The debate is with Rotherham, who is a JW I regularly interact with here. The format is as follows:
(3) Submit 5 questions
(4) Rebuttal to answers
(5) Rebuttal to response to answers
The debate is with Rotherham, who is a JW I regularly interact with here. The format is as follows:
(3) Submit 5 questions
(4) Rebuttal to answers
(5) Rebuttal to response to answers
This is an article that I published on CARM. The link is below:
A reader contacted me and asked:
On your website you state:
“Instead, the Scriptures are clear in teaching that Christ will physically come to the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 3:21, etc.), separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33), and say to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34). Matthew 25 does not speak of two classes of believers; it speaks of two classes of persons. These two classes consist of sheep and goats. All of the sheep are believers who will all inherit the kingdom. Therefore, there is only one class of believers who will rule with Christ on the earth (Revelation 5:10).”
I don’t necessarily disagree with you however I do have one question. If all the sheep are believers who will rule with Christ on earth, who will they rule over? It seems that there will only be Kings and no subjects.
Let me state from the outset that this is a question that even the Watchtower doesn’t know the answer to. But leaving that aside, I think there are several possible answers to this question.
First, there is no denying that there will be some form of kingship where ruling and reigning will take place (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6). What we then have to determine is what the nature of that rulership is. And without explicit Scriptural support, we cannot assume that the subjects of this rulership includes Christians.
“‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;” (Revelation 2:26–27, cf: Ps. 2:6-7)
Regardless of your view on the millennium, it seems undeniable that there is some sort of rulership that takes place over non-Christians. The Watchtower takes this as referring to the anointed class sharing with Jesus the destruction of rebellious nations at Armageddon. Even if this were the only basis for rulership mentioned in Scripture, it would provide a sufficient basis to discredit the Watchtower’s insistence that rulership must take place over other Christians.
“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
“so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” (Romans 6:11–12)
These texts clearly show that reigning doesn’t necessarily indicate that human subjects are involved. Yet, it shows explicit support of what rulership entails.
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3)
“and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29–30, cf: Lk. 13:28, Mt. 8:11)
Whether these passages are referring to the judgement of non-Christians and/or Jews, they don’t necessitate a rulership of Christians over other Christians.
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Interestingly, this word used for “rule” (רָדָה radah) is also used in Psalm 110:2 of Christ: “YHWH will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” While space will not allow for a full semantic discussion of the various uses of רָדָה and how it might relate to the “ruling” and “reigning” in the Christian Scriptures, we can at least suggest that the rulership mentioned Genesis 1:28 doesn’t necessitate a ruling over other humans.
To summarize, we have listed several possibilities as to the nature of the kingship or rulership in which all Christians will have when Christ returns. These include:
Yet, the Watchtower insists that this kingship must by necessity include Christians as subjects. To my knowledge, there is no Scriptural support for this position. It appears to be something that is assumed due to what they think it means to be a king. But it is important that we let Scripture determine the meaning of words rather than our assumptions.
If anyone is interested, I added a NEW PAGE in the “articles” section on the existence of God. Most of these are videos that I made over the past few years as I began to develop my theology surrounding God’s existence and how to refute naturalism/atheism. I plan on doing much more of this and probably much less on Jehovah’s Witnesses as I continue my studies.
Why is this? Well, for starters, I never come in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses outside of the internet. This is contrary to my experiences since 2006 where I was literally encountering JW’s several times a week. This is primarily why I smothered my blog with articles on JW theology for years. And why wouldn’t I?
However, things changed when my “real life” interactions with JW’s came to a close. I was presented with opportunities to minister in other areas; namely, in teaching Christians how to defend their faith and interacting with secularists (now on a weekly basis). This is not to say that there aren’t JW’s on the internet who need to hear the truth. Quite the contrary! But sometimes its also good to bloom where we’re planted and use our gifts to their fullest potential. So it might be well and good to be digging into the newest Watchtower study edition and interacting with the articles therein (which i’m sure i’ll still do on noteworthy articles). But it might be even better to be focusing on the areas in which i’m being provided more opportunities to equip Christians and share the gospel with non-Christians.
