I made a big effort to get to the Watchtower study today. I have not been to the meetings much for months, but I figured this was a pretty historic "study" and I wanted to see reactions and how it would go down locally. Well a few things struck me as a bit odd in the study itself, and in the audience response as well.
1. There was a terribly jarring combination in the article as it was argued first that Jesus' presence would be an "extended period", and then the standard reference was trotted out about the devil coming down to the earth with much anger knowing he has a "short period of time". So much emphasis was placed on the idea of it being an "extended period" of time, you really have to wonder how the writer did not get embarrassed then sticking in the usual "short period of time" reference in such close proximity. So which is it oh faithful and discreet slave - are the last days an "extended period" or a "short period"? I really do wish you would make up your mind! I guess the cop out answer might be that Satan is a bit like Jehovah ("a day is as a thousand years") and he has a different concept of time than mere humans. Ninety years may well be a blink of an eye to such a powerful spirit creature I suppose, but no human would ever call ninety years a short period of time that's for sure. I really wonder how much longer the Society can get away with calling the "last days" from 1914 until a still-future-Armageddon a "short period of time". Surely within the next few years someone will need to say "let's sit down and rethink this whole chronology business". It is getting just a bit ridiculous at this point in my opinion.
2. Did anyone else notice the illustration with the caption about the generation that "will not pass away until all these things occur"? Since the new light is that the anointed constitute the "generation" Jesus spoke about in Matt 24 this must be a depiction of the anointed today. It makes for an interesting comparison with earlier pictures of the anointed. Does anyone else notice something different? There are a lot more from different racial backgrounds in there than there used to be! Black people and Asians outnumber the white people shown. In the Revelation book and past Watchtower articles there have been pictures of the anointed that supposedly span the generations from the first century to the present, and they show the early apostles, and then Russell and other early Witnesses, then Franz: all white. I suppose what with a potential new upward trend in anointed numbers since the new understanding about 1935 not being a cut off date, then those claiming to be anointed might now be more racially mixed in the past. But I rather suspect the new picture is more for presentational effect than to reflect a real changing situation where more non-white people are becoming anointed. And in the picture in today's study article, while the anointed look quite old (probably mostly around 70 years or so) none of them look old enough to have been baptised before 1935.
3. How thoroughly weird that when they introduced the new understanding about the generation not the slightest mention was made that for decades the Watchtower taught that "this generation" referred to people alive in 1914, and that Armageddon would come within the lifespan of those people. Instead the article only mentioned the most recent understanding introduced in 1995 about the generation referring to wicked people who reject God living today. How can they get away with this? I was sure someone would at least "bring this point out" in their comments; but no, there was total silence on the issue. There is a slight hint at the old understanding in the article, without actually mentioning it, because there is a box that discusses whether we can work out when Armageddon will come on the basis of what Jesus said about the "generation". It concludes of course that we can't work out even an approximate date on that basis, but completely fails to acknowledge that the Watchtower did precisely that for decades and prodded the Witnesses into a frenzy of expectation, especially in the late eighties and early nineties when it was approaching 80 years since 1914: many Witnesses were absolutely sure on the basis of the "the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away" (which used to be the signature purpose statement of the Awake! before 1995) that the end must come in the 1990's at the very latest.
So how can they get away with brushing this under the carpet? Well I suppose when you think about it there have been a lot of new Witnesses since that old understanding was ditched in 1995. Over 3 million new Witnesses have been baptised since then. In fact probably over a third of the Witnesses now active became Witnesses since that teaching was changed and likely many of them know little or nothing about the old teaching. I suppose the calculation may have been made that it would be better not to confuse these new believers by informing them that until recently the Watchtower itself was promising the end would come within the lifetime of the 1914 generation. And for those Witnesses who have been around long enough to know all about it, perhaps it was figured best not to remind them of the disappointment explicitly.
4. It is strange too that this article didn't mention the other recent "new light" about the anointed still being gathered and 1935 not being a cut-off date after all. That is most certainly relevant to the new understanding that construes the anointed as constituting the "generation" Jesus was talking about in Matt 24. Imagine if they had come out with the "generation" new light before they dropped the 1935 date. What would have happened then? I reckon we would be back in the scenario of working out how long a generation lasts from 1935 - 70 or 80 years - and asking whether that refers to people who can "remember" the year or simply who were born in 1935 and not later; all the nonsense speculation we went through in the Watchtowers of the 1980's in other words. So the fact that they dropped the 1935 date before they came out and said the anointed are the "generation" at least indicates some sort of forward planning. Whether such "forward planning" is viewed as spiritually prudent or mendacious will depend on your view of JW's, their truth claims, and the motivation of those holding the reigns of power as regards doctrine formation I suppose. It surprised me that no one spotted the link between this and the other "new light" at the meeting - or at least no one thought to mention it.
Altogether the meeting today was a rather cringe worthy event, and I can't help feeling sorry for all the people who have been strung along for decades on the basis of the shifting Watchtower teaching about the "generation". Now they have been told there is no way of working out when the end will come, and what's more we can forget the Watchtower ever claimed there was in the first place. For many at the meeting I feel this has still to sink in. Despite the fact that it was changed in 1995, there were Witnesses present who clearly still had some confused idea that 1914 can still be viewed as a sort of starting date for working out a generation, albeit a longer one than previously envisaged. And no one mentioned that since the 1935 cut-off date for the anointed has been ditched, what we are left with is a very fluid "generation" potentially (and with year-on-year increasing numbers showing every sign of in reality) lasting for many decades to come.
Anyone who attended got personal responses to how the study went in terms of the material itself, or how members of the congregation reacted?