The thought at Pr 4: 18, (“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established”) is usually construed to convey the idea of a progressive revelation of Scriptural truth under the direction of holy spirit, and a steadily growing understanding of fulfilled (and yet-to-be- fulfilled) prophecy.
If this view of Pr 4:18 were correct, we might reasonably expect that Scriptural explanations, once published as revealed truth, would, be constructively refined with added detail in the course of time. But we would not expect that Scriptural explanations would need to be revoked and replaced by differing (or even contradictory) interpretations. The numerous instances in which our “official “ interpretations have either changed radically or have turned out to be untrue, lead to the conclusion that we really ought to refrain from asserting that Pr4:18 describes the growth of Bible understanding under the direction of holy spirit.
(Actually, there is nothing in the context of Pr 4:18 justifying its use to encourage the faithful to be patient at the pace with which Scriptural truths are clarified – the verse and the context simply extol the advantages of leading an upright life.)
Where does this leave us? We are asked to believe that the brothers who take the lead in preparing and disseminating Bible understanding are “spirit-directed”. But how can this belief be consistent with their many mistakes? Jehovah never makes a mistake. His holy spirit never makes a mistake. (eg Jo 3:34 “For the one whom God sent forth speaks the sayings of God, for he does not give the spirit by measure.”) But the imperfect men who take the lead in the world-wide congregation have made mistakes – some even leading to needless loss of life for individuals. Are we to believe that Jehovah wishes the faithful occasionally to be misled into believing errors that occasionally prove fatal, for some greater long-term good? Or that Jehovah wishes those with sincerely held doubts to pretend to believe a perceived error, for the sake of a superficial “unity”? I simply cannot bring myself to believe this of the God of truth. There has to be some other explanation.
The evidence that the world-wide congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is – as a body – doing the will of Jehovah is surely incontrovertible. So why have there been so many mistakes and issues giving rise to unease? Why, despite the influence of God’s holy spirit, do the brothers taking the lead not “get it right first time, every time” ?
Perhaps the statement of Jesus at Jo 3:8 may help us come to terms with the paradox:-
“The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone that has been born from the spirit.”
This scripture seems to have its primary application to our human inability to understand how, when and where holy spirit will operate in its choice of individuals to be born again. But Jesus’ simile, likening holy spirit to an unpredictable (to humans) wind, blowing hither and thither, might help us to come to terms with the errors made by humans who, in general terms, are truly operating under the direction of holy spirit.
(Some years ago, there was a suggestion that uneven and contradictory progress toward full understanding of scripture might be likened to the “tacking” of a sailing boat, as it makes progress against a prevailing wind. The analogy is unsatisfactory, because it suggests that progress is made despite the force of holy spirit, rather than as a result of its powerful direction.)
So I suggest a different analogy:-
A steadily blowing wind will blow leaves along – usually in the direction of wind – but occasionally, there will be eddies whereby the leaves blow around in circles, even momentarily moving in a direction opposite to the wind. However, the wind continues to blow steadily, and eventually, most of the leaves will – despite the occasional adverse flurries – finish up being blown away, in the direction of the wind. The errors of imperfect men are like the adverse flurries, that in the end, cannot prevent the wind from blowing all the leaves away. Likewise, the error-free force from Jehovah – his holy spirit – will eventually overcome all problems caused by imperfect men’s occasional failures to recognize the direction in which holy spirit is “blowing.”
Maybe there’s a better analogy, but I’d really appreciate comments on this idea. Moreover, if any brother or sister out there has found a satisfactory way of explaining the paradox of mistakes made by a holy-spirit-directed organization of men, I’d be very glad to learn from them. My mind has been uneasy over this issue for several years, and I have prayed much about it. The line of thought set out above has helped a little.