In Part 2 of this series, we established that there is no scriptural evidence for the existence of a first century governing body. This begs the question, Is there scriptural evidence for the existence of the current one? This is critical to addressing the question of who the faithful and discreet slave really is. The Governing Body members have borne witness that they are the slave Jesus was referring to. They claim that the role of the slave is to be God’s appointed channel of communication. Let’s not mince words here. That role entitles them to be called God’s spokesman. They have not gone so far as to actually say that, but if they are the channel by which Almighty God communicates with his servants, then they are for all intents and purposes His spokesman. When Armageddon comes, Jehovah’s Witnesses expect that any direction from God as to what we are to do will come through this channel of communication.
So again we return to the question: Is there scriptural evidence to support all of this?
True, Jehovah had spokesmen in the past, but he always used individuals, never a committee. Moses, Daniel, the apostle Paul, and foremost of all, Jesus Christ. These spoke under inspiration. Their credentials were established by God himself. Their prophecies never—NEVER—failed to come true.
Let’s review: 1) Individuals, not committees; 2) Credentials established by God; 3) Spoke under inspiration; 4) Prophecies never failed to come true.
The Governing Body meets none of these criteria. This is why when someone challenges a teaching of the Governing Body, the average Witness will not use Bible references in coming to their defense. There simply are none. So instead the defense runs something like this. (To be brutally honest, I’ve used most of this reasoning myself in the recent past.)
“Look at the evidence of Jehovah’s blessing on His Organization.[i] Look at our growth. Look at our record of integrity-keeping in times of persecution. Look at the love of the worldwide brotherhood. What other organization on earth is even close? If the Organization isn’t being blessed by Jehovah, how could we be accomplishing the worldwide preaching work? If we are not the true religion, then who is? Jehovah must be using the Governing Body to lead us, otherwise, we would not be enjoying His blessing.”
For most Witnesses this is sound, logical, virtually irrefutable reasoning. We really don’t want it to be any other way, because the alternative leaves us adrift in a sea of uncertainty. However, as we approach the century mark since the Last Days supposedly started, some of us have begun to re-examine teachings we held to be bedrock. Finding that some key doctrines are false has resulted in a great deal of inner turmoil. The psychological term for this condition is “cognitive dissonance”. On the one hand, we believe we are the true religion. On the other hand, we have come to realize that we are teaching some significant falsehoods; much more than can be explained away by the increasingly trite excuse: “The light is getting brighter”.
Is truth a quantitative thing? If the Catholics have 30% of the truth (to pick a number out of the air) and the Adventists have say, 60%, and we have oh, I don’t know, 85%, can we still be the true religion while calling all the others false? Where is the dividing line? At which percentage point does a false religion become the true one?
There is a way out of this morass of conflicting thoughts and emotions, a way to resolve the cognitive dissonance that can otherwise destroy our spiritual tranquility. That way is not denial which is the course many follow. Troubled by decades of redefining a doctrine to the point of absurdity (Mt. 24:34 comes to mind) many Jehovah’s Witnesses simply refuse to consider the topic anymore; disdaining any conversation that might touch on the offending subject. Simply put, they just “won’t go there”. However, burying our disquieting thoughts deep in our subconscious will only do us harm, and worse, it is not the course approved by Jehovah. How else can we understand the inspired expression: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” (1 Thess. 5:21)
Resolving The Conflict
Resolving this conflict is crucial for our happiness and for re-establishing our relationship with Jehovah. Speaking thematically, it has the added benefit of helping us to identify the faithful and discreet slave.
Let’s start by defining the elements of our belief as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
1) Jehovah has an earthly Organization.
2) Jehovah’s earthly Organization is the true religion.
3) There is scriptural support for our modern day Organization.
4) The empirical evidence proves that Jehovah’s Witnesses make up God’s earthly Organization.
5) The Governing Body is appointed by God to direct his earthly Organization.
Now let’s add in the elements that are causing us to question the above.
6) There is no scriptural evidence that Jesus would ‘arrive’ invisibly during the last days.
7) There is nothing in Scripture establishing 1914 as the start of this supposed second presence.
8) There is nothing in Scripture proving that Jesus inspected his house from 1914 to 1918.
9) There is nothing in Scripture proving that Jesus appointed the slave in 1919
10) There is no evidence that the majority of Christians have no heavenly hope.
11) There is no evidence that Christ is not the mediator for the majority of Christians.
12) There is no evidence that most Christians are not God’s children.
