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By 20. October 2020January 23rd, 2023Apostasy


The word “apostasy” is an umbrella term for eight different disfellowshipping offenses. One of these is “causing divisions.”

Romans 16:17, 18 shows that causing divisions by forming a sect based on false teachings is a disfellowshipping offense. Apart from Romans 16:17, 18, the word dikhostasia (“division”) occurs only one time in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and skhisma (“division”) occurs only in three places. Disfellowshipping is not mentioned in any of these places. Thus, divisions per se is not a disfellowshipping offense, only divisions in connection with the making of a sect.

The members of the Governing Body have invented a gag-order against criticizing them or other elders publicly. If someone criticizes the Governing Body publicly, this is viewed as “causing divisions,” and the person doing this is liable for disfellowshipping. However, if a Witness privately expresses disagreement with the Governing Body on one or more issues and he is not willing to change his or her viewpoint, he can also be disfellowshipped.

The letter to the Corinthians shows that divisions accord with God’s law when it becomes necessary to distance oneself from something that is wrong.  This means that the gag-order prohibiting any form of criticism, under the pretext that it amounts to “causing divisions,” violates the law of God.

My book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, contains strong criticisms of the actions of the Governing Body, and all these criticisms are based on a just and scriptural foundation. In this study, I discuss three of these criticisms, 1) the false teaching that the Bible is not fully inspired, 2) disfellowshipping Witnesses on the basis of human-made disfellowshipping offenses, and 3) pressuring thousands of young brothers and sisters not to pursue higher education.

The conclusion is that the criticism that the Governing Body defines as “causing divisions” is justified and has a basis in the Bible, and the disfellowshipping offense “causing divisions” subsumed under the heading “Apostasy” is made up and invented by the Governing Body and has no Bible basis.

The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, says regarding causing divisions as a form of apostasy:

Apostasy: Apostasy is a standing away from true worship, a falling away, defection, rebellion, abandonment. It includes the following:

Causing Divisions, Promoting Sects: (Rom. 16: 17. 18; Titus 3:10, 11) This would be deliberate action disrupting the unity of the congregation or undermining the confidence in the brothers in Jehovah’s arrangement. It may involve or lead to apostasy.— it-2, p 886.

When I read these words, I think of a balanced expression that occurred in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 472:

Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones.

The words from The Watchtower of 1974 can rightly be applied to the quotation from the Shepherd book. How so? Both Titus 3:10-11 and Romans 16:17, 18 speak of making sects. But neither of the passages speaks of making divisions per se. Making a sect will, of course, imply a division. But this is a division caused by false doctrines and not any other kind of division.


We may see the difference between “causing divisions” and “promoting sects” by considering the last definition of the quotation, “undermining the confidence in the brothers in Jehovah’s arrangement.” What does that mean? What is “Jehovah’s arrangement” according to the Watchtower literature? That there is a group of eight men, who are appointed by Jehovah “to give spiritual food at the proper time.” In other words, all the actions and writings of these men come from Jehovah.  Anyone criticizing the Governing Body publicly, regardless of whether his or her criticism is right or wrong, is causing divisions and is liable for disfellowshipping. The last part of the quotation from the Shepherd book is, in reality, a gag-order against any opposition to the eight men of the Governing Body and other elders.

I will now analyze some biblical passages in order to show that “causing divisions”  as a disfellowshipping offense has no basis in the Bible. I will analyze some scriptures, and I start with Romans 16:17, 18 (NWT84):

17 Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions (dikhostasia) and occasions for stumbling (skandalon) contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid (ekklinō) them. 18 For men of that sort are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own bellies; and by smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.

According to Louw and Nida, the word ekklinō in Romans 16:17 has the meaning: “Purposely to avoid association with someone—to shun, to avoid, to keep away from, to have nothing to do with.” This shows that the actions of the mentioned persons represent disfellowshipping offenses. The word dikhosia has the basic meaning of “a division into an opposing group,” and skandalon refers to “a trap with a stick which when touched by an animal causes the trap to shut.” There is no verb in the clause, so literally, the text says: “Brothers, watch closely the dividers and the trappers against the teaching that you have learned.”