With that said, there will certainly be a change of direction in my studies and the articles on this site. And I will also say this: there will probably be more time studying and writing and less time debating in the comment sections. Sometimes the latter is necessary and helpful, but there has to be a balance since some of us have very limited time.
I realize that I left a few things hanging (in particular, my discussions with Rotherham), and maybe i’ll come back to those in the future. But for now, I hope that at least a few people out there are getting something out of this.
While not an “official” publication by the Watchtower, THIS ARTICLE appears to reflect the attitude of many JW’s as they consider former Governing Body member Ray Franz and his books. While there may be other books he’s written that i’m not aware of, the most prominent are CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE and IN SEARCH OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM. The purpose of this post isn’t to defend everything Franz has said or published (as i’m sure i’d disagree with him on quite a bit), but to consider some common understandings that many JW’s might have towards he and other so-called “apostates.”
The ARTICLE in question considers the question, “If a member of the Governing Body leaves, does that mean that the organization is a ‘failure?’” While i’m sure there are some who have asked this question, it’s not one that I find to be an issue even if the JW religion is true. And for the purposes of this post, i’m only going to address the points related to those who have left the JW religion and/or written books critical of the Watchtower.
Ray Franz was just a person who sought to promote himself rather than his Lord Jesus Christ. And he secretively tried to insert his own contrary ideas into Scriptural truth. When he was called to account by his fellow Christians he refused to correct himself. He continued to be admonished and attempts were made to resolve his perceived issues until all efforts failed. Being unwilling to repent and seeing the “writing on the wall” he “left” the organization and published his self-serving and twisted version of the facts. His personal opinions simply reflect his own prideful animus and require others to have an ignorance of the Scriptures (2Pe 2:17-22).
While he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses he worked without payment and only for room and board. But after he was kicked out for his prominence seeking, he made money and gained personal prestige by writing against the Witnesses. He had to go promote himself to those who were used to a clergy class to find people gullible enough to buy his books so he could make a profit off his ideas. I think I will trust someone without such a strong personal motive.
These two paragraphs are quite loaded with assertions. But that’s what they are: assertions and little more. One who reads Franz’ own testimony of what really happened in “Crisis of Conscience” would hear a completely different story…along with documentation. While i’m open to a critique of Franz’ documentation, it does very little to simply dismiss him as a self-serving, prideful and greedy apostate.
At the same time, Ray Franz’ teachings are being repeatedly disproved even on this forum. Anyone who would “buy into” Ray Franz’s story clearly will believe ANYTHING no matter what the facts are!!
I’m not sure what forum is being spoken of here and i’m very curious to see where Franz has been “repeatedly disproved.” But i’m more curious as to why these JW’s are reading “apostate literature” in the first place? Isn’t this something that is expressly forbidden by the Watchtower? This is a very common way for JW’s to deal with so-called “apostates”: pose ad hominems and accuse of twisting the facts, but to never actual read this literature to which they are referencing. Why? Because it’s against their convictions.
At least non-JW’s such as myself can be consistent here. That is, I can read someone like Bart Erhman (who I would definitely consider an apostate) and actually deal with what he’s written in good conscience. Why? Because I recognize that he has influenced a multitude and I would love to offer the truth to someone who has been misled by him. However, a JW couldn’t really do this with Franz. Yes, they could assert that he is a greedy apostate who twists the facts, but they couldn’t actually deal with what he’s written in hopes of helping someone who has been misled by him. On the other hand, I suppose they could just dismiss all apostates as being greedy twisters of the facts and teach the misled persons that this is always the case.
But I don’t even think that about Bart Ehrman! In fact, I think that Ehrman is a very sharp scholar and is impecable on most of his facts. Where I differ with him is on his conclusions and presuppositions.
Ray Franz and others like him left a vibrant, growing, active and truly Christian organization. Now they have withered up and become just like any other cult leader in Christendom. They have nothing to offer.
How so? What is “every cult leader in Christendom” like? This is certainly some very emotionally charged language and quite unconvincing at that. Also, i’m surprised at the use of “cult” here. What makes Franz a “cult leader” and the JW Governing Body not? I would also beg to differ on having “nothing to offer.” Franz has offered hope when there was no hope by those who were hurt by the oppressive shunning policies of the JW religion. And what was this hope? Pointing them to Jesus Christ, which is the same hope I would offer.
