Thursday, 29 July 2010

Do the Anointed Have "Special Insights?"

Mike Felker has asked whether the Governing Body consistently teach that the "anointed" do not have any special insights. This is the magazine article that has puzzled him.
Watchtower, May 1, 2007
Questions from Readers
When does the calling of Christians to a heavenly hope cease?
The Bible does not reveal a precise answer to that question. We do know that the anointing of Jesus’ disciples with a view to their heavenly inheritance began in 33 C.E. (Acts 2:1-4) We also know that after the death of the apostles, genuine anointed Christian “wheat” came to “grow together” with counterfeit Christians, “weeds.” (Matthew 13:24-30) Then, starting in the late 1800’s, anointed Christians were again prominently active. In 1919 “the harvest of the earth,” including the gathering of the final ones of the anointed began to be reaped. – Revelation 14: 15, 16.
From the late 1800’s until 1931, the main thrust of the preaching work was the gathering of the remaining members of the body of Christ. In 1931 the Bible Students took the Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in the November 15, 1933, issue of the Watchtower, the thought was expressed that this unique name was the “denarius” referred to in Jesus’ parable recorded at Matthew 20:1-16. The 12 hours mentioned in the parable were thought to correspond to the 12 years from 1919 to 1931. For many years after that, it was believed that the call to the heavenly Kingdom had ended in 1931 and that those called to be joint heirs with Christ in 1930 and 1931 were “the last” called. (Matthew 20:6-8) However, in 1966 an adjusted understanding of that parable was presented, and it became clear that it had nothing to do with the end of the calling of the anointed.
In 1935 the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-15 was understood to be made up of “other sheep,” Christians with an earthly hope, who would appear on the world scene in “the last days” and who as a group would survive Armageddon. (John 10:16; 2 Timothy 3:1; Revelation 21:3, 4) After that year, the thrust of the disciple-making work turned to the gathering of the great crowd. Hence, especially after 1966 it was believed that the heavenly calling ceased in 1935. This seemed to be confirmed when almost all who were baptized after 1935 felt that they had the earthly hope. Thereafter, any called to the heavenly hope were believed to be replacements for anointed Christians who had proved unfaithful.
Without a doubt, if one of the anointed unrepentantly falls away, Jehovah does call another individual to take his place. (Romans 11:17-22) However, the number of genuine anointed ones who have become unfaithful is likely not large. On the other hand, as time has gone by, some Christians baptized after 1935 have had witness borne to them that they have the heavenly hope. (Romans 8:16, 17) Thus, it appears that we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.
How should a person be viewed who has determined in his heart that he is now anointed and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He should not be judged. The matter is between him and Jehovah. (Romans 14:12) However, genuine anointed Christians do not demand special attention. They do not believe that their being of the anointed gives them special “insights,” beyond what even some of experienced members of the great crowd may have. They do not believe that they necessarily have more holy spirit than their companions of the other sheep have; nor do they expect special treatment or claim that their partaking of the emblems places them above the appointed elders in the congregation. They humbly remember that some anointed men in the first century did not qualify to serve as elders or ministerial servants. (1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9; James 3:1) Some anointed Christians were spiritually weak. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) And sisters, although anointed, did not teach in the congregation. – 1 Timothy 2:11, 12.
Hence, anointed Christians along with their other sheep companions strive to stay spiritually strong, cultivating the fruitage of the spirit and working for the peace of the congregation. All Christians, whether anointed or of the other sheep, work hard at preaching the good news and making disciples under the direction of the Governing Body. Anointed Christians are content to do this for as long as it is God’s will that they remain on earth as Jehovah’s servants.
Text copyright Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society

Of course, this is a flip-flop. See the following quotations, with added emphasis;

*** w05 1/15 p. 15 par. 21 Christ—The Focus of Prophecy ***Only his faithful anointed disciples would discern his royal presence. In the next article, we will see how that insight would have a profound effect on them, culminating in the gathering of millions who would become Jesus’ earthly subjects

*** ip-2 chap. 15 p. 228 par. 23 The Barren Woman Rejoices ***23 Verse 13 of Isaiah chapter 54 provides the key—all will be “taught by Jehovah.” Jesus himself applied the words of this verse to his anointed followers. (John 6:45) The prophet Daniel foretold that during this “time of the end,” 
the anointed would be blessed with an abundance of true knowledge and spiritual insight. (Daniel 12:3, 4) Such insight has enabled them to spearhead the greatest educational campaign in history, spreading divine teaching in all the earth. (Matthew 24:14) At the same time, such insight has helped them to see the difference between true religion and false. Isaiah 54:12 mentions “boundaries of delightsome stones.” Since 1919, Jehovah has given the anointed an ever clearer understanding of the boundaries—the lines of spiritual demarcation—setting them apart from false religion and ungodly elements of the world. (Ezekiel 44:23; John 17:14; James 1:27) They are thus set apart as God’s own people.