The persons mentioned were acting contrary to Christian teaching; they tried to seduce persons with the help of false teachings; they were slaves of their own bellies and not slaves of Christ. So, it is clear that the mentioned persons were sect-promoters, and their dikhostia (“causing divisions”) were related to false teachings. In addition to Romans 16:17, the word dikhostia only occurs in Galatians 5:20 as one of the works of the flesh. Nowhere does the Christian Greek Scriptures say that “causing divisions” in and of itself is a disfellowshipping offense. But causing divisions by making a sect because of false doctrines is a disfellowshipping offense, according to Romans 16:17.

Now we can see the gag-order in the Shepherd book in its true light. This edict, in effect, declares that any public criticism of the Governing Body is a disfellowshipping offense, even when the criticism is correct.

However, it is interesting to see that, while the members of the Governing Body have authorized the bodies of elders to disfellowship Witnesses who criticize the Governing Body or the organization, they reserve to themselves the right to criticize other religious leaders and organizations. For a short time, the Awake! printed positive and negative comments from their readers of the magazine. The magazine had an article dealing with the Pope and the Catholic Church, and in the Awake! of August 22, 1984, page 28, we read the following comments from a reader and the answer from the editor:

Reader’s Comment:

“You all loved it, didn’t you? You couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Catholic Church, could you? I will never forgive the way you mercilessly tore down the Pope. If Jehovah’s Witnesses must refer to cheap shots in attempting to bring down other religions, they’re in more trouble than the Catholics.”

M.C., Florida

Editor’s Response:

“We surely were not trying to take cheap shots at the pope or the Catholic Church, nor were we criticizing Catholics. The Catholic Church occupies a very significant position in the world and claims to be the way of salvation for hundreds of millions of people. Any organization that assumes that position should be willing to submit to scrutiny and criticism. All who criticize have the obligation to be truthful in presenting the facts and fair and objective in assessing such. In both respects we try to live up to that obligation .“— ED.

The comments from the editor outline the civilized and scholarly way of criticism. A big organization with leaders that claim to show the right way for millions of adherents “should be willing to submit to scrutiny and criticism.” But those criticizing the organization “have the obligation to be truthful in presenting the facts” as well as being “fair and objective.” The Governing Body’s gag-order forbidding any scrutiny or criticism from its members is a contradiction of, and nullifies, all that the editor has written. So, when it comes to scholarly criticism, the Governing Body has a double standard, one standard for criticizing the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and another standard for criticizing the Catholic Church and other religious organizations.

Proverbs 20:23 (NWT84) says: “Two sorts of weights are something detestable to Jehovah, and a cheating pair of scales is not good.”

When it comes to scholarly scrutiny and criticism, the members of the Governing Body use two different standards of weight, one standard of weight for themselves and another standard for others. The Governing Body’s gag-order prevents any Witness from criticizing either the Governing Body or the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, the members of the Governing Body reserve to themselves the right to criticize other religious leaders and their organizations.


In his first letter to the Corinthian, Paul says in 1:10 (NWT84):

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions (skhisma) among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.

Christians are free people, and in their personal lives, different persons will make different decisions. But because the Christian faith originates with God, in matters of faith, everyone should have the same opinion and the same view. What was the reason why there was no unity in Corinth? We learn that from verses 11 and 12:

11 For the disclosure was made to me about YOU, my brothers,  by those of [the house of] Chlo’e, that dissensions (eris) exist among you. 12 What I mean is this, that each one of YOU says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” 13 The Christ exists divided.

According to Louw and Nida, the word eris, that is translated by “dissensions,” has the meaning, “to express difference of opinion, with at least some measure of antagonism or hostility — ‘to argue, quarrel, dispute’” Were the dissensions in Corinth right or wrong? To think highly of persons as originators of the Christian faith was wrong. Those who looked up to persons were implicitly creating a sect.

If we were in the congregation of Corinth with the mentioned “sects,” we had to create another “sect,” or rather, we had to oppose the first three mentioned sects and opt to become a part of the fourth “sect,” saying: “I belong to Christ.” The point is that if something is wrong, we must oppose it, even if that would cause divisions. This is what Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 11:19 (NWT84):

For there must also be sects (hairesis) among YOU, that the persons approved may also become manifest among YOU.

