Since my REVIEW of the September 2010 Watchtower Study Edition, I haven't found any of the subsequent magazines to contain noteworthy information. Perhaps the Governing Body is giving JW's a break from their self-promoting statements made in that issue? Its difficult to know for sure. But whatever the case, recent releases have had little to do with doctrine and more to do with morality and JW living. However, I found a few quotes in this newly released magazine worth mentioning:
Acting in harmony with his Father’s will, Jesus Christ gave “his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Soon the full benefits of that ransom payment will accrue to those who gain God’s approval. -p. 14 par. 6
While it is true that no Christian is living within the full benefits of the atonement (Creation is still "groaning." Rom. 8:22), this quote has it backwards. It is unbiblical to suggest that the ransom is applied to those who gain God's approval. Instead, the Bible teaches that the atonement itself results in God's approval to those whom it is applied:
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–21)Does this passage make any suggestion similar to the WT's appeal? That is, is the atonement applied to those who have previously gained God's approval? Or does the atonement result in our being approved by God? Notice further that it is not our actions that reconcile us to God; it is Christ's atoning work. This is yet another instance where the WT has missed the sufficiency of Christ's death apart from human actions.
8 Gaining God’s approval involves the proper exercise of our free will. This is because Jehovah does not coerce anyone into serving him. In Isaiah’s time, He asked: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” By recognizing the prophet’s right to decide, Jehovah dignified him. Imagine Isaiah’s satisfaction in responding: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8. -p. 14 par. 8Its all about us isn't it? The focus is so completely man-centered that it neglects the very basis by which someone like Isaiah could obey God at all. Why is it that Scripture declares, "there is none who seeks after God?" (Rom. 3:11) Could it be that God desires all the glory, even when it pertains to man's ability to love and obey Him? While it is true that God does not coerce men in the way that the WT describes here, it is not true that men gain God's approval by "proper exercise of our free will." Scripture has something else in mind:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27)God is the primary cause when it comes to offering approval to those who were previously hostile towards Him (Rom. 8:7). Do we see coercion here? No. We see God causing the ungodly to obey Him by removing their hostile, flesh-focused nature and making them, "alive together with Christ." (Eph. 2:5) Where can man take such credit in this scenario? Where is "free will" mentioned?
Gaining God’s approval requires that a person keep his body acceptable to God. If he were to defile himself with tobacco, betel nut, illicit drugs, or alcohol abuse, that offering would have no value. (2 Cor. 7:1) -p. 15 par. 12In no way am I endorsing any of the mentioned "defilements." However, I do find it interesting that the WT mentions these disfellowshipping-resulting actions to the exclusion of others. Why is eating at McDonald's not mentioned? Is the Watchtower prepared to defend the idea that smoking a cigarette is more harmful than a few meals at McDonald's? Or how about prescription drugs? Are JW's threatened with disfellowshipping by taking drugs that lead a high risk of side effects? Of course not. These are the legalistic "pet sins" that the WT has come up with that have no cut-and-dry prohibition in the Bible (specifically, tobacco use).
By preaching with zeal, we give evidence of our love for Jehovah and our desire for his approval. -p. 16 par. 14While it is true that we must demonstrate the true nature of our faith by good works (James 2:18), this is different from saying that our works gain approval from God. A more biblical approach to such an issue would be to say, "by preaching with zeal, we give evidence of our love for Jehovah and our desire to do what is pleasing to Him." The reason this qualification is so important is because true Christians have already been fully approved. That is, there is no further approval to be made. After all, we have the righteousness of Christ imputed or reckoned to our account (Rom. 4:5). How much more approval would one need?
Instead, we should be seeking to do what is pleasing to God because we have already been approved. And no amount of zeal or hours on your time cards can change that.
