The circuit assembly for this service year includes a four-part symposium. The third part is entitled “Keep This Mental Attitude—Oneness of Mind”. It explains what oneness of mind is in the Christian Congregation. Under that second heading, “How Christ Displayed Oneness of Mind”, the talk makes two points:
1) Jesus taught only what Jehovah wanted him to teach.
2) Jesus’ prayers reflected his determination to think and act in unity with Jehovah even when doing so was difficult.
What true student of the Scriptures would disagree with those statements? Not us, for sure.
Under the third heading, “How Can We Display Oneness of Mind?”, the following statement is made: “To be ‘fitly united,’ we must not only ‘speak in agreement’ but also ‘think in agreement’ (2 Co 13:11)”
Again, no problem with that since it comes from the Bible.
Oneness of mind starts with Jehovah. Jesus was the first creation to achieve oneness of mind with God. If we are to think in agreement, then our thinking must be in agreement with Jehovah and Jesus. If as a people we have oneness of mind, it must always be in line with Jehovah’s mind on things, correct? So this idea of having oneness of mind by all agreeing on the same thing requires—REQUIRES—that we are in agreement with Jehovah. Again, can there be any debate about that?
Okay, now here’s where things get a little messy. From the outline we have this statement: “To ‘think in agreement,’ we cannot harbor ideas contrary to God’s Word or our publications. (1 Co 4:6)”
You see the problem? This statement puts what is stated in our publications on a par with the inspired Word of God. Since it is an historical fact that the Bible has never been proven wrong, while our beliefs as taught in the publications have been wrong on many occasions, this statement is flawed on its face and impossible to reconcile with truth. Yet, the statement concludes with a scriptural reference:
(1 Corinthians 4:6) Now, brothers, these things I have transferred so as to apply to myself and A·pol?los for YOUR good, that in our case YOU may learn the [rule]: “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.
Paul is clearly speaking of the things written under inspiration. Yet, by including this scriptural reference here, we are stating that we should likewise not go beyond the things written in our publications.
Just to show how spiritually dangerous such a teaching can be, let’s take an example from our past. Up to the 1960s, we believed that each creative day was 7,000 years long. The Bible doesn’t teach that so this belief was based on human speculation. We believed—again based on speculation as to the date of the creation of Eve—that 1975 marked the end of 6,000 years of human existence and that it would be appropriate for the final 1,000 years of this seventh creative day to coincide with the millennial reign of Christ. All this was unfounded human speculation, but since it came from an unimpeachable source, the banner was taken up by many a circuit and district overseer, missionary and pioneer across the globe and soon it became a widely accepted belief. Questioning it would be tantamount to attacking the unity of the congregation. Any dissenter would not be “thinking in agreement”.
So let’s review the key points:
- Thinking like Jehovah means teaching what he wants.
- He doesn’t want us to teach false beliefs.
- 1975 was a false belief.
- Teaching 1975 meant teaching what Jehovah doesn’t want.
- Teaching 1975 meant we weren’t thinking in agreement with God.
- Teaching 1975 meant we were thinking in agreement with the Governing Body.
So what is it to be? Think in agreement with men, or think in agreement with God? Back then if one were to maintain oneness of mind by “not harboring ideas contrary to God’s Word or our publications”, one would have been standing between a rock and a hard place. Believing in 1975 would put one in disagreement with Jehovah, but in agreement with most Witnesses of the time. However, not accepting our teaching on 1975 would unite one’s thinking with Jehovah’s, while putting one out of step with the Governing Body.
The talk goes on to say:
“But what if we find a Bible teaching or a direction from the organization hard to understand or accept? “
“Supplicate Jehovah for oneness of mind with him.”
Now I think we could agree with this, don’t you? Though perhaps not in the way the outline’s author intended. If a Bible teaching is hard to understand, we should pray to God to help us think as he does. That would mean accepting a Bible teaching even if we don’t understand it. However, if we’re talking about direction from the organization that we know to be wrong, then we would still pray to have oneness of mind with Jehovah, but in this case the oneness of mind would put us in disagreement with the Governing Body over their teaching.
