In this discussion, we will be examining three precepts on the part of the GBoJW which they use to claim that we should be obedient to them and their BoE. These precepts are...
- the Bible instructs to be so
- BoE are appointed by Holy Spirit
- the GBoJW is FDS and require such
In the Insight on the Scriptures Vol II, under the heading “SCRIPTURES”, the following is stated:
Essential for Christians. Since Jesus Christ constantly appealed to the Hebrew Scriptures to support his teaching, it is important for his followers not to deviate from them. The apostle Paul emphasizes their value and essential nature when he says: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2Ti 3:16, 17.
Additionally, in the Watchtower magazine of June 1st 2000, in an article headed “”The Changing Face of ‘Christianity’ – Acceptable to God?”, the writing committee of the GBoJW would have us note the following...
“The disfiguring of God and Christianity continues today. A professor of religion recently described the struggle in his Protestant church as one “over the authority of Scripture and creed versus the authority of alien and humanistic ideologies, between the church’s faithfulness to the lordship of Christ versus an accommodation and reformulation of Christianity to the spirit of the age. The issue at stake is this: Who sets the agenda for the church . . . Holy Scripture or the dominant ideology of the day?”
I would agree with the above whole heartedly. It is important for Jesus’ followers not to deviate from the scriptures. However, I am concerned that the “disfiguring of God and Christianity” is not solely a phenomenon peculiar to organisations other than the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In recent years, the frequency of demands for obedience and loyalty to the JW organisation, it’s BoE’s and the GBoJW is quite perturbing. Currently, there seems to be a veritable onslaught of demands for this obedience and loyalty; but the focus is actually on deference to BoE and the GBoJW. Were the demands for such obedience and loyalty focussed on Jesus Christ, then I would not be perturbed in the slightest but would be welcoming and applauding such.
Both I and my friends have had very bad experiences at the hands of our local BoE. The experience of my friends is much worse than what I have experienced, and I am in awe at their restraint and poise in the face of egregious BoE deportment. Thus, I have embarked on an exploration of whether or not obedience to JW BoE and their GBoJW is actually a Christian requirement.
At a simple level, I know in my heart of hearts that something is very very wrong. If what the GBoJW contends is actually correct then I wouldn’t be experiencing all these negative emotions. No, if what they assert is actually true, then I would be having experiences of being spiritually fortified, encouraged, refreshed, up built. If only that were really so! But relying on emotional mal-experience is not sufficient. Thus, another reason to explore scripturally, if the aforementioned demands have legitimacy.
1st precept - the Bible instructs us to be obedient to JW BoE / GBoJW.
The WT of April 1st 1988 page 30, in an article headed “Is Obedience Always Proper?” the GBoJW relates the following...
Obedience to our Creator, Jehovah God, is always proper. As our Maker and the Source of life, he has the first claim to the obedience of his creatures. (Psalm 95:6, 7) As the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah also delegates his authority to others who meet his standards, and this makes our obedience to them appropriate. Foremost among such persons is Jesus Christ. Since 1914 he has become the God-appointed King of the heavenly Kingdom “that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Furthermore, as Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus has imparted authority to others therein, making our obedience to such undershepherds appropriate.—Hebrews 13:17.
The assertion based on Hebrews 13:17 has been repeated multitudinous times since 1988. However, when one explores the meaning of the Greek word translated as “obedient” in a Biblical lexicon, it becomes clear that what is actually meant is “to persuade, to win over” Peitho/ Πειθεσθε (Greek from Kingdom Interlinear) in the Passive and Middle Voices, “to be persuaded, to listen to, to obey,” is so used with this meaning, in the Middle Voice, e.g., in Acts 5:36-37 (in Acts 5:40, Passive Voice, “they agreed”); Rom. 2:8; Jas. 3:3; Gal 5:7; Heb. 13:17:...
Well that is interesting. I continued reading the lexicon and it went on to add that “The ‘obedience’ suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion. However, the way the GBoJW portrays the translation of this word (Peitho/ Πειθεσθε) is more like that mentioned elsewhere in the Bible – Peitharcheo which means “to obey one in authority” (arche “rule”) and is translated as “obey” in Acts 5:29,32; “to be obedient”, Titus 3:1.
Thus, the GBoJW demands the obedience of publishers to themselves and their BoEs on the basis of a poorly translated verb and portraying the meaning of that verb (Peitho/ Πειθεσθε) erroneously as just outlined. Therefore, if a member of the BoE came to me and demanded that I wear a white shirt and a suit when undertaking “privileges” in the congregation, I could accept such on the basis of being persuaded by the proper use of scripture. If he were to demand that I be attired in such a way without being persuaded by the proper use of scripture, then I’m afraid he will just have to be humble and accept that that the limit of his expectation is that my apparel be modest and well arranged (1 Tim. 2:9) and that beyond that the BoE too are subject to scriptural authority such as minding their own business (1 Thess 4:11) and not be a busybody in my affairs (1 Pet 4:15). However, I would also say here that even if I were approached by an individual who is not from the BoE, perhaps an individual in “filthy clothing” / “vile raiment” (James 2:2-4) approached me and gave me counsel on the basis of proper use of scripture, I would feel obliged to defer to such.
