Friday, September 14, 2007

Tightening the leash: the Watchtower's attempt to put an end to Jehovah's Witnesses' apologists

This article appeared in the "Question Box" section of the September KM (Kingdom Ministry). The KM is basically a 4 page flyer that is normally used as a suppliment to the Ministry School meetings held each week by Jehovah's Witnesses. Fortunately (maybe unfortunately as well?), I had the opportunity of attending the ministry school meeting when this article was addressed. It was an informative experience, as it was a discussion that included the opinions of those in the congregation. Before this talk, I didn't really have much of an idea as to the extent to which the Watchtower has control over its members. Now I can sadly say that I do. Below is the KM article in full, and my comments in between:

QUESTION BOX

* Does "the faithful and discreet slave" endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate?–Matt. 24:45, 47.


First, who is the "faithful and discreet slave"? Most who read this passage come to the obvious conclusion that the "faithful and discreet slave" consists of all Christians who faithfully serve Christ as ministers. But the Watchtower takes this above and beyond anything that the gospel writer would have ever dreamed:

"At the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, there is a governing body of older Christian men from various parts of the earth who give the needed oversight to the worldwide activities of God's people. This governing body is made up of members of the 'faithful and discreet slave.' It serves as a spokesman for that faithful 'slave.'" (see the WT publication, You can live forever on paradise earth, p. 195)

Where this "faithful and discreet slave" finds the authority to make the statements in following article is beyond me. It is certainly not found in Matthew 24:45, 47 nor anywhere else in Scripture.

No, it does not. And yet, in various parts of the world, a few associates of our organization have formed groups to do independent research on Bible-related subjects.

Reader, if you can't see "cult" in this, then I don't know how much more clear it could be. Groups doing independent research on Bible-related subjects? Are you kidding me? Is the Watchtower really discouraging individuals to actually think for themselves? What could possibly be wrong with doing independent Bible research? And another thing; where does this "faithful and discreet slave" get the authority to command their subordinates to stay away from independent research? Certainly not from the Bible.

The answer to these questions are obvious. The Watchtower wants complete and total control over the minds of their people. The governing body knows full well that when individuals in the society start to "investigate", they will see that it is abundantly clear that the Watchtower is in error on a whole host of issues. I'm not necessarily suggesting some type of conspiracy where the governing body sits in a smoke filled room with cigars, trying to find ways to control the minds of JW's. I'm simply suggesting that the Watchtower is trying to obtain a form of "unity" that is completely foreign to Scripture. We'll see more of this as we go along.

Some have pursued an independent group study of Biblical Hebrew and Greek so as to analyze the accuracy of the New World Translation.

So, the reason the Watchtower doesn't want JW's learning Greek and Hebrew is because they'll realize its profound implications. And those implication being that they'll actually learn Greek and Hebrew! Yes, you heard correctly. They'll actually be able to read the Bible in its original language. Doesn't this sound familiar, as if a similar issue has happened before in history? Remember the Roman Catholic Church and its insistence on the Latin Vulgate? Remember what happened when people started to translated it into other languages? 'Nuff said.

And believe me, i'm being completely fair and representational of the Watchtower. Its not as if they are saying that you can learn Greek and Hebrew, as long as you don't question the accuracy of the New World Translation. No. The speaker at the meeting made it completely clear that no Jehovah's Witness should be studying Greek or Hebrew on their own. And I know what you're thinking. "Oh, so why don't they just study under the Greek and Hebrew scholars who work for the Watchtower?" I'm sorry to break this to you, but I need to fill you in on a little secret...there were no Greek or Hebrew Scholars who even worked on the NWT committee. What makes you think there are any working for the WT?

So what is a Jehovah's Witness to do? How do they know that the NWT is an accurate translation if they aren't allowed to investigate the original languages? Answer: they don't. It always comes back to the same issue when dealing with Roman Catholics; "Just trust us." And when your ultimate authority is above the Scriptures, thats about all you can do.

