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What does the Bible really teach? Why does God allow suffering?

What does the bible really teach

Chapter 11 of What does the Bible really teach? tackles the difficult question of Why does God allow suffering?

The Watchtower offers three reasons for the existence of suffering in the world.

  • The Devil
  • The Fall
  • The Absence of Jehovah

Do you know why people make the mistake of blaming God for all the suffering in the world? In many cases, they blame Almighty God because they think that he is the real ruler of this world. They do not know a simple but important truth that the Bible teaches. You learned that truth in Chapter 3 of this book. The real ruler of this world is Satan the Devil. p.108

The NWT says: If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing,4among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through. (2 Corinthians 4:3,4)

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that the Devil has full reign over this world. For them the Devil controls all things and it appears, at this time, that he has more authority than Jehovah and Jesus. To a Jehovah’s Witness, Jehovah is transcendent, he is out there somewhere, but at this time he allows the Devil to rule. This has led to some Jehovah’s Witnesses becoming obsessed with the activity of the Devil – seeing his hand in everything!

The ‘thief’ does come to steal and destroy (John 10:10) and he (the Devil) seeks to cause as much suffering as he can as he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). The problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they have no protection against the enemy because they are, unwittingly, working for him.

Their view of a distant God, who must be placated, is a far cry from the immanent God revealed to us in the person of Jesus. Jesus reveals that we have a ‘Father’ who loves us and the Holy Spirit who indwells all who trust in His name.

A second reason why there is so much suffering is that, as discussed in Chapter 3, mankind has been imperfect and sinful ever since the rebellion in the garden of Eden. Sinful humans tend to struggle for dominance, and this results in wars, oppression, and suffering. (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 8:9) p.108

We would certainly agree with the Watchtower on this point. The Fall resulted in the world becoming disordered and human beings separated from God. We now have a fallen world in which people struggle with pride, sickness and death. The Witnesses have been taught that Jehovah will bring judgement upon this fallen world at Armageddon (coming to an area near you very soon…) and all things will be restored to its ‘Edenic’ beginnings.

If only Witnesses would read the Bible and discover that Christ’s death on the cross restores our broken relationship with God, and puts the Devil in his place:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

How Witnesses need to know the love of God and the forgiveness of sin that can be theirs, if only they would put the trust in the Lord Jesus Christ instead of an organisation. Though this world is fallen we can still know peace, in a suffering world we can still have assurance and security – all through faith in Jesus.

A third reason for suffering is “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) In a world without Jehovah as a protective Ruler, people may suffer because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 9 It is comforting for us to know that God does not cause suffering. He is not responsible for the wars, the crimes, the oppression, or even the natural disasters that cause people to suffer. Still, we need to know, why does Jehovah allow all this suffering? If he is the Almighty, he has the power to stop it. Why, then, does he hold back? The loving God that we have come to know must have a good reason.—1 John 4:8. P.108/9

This paragraph reveals to us something of the Watchtower theology concerning God. Their view is bordering on Deist. Jehovah created the world and then, after the fall, he has left it in the hands of the Devil. Therefore Jehovah has become impotent, unable to influence anything until after Armageddon. What is the point of praying to Jehovah to relieve suffering or bring healing if he doesn’t answer such prayer?

Apparently, Jehovah is sitting back to prove a point. He is allowing the Devil time (the last 6000 years according to Watchtower chronology) to rule the Earth and to make a mess of things, but Jehovah will eventually intervene. At this point only ‘honest hearted’ ones (e.g. JWs) who have stayed loyal to Jehovah will survive Armageddon, and then they will be given the remit to get Jehovah’s original plan (paradise earth) back on track.

Jehovah has not made us puppets; he has given us free-will. He is ‘actively seeking sincere worshippers… helping them to endure any suffering that may come upon them in this troubled world’. Just how Jehovah helps them is unclear!

It is interesting that this article talks about free-will as this is the very thing JWs do not have.

As was noted in Chapter 5, humans were created with free will. Do you realize what a precious gift that is? God has made countless animals, and these are driven largely by instinct. (Proverbs 30:24) Man has made some robots that can be programmed to follow every command. Would we be happy if God had made us like that? No, we are glad to have the freedom to make choices about what kind of person to become, what course of life to pursue, what friendships to form, and so on. We love to have a measure of freedom, and that is what God wants us to enjoy. p.113

‘Freedom to make choices about what kind of person to become, what course of life to pursue, what friendships to form…’  In reality the Organisation tells the JW what kind of person to be, what to do with his/her life and who they can/cannot have friendships with. The JW equates obedience to the organisation as obedience to Jehovah, so whatever the organisation tells them they follow.

It would be remiss of me, as this chapter is about suffering, not to mention the suffering that the organisation causes to its members. The unbiblical and cruel practice of disfellowshipping has brought suffering to countless numbers as families are split apart by Jehovah’s ‘loving’ organisation.

Take an example of someone brought up in the organisation. Their whole life has been dedicated to serving Jehovah through his ‘visible organisation’.  All his family and friends are members, he works for a brother in the organisation and then they break a Watchtower rule. Suddenly, he is shunned by those who claimed to love him, his family and friends will not talk to him, and he loses his job… he has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. They are suffering intolerably because of organisational policy. Watch the clip below and decide for yourself…Is this really Jehovah’s organisation?



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7 Responses »

  1. Thanks for this Tony. One of the most difficult concepts for an ex-witness to get to grips with is God’s Sovereignty. Because the Watchtower teaching is basically “Satan rules” and that Jehovah simply stands by watching in order to win a personal argument is so far from the biblical witness to be farcical, yet Satan’s rulership is a very difficult doctrine to jettison. I have family who are born again but still struggle to see God as being in ultimate control often blaming the Devil for this or that event in life. I would encourage all ex-witnesses (and some Christians!) to take time out to study demonology within the context of God’s sovereignty and soteriology – use a sound systematic theology. In this way the elevation of Satan is prevented and we see this creature in his proper context. Remember the Devil can only do what his LORD permits (cf. Job chapter 1).

    • Any recommendations on materials to help with this subject?

      • Sorry, thought I might clarify my request. it is in regards to Jason’s reply about investigating demonology within the context of God’s sovereignty and soteriology.

      • Hi M, not sure what answer your looking for?

        In Christian theology various concepts and themes are broken down or systematised. For example, demons, evil sprits, satan etc. come under the heading of demonology, whereas soteriology is concerned with the concepts of salvation. They were just two lines of thought that sprung to mind when I read Tony’s article.

        My point being that God is sovereign over everything and nothing is outside of his remit. To understand demonology and soteriology within the overall context of God’s sovereignty simply heightens our appreciation for our God, who is “LORD overall”.

        I hope that answers your question? Shalom Jason

  2. Thank you Tony! It has taken me many years to get this kind of thinking out if my head. It is flabbergasting to me now how I can clearly see that the whole Bible speaks of Gods sovereignty…how blind I was…

  3. M – you asked for sources – I’d recommend the following:

    So Great a Salvation by Charles Ryrie

    Biblical Demonology by Unger Merrill

    You can weigh and check the arguments against scripture yourself. If your looking for an overall systematic theology then I’d recommend:

    Systematic Theology by Lewis Perry Chafer

    Or a more modern version by Wayne Grudem

    A cheaper but heavily reformed systematic theology is:

    These should keep you busy! Remember in Christianity so long as we stick to the essential doctrines we can differ on non-essentials. We don’t all have to agree on every last “thing”

    God bless

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