Ray Franz, and those who were infected by him, left correct doctrine. They worship with and make common cause with religions which turn a blind eye, or outright allow, homosexuals, fornicators and adulterers to be accepted members of their congregation. These religions also allow their members to drop bombs even on fellow “Christians.” So, those who leave the True Christian Congregation either abandon Christian morals themselves or become guilty by association. Literally or spiritually they are debased.
I’ve certainly not read all that Franz has written, but where did he turn a blind eye to homosexuals? Or is this just more emotionally charged language without any supporting documentation? Also, how is it that those who leave the “True Christian Congregation” are “guilty by association” regarding those who are murderers? Am I guilty in this regard? What if i’m a pacifist? Would Jesus hold me accountable and guilty of bloodshed for what other professing Christians have done?
Actual evidence irrefutably proves that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the true Christian Congregation and it alone has the Truth. On the other hand all other religions have abandoned following Christ, in actions and morals.
Not the most persuasive way to finish such an article, but this seems to be the thinking of many JW’s. Perhaps my JW friends will use this as an opportunity to step back and consider how people like me view their religion and consider arguing more persuasively on topics such as these. While JW’s authors like these make apostates out to be these bitter and angry persons, one wonders why I shouldn’t see this author as the same?
My commendation to those who really seek to follow Christ would be to look at both sides and come to their own conclusion. For example, don’t take my word for it about Bart Ehrman. Instead, read his books and then read what men like Dan Wallace would have to say. It’s one thing to have a biblical perspective and view true apostates for what they are. But it’s another thing to dismiss them out of hand without taking the time to examine the evidence.
Thus far, myself and the JW apologist “Rotherham” have gone through almost 80 comments in discussion on this topic. While one can only take a discussion so far before the dead horse gets beaten some more, I really think this topic is central to our differences with the JW’s.
Unfortunately, i’m going to be out of commission for 2-3 weeks and won’t be able to carry the discussion forward during this time. This is due to my wedding, honeymoon, moving, etc. And who knows what my blogging/discussion activities will be like after that because i’ll be entering a new and foreign stage in life. So we’ll just have to see when we get there. In addition, I have a lot of plans upcoming with CARM, so that may take priority over what goes on here.
At any rate, i’ll reproduce Rotherham’s most recent comment here, just for my own accountability purposes (and bad memory!). I don’t view this as between myself and Rotherham only, so anyone is welcome to leave their comments here.
The question I asked is relevant to the discussion, so please take time to answer it. Although I have and will again offer an exegesis of Ephesians 4:11-17, I also think it is important to interact with the person who is in opposition to the view. Since so much of modern day teaching is based upon opinion and sometimes personal whim, it is important to know their views so as what to address and what not to address.
Yes, the GB is following first century practices with one very significant difference. They are not inspired and they do not possess the gifts of the spirit, in particular the gift of discerning inspired utterances. In the first century, through the combination of those two things, the inspired library of books was established. We certainly are not establishing inspired writings today. What we are establishing is the correct understanding of that library which has been corrupted by the weeds during the growing season. It is a “process” to continue to rid those things which cause stumbling and/or persons who do the same. Naturally, the need of the existence of a governing element should become readily apparent in order to accomplish the refinement that would take place during the harvest period, which is where we believe we are in the stream of time. Refinements can come about through the efforts and personal research of the individual members of the GB or through their collective efforts, but always, these new understandings are presented before the body for their perusal and either rejection or acceptance. I don’t know why you would think that to be so odd or why you think I am off on that estimation.
With that in mind, Ephesians 4:11-17 clearly establishes that there would be gifts in/to men that would be responsible for readjusting the holy ones until that full stature arrives. And it should be readily clear from the context that the purpose was for the unity to be maintained so that the congregation would not be torn by every wind of teaching. I’m not really sure what more there is to exegete than that. I think we actually agree that this is what it says. I think your disagreement is in relation to how strongly we should adhere to the teachings of those gifts in men.
