Debate topic: “All Christians in the New Covenant will live forever in heaven with Christ.” Fred Torres is a Jehovah’s Witness and affirms. My friend Mike Felker of The Apologetic Front denies. Fred and Mike have been recording a modular debate; they each recorded and sent me their opening statements and rebuttals separately over a span of weeks, with live cross-examination and listener-submitted Q&A. This episode contains part 1 of the debate, including opening statements and first rebuttals. A future episode will contain part 2’s cross-examination. Please email me your questions to Fred and Mike for the third installment’s second rebuttals, Q&A and closing statements.
- Tim Jones, Heaven Lasts Forever from the album, Heaven Lasts Forever, 2009
- The Preterist Podcast, with Dee Dee Warren.
- Check out the episode I guest-hosted, “Kicking Some Left Behind Pt. 6–A Kick in the Teeth.”
- I am also a guest author Dee Dee’s The Preterist Blog, and she has a ton of eschatological study material available at The Preterist Site.
Episode 91: Heaven Lasts Forever [ 1:03:19 | 58 MB ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (2690)
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In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
This is really a no brainer. We know exactly where Jesus was going, i.e.heaven and that is the place where he says he will prepare a place for the disciples.
The whole argument that the Father’s mansion is the universe while may be a feasible,in this context is totally inapplicable because Jesus didn’t go to any random location in the universe he went to heaven.
Where does Jesus “come” to in v. 3?
Fred’s opening comments contain a subtle contradiction: He says several times that the Son always existed with the Father before he became man. He also speaks of the Son’s incarnation. Most Christian listeners would be comfortable with such affirmations, and could easily assume from Fred’s remarks that we’ve been wrong about the JW’s: that they are, after all, doctrinally dependable Christians, only a little off track maybe. However, Fred also describes the Son as a “spirit creature”, which alters the whole meaning of his assumed earlier statements. The assertion that the Son is a creature is Arianism: the actual denial of the incarnation – that God became man – and therefore the denial that the Son was and is eternal.
Arius was excommunicated by his Bishop, Alexander of Alexandria, together with nearly 100 other bishops. Alexander and his Clergy recorded this in their encyclical, dated 318 A.D. Sadly, Arius and his followers rejected such decisions and his doctrines were again dismissed at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed (without the filioque) was the outcome.
The Son, only begotten of the Father, as “Light of Light” and “true God of true God”, also became fully man from the Virgin Mary in order to fully save man: “spirit, soul and body” (1 Thess.5:23). There is no other Redeemer, Creator or God, except one (Isa.44:24), which is why the Son, as God, needed to become man and remains man as the Scriptures testify.
As far as the debate of Christians being in heaven or on earth, an ‘either or’ answer is unnecessary. ‘Both’ would be more Orthodox and more Scriptural: God and man made one (Jn.17). Indeed, a transfigured creation is awaited. This is, surely, all part of the glorious Gospel of Christ. The Church Fathers are a helpful resource in such matters.
Apologies, the encyclical of Bishop Alexander and his Clergy is dated 319 A.D., not 318 A.D., as stated above, according to ‘A New Eusebius’, by J.Stevenson, revised by W.H.C. Frend, published by SPCK.
My comment: “Arius was excommunicated by his Bishop, Alexander of Alexandria, together with nearly 100 other bishops,” is too ambiguous. What I meant to say is nearly 100 bishops, supporting Bishop Alexander, excommunicated Arius. Once more, apologies!
Looks like we meet again.
What appears to be a contradiction, really isn’t one. The statement “The Son has always existed with the Father” is consistent with my belief that the Son had a finite beginning, albeit for countless epochs. To me, It means that during the time that the son has existed, he has existed with the Father.
I intentionally used that ambigous expression because it is my wish to keep in line with the highly focused debate proposition. Trinitarians, even some modalists, can agree with the aforementioned statement and keep their focus on the topic at hand. It is not unlike the expression “New Earth”. Even though it appears that we are discussion the same thing, I know Mike doesn’t believe that the earth becomes an actual “paradeisos” in the same way that I do, that is, an actual paradise garden with actual flesh and blood human beings like the garden of Eden. But to focus on that would be counter-productive to the topic at hand.
I grew up in the Catholic tradition, and for a short time in my life I sympathized (for lack of a better word) with what some label as a “non denominatonal” evangelical experience, so I have at least faint notion of where Mike is coming from, but again, we focus on what we do have in common for the sake of discussion and focus.
Dear Fred, indeed we link again.
