I’m jumping the gun a bit and commenting on next week’s Watchtower. The article in question is “Betrayal An Ominous Sign of the Times!”. Within the context of an article on betrayal and disloyalty, we have this oddly disturbing passage:
10 The other good example we will consider is that of the apostle Peter, who avowed his loyalty to Jesus. When Christ used graphic, figurative language to emphasize the importance of exercising faith in his soon-to-be-sacrificed flesh and blood, many of his disciples found his words shocking, and they left him. (John 6:53-60, 66) So Jesus turned to his 12 apostles and asked: “You do not want to go also, do you?” It was Peter who responded: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69) Did this mean that Peter fully understood all that Jesus had just said about His coming sacrifice? Probably not. Even so, Peter was determined to be loyal to God’s anointed Son.
11 Peter did not reason that Jesus must have the wrong view of things and that if given time, He would recant what He had said. No, Peter humbly recognized that Jesus had “sayings of everlasting life.” Likewise today, how do we react if we encounter a point in our Christian publications from “the faithful steward” that is hard to understand or that does not match with our thinking? We should try hard to get the sense of it rather than merely expecting that there will be a change to conform to our viewpoint.—Read Luke 12:42.
The Scriptural point being made in paragraph 10 is that even when Peter didn’t understand what Jesus meant—even when what Jesus said was shocking—Peter remained loyal to Jesus. The opening of paragraph 11 introduces a secondary point that Peter didn’t question Jesus’ teaching nor did he imagine that Jesus had made a mistake and would likely correct it at some future time.
I think we can all agree that Peter acted correctly and that given the circumstances, we would all like to emulate him. But how can we imitate the unquestioning loyalty of Peter?
The analogy being made here casts the Governing Body, in its capacity as the voice of “the faithful steward”, in the role of Jesus. Peter’s unquestioning loyalty and acceptance of difficult teachings should correspond with how we regard new and difficult understandings coming forth from the Governing Body. If Peter didn’t think Jesus was wrong and would later recant, we shouldn’t think that of the Governing Body. The strong implication is that to do so would be tantamount to disloyalty. This position is subtly reinforced by the fact that fully one tenth of an article on betrayal is devoted to this particular line of reasoning.
Do I have to point out that comparing the teachings of Jesus Christ with those of the Governing Body is a false analogy? He truly had the sayings of everlasting life. What man or group of men can say the same? Then there’s the fact that Jesus never make a mistake, so he never had to recant what he said. The Governing Body has had to recant so many times that you can actually buy a book on Amazon.com listing our doctrinal changes. (It’s from apostates, so I don’t recommend buying it.)
If, after a lifetime of witnessing the continuing alteration and at times total abandoning of long-held and cherished beliefs, one is inclined to regard the latest somewhat dubious interpretation with a certain degree of caution, even trepidation, well…can one really be blamed? Is that truly a disloyal action?
Most of us have kept our loyalty to Jesus Christ intact through—to give only one example—the series of “refinements” involving the meaning of “this generation”. (By the mid-1990s, these refinements had reached a point where no one knew anymore what we believed on the subject. I remember reading and rereading the explanation and scratching my head.) When we say “kept our loyalty”, it should be understood as loyalty to Jesus not to a man or group of men. Sure we continue to support the organization and therefore its representatives, but loyalty is something owed first and foremost to God and to his son. Let’s not place it where it doesn’t belong. So you will please excuse us if, after being repeatedly disillusioned by the series of misinterpretations of that Scriptural passage, we don’t eagerly jump on the latest bandwagon. The fact is that the previous interpretations, though wrong as it turns out, had the benefit of being plausible at the time; something which cannot be said for our current understanding.
In the past, when confronted by an interpretation that made little sense (Our application of Mt. 24:22 in w74 12/15 p. 749, par. 4, for instance.) or that was highly speculative (1925, 1975, etc.), we were content to wait patiently for a change; or if you will, a recant. They always came too; usually prefaced by some face-saving phrase like, “Some have suggested…” or the passive tense, “It was thought…”. More recently we’ve seen, “Previously in this publication…”, as if the magazine were responsible. Many have expressed the wistful desire to see the Governing Body take more direct responsibility for such changes. The candor of actually admitting they, or even we, got something wrong would be most refreshing. Perhaps one day. In any case, we were content to wait without thought of abandoning the faith. The publications even recommended such a waiting attitude. But no more. Now if we even think the Governing Body has got it wrong, we are being disloyal.
This is just the latest and most blatant in a series of calls for loyalty and obedience to the Governing Body. It is puzzling why this theme is appearing in the publications and from the assembly and convention platform with increasing frequency. Perhaps it is that there is a very large contingent of faithful older ones who have seen too much speculation in print and too many reversals of doctrinal teachings. I don’t see any mass exodus, for these ones are aware, as Peter was, that there is nowhere else to go. However, they also are not ready to just blindly accept any new teaching that comes down the pipe. I think that perhaps there is a wide-spread, grass-roots contingent of witnesses with this sentiment, and the Governing Body doesn’t know what to make of it. These ones are not part of some quiet rebellion, but they are engaging in a quiet dismissal of the position that the Governing Body actually governs their lives and that everything the Governing Body says must be taken as if it descended from on high. Rather, they are striving to forge a closer bond with their Creator while at the same time supporting the worldwide Christian brotherhood.
That’s my take on it anyway. If you feel different, feel free to comment.