*** w00 5/15 p. 11 par. 6 Pay Attention to God’s Prophetic Word for Our Day ***6 In this time of the end, many faithful Christians have ‘roved about’ in the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. The result? With Jehovah’s blessing on their efforts, true knowledge has become abundant. For instance, 
anointed Witnesses of Jehovah have been blessed with insight, enabling them to understand that Jesus Christ became heavenly King in the year 1914.

*** km 3/00 p. 8 par. 4 Studying Daniel’s Prophecy ***4 Prepare well for the study each week, and enjoy participating in it. 
Appreciate your privilege of associating with Jehovah’s visible organization and benefiting from the insight and understanding provided by his faithful anointed ones.

*** dp chap. 17 p. 292 par. 11 Identifying True Worshipers in the Time of the End ***: “The ones having insight will shine like the brightness of the expanse; and those who are bringing the many to righteousness, like the stars to time indefinite, even forever.” Who are “the ones having insight” today? Again, the evidence points to the same “holy ones of the Supreme One.” After all, who but the faithful anointed remnant had the insight to discern that Michael, the Great Prince, began standing as King in 1914?

*** dp chap. 18 p. 309 par. 7 Jehovah Promises Daniel a Wonderful Reward ***In our own day, 
the anointed have been blessed with spiritual insight, shining as beacons of truth in this bedarkened world.

*** w98 2/15 p. 19 par. 7 Glorious Freedom Soon for the Children of God ***Meanwhile, God granted his anointed servants, born-again Christians, 
noteworthy insight.

*** w87 7/1 p. 23 par. 10 Divine Blessings for “the Ones Having Insight” *** “
The ones having insight” are clearly the faithful remaining members of the anointed Christian congregation, who are ‘filled with accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.

*** w81 3/1 p. 26 Do You Appreciate the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”? ***This indicates that the congregation of Christ’s anointed disciples, those having insight, would be watching for the Master’s return and be found faithfully providing spiritual food at the proper time when he returned.

*** w70 11/15 p. 690 par. 22 The Need to Know What We Worship ***
The anointed remnant of “people who are knowing their God” have been the ones that have prevailed, and this due to having insight.

*** w60 2/1 p. 90 par. 37 Part 31—“Your Will Be Done on Earth” ***They act with insight and keep walking in their integrity or blamelessness toward God. Realizing their being anointed with Jehovah’s spirit to preach, they do preach, that they may “impart understanding to many.”

Question - why have the Governing Body decided, as of 2007, that actually, no the anointed do not have any special insights?

(hat-tip Governing Body Letters)

If You're Studying the Bible, Why Call it "Watchtower Study"?

Jehovah's Witnesses spend over 1 hour per week in a Kingdom Hall studying the Watchtower magazine via a question and answer format. The printed paragraph is read aloud by a pre-assigned reader (always a man) and the "Watchtower Overseer" asks the printed question. Answers are provided by the Jehovah's Witnesses (or guests) in attendance, invariably recycling what's just be read from the printed paragraph.

However, even though to outsiders this format is little more than recited printed information from the Watch Tower Society, Jehovah's Witnesses colloquially refer to this as their "main spiritual meal of the week". It's also referred to, officially, as Bible study.

In the October 15th Study Edition of the Watchtower, the following statement is made on page 21, par 5 (available as a PDF download from here);
5 Starting with the first study edition of The Watchtower, the January 15, 2008, issue, a significant detail was included on the front cover. Did you notice it? Take a good look at the cover of the magazine you are holding. There, at the base of the tower, you will note an open Bible. That added feature under- scores the reason why we have the Watchtower Study. It is to study the Bible with the help of this magazine. Yes, at our weekly Watchtower Study, God’s Word is “being expounded,” and just as in the time of Nehemiah of old, there is “a putting of meaning into it.”—Neh. 8:8; Isa. 54:13.
Here's the image being referred to.