Thanks for your candid response. The intentional use of ambiguity you admit to, in order to keep focussed on the debate in question, may be an understandable concept which you find acceptable, but do others, Fred? Disturbingly, this seems to be the policy adopted by Witnesses who knock on our doors and leave their influence.
As an educated former Catholic, you spoke of the Son of God’s incarnation. You obviously know what this word means to Christians: God became man. You also know that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe this at all. Not only that, you also know that your own theology does not promulgate an incarnation of Michael the Archangel, for the Watchtower teaches that Michael gave up his existence as an angel and was then remade as the man Jesus. This is not an incarnation at all, and I’m sure you understand this very well. Watchtower theology cannot claim this word without reinventing its meaning. That said, is it not misleading and contradictory – both in terms of Watchtower and Orthodox theology – to speak of the Son as always being with the Father as a “spirit creature” and his subsequent “incarnation”? Is it irrelevant to point out these things? Does it detract from “the highly focussed debate proposition” as you imply? Well, how can such a debate ignore the incarnation – the very door into our debated future? Indeed, you yourself spoke of it. Remember that you spoke of the Son’s returning to his original state as a “spirit creature”, before the “incarnation”, as a basis for your own arguments that the Son cannot still be a man and that therefore new covenant Christians will not be human either but only spirits in heaven with him? From the Church’s perspective, however, the truth is clear: our very destiny and salvation is rooted in the fact that God became man. His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and glorification constitute the very cause and source of our eternal salvation and glorification on into the new heavens and the new earth – if, that is, we are in him and he is in us. Our destiny, both yours and mine, hinge on the incarnation and all its ramifications and therefore clarity regarding this is most vital to any debate of this nature.
I appreciate what you say, and the spirit in which it was stated. It is well taken and merits serious consideration.
I would only say that I’m not hiding my beliefs, but if one is to have a fruitful theological discussion, sometimes we have to communicate to our listeners in terms that they understand best.
I am mindful of the fact that even the terms “Incarnation” and even “God” mean something different to those that listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses at their door, but I find it unnessary to define theological terms about the Trinity, eternal shared substance, hypostatic union etc, when, for example, the person I’m speaking to is having doubts about the Bible’s validity. As you know, in real life there are priorites and time limitations that we have to deal with. In a debate type discussion, similar limitations play a role in how we communicate.
Of course, there is a time and place to define terms and language, which is why I believe you bring out some very valid points. After all, I do not want to be misleading in any way.
Let me also briefly address your question as to whether the use of the term “Incarnation” would be inconsistent with my faith.
I believe that the Son of God pre-existed his human soujourn. I believe that the Son of God became flesh. And I agree that he returned to the Father with his former glory. Thus, while the term is not used, the general notion itself of Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) becoming a man to save mankind is found in my theology. The notion of an incarnation is consistent with my view, as a general concept. And if you noted, I did specify that a discussion on hypostatic union would be beyond the scope of the discussion at hand.
I do apologize if in some way I used terms in a way that is offensive to you.
All the best to you,
I was not offended in any way. Disturbed for others, but that’s life.
You are right to concede that incarnation is not a word utilized by Witnesses. This is in line with the Watchtower Society’s book ‘Religion for Mankind’, page 231, which states that “…Jesus’ birth on earth was not an incarnation.” As such, there is no ground for Witnesses to claim the word. Under scrutiny, even the notion is not possible: The Watchtower Society has taught that Michael the Archangel, as the Son of God and Mighty God, divested his spirit existence and was then remade as a man only – nothing more. This is not an incarnation and bears no similarity to it. They have rejected the Christian doctrine that the Son of God is both God and man who walked this earth and shall return to judge both the living and the dead.
Are we ready for him, Fred?
To be clear, I suggest you re read my first response to you. I’ve stated that sometimes it’s best to speak to individuals in terms that “they” understand best, whether Trinitarian or modalist. What you have to understand that it’s a given that this audience is made up of those who believe Jesus is God. While “I” don’t use the word “Incarnation”, it’s the word that these listeners use to describe the process I’m talking about, and it’s the word the is the closest approximation to the picture I’m trying to evoke. ( a spirit becoming flesh) .The WT article correctly divorces JW’s from that word because it is pregnant will false assumptions, one which you mention at the end of your last comment.
I totally get why you feel disturbed for others. There are probably a dozen or so terms used by Mike and myself whose use we don’t agree with each other on. But fact is that the target audience on this site is one of the most informed audiences on Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is also a Q and A session coming up where things can be cleared up if needed.
my best to you
Remember that the internet is international. Your audience is therefore much wider than those targeted. The responsibility to be unambiguous and absolutely up front is of the highest priority. Words have the power to mislead and deceive.
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