Saturday, May 29, 2010

Where is the governing body?

For those who are unfamiliar with the ecclesiastical structure (i.e. church hierarchy) of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the top of the chain is not the apostles, for they do not believe that the apostolic office is for today (nor do I). Nor is it the elders of the local congregations. If its neither of these, who is running things? Who do the 7 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide submit to with regards to receiving biblical instruction, exhortation, and discipline (Heb. 13:17)? None other than ten men (according to the 2007 yearbook) who reside in Brooklyn, New York called the Governing Body. However, to say that the rank-and-file "submits" to the governing body is quite the understatement:

***w22 5/1 p. 132 The Gentile Times***

To be faithful means to be loyal. To be loyal to the Lord means to be obedient to the Lord. To abandon or repudiate the Lord’s chosen instrument means to abandon or repudiate the Lord himself, upon the principle that he who rejects the servant sent by the Master thereby rejects the Master.

***Qualified to be Ministers p. 156 Studying “The Watchtower”***

The first essential for study is the right condition of mind and heart, appreciating that Jehovah grants understanding only to the meek, and not to the stiff-necked. If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the Bible says, 'believe all things,' all the things that The Watchtower brings out, inasmuch as it has been faithful in giving us a knowledge of God's purposes and guiding us in the way of peace, safety and truth from its inception to this present day.

The question is, where does the Bible speak of this "governing body" as well as the instruction that is offered by the above quotes? Most Jehovah's Witnesses will have us go to Acts 15 to establish their point:

“Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.”
(Acts 15:3–6)

Because I didn't want to take up too much space, I would hope that the reader will take the time to read the full account in Acts 15 to make sure i'm taking it in context (see Acts 17:11). Anyone familiar with the Watchtower's view of the governing body will quickly notice what Acts 15 is silent on: an ecclesiastical office. In other words, there is nothing in Acts 15 which prescribes an office to the church whereby all true Christians worldwide are to submit to their every whim: from how they groom themselves, to what will be studied each week in their meetings, to what all JW's are to believe on any doctrinal issue. That is, there is nothing in this text which would tell Christians today: "for all true Christians worldwide; you are to submit yourselves to a small group of men (who are neither deacons, elders, or apostles) in a centralized location by doing and believing everything they tell you."

Instead, we see that Paul and Barnabas were involved in a great dispute and sought to meet with other apostles and elders to discuss what to do. In other words, they met because they were encountering a critical problem in the church. Contrast this to the governing body. They meet not to discuss only crucial problems; they guide the lives of seven million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide. Can anyone imagine a more prominent role in a religious organization than this? If not, then I have one simple question: why, in all of the instructions and qualifications for elders and deacons in the Christian Scriptures do we not find the same for the governing body? I simply cannot buy that such a prominent role was neglected in all of the Apostle Paul's letters. If such an ecclesiastical position really exists, then there is absolutely no question in my mind that such would have been clearly and explicitly spelled out in the Scriptures.

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