Below, in the comment sections, two participants will be discussing this question. I will leave it to both of them to set the specific parameters. Given my lack of time available to contribute to this site, i’m thankful for these two in bringing some activity here!
Here’s a recording of a presentation I did this morning at a men’s meeting. It was about an hour of presentation and about 30 minutes of Q&A at the end. I also included the handout below. I hope this is helpful to you!
In the October 1, 2014 Watchtower, a “conversation article” is published whereby a Jehovah’s Witness discusses 1914 with his neighbor. It was obviously not a real discussion, but described as a “typical conversation” nonetheless. While the neighbor is nowhere near as skeptical as myself, he still asked some decent questions. In fact, many of the questions are ones that I would ask! The problem is, the answers provided by the JW were quite problematic. I would encourage you to read the article for yourself before proceeding here. It begins on page 10 and goes to 13. Since the article is “part 1,” I assume there will at least be a part 2.
Rather than interacting with the “conversation” directly, I would like to create a conversation of my own; using some of the specific arguments and answers provided by the JW. The difference is, the non-JW will not only ask good questions; he’ll provide rebuttals to the JW answers. While it’s difficult to create a fictitious “real life” conversation, I will do my best to emulate one based my history of discussions with JW apologists. In honor of my favorite JW apologist, “Fred Torres,” I will use “Fred” as the name for my fictitious JW apologist and “Carl” for the Christian apologist (i’ll let you figure out where Carl came from).
Fred: Carl, it was great to meet with you for the first time last week. I enjoyed getting to know about your life, family, and especially your religious background. You did mention that you had done some research on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past. Am I right on that?
Carl: Yes, i’ve done quite a bit of research, both from JW and non-JW sources. I’ve always been interested in the major religious groups who claim the title “Christian” for themselves. The JW’s are certainly “up there” in terms of worldwide influence and worthy of investigation.
Fred: I’m assuming then, after all the research you’ve done, you have some hangups regarding our teachings?
Carl: As a matter of fact, I do. Unfortunately, when I try to point out some of these doctrinal problems, JW’s often retreat and want nothing to do with me. I’m hoping that won’t be the case with you?
Fred: Not at all. I’m sorry you had some negative experiences in the past with the JW’s. I can assure you that our leaders encourage us not to avoid challenges to our faith.
Carl: Well that’s good to hear. Mind if I ask you some questions about your doctrine then?
Fred: Go right ahead!
Carl: Great! What is it that you find to be so “biblical” about the year 1914? In my opinion, it seems to be an unnecessarily complex chronological system that no one could figure out, even if they spent decades studying the Bible.
Fred: First of all, JW’s do not believe that Christians should separate themselves from the teachings of the FDS. Just like the first century, we need a Governing Body to keep us unified. And this means teaching us what the Bible says. So I can say with confidence that all of our beliefs are backed up with Scripture, due to years of in-depth research by the Watchtower Society.
Carl: Well i’m glad you seek to defend your beliefs with the Bible, but what i’m curious about is how you derive 1914 from the Bible? After all, aren’t you always arguing that the Trinity isn’t in the Bible?
Fred: I suppose you’re right about that. But the difference is, I can prove from the Bible that 1914 is when God’s Kingdom started ruling. Unfortunately for you, this cannot be done with the Trinity; whether the word can be found or not. So let’s start with Daniel chapter 4. Are you familiar with the story?
Carl: Yes, this is the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
Fred: Since you seem to have already studied our arguments to some depth, I assume then that you understand why we interpret this dream the way we do?
Carl: Yes, but I don’t quite understand why you think there are two fulfillments of this dream? I think that only a preconceived theological agenda could come up with such a conclusion.
Fred: On the contrary, I think there are some very compelling reasons as to why there should be two fulfillments of this dream. But before I move on, can you tell me what you think we believe the two fulfillments are?
Carl: If I understand your beliefs correctly, the first fulfillment happened when King Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership was interrupted and the second has to do with the interruption of God’s rulership.
Fred: That’s correct. So let’s talk about the second fulfillment since i’m sure we agree on the first. What does your Bible say in Daniel 4:17?
Carl: “This sentence is by decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Fred: Thank you. What do you think about the phrase, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind?” Don’t you think this is talking about more than just Nebuchadnezzar?
Carl: Of course the dream has implications for more than just Nebuchadnezzar, but what makes you think this is referring to an event taking place thousands of years later?
Fred: Well, it’s talking about God’s rulership over mankind, right?
Carl: Of course. Jehovah has always been the sovereign ruler over mankind. Wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: Yes, but 4:17 is specific in that “the living” may know this. In addition, the dream involves “the realm” or “kingdom of mankind.”
Carl: That’s correct, but does this text mention anything about mankind recognizing Jehovah’s rulership?
Fred: Sure it does. Who else would “the living” be?
Carl: If you think this is universal, then you are reading more into the text that is actually there. Mind if I ask you about a few texts to better explain my point?
Fred: Please do.
