The Governing Body (GB) of Jehovah’s Witnesses recently laid claim to the title of Faithful and Discreet Slave or FDS based on its interpretation of Matthew 25:45-37. As such, the members of that body claim that truth is revealed exclusively through them in the publications they produce:
“We must serve Jehovah in truth, as revealed in his Word and made clear in the publications of the faithful and discreet slave.” (w96 5/15 p.18)
Sincere students of God’s Word who yearn for deeper understanding of Scripture are naturally driven to do research. (Heb 5:14; 6:1) This well describes those of us who participate on Beroean Pickets and Discuss The Truth. I realize that much of what is said in this article is “preaching to the choir”, but there are those who may be visiting for the first time, as well as those who frequent the site but have yet to join and participate in fellowship. Some feel a measure of guilt because they are stepping outside the indoctrination of those they believe are the faithful and discreet slave that Jesus appointed in 1919.
Our individual journey of awakening begins when we come to grips with the reality that, despite what anyone else says, we must carefully examine the Scriptures for ourselves to prove that what is presented by the FDS is truth.[i] The vast majority of active Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the Governing Body’s claim that truth is exclusive to the publications and broadcasts they produce. But how does one arrive at a balanced and unbiased understanding if the only research material available comes from a single source? When stepping outside the box, it becomes painfully evident that many of our teachings are so peculiar that they can exist only within the pages of WT publications. They cannot be proven using only the Bible. Is it not a prerequisite for Bible truth to be provable using God’s Word? If a teaching cannot be proved using only the Bible, it must mean that men have added to what is written to support it. It therefore becomes clearly a teaching of men, not Christ. (Acts 17:11) ; 1 Cor 4:6)
Our experience in the search for truth could be compared to the process of buying a new car.
Buying A New Car
Let’s say we’re in the market for a new car. Before purchasing, we want to do research. We have a make and model in mind, so we go to the manufacturer’s website to learn more. We drive to the dealer and read the brochures and other promotional material. We test drive the car. We spend hours talking to different salespersons, even the service manager. All echo the same claim as the manufacturer, namely, their model (and brand) is better than all the rest. We now have two options:
- Trust what is presented on the website. Trust what is written in the promotional materials. Trust what the salesman and service manager claim. Make this the extent of our research and buy the car.
- Research other brands, take test drives, see how they compare. Search the internet, read everything available about any car we’re considering. Go into online auto forums and read the comments of those with firsthand experience with the makes and models we’re looking at. Consult reputable consumer reports and other authoritative and accredited resources. Talk to our mechanic, and only after exhaustive, extensive, well informed research do we then buy the car we’ve identified as best.
In either case, we then tell our neighbors that we own the best car on the market. However, which option best prepares us when our neighbors ask us, “How do you know for sure?”
The intent of research is not to prove the claims of the manufacturer, salesmen and service manager are false. We are mostly sold on the car in the first place, but we want to do research to give us reassurance we are not being taken in by clever marketing and our own desire for one particular make and model. The manufacturer has a vested interest. Our own emotions can also be involved as we imagine how it will feel to own that particular car, perhaps the car of our dreams. Yet, common sense must prevail for our own good. It tells us that only through outside research can we arrive at a balanced, intelligent and informed decision. Then, if the car is everything they claim it is, we can buy it.
Just as it would be unwise to limit the scope of our research when deciding on a car, it is equally unwise to limit the scope of our research when deciding what is truth. In the case of WT publications, the truth changes from year to year. We are often dumbfounded when “new light” is released, wondering what current truth is next in line to be dismissed as “old light.” The GB insists that every word in every publication is truth when it rolls off the WT printing presses. Then mysteriously, teachings that were spirit directed are abandoned by God’s holy spirit as false. Time and again we have witnessed much publicized dogma (especially surrounding dates and anti-typical prophecy interpretation) boiled down to mere opinion, speculation and conjecture. Yet were we not compelled (under threat of sanction) to present the teaching as truth while it was “current light?” Were we not then compelled (under threat of sanction) to reject that same teaching as apostate when it was no longer current?
Was “Old Light” Ever Light?
As the opening quote states, the “guardians of doctrine” tell us God’s holy spirit directs the dispensing of truth through the publications they have produced since 1919. That would necessarily mean God’s holy spirit directed the writing of pages that contain “old light” teachings. Could Jehovah’s spirit have directed the minds of brothers who conceived old light (apostate) teachings? Given the plethora of now-apostate teachings found in older publications, if God’s spirit was in fact directing Jesus’ faithful slave to write these publications, then Jehovah and Jesus are responsible for the wrong teachings. Is this even possible? (James 1:17) Isn’t it amazing how many within our ranks do not take the time to think this through?
A case in point is the Governing Body’s recent self-appointment as the FDS in October 2012. This teaching is now foremost among Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it authorizes seven individuals to interpret scripture and direct the organization. Any member who would dare openly question the scriptural validity of this teaching will face shunning. Of course, the GB insists that Jehovah’s holy spirit directed them to this new understanding. But for those of us who’ve been around for a while, doesn’t this sound a bit familiar? Did not the previous generation Governing Body insist the very same thing? Did they not claim that God’s holy spirit directed them, but to a very different conclusion, namely, that the faithful and discreet slave was all the anointed Christians alive on earth at any given time?