One is forced to wonder why this push to put the teachings of men on a par with those of God? We have this thought from the talk outline: “Meditate on the fact that all the truths that we have learned and that have united God’s people have come from his organization.”
That is patently false! All the truths we have learned have come from Jehovah through his written word. They have come from the Bible. They haven’t come from an organization. I fear this again focuses our attention on a group of men heading up our organization as the source of truth, rather than placing all emphasis and all glory on Jehovah and his Son and the current channel of communication, God’s Inspired Written Word.
I’m sure we are all very grateful for all we’ve learned by way of the organization, but now they seem to be asking something in return. They seem to want more—more than we should give. They seem to be asking to be custodians of our soul.
I might say that everything I learned about math, I learned from my teachers at school. I’m grateful to them, but that doesn’t give them to right to demand I accept everything they say about math now and into the future as if it were coming from some unimpeachable source; as if it were coming from God. They were my teachers, but they are no longer my teachers. And they were never my rulers. Does the same not apply to any type of teaching that derives from a human instructor?
Actually, since I was raised in the truth, it would be accurate to say that up until quite recently, all the scripturally related truths and falsehoods I’ve learned, I learned from Jehovah’s organization. I learned there was no hellfire and no Trinity. I learned Jesus was the first created being. I learned that Armageddon will destroy this old system of things and that there will be a 1,000-year rule by Christ. I learned that there will be a resurrection of the dead. All this I learned from the Bible with the help of Jehovah’s people. I learned all these wonderful truths via Jehovah’s people or, if you will, his earthly organization.
But I also learned—and for a time came to believe and act upon—falsehoods. I learned that 1975 would mark the end of 6,000 years of human history and that the 1,000-year reign of Christ would begin after that. I learned that the generation—the collective individuals—that saw 1914 would not die out before the end came. I learned that the great tribulation began in 1914. I learned that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah would not be resurrected, and then that they would be, and then that they wouldn’t be, and then… I learned that a wife couldn’t divorce her husband for homosexuality nor bestiality. The list goes on…. All of these were falsehoods which I was taught by the same organization now demanding I believe everything they tell me unconditionally.
I’m thankful for the truths they have taught me. As for the falsehoods—I understand where they came from as well. I hold no rancor nor resentment, though I know many do. My problem is that their application of 2 Cor. 13:11 is absolute. I do agree that we should think in agreement as a people, but not at the cost of losing our oneness of mind with Jehovah. If I knowingly and unquestioningly accept as doctrine from God, the traditions and speculative teachings of men, then I am willfully ignoring Jehovah’s clear counsel to make sure of all things and hold fast only to what is fine. It is really that simple.
In short, we should continue to accept the Governing Body as part of the group making up my teachers, but we must not allow them mastery over our soul. It is not for them to determine what we will or will not believe. No one will stand beside us on judgment day. Then we each must answer for our individual choices and actions. Yes, we must remain united. There are rules of conduct and administrative policies and practices that are necessary for the smooth functioning of any bureaucracy. We have to cooperate if we are going to get the job done.
So where does one draw the line?
The talk closes with this admonition: “Even if you do not fully understand some things, remember that we have been given “intellectual capacity” sufficient for gaining accurate knowledge of the true God, with whom we are now in union “by means of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:20)”
Hear! Hear! Let us work in unity, Yes!—shoulder to shoulder, carrying out the commission Jehovah has given us through his Son. Let us cooperate with those taking the lead. Let us think in agreement, remembering that agreement starts with thinking as Jehovah does, not as men do. Let us do all that, but at the same time, let us always be faithful to the Word of God and using our God-given “intellectual capacity”, let us not be putting our trust in nobles nor in the son of earthly man. (Ps 146:3)