HIGHER EDUCATION, THE BIBLE, AND THE WTBTS / GBoJW
The disdain which the WTBTS / GBoJW has for higher education is well known among JW's and JW dissenters. The specious rationale for such disdain is also well known. However, it is a fact that there is no scriptural authority for....
- a) prohibiting education at any level for another person
- b) taking it upon oneself to decide the limits of another individual's education
In that the WTBTS has made its position increasingly clear in recent years, looking at their published literature to gain independent and impartial advice for a youngster who may be considering university as an option may be ill advised. Yet is is readily possible to examine the Bible itself for examples of individuals whose education went beyond the norm and which education did not in any way detract from or compromise their relationship with God nor attenuate their spirituality. Further, it is readily possible to examine non-WT literature to discern what authors may have gained from the Bible in terms of how they see its portrayal of advanced education - far removed from the nihilism of the WTBTS I should add here right at the outset. The Bible characters considered here in this context are Luke, Moses, and Daniel and his three friends Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael.
The Insight volume published by the WTBTS states "That Luke was well educated is apparent from his writings. Also, his background as a doctor is noticeable in his use of medical terms.—Lu 4:38; Ac 28:8.
Luke joined Paul in sending greetings to Christians at Colossae when Paul wrote to them from Rome (c. 60-61 C.E.), and the apostle identified him as “the beloved physician.” (Col 4:14) In writing to Philemon from Rome (c. 60-61 C.E.), Paul included greetings from Luke (Lucas, KJ), referring to him as one of his “fellow workers.” (Phm 24) That Luke stuck close to Paul and was with him shortly before the apostle’s martyrdom is evident from Paul’s remark, “Luke alone is with me.”—2Ti 4:11.
From the above, we can see that the WTS acknowledges that Luke was well educated and was a doctor. There is no mention however, of his education being the equivalent in its day, of a university education! He was highly respected. His education served to encourage others as "followers of the way" and did not lead to him falling victim to any of the pitfalls which the WTBTS opine may befall graduates.
The Insight volume also considers Moses. It relates that "As a member of Pharaoh’s household, he was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” becoming “powerful in his words and deeds,” undoubtedly powerful in both mental and physical capabilities.—Ex 2:1-10; Ac 7:20-22."
Again, no acknowledgement that Moses' education would have been the equivalent of a university education at that time. After all, the Egyptians were such formidable civil engineers and would have needed an advanced education system to train their engineers. Indeed, so complex was their output that their architecture is studiously examined with awe by graduates today. Yet despite Moses having been "instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians", none of his peers accused him of having wasted time which could have better been spent in what the accuser might have seen as service to God. He too, did not fall victim to any of the pitfalls so alarmingly portrayed by the WTBTS / GBoJW.
ABEDNEGO (AZARIAH)In Babylon he, along with Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael, passed, with high honors, a three-year training course and a regal examination personally conducted by Nebuchadnezzar, after having first demonstrated religious integrity in matters of food and drink. (Da 1:4, 5, 8-20) Later, at Daniel’s request, the king made Azariah and his two companions administrators over the jurisdictional district of Babylon.—Da 2:49.
MESHACH (MISHAEL)Mishael, Azariah, Hananiah, and Daniel were then put through a three-year training course by the Babylonian royalty, at the end of which they proved superior even to the king’s counselors. (2Ki 24:1, 6, 8, 12-16; Da 1:1-7, 17-20) During this time these four remained firm in their devotion to God, even refusing to pollute themselves with the king’s delicacies.—Da 1:8-16.
SHADRACH (HANANIAH)By the end of three years’ study, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were found to be ten times better than the wise men of Babylon. Certainly they had Jehovah’s blessing, which in turn, no doubt, was partly due to their steadfast refusal to pollute themselves with the Babylonian delicacies. (Da 1:3-20) Their next-recorded appointment was to the administration of the jurisdictional district of Babylon. (Da 2:49)
- undertook three years study
- passed with high honours
- proved superior to their contemporaries (WT says ten times better!)