Only those who would say, “I belong to Christ” would have God’s approval, and they had to dissent from the others who looked up to men. So, in this case, a division (skhisma) would be right, and this is confirmed by Paul’s words in 11:19.

I will use another example from the congregation in Corinth, namely, the words about the “superfine apostles.”  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:5, 13:

  For as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you receive a spirit other than what you received, or good news other than what you accepted, you easily put up with him.  For I consider that I have not proved inferior to your superfine apostles in a single thing…

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

We know little about these “superfine apostles.” But because they evidently referred to themselves as “apostles” (“one who is sent; a messenger”), they were elders and had, or claimed to have, a teaching position in the congregation. The words of verse 4 indicate that they preached “another Jesus” than the one Paul preached. In addition, the context shows that they belittled Paul and challenged his authority as an apostle. Because of this, Paul said that they were “false apostles and deceitful workers.”

Let us now apply the prohibition against criticizing the present Governing Body and other elders to this situation. Such a ban on speaking out would prevent anyone, including Paul, from publicly criticizing these men, who had a high position in the congregation of Corinth. But, of course, such a gag-order would be wrong, and  not to speak up would be equally wrong.


The important point we can learn from the last sequence is that no one is beyond criticism. To claim that any public criticism of the Governing Body or of other elders is tantamount to creating divisions and constitutes a disfellowshipping offense is a very clear example of authoritarian rule; the leaders are always right! But the examples from Corinth show that when something is wrong in the Christian organization, those who serve God faithfully must distinguish themselves from the wrong, even to the point of creating a division if what is wrong is not corrected.

The situation in Corinth shows that public criticism of the Governing Body should not be prevented when the criticism is right. The gag-order against such criticism is an example of the autocratic nature of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.

Not only is the gag-order in force in connection with the public criticism of the Governing Body. If a Witness privately expresses that he does not agree with the Governing Body in one or more issues, and he is not willing to change his viewpoint, this is also viewed as creating divisions, and he can be disfellowshipped. A letter from Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, INC. to all circuit and district overseers of September 1, 1980, illustrates the autocratic situation:

Help the elders discern between one who is a trouble-making apostate and a Christian who becomes weak in faith and has doubts. (2 Peter 2; Jude 22, 23) The former one should be dealt with decisively after extended efforts have been put forth to readjust him. (2 John 7-10) On the other hand, one weak in faith should be patiently and lovingly assisted to get an accurate knowledge that will solidify his faith.

“Keep in mind that to be disfellowshipped, an apostate does not have to be a promoter of apostate views. As mentioned in paragraph two, page 17 of the august 1, 1980, Watchtower. “The word ‘apostasy’ comes from a Greek term that means ‘a standing away from’, ‘a falling away, defection,’, ‘rebellion, abandonment. Therefore, if a baptized Christian abandons the teachings of Jehovah, as presented by the faithful and discreet slave, and persists in believing other doctrine despite Scriptural reproof, then he is apostatizing. Extended kindly efforts should be put forth to readjust his thinking. However, if, after such extended efforts have been put forth to readjust his thinking, he continues to believe the apostate ideas and rejects what he has been provided through the ‘slave class,’ then appropriate judicial action should be taken.

This is not to say that you or the elders should go on ‘witch hunts,’ as it were, inquiring into the personal beliefs of your brothers. Rather, if something reasonably substantial comes to the attention of the elders along this line, it would be appropriate to make a kindly, discreet inquiry so as to protect the flock. We cannot overemphasize the need to be cautious, discreet and kindly as such situations are dealt with.—James 1:19, 20

Before I published my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body I sent the book to the Governing Body, and I wrote that if the Governing Body would consider starting to correct what was wrong in the organization, the book would not be published. This was rejected, and so the book was published. I will make some comments on three points from my book where the Governing Body deserves strong criticism:

The rejection of the Bible as fully inspired

The Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses have for 120 years held the view that every word in the Bible was inspired by God (2 Peter 3:20, 21), and that every account was chosen for a particular purpose, and, therefore, would have a particular meaning for us as Christians (Romans 15:4). This is denied by the members of the present Governing Body.