Others explore scientific subjects related to the Bible.

Ok, this is simply ridiculous. It is so ridiculous that one of the members of the congregation commented something along the lines of, "Its dangerous to study science because you might become susceptable to believing in Darwin's theory of natural selection." First of all, its not "Darwin's" theory. In fact, natural selection was discovered by a creationist decades before Darwin. Darwin merely popularized the idea and elaborated on it. And second of all, this JW who spoke up clearly knew nothing about natural selection. Natural selection has absolutely nothing to do with evolution. In fact, natural selection completely contradicts it! For more information on natural selection, go here.

The question I have is, why would the Watchtower discourage the study of science and the Bible? This strikes me as odd considering the fact that they have written a considerable amount of material on creation/evolution. I think the issue goes deeper than this. The only conclusion I can think of is this; the Watchtower doesn't want people "running ahead" of them. In other words, you don't do the research; they do the research, and you simply have to trust that its accurate. Don't challenge it and don't check it out for yourself. After all, if you did, you might have discovered something that the Watchtower hadn't thought of yet. And we don't want that happening.

They have created Web sites and chat rooms for the purpose of exchanging and debating their views. They have also held conferences and produced publications to present their findings and to supplement what is provided at our Christian meetings and through our literature.

What kind of views are they referring to? I'm assuming the Watchtower is referring to views that are contrary to their dogmatic teachings? Or could it be that the Watchtower doesn't want JW's talking about their views at all? It seems to me that the Watchtower is discouraging any activities that deal with religion that is not directly endorsed by the Society. This includes, yes, even "supplimentary" materials. And would it not be safe to say that they are discouraging these meetings, forums, etc. even though they probably are in support of Jehovahs Witnesses?

Throughout the earth, Jehovah's people are receiving ample spiritual instruction and encouragement at congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions, as well as through the publications of Jehovah's organization. Under the guidance of his holy spirit and on the basis of his Word of truth, Jehovah provides what is needed so that all of God's people may be "fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought" and remain "stabilized in the faith." (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 2:6, 7) Surely we are grateful for Jehovah's spiritual provisions in these last days. Thus, "the faithful and discreet slave" does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that are not produced or organized under its oversight.–Matt. 24:45-47.

In other words, "we've provided just enough material to keep you under our control. Don't mind the fact that we refuse to respond to scholars and critics who have provided thorough refutations and critiques of our beliefs. Oh, and those in-depth exegetical studies of the Bible written by Protestant scholars? We don't need things like that. Remember, all we're trying to do is attain a 'unity' that is above and beyond anything that the New Testament writers would have desired. And in order to accomplish this, in-depth exegetical literature is not needed. All you need to do is trust us."

Now, let's look at some of the Scriptures cited.

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Recently, I heard a saying. It goes something like this, "Never read a Bible verse." Such a saying comes very much in handy with groups like the JW's who like to take isolated verses and make them mean what they want them to. This is especially true with 1 Cor. 1:10. What is Paul saying here? How far are we to take this "unity" that he speaks of. I actually had one JW tell me that because some churches use organs and others use pianos, then they are going against this verse! In fact, he took it so far to the extreme that he blamed "divisions" such as this for homosexual pastors! Yes, organs and pianos cause homosexual pastors. What a connection ;-)

Back to the passage. Let's first keep in mind that absolute unity doesn't prove that a particular group are the only true Christians. Does this mean that Corinthians weren't Christian? Of course not. It just means that they were divisive and needed correction. Some were claiming to be followers of Paul, others of Apollos, etc. This is the context to which Paul is commanding them to attain unity. In other words, we can't take "unity" to any extreme that we feel. We can only take it as far as what is specifically addressed in Scripture. Besides, Paul referred to the Corinthians as "brothers" in 1 Cor. 1:2. And if you know anything about the Corinthians, you know that were a very disunified bunch.