13) There is no evidence for a two-tier system of salvation.
The way many of our brothers would deal with the presentation of these last eight points would be to respond—probably with a good deal of vehemence and self-righteous, though well-meaning, condescension: “Jehovah didn’t appoint you as his faithful slave. Do you think you’re smarter than the brothers on the Governing Body? We have to trust those Jehovah has appointed. If there are things that have to be corrected, then we must wait on Jehovah. Otherwise, we may be guilty of ‘pushing ahead’.”
Those who say such things do not realize—in fact, they would never stop to question—the fact that much of what they have just expressed is (a) based on unproven assumptions, or (b) stands in conflict with known scriptural principles. The fact is that they are far too emotionally invested in what the Organization represents to them to question its place in their life. Like Saul, they will need a radical wake-up call—perhaps not a blinding revelation of the glorified Jesus Christ, but who knows—to shock them into re-evaluating their role in God’s unfolding purpose. Our concern here is with those who, like myself, have already reached that point and are no longer willing to ignore the evidence, even though it means abandoning an albeit false sense of security.
So let us look at the first six points. However, there is one last thing we need to do before getting underway. We have to define the term ‘organization’.
(If you haven’t already figured it out, this whole post comes down to this one crucial point.)
What an Organization Is
The letterhead used by branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the word displays the term “Christian Congregation” which replaced “Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society” just a few years back. However, in publications and by word of mouth, the word ‘organization’ is more frequently used. Are we playing with words? Are we “being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words”? Really, are not ‘congregation’ and ‘organization’ simply synonymous concepts; different words to describe the same thing? Let’s see. (1 Tim. 6:3)
“Congregation” comes from the Greek word ekklesia[ii] which means ‘to call out’ or ‘to call forth’. In Scripture, it refers to the people who God has called out of the nations for his name. (Acts 15:14)
“Organization” comes from ‘organ’ which comes from Greek organon which means literally, “that with which one works”; essentially a tool or an instrument. That is why the components of the body are called organs, and the entire body, an organism. The organs are tools that the body works with to perform a task—keeping us alive and functioning. An organization is the administrative counterpart to this, a body of people performing different tasks like the organs of your body, but who collectively serve the whole. Of course, like the human body, to achieve anything, even to simply operate, an organization needs a head. It needs a directing force; leadership in the form of one man, or a board of directors, who will ensure that the purpose of the organization is achieved. Once that purpose has been achieved, the reason for the organization’s existence is gone.
There are many organizations in the world today: NATO, WHO, OAS, UNESCO. The people of the world have created these organizations for specific tasks.
The congregation, those called out for Jehovah’s name, are a people. They will always exist. They can organize themselves for various tasks—construction, disaster relief, preaching—but all those tasks have a finite lifespan. Those organizations will end, new ones will be created, but they are tools that ‘the people’ use to accomplish some purpose. The tool is not the people.
The stated chief purpose of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to accomplish the worldwide preaching work before the end of this system of things.
Let us be perfectly clear here: We have no problem with the Christian Congregation being organized to accomplish some task. Our Organization has ‘performed many powerful works in God’s name’, but that in and of itself does not ensure the approval of the Lord. (Mt. 7:22, 23)
What an Organization Is Not
The danger with any organization is that it may take on a life of its own. What often happens is that the tool used to serve the people is transformed into a thing which people must serve. The reason this happens is that any organization must have humans directing it. If there are no safeguards imposed on that human authority; if that authority can lay claim to divine right; then the warnings found at Eccl. 8:9 and Jer. 10:23 must apply. God is not one to be mocked. What we sow, we reap. (Gal. 6:7)
It is here where we can show the true difference between the Christian Congregation and the Organization. These are not synonymous terms in our vernacular.
Try this. Open the Watchtower Library program. Access the Search menu and set the Search Scope to “Sentence”. Then copy and paste this string of characters[iii] into the search field and hit Enter.
organi?ation | congregation & loyal*
You will find no reference in the NWT Bible to being loyal to either the congregation or the organization. Now try this one. We’re looking for instances of “obey”, “obeying” or “obedience”.
organi?ation | congregation & obe*
Again, no results from the NWT.
It seems Jehovah doesn’t expect us to obey or be loyal to the congregation. Why? (Since organization is not used in Scripture, it doesn’t factor in at all.)