It's interesting that the tower literally towers over, or dominates, the Bible. Which is perhaps exactly the point, as is borne out by the above quote;
That added feature under- scores the reason why we have the Watch- tower Study. It is to study the Bible with the help of this magazine. Yes, at our weekly Watchtower Study (emphasis added)
 Which is it? A Bible study or a Watchtower Study? Well, the Witnesses are indoctrinated to argue that it's a "study of the Bible with the aid of the Watchtower magazine". But let's face it, as the quoted paragraph affirms, it's a Watchtower study.

Jehovah's Witnesses, if you want to study the Bible, study the Bible. Pick it up, open it, pray, then read it. Then pray again. It's really simple. And you'll be amazed at what Jehovah God says to you when you do this, how you'll hear his voice and receive his direction free from any additives.

And remember, the Governing Body (or the "faithful and discreet slave" class) don't have any more insight or Holy Spirit than you do**, so by their own admission, they are no more 'qualified' to explain or expound the Bible than you.

** "However, genuine anointed Christians do not demand special attention. They do not believe that their being of the anointed gives them special "insights," beyond what even some experienced members of the great crowd may have." - Watchtower, May 1, 2007 Question Box

Friday, 23 July 2010

Watchtower Wealth

Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that the world empire of false religion, the harlot of Revelation, is disgusting, in part, because of it's enormous wealth. The Governing Body point to the wealth and property holdings of the Catholic Church as such as example.

However, how many Jehovah's Witnesses are aware of the enormous wealth of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society?

For example, how many loyal Witnesses are aware that the Society's property holdings in Brooklyn alone are valued at around $1 billion?
Watch Tower Society's Brooklyn Property Portfolio
Is this a gross double-standard?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Does Mankind Need to Trust the Messenger to Receive Salvation?

 Mike Felker once again has his finger on the Governing Body's pulse, as demonstrated by this critique of the September 15th Study Edition of the Watchtower. However, within the comments of his blog post, there was complete silence from the Jehovah's Witness apologists. Eventually one anonymous person gave some responses to Mike's post, but failed completely to address any of the inherent issues raised by Mike.

Then along comes Steven who had the the following to contribute (in part, address to my questions for Jehovah's Witnesses about how they deal with John 5:22,23), you can read his full comment here. The gist of his response (although I'd urge you to click through and read it) is that we need to trust, or place our confidence, in "the messenger" (which I assume is the Governing Body), even though the messenger is imperfect and makes mistakes.

This is my response to Steven.

"I believe the question has been asked and answered. You disagree. Do you really want to know the answer?"
I'm sorry, but I don't see any of my questions about Jehovah's Witnesses and John 5:22,23 answered. Perhaps you could direct me to them.
"If you really believe we are in the last days, it would be prudent to ensure that you are doing what is required by God. That is what’s really critical for all at this point."
I agree. Finding out what God requires is important, and the Bible doesn't make it complicated. All who confess Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that he was raised will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
"So, it is clear that the focus is not so much on the messenger but the message."
Interesting. What if the messenger keeps getting the message wrong? What if the messenger proclaims certain years as being important, such as 1874, 1878, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975 etc? What if those proclamation prove to be baseless? Should we keep paying attention to the message of this messenger?

Further to that, what if the messenger proclaims to understand what Jesus evidently meant when he used the word 'generation'? What if each one of the messengers claims of what Jesus "evidently" meant by 'generation' are thrown out. By the messenger.
How much stock would we be expected to place in this imperfect, uninspired messenger who keeps getting important parts of the message completely wrong?
"Who ever can accurately answers to these questions using God’s word is the one you should be putting your confidence. And make no mistake about it, they will be imperfect and make mistakes!!!!!"
This is a very telling statement and it's one that could only come from a person steeped in Watch Tower Society rhetoric, that somehow mankind needs to find an imperfect, uninspired group of people with a track record of making mistakes, and in some way place it's confidence in them for salvation.

However, if this was Jehovah's plan all along (i.e. rely entirely on a mistake-prone, imperfect, uninspired group of men using the Watch Tower Society as a publishing corporation) then why did he bother sending Jesus to an agonising death?

