There are a great number of problems to be found inside most Kingdom Halls:
Gossip, cliques, favoritism, nepotism, good-old-boy networks, hidden sin, arrogance, etc.
Do you agree with this statement? How about this one:
There are a great number of problems to be found inside most Christian churches:
Gossip, cliques, favoritism, nepotism, good-old-boy networks, hidden sin, arrogance, etc.
If they are both true, then what does that mean? If both statements are oversimplifications and exaggerations, then what does that mean? Does it not illustrate that people generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to their view of these problems? They either see the hypocrisy and give up or get out of the group, or they try and look for the good and not judge the whole group based on the flaws found with certain individuals inside of it. This can then be applied to Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, or any other of the denominations of Christendom. It is human nature, and this is why both statements could be true for a particular congregation.
Why do people rarely see the flaws of their religion or their congregation? It may be the same reason it is so hard to see our own flaws; it is very difficult to see ourselves! Also it could be that personal and religious pride often prevents a person from opening their eyes to the problems inherent in their church or Kingdom Hall. Notice what this Watchtower article says about religious pride:
Pride is specially prone to flourish in the field of religion. Few choose their own religion on the basis of searching Bible study. They inherit it from their parents, or acquire it from their neighbors, or absorb it from their friends, or adopt it for business advantage. Once having committed themselves they are balky about changing. Pride is quick to protest any admission of error. To change would be to say their parents were wrong, or their neighbors, or their circle of friends, or their business associates. So they cling to their religion, too prejudiced to examine its teachings in the light of the Bible, too proud to acknowledge the possibility of wrong, too hardened in pride to consider a change, and many times too indifferent to care. They think that to change would make them lose face. They forget that refusal will make them lose life. (WT 1954 6/1 pp. 325-326 Pride Destroys, Meekness Saves)
How many brothers and sisters attend the meetings and go through the motions of field service because of inertia, peer pressure, for social advantage, and fear of reprisals from the elders? How many Witnesses carry out these works, such as counting their time at a snail-like pace and running errands in between long drives to a remote return visit out of sincere desire to do so? How many do it for other reasons such as status or a feeling of guilty obligation? (2 Timothy 3:5) Is it easier to stay within the movement or structure, or to get out? How hard is it to try and enact change? At what point does our conscience kick in and compel us to do what we know is right no matter the cost?
One sincere but flawed hero of many Christians that comes to mind is Martin Luther. (See article, Martin Luther – A Brave Christian) Here is an excerpt from his famous speech when on trial for his life, and what he said to the Catholic tribunal that was threatening him:
Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by evident reason (for I believe neither pope nor councils alone, since it is manifest they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is held captive by the word of God; and as it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience, I cannot and will not retract anything. Here I stand; I cannot otherwise; God help me. Amen. (Martin Luther, concluding words in making his defense at the Diet of Worms, Germany, in April of 1521.)
So Luther then felt compelled to follow his Bible-trained conscience, and to drop the religious pride. He knew what he had to do, as difficult as it was. Many former Witnesses have faced this “spiritual firing squad” and have been executed in the eyes of the elders and their friends and families. But this has not changed their status with our Heavenly Father and his appointed judge, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! They are the ones we should be seeking to please. No man-made label or status can affect their love and their righteous judgment.
We can study the Bible our entire lives and it never becomes outdated or is contradicted by some new discovery. It is practical and relevant to anyone living anywhere, and at any time. So why is it that we don’t regularly consider the Finished Mystery book written in 1918 at the weekly meetings? Or the Watchtower magazines written by Russell, or his Studies in the Scriptures Volumes? What about the literature written by second president, J. Rutherford? A person could respond by saying, “That’s because these are the writings of men, and the Bible was written by God. Plus, the light has gotten brighter since then.” That makes some sense; but by the same token, if these writings of men (as sincere as they are) are followed unquestioningly, how does it differ from “Bible” to us? If you or me or any one of us are not allowed to express disagreement or ask a question about a dogma, teaching, or an interpretation without fear of reprisal and without fear of being accused of being rebellious and called a mentally diseased apostate, how is it effectually different from “Holy Scripture” then? Here is a recent quote from the Watchtower:
*** w11 12/1 p. 12 Who Can Interpret Prophecy? ***
The inspired prophets of old, such as Daniel, did not personally analyze the current trends of their time and then attempt to unravel a complicated future by uttering a prophecy. If they had tried to force the future to unfold in this way, such prophesying would have originated in their own imagination. It would then have been a human prediction, a forecast built upon an imperfect foundation. (Emphasis added)
Yet this is exactly what C. Russell, J. Rutherford, and then F. Franz did with the date setting debacles of 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, 1975, et al. They focused scripture through the light of their own personal interpretations and wrote out what they thought the near future would then hold. Since the dawn of time though there has always been some that are skeptical of these sorts of predictions and presumptions, and are willing to question them.