In view of the rather wide ranging focus on the authority of the BoE / GBoJW and the vigour with which they are increasingly eisegetical in their publications etc., it is likely that I would continue to view what they demand in the way of obedience, loyalty, and deference with considerable circumspection.
However, the same article from 1988 is somewhat more convergent with the Bible’s teaching than much of what is taught today. That same article had this to say....
Is it always proper, however, to listen to those who have been entrusted with positions of authority? Not if they attempt to use their authority in an ungodly way..... But what if such ones order us to do something in conflict with the laws of the almighty God? What Paul said next indicates the proper course: “Not by way of eye-service as men pleasers, but as Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled.” (Ephesians 6:5, 6) On another occasion, Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Test the Inspired Expressions
What about the authority in the Christian congregation?..... But it does not mean that we obey such authority without giving due consideration to what is being said. Why?
The apostle John offered this counsel: “Do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” (1 John 4:1) This does not mean that we should be suspicious of everything others tell us. Rather, we bear in mind Paul’s words at Galatians 1:8: “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.”
Is the person spreading that message speaking to honor the name of Jehovah, or is he trying to exalt himself? Is the information in harmony with the overall teachings of the Bible? These are questions that will help us in ‘testing’ anything that may sound questionable. We are admonished to “make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
We don’t get thoughts like that anymore in the Watchtower magazine. Rather, it tends to be replete with references to the Faithful & Discrete Slave and thus seeks to have readers honour and elevate the GBoJW in their minds! To do this, one has to enter into a state of denial, a state of rejecting the authority of scripture which the GBoJW now seems to pay lip service to!
2nd Precept - BoE are appointed by Holy Spirit.
“Bearing Thorough Witness” (Chap 5) – We Must Obey God As Ruler
20 Jehovah’s people today follow the apostolic pattern. Men recommended for congregational responsibility must manifest godly wisdom and give evidence that the holy spirit is operating on them. Under the direction of the Governing Body, men who meet the Scriptural requirements are appointed to serve as elders or ministerial servants in the congregations. (1 Tim. 3:1-9, 12, 13) Those who meet the qualifications can be said to have been appointed by holy spirit.
“Keep Yourselves In God’s Love” (Chap 4) – Why Respect Authority (Respect in the Congregation)
16 Elders and ministerial servants are not perfect. They have failings, as we do. Yet, the elders are “gifts in men,” provided to help the congregation remain spiritually strong. (Ephesians 4:8) Elders are appointed by holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) How so? In that such men must first meet the qualifications recorded in God’s spirit-inspired Word. (1 Timothy 3:1-7, 12; Titus 1:5-9) Further, the elders who evaluate a brother’s qualifications pray earnestly for the guidance of Jehovah’s holy spirit.
Both of these publications avoid claiming that the decision to appoint individuals to BoE is “inspired” by Holy Spirit in any way. Rather, they strongly allude to candidates giving evidence of their lives being convergent to a reasonable degree with the qualifications outlined in the Bible. For my actual experiences with a BoE in determining whether or not an individual is to be appointed as an elder, see my blog on .....
http://discussthetruth.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1868 (Part 2 – Watchtower qualifications for those “reaching out” – a paradox!”
I have no experience of individuals being compared with the scriptural qualifications to discern if they are appointed by Holy Spirit. Sole criteria was their ministry hours, meeting attendance and participation, and a ready deference to the BoE of course! Hardly scriptural! The behaviour of the BoE, the GBoJW e.g. – the UN NGO affiliation debacle, the inimical positioning to the Australian Royal Commission into child abuse, and the GBoJW iron rigidity in contesting/denying/appealing all cases of child abuse/molestation, and the UK branch of JW’s pertinacious attempts to obstruct the Charity Commissions investigation of them re child safeguarding policies; all of these give very strong empirical evidence of another spirit being in operation with these individuals! Were they (BoE and GBoJW) truly appointed by God’s Holy Spirit, their behaviour would be radically different and not a profile which exemplifies turpitude, self-absorption, and unkindness. The profile which they have exhibited is remote from anything I can find in 1 Cor. 13.