Further to that, your position of directing confidence towards a group of imperfect, flawed (i.e. getting the message, at times, completely wrong and have to totally reverse the content of the message several times, such as in the 'generation') men, 
is not supported in any way by scripture.

Yes, you can cite Old Testament/Old Covenant prophets. But Christians are told that God's law is written on our hearts.

Here's where, scripturally, you run into trouble with your position of having to trust imperfect men for salvation;

  • Rom. 5:1, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • Rom. 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
  • Gal. 2:21, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
  • Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."
  • Eph. 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9Not by works, lest any man should boast."
I really hope you'll see the need to get to know Jesus and simply trust him for your salvation. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. He alone is the way to salvation, dying for our sins so that we can be given his righteousness and be reconciled to God through him (2 Cor 5:18-21).

Friday, 16 July 2010

What Should Be the Theme of Your Ministry?

Jehovah's Witnesses are taught by the Governing Body that the "good news" of the Kingdom is the "vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty". At the outset of this post, I'd challenge any Jehovah's Witnesses reading this to back up the Governing Body's claim with scripture*.

As previously highlighted, Jehovah's Witnesses very rarely talk about Jesus and his work of redemption through the shedding of his innocent blood. Jehovah's Witnesses are told by the Governing Body that they alone most closely match 1st Century Christianity, before it became apostasised. As is the purpose of this blog, such a claim needs to be backed up by evidence.

Therefore, how much truth is there in that claim when we look at the theme of the ministry of 1st Century Christians and compare it to that of the Witnesses?

As stated, the Witnesses believe the "good news" that's to be preached in all the earth is the message that Jehovah's name and sovereignty has been vindicated.

Is that the same message, or word, that the likes of Paul preached?

The answer is in 2 Corinthians 5.
18 But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us.
20 We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: “Become reconciled to God.” 21 The one who did not know sin he made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him.
What is the message? One of reconciliation between God and man. In other words, we can't do anything to reconcile ourselves to God as our sins have separated us from him. But God, through Christ, reconciled us to him, not of our own accord, but his!

But because this happened 2000 years ago when Christ was crucified, how would people throughout the subsequent centuries get to hear about it? 

Paul says God gave Christians the "ministry of reconciliation"and entrusted them with "word of the reconciliation".

The NIV perhaps makes this a little clearer and is less clumsy in its translation of the Greek text;
8All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [emphasis added]
So, in simple terms, what was the theme of 1st Century Christian ministry, the "good news" that would be preached in all the earth? "Be reconciled to God through Christ!" Christians are to be ambassadors of Christ, telling the world of God's appeal; "be reconciled to God!"

Why, then, have the Governing Body changed the theme of the "good news"? And what is the Biblical view of those who do such a thing? See Galatians 1:8!

Loyal-to-the-Organisation Jehovah's Witnesses love to point to their "global preaching work" as proof of God's blessing. However, if the core message is wrong, as has been demonstrated here, then the scale or scope of such a ministry is completely worthless and is actually working against Christ.

Remember, Christians are entrusted with the message of reconciliation, not with proving Jehovah's universal sovereignty.

Jehovah's Witnesses, if you feel you simply must work to receive God's favour, please consider using your valuable time, energy and resources in actually preaching what Christ and the 1st Century Christians preached, not a man-made doctrine.

* Typically Matthew 6:9 is cited, but is an inadequate example as Jesus talks continually about the Kingdom and it's good news, and it's never to do with the "vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty". See "Our Kingdom Ministry", July 2010.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Preach Christ?

Today the Christian Gospel message centres squarely and completely on the underserved crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the subsequent forgiveness of sins for those who believe and trust in his name, Lordship and resurrection.

This was the entirety of Paul's preaching, as borne out by such verses as 1 Cor 2:1,2
1 And so I, when I came to YOU, brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to YOU. 2 For I decided not to know anything among YOU except Jesus Christ, and him impaled
Paul later wrote to the Galatian Christians, warming them that if anyone ever came preaching a different Gospel they (the one doing the preaching) were to be condemned;
Gal 1:8 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. 
Jehovah's Witnesses have no scriptural defence for their choosing to be identified as witnesses of Jehovah rather than witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8). However, I wonder if they have any scriptural defence for not preaching Christ and his crucifixion?