Carl: Ok. Who is said to recognize the “granduer which [God] bestowed on him” according to Daniel 5:19?
Fred: It says, “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”
Carl: And didn’t all these ones tremble before Nebuchadnezzar because of his ruthless power?
Carl: Well then, wouldn’t you say that Nebuchadnezzar’s being “driven away from mankind”, his restoration and recognition of God’s sovereignty would be known by his people? After all, doesn’t Nebuchadnezzar say, “And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.” (4:36) The next verse is the kicker: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (4:37) So wouldn’t you think Nebuchadnezzar’s people now recognized who was really in sovereign control given how openly he proclaimed these things?
Fred: I see your point, but…
Carl: Let me just show you one more point really quick if you don’t mind…
Fred: Go ahead.
Carl: What do you think Daniel 2:21 means when it says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding?”
Fred: Basically, Jehovah is in charge even of kings!
Carl: That’s right! So my point is that “the living” mentioned in 4:17 most certainly have, do, and will know that Jehovah is the ruler of all mankind. Nebuchadnezzar’s exile and restoration is just one of countless examples of this. How many times beyond Nebuchadnezzar did kings and people of many nations recognize God’s sovereignty? Probably a great many, wouldn’t you agree?
Fred: I see your point, but our argument regarding a dual fulfillment isn’t based on one verse. Daniel 2:44 and 7:13-14 teach that God’s kingdom will have a global rulership.
Carl: I completely agree with that. God’s kingdom certainly will put an end to all the worldly kingdoms. But what does this have to do with a dual fulfillment in Daniel 4?
Fred: Well, it just goes to show that the prophecies are universal.
Carl: But those prophecies aren’t talking about Daniel 4 are they? Doesn’t Daniel 4 have it’s own context? After all, 4:28 says that “all this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” Well, did it or didn’t it?
Fred: Of course it did, but due to the fact that Daniel 2:33, 7:13-14 and other places speak of a universal kingdom, then this must be the context of Daniel 4 as well.
Carl: Ok, let’s say I agree with you for the sake of argument. Where is the connection with 1914, even if Daniel 4 is speaking of a universal recognition of the kingdom? I’m leaning towards the idea that God’s kingdom was not universally recognized in 1914 any more than it was in 1913.
Fred: We interpret the interruption of the king’s rulership as a second fulfillment of the prophecy. So God’s rulership will be interrupted for a period of time. This is what we believe happened in 607 BCE when God’s rulership was interrupted when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites. Therefore, the “seven times” from Daniel 4 began it’s second fulfillment. At the end of this time period, God’s kingdom would begin to rule again.
Carl: Wow, you really know how to open up a can of worms don’t you?
Fred: What do you mean? Everything I just stated can be proven from the Scriptures.
Carl: I think you take it for granted that you can import so many theological assumptions into a few sentences. You’d have the same reaction if I did the same for some of my beliefs, and rightly so! At any rate, we would really need to take the time to unpack each of those ideas, though i’m unpersuaded that Daniel 4 has a dual fulfillment. Furthermore, i’m surprised such a complex and speculative doctrine can have such an important role in your religion’s doctrine. And you thought the Trinity was unnecessary!
Fred: I understand where you’re coming from, but we really do have a solid grasp on this doctrine and why it can be backed up Scripturally. However, we do need to get together again to discuss it further; especially why the “seven times” can lead us from 607 BCE to 1914.
Carl: That sounds great and i’m looking forward to it!
…to be continued
As some of you may or may not know, i’m sometimes involved in discipling and answering questions from those who have left or are in the process of leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a humbling priviledge and something I am very happy to do. Just recently, however, i’ve learned of a great need that I couldn’t possibly accomplish on my own. That is, we need a network. We need a network of informed Christians who not only know their theology really well, but Jehovah’s Witness theology too.
Let me use a recent contact as an example. I was contacted by a gentlemen who had been disfellowshipped from the organization for various reasons. Obviously, this would include a relatively lengthy period of shunning. Even if he were to return in repentance, he didn’t feel that he would be welcomed, given a chance to really explain himself, and would have to undergo a period of time whereby he would be given a minimal amount of contact with the congregation. Obviously, I can’t verify everything that is going on and can only take him at his word.
But here’s the bottom line: he feels extremely condemend, has major doubts regarding some JW doctrine, desires to know the truth on what the Bible teaches, and wants a community of believers.
I’ve spent a number of hours with him on the phone and doing my best to answer his questions. But this really isn’t going to cut it. What he needs is an individual who can meet with him, disciple him, answer his questions, and get him plugged in with a local community of Christians. Unfortunately, I simply cannot provide this to him at this time.
I’m guessing that there are many more out there like him; JW’s who have been disfellowshipped or exited who want help. As many of us know, a lot of these ones end up abandoning anything spiritual or religious altogether. I don’t want that to happen if I can help it. These need to be treated with compassion and given truth in hopes that they will embrace the gospel.