The way we have things arranged within our modern organization of Christianity is that we are trying to maintain the same stance toward unity as was maintained in the first century. As I stated before, without the very beneficial aid of direct inspiration, given that we are in the process of digging out from age-old errors and discovering more and more about the ancient languages used, I don’t see any other way to maintain earthwide unity except in the fashion that we do so. I am sure that there is some room for variation, but the basic principle is Biblically sound. If such a thing can be carried out on a local level, why in the world would we think that the same thing would not be necessary on a worldwide scale? Without it, Christianity would indeed be a perfect example of different congregations being carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching based on the cunning and contriving errors of men.
We believe that this reflects the spirit of what is stated in numerous places within the Bible. Ephesians 4:11-17 surely doesn’t stand alone. And any exegesis of that passage must be seen to harmonize with everything else that is stated on the topic.
The scriptures often reiterate the stance that there should be no divisions or sects among you. The only allowance ever spoken of for the existence of sects was for the purpose of establishing those who were approved by God. It was prophecied more than once that wolves would sneak in and even arise from within to mislead the congregation and possibly even wreck their faith. Without a centralized authority, that is exactly what happens in the world of religion.
From the things that we have established, which are:
1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.
2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.
3. Ephesians 4:11-17 is an active and current process to be fully realized in the future.
we should be able to readily perceive that one who would take an unrelenting stance against those giftsof men, and therefore create disuntiy and possibly a sect, they should be removed from the congregation after a second admonition.
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are adamant in saying that all true Christians must believe everything they teach.
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We need to guard against developing a spirit of independence. By word or action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today.
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To hold to the headship of Christ, it is therefore necessary to obey the organization that he is personally directing. Doing what the organization says is to do what he says. Resisting the organization is to resist him.
One reason why the Governing Body speaks in this way is because all Christians should believe the same things. That is, there should be no disagreements, debates, sects, denominations, etc. What if the Governing Body teaches something you believe is unbiblical? Should the faithful Christian speak up? Or should he remain quiet and “wait on Jehovah” to correct the Governing Body? Apparently, some Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Ephesians 4:11-16 teaches that unity trumps the perfection of understanding. That is, even if you believe something is true, you should either believe the Governing Body or wait until the Governing Body changes their perspective. The contrary would be to openly, but respectfully criticize the teachings of the Governing Body that you consider to be false. Unfortunately, this is forbidden to the faithful JW.
With that said, let’s go through Ephesians 4:11-16 verse by verse and see if it teaches what the Watchtower claims it does.
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11)
Both JW’s and non-JW’s alike are in agreement that there are no inspired Apostles around as there were in the first century. Where we disagree is where we draw the line in our cooperation to those taking the lead, whether it be local elders or a “Governing Body.” Before we get into this, let’s see what the Watchtower has to say about those who take the lead according to Ephesians 4:11:
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7 Our heavenly Shepherds, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, expect us to be obedient and submissive to the undershepherds whom they have placed in positions of responsibility within the congregation. (1 Peter 5:5)
What the Watchtower claims about obedience and what the Bible claims are two different things. See THIS POST for an excellent discussion of Hebrews 13:17 and what it means to “obey” or “submit.” Interestingly, the Watchtower affirmed these ideas to some extent in the same article,
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Bible scholar R. T. France explains that in the original Greek, the word here translated “be obedient” is not “the normal term for obedience, but literally ‘be persuaded,’ implying a willing acceptance of their leadership.” We obey the elders not only because we are directed to do so in God’s Word but also because we are persuaded that they have Kingdom interests and our best interests at heart. We will certainly be happy if we willingly accept their leadership.
This is fine as far as it goes, but the same article describes what should happen once you are “persuaded” of the Governing Body’s leadership:
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9 What, though, if we are not convinced that in a certain case the elders’ direction is the best way of doing things? That is where submission comes into play. It is easy to obey when everything is clear and we agree, but we will show that we are truly submissive if we yield even when we do not personally understand the direction provided. Peter, who later became an apostle, showed this kind of submission.—Luke 5:4, 5.