- remained faithful to God
- and enjoyed good employment prospects!
Well well well! What on earth is all the fuss about on the part of the WTS / GBoJW today? There are no leadership entities in evidence in the Bible which showed the antipathy towards higher\advanced education which the WTBTS shows today. If anything, everyone then valued and esteemed such an education! Notably here too, no acknowledgement by the WTBTS / GBoJW of Daniel's three friends having undertaken an education equivalent to that of university level. In this example too, the education they gained did not represent a hazard.
Ch 5 - pg57
"Daniel tells us that the elite students like himself and his friends were trained for three years in a broad curriculum, involving the languages and literature of the Babylonians. No expense was spared by the government and, since Babylonian culture put a high premium on physical image, the students were given the bery best of food - in fact the same food that was served to the emperor himself. Students being students, such food was a great perk of being selected for the course. It is certain that these four captives from a city brought to its knees by an impoverishing siege had never seen anything like this quality of food before: it was beyond the dreams of those used to war rations.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. (Daniel 1:8.)"
"Libraries and education institutions in particular were closely attached to temples in major cities of the empire. According to the archaeologists, Babylon had temples galore at the time - over a thousand of them. In contemporary, secular England most colleges in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge still have a Latin grace said at meals by a scholar or fellow of the college. It would surely be almost incredible if the University of Babylon, permeated as it was with idolatry, did not have pagan rituals at meal times. There would have been constant offerings and toasts to the gods."
"We should take careful note, however, that Daniel did not protest against the education in the University of Babylon as such. He clearly devoted himself to it, and we can well imagine that he enjoyed his university course. He and his friends put such energy into the learning of the languages, literature, philosophy, science, economic, history, and so on, that they were star pupils and ended up with the top distinctions, far ahead of the rest. Daniel did not protest as an observer outside the system: he protested as a participant.
It is important to bear this in mind, not least when we hear the term 'apocalyptic literature' being used in connection with the book of Daniel. This description tends to conjure up the idea of some wild and irrational prophet of doom, warning people to flee society, barricade themselves like monks or hermits against the world and await the imminent, all-engulfing cataclysm that marks the end of history. Well, if that is what 'apocalyptic' means, it clearly does not apply to Daniel or his friends. We do not deny that Daniel has much to say about the future in his book, some of it bleak in its implications. But, far from leading him to run away from society and responsibility, the revelation he had of the future led him to live a very full professional life at the highest levels of administration in the empire. Daniel's understanding of God did not lead to his developing a ghetto mentality but to taking a full and prominent part in the life of Babylon."
So Professor Lennox does not have a problem in seeing the education of Daniel and his friends as being the equivalent of higher education and in describing their then educational institution of learning as the University of Babylon. It has been argued by the GBoJW that modern day higher education represents a hazard to the individual. Yet such hazards did not befall any of the Bible characters aforementioned, and the times in which Daniel and his three friends lived were especially hazardous.
As the literature of the WTBTS is so often saying, there are "scriptural principles" which can guide us where the Bible does not directly address an issue - such as that of pursuing "higher education". One such principle is Jeremiah 10:23. This scripture is mentioned a lot in WTS literature. It says that "It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." In that this is so, with copious human history to evidence the truth of the scripture, then why should anyone decide how another human being should "direct his step" - GBoJW or otherwise? Why should an individual exempt himself from the counsel of 1 Thess 4:11 - "...make it YOUR aim to live quietly and to mind YOUR own business" and additionally, ignore the counsel of 1 Peter 4:15 - "...let none of YOU suffer as a .... busybody in other people’s matters." So scriptural principle seems to be offering the guidance that whether or not to pursue a higher education is one's "own business" and directing others in the matter is the characteristic of a "busybody". Therefore, in that these few scriptures are being ignored by the GBoJW in the context of educational options, what else might they be ignoring in scripture which has value and merit for those who (presume to) lead? Why don't they simply advise reflecting on the experiences of Luke, Moses, Daniel and his three friends, and let the individual come to his own decision? An individual is absolutely free to make his or her own decision as to the level of education to be pursued. After all, the scripture tells us: "Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17)
Interesting info, thanks!