Martin Luther was one. He boldy spoke out against the Catholic church and nearly became yet another martyr. He told this human court (See 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, HCSB) that were judging him that he was bound by the Scriptures, not to any man-made creed. The Bible was his ultimate guide, not the decrees of the church at that time. William Tyndale was another man that did the same.
Here are some verses that relate to this point. They are quoted from the New World Translation, but if you hover over the chapter and verse numbers you can see an alternative rendering:
Every saying of God is refined. Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6, HCSB)
You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23, HCSB)
“Do not go beyond the things that are written,” in order that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6, HCSB)
It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to trust in earthling man. It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to trust in nobles. (Psalms 118:8,9, HCSB)
However, 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. (Galatians 1:8, HCSB)
Now to me it is a very trivial matter that I should be examined by you or by a human tribunal…For I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah. Hence do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring the secret things of darkness to light and make the counsels of the hearts manifest, and then each one will have his praise come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, HCSB)
These are solid admonitions from God’s word to put our trust in Him only, and not in the words and standards of men. When writing, if a human writer uses the expressions, “apparently then the Bible means…”, “evidently…”, “it seems logical to conclude…” then it means that he is not sure and is giving an educated opinion or well-researched guess. If then he is not completely sure, why would he seek to expel anyone that did not agree with him when he admits he is not sure to begin with?
The expression “the scriptures seem to indicate…” is used over 250 times in the Watchtower CD-Rom Library. The expression “[it is] logical to conclude…” is used nearly 100 times. If I say, “It is logical to conclude that the moon is made of green cheese because of the above mentioned quotes” that does not make it necessarily so! Granted, most of these occurrences in the publications seem to be in humility, with the writer stating that he is not 100% sure of the application of the text. But is the humility shown in the writer’s phrase in the magazine genuine, or a mock humility? Look at this scripture passage in context:
Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. Let no man deprive you of the prize who takes delight in a mock humility…puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, whereas he is not holding fast to the head. (Colossians 2:16-19, NWT)
Putting this point to the test then, if a brother or sister was to humbly state that they did not understand (and therefore could not fully agree with) the Watchtower writer’s interpretation of a scriptural point or doctrine found in an issue of a magazine, what would be the result? Would the Christian’s sincere difference of belief and viewpoint be met with loving kindness and tolerance, or with suspicion, and intimation of disloyalty to God and a rebellious spirit? If it led to a judicial committee of elders “helping” the person to see the WT Society’s reasoning, and then to an interrogating of the person, setting up a human court, and then subsequently expelling them due to that sole reason, is that in line with the above quoted texts?
There are unfortunately many examples. One is about a sister, Grace Gough, that was disfellowshipped not for adultery or drunkenness or theft, but for simply stating to the brothers that she did not believe that 1914 was the end of the gentile times. (You are encouraged to listen to her testimony or go to her website.) A judicial committee was formed, and the three elders on it found her guilty and she was expelled from the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She has since gone on to find Christian freedom and live a happy productive life in serving God.