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Do you see anything in this verse, as well as 1 Cor. 1:10 that would prohibit Christians in doing personal research, such as learning Greek or Hebrew? I certainly don't.

It is commendable for individuals to want to use their thinking ability in support of the good news. However, no personal pursuit should detract from what Jesus Christ is accomplishing through his congregation on earth today.

Again, how could personal research detract one from the work of Jesus Christ? Anyone who has spent any time with Jehovah's Witnesses know full well that they will not read anything you give to them. Christians like myself, on the other hand, find edification in personal study. In fact, the more I read of literature that opposes my faith, the more strengthened and confident I become! Just what is the Watchtower afraid of? Do they have something to hide? When people come to me with their questions, I always encourage them to look at both sides. Why can't the Watchtower do the same? Well, when you are a false religion who is trying to control the minds of its people, the last thing you want is them questioning things.

In the first century, the apostle Paul warned about getting involved in exhausting, time-consuming subjects, such as "genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith." (1 Tim. 1:3-7) All Christians should strive to "shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile."–Titus 3:9.

And what do these verses have to do with the issue at hand? You guess it. Absolutely nothing. I engage others in religious dialogue and debate for the sole purpose of sharing Christ with them. And if its with a fellow believer, my intentions are for the glory of Christ and His truth. In no way do these verses prohibit meaningful interaction that results in God's glory. These verses have nothing to do with the issues at hand and I would recommend looking these up in any Bible commentary for an explanation as to why.

For those who wish to do extra Bible study and research, we recommend that they explore Insight on the Scriptures, "All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial," and our other publications, such as those that discuss the prophecies found in the Bible books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation. These provide abundant material for Bible study and meditation, whereby we can be "filled with the accurate knowledge of [God's] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as [we] go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God."–Col. 1:9, 10.

Has anyone ever seen the Watchtower publications mentioned? I've not seen "All Scripture is inspired of God and Beneficial", but I have seen "Insight on the Scriptures," which is basically a Bible dictionary. How do you study a Bible dictionary? Sure, they do come in handy and would recommend them, but not for simply reading. Bible dictionaries should always be supplementary to whatever exegetical work you are reading. But regardless, this statement by the WT is simply ridiculous. Why limit JW's to only WT literature? Its not like the WT has really produced that much. To rob your organization of 2,000 years worth of valuable research is to deprive the mind. Just who does the WT think they are? Whether you agree with them or not, their scholarly efforts are simply pathetic when compared to the wealth of materials that are produced in Seminaries all over the world. Why deprive your people of such resources? I've got an answer. Because they may find the truth, and thus will set them free!

Please pray for these people. They are in bondage to sin just like we were. They need the Savior just like you and me.

3 comments:

VirusHead said...

Excellent post!

Sacchiel said...

Amen and Amen. I find it just unbelieveable that they do not want their followers to check out the accuracy of the NWT!

PropMin said...

You made the statement that "why deprive JW's of 2000 years of research".

The entire philosophy of the Watchtower (JW's) is not built upon genuine research and scholarship, it is built upon isolationism and exclusivity. They do not want JW's "consuming" any other literature, for ideological reasons, as well as financial reasons. JW's are not taught how to think; that is, to examine issues from a number of perspectives and make a jusdgement, they expect the Watchtower to judge for them.

Thus, 99.9% of JW's in the thousands of Kingdome Halls out there say absolutely nothing wrong with this article; in fact it reinforced to them that they are the "true religion".

I was a JW for 20 years and was tossed out this last May over doctrinal issues. The base issue for me is that no man has a right to dictate the paramiters of another mans conscience; its in Galatians, right? Yet this is the foundational premise of being a JW; you must do what the Watchtower tells you, regardless of what it is, whether it is right or wrong. The Watchtower is allowed to change their minds, you are not; you are only allowed to agree with them at all times, and never question anything, publicly or privately.

This is not real Christianity, folks.

Propmin.