"A spiritual man examines all things, but he is not examined by any man." Supposedly, "Paul" wrote that.
Our CO just expounded upon the dangers of "higher education"! Orgies, drinking, satanic propaganda!!!! Of course, some brothers have higher education and are used by the WTBTS INC. ( Lawyers...)
I agreed with one point: Higher Education does not automatically ensure success, and the debt can be substantial.
proverbs chapter 4 goes on about the wonderful aspects of Wisdom, great post. Dumb people are more easily manipulated and the Borg knows this..
The elder of the last congregation I attended, said that those who go to the university are disloyal to Jehovah.
This stupid implicit Watchtower's ban is intended to minimize the number of thinkers in the congregations.
The university does not ensure success, but it instructs the student to think and to analyse information.
Nice. I like the reasoning in this post. Thank you.
Higher Education like University teaches contrary to what the Borg teaches. The Borg teaches creation, a lot of University teaches evolution as part of the curriculum. This is a large reason why the Borg discourages education so much, it induces people to thing independently.
"Education teaches one HOW to think, while Propaganda TELLS one WHAT to think."
(Ironically even the society has used that quote.)
So their fear is that by becoming EDUCATED (learning HOW to think), people can use their analytical or critical thinking skills....then the whole belief system can crumble like a house of cards.
Exactly!!! Dead on. The Borg doesn't want any thinking outside of the 'box'. Only what the rank and file are told from the meetings and magazines. Not some contrary reasoning from a ''demonized'' post-secondary education institute.
I am new here, I honestly stumbled upon this site - about 2 hours ago - for the first time in my life due to generalized searching for, and reading of, the news after the Russian results.
I'm not really sure how well this forum does regarding notifications when someone comments on a, nearly, one month old thread and thereby I have no idea if this will be seen.
Anyway, I digress...
I am - most likely will - not be getting too engaged in discussions over all. However, this was the thread, this was the topic, that piqued my interest enough that it warranted account creation.
- Please Note: I am apologizing now for the breadth & depth of this post. I know this is regarding JW's and their respective level, or lack thereof, educational or academic achievement/completion and its demographic juxtaposition with geographic factors, proximity to centers for higher education, other socio- or communal groupings and the personal, professional (if it can even be considered 'professional') successes therein or, again, a lack thereof. I promise that my contribution in this regard is contained herein but I ask your collective patience with my overall post as I am of the belief that, contextually speaking, it is prudent to provide my background; to whit, I believe it will prove warranted prior to espousal of any personal paradigm & for the forming of your own in retort. Therefore, I continue forthwith. •
I am a 35 year old male in Utah, USA. I was born to Jehovah's Witness parents & large JW families on both sides. *Insert stereotypical JW upbringing details here*, yada yada, 1st talk on TMS was the #2/Bible Reading (with Intro & Conclusion back then) when I was 5 years old, Unbaptized Publisher when I was 6 years old, Baptized at 14 years old, Auxiliary Pioneered every July, etc.
I was Appointed as a Ministerial Servant when I was 16 years old (to be fair, it was 6 days prior to my 17th birthday), blah blah blah, interviewed (starting on the actual date I was baptized) on 6 District Conventions & 7 Circuit Assemblies/Assembly Days, had 2 different 15 minute District Convention talks (ages 18 & 21) & 3 different 10 minute Circuit talks (ages 18, 19 & 20), you know the drill.
I'll apologize in advance for the braggadocio here but I was "The Golden Boy" of JW's, lol. I was the one that my parents friends look at and say "Hey, BXXX, can you please wait until our daughter is old enough so she can marry you?" (Let's put a pin in that statement please; weird doesn't always demand dissection, am I right?)
In amongst all of those details was the fact that I was one of two Ministerial Servants in our congregation and the other was a 90 year old blind man with two hip replacements; anyone want to guess which of the two MS's did 'all the congregational work'?