The view of the Governing Body can be compared with the theory of junk DNA. The DNA molecule is a very long double helix, and only a part of it codes for amino acids and proteins. The theory is that most of the DNA is just “junk,” it does not code for anything or mean anything. But it is there simply to keep the long molecule together. In a similar way, the present Governing Body teaches that a great part of the Hebrew Scriptures has no meaning for us, except that some moral principles or general lessons can be gathered from it. In other words, there are many “junk” texts in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Take, for example, the Song of Solomon. According to the Governing Body, we can learn the importance of expressions of affection between a married couple. Unmarried persons can learn not to develop “a romantic attachment for anyone who comes along,” but “to wait patiently for the one he or she can truly love.” And during courtship, young persons can learn “to take necessary precautions to keep the relationship chaste.”[1] But the dramatic account with different persons speaking and acting has no meaning for us. So, more than 90% of the Song of Solomon is just “junk”; it keeps the account together so that we can learn the few aforementioned moral principles it contains. A number of accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures are treated in the same way, as “junk” fillers.[1]

[1] . See the article, “The members of the Governing Body do not believe in the full inspiration of the Bible,” in the category, “The Governing Body.”

The prophetic books are also treated in a similar way. The detailed meanings of the Hebrew text are not important. But what the Hebrew text reminds the members of the GB of is important. And these reminders are what the Governing Body wants others to learn.[2] The use of reminders is a blatant example of the autocratic thinking of the members of the Governing Body. They believe that they are directly appointed by God and so what they write from what they are reminded of is what God wants his people to learn at present.

However, the rejection of the full inspiration of the Bible is really a false teaching! Hymenaeus and Philetus “have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred.” (2 Timothy 2:17, 18). And the members of the Governing Body have deviated from the truth by saying that a large portion of the Hebrew Scriptures has no inherent meaning for us today, only a few general lessons and moral principles the Governing Body are reminded of when they read these accounts.

The invention of disfellowshipping offenses that are not based on the Bible

In the Shepherd book, 46 disfellowshipping offenses are listed. Of these, 35 are made up and invented by the Governing Body. Last year, about 80,000 Witnesses were disfellowshipped. If the 35 man made disfellowshipping offenses were not used, and only those who were truly wicked had been removed, those who were permeated by one of the disfellowshipping offenses sanctioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures, probably more than  90% of those who were disfellowshipped would not have been disfellowshipped.

I use myself as an example. The three brothers in the judicial committee in effect said:

 You are no longer a Witness for Jehovah. We have decided that your good relationship with Jehovah is over because you have not been obedient to the Governing Body on certain matters. We hand you over to Satan, and you will not get life in Jehovah’s new order if you do not resume a course of absolute obedience to the Governing Body in all matters.

I am certain that the three brothers honestly believed that what they did was right. But in reality, their actions represented brazen conduct. I dedicated myself to Jehovah 61 years ago, and since then, I have faithfully worshipped him and worked hard for the truth. And then, three human beings dare to judge me and tell me that “You are no longer a Witness for Jehovah” and “You no longer have a good relationship with Jehovah,” because you believe the Governing Body is mistaken on several scriptural matters and have pointed these out. No human being can destroy my relationship with Jehovah. That is well beyond the purview of another human being. I have used myself as an example. But the situation is the same for literally hundreds of thousands of others who, during the last decade, have been disfellowshipped.

Just think of all the suffering and pain each one of those who are disfellowshipped is experiencing, and think of all the problems that the families of the disfellowshipped ones experience, including the unbiblical custom of shunning disfellowshipped persons. Each member of the Governing Body has a huge load of guilt and accountability on his shoulders. And in this situation, I must be allowed to quote the words in James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.” The present arrangement of disfellowshipping persons who serve Jehovah represents a violation of several biblical principles. And it is an attack on Jehovah himself because he loves those who have dedicated their lives to him.