So we ask: Did Jehovah’s holy spirit direct the former Governing Body to teach what is now an apostate understanding? Those who claim the GB are at all times directed by God’s holy spirit must answer, Yes. But this would mean God’s holy spirit was imparting falsehoods. That’s impossible. (Heb 6:18) How long will membership allow the Governing Body to have their cake and eat it too? We could correctly define an apostate teaching as former truth. Today it’s truth, tomorrow it’s old light, in a year it’s apostasy.
How can truth turn into falsehood? Is there really such a thing as “old light”?
I once mentioned to a mature pioneer sister that I felt the term “old light” is a misnomer. I asked her if old light was ever “light?” Her response? She said: “While it was current it was light, it was correct.” So I asked if she felt our earlier “generation” teaching that those alive in 1914 would see Armageddon in their lifetime was ever “light”? She thought for a moment then replied: “No, I guess not. Since it was wrong I guess it was never light.” I ask you the reader: How many teachings of the Governing Body that were once purported as truth have become false and constitute apostasy? Were they ever light? This causes us to wonder: How many of our current teachings will be dismissed as old light in the future? Given that there are literally thousands of pages of old light teachings, could any rational person conclude that 100% of the current teachings of the faithful slave are truth? Are we not to test all things to make certain they are true? (1Th 5:21)
For those of you just beginning their journey of awakening, ask yourself: “Deep down inside, do I fear what research will reveal? Am I afraid that learning the truth will force me to make a decision?” Well, have no fear, brothers and sisters. (2 Tim 1:7; Mark 5:36)
The Life Cycle Of “Light”
When a current teaching is replaced with new light, the current teaching becomes old light. After a year or so, teaching old light constitutes apostasy. Let us illustrate the typical life cycle of “light”:
New Light >>>> Current Light >>>> Old Light >>>> Apostasy
In some cases, the life cycle repeats itself, as is the case with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah being resurrected. This teaching has changed eight times since the days of Brother Russell:
New Light >> Old Light >> New Light >> Old Light >> New Light >> Old Light >> New Light >> Old Light >>??
I will not be surprised if soon, Kingdom hall libraries are a thing of the past. Notably, the new Kingdom hall design has no library. It won’t surprise me if the archive database in the WT CD Library becomes unavailable. Then all that will remain for the rank and file will be the online library, which is essentially sterile material from recent publications only which the Governing Body approves for consumption. Of course, this can be explained to members as merely keeping pace with Jehovah’s celestial chariot.
Restricting members from access to old light publications is a strategy to save face. But thanks to the diligence of faithful brothers and the availability of the internet, most older publications are at our fingertips. This surely troubles the guardians of doctrine. They can be disgraced by the apostate teachings of predecessors. Older publications are laden with failed predictions and misguided interpretation. Does not the record itself cast complete doubt on any claim that Jehovah’s spirit directs their every step? Did not former generations of leadership make the very same claim as do the guardians of doctrine today; namely, that Jehovah’s holy spirit directs their every step?
The Blindfold in the Library
To illustrate how the Governing Body fears outside research, imagine a large public library, such as the New York Public Library. Put yourself there to research a Bible topic, which might involve linguistic, historical and/or cultural studies. As you enter the front door, the vastness of information available (aisle after aisle of reference material) is breathtaking. As you proceed, a nice gentleman with a suit and a JW.org badge stops you and advises that since you’re a JW, you’ll need to wear a blindfold. He then escorts you to the back of the library into a very small auxiliary room and closes the door. The gentleman then says it is safe to remove the blindfold. The room is a tiny fraction of the main library. As you proceed you notice several aisles of books and periodicals that are taped off. Your guide counsels you against going down those aisles as they contain WT publications full of “old light” teachings. You finally arrive at a single aisle approved for research. This one is marked “current light”. Your guide smiles warmly and says reassuringly as you take your seat, “All you need is here.”
However, you soon find that very little is written on the topic you’re researching. What little is written may quote an outside source, but you have no way of confirming its validity, because you are unable to access the actual quote. You have no way of knowing if the quote was taken out of context; or even if it is a fair representation of the author’s position. There is so very little information available that you decide to carry on your research in the main library. As you start out, the man runs up and sternly warns you to not proceed because that would mean you are not obeying the direction of the Governing Body, the Faithful and Discreet Slave.
As puzzling (and amusing) as this illustration might seem to the non-JW, this is a fair representation of how we are expected to do research. Why do they want us blindfolded? Why do they want us confined to a single aisle of “current” research material? The fact that we are here demonstrates we have removed (or are in the process of removing) that blindfold.
Let’s return to buying a car. Remember one very simple truth: Dealership personnel are trained to exploit emotion and pressure us to buy on the spot, depending solely upon their biased sales pitch. They do not want us to do outside research, especially when the car has a history of major mechanical issues. Similarly, the Governing Body does not want us to do outside research. They are aware that JW theology has a history of “mechanical issues”. Decades ago, some of the most scholarly within our ranks did outside research on just one major tenet of our faith. The results were nothing less than disastrous. I will share that account in Part 2 of this article.
[i] The term FDS or Faithful and Discreet Slave is used interchangeably with GB or Governing Body throughout this article. While some might object that the applying the title FDS to the GB implies that we accept their claim to being the ones Jesus Christ appointed, the reason for this rhetorical equivalence is for the benefit of those readers who have not yet come—or are just coming—to the realization that such a relationship can be questioned without it constituting a sin.