If there was a problem, yo' I had to solve it.
Ultimately, it meant that I had the *Privilege* of being responsible for every department - I mean *every* department:
Literature coordinator for 3 congregations, territories, magazines, accounts, sound, attendant, Assistant TMS Overseer, TMS Scheduling & Assignments, Assistant Congregation Book Study Overseer, Public Talk Coordinator, cleaning & maintenance, hospitality coordinator, field service coordinator for a Service Overseer with health problems, the Presiding Overseer delegated the scheduling of the Service Meeting to me as well scheduling the chairman & WT readers.
One final detail is that I also gathered, formatted, put together & distributed binders containing:
All source or study material, created my own table of contents, an index that I took time to create, loose leaf notepaper, 1 blue, 1 black, 1 red pen & 1 highlighter for every Kingdom Ministry School for Elders & Servants.
Once completed, I provided a binder to every Elder & MS in the District (and the DO & CO) along with shipping some to various family & friends around the country; NOTE: every aspect of this *privilege project*, from supplies, toner cartridges, driving all over to deliver them, shipping the very long distance binders, was all done out of my own pocket & at my own expense. Lest we forget to *count the cost* that would be MY TIME to do the work. (It was no less than a 4 month project every year)
(P.S. All of that congregational stuff began immediately upon my appointment as a Servant when I was 16, I began making those binders when I was 14 years old)
Finally, when I was 23, I pretty much "snapped" from burn out. I, quite literally, walked up to the PO after a Tuesday night meeting and said "I'm stepping aside as a Ministerial Servant, effective immediately, please find other arrangements. This will help you transition..." and I handed him 3 CDs I had burned that evening before the meeting which contain all data for everything I was responsible for.
I walked out to my car, and I was done.
*With that out of the way, the last statement to make is that I will be seeking to limit the conversations in which I engage within the forum. I'll freely admit that there is a side of me that does indeed maintain *some* strong agreement for aspects of the organization; notably, there are also plenty of areas in which I have *never in my life* agreed with as well as yet other topics upon which I feel are truthful in the strictest sense of doctrine & even find the accuracy of the foundation to biblically supported yet I know they are implausible or even impossible in a real world setting. Thus, taking that all into account, please respect that I - at times - will decline to get into hairsplitting or otherwise *heated* debates to which I see no intellectual, psychological, emotional or other type of benefit.*
- If you read that entire diatribe & are with me thus far, thank you for your patience! Heretofore my remaining comments are topically on point. •
Regarding the topic of Education, this is one of those areas in which I have always - even as a 'mere young boy' - had an internally vehement struggle, negative perspective and complete disagreement with.
To my mind, if fundamental to ones teaching or topical 'education' - in this case, religious education - is that:
'...no man knows the day or the hour..', that '...not even Christ Jesus knows...' and that '...it will come as a thief in the night...'
Than, in that case, I am left with a surfeit glut of questions & comments I'd love to levy at the GB but I'll condense it down to its deepest root as a single - and, I think, a pretty weighty - question:
- With those baseline scriptural references at the very core of 'the end of the system of things', HOW is it anything other than pompously far reaching & arrogantly short sighted to BOTH imply the end in 1975 and to *encourage a person's bible trained conscience* to forget about education so as to pursue greater theocratic activity?
Whether it's 1975, or another example, implying ANY sort of future *possible* date as the end is simply not in keeping with 'no man shall know the day and the hour'. Furthermore, by implying such things in combination with such negative commentary on continued education, HOW are we not crippling 'the friends' to, what is now, 42 years watching as the 'scene of this world is changing'?
In fact, can I not reasonably posit that the condemnation of attending College has now had a diametrically opposed effect in that many are now forced to take multiple, low paying, jobs with a higher grand total of labor hours just to make ends meet which thus deals a fatal blow to any hopes or ability to increase their theocratic activity; is not the imposition of said educational restraint the causal link to this real world, factual, problem?