Did you also check out the number of results obtained for these two queries in The Watchtower? Here are some examples:
- “their fine example of loyalty to Jehovah and his organization.” (w12 4/15 p. 20)
- “let us be determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to the organization” (w11 7/15 p. 16 par. 8)
- “That is not to say that it was easy for all who remained loyal to the organization to preach publicly.” (w11 7/15 p. 30 par. 11)
- “By being obedient and loyal to the direction received from the earthly part of God’s organization,” w10 4/15 p. 10 par. 12
This helps to explain why the Bible never tells us to be loyal to an organization or congregation. We can only be loyal and obedient to Jehovah and to someone or something else if the two are never in conflict. It is inevitable that any organization run by imperfect humans, no matter how good the intentions of those men may be, will run afoul of God’s law from time to time. Unquestioning obedience to the Organization will require us to disobey God—an unacceptable condition for a true Christian to be in.
Remember, an organization is a tool that serves the people who created it. You do not obey a tool. You would not be loyal to a tool. You would not be expected to sacrifice your life or surrender up a brother for the good of the tool. And when you have finished with the tool, when it has outlived its usefulness, you would simply discard it.
The Crux of the Matter
While the Organization is not synonymous with the Christian Congregation, it is synonymous with the Governing Body. When we are told about “being obedient and loyal to the direction received from the earthly part of God’s organization”, what is really meant is for us to obey what the Governing Body is telling us to do and to loyally support them. (w10 4/15 p. 10 par. 12) “The slave says…” or “The Governing Body says…” or “The Organization says…”—these are all synonymous phrases.
Returning to the Argument
Now that we have defined what the Organization truly represents, let’s review the five points that form the basis of our official position.
1) Jehovah has an earthly Organization.
2) Jehovah’s earthly Organization is the true religion.
3) There is scriptural support for our modern day Organization
4) The empirical evidence proves that Jehovah’s Witnesses make up God’s earthly Organization.
5) The Governing Body is appointed by God to direct his earthly Organization.
The first point rests on the proof obtained from points 3 and 4. Without that proof, there is no evidence that point 1 is true. Even the adjective ‘earthly’ suggests that there is a heavenly organization. That is our belief, but what the Bible talks about is a heaven populated with angelic creatures performing myriads of tasks in God’s service. Yes, they are organized, but the concept of a single universal organization as we’ve defined above is simply not scriptural.
We’ll skip over point 2 for now as that is an emotionally charged topic.
As for point 3, if there is scriptural support for our modern day Organization, I invite our readers to share it with us using the Comments feature of the site. We have not found any. True, there is ample support for the modern congregation, but as we’ve demonstrated, the two words express different concepts. It is our current concept of the Organization as implemented by the Governing Body for which we are seeking and not finding scriptural support.
The main point of contention is number 4. Most Witnesses believe the Organization is being blessed by Jehovah. They take that apparent blessing as evidence of His endorsement of the Organization itself.
Does Jehovah Bless the Organization?
We look at the worldwide expansion of the Organization, and we see Jehovah’s blessing. We look at the love and unity in the Organization, and we see Jehovah’s blessing. We consider the Organization’s record of integrity under trial, and we see Jehovah’s blessing. So we conclude that this must be His Organization and the Governing Body must be working under his direction. Is this sound reasoning or are we falling prey to the logical fallacy that deceived Jacob into thinking that putting spotted staffs in front of the flock would cause speckled sheep to be born? (Gen. 30:31-43) This is known as the fallacy of the false cause.
Are the blessings upon Jehovah’s congregation the result of actions taken by the Governing Body, or the result of faithful acts by the individuals involved at the grass roots level?
Consider this: Jehovah cannot bless an individual while simultaneously withholding blessing. That makes no sense. The Organization is a single entity. He cannot bless it and at the same time, withhold his blessing. If we accept for the sake of argument that it is the Organization that is blessed rather than some of the individuals in the congregation, then what can be said when that blessing is patently not in evidence?
It may surprise some to think that there were times when the Organization was very much not being blessed by God. Take for instance what happened in the 1920s. Here’s a count of memorial attendance during that time, rounded to the nearest thousand
Since we use the growth in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘evidence’ of Jehovah’s blessing upon not just His people, not just His congregation, but His organization, we must in honesty take a loss of 4 out of every 5 members as evidence of the withholding of that blessing. Jehovah blesses acts of faith and obedience. Going beyond the things that are written and teaching falsehoods are neither and are condemned in the Bible, so naturally Jehovah wouldn’t bless an organization practicing such things. (1 Cor. 4:6; Deut. 18:20-22) Do we attribute this 80% drop in memorial attendance to Jehovah having withdrawn his blessing? We do not! We blame, not the leadership which misled the congregation with false hope, but the members themselves. Our common reason of late is that some did not want to participate in the door-to-door work and fell away. The facts do not support this prevarication. The push to ‘advertise the king and his kingdom’ began in 1919. The push to have regular field service (as we now call it) by having all congregation members participate in the door-to-door preaching work began in 1922. We experienced phenomenal growth up from 1919 to 1925. This belies the claim that any reduction in numbers was due to the failure of some to obey Christ’s command to make disciples.