3rd Precept - the GBoJW is FDS and legitimately require obedience
The reverence being shown to the “Faithful & Discreet Slave” (GBoJW) by Jehovah’s Witnesses is truly remarkable. There is very little scrutiny of GBoJW conduct, which is now more readily discernible following their commencement of broadcasting, and also via the increasing use of digital media – for example one of their number’s evasion of appearance at the Supreme Court of California despite he and his colleagues’ readiness to portray to publishers, the need to defer to Luke 12:12 – rather two faced to put it mildly. How is that GB member’s behaviour faithful and discreet? Indeed, in what way is the GBoJW’s engagement in broadcasting themselves faithful and discreet? Why do they assume that because they are members of the GBoJW that such qualifies them as proficient public speakers and able to handle God’s Word with competence. If the GBoJW is really the FDS then why are they not faithful to God’s Word? I’m referring to the 1975 teaching, the “generation” teaching and their subsequent sophistry in arriving at tortuous revisions which have nothing to do with God’s Word. I’m referring to their steadfast retention of the 1914 teaching. Part of such is that several years later Jesus inspected them and approved them. Yet they were smokers, wearers of crucifixes, celebrators of birthdays and Christmas. Yet if Jesus really did inspect them and approve of them with such practices at that time, then why are individuals who would dare to smoke, have a crucifix, celebrate a birthday or Christmas be disfellowshipped on the grounds of apostasy today? Why don’t they exercise the mercy which Jesus must have exercised towards them if he really did approve them in such circumstances? Maybe their 1914 / 1919 teaching is simply erroneous? I think so!
In the scriptures which the GBoJW utilize to portray themselves as the FDS, the context is that of parables – illustrations. That they then take such out of context to be prophetic is rather poor to put it mildly. It’s much easier to read in the NIV where good use is made of subheadings, and one is visually confronted more readily with the fact that Jesus was using parables for teaching purposes.
Personally, I feel dreadfully uncomfortable in being obedient to the FDS and their BoE’s. I feel that I would be following men. A very strong scriptural reason for this position is detailed by the apostle Paul at Hebrews 1:1,2...
“God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, 2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.”
Despite the GBoJW repeatedly trying to convince people of God having used an organisation to communicate his will and that he uses the modern day organisation of JW similarly, this scripture says that he has hitherto communicated in “many ways” but only through the prophets. In the first century, thereafter, and now, he has “spoken to us by means of a Son whom he appointed heir of all things”. This scripture does not leave any space for an intermediary such as a GBoJW or their self proclaimed status of FDS (like a de facto scredotalism). No, it’s just Jesus. This understanding is compatible with 1 Cor 11:3 “... the head of every man is the Christ...” and thus again, no room for an intermediary such as a GBoJW or FDS. Again, Romans 14:9 says that Jesus is “Lord over both the dead and the living”; Eph 4:15 affirms “..him who is the head, Christ”. That Jesus is the head and no intermediary is in turn compatible with what Jesus himself taught in Matt 23:8 “... whereas all you are brothers” – no concept of a hierarchy in Jesus’ statement. Further, the scriptures state that “... the Christ also is head of the congregation...” (Eph 5:23) and “... he is the head of the body, the congregation..” (Col 1:18). So this too, rules out any GBoJW/FDS intermediary as being a legitimate teaching. I note that in the 2013 revision of the NWT, the GBoJW seeks to convince readers that there was a GB in the first century. This is a mere projection of the GBoJW’s need to augment what in reality is a scripturally enervated position and teaching regarding their status. The Bible then and now portrays a brotherhood with Christ as the head. This is far removed from a stratified institution with a GB as the head and which prides itself in its many legalisms, and elevates its publications as having a similar merit to scripture.
The GBoJW is condemned by its own words. In the earlier quoted WT magazine of June 1st 2000, in an article headed “”The Changing Face of ‘Christianity’ it was stated that “The disfiguring of God and Christianity continues today. A professor of religion recently described the struggle in his Protestant church as one “over the authority of Scripture and creed versus the authority of alien and humanistic ideologies, between the church’s faithfulness to the lordship of Christ versus an accommodation and reformulation of Christianity to the spirit of the age...?”
The GBoJW has disfigured God and Christianity. The organisation is a highly stratified hierarchy where much importance is attached to one’s position in the organisation (ministerial servant, elder, pioneer, circuit overseer). Obedience to their teachings and precepts takes priority over love. Yet “God is Love” teaches the apostle John (1 John 4:8, 4:16). Examples of such love being lacking are multitudinous, including the dismissal of many circuit overseers due to their age (betraying the GBoJW’s lip service to “silver hair”) and the dismissal of many “Bethelites” without any supportive package placement(s) – what was that golden rule stated by Jesus?! The GBoJW for its part esteems ministry hours and barely mentions the first commandment thus, in its literature...
“One of the scribes who had come up and heard them disputing, knowing that he had answered them in a fine way, asked him: “Which commandment is first of all?” 29 Jesus answered: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, 30 and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Truly simple, beautiful and refreshing teaching on the part of Jesus, but one which is not significantly featured by the GBoJW in its literature or digital media. No! The “humanistic ideology” here is one of 21st century corporate productivity - ministry hours, meeting attendance, enrolment as a “Pioneer”, and elevating the lordship of the GBoJW rather than “faithfulness to the lordship of Christ”.
So obedience to the GBoJW and its BoE is not a requirement for Christians that I can discern. However, obedience to the Christ is essential! There is a difference!
How can JW’s today give a rebuttal to the accusation that they are followers of men and/or men pleasers?