This is both a poor Scriptural example and poor exegesis. Is the Watchtower implying that we should accept the elder’s or Governing Body’s decision even when we aren’t convinced that they are correct? How is Luke 5:4-5 a parallel when Jesus is the one Peter is submitting to? Is submitting to and putting your faith in Jesus the same thing as obeying the elders or Governing Body? Interestingly, the Watchtower has very recently implied some very strong words of the JW elders,
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Elders do not go beyond the things that are written in the Bible. And by extension, they do not go beyond the Bible-based counsel written in the publications of the faithful and discreet slave.
If elders “don’t go beyond the things that are written,” does this mean that the elders are always right?
Thus far, we are off to a poor start in going beyond anything Ephesians 4:11-16 has taught us. All Ephesians 4:11 has articulated is who Jesus has provided to, “equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (4:12) These ones are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Notice, it is all these ones who are involved in equipping the saints; not just a centralized handful of men with exceptional authority.
Moreover, the Watchtower has assumed a particular authority to a fictitious “Governing Body” that isn’t even mentioned in the text. And through this assumption, the Watchtower will continue to insert their beliefs into the remainder of the passage as we will soon see.
“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)
What does Ephesians 4:12 teach us? In context with v. 11, it is all apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who are to build up the body of Christ. That is, Paul does not give any instructions for believers to look to the teachings of a “Governing body” and leave it to them to equip all Christians with proper teachings. Instead, he leaves it to those who are gifted and rely on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to build up and encourage other believers.
“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
Instead of relying on Scripture to guide their theological view, the Governing Body uses Ephesians 4:13 to justify their demand for absolute unquestionable obedience of all Christians worldwide:
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First, since “oneness” is to be observed, a mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding.
Unfortunately, the Watchtower doesn’t provide us with the full picture. Of course, we don’t agree with Christians who have mere “personal opinions” to Bible understanding, for that would be eisegesis. But what about Christians who exegete the Scriptures properly and prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit for guidance? What should this Christian do when he is convinced that he is interpreting a text properly and was led by the Spirit in doing so? Should he abandon his convictions because the Governing Body teaches something different?
Apparently, this Christian should abandon his conclusions and instead, believe what the Watchtower teaches. But why shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why doesn’t the Governing Body accept correction? The simple answer is because the Governing Body has already assumed a position that demands correction of the subjects. Therefore, by default, all interpretations that differ from theirs are to be dismissed as “personal opinions” or “private ideas.” Yet, do we see anything in Ephesians 4:13 which assumes this level authority to anyone? Instead, the faithful exegete should determine someone’s beliefs to be unbiblical before referring to these as “personal opinions.”
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Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.” By regularly taking in the spiritual food provided “at the proper time”—through Christian publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions—we can be sure that we maintain “oneness” with fellow Christians in faith and knowledge.—Matthew 24:45.
Again, there is nothing in Ephesians 4:13 or the context that says anything of the kind. Here, the Governing Body assumes their interpretation of Matthew 24:45 and reads it into Ephesians 4:13 without justification. That is, they suppose that “unity” equals all Christians agreeing with them. Interestingly, the Watchtower is telling us to have “complete confidence” in their teachings and cites Matthew 24:45. Yet, for decades the Watchtower has admittedly taught a false interpretation of Matthew 24:45. Of course, some Jehovah’s Witnesses cite the Governing Body’s willingness for readjustments as evidence of their “complete confidence.” Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses will then cite Ephesians 4:14 to display their confidence for a contradictory reason as we will soon see. Either way, whether stagnant or changing in their teachings, the JW’s would still display their confidence in the Governing Body.
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Second, the expression “the faith” refers, not to the conviction that each individual Christian professes, but to the totality of our belief, “the breadth and length and height and depth” of it. (Ephesians 3:18; 4:5; Colossians 1:23; 2:7) In fact, how can a Christian be in oneness with fellow believers if he only believes or accepts a certain part of “the faith”? This means that we must not be content with knowing just the basic teachings of the Bible or having just hazy or partial knowledge of the truth. Rather, we should be interested in taking advantage of all of Jehovah’s provisions through his organization to dig deeply into his Word. We must endeavor to gain as accurate and as full an understanding of God’s will and purpose as possible. This includes taking the time to read and study the Bible and Bible publications, to pray to God for his help and guidance, to attend Christian meetings regularly, and to have a full share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.—Proverbs 2:1-5.
