "greatest." It is not."8
This is interesting. He complains about the difference between greatest and greater in my writing; but then on the boards he commits the very error he accuses me of committing when he says that the Father is the one who performed the greatest act of love. So, I guess it's okay for him to use the term "greatest" in referencing God the Father sending the Son but not me in referencing Jesus laying down his own life for others. Amazingly inconsistent, wouldn't you agree?
Also, since he accuses me of Scripture twisting by saying Jesus performed a greatest act of love, not the greater, then why does he say the Father performed the greatest act of love when nowhere in the text does it say anything like that regarding the Father. The words of Christ are clear where Jesus says there was no greater act of love than to lay your own life for a friend? It seems the Jehovah's Witness wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Obviously, this guy cannot think clearly, is inconsistent, and, to repeat what I said at the beginning of this article, is apparently contradicting what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society says when he uses his own human reasoning to interpret the Bible:
- "Theocratic ones will appreciate the Lord's visible organization and not be so foolish as to put against Jehovah's channel their own human reasoning and sentiment and personal feelings." 9
- "Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible."10
I don't know this person's motives, but I get the impression his personal feelings are highly involved in this little debate. Nevertheless, he's not being logical or biblical; but that's no surprise coming from someone who follows the Watchtower organization's many false teachings.
- 1. http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showthread.php?p=2262675#poststop.
- 2. The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, pp. 79-80.
- 3. The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587.
- 4. The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981.
- 5. http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showthread.php?p=2262675#poststop.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. Ibid., I am assuming that the person on the discussion boards who goes by the name of gordenbell (from the U.K.) and the emailer beb (from the U.K.) are the same person since they have the same style, the same accusatory tone, and are both from the U.K.
- 8. Ibid.
- 9. The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, pp. 79-80.
- 10. The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587.