Ideally, here is what I would propose unless such a thing exists already. A website that lists trusted contacts in all the major cities in the US (maybe even internationally too?). I would propose that each contact meet a set of qualifications. While I haven’t thought about the specifics yet, each contact would be capable of discipleship, know their theology well, belong to a local fellowship, hold to a particular statement of faith (not yet established), has experience with the JW’s, and knows JW theology well. This would simply be a list that is categorized by city where anyone could visit this website and find someone who is willing to sit down with them in public. Assuming I would qualify, I would be one such person in the Atlanta area.
I’m sure some would suggest that there are already such sites out there. I’ve seen many of these and found them to beneficial in some respects. But here are some of the shortcomings i’ve seen:
- It’s filled with Christians and non-Christians
- A lot of these are simply discussion forums
- It might be discouraging for someone who is desparate for help.
- Not everyone is vulnerable enough to post in a public forum.
- There’s no telling how good or bad the forum’s theology might be.
- It could do more harm than good. What if they found someone in a forum who is a very bitter ex-JW; or worse, an atheist who leads them away from Christ?
I’m sure I could think of more, but I am thinking of a place with a much more specific filter. Think about how beneficial this could be! Knowledgeable Christians all over the country who are readily available to help disciple ex-JW’s!
I would propose a URL that is very simple: http://www.jwhelp.org or something similar.
I’m very open to ideas. Who wants to help get this going? Either contact me directly using the contact tab at the top or leave your comments here.
Before we delve into Matthew 11:11, let’s briefly go over the Watchtower’s two-class theology. They teach that all Jehovah’s Witnesses will be eternally separated into two metaphysically distinct locations: heaven or earth. The anointed 144,000 of Revelation 7 will rule and reign with Christ in heaven while the remaining “great crowd” live on paradise earth. As it relates to those who lived before Christ, like Abraham or John the Baptist, they will be resurrected to live on paradise earth.
Matthew 11:11 is one of the primary texts by which Jehovah’s Witnesses exclude the Old Covenant Jews from a location in heaven:
Truly I say to you, among those born of a woman there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The Watchtower interprets this verse as follows:
Jesus is here showing that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom, since a lesser one there is greater than John. John prepared the way for Jesus but dies before Christ seals the covenant, or agreement, with his disciples, for them to be corulers with him in his Kingdom. That is why Jesus says that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom. John will instead be an earthly subject of God’s Kingdom.
Much can be said about the basis for which the “anointed class” spends eternity in heaven. I’ve analyzed some of the Watchtower arguments HERE. But there’s one thing I need to make clear: I do not believe that any Christian will spend eternity in heaven as a metaphysically distinct location from earth. Space will not allow me to elaborate, but my debate with Fred Torres goes over these issues in a lot of detail in addition to my appearance on Chris Date’s Theopologetics podcast HERE and HERE.
With that said, i’ll provide a counter explanation of Matthew 11:11. John the Baptist is a transitional figure between two orders, as Matthew 11:13-14 point out, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” From a human perspective, no one greater than John has ever been born (i.e. born of a woman). That is, no one in the Old Covenant has surpassed John in order of importance. However, the intended greatness is the incomparable greatness of the kingdom to this present age rather than one individual verses another. So the contrast then is not between individuals, but eras or ages.
Keep in mind another point: no one is of yet in the fullness of the kingdom. Christ has not yet returned (Acts 3:21) and the resurrection has not taken place. Jesus is saying that even the greatest person in the present age (which includes anyone from John to those alive today) will be lesser than “the least” in the age to come; that is, the age in which the kingdom has come in it’s fullness (Daniel 2:35).
This contrast is clearly expressed in Mark 10:30-31,
“He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brother and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.“
Notice that Jesus doesn’t exclude anyone from the “age to come.” But what’s even more noteworthy is that individuals aren’t being contrasted. Instead, Jesus presents a condition by which someone in this age will be positionally different in this age verses the age to come. This works quite well as an interpretive means of understanding Matthew 11:11. That is, the “last” in this present age will be “first” in the age to come. But in no way does this mean that the “last” won’t be in the age to come, which is seemingly what the Watchtower is arguing.
But is John being excluded from the kingdom in the age to come? Certainly not. Notice that Jesus doesn’t make any distinction between a kingdom on earth and a kingdom in heaven. It is simply the “kingdom of heaven.” If the Watchtower is prepared to interpret “kingdom of heaven” as “kingdom in heaven”, then there will be some difficulty in explaining the following passage:
“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11)
Notice that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (surely, this would include John the Baptist) will be in the kingdom of heaven. While I have every reason to believe this will be a location on earth, it doesn’t fit with the Watchtower explanation that, “John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom.” For a full discussion of the Watchtower explanation on this verse, go HERE.
To summarize, Jesus is talking about this age (i.e. where John the Baptist is the greatest) and the age to come (i.e. where everyone will be greater than those in the previous age). The Watchtower explanation is wrong because it fails to contrast the ages.