For JW’s, “the faith” equals “everything the Watchtower teaches.” Therefore, the JW must accept everything they teach. This is how they must be unified. So again, we see an eisegetical insertion of something that is not taught in Ephesians 4:13. Nowhere does it advise Christians to be unified by accepting teachings from a centralized group of men. Nor does it teach us anything about “private interpretations.” So what does Ephesians 4:13 tell us?
First, notice that the unity of the faith has not happened yet. We know this because the body of Christ has not fully matured in having a full knowledge of Christ, “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Even the Watchtower has to admit that they aren’t there yet. In addition, they have to admit that they don’t have perfect theological knowledge. They make mistakes and will continue to do so.
This is why Paul is commanding Christians who are gifted to continue to encourage, teach, and build up believers for service until they get to that maturity of full knowledge of Christ (Colossians 2:3). What will this look like?
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Paul isn’t providing a solution for unity by telling Christians to obey the Governing Body. Instead, the solution is with believers themselves to take initiative and build up the body of Christ by pointing them to Christ and the Scriptures.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14)
This Scripture is quite interesting as it relates to the Watchtower because it flies in the face of their history. First, JW’s place their trust in the Governing Body because they believe they are teaching truth. Yet, they also place their trust in them because they sometimes admit when they have taught something false.
But we must question whether Ephesians 4:14 actually applies to the Watchtower. Are they being “tossed around” with their teachings? A quick glance at their sloppy history in formulating fictitious chronologies or their life threatening teachings regarding medical practices would reveal this to be so. To the outside observer, the Watchtower is obviously being “tossed around” by “every wind of doctrine.” Therefore, would it not be within the faithful Christians conscience to use Ephesians 4:14 to abandon their association with the Watchtower and begin to fellowship with believers who don’t appear to be identified with this verse? If we’re really looking for “unity” in this passage, it seems that this would be the more unified choice.
“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16)
Notice that “unity” and “growth” are identified with Christ. We are to grow up through unity in Him and to encourage others to do the same. Instead of applying this, the Watchtower instead seeks to define “unity” by obedience to everything they teach. Ephesians 4:11-16 says nothing of the kind.
In addition, we are to “speak the truth in love.” What is the truth and how do we come to such knowledge? For Jehovah’s Witnesses, “the truth” is whatever comports with Watchtower teaching (which they obviously believe to be biblical). Yet, the Watchtower admits they teach things that are false and are capable of doing such for decades. So how can you really “speak the truth” when you are to abandon what you think is truth for the sake of “unity.” In other words, even if you think that your conclusion is more Scriptural than the Watchtower’s, you should abandon your “private interpretation” for the Watchtower’s. This is neither truthful or loving and will not grow you in “all aspects into Him who is the head.”
To conclude, we have seen nothing in these texts which speak to “unity” in the way that the Watchtower demands. JW apologists may suggest that “sects” are condemned by God because they aren’t “unified.” Yet, Ephesians 4:11-16 doesn’t provide us with the solution that JW’s think it does; that is, to resolve “sects” by obeying a “Governing Body.” Instead, the resolution to sects is to continue to have those gifted teachers and evangelist build up the body of Christ by pointing them to Christ and His Word. Thus, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, when Christ returns in glory, only then will we have full doctrinal unity. Therefore, the work of building up and equipping believers will continue until that time.
Perhaps this mock dialogue will illustrate:
Non-JW: When the Holy Spirit is leading us, it’s always to the truth? It would never lead somebody to error.
Non-JW: And all true Christians have the Holy Spirit?
Non-JW: So if we think something incorrectly, it is our own imperfection leading us that way, right?
Non-JW: Then if the Governing Body teaches something that’s false, would it be the Holy Spirit or their imperfect nature that led them to the false belief?
JW: Their imperfect nature because they are imperfect men.
Non-JW: So is the greater sin to follow imperfect men when you believe the Holy Spirit is leading you to another conclusion or to ignore the Spirit in favor of imperfect men?
JW: No, because it’s Jehovah’s will that we believe what the Governing Body teaches. After all, if we believe things on our own accord, we may fall into divisions and sects; things that God condemns.