Therefore, this is one of the things that we have the right to criticize. And by using this right to point out where a Christian has “deviated from the truth,” even if that Christian happens to sit on the Governing Body, we are not causing the kind of divisions that are disallowed in scripture. Indeed, divisions that result from standing up for the truth are simply a natural byproduct of doing so, i.e., “causing divisions” is not the intent or objective, standing up for the truth is. And in such cases, the collateral damage of “causing divisions” is inconsequential in comparison with upholding Jehovah’s written Word.

Depriving young Witnesses of higher education

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a power struggle in the Governing Body.[3] When Lloyd Barry, who was acting as a restraint of the more radical views of higher education, died in the year 2000, the hardliners in the Governing Body under the leadership of Ted Jaracz came out victorious. Brother Jaracz was strongly against higher education and against intellectual persons. In 1992, Lloyd Barry wrote a balanced article in The Watchtower about higher education. But from the year 2005 to the present, there has been a crusade against higher education. Much of what has been written in the Watchtower publications about higher education simply is not true, and the motives of those who have pursued higher education have been called into question.

I make one quotation from a talk of Gerrit Lösch, that he gave in Milan May 22, 2005, when he served as zone overseer. He asked those who studied at a college to quit immediately. If they did not quit, he threatened them with Jehovah’s judgment.

Will you get a university education or not? You will be accountable to Jehovah for this. We will like to praise those in the audience who dropped out of college when they accepted the truth, as we praise those, who after listening to this talk, will make the same decision.

Lösch told a story about a person who tried to commit suicide by shooting himself but who survived. He compared university education with suicide, and then he said:

Similarly, some have survived college, but would you recommend that to others?

If an elder or a family member starts to study at a university, the Governing Body has directed that he will be summoned to a meeting before the elders, and he will have to answer many questions about his reasons and motives. I know of instances where an elder has been grilled for two hours because his son started a two-year university study. Some elders have lost their position as elders when a family member has become a student.

Because of this, very few youngsters dare to pursue higher education. And during the 17 years from 2005, tens of thousands of young brothers and sisters have been pressured not to seek higher education. The problem with this situation is that such young ones have been put in a bad position as far as finding a decent job and caring for their families is concerned. So again,  I must be allowed to say that a huge burden of guilt and responsibility rests on the shoulders of the members of the Governing Body. They have prevented thousands from  ‘going on to lead a calm and quiet’  life (1 Timothy 2:2).

Chapter 4 of my book My Beloved Religion—And The Governing Body, third edition, discusses in detail what the Watchtower literature has said about higher education. And this chapter rightly criticizes the members of the Governing Body who has spearheaded the stigma against higher education and has sanctioned all the negative articles that have been written over the years.

[1]. The Watchtower of January 2015, pages 28-32.

[2] . A detailed analysis of how the discussion of Ezekiel’s prophecy in the book, Pure Worship of Jehovah — Restored at Last (2019) is based on the mentioned “reminders” rather than on an analysis of the Hebrew text of Ezekiel is found in My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 374-401.

[3]. See the article “The power struggle inside the Governing Body in the 1980s and 1990s” under the heading “The Governing Body.”


Apart from Romans 16:17, where the word “divisions” (dikhostasia) occurs in a context of divisions by false teachings, the word only occurs in Galatians 5:20 as one of the works of the flesh. This means that in no place in the Christian Greek Scriptures is it said that causing “divisions” is a disfellowshipping offense.

Apart from the gospels, the Greek word skhisma (“division”) occurs only in 1 Corinthians 1:10; 11:18, and 12:25, and in none of these is disfellowshipping connected with this word. This means that the claim that causing divisions is a disfellowshipping offense is a human commandment made up and invented by the Governing Body.

According to the Shepherd book, any public criticism of the Governing Body is the same as “causing divisions” and is liable for disfellowshipping. This is the substance of the man-made gag-order created by the Governing Body. But the discussions above have shown that if something is wrong in the Christian organization, it is correct to express criticisms, even if doing so creates divisions, if responsible brothers do not correct what is wrong. This study has shown several areas where the members of the Governing Body deserve to be criticized, especially their most reprehensible rejection of the full inspiration of the Bible, which is false teaching.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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