Rotherham’s arguments are more directly related to THIS POST, but COMMENTED ON the article, “Did the Watchtower’s ‘Faithful Slave’ claim the Holy Spirit’s functions ceased?”
I would recommended reading Rotherham’s comment before proceeding to read my critique. I’m posting this here rather than the comment section because it highlights many of the common responses JW apologists offer. I hope this will be helpful to those who engage with JW’s and challenge the authority of the Watchtower. The key thing to keep in mind is: are they consistent with their own claims?
Another noteworthy concern is when JW apologists will create parallels between their “spirit directed” leaders who make a lot of mistakes and certain persons or groups portrayed in the Scriptures. These parallels must be challenged, as I hope to do below.
“But the claim is further made by opposers that Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be Jehovah’s organization directed by His holy spirit and His son because they have in the past made interpretations, pointed to certain dates, and taught teachings that were proven to be wrong or were later corrected. Jehovah’s spirit is never wrong. Jesus is never wrong. Then how can it be that Jehovah’s Witnesses are directed by Jehovah and Jesus? ‘Impossible!’ opposers say.”
This is only a part of it. It would actually be nice if JW apologists quoted from a source rather than provide hearsay. We quote from the Watchtower all the time, so it would be nice to get the same in return. I say this because I don’t know of an “opposer” (perhaps I should call JW apologists “opposers”?) who makes this argument. Perhaps Rotherham has.
Anyway, it’s not simply the claim:
I. The Governing Body claims to be spirit-led
II. The Governing Body makes mistakes
III. Therefore, the Governing Body is not spirit-led
The objection is actually much more precise:
I. The Watchtower publications are spirit-directed (i.e. directed by Jehovah)
II. The Watchtower publications contains doctrines A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc.
III. Everything published in the Watchtower is directed by Jehovah, including doctrines A, B, C, etc.
IV. Doctrines A, C, F, G have been shown to be unquestionably false
V. Jehovah directed the false doctrines A, C, F, G, etc.
VI. Therefore, Jehovah directs false doctrines.
It’s one thing to claim a spirit-leading in areas of sanctification (Rom. 8:16), but another to claim that all of your published works are directed by Jehovah as Jehovah’s voice, sole channel of communication, etc. In addition, because these publications are spirit-led from God’s sole channel of communication, you must believe everything they teach.
Another point. We all agree that the spirit did not lead the Governing Body to publish false doctrines, such as the ceasing work of the spirit. But if the spirit wasn’t leading them to teach this, then who was?
But would anybody make the same argument about the seven congregations that John wrote letters to in the book of Revelation? Take a look at all their problems stated in the letters:
“you have left the love you had at first….
you have there those holding fast the teaching of Ba´laam, … to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication….
you, also, have those holding fast the teaching of the sect of Nic·o·la´us likewise…
you tolerate that woman Jez´e·bel, … and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols….
I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead….
I have not found your deeds fully performed before my God….
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.
you say: “I am rich and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,” but you do not know you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire that you may become rich, and white outer garments that you may become dressed and that the shame of your nakedness may not become manifested, and eyesalve to rub in your eyes that you may see.”
Someone could very well say of those seven congregations: ‘Can you believe that this is God’s organization? They certainly can’t be spirit directed. They certainly do not have Jesus as their leader. There is no way that these congregations make up God’s organization.’
This is apples to oranges. Was anyone in any of these congregations making the same claims as the Governing Body? If not, then how is this even a close parallel?
But they would be dead wrong. Why? Take note of these verses which show who is in the midst of the congregations directing them:
Revelation 1:12 “And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me, and, having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands someone like a son of man, …20 As for the sacred secret of the seven stars that you saw upon my right hand, and [of] the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean [the] angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.”
And take note that to each congregation it is said: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”
Obviously the seven congregations which were composed of God’s people, yes, His organization, were directed by Jesus and God’s holy spirit and yet they had many problems. How can this be? Jesus and the holy spirit can’t make mistakes.
Again, there is a big difference here. As far as any kind of parallel goes, this is a far cry from these congregation leaders coming together and saying what the Governing Body says of themselves. If these congregations were publishing works that were directed by Jehovah and must be absolutely believed, then there may be a point.
Just because a person or a group of persons are directed by God’s spirit does not mean that they will always follow the leadings of God’s spirit. Moses didn’t. David didn’t. The Israelites didn’t. The apostles didn’t. At times they failed to follow the guidance of God’s spirit which led to incorrect thinking or actions. And so there is a difference in being spirit directed and spirit inspired. Persons who were inspired by holy spirit to write the Bible did not make mistakes in those writings. However, these same persons, who were spirit directed, did not always follow exactly the leadings of God’s spirit and so they did make mistakes.
Again, we have to make a distinction. Moses never claimed that X was spirit led and then later realized that X was false. No one is denying that simply because they are “spirit led” in very specific ways (i.e. inspiration to write the Scriptures) that they cannot make mistakes in other ways (i.e. committing adultery). If Rotherham is going to find a parallel, it really needs to be on the same grounds. However, he’s not going to find a biblical parallel because the Bible does not offer support for the Governing Body’s claims for themselves: uninspired, error-prone men, who demand absolute obedience to everything they put in print.