Should she have recanted, like Galileo did when the Church held his feet to the fire? We know that he did, despite of course knowing in his heart and mind that his belief was accurate and theirs was not. But many will not recant. Many would rather be “expelled from the synagogue” and disfellowshipped as this sister was. Notice what Jesus said in John 16:1-4 in the New World Translation:
I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me. Nevertheless, I have spoken these things to you that, when the hour for them arrives, you may remember I told them to you. (John 16:1-4, HCSB)
So is it right to exert what we think is correct from the scriptures, and have it written down in a magazine, and then adversely judge a brother because they do not believe every single word of it? Is that not treating these written, man-made magazines as the “Holy Bible”? We have all heard the saying, “don’t believe everything you read”. Just due to the fact that it is printed millions of times by a vanity press does not make it so. This does not make an idea and argument any stronger than if one person wrote a differing idea down on a cocktail napkin using a ball point pen.
If a brother, in all sincerity, cannot abide by a new understanding of scripture written in the Watchtower, in an article and publication that is not claimed to be inspired by God, then what does that mean? The ancient Boreans did not accept everything Paul told them at face value. “They received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, NWT) Paul later said this:
A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. (1 Corinthians 2:14-15, HCSB)
There are some things that we can no longer believe just because the men of the Watchtower leadership say we must believe them. A good goal to follow is in Micah 7:7, which says:
“But as for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (NWT)
This scripture means to wait on God only. Listen for his voice and his will in our lives. It does not say to wait on a man or a group of men. It says to pray and to wait on God. Can you see the two different sets of scales, or standards, at work here? When it comes to a person of another faith having the freedom to choose his own reading material notice how the Watchtower intimates this is bad:
*** yb78 p. 140 Spain *** Through the press and from the pulpit the people were warned not to read The Watch Tower.
*** w56 6/15 p. 365 Waging the Right Warfare *** This is not surprising, since many are instructed not to read publications concerning the Bible unless they are first approved by the church.
So the Watchtower rightly points out that when other religions tell their members what not to read it is a bad thing, especially if they are being told not to read the Watchtower magazine. When other religions refer to the Watchtower publications as apostate or bad material though, then offense is taken. Can you see two different sets of scales here, a double set of standards? Yes, others should be allowed to freely and openly examine their faith but Jehovah’s Witnesses (like many of us that visit JWStruggle) must sneak around under the cover of darkness and anonymity to even discuss issues involved in our religion. One would think that after awhile some Witnesses would recognize and ask themselves the question, “Why is it that I as a grown person can’t discuss these issues openly among my fellow Brothers and Sisters?” This red flag comes up more often than most realize, but it is generally squelched in short order and pushed out of the mind and rejected due to the mental conditioning and rigid uniformity that is foisted upon the Witness mind at nearly every meeting and in virtually every issue of the magazines.
If you took a college course at a large university, and told the class that you were part of a group that forbade open and free discussions about certain topics, and banned certain books, you would likely get a student who formerly lived in communist country who will speak up and say they know all about that, and knew someone that was killed or jailed because they were a dissident. Yet most Witnesses have been taught to never think about this, nor apply it to themselves. The fact that Witnesses have legally done more for the rights of free speech than any religious group in America is commendable but ironic because they deny the very freedoms they fought for to their own members. Note how members are told not to read unapproved material:
If he is sincere, he will see the difference between the positive approach of truth and the negative, critical approach of apostates. By our rejecting apostate thinking and material, we display our loyalty to Jehovah and to his visible organization. *** km 5/92 p. 2 ***
This intimates then that anything contrary to what is printed is “apostate”, negative, and critical. It also ties loyalty to the creator with loyalty to the Watchtower Organization, further cementing their authority. Contrast this with what they have told ones that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses:
We [that is the non-Witness] need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization [except JWs] with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us, and then to do it.—John 8:32. (The Truth Book, chap. 2 p. 13 par. 5 Why It Is Wise to Examine Your Religion, bracketed comments added.)
By all means, follow these good words- each of us should examine what we personally believe and what we have been taught. What does the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about 1914? About blood? About shunning? Are some of its teachings based on the traditions of men? Do they go “beyond what is written” in the Bible in their enforcement things that “seem to indicate [thus and so]”? Our Christian conscience and our personal as well as religious pride are at stake. We want to choose God’s side, based on all the solid evidence available to us. That is the very opposite of a prideful spirit. (Proverbs 16:5, HCSB)