Non-JW: But didn’t we establish before that if we follow the Holy Spirit, that it will lead us to the truth? Your claim suggests that it would lead us to false beliefs since we’d be following a group of men who sometimes teach you things that are false.
Here we have a dilemma: if we follow the Holy Spirit, we will always be led to the truth. If we follow the Governing Body, we will be led to both truth and error. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that following the Governing Body is the same thing as following the Spirit. Yet, the Governing Body claims that all true Christians should always follow them. If this is the case, then the Governing Body is telling all Christians to sometimes refrain from following the Spirit since they sometimes teach what is false.
The Watchtower clearly expresses that no Christian can be faithful to Christ and at the same time, contradict what the Governing Body teaches. Never mind the fact that the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to render someone as accursed if he or she were to preach a “different gospel,” even if it were an Apostle himself (Gal. 1:6-9). And never mind also the fact that the angel of the church in Ephesus commended Christians in “putting to the test those who call themselves apostles” and concluded that they were false (Rev. 2:2). I could go on and on, but I think the point is made.
Surely, such testing towards even the Apostles would result in disunity, would it not? Yet, we are instructed to do so at the expense of unity. I hope this will set the stage as I respond to a COMMENT made by a JW apologist on one of my POSTS.
I see what you are saying Mike but you still entirely misrepresent the scenario. Eph. 4:11-17 clearly tells us that “full understanding’ is yet for the future, but still the church must remain united in it’s teachings until that time so that men are not carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching. What that clearly boils down to is that the church might hold a position for a time that is incorrect until such time that they would see the need to “readjust” to conform to a better understanding of truth. That context plainly shows that unity trumps perfection of doctrine.
I would invite the reader to check out Ephesians 4:11-17 and examine where it speaks of, “unity trumping perfection of doctrine.” It doesn’t. My JW friend is correct to state that the church must strive to remain unified. But what happens when even the leaders begin to teach a false gospel? Apparently, according to this JW, “unity trumps perfection of doctrine.” Perhaps an exception is made for matters of apostasy. But why? Is “unity trumps perfection of doctrine” an absolute statement or is it not? Its certainly not declared to be so in the text. Nor is there an exception made in the text. So where do we get the exception from? Galatians 1:6-9, Revelation 2:2, among other places.
Also notice that “the church might hold a position for a time that is incorrect.” Knowingly or unknowingly? And who is the “they” that “sees the need to readjust?” Certainly not the church, for they have no say in this. Its the Governing Body who decides on these matters. I have two problems with this:
1. Where does the Bible admonish Christians to hold to something they know to be false?
2. Where does the Bible teach that they have to wait on a “Governing Body” before coming to a conclusion on something to which they were previously unsure of?
The GB is well aware that their current understandings, which deal with ambiguous areas, are subject to correction. They have stated this time and again and they have demonstrated that time and again.
This statement itself is pretty ambiguous. Which “understandings” are being referred to here? Why does the Governing Body get to decide on what is ambiguous and what isn’t? What if an elder decided to teach dogmatically something he knew to be true, but the Watchtower deemed ambiguous?
Let’s take the Society’s understanding of “this generation” in Matthew 24:34. Is Jesus being ambiguous? The Watchtower must think so, because the Society has changed their view so many times that i’ve literally lost count. But surely not, for they say of their own publications,
***w09 2/15 p. 24-25 par. 4 They Keep Following the Lamb***
Yes, Jehovah provides direction to the slave. We can therefore have full confidence in the Scriptural insight, understanding, and guidance that we receive from the slave.
Can we or can we not have “full confidence” on the Society’s current understanding of Matthew 24:34?
This is entirely expected when one considers that during the harvest, the weeds would be separated from the wheat.
I appreciate this admission, but is my JW considering some of the GB members as “weeds?” Or are the “weeds” those who deviate from the Governing Body’s teachings? If its the latter, i’m not sure how this relates to the Society’s “adjustments.” So, is it the former?
If what the GB teaches contradicts something that I have thought is true, then I will take another look and see whether their position is supportable by scripture.