The Watchtower publications have not been written under inspiration of the holy spirit and so at times the things written may have to be corrected.
I find this claim to be quite interesting. Do JW’s really read the Watchtower thinking to themselves, “Well, I know this isn’t inspired and may very well have some mistakes that need to be corrected.” I don’t think so. Even if the Watchtower published something completely foolish and silly (which they have a number of times), it is expected that the JW believe it and not think to themselves, “this may have to be corrected.” If a JW thinks this, he is wrong because the Governing Body knows better than them. This is the case even when the JW is right.
“By no means does this prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not spirit directed. The very fact that they have made the changes and corrected wrong teachings or ideas is proof that they are directed by holy spirit. Other religions simply have not followed this example. They continue to teach the same old Babylonish falsehoods and follow the same old pagan practices. Not so Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just look at the changes JWs have made! We can only conclude then that out of all the religious organizations on earth today, it is only Jehovah’s Witnesses who are truly directed by Jehovah’s holy spirit.”
This is a very weak argument and is actually self-defeating. What if a JW made this claim in 1920 after reading the “Finished Mystery”? Would it stand? Surely not, because the Watchtower was then teaching a great deal of complete falsehoods that had not yet been corrected. How do JW’s today know that they’ve abandoned all falsehoods? They don’t. So it looks like Rotherham is giving the Watchtower a free pass for their history of false teachings. Remember: just because you’ve changed a belief doesn’t mean that change is in the right direction. Many times, the Watchtower has changed beliefs that went in the wrong direction. So why wouldn’t this be an argument against the Watchtower?
Even putting this aside, it’s really just a poor argument. Just because a religious group changed their beliefs does not prove they are directed by Jehovah. If anything, it might prove that they are extremely fallible, error-prone, not reliable, and therefore not trustworthy. Given their track record, I would say this is the case.
Here’s my alternative and positive commendation: study the Scriptures for yourselves and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) This includes everyone from JW apologists like Rotherham to his leaders to even your own pastor. If anyone teaches what is contrary to the Scriptures, do not believe them. This includes everything from essential doctrines to peripheral ones. Don’t simply assume that they know better than you, because they may not. This is why even the apostle Paul had to declare, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8)
While this issue has a complex history and much can be written, I want to keep this as simple as possible. Let’s first cover what the Watchtower has stated regarding the work of the Holy Spirit since 1919:
*** ip-1 chap. 25 p. 340 par. 20 The King and His Princes ***
Happily, since 1919, Jehovah’s spirit has been poured out in abundance upon his people, restoring, as it were, a fruit-bearing orchard of anointed Witnesses, to be followed by an expanding forest of other sheep.
*** kj chap. 11 p. 208 par. 34 Disappointment in Store for Overconfident Ones ***
These anointed spiritual Israelites Jehovah has purified still more since their deliverance from Babylonish bondage in 1919 C.E. Under the guidance of his holy spirit these restored ones have done just as he foretold: “They will certainly come there and remove all its disgusting things and all its detestable things out of it.”
*** w63 11/1 p. 658 par. 12 How All Scripture Inspired of God is Beneficial ***
Since the close of World War I in 1918 we students of God’s Word have needed the assistance of God’s spirit just as much as those first Christians did on that day of Pentecost of A.D. 33. Otherwise we could not have discerned the marvelous fulfillment of the Bible prophecies giving proof to our eyes, minds and hearts that God’s Messianic kingdom was established in heaven A.D. 1914 to put down all God’s enemies and to give mankind a perfect government of righteousness.
What’s interesting is the manner in which Judge Rutherford, who is now considered to be or part of the Governing Body during his time of leadership, speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit.