For example, look at the excerpt from July's Kingdom Ministry. This is the section of the monthly bulletin that provides faithful Jehovah's Witnesses with the suggested presentations to use in their door-to-door preaching work. Let's overlook the peddling of literature encouraged by such presentations, but rather focus on the themes of their preaching;

  • terminal illness
  • women clergy
  • nuclear war/ecological disaster
  • Jehovah's Witnesses and their door-to-door work
From a purely Christian perspective, how closely do these topics resemble the Christian Gospel as preached by Paul? Remember, Paul choose to preach nothing but Christ and his crucifixion, beautifully summarising what Christ achieved, not for Jehovah but for those who believe and trust in Christ, when he willingly laid his life down;
2 Cor 5:21 The one who did not know sin he made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him.
Wow! How amazingly simple but powerful; Christ became our sin so that by means of him we might become his righteousness! What an amazing message. No wonder it's called "good news".

Also, notice how few times Jesus Christ features as part of their initial presentation; no times!

So, can an active Jehovah's Witness explain to me, please, why they'd choose to knock on people's doors and endeavour to engage them on such topics listed above? Why choose these topics over simply preaching Christ and his crucifixion? If Jesus Christ is the name given to men by which they are to be saved, why don't you even mention him? (Acts 4:12Acts 5:42)

If you're calling on people who are destined for eternal destruction because they are separate from God, and if the Bible is right in teaching that the separation can only be fixed through Jesus Christ, why wouldn't that be the first and only thing you'd want to speak to them about?

I wonder if the reason is more than the Witnesses' simple desire to unquestioningly obey the Governing Body's direction in all matters, including choice of preaching topic. I wonder if it runs deeper. Perhaps the 7 million Jehovah's Witnesses who choose to speak to the doomed about women in the clergy rather that going to the crux of the matter about Christ is because they know, deep down, that all of the promises, all of the assurances, all of the hope, all of the wonder things written about in the New Testament aren't actually available to them.

And that's the reality. Being able to exchange your sinfulness for Christ's righteousness is not open to you, Jehovah's Witness, unless you choose to trust in him alone and cry out to him for forgiveness and reconciliation. Yet, the Governing Body have misled you into believing that the body of Christ on earth is split into two classes and you don't have the right to receive every good thing promised to Christ's body because you belong to the wrong class. (See John 1:10-13, Romans 8:14-17)

"I am the way, the truth and the life," said Jesus Christ of Nazareth, "no one comes to the Father but by me." What a simple message of hope and love.

Why preach anything else?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Is it Later Than You Think?

Apparently it is. Notice, this magazine was published 42 years ago in 1968.

And the questions asked on the cover?
  • is it later than you think?
  • is time running out for this generation?
  • what will the 1970s bring?
It turns out that, no, it isn't later than Jehovah's Witnesses were led to think in 1968. 42 years later this "old system" keeps lumbering onwards. Imagine being 18 years old when you received your copy of this Awake! magazine. You'd now be 60. Has your life turned out as you expected it to at the end of the 1960s?

And during those 42 years it became clear that the answer to the second question is 'yes', time had run out for 'this generation'. Thrice, in fact. First, in 1995 when the Governing Body decided that Jesus evidently meant 'this generation' referred to all of the wicked people who refused to repent since 1914. 

Then in 2008 the Governing Body decided that Jesus evidently meant the anointed on earth right now where 'this generation'.

And now, in 2010, again the Governing Body has decided that 'this generation' is actually two overlapping generations, as illustrated by the life of Fred W Franz (baptised in 1913) and the lives of the current members of the Governing Body, some of whom were born many years after 1935.

Of course, with each 'new'* iteration of what Jesus evidently meant by 'this generation', 7 million Jehovah's Witnesses automatically, by default, change what they evidently understand 'this generation' to mean.

But then they are instructed to view the words of the Governing Body as being the words of Jehovah God himself.**

What about the answer to the third question? Well, quite simply, the 1970s brought another failed prophetic expectation from the Governing Body, as published in magazine articles such as this 1968 Awake! With the failed expectations, many left the ranks of the Watch Tower Society.

I wonder what the rest of this decade will bring?

* the change in understanding published in 2008 was actually a re-hash of what they understood Jesus to evidently mean back in 1928.