Placing God In A Box

Having come to the conclusion that God’s nature is infinitely above our nature as humans and that it should be expected that we would have difficulty completely grasping the nature of God based on our human reason and experience alone, I became open to the possibility that the doctrine of the Trinity could be the best explanation of the divine nature of Almighty God.

What still troubled me, however, was the question as to whether the JWs’ view of God was consistent with the understanding that God operated outside the confines of space and time as Catholic and Protestant Christians seemed to believe.  So, I looked for evidence of this in Watchtower publications and was somewhat surprised at what I found.

In the Watchtower publication entitled You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth there is a chapter entitled “God-Who Is He?”  In this chapter the JWs describe Jehovah, whom they consider to be Almighty God, as a single person, in contrast to the Catholic and Protestant views of Almighty God as multi-personal.  In addition, to saying that Almighty God, Jehovah, is a single person, they also say that Jehovah has a brain and a body.  Notice the following:

“While most people say they believe in God, many do not think of him as a real person.  Is he? Well, it can be seen that where there is intelligence there is a mind.  For example, we may say, ‘I cannot make up my mind.’ And we know where there is a mind there is a brain in a body of a definite shape. So, then, the great mind responsible for all creation belongs to the great Person, Almighty God.  Although he does not have a material body, he has a spiritual one.  A spirit person has a body?  Yes, the Bible says: “If there is a physical body, there is a spiritual one.” -1 Corinthians 15:44; John 4:24 page 36

What are the ramifications of the belief that God has a mind, with a brain, and a “spirit body” of some definite shape?  Notice the JWs’ answer:

“Since God is a person with a spiritual body, he must have a place to live.  The Bible tells us that the heavens are God’s “established place of dwelling.” (1 Kings 8:43)  Also, we are told that “Christ entered…into the heavens itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24) Some humans will be rewarded with life in heaven with God, at which time they will receive spirit bodies.  They will see God, the Bible says, and also be like him. (1 John 3:2) This, too shows that God is a person, and that he has a body.”-You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth pages 36, 37

So, according to the reasoning of the JWs, since God is a person, he must have a mind, and, therefore, he must have a brain in a “spirit body” of some definite shape.  Since God has a body with a definite shape, this means that God needs a place somewhere in the universe to live.  Now, in this book, the JWs simply say that God lives in the heavens.  However, in years past they were much more specific.  Notice the following:

“Some, however, believe that they have found the direction of it to be the Pleiades, and particularly Alcyone, the central one of the renowned Pleiadic stars. To the distinguished German astronomer, Prof. J. H. Maedler, belongs the honor of having made this discovery. Alcyone, then, as far as science has been able to perceive, would seem to be the ‘midnight throne’ in which the whole system of gravitation has its central seat, and from which the Almighty governs his universe.”- Thy Kingdom Come published by the Watchtower Society 1903 Edition page 327.

“The constellation of the Pleiades is a small one compared with others which scientific instruments disclose to the wondering eyes of man.  But the greatness in size of other stars or planets is small when compared with Pleiades in importance, because the Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of God.”-Reconcilation published by the Watchtower Society in 1928 on page 14.

So, at one point in their history, the JWs believed that Jehovah actually lived on the star Alcyone in the Pleiades constellation.  However, in the November 15th, 1953 issue of The Watchtower they said the following:

“Incidentally, Pleiades can no longer be considered the center of the universe and it would be unwise for us to try to fix God’s throne as being at a particular spot in the universe.”-page 703

So, while JWs no longer teach that Jehovah the person who has a brain in a ‘spirit body of a definite shape’ lives on the star known as Alcyone in the Pleiades constellation they do believe that Jehovah lives someplace within the created universe.  This, to me, seems to indicate that JWs believe that God lives within the bounds of the created universe and, therefore, within the bounds of space and time.  The JWs recognize the box into which they have placed Jehovah when they say the following:

“But someone may ask: ‘If God is a real person who lives at a certain place in heaven, how can he see everything that happens everywhere? And how can his power be felt in every part of the universe?’ (2 Chronicles 16:9)  The fact that God is a person in no way limits his power or greatness.  Nor should it lessen our respect for Him. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13) To help us to understand this, consider the far-reaching effects of an electric power plant.

A power plant has a certain location in or near a city.  But its electricity is distributed over all that area, providing light and power.  It is similar with God.  He is in the heavens. (Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 123:1) Yet his holy spirit, which is his invisible active force, can be felt everywhere, over all the universe.  By means of his holy spirit God created the heavens, the earth and all living things. (Psalm 33:6; Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30) To create these things, God did not need to be present in body.  He can send out his spirit, his active force, to do whatever he wants even though he is far away.  What a marvelous God!-Jeremiah 10:12; Daniel 4:35.”-You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth page 37

So, for the JW, God is truly far away and only interacts with us via his impersonal active force which is what the JWs consider to be the holy spirit.  In addition, for the JWs, God is not omnipresent but is confined to some place in the heavens but his power his merely felt by us via this impersonal active force much like electricity is felt from a local power plant.  This view of God is very different from what Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, believe about the nature of God.  For Catholic and Protestant Christians, God is immanent in that He is everywhere and transcendent in that He cannot be confined to space and time like finite human beings can.

At this point, I was unsure as to what view of God to accept.  However, I was now realizing that the extreme difference in understanding about the nature of God results in some very different understandings of how God acts toward his creatures as well.  And, I was curious to see what scriptures might support the Catholic and Protestant view that the holy spirit is a person.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ravyn Guiliani on October 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    wow this is an excellent treatment of how JWs view God and also the problem I think all of us Xs have in coming to terms with issues of faith. Thanks! I am going to link it to my FB and Twitter.

    Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RavynG, Jeffery Schwehm. Jeffery Schwehm said: Placing God In A Box: http://wp.me/p11PsZ-1d […]

    Reply

  3. hello!This was a really terrific blog!
    I come from roma, I was fortunate to search your Topics in google
    Also I learn much in your theme really thank your very much i will come every day

    Reply

  4. Posted by Nicholas on October 19, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Somehow I flew over that when the book came out. Conflating “brain” with “mind” leads to some odd conclusions. For example, their defense of the ill and their objection to euthanasia (the most barbarically named of all arts) becomes much weaker since, if the brain is harmed the mind most definitely is and the person looses definable value.

    Their hearts are in the right place but their refusal to openly debate has weakened them intellectually.

    I knew about the Pleiades thing (I think) in high school and had just chalked it up to “Crazy Russel talk”.

    Reply

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