“But when the Lord Jesus comes to his temple and gathers his approved ones into the temple, is there any further need for the office of the holy spirit as a helper and advocate? If not, then the advocacy of the holy spirit would there cease. Jesus, being in the temple and with his chosen ones, would act for them directly.” (Watchtower, September 1, 1930 p. 263)
“It would seem that there would be no necessity for the ‘servant’ to have an advocate such as the holy spirit, because the ‘servant’ to have an advocate is in direct communication with Jehovah and as Jehovah’s instrument, and Christ Jesus acts for the entire body.” (p. 263)
“‘The servant’ is anointed to do a specific work. ‘The servant’ is made up of Christ Jesus the Head, the resurrected saints, and the called and chosen ones on the earth who have been brought into the temple and who have entered into the joy of the Lord. Individually those of the remnant on earth must have their standing before God in the beloved One Christ Jesus, and the beloved One is their advocate. Being in the temple, however, there would seem to be no good reason why there should be an advocacy in their behalf by the holy spirit, since the Lord is now with them.” (p. 263)
“When the temple class is gathered the administration of the holy spirit as an advocate, it seems, would be at an end.” (p. 263)
“The holy spirit that had been the guide of God’s people, having performed its functions, was taken away, and the Lord Jesus himself, being present, represented his people and advocated in their behalf before Jehovah God, that is, in behalf of those who had fallen into distress because of their failure to properly use their lips in proclaiming the truth.” (Salvation, 1939 p. 217)
As the above quotes consider the work of the Holy Spirit or lack thereof, below will speak to the work of angels:
“But it seems certain that when Jesus came to his temple and began his work of judgment he would direct his holy angels to take the necessary action to cause the separation of the disapproved ones from the approved ones, and would use his angels to bear messages to them to direct the approved ones as to what to do…the angels are there for this purpose, and it is not the demonstration of the parakletos or holy spirit as a helper that directs men to do the separating work. If the holy spirit as a helper were directing the work, then there would be no good reason for employing the angels.” (p. 263)
“Instead of the ‘servant’s’ being moved into action by the operation of the holy spirit as a helper, the Scriptures seem clearly to teach that the Lord directs his angels what to do and that they act under the supervision of the Lord in directing the remnant on earth concerning the course of action to take. -Rev. 8:1-7″ (p. 263)
“It was the holy spirit that operated upon the minds of men in the early church to take certain action; but now the Lord Jesus himself has returned, is in his temple, and, acting by and through his holy angels, puts it into the mind and heart of the remnant class to take positive action to do a certain work; and this work has been going on, especially since 1922.” (p. 263)
“After the holy spirit as an advocate or paraclete ceased to function in behalf of the consecrated, then the angels are employed in behalf of those who are being made ready for the kingdom. ‘For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all they ways’ -Ps. 91:11″ (Preservation, 1932 p. 51-52)
“By his spirit, the holy spirit, Jehovah God guides or leads his people up to a certain point of time, and thus he did until the time when ‘the comforter’ was taken away, which would necessarily occur when Jesus, the Head of his organization, came to the temple and gathered unto himself those whom he found faithful when he, as the great Judge, began his judgment, in 1918.” (p. 193-194)
It seems undoubtedly clear that the angels replaced or took over the work of the holy spirit; the same work that took place in the early church. Therefore, it could be said that the holy spirit would no longer direct as he once did, and this would be given over to angels.
In light of these claims, it seems very difficult to justify the Watchtower’s current claims of the Holy Spirit guiding and directing the Governing Body when they argued in the 1930’s that this work had ceased. Therefore, let us consider a few questions:
1. Was the holy spirit directing the work of Judge Rutherford even though he denied it?
2. How could you be directed by the Holy Spirit and not know it?
3. Would Jesus Christ have chosen the Faithful Slave in 1918-1919, knowing full well that they would deny the directing work of the holy spirit?
4. When did the Governing Body abandon the false teaching of the holy spirit’s ceasing work in 1918? Did they make this abandonment clear?
5. Did the Watchtower ever make a sincere apology for their false teaching and leading other astray?
6. What about those faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses who died believing that the Holy Spirit’s role had ceased? Was their salvation lost as a result of believing such an absurdly false doctrine?
7. If the Watchtower can teach something so detrimental and false, what guarantee do you have that they can’t teach such falsities today?
If i’ve somehow misinterpreted or taken out of context Rutherford’s view of the holy spirit’s cessation, then i’m happy to be corrected. I’d welcome anyone to check the contexts of the quotes above and see for themselves what Rutherford was teaching. Therefore, i’ve posted the scans of the relevant pages in the links below:
We all know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have denied claims of inspiration. For example:
In most ways Jehovah’s Witnesses are like everyone else. They have normal problems—economic, physical, emotional. They make mistakes at times, for they are not perfect, inspired, or infallible. But they try to learn from their experiences and diligently study the Bible to make needed corrections. They have made a dedication to God to do his will, and they apply themselves to fulfill this dedication. In all their activities they seek guidance from God’s Word and his holy spirit. (jt pp. 3-5)
While the Watchtower doesn’t mention the Governing Body, i’m sure all JW’s will claim that they too are “not perfect, inspired, or infallible.” Yet, the Governing Body is constantly making claims that suggest otherwise. Take, for instance, the following statement as found in the August 15, 2014 Watchtower Study Edition:
Today, Jehovah guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.” ’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9. (p. 21)
While this is nothing new, I think it would help to contrast their claims of non-inspiration with their claims of guidance from Jehovah. What are we to make of this?
Consider the above quotation along with a few insertions:
Today, Jehovah [infallibly] guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The [inspired, infallible] guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.” ’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also [infallibly] conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he [infallibly] directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this [infallible, inspired] guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9. (p. 21)
What guidance is being referred to here? Are they referring to the guidance offered by the Governing Body through the Watchtower publications? Indeed! The Watchtower assures us that they are fallible, non-inspired, and make errors just like anyone else. Yet, they claim the guidance they provide is from Jehovah’s.