No, the evidence is strong that four out of five left the Organization because they realized that the men they had been following were teaching them false doctrine. Why do we not imitate the candor of the Bible writers in admitting our error and taking responsibility for it? When Jehovah blesses the efforts of faithful individuals in making disciples, our numbers grow. However, we claim this shows his blessing upon the entity which is the Organization. However, when our numbers decrease, we are quick to shift the blame the rank and file for ‘lacking faith’, rather than the leadership; rather than the Organization.
The same thing happened again in 1975. Numbers increased based on false hope and fell when disillusionment set in. Again, we blamed the rank and file for lack of faith, but the leadership took little if any responsibility for teaching falsehood.
Explaining the Blessing
Still, some will counter, how can you explain the blessings we are receiving. We don’t have to because the Bible explains them for us. Jehovah blesses faith and obedience. For example, Jesus told us to “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations…” (Mt. 28:19) If some enterprising Christians in modern times choose to make use of printing technology to accomplish this work more effectively, Jehovah will bless them. As they continue to organize and gather others to their cause, Jehovah will continue to bless them. He blesses individuals. If some of those individuals begin to use their newfound position to ‘beat their fellow slaves’, they will find that Jehovah will begin to withdraw His blessing. Not necessarily all at once, just as He continued to bless King Saul for a time until there came a point of no return. But even if He withholds blessing from some, He can still bless others. So the work gets done, but some will take credit for it when all credit should go to God.
Disarming the Argument
So the argument that the Governing Body has been appointed by God because Jehovah is blessing his Organization is rendered moot. Jehovah blesses his people, not collectively, but individually. Get enough genuine Christians together and it may look like the entity we call the Organization is being blessed, but it is still the individuals who are getting the holy spirit.
God doesn’t pour out his holy spirit on an administrative concept, but on living creatures.
The purpose of this post has been to demonstrate that we cannot use the argument that there is an earthly organization set up by God and directed by the Governing Body to prove their claim to being not only the faithful and discreet slave, but also God’s appointed channel of communication. In our next post, we’ll try to show from Scripture who really is that slave.
However, in discussing this topic, we have touched on a very emotional subject (the skipped point #2) which should not be left unanswered.
Are We the True Religion?
I grew up with the belief that I was in the one true religion. I believed that all other religions were going to be destroyed as part of Babylon the Great in fulfillment of Revelation chapter 18. I believed that as long as I stayed within the arklike, mountainlike Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would be saved.
“How urgent it is in the short remaining time for one to identify himself with the New World society within the arklike new system of things!“ (w58 5/1 p. 280 par. 3)
“…taking refuge in Jehovah and his mountainlike organization.” (w11 1/15 p. 4 par. 8)
From earliest childhood, I have been taught that we have the truth, in fact, that we are ‘in the truth’. You are either in the truth or in the world. It’s a very binary approach to salvation. There was even a mechanism for dealing with the times we have been wrong about things, like 1975 or the meaning of “this generation”. We would say that Jehovah hadn’t chosen to reveal those things to us yet, but that He lovingly corrected us when we had deviated and because we love truth, we humbly accepted the correction and adjusted our way of thinking to bring the Organization more in line with the divine purpose.
The key to all this is that we love truth and so when we come to realize that we are wrong about something we humbly change, not holding on to false teachings and the traditions of men. That attitude is what sets us apart from all the other religions on earth. That is the distinguishing feature of true religion.
This was all well and good until I came to learn that beliefs that are core to our religion—that distinguish us from all other religions in Christendom—are not based on Scripture, and that for decades we have been resisting all attempts made to rectify these erroneous teachings. Worse, we deal most harshly with those who will not be quiet about these errors in doctrine.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24)
He doesn’t refer to an entity like some true Organization or even some true religion, but the “true worshipers”. He’s focusing on the individuals.