Another statement I can appreciate, but i’m not so sure its consistent with what the Watchtower teaches. It ends up being quite circular, because it is claimed that Christians cannot understand Scripture without the Watchtower. So how is it that my JW friend can “look and see whether their position is supportable by Scripture?” But aside from this, its by default that all that the Watchtower teaches is supportable by Scripture. So why would my JW friend question this in the first place?
If it is, then I have no reason not to accept it at the very least, as possible. If I do not think so, I will patiently wait upon Jehovah to see if either I or the GB are adjusted in their thinking. I do not think that my understandings are infallible.
Unfortunately, given some bold statements the Watchtower has made, there can be no “I don’t think so” in the equation. You are to accept the Society’s teachings because its coming from Jehovah. This was stated quite clearly just recently:
11 Jehovah has provided a bounteous supply of written spiritual food to give us strength. No doubt, you can think of a time when after reading a publication, you thought: ‘That is exactly what I needed! It is as if Jehovah had that written just for me!’ That is not a coincidence. Through these provisions, Jehovah does instruct and guide us. He has said: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go.” (Ps. 32:8) –April 15, 2013 Watchtower Study Edition p. 30
Either Jehovah is instructing and guiding through the publications or He isn’t. If he is, then why question it at all?
But out of respect for the Divine arrangement for the maintenance of unity within the congregation, I will do as Hebrews 13:17 tells Christians to do. “OBEY and SUBMIT” to those who are taking the lead among you, and surely from our standpoint, the GB would be taking the ultimate lead among men in the world today when it comes to Biblical matters and understanding. The meaning of the word “submit” is a significant one for this context. It means to surrender, such as one would do in a wrestling match.
I could not disagree more. I would refer my JW friend to THIS ARTICLE, which was written by a JW.
That should tell us that we might not always personally AGREE with those who are taking the lead, but for the sake of unity and peace, we should submit, unless of course what they would teach would fall clearly outside Biblical possibilities.
In other words, we are to submit to the Governing Body’s teachings even if we know those same teachings to be false? Is this what Hebrews 13:17 or Ephesians 4 is teaching us? Its interesting that an exception clause is provided (e.g. “unless of course…”). So what are the Biblical possibilities and who determines them? As far as I know, the Governing Body determines them. Therefore, not only can they draw the line, but they can move the line wherever they wish and expect absolute unquestionable obedience in return.
If the GB is wrong about something, we have full confidence that in time, they will fix it, just as we have seen them do numerous times.
If you were to conclude that the GB is wrong, wouldn’t that involve independent thinking? Yet, this couldn’t happen because they have forbidden JW’s to think independently in this sense.
The scriptures ask that we remain united with no divisions among us, to be untied in the same mind and the line of thought. (1 Cor. 1:10 and context) God condemns the existence of divisions and sects to the same degree that he condemns adultery.
But God also condemns believing false doctrine and following those who do. So what are we to do? Apparently, this is the answer:
The scenario that we are left with, all things considered, is that we remain in unity with the GB, with those gifts in men; regardless of what we might THINK is the right view. Unless we think we are personally infallible in our understanding, that HAS TO BE the stance that we take in order to remain united.
So there you have it. But unfortunately for this JW and others, this is not how the first century church dealt with those who taught what was false, even at the expense of unity.
With an article by yours truly
A theological journal with a focus on the Triune God. For the academic, the layperson, the Christian. Within this edition you’ll find a unique array of contributions. These include: Robert M. Bowman Jr. – Triadic New Testament Passages and the Doctrine of the Trinity Hiram R. Diaz III – The Two Natures of Christ in Genesis 3 Mike Felker – Preexistence in Mark: A Cumulative Defense Edward L. Dalcour – Jesus’ Claims to be God: Answering the Objections Scotty G. Neasbitt – God the Son in Select Theophanies of the Old Testament Michael R. Burgos Jr.(Editor) – Anthropological Monism and its Incompatibility with Biblical Christianity Published by Biblical Press: the publishing division of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM.org).
The issue can be purchased from AMAZON for 6.50, but I will certainly make it available for free if an electronic version becomes available. I haven’t read any of the other entries, but my article is titled Preexistence in Mark: a cumulative defense.