Before we jump to too many conclusions here, let’s see how the Watchtower has applied “spirit direction” and “spirit leading” in times past:
*** w72 3/1 p. 139 par. 20 How to Stand Firm in This Time of the End ***
In order to assist us to acknowledge the provision of strength to stand against an archenemy, we might look to the fine spirit-directed counsel that Paul wrote to the Christian congregation living in the wicked city of Ephesus.
*** w03 5/15 p. 15 par. 1 Listen to What the Spirit Says! ***
JEHOVAH’S servants must pay attention to the spirit-directed words of Jesus Christ to the seven congregations named in the Bible book of Revelation. Indeed, each of these messages contains this counsel: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
*** w79 2/15 p. 17 par. 4 Visits from Older Men Benefit God’s People ***
But now the receipt by the Antioch congregation of a spirit-directed letter, coupled with this visit of the two “prophets,” had settled the matter. The congregation had reason to rejoice.—Acts 15:2, 22-31.
There is no denying the fact that “spirit-directed counsel” is synonymous with “inspired counsel” in these cases. Yet, I foresee an objection from the JW that may go as follows: “While ‘spirit-directed’ in these context refers to inspired revelation, not all contexts of ‘spirit-direction’ is necessarily meant to imply inspired revelation.”
Our speaking with boldness and our using the Word of God skillfully in the ministry demonstrate that we are directed by God’s spirit. That spirit also plays an important part in our having a regular share in the Kingdom-preaching work. (w10 2/15 pp. 14-18)
17 We are wise to take stock of ourselves to be sure that our words and actions give evidence that we are directed by holy spirit and are producing its fruitage. (2 Cor. 13:5a; Gal. 5:25) If we see that we need to cultivate some aspects of the fruitage of the spirit, we can cooperate with holy spirit to a greater degree in producing such qualities. We do this by studying each aspect as it is revealed through the pages of the Bible and discussed in our Christian publications. Thus we can discern how the spirit’s fruitage should be manifested in our everyday life and then work to cultivate it to a greater extent.* As we observe the results of the operation of God’s spirit in our own life as well as in the lives of our fellow Christians, we clearly see why we must be guided by it. (w11 12/15 pp. 13-17)
While there is some sense of spirit direction in play here for all Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t think this is a parallel. Insofar as what the Watchtower speaks of spirit direction, it is in the context of it’s very words. It would be like a JW leaving a comment on the blog saying something like, “The spirit has directed me to utter the following words, which you are to believe with absolute, unquestionable obedience…” While such a statement doesn’t explicitly state inspiration, it strongly implies it.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand. The Watchtower has unequivocally stated that the spirit directs and guides us through the Faithful Slave. And as a result, we must listen to this guidance as our very salvation depends on it! If the Governing Body are simply fallible men who make mistakes like anyone else, then it follows that Jehovah’s direction must likewise be fallible. Otherwise, should I take the Watchtower’s advice as fallible and uninspired or not?
I would also like to consider the manner in which Jehovah and His spirit is supposedly guiding the Governing Body. Is it through the Scriptures only? Or is there some other means of communication in play? The Watchtower does not tell us, so we can’t speculate. However, such a mechanism would be very important to know since they expect me to accept whatever they say as unquestionably authoritative and as a result of Jehovah’s direction. Unfortunately for the Watchtower, it’s hard for me to accept such direction when it has contained much error in times past. Therefore, I have every reason to question and challenge what the Watchtower teaches, just as every thoughtful JW should do.
In the August 15, 2014 Watchtower Study Edition, the Watchtower addresses some interesting points as it relates to reading the Bible when someone has less access to the Watchtower publications than others.
Since the appointment of the faithful slave in 1919, millions of “domestics” of all languages have been gathered into God’s organization and are being spiritually fed. (Matt. 24:14; Rev. 22:17) However, the same amount of material is not available in all languages, and not all individuals have access to the electronic forms of our publications. For example, many do not have the videos and the articles published only on jw.org. Does this mean that some miss out on receiving the food they need to remain spiritually healthy? (p. 3)
This is similar to the questions many of us have been asking for quite some time:
- If we can’t understand the Bible without the Watchtower, then what about those JW’s who have little to no access to the Watchtower?
- If we have to have the Watchtower to understand the Bible, then how did the Watchtower come to understand the Bible?
- If we have to have the Watchtower to understand the Bible, then how do we know that is biblical? Wouldn’t this be circular reasoning?
Also, consider a realistic scenario. A Jehovah’s Witness is thrown into prison for many years. After several weeks with no contact, a few strings are pulled and a Bible is provided by a friend. Never again will this JW receive Watchtower publications. Like i’m sure any JW would do, this JW spends countless hours reading the Bible. In fact, he is able to read the entire Bible through once a month while carefully studying it’s contents.
Surely, such a JW has made quite a bit of progress! While I would never advocate that a Christian should intentionally avoid fellowship with other believers, I submit that the above scenario would not inevitably result in poor spiritual growth and false doctrine. Unfortunately, the Watchtower would not agree that such a circumstance would result in spiritual progress. If anything, it must be worse for him!