Andre ́ , who had served Jehovah for years, had the bitter experience of being led astray by apostate thinking. He felt that having a quick look at an apostate Web site would not be dangerous. He recalls: “Initially, I was attracted to the so-called truths that the apostates spoke of. The more I examined what they said, the more I came to think that I was justified in leaving Jehovah’s organization. But later, as I did some research on the apostates’ arguments against Jehovah’s Witnesses, I became aware of how crafty the false teachers were. Information taken out of context was their ‘strong evidence’ against us. Thus, I decided to start reading our publications again and to attend the meetings. Soon I realized how much I had missed.” Happily, Andre ́ returned to the congregation. -p. 19This is very interesting. Remember what the WT has previously said about so-called "apostate literature":
*** w86 3/15 p. 13 pars. 10-12 ‘Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason’ ***
When a fellow human tells us, ‘Do not read this’ or, ‘Do not listen to that,’ we may be tempted to ignore his advice. But remember, in this case Jehovah is the One who tells us in his Word what to do. And what does he say about apostates? “Avoid them” (Romans 16:17, 18); “quit mixing in company with” them (1 Corinthians 5:11); and “never receive [them] into your homes or say a greeting to [them]” (2 John 9, 10). These are emphatic words, clear directions. If, out of curiosity, we were to read the literature of a known apostate, would that not be the same as inviting this enemy of true worship right into our home to sit down with us and relate his apostate ideas?
11 Let us illustrate matters in this way: Suppose your teenage son received some pornographic material in the mail. What would you do? If he was inclined to read it out of curiosity, would you say: ‘Yes, son, go ahead and read it. It won’t hurt you. From infancy we’ve taught you that immorality is bad. Besides, you need to know what’s going on in the world in order to see that it’s truly bad’? Would you reason that way? Absolutely not! Rather, you would surely point out the dangers of reading pornographic literature and would require that it be destroyed. Why? Because no matter how strong a person may be in the truth, if he feeds his mind on the perverted ideas found in such literature, his mind and heart will be affected. A lingering wrong desire planted in the recesses of the heart can eventually create a perverted sexual appetite. The result? James says that when wrong desire becomes fertile, it gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. (James 1:15) So why start the chain reaction?
12 Well, if we would act so decisively to protect our children from exposure to pornography, should we not expect that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from spiritual fornication, including apostasy? He says, Keep away from it!As can be observed, "apostate literature" is equated with pornography. Let's see how Andre's story would read with such an equation inserted:
Andre ́ , who had served Jehovah for years, had the bitter experience of being led astray by [pornography]. He felt that having a quick look at [pornography] would not be dangerous. He recalls: “Initially, I was attracted to the so-called truths that the [porn industry] spoke of. The more I examined what they said, the more I came to think that I was justified in leaving Jehovah’s organization. But later, as I did some research on [pornography], I became aware of how crafty the false teachers were. Information taken out of context was their ‘strong evidence’ against us. Thus, I decided to start reading our publications again and to attend the meetings. Soon I realized how much I had missed.” Happily, Andre ́ returned to the congregation. -p. 19Most should be able to see how silly such an equation really is. But if apostate literature is as bad as pornography, then why even "do the research?" No one has to research pornography to know that is is grossly unbiblical. Moreover, many secularists are aware of the harmful effects of pornography as well. However, if apostate literature is what the Society claims, then there is no need to investigate. It should be dismissed out of hand without a single glance.
What I can't seem to figure out is why the Society continues to suppress any attempt to deal with this so-called "apostate literature." Here, it seems as though the WT is commending Andre for checking the facts. Are they seriously suggesting that by researching WT literature, such an honest investigation will lead to finding answers to apostate claims? It would seem so. But one will be hard-pressed to find answers to the claims made by former Governing Body member Ray Franz in his book, CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE or that of Carl O. Jonsson's in his book, THE GENTILE TIMES RECONSIDERED by researching WT literature.
One of the reasons why so many JW's leave the organization is because of books like these; books that the WT has failed to make mention of or dealt with the arguments therein. Instead, they have told JW's to avoid these books as if they were pornography, yet they are to examine its claims on their own when they find themselves trapped in "apostate thinking." Yes, please do your own research, like Andre, and examine the claims made by Franz and Jonsson.