Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Can Jehovah's Witnesses Meet in Private Homes to Study the Bible?

I've been enjoying reading this blog from Stand Firm, an ardently (and I'm assuming young-ish) Jehovah's Witness apologist.

He's produced a long series of refutations called "Things Jehovah's Witnesses Can't Do". I dipped into his list at numbers 101-110. I was fascinated with how he handled some of the accusations against the Witnesses, their beliefs, habits and practices.

I have to, however, refute some of his refutations. For example;

"106. Have unauthorized Bible study groups
Families get together and study the Watchtower, or do a combined Family Worship. The issue, of course, would be if some group began to apostatize; then that would be wrong. Having a dissenting belief does not make it right."
My refutation;

Are you being a little disingenuous? Perhaps readers of this blog do not know about the September 2007 decree from the Governing Body regarding groups who meet together to discuss and study the scriptures.

Let's be more specific; are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to meet in non-family centric groups for Bible study? Before I cite what the Governing Body has published on this matter (and one wonders why it should even be raised in the first place; surely basic Christian freedom should decree we make our own minds up on this matter, full-stop), it's useful to remember that Jehovah's Witnesses are explicitly told to "obey the Governing Body". A Jehovah's Witness is trained and taught to view the Governing Body as Jehovah's mouthpiece on earth. So, to disregard or view as trivial something published by the Governing Body would be tantamount to disregarding Jehovah God himself.

The Governing Body speaks on behalf of the 'faithful and discreet slave' (see Matthew 24:45-47). Jehovah's Witnesses are warned against questioning, doubting or disobeying the 'faithful slave' class. So, it's logical to conclude that to doubt, question or disobey the Governing Body isn't something a faithful Jehovah's Witness would avoid.*

Therefore, are Jehovah's Witnesses allowed to meet in non-family groups to study/discuss the Bible?

The Governing Body published the following in the September Kingdom Ministry pamphlet (only available to those who attend Jehovah's Witness meetings and are active in the door-to-door work; this is not made available to the public. For proof please see this image);
"Does the 'faithful and discreet slave' endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research and debate? No, it does not."
How each Jehovah's Witness would interpret this statement is, of course, open to conjecture. But in view of the reverence given to the word of the 'faithful and discreet slave', as made known through the Governing Body, one could assume that an obedience Jehovah's Witness would be precluded from organising, hosting or attending Bible study groups that are not endorsed (and therefore unauthorised). I could cite anecdotal evidence of elderly Jehovah's Witness women who get dressed up in their finest, only to head downstairs to their living room and participate in "Family Worship" night all alone. They are quoted as believing this is a privilege.**

It may be of interest to impartial readers that exactly 6 months after this Kingdom Ministry article, the Governing Body wrote to all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses to inform them that as of January 2009 there would be no more authorised (or endorsed) Bible study groups in private homes. Instead, Jehovah's Witnesses are to meet as families for "Family Worship" night.

What is intriguing about these policies (no 'unauthorised' Bible study groups and no 'official' Bible study groups in private homes) is how they bear no resemblance to the 1st century Christians.

Acts 1:13 So, when they had entered, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were staying, Peter as well as John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bar·thol´o·mew and Matthew, James [the son] of Al·phae´us and Simon the zealous one, and Judas [the son] of James. 14 With one accord all these were persisting in prayer, together with some women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers. (meeting in the upper room of someone's home)
Acts 2:46 And day after day they were in constant attendance at the temple with one accord, and they took their meals in private homes and partook of food with great rejoicing and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and finding favor with all the people. At the same time Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved. [emphasis added]
Romans 16:5 and [greet] the congregation that is in their house. Greet my beloved E·pae´ne·tus, who is a firstfruits of Asia for Christ. [emphasis added]
1 Cor 16:19 The congregations of Asia send YOU their greetings. Aq´ui·la and Pris´ca together with the congregation that is in their house greet YOU heartily in [the] Lord. [emphasis added]
Colossians 4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers at La·o·di·ce´a and to Nym´pha and to the congregation at her house.
While it's true that meeting together in large groups in a purpose-built building is without question sensible, it doesn't seem to make sense for a Christian group to not endorse groups (family or otherwise) meeting in private homes for Bible study and worship or for a Christian denomination to 'cancel' all meetings in private homes, especially considering the apostolic tradition found in Scripture.

Stand Firm isn't completely open with the truth in his refutation of the claim that Jehovah's Witnesses aren't allowed to have unauthorised Bible study groups. The facts show that, yes, he is correct in stating that families are encouraged to study the Bible and Watch Tower publications together. However, the Watch Tower Society's policy is that they do not endorse (or authorise) groups of Witnesses meeting together to study and debate the Bible.

* There's little doubt in Watchtower literature as to the importance of obeying the 'faithful slave' class and its Governing Body, per the following Watch Tower publication quotations;

• "Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?" Watchtower 2009 Feb 15 p.27
• "[A mature christian] does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. 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."Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
• "All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the "greatly diversified wisdom of God" can become known only through Jehovah's channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave"Watchtower 1994 October 1 p.8
• "We have the opportunity to show love for our brothers who take the lead in the congregation or in connection with Jehovah's visible organization worldwide. This includes being loyal to "the faithful and discreet slave." (Matthew 24:45-47) Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own. We would not have discovered the truth regarding Jehovah, his purposes and attributes, the meaning and importance of his name, the Kingdom, Jesus' ransom, the difference between God's organization and Satan's, nor why God has permitted wickedness." Watchtower1990 December 1 p.19
• "Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind." Watchtower 1967 October 1 p.587
• "To keep in relationship with "our Savior, God," the "great crowd" needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites." Watchtower 1979 November 15 p.27 Benefiting from "One Mediator Between God and Men"

** As related by Circuit Overseer Michael Reid during his July 2009 visit to a congregation in the Lanarkshire Number 1Circuit, Scotland.


  1. Glad you've been enjoying my blog.

    I will delete some of your comments repeated over here; they serve no purpose other than redundancy, and others I will delete after I address them in new posts.

    By the way, what is this all about?
    "young-ish Jehovah's Witness apologist"

  2. It's a pity you're going to delete my comments on your blog. I would have thought that in the interest of fair discussion, and to help present a balanced view of the claims Jehovah's Witnesses make, you'd leave them.

    However, it's your blog and if you wish to silence dissenters, I completely understand.

  3. Also, I notice you haven't actually posted my (above) comments refuting the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to have an approved Bible study group in their home.

    Is there something I've said that isn't true or misrepresents the official policies of the Governing Body as published by the Watch Tower Society?

  4. "Also, I notice you haven't actually posted my (above) comments refuting the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to have an approved Bible study group in their home.
    Is there something I've said that isn't true or misrepresents the official policies of the Governing Body as published by the Watch Tower Society?"

    Not necessarily. I am writing a post currently and will be up in due time.