For a person to develop strong faith, he needs to do more than read the Bible. He must understand what he reads and apply what he learns. (Jas. 1:22-25) An Ethiopian eunuch in the ﬁrst century appreciated that fact. He was looking at God’s Word when the evangelizer Philip asked him: “Do you actually know what you are reading?” The eunuch replied: “Really, how could I ever do so unless someone guided me?” (Acts 8: 26-31) Philip responded by helping the eunuch gain an accurate knowledge of God’s Word. The eunuch was so moved by what he learned that he got baptized. (Acts 8:32-38) Similarly, our Bible based publications have helped us gain an accurate knowledge of the truth. They have touched our emotions and have motivated us to apply what we learn.—Col. 1:9, 10. (p. 4)
While I would certainly advocate helping others to understand the Bible, this isn’t the full picture. First, the Ethiopian eunuch did not have the inspired Christian Scriptures. This is an important distinction because they were necessary to understand the Hebrew Scriptures, especially where it related to the Messiah. Those in the early church were dependent on inspired revelation to understand the full scope of the Hebrew Scriptures and what they said in regards to the Messiah.
But even aside from this, the Watchtower is much more than simply a “Bible study aid”; it is an authoritative voice which demands the absolute unquestioning obedience of all Christians. In fact, without this authoritative voice, you can’t even understand the Scriptures. Thus, the Watchtower should be termed a “Bible study requirement.”
Next, the Watchtower asks, “If you do not have access in your language to all the publications that are produced, will you become spiritually undernourished?”
While they correctly answer “no” and provide some qualifications, I found this section to be quite interesting. First, this probably isn’t in relation to those who have little to no access to the publications. Instead, it’s in reference to those who may not get every publication as opposed to, let’s say, someone living in the United States. I’m sure if the Watchtower provided “new light” (as found in this very issue as it relates to marriage and the resurrection), then these ones will receive this information one way or another. If i’m wrong on that, i’m sure I will be corrected.
My main concern is how those with little to no access to the publications can get along spiritually? How are they able to keep up with the organization’s doctrinal alterations? Are they less spiritual or deprived because they can’t? What if they read the Bible 5 times as much as the Governing Body members themselves? Is it possible that they could be moving ahead of the organization and abandoning false teachings before the Governing Body does? According to the Watchtower, this cannot be a good thing. Yet, this presents an interesting dilemma that isn’t addressed in this Watchtower issue.
Just recently, me and Rotherham (a JW) finished our debate. It was a written debate and took quite some time; specifically, four months. While I won’t rehash the arguments here, I wanted to address a few items. First off, if you haven’t read the debate and have any interest at all in the JW’s, then I would highly encourage you to do so. Of course, many may think that the “new light” on the Watchtower’s “Faithful Slave” doctrine could not possibly be defended. Such thinking is naive, but I do understand why many may think this. In a sense, I do see it as “indefensible,” but I also think that JW’s will defend it. Rotherham is no exception.
I must admit, I had no idea how Rotherham was going to answer many of my arguments. This is rare for me because i’ve often been able to predict how a JW might answer X, Y, or Z. This was not one of those times, and it made the debate all the more interesting.
Let’s get back to why I think you should read this debate: because JW’s have responses to these arguments. And if you’re involved in JW discussions, you will learn how to sharpen your arguments by anticipating their responses. We touched on quite a number of key issues, all of which are effected by this “new light”. So in this sense, I found the debate to be very useful. But in another sense it was far more tedious than what I was hoping.
And this brings me to another point: written debates in general. If I had the time, I would have written debates like these often. While they aren’t my method of choice, I think they are helpful and people read them (thus far, our debate has had thousands of views). Unfortunately, my life is far too busy to engage in such a debate in the near future as I know Rotherham wanted to do. I have several ministries going on right now in addition to my full time job that give me barely enough time to maintain a regular pattern of personal study, which comes before all online blogging, interaction, etc. (and let’s not forget i’m a newlywed!) Therefore, if I were to engage in such a written exchange, something would have to give. Otherwise, it could take 6 months or longer to complete.
What I would prefer to do is an audio debate, which Rotherham and most JW’s would avoid. I know why they avoid it (here’s a clue: why are JW’s almost always anonymous online, but many of us aren’t?), but I find audio/video debates to be extremely helpful for the following reasons:
- They are done in under 2 hours
- They are more personal
- It’s more difficult to back out of once the debate begins (one JW did this very thing in a debate with me)
- You are forced to answer direct questions in a cross examination (even written Q&A’s can fail in this regard)
- People who can’t read an endless forum debate may give 2 hours of audio a chance
I could go on, but audio debates are all i’m going to have time to do for the near future. But even then, these take preparation. Therefore, I’m posting a few debate topics that i’m willing to engage within maybe a months worth of preparation. However, i’m not expecting that any JW’s will agree to such an exchange, for I will require that they reveal their identity and not hide behind a nickname and avatar.