Is it not fair to postulate that, had these individuals been afforded the opportunity to truly 'live their lives as though Armageddon is coming tomorrow, but PLAN their lives as though it's never coming at all' and determine what educational course was best for them, personally, that they may in fact find themselves able to obtain employment of 30-40 hours per week - perhaps even working from home - and have even more time available for theocratic needs were they to have had a College Degree?
Were we to exercise 'wisdom & discernment', could it not also be plausible that, by having obtained their degrees, these educated brothers & sisters would have managed to start and operate small businesses with far greater success, scope, revenue and profitability which would allow them to remain in even greater control of their work schedule so as to avail themselves to the kingdom effort on a - potentially - unparalleled scale sans working 3 different minimum wage jobs at 80 hours per week AND be able to offer the added benefit of now helping others in the congregation by hiring them & providing them a work schedule immensely more conducive to the kingdom work than anything this system provides?
**I could go on and on, obviously. Nevertheless, I've made my point.**
So, without any further ado, here are the final details about myself which pertain to this topic:
Graduated High School at 16 by accelerating the coursework ON MY OWN.
GPA at graduation: 4.0 out of 4.0 (straight A's)
Through a chance encounter with the Dean of a University, he arranged for me to take the SATs and ACTs 'for fun'. Results?
SATs: 1590 of 1600
ACTs: 38 of 40
Upon receiving those scores, the aforementioned Dean asked if I wanted to test my I.Q. Results?
Upon receiving that result, the aforementioned Dean proceeded to offer me a FULL Academic Scholarship to his university; COMPLETELY 'free ride' on everything: books, tuition & dorms, etc. although I lived close enough at the time that it was only a 20 minute drive from home.
The name of that university?
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
You read that correctly...M.I.T.; the very bastion of scientific achievement & capability, a place where people like John Nash & Stephen *effing* Hawking can/could/did show up to lecture.
The result of that offer?
I turned it down because it was a 'worldly desire to pursue a college education'.
AND...I was tempted to accept it but - and this is always a great thought to reminisce on - had I decided to accept said scholarship, well that's just it, there was no scenario where I would have accepted because when my parents heard of this - as well as hearing that I was considering it (even though I was 99% sure I'd decline of my accord) - they made it QUITE CLEAR that I wouldn't be accepting the offer.
After all, I was 16 years old and a minor. It was ultimately their decision to control that outcome and they emphatically informed me that it was "not where a Christian belongs, a Christian 'keeps on putting first the kingdom & his righteousness' and that my good grades in high school are all that I needed in order for me to get a job and then go to Ministerial Training School so I could be sent where the need was great".
End result from THAT decision?
My I.Q. tested out 13 points higher, 175, only 3 years later when I was 19. However, I entered the workforce with my high school diploma and began working jobs that - although they paid 'decently' in the $50k to $70k range - were jobs that didn't just require a 'pound of flesh' through how many hours I worked but also a 'pound of my flesh' in a physical sense.
The inglorious end of my tale being that I am now 35, I have a litany of medical conditions, my body is 'falling apart' so badly that I am now considered permanently disabled. I can walk (barely) and have a fair quality of life, all things considered. But, I am 35 and have been told by doctors that my body is 85, it won't get any better and they are in shock that I actually am walking still.
I have had 6 surgeries in the last 2 years and need to endure at least 5 more in the next 12 to 18 months and then - hopefully - I won't need any for about 5 years.
Right now I currently have 3 fractured discs in my lower back - yes, I have a broken back - along with a minor ACL tear in my right knee & minor MCL tear in my left knee and those 3 problems are the 'less crucial' to deal with. Consider that. 'Ruminate' on that.
My entire Spinal column has begun to form calcium deposits which will lead to my spine fusing to a solid state but - by planning to undergo surgery every 5 years for the rest of my life - we can prolong the inevitable by *hopefully* 20 years.
As if I'll be alive at 55!
It's both a wonderful escape from my reality, as well as a thoroughly infuriatingly depressing exercise, to sit and think about "what if I went to MIT? What if I put my brain to real use...?".