Worship is about reverence of God. It is about having a relationship with God. It can be illustrated by the relationship between a father and his young children. Each child should love the father, and the father loves each in a special one-on-one relationship. Each child has faith that the father always keeps his word, so each child is loyal and obedient. All the children are in one big family. You would not compare a family to an organization. It would not be an apt comparison, because a family doesn’t have a goal, a singular purpose for which it is organized. A family simply is. You could compare the congregation to a family however. That is why we refer to each other as brothers. Our relationship with the Father does not depend on an organization of any kind. Nor is there a need to codify this relationship into a belief system.
That we have an organization to help us perform certain tasks can be helpful. For example, the latest efforts to translate and publish the good news in languages spoken by only a tiny minority shows the diligence and dedication of countless true Christians. However, there is always the danger of confusing the tool with true worship. If we do, we can become just like every other ‘organized religion’ on the face of the earth. We begin to serve the tool, rather than using it to serve us.
Jesus spoke of a separating work done by angels in which first the weeds are bound in bundles, after which the wheat is gathered into the Master’s storehouse. We teach that the storehouse is the Organization and the gathering began in 1919. Ignoring for the moment that there is no scriptural evidence for that date, one has to ask: Would Jehovah use as a storehouse an organization that persists in teaching falsehoods? If not, then what is it? And why did Jesus say the weeds are gathered first and wrapped in bundles to be burned.
Rather than trying to find some organized religion and stamping it with the label “the true religion”, perhaps we should recall that Jesus’ first century disciples were not part of some organization, but rather were simply true worshippers who worshipped in spirit and truth. They didn’t even have a name until sometime (likely 46 C.E.) when they were first called Christians in the city of Antioch, Syria. (Acts. 11:26)
Therefore, the true religion is Christianity.
If you or I as individuals worship the Father in spirit and truth, then we will reject false doctrine. That is the essence of Christianity. Individuals stocks of wheat (true Christians) will continue to grow amongst weeds (imitation Christians) until the harvest—which didn’t begin in 1919. Can we do so while remaining in an Organized religion which doesn’t teach the whole truth? The simple truth is that true Christians have been doing just that for the past 2,000 years. That is the point of Jesus’ illustration. That is why the wheat and weeds are so hard to separate until the harvest.
The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is helpful to us in accomplishing many good things, even powerful works. It is a useful tool to help us to gather together with likeminded Christians and continue to incite each other to love and fine works. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Many Jehovah’s Witnesses are accomplishing fine works and appear to be wheat, while others even now seem to be manifesting the characteristics of weeds. However, we cannot know for sure which is which. We don’t read hearts and the harvest is not yet. During the conclusion of the system of things, the wheat and weeds will be distinguishable.
There will come a time when the cry will go out that Babylon the great has fallen. (There is no scriptural reason to believe this already occurred in 1918.) It is interesting that the exhortation found at Rev. 18:4 “Get out of her, my people, if YOU do not want to share with her in her sins…” is evidently addressed to true Christians while they are still in Babylon the Great; otherwise, why call them out of her? At that time, wheat-like Christians will recall the dire warning of Revelation 22:15: “Outside are the dogs and…everyone liking and carrying on a lie.”
What will become of the Organization as an entity, only time will tell. A people may continue, but an organization if finite. It is formed to accomplish something and is not needed when that goal has been attained. It surely will end when it has accomplished its purpose, but the congregation will go on.
There is a curious illustration which Jesus uses at Mt. 24:28. After telling his true worshipers not to be deceived into believing in false hidden presences of the Son of man, he speaks of a carcass above which eagles are flying. Some entity will be dead, but individual true worshippers likened to far-sighted eagles will once again gather together for their salvation just before the start of Armageddon.
Whatever that turns out to be, let us prepare ourselves to be among them when that time arrives. Our salvation depends not on obedience to an Organization or group of men, but on faith, loyalty and obedience to Jehovah and his anointed king. That is how we worship God in spirit and truth.
[i] I’ve decided to capitalize Organization from now on when used in this context, because like Governing Body which our publications capitalize, it refers to a specific entity.
[ii] Ekklesia is the root for “church” in most Romance languages: église – French; iglesia – Spanish; chiesa – Italian.
[iii] These criteria will limit the results to any occurrence of the words “loyal” or “loyally” or “loyalty” and either of the preceding two words. (The question mark in organi?ation will find both the American and British spelling.)
[iv] After 1926 we stopped publishing these figures, presumably because they were too discouraging.
[v] Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pages 313 and 314